Thursday, November 29, 2012

Will Michigan be the first to privatize public education?

Ever since Rick Snyder soft-talked his way into the governorship in Michigan, throwing the doors wide open for his biggest donors, the Mackinac Center, ALEC and the Koch Brothers (All for One and One for All against the Rest of Us), I've grown used to reading the craziest stuff imaginable about my beautiful state.

I mean, it's been special.

That bunch almost got away with the wholesale takeover of entire communities, using the ruse of a revised, blatantly unconstitutional Emergency Manager law, but--many, many thanks to the voters (and, of course, to the efforts of Chris Savage at Eclectablog and his direct line to the great Rachel Maddow)--it looks like at least this one attack on our democracy may be defeated.  And at the polls, yet.  Woo Hoo! (Okay, it's not over yet.  They're fighting it, because, you know, screw the constitution.)

But, true to form, Snyder, the Republican majority legislature, and the Tyrannical Triad (All for One and One for All. . .) have already turned their misguided attentions to the other Big Thing on their agenda:  public education.  They want it gone.  For good.  Not just relegated to second banana in favor of schools-for-nothing-but-profit, but out of there.

They're meeting today to discuss the pros and pros of doing away with our educational system, and it's not likely any of us who are horrified at the thought of privatizing our venerable, free, fair system of ensuring an adequate education for every breathing kid in America will have any impact, no matter what we say or do. 

The superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Schools, Rob Glass, grew alarmed enough at this latest assault to send a letter home to the parents, advising them of the proposed takeover attempt.  Bloomfield Hills houses a fair share of one-to-ten-percenters and is the home town of one Mitt Romney.  Cranbrook Academy, the tony private prep school where Mitt and Anne Romney met as students, is in Bloomfield Hills.  But the school superintendent is, thankfully, a public school advocate--a hero for all children--who may just have put his job on the line by exposing the upcoming actions of the governor and his cohorts. 

Read his entire letter to the parents here.  He says, in part (my highlights):
I’ve never considered myself a conspiracy theorist—until now. This package of bills is the latest in a yearlong barrage of ideologically-driven bills designed to weaken and defund locally-controlled public education, handing scarce taxpayer dollars over to for-profit entities operating under a different set of rules. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan and State Board of Education President John Austin and others have also expressed various concerns, as has the Detroit Free Press.
We embrace change, innovation and personalization.We’re passionate about providing choices and options for students. We compete strongly in the educational marketplace. We must never stop improving. This is not a laissez faire plea to defend the status quo. This is about making sure this tidal wave of untested legislation does not sweep away the valued programs our local community has proudly built into its cherished school system.

Chris Savage at Eclectablog, who cadged quotes (he readily admits) from Brainwrap at Daily Kos, who also published Rob Glass's letter, has more on this. Click here, please, and give it the attention it deserves.  Even if you're not from Michigan.  This is a battle we'll all have to fight before it's over.

 Hard core privateers from the far right have taken over the Republican party and Michigan is Ground Zero for their operations. They won't let up until they've taken it all.  Hundreds of thousands of voters across our beautiful state hit the Republican button and cast their votes for them.  They won and are cruising along on what they see as a mandate because their voters either didn't know or didn't care.  Either excuse is irresponsible and reprehensible.

Trying to do away with public education is nothing new.  It's been going on since public education became the right thing to do in a democracy, but this is the first time in my memory that an end to all that looks possible.

I didn't vote for greedy private interests but my grandchildren and their grandchildren and every other kid depending on free public education will have to pay the price, all because those who did vote for them gave no more thought to it than they would a vote for an "American Idol".  That's not just crazy, it's insane.

Addendum:  Please click onto and sign this petition: (Stop the Takeover of Education in Michigan)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Luke, It's Not That They're Too Damned Old, It's That You're Too Damned Young.

 So, Luke, remember your dad, Tim Russert?  Let's say he's sitting in a press room where House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is taking questions after announcing that she's staying put and is really excited about the next term, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Let's say he notices that she isn't alone up there on that podium; he sees there are maybe a dozen women who hold seats in the House of Representatives.  They're standing behind her.

Your dad has a chance to ask her a question, because he is, after all, Tim Russert.  (And you are his son, which seems to be the only reason you are that close to that podium, getting ready to ask your own important question. Let's try and remember that as we spend a few minutes talking here.  It'll go down much easier if you know where I'm coming from.)

 Your dad, Tim, knows that almost nothing got done in the House for the four years Barack Obama held office, thanks to a Republican pledge to stop him in his tracks before he can ever get close to--horror of horrors--re-election.  Nancy Pelosi is now the House minority leader.  Two years ago, she was the House majority leader.  She is going into at least another two years in the minority, and she's doing it willingly. 

Your dad's question would almost surely center on what she thinks the Democrats can accomplish, given the stubborn intransigence of the opposition.  After the President's solid win, in which more than half of the voters spoke on his behalf, will it be easier now to work with the Republicans? 

I'm guessing that, or something close to it, would be his question.  What I KNOW he wouldn't be asking is this question.  Your question:

"Mrs. Pelosi ... some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having younger leadership. It hurts the party in the long term. What's your response?"

Oh, my.  Luke.  Luke, Luke, Luke.  You didn't.

You did.

 The shit has already hit the fan big time, as you know, so there's no use in my telling you what a dumb--really dumb--question that turned out to be.  Did you notice the women behind her?  They were laughing at you.  Then they were yelling at you.  Then they were laughing at you.  It was not your finest moment.

But you persisted.  Even in the face of the laughing, the catcalls, after Ms. Pelosi suggested you wouldn't ask the same question of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, you went on:
"No, excuse me," you said. "You, Mr. Hoyer, Mr. Clyburn, you're all over 70. Is your decision to stay on prohibiting younger members from moving forward?" 

I didn't know until this all came about that Nancy Pelosi is 72 years old.  From my vantage point--three years her senior--that doesn't seem old, but to you, still so wet behind your ears, it must seem ancient.

I understand that could be a problem since you are so young and inexperienced, but, honey, I'm here to tell you that your question screams "amateur".  You never, ever suggest to a woman she might be too old to do a job that men as old or older are doing or have done.  Especially a woman as smart and as vibrant as Ms. Pelosi.  Did you see any signs of incapacity up there?

So, come on, would you ask McConnell that same question?  No, you wouldn't, and you know it. Because Mitch would first terrify you with his burning eyes and then he would eat your head.

But even after all the fuss, you had to go on pretending you were right.  Later on, you tweeted this"While Pelosi laughed off my Q as age-ist, many House Ds will privately gripe it hurts caucus that all 3 leaders are 70+."

Right now, Luke, there are 28 Senators who are over 70 years old and 53 members in the House. An even larger percentage are in their 60s, which, of course, then hopefully leads to their 70s.  Who's griping again?  Can you name names?

You screwed up and it isn't the first time.  You're known in rapidly growing circles as the poster child for nepotism.

Luke and Tim Russert

You're not ready for this, and everybody but you and your keepers knows it.  You got this job because of your last name and that's not good enough.  You're not good enough.  You're still there because the people who look the other way in order to keep you on the payroll loved and admired your dad.

He wouldn't have wanted this.

Do the right thing now, Luke.  Find another line of work.  You're only 27.  There's something out there that you'll be good at.  This isn't it.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Open Salon)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We All Won Last Night

President Obama won a second term last night and it wasn't even a squeaker.  The Senate and the House stayed pretty much the same, but Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Tammy Duckworth are going to Washington.

Joe Walsh, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin will wander off into an oblivion they so richly deserve.  

Karl Rove was seen on Fox howling foul over Ohio with such naked grief his election night companions could only look on, astonished. 

Donald Trump threw such an incomprehensible hissy fit on Twitter you just had to know the little guy was not happy.

Mitt Romney won't be Grand CEO of the United States of America and the incorrigible members of the top one percent may finally have lost the keys to the candy store.

Mitch McConnell, after four long years of egregious intransigence, got no satisfaction.  He did not make Barack Obama a one-term president.

And Joe Biden is ours for four more years.

Barack Obama transcended an unprecedented barrage of hatred and constant attempts at humiliation and now has another chance to help us out of the mess we're in.  We can and will move forward, but it'll take a massive effort on both the president's part and on our own.

We can do this.

And we will.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day, 2012. It's Up to Us Now

I'm up and already nervous about what this election night will bring.  I want the Democrats to win everything.  I want the Republicans to lose in numbers large enough to show them the error of their ways.  I'm so biased that way there's no pretending otherwise.  I know it won't happen, but if I were wishing upon a star it's what I would be wishing for.

I'm an old-style liberal--a dreamer, an optimist, a pie-in-the-sky Pollyanna.  There aren't many of us left, mainly because that kind of nonsense has been knocked out of the more sensible of us.  With me, it's still there, and at this late stage  I have a feeling it's here to stay.

Suffragette Demonstration 1910

 Everybody wants what's best for this country.  We want it healthy, wealthy and wise.  We want the pursuit of happiness to lead somewhere. None of us thinks we're at that point, but at the same time none of us can agree on the direction it will take to get us there.

We tend to want to simplify our problems, laying blame wherever it might easily fit, but in our hearts we know the society we've established for ourselves is so magnificently complicated what we truly understand wouldn't fill a droplet in the middle of our vast oceans.

In addition, fully half of us thinks the other half is nuts.  I'm not such a dreamer that I actually think no matter who wins the presidency, tomorrow is the day we'll all magically come together.   We won't.  Odds are, we never will.  It's not only not likely, it's not even normal.  We thrive on individualism.  It's our one claim to fame.  Or so we would like to believe.

Ben Sargent

 I want my side to win, but I want every vote to count.  I want the people of voting age to do their civic duties and get out there and let their voices be heard.  I'm heartened by sights of long lines snaking around buildings, even while I'm furious that people have to be made to stand in long lines for hours in order to vote.

I won't be going to the polls today.  I've already voted, but now that the big day has dawned I'm sorry I jumped the gun.  I miss not climbing the steps of our township hall and filling out my papers and kibitzing with the poll workers.  I want to stand at the table and do my thing behind red, white and blue striped curtains.  I want to stand at that funny little machine and watch as my ballot gets sucked into it, ready to be counted.  I love that.

 Because I believe our vote is our right.  It is our privilege. It is our duty.  Anyone who doesn't believe that voting makes a difference hasn't looked around.  Every one of our government leaders got there because they were voted into office.  Think about that.


(Cross-posted, as usual, at Dagblog.  Election Night live-streaming.  Come and join us!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why is this man Romney even close?

Okay, I'm breathing again--raggedly, to be honest, but I'm seeing clearly and whatever fun writing I was so longing for last week will just have to wait.  Mitt Romney is closing in on the home stretch and I can't stand it.  What can I say that will change that?  We all know there is nothing I can say that will change anything this monumental and incomprehensible.  But I repeat: I can't stand it.

In any other true-life scenario, a man like Mitt Romney -- a confirmed liar, a clueless anti-populist, a shameless waffler -- would be laughed out of the political arena, never to be taken seriously again.  Considering the climate we live in, dire and dangerous to all but a few lucky souls, there shouldn't have been a moment when a man like Mitt Romney (or his running mate, the even more egregious Paul Ryan) would have been seen as anybody's choice to lead us out of this mess.

But a map of red states vs. blue states tells the tale:  The campaign against Obama and the Democrats has been hugely successful; the obfuscation and near-obliteration of the Romney/Ryan misdeeds equally so.

It's a billionaires' election to win or lose, and Romney is their puppet.  It clearly doesn't matter what he says or does.  They run the show, and they've managed the impossible -- they've convinced enough voters that Barack Obama is their enemy; someone to fear, a man who only pretends to be a True American while attempting to hide his nefarious dark side.

It's the New Century--maybe the strangest we've ever seen--and we live with the voters we have.  They call themselves "the values voters", without ever fully understanding that "values" means much more than anti-abortion or religious freedom or balanced budgets or the color of our president's skin.   It means a clear-eyed look at which servants of the people can best move us away from vulture capitalism and back into whatever concept of democratic freedoms and obligations work best for our society.

As of a few days ago, more voters believed Romney can do more for the economy than Obama has or will.   Why?  Because Romney was a businessman and apparently knows more about how business runs.

This is the same Romney who bought and sold companies, making millions off of the acquisitions with no thought to what it did to the communities that were disrupted by the actions of his group.

This is the same Romney who fought to keep his tax returns from going public, who hides his money in numerous off-shore accounts, who thrives because "ruthless" is legal and the name of the game.

This is the same Romney who saw FEMA as one of those Fed entities best relegated to the states or better yet, private enterprise, using the word "immoral" to effectively brand it obsolete.  Astonishing.  (Now his handlers say he didn't mean it that way.  Apparently that's good enough for even those Romney voters who live in areas battered by Hurricane Sandy.  He's still running neck and neck with President Obama.  Really.)

This is what the potential future president had to say:
"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," Romney said at a debate last June. "And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

Asked by moderator John King of CNN whether that would include disaster relief, Romney said: "We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids."
So, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, because they finally realized that sounded really, really awful, his handlers had Romney issuing what looks like a reversal but is actually code for, "Okay, we'll keep the idea of FEMA because you people just don't get it, but the bulk of the money is still going to go to state and local governments, because even though I want to be the biggie in Big Government, Big Government is a bad, bad thing."

Here's Romney's written statement from Wednesday, when the storm was still stormin':
 "I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters."
 No mention of what FEMA's mission will be under FEMA-haters Romney and Ryan, but it's not hard to imagine.  Centralized emergency relief apparently goes against every fiber of their beings, and no thing and no body is going to change that.

Well, okay, all that, but what drives me to this today is what has been keeping me awake, fuming.

It's this:  
Romney's phony food drive.  Photo: Stephen Crowley/ NYT
In the immediate aftermath of a raging, deadly storm, the presidential wannabee participated in a crass, phony, political opportunity dressed as "disaster relief", designed for no other reason than to make him look good in certain swing states.  (The Red Cross, downers that they are, said early on, "Don't send supplies, send money."  Spoilsports.)

 So, heedless of real needs, Romney's pack set up a hasty relief station and then went to WalMart to buy the appropriate props to make it look like they were actually concerned with the citizens of the storm.  They spent $5,000 on emergency supplies like diapers, toilet paper and canned goods to hand out to long lines of Romney voters who could then hand them back to Romney in front of the cameras. (Stunning, isn't it, that those Romney voters didn't think to donate their own emergency supplies?  But then, in order to be a Romney voter, one would have to be as clueless as he is.)

In the meantime, President Obama is all over the place taking care of business, surveying the damage, assuring everybody that our government will do what it's supposed to do.  It will take care of what needs taking care of.  FEMA is working at its efficient best.  Mayors and governors in the affected states are effusive in their praise of FEMA and the actions of the president. (Note to Chris Christie:  Ever thought of joining the Democrats?  The Republicans won't even speak your name anymore. And they have long memories.)

Christie and Obama with Hurricane Sandy survivors
This is what true leadership looks like.  This is what big government does best.  This is who we're supposed to be.  This is what we need to fight to keep.  And yet as I write this, Mitt Romney--undeserving to the nth degree and then some--has a real chance at winning the presidency.

So that's it.  I can barely breathe, not because of the pneumonia, but because of what I just wrote.  The very thought of my country going the way of Romney/Ryan after all they've done to try and hurt us makes me crazy.

All I can do is yell.

I can't stand it.