Thursday, August 2, 2018

When Democrats Turned Tail, And Kept Running

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 3:11 PM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
In 1988, George H.W. Bush, Reagan's vice president, and Michael Dukakis, three term Massachusetts governor, ran for president. Bush was a moderate Republican who moved to the right when he became Reagan's running mate in 1980. Dukakis fit neatly into the New England liberal Democratic mold.

In 1987, during an interview with New York Magazine, Dukakis referred to himself as “a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union.” The "card-carrying member" phrase was Dukakis' attempt at wry humor. He was poking fun at people who thought he was a "scary liberal" by making an ironic reference to the "card-carrying communist" accusation used by Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare of the 1950s.

During the campaign, Bush bludgeoned Dukakis with the quote. "He calls himself a card carrying member of the ACLU," Bush repeated at every opportunity. When Dukakis tried to defend himself by talking about the good work the ACLU does protecting our constitutional rights, Bush replied, "You're the one who called yourself a card carrying member of the ACLU."

The ACLU attack was amplified by the Bush campaign's repeated assertion that Dukakis was "too liberal." The charge was leveled with such venom, "liberal" became a dirty word which Democrats have avoided ever since. It dropped out of the Democratic lexicon after Dukakis' defeat. Democrats floundered around until they hit on the word "progressive" as a replacement.

The final nail in Dukakis' political coffin, other than some self inflicted wounds, was the infamous Willie Horton ad. Horton, a black man, was released on furlough when Dukakis was governor, and he went on to commit rape and murder. The ad, with an image depicting Horton as the embodiment of evil, implied others like him would run rampant if Dukakis was elected president.

The Bush campaign's go-for-the-jugular attack style was the creation of Lee Atwater, Bush's campaign manager, and has continued to be used against Democrats with great success. It was taken up by Fox News founder Roger Ailes, who created the Willie Horton ad together with Atwater, Karl Rove, who began his political career around the same time as Atwater, and hoards of Atwater wannabes who have run Republican campaigns ever since.

After the Dukakis debacle, Democrats not only shied away from the word "liberal." They ran from issues which focused on social welfare or on blacks and other minority communities, for fear of the beating they would take from Republicans. Of course, the beatings continued.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sexual Harassment and Broken Salary Promises at Heritage Elementary Charter School

Posted By on Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 10:47 AM


Two former teachers at Heritage Elementary Charter School in Glendale charged the school's principal and vice principal with sexual harassment. If the charges are true, the incidents go far beyond provocative language and unwanted contact. One of the former teachers said the principal raped her.

In a separate issue, twenty or more teachers who left Heritage Elementary at the end of the year said the school refused to pay them their merit pay bonuses because they left. The school acknowledged the claim, then reversed itself and paid the teachers.

These stories were covered in great detail by Arizona Republic's Craig Harris. I lean on his reporting for much of this post. Since they weren't covered in the southern Arizona press, I'm writing about them because they point to one of the major problems with Arizona's charters which goes beyond the specifics of the allegations: charters' lack of oversight or accountability.

The refusal to pay teachers their promised merit bonuses because they left, then the school's reversal, is reasonably straightforward. Apparently, the charter's original decision not to pay the bonuses was legal, though ethically questionable.

The sexual harassment charges, however, are very specific and troubling. I'm not going into the details here. If you want to learn more, read the Republic article. Basically, one teacher accused the principal, Justin Dye, of drugging her drink, then having sex with her while she was unconscious on two separate occasions. (More than a dozen female teachers who left at the end of the year said the principal either made inappropriate comments to them or had sex with them.) The other teacher says she had a relationship with the vice principal, and when she tried to end it, he retaliated professionally.

The point here isn't to generalize about charter schools or shame them. This kind of intense, illegal sexual aggression by the administrators is a rare occurrence in Arizona — or so I hope. But it's important to point out that because of the structure of charter school boards and policies about reporting harassment, it's more likely for employees to feel they have no safe, reliable ways of reporting problems at a charter than at a district school.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Walmart's Emerging Leaders Internship Program

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 3:11 PM

  • Congressional Budget Office Interns with Peter Orszag, 2008, Courtesy of Wikimedia
Here's one of those posts where I show I can be genuinely fair and balanced (to a degree). I'm heaping praise on the Walmart Foundation for funding the Emerging Leaders Internship Program to cover living costs and expenses of Black and Latino congressional interns who don't have the money to pay for their living expenses. The Foundation is splitting $2 million between the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute who administer the programs.
“A lot of our young and promising talent really don’t come, perhaps, from backgrounds that could afford to send them to D.C.,” said Anne-Marie Burton, vice president of programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which picked 50 interns for this year’s summer cohort out of about 500 applicants. “So we use [grant] money to pay for their housing. We give them a biweekly stipend, we also provide professional-development training for an entire week.”

In a statement during Tuesday's announcement, Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, said the grant will support the institute’s mission “to address underrepresentation of Latinos on Capitol Hill by providing transformative experiences and the critical skills needed to embark on careers in public service.”
Unpaid internships, political and otherwise, are yet another way for children of the wealthy to get a leg up on their peers, as if they need yet another advantage. Internships are a great way to network and gain experience in your chosen field, but it takes money to live without a salary. Since the wealthy are disproportionately white, unpaid internships are another brick in the great white wall separating the wealthy and privileged from everyone else.

Walmart did a very good thing by giving some worthy young people a potentially life-changing opportunity they wouldn't have had otherwise.

To learn more about how to take advantage of the internship programs, visit the pages on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation websites.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Should TUSD Educate Children at the Detention Facility in Tucson?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 12:08 PM


An agenda item on TUSD's Tuesday night board meeting asks the question, Should TUSD provide education for the children living at a federal detention facility located in the district?

The agenda item "direct(s) staff to research what authority and responsibility our district has to provide educational support to school aged children held in federal detention at the Southwest Key Program Facility."

The building is located at 1601 N. Oracle Road between Grant and Speedway. The children are school aged. School districts are required to educate children within their boundaries without regard to their immigration status. Though staff say they are educating the students, the facility isn't affiliated with an educational institution, and staff members have been vague about what the "education" entails.

Does TUSD have the responsibility to seek out children in its district? Probably not. But these children have no parents or guardians to enroll them in school, and the Feds aren't interested in making a connection with a local educational institution. That makes this situation unique.

By raising the question, TUSD is spotlighting yet another issue which arises when children are detained by the federal government for an extended period. Some of them were separated from their parents by the Trump administration against the parents' wills. Others arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied. As children, all of them deserve the most comprehensive care and attention we can give them.

If you want more information, Hank Stephenson wrote a detailed article about the TUSD agenda item in the Friday Star. The Weekly's Danyelle Khmara wrote about a visit to the Southwest Key facility by 16 state legislators to the facility in the last issue. 

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Dr. Word Asks: "Meddling?"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 4:55 PM


Dr. Word makes one of his rare appearances on The Range to express his mystification at the tenacity with which certain words stick to certain subjects in the journalistic world, often words inadequate to the task of reporting a story accurately. Such is true of the use of the word "meddling" when referring to Russian actions during the 2016 election.

The Russian government made a sustained, systematic attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election using a multi-pronged approach to swaying voters. A significant majority of the populace, including a sizable number of Republicans, acknowledge Russia's actions, though whether the foreign power's attempts were successful at changing the outcome of the election is a matter of some debate. (The Doctor is of the opinion that the Russians' success is no more debatable than the existence of climate change, or gravity.) What we witnessed in 2016 was a clear example of cyber warfare mounted with hostile intent by a state whose interests, more often or not, are antithetical to those of the United States. To say using the term "meddling" to describe these intrusions is an understatement is, at the risk of sounding redundant, an understatement.

"Meddling" most often refers to a minor offense, such as when a busybody interferes in matters which are not said busybody's concern. A "meddle" often begins with a phrase such as, "If you ask me . . ." in situations where, in point of fact, no one asked. When someone offers advice or performs actions which are neither requested nor appreciated, that qualifies as meddling.

"Interference" is a better term than meddling to describe the level of disruption the Russians created in our 2016 elections, but it is still too neutral. "Attack" is a significantly better term. "Warfare," "Information warfare" or "Cyber warfare," are more accurate still. They capture the nature of the attack.

And yet, when journalists and analysts refer to the Russian attacks in print and audiovisual media, the phrase most often employed is "Russian meddling." One has to wonder two things. First, who initiated the use of "meddling," and why? Second, why have Democrats acquiesced to employing such a weak term when "attack" or "warfare" are more potent and therefore more potentially damaging to Republicans who benefitted from the attack?

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Friday, July 20, 2018

What If...

Posted By on Fri, Jul 20, 2018 at 2:40 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock
This didn't happen. Repeat: This did not happen. But what if...

A 72 year old black man living in Miami Beach was about to be evicted from his condo. He was arrested in the act of trying to burn the building down. He had already dumped gasoline down a trash chute. He was caught in the parking garage with two gasoline containers and had 28 more in a storage unit. He said his goal was to "kill the white people" in the building. In his apartment, he had speeches by Louis Farrakhan, black nationalist and leader of the Nation of Islam, and posters from the Black Panther movement of the 1960s.

As I said, it didn't happen. We know that, because if it did, Fox News would have grabbed hold of the story and run it on a loop for days, complete with mug shots, scare graphics, ominous old photos of Black Panthers and archived statements from leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Tweeter In Chief would have been on it as fast as his thumbs could carry him. Newspapers would have picked it up soon after. On CNN and MSNBC, serious talking heads would try to decide if it should be called an potential act of terrorism, mass murder or mental illness. "Was this a random act or part of a larger social phenomenon?" the earnest heads around the table would ask each other.

But here's the thing. Most of the events I described actually did happen. The 72 year old man, the condo, the eviction, the plan to burn the building down, the gasoline. Those are all for real. I just changed three details.

The 72 year old man is white. He said he wanted to "kill all Jews" in the building. And police found swastikas and books about Nazi ideology in his apartment.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

My Pick For Governor: David Garcia

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 9:02 AM


Note: This is my own personal pick, not an endorsement from the Tucson Weekly.

A month ago, my position on the gubernatorial campaign boiled down to a simple slogan: "Democrat For Governor." Whichever Democrat could beat Ducey, that's who I wanted to run in the general. The differences between the three candidates, Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer and David Garcia, are minor compared to the Grand Canyon-sized chasm separating them from the current governor. Ducey has to go. I wanted to back the winner. It was that simple.

I've been watching to see if one of the candidates stumbled on the primary campaign trail. Anyone who was caught flat footed and started hemming, hawing and back-pedaling during the primary would run into serious trouble when they were hit by the tsunami of money and negative campaigning in the general. I haven't seen any serious stumbles from any of them. Democrats have three smart candidates who understand the issues facing Arizona and have remained consistent in their messaging.

Unfortunately, Kelly Fryer isn't a viable candidate, mainly because she's a newcomer. Ramping up from zero to governor in one campaign is nearly impossible, especially when the other candidates already have political identities. I hope to see more of Fryer in the future. She's a leader with a strong voice and relevant experience.

Both Garcia and Farley have a good shot at beating Ducey in November, especially given today's unpredictable political climate at the state and national levels, and both have the makings of a good governor. I pick David Garcia as the stronger of the two.

David Garcia is a much improved candidate from when he ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2014. Four years ago, he was new to the campaign trail and hadn't found his footing. This time, he's far stronger. He looks comfortable in his own skin and sounds confident in his message. He exudes a positive energy, enjoying himself at the same time he's deeply serious about what he's doing. That makes him an attractive candidate.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It Takes a Billion To Raise a Charter School Movement

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 10:00 AM


A story on the front page of the Star.
AP Exclusive: Billionaires fuel US charter schools movement
Be still my heart!

Last week I wrote a post about the amount of money the Walton Family Foundation — the Walmart fortune — has poured into charter schools, with a promise of a billion dollars total between 2015 and 2020. The AP story looked beyond the Walton Foundation. It began with a Bill Gates connection I didn't know about. Washington state is one of the last states to resist the charter school movement. Gates put millions into creating a charter school law, then funded the Washington State Charter Schools Association. When the courts ruled the law unconstitutional, Gates spent more money to keep six charters open while they fight to reinstate the law.

Along with charter supporters like Gates and the Waltons, the article mentions the Dell computer family and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. The Billionaire Boys Club stretches much farther than that. A recent example. In the California gubernatorial primary, Netflix founder Reed Hastings plowed $7 million into the candidacy of ex-Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a big charter school supporter. He did it under the cover of a group named Families & Teachers for Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor 2018, which put more than $13 million into the campaign, almost all of it from a few rich donors. Villaraigosa lost in spite of the funding.

In my earlier post, I wrote that the charter presence in Arizona and around the country would be much smaller if it weren't for the billions of private dollars spent on their behalf. Sometimes it's spent openly, but often it's done by stealth. A favorite method is the use of dozens of pro-charter astroturf groups, supposedly grassroots organizations, with impressive websites and an office address. Often they claim to represent specific groups, like African Americans or Hispanics, to give the impression of a groundswell of support. The actual organization can be a small office with one employee or even a post office box. But in advertising and public relations, perception is everything.

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Staff Pick

Tucson's Birthday Party at 1912 Brewing Company

Tucson is turning 141 years old and we are going to Celebrate with Beer Raspados!… More

@ 1912 Brewing Company Mon., Aug. 20, 6-9 p.m. 2045 N Forbes Blvd Ste 105

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