EPA Bars Agency Scientists From Speaking at Conference about Narragansett Bay

Scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency were scheduled to speak at a conference about the condition and future of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

At the last minute, the agency told them they were not allowed to speak, presumably because the conference and their testimony involved climate change.

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EPA administrator believes there is no such thing as climate change. Apparently there is also no such thing as science. “Science” is what he and industry lobbyists say it is.

EPA should be called the Environmental (Non)Protection Administration so long as Pruitt and his ilk are in charge.

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The AFT Is Leading Effort to Bring Water to Puerto Rico, While Federal Government Moves at Snail’s Pace

The American Federation of Teachers is joining with other concerned citizens to bring water to the people of Puerto Rico, a vital mission that seems to have been forgotten by the Trump administration.

Randi Weingarten sent out the following information:

“Responding to the water crisis unfolding in Puerto Rico, AFT, Operation Blessing, AFSCME, and the Hispanic Foundation launched Operation Agua today to crowdsource contributions and provide a reliable source of safe drinking water to families across Puerto Rico.

“More than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, most Puerto Ricans still have no reliable source of safe drinking water. When I was in Puerto Rico last week, I saw with my own eyes children collecting water in streams that were likely severely contaminated. We know people are collecting water from runoff or even drinking from toxic Superfund sites. And even the water coming out of the tap is unsafe because there is no electricity to run treatment facilities. The federal government has failed the people of Puerto Rico and we need to continue to fight to get the federal response this disaster requires. But we must also continue to do what we can to care for Puerto Rico children and families. Our campaign isn’t a substitute for federal action but a necessary intervention to get as much clean water as quickly as we can to people.

“Operation Agua’s initial goal is to purchase and distribute 100,000 individual water filtration systems for households and classrooms and 50 large capacity clean water devices to a network of non-profit organizations, union offices , schools and other community based groups to provide stable and reliable sources of safe water.

“A single $30 contribution provides an in-home purifier that requires no electricity and filters and provides more than 10 gallons of safe water per day to a family. $5,000 delivers a disinfectant generator that can disinfect 150,000 gallons per day—enough safe water for hundreds of people.

“Here’s more information about Operation Agua and how organizations and individuals cane become sponsors.

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The Onion: A Message from Donald Trump: I Will Infect Every Hour of Your Day

Recently I have been tweeting The Onion, not posting it, even when I thought it was funny.

But this post is so real, so not-funny, and so representative of what is happening that I wanted to share it with you.

It is about Trump’s insistence on intruding into our lives every day, dominating our thoughts with concern about what crazy thing he will do next, what crackpot nonsense he will tweet, which institution he will destroy next, which person he will insult today. It is exhausting and fascinating, like watching a violent car crash and wondering if you too will crash into the wreckage.

It begins like this:

“Good morning, everyone! What a week we’ve got coming up. A tremendous week. The fall season is here, we’re working on huge tax cuts, and there’s a lot of optimism having to do with business in our economy. Also, we’re ending Obamacare. And I’m going to get the wall. But beyond all that, what I’m looking forward to the most is another seven days of infecting every little aspect of your daily lives.

“Oh, you thought you might be able to block me out for even a moment? Good luck with that one. There will be no rest from having to think about me, or my administration, or the latest controversy I’ve thrown myself into. I am inescapable. My name, my face, my voice, my words, and those of my legions of surrogates—no matter how much you try to go about your normal life, I will find a way force myself in. MAGA!

“I will poison every second of quiet reflection that you previously enjoyed.

“I’m like a disease without a cure. There’s not a single thing I haven’t contaminated. News, entertainment, medicine, sports; if there’s a part of culture I haven’t ruined for you yet, just wait. This could be the week. I’ll either claw my way into your waking consciousness or just linger in the back of your mind, ready to pop out at any moment and remind you that I’m the president of the United States and will be for at least the next three years. You know that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach—the one that’s been there since last November? Well, it’s not going away this week, I’ll tell you that.

“I will poison every second of quiet reflection that you previously enjoyed. No more sitting calmly with a coffee on a park bench. No more carefree drives with the windows down and the radio up. No more tranquil moments reveling in the splendor of a sunset. Just me festering in your brain, befouling all you hold dear.

“The mind is funny like that sometimes. The second you’ve freed yourself from the burden of having to ponder my ironclad stranglehold on absolutely every facet of American life, there I’ll be again, ready to resume the endless cycle of fear, regret, anger, and shame. Go ahead, try and tune me out right now.

“Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald Trump.”

Read the rest.

The Washington Post reports that his daily attacks on the free press are undermining public confidence in the media.

“THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump celebrated Sunday that his campaign to delegitimize the free press is working.

“The president touted a Politico-Morning Consult poll published last week that found 46 percent of registered voters believe major news organizations fabricate stories about him. Just 37 percent of Americans think the mainstream media does not invent stories, while the rest are undecided. More than 3 in 4 Republicans believe reporters make up stories about Trump.

“It is finally sinking through,” the president tweeted.

“The first rule of propaganda is that if you repeat something enough times people will start to believe it, no matter how false. Trump uses the bully pulpit of the presidency to dismiss any journalism he doesn’t like as “fake news.” This daily drumbeat has clearly taken a toll on the Fourth Estate.”

The first rule of a would-be dictator is to destroy confidence in the free press.

Trump swore on the Bible at his inauguration to uphold the Constitution. That includes the First Amendment. His daily attacks on freedom of the press, which he called “the Enemy of the People,” violates the oath he took. The term “Ennemy of the People” was borrowed from Josef Stalin.

He also daily violates the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments in Trump properties and brands around the world and refusing to divest his business interests.

Two grounds for impeachment even without the Russia investigation.

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At the NPE Conference, I Explain Who We Are and What We Do

The Network for Public Education just held its fourth annual conference in Oakland, California, on October 14-15.

It was a fabulous conference, with great speakers, roundtables, panels, and camaraderie.

I opened the conference on October 14. I introduced our wonderful board and staff (we have 1.5 staff members and hundreds of amazing volunteers).

I described what we are for and what we oppose.

If you agree with us, please join, donate whatever you can, and help us continue our grassroots efforts to strengthen and support public education.

In the days ahead, I will post all the keynote addresses. They were fantastic.

If you knew how inspiring these two days were, you will want to join us next year. I can’t give the location yet, but we will meet in the Midwest.

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URGENT: Pennsylvania Legislators Rush to Enact Vouchers, Take Money from YOUR Public Schools

Peter Greene writes here about a sneaky effort in the Pennsylvania legislature to push through a voucher bill without public hearings. Republicans following the DeVos script want to raid public school funds and transfer your tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools and for a variety of other purposes (in one state in the west, a parent used the “education savings account voucher” to pay for an abortion, another parent bought school supplies, returned them, and bought the family a big-screen television).

If you live in Pennsylvania, contact Your State Senator NOW.

Greene writes:

“Tomorrow morning, the Senate Education Committee will be once again considering a bill to promote vouchers across the state of Pennsylvania, and to pay for them by stripping money from public schools. If you’re in Pennsylvania, drop what you’re doing and call your Senator today.

“SB 2, Education Savings Accounts for Students in Underperforming Schools, sets up vouchers with no oversight and an extremely broad criterion for how the vouchers can be spent. According to the official summary, voucher money may be spent on

1) Tuition and fees at a participating private school;
2) Payment for a licensed or accredited tutor;
3) Fees for nationally norm-referenced tests and similar exams;
4) Industry certifications;
5) Curriculum and textbooks; and
6) Services to special education students such as occupational, speech, and behavioral therapies.

“So anything from private school tuition to buying books for home schooling to sending a child to massage therapist school.

“Money can be carried over from one year to the next, and if there’s still some left at graduation time, the money may be used for higher education costs.”

Districts like Philadelphia, already operating on a bare bones budget, will lose money. So will every other district.

“This bill is bad news, and would have an immediate and damaging effect on school finances across the state. It is an attack on public education. And conservatives really shouldn’t be fans, either– this bill provides zero accountability, and our tax dollars disappear down a black hole where we have no say and no knowledge of how they are spent. A family could decide that it would be educational for Junior to go to Disney World, and your tax dollars would pay for it…

“This is not the first time someone has tried to push a voucher bill, and it won’t be the last. But it is time, once again, for defenders of public education to hit the phones. Even if your senator is not among those who will act on the bill tomorrow, chances are good that he’ll be looking at it a bit later. Let him know that stripping funds from public schools in order to fund unregulated oversight-free vouchers is not okay.”

The research has been accumulating in recent years that vouchers don’t produce better education and often produce worse education. Increasingly, vouchers go to students already enrolled in private schools.

Citizens of Pennsylvania, get active. Stop vouchers! Stop DeVos! Save Your public schools!

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Stuart Egan, the Parent of a Boy with Down Syndrome, Responds to DeVos’ Cruelty

Stuart Egan, NBCT high school English teacher in North Carolina, describes what happened when he and his wife learned that the child she was carrying had Down Syndrome. They were advised that abortion was an option, even though it is not an option in their state, where it is illegal. They didn’t want an abortion. Now, they have a beloved son, Malcolm.

Egan will not judge those who made other choices. “I also will never carry a child in a womb. Neither will Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or all of the other “men” who stand to gain from their positions of power.”

But he is outraged by those who defend the rights of the unborn and take away the rights of children after they are born.

Betsy DeVos has decided to withdraw federal guidelines that protects Malcolm’s rights in school.

Egan takes it personally.

He has written a beautiful essay expressing his personal outrage.

“It seems that many of the politicians and policy makers like DeVos who claim to be hardline “pro-lifers” are helping to privatize the very institutions that are giving “life” to many individuals. And they are doing it in the name of free-markets, where people are supposed to be able to choose what they want hoping that the “market” controls prices and quality.

“How ironic that many politicians who proclaim to be “pro-life” become “pro-choice” when it pertains to those who are already born.”

Betsy DeVos has earned her place on this blog’s Wall of Shame. As a Jew, I cannot Judge her religious views. As a human being, I judge her cruel. Uncaring. Indifferent to those in need. Mean.

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DeVos Withdraws 72 Regulations Intended to Protect Students with Disabilities

During her confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos seemed unclear about the extent to which children with disabilities were protected by federal law.

Democratic senators challenged her knowledge–or lack of knowledge–of the federal law protecting these children. Many assumed her unwillingness to comment reflected her ignorance of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and other legislation and court decisions.

Now, however, there seems to be a darker reason for her incoherence. She doesn’t think the federal government should intrude into decisions that she thinks belongs to states and localities.

She has rescinded 72 “guidance documents” about protecting the rights of students with disabilities.

The Education Department has rescinded 72 policy documents that outline the rights of students with disabilities as part of the Trump administration’s effort to eliminate regulations it deems superfluous.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services wrote in a newsletter Friday that it had “a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective – 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).” The documents, which fleshed out students’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act, were rescinded Oct. 2.

A spokeswoman for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos did not respond to requests for comment.

Advocates for students with disabilities were still reviewing the changes to determine their impact. Lindsay Jones, the chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said she was particularly concerned to see guidance documents outlining how schools could use federal special education money removed.

“All of these are meant to be very useful . . . in helping schools and parents understand and fill in with concrete examples the way the law is meant to work when it’s being implemented in various situations,” said Jones.

President Donald Trump in February signed an executive order “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens,” spurring Education Department officials to begin a top-to-bottom review of its regulations. The department sought comments on possible changes to the special education guidance and held a hearing, during which many disability rights groups and other education advocates pressed officials to keep all of the guidance documents in place, said Jones.

DeVos is moving with all deliberate speed to eliminate the federal role in protecting the civil rights of groups of students who relied on the U.S. Department of Education.

This is not the first time DeVos has rolled back Education Department guidance, moves that have raised the ire of civil rights groups. The secretary in February rescinded guidance that directed schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity, saying that those matters should be left up to state and local school officials. In September, she scrapped rules that outlined how schools should investigate allegations of sexual assault, arguing that the Obama-era guidance did not sufficiently take into account the rights of the accused.

This should not come as a surprise. Betsy DeVos is a libertarian who does not believe in federal intervention to protect vulnerable groups of students.

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Virginia: A Busload of Volunteers from Manhattan Went Door to Door for Northam!

I received the following note from a Virginia public school parent:

“Pleasant surprise today when we went to canvass for the pro-public education Democratic team of Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, Mark Herring & Danica Roem in VA13 Prince William County….a bus load of volunteers from New York City! They knocked on 549 doors!

“#ManhattantoManassas”

This is the first statewide election since the 2016 election.

It is widely seen as a referendum on Trump, since Lt. Governor Northam’s opponent is running as a Trump devotee. His big issue is Confederate statues.

Northam is running as a champion of public education, the environment, gun safety, affordable healthcare for all, justice and equality for all Virginians.

It’s time to restore American values of fairness, justice, equality, and decency.

If you can’t go to Virginia and knock on doors, send a donation to help turn America into America again, a land of hope, not fear.

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Virginia: Koch Brothers Launch Campaign Against Ralph Northam for Governor

The arch-conservative billionaire Koch Brothers have unleashed campaign ads against Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in the Virginia governor’s race.

The Washington Post reported that the Koch Brothers have spent nearly $3 Million Against Northam.

“Americans for Prosperity, the heart of the billionaire Koch Brothers’ conservative political network, plans to ramp up its campaign against Ralph Northam, the Democrat in Virginia’s governor’s race.

“The conservative group announced Friday that it would spend at least $1 million on mailers and digital ads targeting Northam’s record on taxes, education and economic development.

“It follows at least $1.8 million in anti-Northam television commercials and mailers to date, according to data collected by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. The group also says it has contacted hundreds of thousands of Virginia voters through its phone-banking and canvassing efforts…

“Americans for Prosperity is also launching a digital video featuring a charter school administrator criticizing Northam for voting against a bill to establish “educational savings accounts” that allow parents who remove children from public schools to receive 90 percent of the state funding that would have been spent on their child. They would be able to use the funds for private-school tuition, tutoring, books and other educational costs. Critics say such accounts are similar to vouchers in that they drain resources from public schools.”

The Koch Brothers despise public education and are eager to elect a governor who will promote the DeVos agenda of school privatization via charters and vouchers.

If you live in Virginia and you love your local public school, get active in the campaign for Ralph Northam.

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The Death of the Credible Think Tank

I meant to post this article when it first appeared, but it got lost in my inbox.

It is a very important read. I worked for the Brookings Institution for two years in the mid-1990s, after working in the first Bush administration. I got to know most of the D.C. think tanks. They have a huge influence on federal policy, because they put on dog-and-pony shows with experts, and Congressional aides pay attention to their reports, studies, and conferences.

The original idea of the think tank, as Judis explains, is that it would be free of partisan influence. Ha!

How times change!

The “think tanks” of D.C. today are influenced by partisanship and by corporate money.

This was brought out into the open when the New America Foundation fired Barry Lynn and his “Open Markets” project. His criticism of the mega-tech monopolies hit too close to home, inasmuch as Eric Schmidt of Google is one of New America’s biggest funders. Apparently Lynn could not provide assurances that he would not embarrass Google, and he was dismissed. (I was on the board of the New America Foundation. I was outspoken, as is my way. I was asked to leave the board. As I have said before, I have been kicked out of some of the finest organizations in D.C. and elsewhere.)

Judis writes:

In fact, one can connect the events at New America to the transformation of American think tanks over the past century. The term “think tank” didn’t appear until the Kennedy administration, which relied heavily on Rand Corporation research, but these policy groups and research institutes date from 1916, when philanthropist Robert Brookings established the Institute for Government Research, which later became known as the Brookings Institution. Robert Brookings was one of a group of very wealthy businessmen who had become convinced that through the application of social science, government policies could be devised that would stem the rising conflict between the classes and parties and also achieve world peace. They were Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson progressives in the broadest sense of the term.

Brookings wanted a research institute that was “free from any political or pecuniary interest.” The scholars didn’t raise their own money, but were employed like university faculty. In founding the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Andrew Carnegie went farther: In 1910, he endowed the new institution with bonds that he hoped would allow it to forego fundraising entirely. Other groups that began during those first decades included the Council on Foreign Relations, the Twentieth Century Fund (now the Century Foundation), the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Committee for Economic Development.

The groups attained a reputation for intellectual independence. When coal company officials complained in 1933 to Brookings’ first president, classical economist Robert Moulton, about a study recommending their nationalization, Moulton responded, “We are concerned only in finding out what will promote the general welfare.” That reputation lasted into the 1960s, when, under John F. Kennedy, think tanks were conspicuously welcomed in the policy debate. But Robert Brookings’s early model of political disinterestedness and scientific objectivity began to erode soon afterward.

Three developments contributed to this change: Beginning in the 1940s, and in earnest in the early 1970s, conservative Republicans and business groups established think tanks and policy groups that had a specific economic and/or factional purpose. Businessmen dissatisfied with the New Deal created the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in 1943. In 1964, it served as the policy arm of Barry Goldwater’s right-wing campaign for president, and in the ‘70s became the preferred think tank of the Fortune 500 and of center-right Republicans, even when, for appearance’s sake, AEI kept around a few liberal researchers.

The Heritage Institution was founded in 1973 as a sophisticated business lobby (its first president came from the National Association of Manufacturers) that, unlike the more scholarly AEI, actively worked on Capitol Hill to develop legislation. It became a key player in the growth of Republican conservatism. Other groups included the American Council for Capital Formation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and later “action tanks” like Citizens for a Sound Economy and its successors FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.

Together, these business and conservative Republican groups attempted to take advantage of the reputation created by the older think tanks: They demanded attention for their “experts” in the media—on op-ed pages and, later, TV news shows—but they were in fact the kind of political organization or business lobbies that Robert Brookings and Andrew Carnegie had wanted to avoid at all costs. These groups’ scholarly output, particularly from a group like Heritage, was nugatory. They debased the coinage of the older thinking. And their model of partisan intervention and policy briefs spread leftward to groups like the Center for American Progress, which is something of a Democratic version of the Heritage Foundation.

My experience at Brookings in the mid-1990s was wonderful. I loved working there. The scholars were real scholars, and there was no partisan bias. Many or most of the scholars were tasked with raising their own funding, despite the hefty endowment at Brookings. I found myself constantly in a learning mode as a Senior Fellow because I was able to attend daily seminars about every sort of domestic and foreign issue. It was like being in college without any students. I started an annual conference of education issue, and while I was a conservative (at the time), I also included people from different camps and different parties to talk about every issue.

After I returned to New York City in 1995, I continued to manage the annual conferences for another decade. Tom Loveless picked up the conferences for a while after 2005, then they disappeared as he preferred to do his own research.

Then came my infamous firing in 2012. After the 2008 election, Brookings brought in the George W. Bush education research director, Grover Whitehurst. He was an advisor to Romney in 2012. I wrote an article slamming Romney on education in 2012 and that same day received an email from Whitehurst telling me that I was terminated as of that date as a Senior Fellow (unpaid) at Brookings. The reason: I was “inactive.” That was funny, because my most recent book was a national best seller.

It is hard to think of a “think tank” in D.C. that is truly nonpartisan and independent. They depend too much on corporate funding. They are over-identified with political parties. Every one of them should bear a warning.

How often have you read that the Center for American Progress is “left” or is the Democratic equivalent of the Heritage Foundation? Judis says that in this article. Yet we know that CAP is crazy for charter schools and has a hard time distinguishing its education values from those of Betsy DeVos. Well, at least they don’t support vouchers! But they use many of the same talking points.

The closest think tank to the original Democratic party of labor, minorities, poor and working people is the Economic Policy Institute.

The rest of the party has simply blown off the base of the party and looks to Wall Street and the billionaires to fill their coffers, then wonders where the base went and why they have lost so many state elections over the past decade.

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