December 2, 2016

Though I don’t have children, the growth of the charter school movement is one I follow because I’m going to be living with its fruits, and it seems of a piece with the general privatization push, i.e. the selling of the commons to entities under no obligation to provide any quality of service but rather obliged to turn a profit.

Two articles below mention clauses in teachers’ contracts that are typically used to constrain employees — NDC, non-competes, and mandatory arbitration — and which are also discussed in the movie I mentioned yesterday, Hot Coffee (also available for a small fee on Amazon Prime). I’ll nudge you again to check it out.

Per Wikipedia, Diane Ravitch is “a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development,” but she’s also been an invaluably dogged critic and chronicler of the charter school racket. Her piece posted below from the NYRB, “When Public Goes Private, as Trump Wants,” is just the latest part of an important inquiry into the motivations for and ramifications of mass-privatization of a public institution.

At the end are two articles covering the rise of private schools in the post-Jim Crow era as a direct counter to public desegregation, and the effects of current de facto segregation. I should note that I did find a thesis online that traces the rise of Christian Academies in the American South back to the 1920’s, but — contra the candidate’s thesis statement — that evidence doesn’t actually exclude the idea that they were used to circumvent desegregation in the 60’s.

The Hits Just Keep Coming

The Choices Charters Hate

This also highlights the hypocrisy behind the charter choice arguments. Choice is great– when it’s the choice they like. The free market is great– as long as it’s serving them. But when it comes to staff, charters like Mystic Valley have taken steps to avoid any kind of market forces to come into play. Rather than compete for teachers by offering attractive employment terms, Mystic Valley tries to make sure that their teachers have no choice at all, to force them to stay by coercion and extortion.

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An Echo, Not A Choice

Fining Teachers for Switching Schools

The Covenant Keepers Charter School in Little Rock, Arkansas, requires its teachers to not disclose “trade secrets” and to agree to not work for any “business or activity in competition with the charter school” for two years after leaving, in “any area in which the Employer currently solicits or conducts business, and/or any area in which an Employer plans to solicit or conduct business.” The teacher also has to agree to pay liquidated damages in the amount of “$100,000 plus court costs, litigation expenses, and actual and reasonable attorneys’ fees” if the non-compete or confidentiality agreement is breached.

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Separate But More Equal

When Public Goes Private, as Trump Wants: What Happens?

Today, there are about seven thousand publicly funded, privately managed charter schools, enrolling nearly three million students. Some are run for profit. Some are online schools, where students sit at home and get their lessons on a computer. Some operate in shopping malls. Some are run by fly-by-night characters hoping to make money. Charters open and close with disturbing frequency; from 2010 to 2015, more than 1,200 charters closed due to academic or financial difficulties, while others opened.

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Bad Education

Building Firewalls: Protecting Public Schools in the Trump Era

This is a good time to remind ourselves that public education has always been – and will continue to be – the obligation of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This obligation is embedded in the guarantee of a public education in state constitutions. It is the states, not the federal government, that control access, quality, governance, student rights and the bulk of funding for their public education systems.

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Locals Only

The New School Segregation

Some affluent and predominantly white suburban municipalities in the South are threatening to reverse this progress. They are doing so by seceding from racially diverse county-based school districts and forming their own predominately white and middle-class school districts. The secessions are grounded in the race-neutral language of localism, or the preference for decentralized governance structures. However, localism in this context is threatening to do what Brown v. Board of Education outlawed: return schools to the days of separate and unequal with the imprimatur of state law.

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Turning The Other Sheet

In Southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ Are Still Going Strong

According to one narrative, white leaders and residents starved the public schools of necessary resources after decamping for the academy, an institution perpetuated by racism. According to the opposing narrative, malfeasance and inept leadership contributed to the downfall of the public schools, whose continued failings keep the academy system alive.

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December 1, 2016: Keep Your Eyes Open

A minor problem I face when discussing this sordid new phase of our shared experiment in self-government is to not come off as histrionic. One reason is because it doesn’t really do much beyond provide some emotional satisfaction to like-minded people as it alienates others who aren’t so invested in libertarianism, nationalism, etc that they could be talked to. Another is that, in a time that is certain to be filled with legitimate outrages, to spend every day in a fit of pique over them without regard to scale and scope is going to be exhausting. Some crimes really are petty.

So it is with those concerns in mind that I have to approach what I’m going to post here, because not everything deserves indignation, and we will surely have to keep some indignation in reserve over the next four years.

And so, on to the histrionics.

Many of my friends have talked about how America has weathered worse storms, but those hopeful soothing words ignore the context of the times of those previous storms. Nixon was investigated by a press and impeached by a Congress genuinely unwilling to believe his actions, as they so contrasted with his “happy warrior” and “law and order” persona, not to mention precedent; we now have on our hands a man who gleefully describes committing constitutional & legal violations that Nixon (a lawyer, let us remember) could only have dreamed of, coupled with a Congress that will have no interest in stopping him, so long as they get their way. Reagan was confirmably addled and detached in his second term, and due to his apparent inability to recognize that his wishes were illegal (funding wars in Central America), he pressed his wishes until pliable members of the executive branch gladly contravened the law and the constitution to make the Gipper happy. We now have on our hands a man who, apparently, can only tolerate sycophancy from his underlings. If there is a limit to what he could possibly get away with, I haven’t been able to conjure it up.

I won’t get into the Bush years beyond mentioning that Dick Cheney was perhaps the most powerful VP in the history of the Republic and we have reports (and the evidence from our senses) that Trump, having no interest in actually governing, will devolve most responsibilities to Mike Pence.

And I gloss over the Bush years with reason. As far as I can tell, the outright unsuitability of every announced cabinet member to their posts is unrivaled by any other administration since the Reagan years, so much so that the term “regulatory capture” is perhaps mordantly inadequate. It is as if the Secretaries of each department were picked expressly to do the exact opposite of the supposed mandate of that department. An avowed, active opponent of public schools in charge of Education; as AG a former prosecutor who wants to continue and double down on failed policies that disproportionately negatively impact the poor; a former Labor secretary married to an opponent of infrastructure spending in charge of Transportation…it’s like you need to put everything in scare quotes: Secretary of “Education,” Department of “Justice,” “Health” and Human “Services.”

I have no answers, but I can provide coordinates of where we’ve been, where it looks like we’re being taken, and possibilities of different paths. That’s the whole point of this.

So, onto the jibber-jabber:

Rick Perlstein is an historian and essayist who has produced three essential books on the resurgence of the American conservative movement that has fully supplanted the traditional Republican establishment. His wealth of knowledge is always worth tapping, and his thoughts on what to expect (“Democracy and Indecency”) should be read. I included an excerpt from his book The Invisible Bridge because its passage on pundit myopia seemed relevant.

Thomas Frank is, among other things, a writer and co-founder of The Baffler with a Doctorate in History from the University of Chicago. His books What’s The Matter With Kansas? and Listen, Liberal! have traced the abandonment of traditional constituencies by the Democratic Party (and their courtiers) and that abandonment’s consequences. His recent piece in the November Harper’s covers similar ground while focusing on the treatment of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign.

On a related note, Chris Hayes’ Twilight of The Elites diagnoses the failure of meritocracy, details its inducements to game the system and how failing up is always an option if you have the right CV. The excerpt below is a fine example of a writer with a keen mind. Buy the book, or bug your library to get it.

The final two links represent why we need to be vigilant and not be subsumed by the daily outrages. As we withstand a full-frontal on norms and customs, there has long been a much quieter erosion of the kind of rights we don’t think about until we don’t have them anymore.

There is a claim before the Supreme Court regarding a fairly obscure provision in federal law concerning birthright citizenship that you’ll need to read about to believe. I think the piece is nicely illustrative of how we’re subject to laws formed by long dead people with misguided intentions informed by half-baked notions (Aside: I’m currently reading Three Generations, No Imbeciles about the Buck v. Bell case).

The last link is to an article covering an even more abstruse area of jurisprudence that could impact discrimination claims, civil rights cases, and beyond. Related suggested viewing: Hot Coffee

A History of Abuse

Democracy and Indecency – From Nixon to Trump

I stroked my chin, and explained how such maniacal, anti-democratic, and violently anarchic rage had always been part of the story, though really only at the margins of the American conservative movement.

At the same time, as a citizen and as a journalist, I documented that margin encroaching on the center, until, with Donald Trump’s apotheosis, it seems now to have to consumed the entire damned thing.

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Defining Deviancy Down

Excerpt from The Invisible Bridge

When Reagan began getting attention for talking this way, in America’s season of melancholy, Washington’s touts cited him only to dismiss him. No one who called the Watergate burglars “well-meaning individuals committed to the reelection of the President . . . not criminals at heart,” as Reagan had in the spring of 1973, could be taken seriously as a political comer. But a central theme of my previous two books chronicling conservatism’s ascendency in American politics has been the myopia of pundits, who so frequently fail to notice the very cultural ground shifting beneath their feet. In fact, at every turn in America’s reckoning with its apparent decline, there were always dissenting voices.

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A Town Called Malice

Swat Team

My project in the pages that follow is to review the media’s attitude toward yet a third politician, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year. By examining this recent history, much of it already forgotten, I hope to rescue a number of worthwhile facts about the press’s attitude toward Sanders. Just as crucially, however, I intend to raise some larger questions about the politics of the media in this time of difficulty and transition (or, depending on your panic threshold, industry-wide apocalypse) for newspapers.

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How To Buy Merit

Excerpt from Twilight of the Elites

At the moment we are caught in a strange limbo between stage one and two. While the pillar institutions of American life are now, almost without exception, viewed with deep skepticism by the American public, these institutions remain largely unreformed, helmed by the same elites who screwed them up in the first place.The men who oversaw baseball’s scandal-ridden steroid era still run the sport. The same bishops who lied about and covered up serial sexual abuse of minors are still running dioceses around the country. In Washington, the very architects of disaster—the pundits who sold the Iraq War, the prophets of deregulation, the corrupt and discredited lobbyists and merchants of influence—return time and again, Terminator-like, to the seats of power. We’ve swapped out the party in charge in three successive elections, and yet the country’s key unelected power brokers remain unchanged.

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Half A Person

Searching for a remedy for constitutional violation on citizenship

Congress has determined that citizenship requires more of a connection to the United States for the child of one U.S.-citizen parent than a child with two U.S.-citizen parents. But it also carved out an exception to that general rule for children whose parents are not married, and whose mothers are U.S. citizens. That rule, the government reasons, derives from the presumption that, when two unmarried parents have a child together, “there ordinarily is only one legally recognized parent – the mother – at the time of birth.”

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The first thing we do...

Roberts Rules for Protecting Corporations

The changes to the rules have been part of a decades-long conservative project to limit access to the courts, and thereby limit corporate and government defendants’ exposure to liability. Unable to achieve many of these changes through the usual legislative process, conservatives have turned to the courts. And the courts, acting in an adjudicative capacity, have for the last several decades, largely been compliant in making it tougher to bring lawsuits to vindicate one’s federal rights.

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November 30, 2016

The donut before the sermon:

The two welfare-related articles below came to my mind when I read of the incoming Congress’ proposal for Medicare: block grants. This is, as shown below, a longtime pet conservative solution that is sold with the phrases “local control,” and “states know better,” but really ends up just being a blank check to states drawn from our (collective, federal) money with little oversight.

A few quotes from the studies cited in the Rockefeller piece jumped out at me because they mention how climate change will have an effect on a portion of the population, and it seems to me the folks who could take action on this information don’t expect to be part of that portion.

And obligatory Edroso posts because we all need to smile through the tears.

Intended Consequences Dept.

Why do welfare funds go to marriage counseling?

In August of 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law welfare reform ending welfare as we know it. In its place came a program of emphasizing work and time limits on how long you can get welfare. It became known as TANF — temporary assistance to needy families — and states received a yearly block grant to fund the program.

So 20 years later, how have states been spending that money?

Well, in Oklahoma and many other states, tens of millions of dollars go to sometimes surprising programs, like marriage counseling.

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Zombie Notions

Welfare block grants: advantages and disadvantages

Two important implications are: (a) any system that increases state discretion in program design while continuing federal
matching funds must be viewed cautiously; (b) there is no magic bullet, so that states may respond to a reduced federal commitment coupled with greater state discretion by making “welfare reform” synonymous with cutting benefits, especially in economic turndowns.

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Department of Housing and Urban Envelopment

Meet the YIMBYs

YIMBYs are starting to make waves at city hall. In July, under pressure from YIMBYs and other urbanists who argued that the city needed to do more to include marginalized groups such as renters, immigrants and people of color, Murray announced the city was cutting formal ties with the 13 neighborhood councils that advise the city on growth and development, eliminating their funding and creating a new advisory group to come up with a more inclusive neighborhood outreach strategy. (The neighborhood councils, Murray noted, are dominated by older, white, wealthy homeowners, and are not representative of an increasingly diverse city.)

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Fuel Family Feud

The Rockefeller Family Fund vs. Exxon

The next year Roger Cohen, director of Exxon’s Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory, wrote in an internal memo that by 2030, projected cumulative carbon emissions could, after a delay, “produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth’s population).”

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File Under: No Shit, Sherlock

In latest voter ID filing, feds argue Texas discriminated on purpose

The Obama administration is arguing that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated when they passed a strict voter ID law in 2011. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton refuted the arguments in his own filing.

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From the Files of The Esteemed Edroso

A Return to Normalization: Rightbloggers Help Numb the Nation to Trump

[…]Brendan O’Neill, who said it was great Trump won because it meant “America Called Bullshit on the Cult of Clinton,” and made liberals who considered her “Mother Teresa in a pantsuit” cry. O’Neill was particularly pleased by the humiliation of venerable right-wing hate object Lena Dunham, Miley Cyrus, Kate McKinnon (who “played Clinton as a pantsuited angel” on SNL), “a feminist in the Guardian,” “someone at Bustle” — hmm, think I see a pattern here.


New Village Voice Column Up

[I]t’s as if he had died, and had his face wrestled by an undertaker into a cheerful, Uncle Toby grin for the casket, and then someone thought it would be nice if, before he was planted, he could be crunched into a seated position, then surrounded by children who have been promised $10 not to scream in terror while the scene was photographed.


Goebbels Comes Back As A Less-Charismatic Don Draper

Similarly, how do you know I wasn’t kidnapped by aliens, and that these cops who claim I was driving 100 mph drunk aren’t in on it? Without a major outer space exploration to check out my assertion, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.