Massachusetts Governor’s Office Advises Pro-Charter Allies to Use Private Emails

It is no secret that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker wants to more privately managed charter schools in his state. He has been openly campaigning for Question 2, that would privatize a dozen schools every year for the indefinite future. As readers on this blog have often noted, once charter schools are part of the picture, they dominate all discussions about education. As we have seen in many other states, charter schools fight any accountability or transparency even though they receive public money. They operate in secret with taxpayer dollars, keep the students they want, push out the ones they don’t want.

Recently some emails became public that reveal an interesting part of the discussion. The advocates for charter schools in the governor’s office are advised to use their personal email accounts, so their efforts to promote privatization cannot be subject to FOIL (Freedom of Information Law). They are paid by the public, and acting against the public interest, and they don’t want voters to read about their conversations.

The emails can be seen here.

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Latino Voters Could Swing Georgia Blue

As many as 27.3 million Latino voters are eligible to vote this fall – a record number that could have a decisive impact in this year’s elections. But will Latino voters turn out at the polls?

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 69 percent of Latinos said they were “absolutely certain” to vote this fall, down from 77 percent in 2012. Moreover, according to Census data, actual Latino turnout historically lags that of other groups, with a total turnout rate of 48 percent in 2012 (compared to 64 percent for whites and 66 percent for blacks).

But in the emerging battleground state of Georgia, there are some intriguing indicators that Latino turnout this year could defy these lackluster projections, and in a significant way.

Though Georgia has long been ruby-red in its presidential choices, recent polls show Donald Trump leading in the state by an average of just 2.8 points, according to RealClearPolitics. This puts Georgia within striking distance of a Democratic win for the first time since 1992.

Latinos now make up 9.4 percent of Georgia’s population, up from 8.8 percent in 2010, according to Census figures, including an estimated 330,000 eligible voters. While Latinos still make up less than 5 percent of the state’s electorate, Mitt Romney won the state by just 308,460 votes in 2012. Assuming they lean heavily Democratic, as Latinos do nationally, high turnout among Georgia Latinos could tip the balance November 8.

One indicator of this potential clout is the exceptionally strong Latino turnout in Georgia’s presidential primary in March, particularly among younger voters. “If people turn out in the primaries, they’re more likely to turn out in the general election,” says Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO).

In Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta, for example, where Latinos make up 20.4 percent of the population, 26.1 percent of registered Latino voters cast ballots in the presidential primaries, according to data collected by the Georgia Secretary of State. That’s just shy of the national turnout rate of 28.5 percent.

Turnout was even stronger in other large counties with sizeable Latino populations. In DeKalb County, for instance, which includes a portion of Atlanta and is 9.1 percent Hispanic, 33.9 percent of registered voters turned out to vote. In Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, Latino turnout was 31.9 percent, and in Cobb County, which is 12.6 percent Hispanic, turnout was 32.5 percent.

Particularly telling was the turnout rate among Georgia’s young Latino voters, ages 18-24, the vast majority of whom voted in the Democratic primary. Of the 4,224 Latino voters in this age group registered in Gwinnett County, for instance, the Democratic primary turnout exceeded the rate for both whites and blacks: 15 percent among men, compared to 10.6 percent for blacks and 8.8 percent for whites; and 17 percent among women, compared to 14.3 percent for blacks and 8.9 percent for whites.

Just as significantly, 21 percent of the registered Latino voters in Gwinnett County are voters ages 18-24. By comparison, registered Latino voters ages 65 and over made up just 6 percent of the county’s electorate. In fact, 42% of the registered Latino voters in Gwinnett County are under the age of 35.

The absolute numbers of Latino voters in Georgia are still quite small, and despite an uptick in registrations, the Secretary of State reports that 117,650 Latino voters were registered as of October 1 (10 days before the registration deadline) – or about 35% of the eligible voting population. Moreover, trends in Georgia may not reflect what could happen in other parts of the country. Georgia is one of the few states to collect voter information based on race, age, and gender, which makes comparisons to other states difficult, if not impossible.

Still, the turnout data in Georgia could be an important sign of a future Latino electorate that is both progressive and engaged, says Phil Keisling, director of the Center for Public Service of the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University in Oregon. Both Keisling and GALEO’s Gonzalez credit Trump and his anti-immigrant demagoguery for spurring Latino voters, and younger Latinos in particular, to turn out this year. “We are seeing a mobilizing movement in the Latino community,” says Gonzalez. “People have heard a lot of rhetoric about ‘deportation forces’ going into our neighborhoods, going into our churches, going into our schools and separating families. Immigration is top of mind for many voters.”

Keisling likened today’s young Latino voters to young black voters during the civil rights era, who have retained high rates of registration and voter turnout throughout their lives. “Trump has managed to motivate them in ways that they have not been motivated before,” he says. “You’re seeing among younger Latinos in particular a recognition of the importance of voting.”

Whether young Latinos act on that recognition could not only tip the balance this election but set the course of U.S. electoral politics in the long-term.


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Ross Douthat: President Trump? Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

The New York Times invited Ross Douthat to be its regular conservative commentator. He writes here about the catastrophes that a Trump presidency would create.

First, he predicts, would come an economic crisis and a recession comparable to Britain post-Brexit.

Then would be inevitable civil disorders as white nationalists flaunt their new power, encouraged by Trump’s mouth.

Add to that international disorder as every other nation seeks to take advantage of Trump’s ignorance and naïveté.

And this is the view of the Times’ conservative columnist!

A portion:

“The first is sustained market jitters, leading to an economic slump. Trump’s election alone would probably induce a Brexit-esque stock market dip, but the real problem would be what happened next. Instead of Theresa May’s steadiness inspiring a return to fundamentals, you would have the spectacle — and it will be a spectacle — of the same Trump team that drop-kicked its policy shop and barely organized a national campaign trying to staff up an administration. Even without his promised pivot to mercantilism and trade war, a White House run as a Trump production is likely to mainline anxiety into the economy, sidelining capital, discouraging hiring and shaving points off the G.D.P.

“The second peril is major civil unrest. Some of Trump’s supporters imagine that his election would be a blow to left-wing activists, that his administration would swiftly reverse the post-Ferguson crime increase. This is a bit like imagining that a President George Wallace would have been good for late-1960s civil peace. In reality, Trump’s election would be a gift to bad cops and riot-ready radicals in equal measure, and his every intervention would pour gasoline on campuses and cities — not least because as soon as any protest movement had a face or leader, Trump would be on cable bellowing ad hominems at them.

“The third likely highly-plausible peril, and by far the most serious, is a rapid escalation of risk in every geopolitical theater. It’s probably true that Trump, given his pro-Russia line, would be somewhat less likely than Clinton to immediately stumble into confrontation with Vladimir Putin over Syria. But it’s silly to imagine Moscow slipping into a comfortable détente with a President Trump; Putin is more likely to pocket concessions and keep pushing, testing the orange-haired dealmaker at every opportunity and leaving Trump poised, very dangerously, between overreaction and his least-favorite position — looking weak.

“That’s just Russia: From the Pacific Rim to the Middle East, revisionist powers will set out to test Trump’s capacity to handle surprise, hostile actors will seek to exploit the undoubted chaos of his White House, and our allies will build American fecklessness into their strategic plans. And again, all of this is likely to happen without Trump doing the wilder things he’s kind-of sort-of pledged to do — demanding tribute from allies, trying to “take the oil,” etc. He need only be himself in order to bring an extended period of risk upon the world.

“The history of geopolitics prior to the Pax Americana is rife with examples of why this sort of testing should be feared. Overall, Trump’s foreign policy hazing, his rough introduction to machtpolitik, promises more danger for global stability — still a real and valuable thing, recent crises notwithstanding — than the risks incurred by George W. Bush’s interventionism, Barack Obama’s attempt at offshore balancing, or (yes) Hillary Clinton’s possible exposure of classified material to the Chinese, the Russians and Anthony Weiner’s sexting partners.

“There is no algorithm that can precisely calibrate how to weigh global instability against the reasons that remain for conservatives to vote for Trump. No mathematical proof can demonstrate that the chance of a solidly-conservative Supreme Court justice isn’t worth a scaled-up risk of great power conflict.

“But I think that reluctant Trump supporters are overestimating the systemic durability of the American-led order, and underestimating the extent to which a basic level of presidential competence and self-control is itself a matter of life and death — for Americans, and for human beings the world over.

“I may be wrong. But none of my fears (and I have many) of what a Hillary Clinton presidency will bring are strong enough to make me want to run the risk of being proven right.”

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Jane Mayer on the James Comey Letter

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker is a careful investigative reporter. Her most recent book is “Dark Money,” which explores the billionaires’ assault on democracy.

She wrote a post about James Comey and his decision to go rogue, breaking well-established policies at the Justice Department, not to make unsubstantiated accusations and not to meddle in elections.

She writes:

“Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.

“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”

“Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.

“Four years ago, then Attorney General Eric Holder formalized this practice in a memo to all Justice Department employees. The memo warned that, when handling political cases, officials “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” To guard against unfair conduct, Holder wrote, employees facing questions about “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election” should consult with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division.

“The F.B.I. director is an employee of the Justice Department, and is covered by its policies. But when asked whether Comey had followed these guidelines and consulted with the Public Integrity Section, or with any other department officials, Kevin Lewis, a deputy director of public affairs for the Justice Department, said, “We have no comment on the matter.”

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I Support Tom Nelson for Congress in Wisconsin

If you live in Northeast Wisconsin, I urge you to support Tom Nelson for Congress.

He has never accepted money from DFER or any other privatizers.

He has fought Scott Walker over Walker’s full-blown efforts to privatize public funding for public schools.

He has served in the state legislature and as a county executive.

Elect a friend of public education to Congress!

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The Way It Is

Just as there are virtually no Trump supporters who plan to watch Before the Flood and Years of Living Dangerously on the National Geographic Channel tonight, there are virtually no Republicans who support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others who object to the highly controversial Dakota Access pipeline (which Trump reportedly has financial ties to).

It’s fairly obvious who has the back of the self-described “water protectors” demonstrating against the nearly $4 billion North Dakota pipeline and who does not. In red America, Native Americans and their allies who are concerned about the severe damage the pipeline will do to their ancestral lands and their drinking water are viewed as enemies and extremists, blocking the path of energy independence.

To the extent that mainstream-media entities (with the courageous exception of Lawrence O’Donnell and Joy Reid of MSNBC) have ignored the Dakota Access controversy (tragedy might be a more appropriate word), it’s because they’re afraid of offending the sensibilities of red-staters. Covering this controversy comprehensively would be deemed a form of liberal media bias by conservatives; the broadcast and cable networks would be bombarded with complaints from disgruntled right-wingers who don’t want to see any “Indians,” “Hollywood airheads” or “radical environmentalists” on their television screens.

We are a politically polarized people, and because of that reality, concepts that would normally be seen as common sense have become part of the red vs. blue civil war. It shouldn’t be viewed as political to declare that “Water is Life,” just as it shouldn’t be viewed as political to declare that “Black Lives Matter”–but it is.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies, Native American and otherwise, who are standing up to protect their water, their land and their heritage are, in essence, anonymous heroes, their courage largely ignored by a press corps reluctant to rile the right by reporting extensively on this powerful protest. When the actress Shailene Woodley was arrested for protesting the pipeline on October 10, she stated, “I hope you’re watching, mainstream media.” She obviously meant that rhetorically; every protester knows by now that the American press really couldn’t care less.

Speaking of controversies the Fourth Estate seemingly doesn’t want to touch, how about the criminialization of journalism?

In an ominous sign for press freedom, documentary filmmaker and journalist Deia Schlosberg was arrested and charged with felonies carrying a whopping maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison—simply for reporting on the ongoing Indigenous protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.

Schlosberg was arrested in Walhalla, North Dakota on [October 11] for filming activists shutting down a tar sands pipeline, part of a nationwide solidarity action organized on behalf of those battling the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The filmmaker was held without access to a lawyer for 48 hours, her colleague Josh Fox wrote in the Nation, and her footage was confiscated by the police.

Schlosberg was then charged [on October 14] with three felonies, the Huffington Post reported: “conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service. Together, the charges carry 45 years in maximum prison sentences.”

Deia Schlosberg will be in court on November 7 for a preliminary hearing. Considering what’s scheduled to take place the next day, something tells me that hearing won’t get a lot of coverage.

To quote the famous Andrew Hacker book, we are indeed two nations–a nation that pays attention to crises and a nation that dismisses those crises as hoaxes, a nation that cherishes journalism and a nation that imprisons journalists, a nation that values fact and a nation that values fiction. On November 8, we’ll see which nation wins this new civil war.

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James Comey: Down the Hatch?

Has FBI director James Comey run afoul of federal law? Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, makes a plausible case:

The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.

Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election. That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election.

And that is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I have spent much of my career working on government ethics and lawyers’ ethics, including two and a half years as the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, and I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.

(For the sake of full disclosure, in this election I have supported Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Hillary Clinton for president, in that order.)

On Friday, the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, sent to members of Congress a letter updating them on developments in the agency’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, an investigation which supposedly was closed months ago. This letter, which was quickly posted on the internet, made highly unusual public statements about an F.B.I. investigation concerning a candidate in the election. The letter was sent in violation of a longstanding Justice Department policy of not discussing specifics about pending investigations with others, including members of Congress. According to some news reports on Saturday, the letter was sent before the F.B.I. had even obtained the search warrant that it needed to look at the newly discovered emails. And it was sent days before the election, at a time when many Americans are already voting.

Violations of the Hatch Act and of government ethics rules on misuse of official positions are not permissible in any circumstances, including in the case of an executive branch official acting under pressure from politically motivated members of Congress. Such violations are of even greater concern when the agency is the F.B.I.

Miles Grant also notes that there was no logical basis for Comey’s actions:

Some journalists are trying to claim Comey had no good choice here – that Democrats are mad he told Republicans about emails he hasn’t read yet, but that Republicans would’ve been mad if he’d stayed quiet. This is totally false. Comey had policy to guide him: Don’t discuss cases in public. Comey chose to break that policy 11 days before an election with information he knew his fellow Republicans would use for partisan political purposes against the Democratic presidential candidate. “Republicans would’ve been mad Comey didn’t break policy to fuel partisan attacks” is not a reason to break policy.

Grant also notes that President Obama should have never hired a Republican to run the agency in the first place. Scott Lemeiux hopes that Democratic Presidents stop hiring Republicans in the name of faux-bipartisanship: one wonders if Obama was motivated to hire Comey by the same thinking exhibited in his flawed, though historic, speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention–
i.e., the idea that most Republicans don’t really put party before country, that only some members of the GOP are bad, that we’re all just alike whether we have a (D) or an (R) next to their names. If Comey’s contemptible choice leads to the election of the man who thought Obama wasn’t even born in this country, one wonders if Obama will look at himself in the mirror before he leaves office, and curse at himself for not smartening up years ago about just how partisan-to-the-bone Republicans are.

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