Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Want To See How School Choice Leads to Segregation? Visit Betsy DeVos’ Hometown

Don’t believe me? Take a look.

By Jennifer Berkshire / Have You Heard May 18, 2017

To see for yourself how school choice leads to segregation, I recommend a visit to Betsy DeVos’ hometown of Holland, MI.

Here, two decades of the policies that the Trump/DeVos education budget now wants to take national, have resulted in white flight and school closures, leaving Holland’s poor and minority students segregated in the few schools that remain open. I traveled to Holland last week for the annual Tulip Time festival, a celebration of the city’s Dutch heritage. But along with Dutch shoes and swagger, the legacy of Michigan’s now two decade-long experiment with school choice was on vivid display as well, and it wasn’t pretty.

First, some background. During the endless runup to DeVos’ confirmation hearing last year, it was the Wild West-style school choice she’d pushed in Detroit that garnered most of the attention. But DeVos was also behind Michigan’s inter-district choice policies that, starting in 2000, *disrupted* neighborhood attendance zones, just as the Trump Administration’s proposed budget seeks to do. In Michigan, school choice has become the new white flight as white families have fled their resident districts for schools that are less diverse. The most dramatic example of this may be in DeVos’ own home town of Holland.

The choice to segregate

Since Michigan adopted the school choice policies DeVos is now pushing across the country, Holland’s white enrollment has dropped by more than 60%, as students decamped for public schools or charters in whiter communities nearby. The students who remain in the Holland Public Schools are now majority Hispanic and overwhelmingly poor—twice the schools’ poverty rate when Michigan’s school choice experiment began.  Many of these students are the children of migrant farm workers who came to this part of the state to pick fruit; school choice enabled Holland’s white families to pick not to attend school with them. One in three students in Holland no longer attends school there, and since the money follows the child in the Mitten State, yet another DeVos priority, white flight has eaten the district’s finances too.

In 2000, Holland had fifteen schools. Now it has just eight. Of nine Holland schools that once served elementary students, just two are left. By 2009, even the elementary school where DeVos’ mother once taught had been shuttered. As students flee for schools in communities like Zeeland, the future of Holland’s public schools looks increasingly dire. Already there are mutterings in this wealthy, Dutch-dominated community that the school population *doesn’t represent* Holland. And as DeVos well understands, a community that has little stake in its schools is unlikely to shell out money to pay for them.

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Robert Reich

I noted last month that Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, sent a letter to the Trump administration requesting the names of all former industry lobbyists who have been given waivers from federal ethics rules to work for Trump.

The White House has just refused -- telling Shaub he doesn’t have legal authority to get that information, and charging he’s motivated by politics. With Orwellian logic, the White House says “the very fact that this internal discussion was leaked implies that the data being sought is not being collected to satisfy our mutual high standard of ethics.”

Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are now working in the Trump administration -- many on the exact topics they had previously handled on behalf of private-sector clients — including oil and gas companies and Wall Street banks — as recently as January.

But keeping the waivers confidential makes it impossible to know who they are and whether they've been given an explicit pass to ignore ethics rules.

“It is an extraordinary thing,” Shaub said of the White House request. “I have never seen anything like it.”

Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as acting director of the Office of Government Ethics during the George W. Bush administration, called the move by the Trump White House “unprecedented and extremely troubling. It challenges the very authority of the director of the agency and his ability to carry out the functions of the office.”

Face it: Trump has turned the federal government over to the shills of big business and Wall Street. While Trump and his family profit off Trump's presidency, big business and Wall Street are also profiting, at the public’s expense.

What do you think?


Trump Just Publicly Embarrassed Himself At Presser With Netanyahu


President Trump continued on to the second leg of his overseas trip this morning, landing in Israel to a warm welcome from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He was in the nation barely an hour before he committed what is sure to be the first of many gaffes this trip.

For entirely incomprehensible reasons, Trump decided to use his press appearance with Netanyahu to publicly defend himself against the accusations that he passed highly classified information obtained by Israeli intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador – by claiming that he “never said it was Israeli” intelligence.

 ABC News Politics ? @ABCPolitics
Pres. Trump with Netanyahu: "I never mentioned the word or the name Israel" during Oval Office meeting with Russians http://abcn.ws/2q9OnIJ
11:29 AM - 22 May 2017
  303 303 Retweets   282 282 likes
Nobody ever accused him of giving away the source of the information – but the dolt just confirmed, contrary to his staff’s vehement protestations, that yes, he did give highly classified information away to a hostile foreign power. On top of that, he just confirmed to the world that it was Israeli intelligence.

Israeli officials are reportedly already “furious” and “horrified” at Trump because he “compromised a vital source of information on the Islamic State and possibly Iran,” reports the Jerusalem Post.

They were reportedly “shouting” at their American counterparts over potentially exposing an extremely valuable intelligence asset – not to mention putting his/her life in grave danger. This latest admission is sure to infuriate them even more.

Once again, Trump has made the bizarre decision to defend himself against accusations that were never leveled and ends up digging himself into an even deeper hole. Israel is one of our nation’s closest allies and our most important partner in the Middle East – and Trump has already shoved his foot squarely in his mouth.

Israel is one of our nation’s closest allies and our most important partner in the Middle East, and if their officials were mad before, they will be furious now. Trump has shown he is entirely incapable of being trusted with classified information and if he continues like this none of our allies will be willing to share information with us – and can you blame them?


Saudi Arabia, UAE pledge $100 million to ethically questionable fund proposed by Ivanka Trump

Natasha Geiling
Reporter at ThinkProgress. Contact me: ngeiling@americanprogress.org
May 21

Donald Trump criticized similar donations to the Clinton Foundation when he was a candidate.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged $100 million to the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Fund, an initiative proposed by first daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump. The fund, which was first announced in April, has already raised serious legal and ethical questions about how a White House adviser can both shape foreign policy and actively solicit donations from foreign countries for the fund.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the initiative would provide technical assistance and investments for projects that support the economic empowerment of women around the globe. Ivanka Trump does not control the money, though she first pitched the idea to World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and has discussed the idea with leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On Sunday, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim praised “Ivanka’s leadership” in spearheading the fund, and called it “a stunning achievement.”

President Donald Trump was extremely critical of Saudi Arabia’s contributions to the Clinton Foundation while campaigning against Hillary Clinton, going so far as to call for Clinton to return all the money given to the foundation, both in speeches on the campaign trail and during the October presidential debate.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

“I just choose to not listen”: why Trump supporters are tuning out the scandals

Brian Resnick · Thursday, May 18, 2017, 4:05 pm

Motivated ignorance, explained.

Objectively, Donald Trump’s presidency is flailing. Regardless of what you feel about his core politics and policy, the Trump administration is caught in a cycle of scandals of its own creation. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, with the possible intent of quashing an FBI probe into his campaign. He gave away intelligence secrets to the Russians, potentially endangering a foreign agent embedded with ISIS. (And wait ... there’s more!)

The start of the Trump administration has been riddled with more scandals than any presidency of recent memory. And yet Trump still enjoys high support among his base: 85 percent of Trump voters approve of the job he’s doing, a recent Morning Consult poll found.

If you’re looking for an explanation for why Trump’s support is so solid among his base — and why it will remain so stubbornly high — read this piece by the Associated Press, where the reporters asked Trump supporters how they’re handling the wave of scandals.

“I tuned it out,” Michele Velardi, a 44-year-old in Staten Island, told the AP of the recent news. “I didn’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to feel that he’s not doing what he said, so I just choose to not listen.”

This line is extremely revealing. It shows a psychological tendency we’re all susceptible to. That tendency is called “motivated ignorance,” and it’s an extremely powerful force in American politics. It’s also one of the keys to understanding why political discourse can be so irrational.

Politics is about establishing a shared sense of reality with like-minded people. It’s not about facts.

Here’s a simple truth: We find inconvenient political facts to be genuinely unpleasant. Psychologists theorize that’s because our partisan identities get mixed up with our personal identities — which would mean that an attack on our strongly held beliefs is an attack on the self.

“The brain’s primary responsibility is to take care of the body, to protect the body,” Jonas Kaplan, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, told me earlier this year. “The psychological self is the brain’s extension of that. When our self feels attacked, our [brain is] going to bring to bear the same defenses that it has for protecting the body.”

And researchers have seen what this immune system looks like in action.

A recent study presented 200 participants with two options. They could either read and answer questions about an opinion they agreed with — the topic was same-sex marriage — or read the opposing viewpoint.

Here’s the catch: If the participants chose to read the opinion they agreed with, they were entered into a raffle pool to earn $7. If they selected to read opposing opinion, they had a chance to win $10.

A majority — 63 percent — of the participants chose to stick with what they already knew, forgoing the chance to win $10. Both people with pro-same-sex marriage beliefs and those against it avoided the opinion hostile to their worldview at similar rates.

In another test, the researchers (essentially) asked participants to rate how interested they were in learning about alternative political viewpoints compared with activities like: “watching paint dry,” “sitting quietly,” “going for a walk on a sunny day,” and “having a tooth pulled.”

The results: Listening to a political opponent isn’t as awful as getting a tooth pulled, but it’s trending in that direction. It’s certainly a lot worse than taking a leisurely stroll.

“People on the left and right,” the study concludes, “are motivated to avoid hearing from the other side for some of the same reasons: the anticipation of cognitive dissonance and the undermining of a fundamental need for a shared reality with other people.”

The upshot: We avoid uncomfortable opinions and facts in the same way we avoid going for a root canal or taking out the trash. And we do it to maintain a sense of camaraderie and shared reality with our political teams.

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The Trump administration is arresting over 100 immigrants without criminal records a day

Dara Lind · Thursday, May 18, 2017, 3:05 pm

The Trump White House is collapsing. The Trump immigration agenda is chugging along.

The Trump administration doesn’t have much to brag about. So it’s worth paying attention when they do.

On Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the agency responsible for deporting unauthorized immigrants from the US) put out a flashy, photo-studded press release trumpeting the number of immigrants it had arrested in President Trump’s first 100 days: nearly 41,000.

“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” the press release quotes ICE’s acting director, Thomas Homan, as saying. “ICE continues to execute our mission professionally and in accordance with the law, and our communities will be much safer for it.”

The pace of immigrant arrests is up sharply from the past two years of the Obama administration. It’s comparable to the immigration regime that existed for the decade before that — when millions of unauthorized immigrants went about their daily lives in the US in constant fear of deportation at any time.

So far, the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement record resembles the first term of the Obama administration: the high-water mark for deportation and immigrant fear in modern US history.

Even as the administration is plagued by scandals and leaks, and the Republican legislative agenda is moving in fits and starts, the enthusiasm with which this administration has taken to immigration enforcement is shaping up to be its biggest success. It’s proceeding apace, untouched by the drama that has engulfed the Trump White House and threatens to sink his presidency. And even in the unlikely event that Trump is somehow forced from office, the lasting effects of the last few months are going to take a long time to undo.

ICE isn’t being indiscriminate in whom it arrests — but it’s certainly being less picky

The latest statistics released by ICE appear to confirm the picture of immigration enforcement under Trump that’s emerged from earlier data and from anecdotal reports around the country: ICE isn’t being wholly indiscriminate in going after unauthorized immigrants, but it’s being a lot less picky in going after the “low-hanging fruit.”

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David Clarke was offered a job in the Trump administration that no one can confirm but David Clarke

Rss@dailykos.com (kelly Macias) · Thursday, May 18, 2017, 1:28 pm

Donald Trump loves Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke so much that he’s giving him a job. At least, that’s what David Clarke says. According to Clarke, he has accepted an appointment in the Trump administration—where else but in the Department of Homeland Security, of course.

Clarke said he will take a position at the Office of Partnership and Engagement. In that role, he would help coordinate DHS outreach to local law enforcement agencies, according to theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel.

So far, DHS isn't confirming Clarke's appointment. "Such senior positions are announced by the Department when made official by the Secretary," a department spokeswoman said in an email to Mother Jones. "No such announcement with regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made."

The irony here is that Clarke is terrible at his job. So he shouldn’t be coordinating outreach to law enforcement agencies when he wasn’t good at running his own. He’s currently in legal trouble in Wisconsin for the deaths of several inmates in the Milwaukee County Jail under his watch. He’s being sued for the abuse of pregnant women alleging painful and inhumane treatment while they were incarcerated in the jails, too. And he’s also under investigation for using his power and influence to harass others who simply piss him off in public spaces.

In January, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an editorial calling for the sheriff to step down, citing the jail deaths, his habit of attacking his political opponents on social media—which he does on his department's official Facebook page—and the fact that Clarke seemed more focused on "pining for a job in the Trump administration" than on his responsibilities as county sheriff. County auditors have launched an investigation into whether Clarke abused his power following an airplane flight in January when he had six deputies and two K-9 units confront a passenger at the gate with whom Clarke had an unfriendly exchange on the plane.


STUDY: House GOP O'Care Repeal Bill Cuts $43B From Children's Medicaid

Tierney Sneed · Thursday, May 18, 2017, 12:23 pm

The major overhaul of Medicaid House Republicans passed with their bill to repeal Obamacare earlier this month would cut $43 billion in Medicaid funding for non-disabled children over 10 years, a study by the consultant firm Avalere found. The study also broke down the cuts by states, finding that Texas, Florida and New York would be the biggest losers in Medicaid funding for children’s health care coverage.

The House GOP bill, the American Health Care Act, transforms the traditional Medicaid program from an unlimited match rate to what is known as a per capita cap, meaning the feds would set a limit on the funding offered to states on a per enrollee basis. Because the metric Republicans use to raise the caps over time is slower than the inflation rate of Medicaid, the cuts to the program would grow bigger over time.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the original version of the legislation would cut $880 billion from the program over the next decade.

The GOP Senate is in the process of writing its own bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that they said will include an overhaul of Medicaid. So far, they have signaled that they will embrace the House’s per capita cap’s approach, but are tinkering with the nuts and bolts of how the caps would work.


Immigrant who committed suicide under ICE custody had been in solitary confinement for 19 days

Rss@dailykos.com (gabe Ortiz) · Thursday, May 18, 2017, 10:57 am

More details have emerged about the suicide of Jean Jimenez-Joseph, the seventh immigrant to die this year while under ICE custody. Jimenez-Joseph was found unresponsive in his cell by “self-inflicted strangulation”—the headline from ICE’s statement read that he “passed away”—and was pronounced dead at a Georgia hospital. But according to new information from officials, Jimenez-Joseph had been kept in solitary confinement for nearly two weeks prior to his death:

Jimenez was kept in solitary confinement for 19 days, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), which is investigating the case. An ICE spokesperson told ThinkProgress Tuesday Jimenez had been placed in disciplinary segregation twice: once between April 13 and 18 for fighting with another detainee and a second time on April 27 for violating facility rules. His isolation was extended after a second disciplinary violation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution further reported that Jimenez was placed in solitary confinement after he was “observed jumping off a second floor walkway at Stewart.” Jimenez’s isolation was extended for three days after he exposed himself to a nurse, the publication added.

The ICE spokesperson said Jimenez was scheduled to be released from disciplinary segregation this week.

Despite the fact that the ACLU has said that solitary confinement “is fundamentally inhumane,” ICE guidelines at the facility where Jimenez-Joseph died state that “people may be placed in medical isolation if they are at ‘high risk for violent behavior because of a mental health condition,’ but such isolation should not be used for punitive purposes.” But according to an immigrant rights group, that’s exactly what’s been happening at the facility, with mental health resources at Stewart Detention Center “minimal”:

“We found that solitary was often used as a means of punishing hunger strikers and others who protested the detention conditions — as well as minimal access to mental care services,” Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director at Project South, told ThinkProgress on Tuesday. “There are no mental health doctors at the facility.”

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Elizabeth Warren Loses It with Steve Mnuchin Over His 'Orwellian Doublespeak' on Bank Reform "What do you think Glass-Steagall was?"

By Alexandra Rosenmann / AlterNet May 18, 2017

During his testimony at Thursday's Senate Banking Committee's hearing on Domestic and International Policy Update, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin insisted the Trump administration never intended to break up big banks, despite its prior messaging. That didn't sit well with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a long-time critic of Wall Street's "rigged" game.

"The president and this administration have said repeatedly that they support a 21st century Glass-Steagall. It was in the Republican Party platform; Donald Trump said it, specifically, a few weeks before the election; you said [it] at your confirmation hearing and now you've just said exactly the opposite," Warren began.

"In the past few months, you and the president have had a number of meetings with big bank CEOs and lobbyists, is that the reason for the reversal on Glass-Steagall?" she asked Mnuchin, once dubbed the "foreclosure king" of the financial crisis.

Glass-Steagall, a Depression-era bank regulation that effectively separated commercial and investment banking, was dismantled in 1999. It's repeal has been cited as a key cause of the 2008 financial crisis. But as The New Yorker explained in April, Trump's support of its restoration was always to be heeded with caution.

"We during the campaign... specifically came out and said we do support a 21st Century Glass-Steagall," Mnuchin told Warren. "That means there are aspects of it that we think may make sense, but we never said before that supported a full separation of banks and investment banks."

"There are aspects of Glass-Steagall that you support, but not breaking up the banks and separating commercial banking from investment banking?" Warren asked, baffled. "What do you think Glass-Steagall was if that's not right at the heart of it?"

Mnuchin explained that the banking reform act was "actually about conflict, not about credit risk."

"If we had supported a full Glass-Steagall, we would have said [that] at the time," he mumbled.

Warren, creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Obama, pressed on.

"Let me get this straight, you're saying you are in favor of Glass-Steagall, which breaks apart the two arms of banking. Except you don't want to break apart the two parts of banking," she summed up. "This is like something out of George Orwell."

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