Saturday, October 31, 2015

The politics behind the Benghazi hearings, from Newsweek

From politicalprof on Tumblr

Since March, the committee has issued almost 30 press releases related to Clinton; only five have been put out on every other topic combined. Then there is the committee’s interim report from this past May. The word Obama—who cannot run for commander-in-chief again [JF note: and who, after all, was president during this episode]—is not mentioned. Neither is the word president. Or Ansar al-Sharia, the group suspected of engineering the attack. White House makes only 13 appearances. Imagine an investigation on 9/11 that did not mention Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or President Bush; that is what has been done with the Benghazi committee’s first public report…. The name Ahmed Abu Khatalla, the man arrested as the mastermind of the attack, shows up once. The word terrorist appears only 10 times. As for references to Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination? Those show up 36 times in just 13 pages, an astonishing number given that the word Benghazi appears only 38 times. But the winner for the most mentions is the 39 references to emails from Clinton and the State Department.
Kurt Eichenwald, Newsweek

On Leaders and Demagogues

From Robert Reich

Among the current crop of candidates for president of the United States, who exhibits leadership and who doesn’t?

Leadership isn’t just the ability to attract followers. Otherwise some of the worst tyrants in history would be considered great leaders. They weren’t leaders; they were demagogues. There’s a difference.

A leader brings out the best in his followers. A demagogue brings out the worst.

Leaders inspire tolerance. Demagogues incite hate.

Leaders empower the powerless; they give them voice and respect. Demagogues scapegoat the powerless; they use scapegoating as a means to fortify their power.

Leaders calm peoples’ irrational fears. Demagogues exploit them.

My list of great American leaders would include Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frances Perkins, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his second inaugural address near the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln urged his followers to act with “malice toward none, with charity for all.”

In his first inaugural at the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt told Americans the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts.”

In 1963, as African-Americans demanded their civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. urged his followers “not to seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

My list of American demagogues would include Senator “Pitchfork” Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina, who supported lynch mobs in the 1890s; Father Charles Coughlin, whose antisemitic radio rants in the 1930s praised Nazi Germany; Senator Joseph McCarthy, who conducted the communist witch hunts of the 1950s; and Governor George C. Wallace, the staunch defender of segregation.

These men inspired the worst in their followers. They scapegoated the weak and set Americans against each other. They used fear to stoke hate and thereby entrench their power.

Back to the current crop of Presidential candidates: Who are the leaders, and who are the demagogues?

The leaders have sought to build bridges with those holding different views.

Rand Paul spoke at Berkeley, for example, seeking common ground with the university’s mostly-progressive students.

Bernie Sanders traveled to Liberty University where most students and faculty disagree with his positions on gay marriage and abortion. “I came here today,” he said, “because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse.”

Other candidates, by contrast, have fueled division. Ben Carson has said being gay is a choice. “A lot of people who go into prison straight and when they come out they’re gay,” he says, “so did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”

Carson has also argued that Muslims should not be allowed to become President. I “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

Donald Trump, meanwhile, has charged that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Trump has lashed out at those who he charges come to America to give birth, so that their children will be, in his term, “anchor babies” – arguing that “we have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell.”

And after one of his followers charged that Muslims “have training camps growing where they want to kill us,” and asked Trump “when can we get rid of them?” Trump didn’t demur. He said “a lot of people are saying that” and “we’re going to be looking at that.”

Nor has Trump inspired the best in his followers.

At one recent rally, after Trump denigrated undocumented workers, his supporters shoved and spit on immigrant activists who had shown up to protest. At other Trump rallies his followers have shouted at Latino U.S. citizens to “go home” and yelled “if it ain’t white, it ain’t right.”

Trump followers have told immigrant activists to “clean my hotel room, bitch.” They’ve beaten up and urinated on the homeless, and and joked “you can shoot all the people you want that cross illegally.”

America is the only democracy in the world where anyone can declare himself or herself a candidate for the presidency – and, armed with enough money, possibly even win.

Which makes it all the more important that we distinguish leaders from demagogues.

The former ennoble our society. The latter degrade and endanger it – even if they lose.

The Brazen Ways the Charter School Industry Rips You Off

Charter schools have squandered or stolen millions of taxpayer dollars.

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet October 22, 2015

A stunning new report on the myriad ways public charter school operators have squandered or stolen millions of taxpayer dollars and how government education officials have failed to track or report this burgeoning privatization scandal has been released by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nationwide investigative reporting group.

“For years, no reporters or citizens could readily examine where their federal tax dollars had been spent on charters, which have a higher failure rate than [traditional] public schools and have been plagued by numerous fraud indictments of charter school operators,” said the introduction to the report, "Charter School Black Hole: CMD Special Investigation Reveals Hugh Gaps in Public Info on Taxpayer Money Spent."

CMD spent a year filing dozens of public records requests with federal and state agencies to produce an overview and summary of findings in 12 states and Washington, D.C., including the first-ever total of federal spending on public charter schools—$3.7 billion—since it began subsidizing this purportedly transformational reform two decades ago.

Public charter schools, which operate with a mix of taxpayer and private foundation funds, have been pushed by critics who say traditional public schools are failing and must be reconstituted without teachers’ unions, locally elected school board oversight or additional state and federal regulatory scrutiny. There are currently an estimated 6,700 charters operating across the country, with nearly 3 million children.

The charter school industry is arguably the foremost current example of privatization in America. A close look at its actual track record—not its political talking points and public relations rhetoric—reveals significant shortcomings, from delivering on its hyped pledges to transform public education, as seen in its mixed record of student performance to a growing evidence trail of fiscal cronyism, mismanagement and financial crimes. The CMD report focuses on the fiscal side of this ledger, pointing out how tax dollars have been wasted on hundreds of schools that never opened or soon closed, followed by the loose state and federal regulatory environment that turns an intentional blind eye to these developments and keeps pouring multi-millions into a new industry.

“Nearly 200 charters have closed in California, nearly one of every five that have opened,” CMD said, beginning its report on the state with the most charter schools, where one-fifth of U.S. charter students reside. “Their failures have included stunning tales of financial fraud, skimming of retirement funds, and financial mismanagement, material violations of the law, massive debt, unsafe school conditions, lack of teacher credentials, failure to conduct background checks, terrible academic performance and test results, and insufficient enrollment.”

This summation of categorized failings is followed by examples from 12 failing charter schools that received $4.7 million in federal funds. California officials would not disclose how much the state gave these schools. As one delves into these examples—versions of which are to be found in every state—one realizes that this investigative report is the tip of the mismanagement iceberg, because CMD has relied on “incomplete news accounts that simply cannot provide any actual accounting for the funds spent” in California and many other states where education regulators are protecting this new private industry.

CMD cites examples of failed California schools such as Renew Virtual Academy #1 in San Joaquin, where “CEO Ellen Ringer hired her son, Deputy Executive Director of Business Services Christopher Walenta, at an annual salary of nearly $100,000 and paid other relatives without disclosing relationships.” He telecommuted from “his Lone Tree, Colorado home” for “two weeks each month” and received full benefits and expenses. Such nepotism is typical of the many instances where school founders turn charters into a quick ticket to enrichment despite their industry’s polished rhetoric of doing a better job to lift up underserved and inpoverished communities.

In other states, CMD documents how federal funds went to more sophisticated operators or corporate chains that pursued other scams, such as charter managers who continued to access taxpayer funds even as partner businesses were in legal trouble with government agencies, or used their status as government-backed education entrepreneurs to obtain bank loans intended for new schools that they pocketed.

For example, Indiana’s Early Career Academy, which received “a $193,000 planning grant” but never opened last year, “is sponsored by a for-profit college—ITT Tech—being sued by the federal government for urging students to get loans for college credits that do not transfer.” In Michigan, Bay City Academy got a $200,000 federal grant, enabling “its founder… [to obtain] a construction line of credit to convert a church into the Bay City Academy, but instead funnelled $934,000 into his private account.” There are dozens of similar examples listed in the report.    

The yearlong investigation makes clear that many federal and state education officials have bought into the school privatization movement’s rhetoric that an intentional lack of public oversight, reporting and accountability enables school operators to efficiently and creatively bring education innovation to underserved communities. The report points out that state after state has adopted legislation transferring the oversight of charters—which are still public schools—from locally elected school boards to remote and newly created state “authorizer” offices. Even though this template was created and promoted by right-wing advocacy groups with deep anti-union sentiments, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, it has been embraced by blue and red states, as well as top federal education officials under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

“What has evolved as a result of the more than $3.7 billion… the feds have spent fueling charters—plus other sums from states—is a classic example of ‘industry capture’ of the agencies charged with oversight by the industry they are tasked with overseeing,” CMD explains. “With such capture comes agency devotion to protecting funding, insulated by a lack of transparency about funding oversight and distorted through agency relationships with charter industry cheerleaders… That flexibility has allowed an epidemic of fraud, waste and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools. Charters are policed—if they are policed at all—mainly by charter proponents.”

How is taxpayer money being used and abused by the school privatization industry? In Indiana, “Padua Academy in Indianapolis lost its charter in 2014 and converted to a private religious school, but not before receiving $702,000 in federal seed money.”

In Michigan, “four out of five” charters are not being run by visionary ex-public school teachers—the original idea for these schools in the 1980s—but “are really being run by for-profit management companies.” As CMD noted, “The full amount of federal and state tax dollars that have been siphoned awy from students and publicly owned infrastructure  for for-profit firms has never been calculated.” As of 2014, the state has 297 charters operating, with 108 closing “since the inception of charters in the state.”

Ohio may have the nation’s worst charter school track record. “Setting aside the issue of failed charters, a majority of the CSP-funded [federal charter school program] charters that remain open—51%—scored in the bottom 16% (letter grades D-F) on the 2014 Ohio Performance Index, as measured by student performance on state assessments,” CMD noted. “Ohio charters also spend more than twice as much on administration as public schools on average. To offset this—which includes advertising buys and performance bonunses for the CEOs—charters allocate $1,000 less per student each year in classroom instruction than public schools.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer found that the state’s top charter school executive falsified these results “by scrubbing data from low-performing online schools” as part of an effort to obtain continued federal funding. That official, who is married to Gov. John Kasich’s chief of staff, has since resigned but is working on Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The CMD report underscores that this is not simply a red-state problem. In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stonewalled CMD’s public records requests, even after its reporting team found “worrying discrepancies between the figures in the state Grant Finance database and what was reported to the U.S. Department of Education.” In other words, the people who know where the tax dollars are being spent aren't saying. And it’s not just New York. “With its poor oversight of charters, independent auditing in Texas has shown that federal monies have even gone to religious schools, and there is no indication that the state has the statuatory authority or budget to conduct meaningful oversight of charters.”

The CMD report shatters the myth that the private sector always knows best how to do what is difficult and challenging for government. Its recommendations are timid when considering that its report shows public school privatizers can be as abuse-prone as the privatized prison industry or military contractors serving in war zones overseas. CMD is not calling for a pause or moratorium on continued charter school growth, simply for every level of government involved to track where the money is going and to publicly disclose it.            

“This investigation reveals huge and continuing gaps in information provided to the public about federal and state tax dollars received by charters and how American taxpayer money is being spent,” the report concludes, adding that to respond “to these severe gaps” federal and state officials “should publish” annually detailed financial information about every school receiving government subsidies, as well as report any school that “never opens or closes voluntarily, or for any reason.”

Re-post of a favorite - Parts of the Bible are evil

Re-post of a favorite - The future is now

Five OBG political posters

Bush wars

McCain Palin

Sarah Palin

McCain Palin

Larry the Cable Guy

Religiously speaking

No sound evidence for the efficacy of religion


Women in the Bible

Thee were a number of our founding fathers who were atheists.


Shooting report - What with all of the guns out there, this is inevitable

Suspect sought for shooting man, pregnant woman in unincorporated Monrovia area
Authorities are searching for a suspect who killed a man and injured a pregnant woman in a shooting that broke out in an unincorporated area of ...

Suspect arrested in recent shooting death in Northwest Washington
A suspect was arrested Monday in an Oct. 20 shooting death that was at least the fourth high- profile killing since midsummer in or near near three ...

Man killed in Phoenix nightclub shooting identified
One person died and another was seriously wounded in an early morning shooting near Broadway Road and 7th Avenue that left a total of five victims, ...

Murder charges filed in Auburn drive-by shooting that killed 2
A 19-year-old gang member has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with last week's deadly drive-by shooting in ...

Teen's father: Family will 'keep fighting' for justice after fatalshooting
After seeing for the first time Tuesday a graphic video of his son being shot to death by a Seneca police officer yelling, "I'm gonna shoot your f---ing a-- .

Update: Teen killed in Wade Park shooting identified
Mohammad Hasan and Karen Brooks live near the shooting scene. ... This shootingfollows several shootings in Cleveland of children and teens in ...

Wilmington shooting suspect arrested in NJ
A suspect in an August drive-by shooting in Wilmington has been arrested in New Jersey. David A. Buckham, 24, formerly of Wilmington, was taken ...

Second person dies after late-night Roanoke shooting
ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – Two people have died after a shooting in Roanoke CityMonday evening. Police are investigating the deadly shooting in the ...

Publix shooting suspect in custody, Altamonte Springs PD says
Two people -- the gunman and the getaway driver -- are sought in connection with theshooting at the Publix off State Road 436 and Palm Springs ...

"Dead mother" comment may have sparked Brookfield shooting
WAUKESHA - A comment about a 76-year-old man's dead mother may have sparked a Brookfield neighborhood shooting Sunday that led to two men ...

KPD: Suspect charged for shooting at Isabella Tower Apartments
Knoxville police are investigating a shooting at an apartment complex that sent one person to the hospital. KPD said it received multiple calls around ...

Neighbors saw nothing amiss before Bolingbrook shooting
Neighbors of the Naperville and Aurora men who died in a shooting at a Bolingbrook industrial park reacted Tuesday with surprise and shock.

Make of it what you will...

GunFail - the tragedies never end.

The only way to stop a bad dog with a gun is a good dog with a gun!

Had enough yet? Cops and courts gone wild.

Ten more political posters

Wage crimes


Vitter running for Governor of Louisiana 

Looking for work




Bush and Iraq


Nancy Reagan

They may not be scientists, but they do know about lady parts.

And Jeb can't figure out why nobody is interested in him.