How Millionaires Make Money by Paying into Voucher Fund

The currently popular means of establishing vouchers in the states where the state constitution forbids them is called an “education savings account.” The way it works is otherwise known as money laundering. Suppose Daddy Warbucks owes the state $200,000 in taxes. He gives the money to an independent organization that gives out money for private and religious schools. He gets a state tax credit and may actually make money on the deal if he also gets a federal tax credit.

Very clever. Daddy Warbucks makes a generous gift of money that should have gone to the state treasury to pay for public services. The independent organization collects millions of dollars to hand out as vouchers.

This particular game was created in Florida, where the state courts ruled vouchers unconstitutional, and the voters rejected an effort by Jeb Bush to alter the state constitution.

Now it is happening in Missouri, where the richest man in the state is Rex Sinquefield.

Rex has long been a hater of public schools. He stands to achieve his dream, undermining the public schools, and getting a hefty tax deduction too.

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How to Combat Right-Wing Spin on the Trump/Russia Probe

As I mentioned yesterday, the story someone (probably from the Kushner camp) fed to Fox News about how the attempt to set up a back channel line of communication was simply a one-off might make some sense if you take it out of the context that the Trump transition team had been working on setting up a back channel from immediately after the election right up until January. But once you know the whole story, it becomes obvious that the Fox leak is a lie.

This is a problem that a lot of the American public is facing as items about the investigation are leaked in the slow dribble of one piece of the puzzle at a time. In order to get the significance of each bombshell, you have to put it in context of everything else we’ve learned. It’s also the case that those who want to discredit the leaks can often do so by by taking them one bit at a time and making a case without any reference to key contextual information.

An example of that would be the way that both the Trump administration and right-wing news outlets are making the claim that setting up back channel access to foreign governments is normal, while omitting the fact that it is not normal to do so prior to inauguration or with the goal of bypassing the U.S. national security bureaucracy.

Today, Ross Douthat makes a case for a more innocent interpretation of the Trump/Russia connection by conveniently leaving out an awful lot of key information. Here is the basic case he makes:

…the fact remains that Trump told us, over and over again, that he liked the idea of improving relations with Russia — an idea, as it happens, that this man of few consistent ideas has held consistently since the armaggedon-haunted 1980s. He was forthright, not deceptive. He did not act like a man with a dark secret, a man for whom Russia was a dangerous subject to be avoided at all costs, a man with an interest in turning the public’s attention away from anything related to the Kremlin. He was happy to talk about Putin, happy to wear his Russophilic intentions on his sleeve.

It’s true that Trump made no secret of his admiration for Putin during the campaign. But that ignores all of the times the president and his team kept things secret and/or lied about the connections. For example, they tried to deny that, while campaign manager, Paul Manafort’s associates intervened to tamp down the Republican Party’s platform statement about a response to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Jeff Sessions’s lies about meetings with the Russian Ambassador led to his recusal from the FBI’s investigation and Michael Flynn’s lies led to him being fired as Trump’s national security advisor. Those are simply three of the things the Trump team wanted to keep secret.

In his attempt to provide a more innocent explanation for the Trump/Russia connection, Douthat also ignores the fact that all of this was happening at the same time that Russia was actively trying to intervene in the 2016 election to damage Hillary Clinton and support Trump. That is the enormous context that is often left out of attempts to explain away individual bits of this story as they are leaked.

One other item that slipped by me but could be important as this story progresses is the way in which both Comey and Rosenstein have characterized the investigation. Here is what Comey said when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee back in March:

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counter-intelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.

In his letter announcing the appointment of a special counsel, Rosenstein used the same language. Mueller’s investigation is to include:

…any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.

Notice that the word they use is “coordination.” Somehow along the way, that has been lost and the word used by almost all media outlets is “collusion.” I suspect that both Comey and Rosenstein chose their words very carefully. Here is the legal definition of collusion:

where two persons (or business entities through their officers or other employees) enter into a deceitful agreement, usually secret, to defraud and/or gain an unfair advantage over a third party, competitors, consumers or those with whom they are negotiating.

The legal definition of coordination is not as clear. But here is what Merriam Webster says:

the process of organizing people or groups so that they work together properly and well

When you hear people on the right writing off the possibility of collusion and/or suggesting that it isn’t illegal, keep that distinction in mind. Mueller’s investigation won’t necessarily be looking for collusion, but simply coordination. Obviously they determined that the possibility of a campaign coordinating with an adversary to influence an election was worthy of a counter-intelligence (and perhaps criminal) investigation.

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Jeff Bryant: What Is the Point of School Choice?

Jeff Bryant is trying to figure out what the purpose of school choice is.

“Another week, another round of evidence that providing parents with more “school choice,” especially the kind that lets them opt out of public schools, is not a very effective vehicle for ensuring students improve academically or that taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely.

“The latest evidence comes from a study of the voucher program in Washington, DC that allows parents to transfer their children from public to private schools at taxpayer expense.

“The study found that students “who attended a private school through the program performed worse on standardized tests than their public school counterparts who did not use the vouchers,” reports the New York Times.

“This study adds to others – from Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana – finding that school vouchers have negative impacts on students.

“Despite these results, many proponents of school choice contend the purpose of school choice was never about generating better results. It’s about choice.

“The latest evidence comes from a study of the voucher program in Washington, DC that allows parents to transfer their children from public to private schools at taxpayer expense.

“The study found that students “who attended a private school through the program performed worse on standardized tests than their public school counterparts who did not use the vouchers,” reports the New York Times.

“This study adds to others – from Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana – finding that school vouchers have negative impacts on students.

“Despite these results, many proponents of school choice contend the purpose of school choice was never about generating better results. It’s about choice for choice’s sake.

“Results Don’t Matter?

“That seems to be what US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos argues in her reaction to the news about the apparent failure of the DC voucher program. As the Washington Post reports, the report prompted her to say, “When school choice policies are fully implemented, there should not be differences in achievement among the various types of schools.”

So if choice doesn’t raise scores, what’s the point?

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Jersey Jazzman: The Facts About Charter Schools in Newark

Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber, experienced teacher and doctoral student at Rutgers, follows the claims of charter promoters in New Jersey, especially Newark. His latest post is simply “Facts About Newark Charter Schools.”

Bottom line: the charters do not enroll the same students as public schools. Why is that so hard for the media to understand?

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Politico Posts Puff Piece About Eva Markowitz

I wasn’t going to refer to this article by Kyle Specer in Politico magazine. It reads so much like promotional literature massaged by Eva’s public relations department that I thought it best to ignore its it. But several people sent it to me, so I couldn’t overlook it.

It is called “Paul Ryan’s Favorite Charter School.” It presents Eva Moskowhitz as a “liberal Democrat” whose no-excuses charters produce miraculous results.

When she interviewed me, I told her to pay attention to student attrition. She didn’t.

When I pointed out that the same students who performed brilliantly on the state tests were unable to gain entry to the city’s highly selective exam schools until their third year of trying, she ignored that.

She fell hook, line, and sinker for Eva’s claim that the goal of schooling is to get high test scores, even at the risk of crushing the spirit of students with rules and sanctions.

Kyle Spencer knows that affluent parents don’t want their children in such a rigid atmosphere. But it seems to be just right for poor black children. That’s why Trump interviewed her for the job of Secretary of Education, and why Republicans like Paul Ryan love Eva. The patronizing rich usually believe that black children need a firm hand and swift justice.

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FBI’s Interest In Kushner Isn’t Limited to Back Channel Access

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon of McClatchy News suggest that the FBI’s interest in Jared Kushner goes beyond his involvement in trying to set up back channel access between the Trump administration and Russia. They note two other avenues of the investigation.

First of all, just as Ryan Lizza suggested, there is Kushner’s possible involvement in obstruction of justice.

This month, Kushner was a force behind Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had refused Trump’s entreaties to pledge loyalty to the president as he led the investigation and publicly confirmed that Trump associates were under scrutiny. It remains to be seen whether Kushner’s role could draw him into a debate about whether the firing and Trump’s related actions amounted to obstruction of justice.

But perhaps even more explosive is Kushner’s role in the Trump campaign.

During the campaign, Kushner helped oversee digital operations that unleashed social media barrages targeted at the local level in an attempt to shift the opinions of voters in key states, former Trump aides say. Russia similarly directed anti-Clinton or pro-Trump social media blitzes.

This is the line of inquiry that Sen. Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is zeroing in on.

Mr Warner said: “We know about the hacking, and selective leaks, but what really concerns me as a former tech guy is at least some reports – and we’ve got to get to the bottom of this – that there were upwards of a thousand internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect taking over a series of computers which are then called botnets, that can then generate news down to specific areas.

“It’s been reported to me, and we’ve got to find this out, whether they were able to affect specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, Trump versus Clinton, during the waning days of the election, but instead, ‘Clinton is sick’, or ‘Clinton is taking money from whoever for some source’ … fake news…

The key states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania which Mr Warner named all fell narrowly – and unexpectedly – to Donald Trump.

As Kate Brannen points out, Kushner is the one who was hailed as the genius who worked with Cambridge Analytica, a company that is principally owned by right wing financier Robert Mercer, on the campaign’s voter targeting operation. She notes this about the company:

In the United Kingdom, Cambridge Analytica has been linked to the Leave.EUcampaign, although the company denies this. The company is now threatening legal action against the Guardian , which published a series of articles that investigated the role that may have been played by Mercer and Cambridge Analytica in the campaign to leave the European Union.

A story from Paul Wood ties this all together.

“This is a three-headed operation,” said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls.

The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

“You are stealing the stuff and pushing it back into the US body politic,” said the former official, “you know where to target that stuff when you’re pushing it back.”

This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.

In summary, here are the lines of inquiry into Jared Kushner: (1) what was his role in attempting to set up back channel communication between Russia and the Trump administration to bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, (2) did he engage in obstruction of justice related to the firing of James Comey and (3) did he cooperate with Russia to micro target voters—specifically in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—by sharing Cambridge Analytica data with them? In other words, Kushner is up to his eyeballs in everything related to the Trump/Russia probe.

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Quick Takes: Kushner Camp Leaks Fake News to Fox

* Here’s the story Fox News is running with today:

A December meeting between Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and one of the senior advisers in the Trump administration, and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower focused on Syria, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News Monday.

During the meeting the Russians broached the idea of using a secure line between the Trump administration and Russia, not Kushner, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News…

The idea of a permanent back channel was never discussed, according to the source. Instead, only a one-off for a call about Syria was raised in the conversation.

* A lot of the press is zeroing in on the fact that Trump re-tweeted a link to that story, which comes from a one of those law-breaking leakers he’s always complaining about. Sean Spicer was even asked about that during the press conference today. But the Fox story obviously comes from someone in the Kushner camp and is a lie. We know that because the December meeting wasn’t the only time someone from Trump’s team discussed a back channel connection with the Russians. In addition to Kushner, Michael Flynn started talking to Kislyak about it immediately after the election and Erik Prince was dispatched to a clandestine meeting with Russians to talk about it again in January.

* The other day I noted that Adam Gopnick had written about the fact that in France, the right-wing candidate chose to support Macron in order to defeat the threat that Marine Le Pen posed to their democracy. In taking on the bullying of Donald Trump last week, Angela Merkel’s opponent in the upcoming German election did the same thing.

Remarkable attack on Trump’s treatment of Merkel by her chief rival Martin Schulz. http://pic.twitter.com/IvK1AVf9Nq

— Richard Chambers (@newschambers) May 29, 2017

Why do you suppose that opposition parties in France and Germany care more about protecting democracy than Republicans in this country?

* Jonathan Chait and Josh Marshall have each written that the worst case scenario for collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign is looking more plausible than less severe alternatives. I simply suggest that you go read them both.

* Here is every Trumpbot nationalist’s nightmare:

He was 22 when he entered Irish politics. At 27, he was elected to parliament. At 36, he publicly came out as gay. And now, at 38, Leo Varadkar, the son of an Indian immigrant father and an Irish mother, appears on course to become Ireland’s next prime minister.

* Trump is following through on Bannon’s goal of deconstructing the administrative state, especially when it comes to civil rights. Here is just one of the examples identified by the Washington Post:

Under President Trump’s proposed budget, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights — which has investigated thousands of complaints of discrimination in school districts across the country and set new standards for how colleges should respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment — would also see significant staffing cuts. Administration officials acknowledge in budget documents that the civil rights office will have to scale back the number of investigations it conducts and limit travel to school districts to carry out its work.

* Finally, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert identified something different about the scandals that arose during the Obama years and the ones we’re seeing now with the Trump administration. Hmmmmm…wonder what that could be.

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