Trump Likes to Dig Deep Holes for Himself

There is no doubt some ideological component that helps explain why the Trump administration has made so few appointments and seen so few confirmations of people to fill out their government. But the fuller story is one of lack of preparedness, a refusal by Trump to consider nominees who have been critical of him, a lack of desire by an increasing number of people to seek employment in his administration, and a lack of qualifications or actual disqualifications among those why were vocal supporters of Trump’s candidacy. The Democrats have engaged in some slow-walking, too, mainly in a reciprocal denial of unanimous consent in the Senate that would speed along the nominees who have been named. On the whole, though, Democratic obstruction explains almost none of the phenomenon.

Trump was called on his failure to staff up his government on Fox & Friends this morning and he doesn’t like to be criticized. So, it was perhaps inevitable that he would find some justification for his lack of action.

.@foxandfriends We are not looking to fill all of those positions. Don’t need many of them – reduce size of government. @IngrahamAngle

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2017

In context, that didn’t sound too good because he was taking flak from Laura Ingraham, a strong supporter, who took the opportunity of her appearance of Fox & Friends to point out that the hurricane response, not to mention our nation’s response to provocations from North Korea, might be undermined by understaffing in key departments. The president was basically saying that the understaffing is an ideologically based free decision and his way of reducing the size of the government. He didn’t seem to realize that it’s a bit perilous to argue that we “don’t need” these positions filled at a time of crisis.

But this is typical Trump. He often reacts defensively and winds of making matters worse for himself.  It’s not exactly true, or fully true, that his understaffing is intentional.

Another example of this tendency of Trump’s to make poor justifications for his actions came when he was criticized for announcing the pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio during a typical Friday news dump and in the midst of a looming catastrophe from Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast. The implication, of course, was that Trump wanted to announce a controversial decision when most people are done with work and starting their weekends- a time known for having the lowest viewership and consumption of news.  Insofar as people would be paying attention, they’d be paying attention to the Hurricane and any resulting carnage.

Trump decided the best way to counter that argument was to argue that his intention was actually the opposite. He wanted the largest possible audience to see his announcement on Arpaio, and he figured that the Friday news dump would be a good time despite it being a time of low viewership precisely because people would be tuning in to get news about the hurricane.

This, of course, made him seem completely callous about the coming victims of Hurricane Harvey, but he somehow could not anticipate that this would be the result.

In both cases, Trump was lying. As I’ve stated, he’d have a better-staffed administration if he was willing to work harder and had more people to choose from. And he actually was trying to bury criticism and discussion of his Arpaio pardon.

But his opponents can now use his own words against him to critique his response to the devastation in Texas and Louisiana. If FEMA comes up short, well, the president didn’t want FEMA fully staffed. And why was he using the victims as cover for his deeply unpopular and controversial decision to pardon a racist sheriff?

In some ways, Trump can be completely unpredictable and it’s a political strength for him. But in his defensiveness he is all too predictable and can be baited into making unforced errors. The way he is allergic to taking responsibility for his actions leads him, time and time again, to take even fuller ownership of his missteps and mistakes.

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Quick Takes: Trump in Texas

* When I first saw this on twitter, I thought someone was making a joke. Apparently irony really is dead. It’s true.

“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump said from atop this firetruck, addressing hurricane victims. http://pic.twitter.com/0EdsLctHDi

— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) August 29, 2017

* This is what happens when Trump tries to fake empathy.

.@realDonaldTrump “Harvey. It sounds like such an innocent name, but isn’t.” http://pic.twitter.com/NuCwZFVG0f

— jonathantilove (@JTiloveTX) August 29, 2017

* Joan McCarter reminds us that, in light of hurricane Harvey, this is what the Trump administration proposed in their budget:

Funds hiring of 500 new Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 new ICE law enforcement personnel, plus associated support staff.

Provides a further investment of $2.6 billion for high priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology, including funding to continue planning, designing, and constructing a border wall. […]

Restructures user fees for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to ensure that the cost of government services is not subsidized by taxpayers who do not directly benefit from those programs.

Reduces Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administered grants, saving $667 million; additionally the budget proposes establishing a 25% non-federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grants that do not currently require a non-federal match.

In other words, they want to rob disaster relief in order to build that wall and terrorize brown people.

* Here is VP Pence back in 2005 explaining the Republican approach to disaster relief and budgets:

Video: “Katrina breaks my heart…but we must not let Katrina break the bank for our children & grandchildren” Mike Pence-2005 #ImpeachTrump http://pic.twitter.com/SxmT8NGEA7

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) August 29, 2017

* Since the election, we’ve seen thousands of articles attempting to explain Trump voters. Who knew it could all be found on twitter?

Idiots. OBAMA WAS NOT PRESIDENT DURING KATRINA. http://pic.twitter.com/ENwiE9FyD0

— Jen (@ellewoodsruns) August 29, 2017

* It’s good to know that Mad Magazine is still out there doing their thing.

Mad Magazine responds to Trump’s decision to lift ban on military gear for local police w/ a fresh take on Rockwell https://t.co/8qETKt4x6g http://pic.twitter.com/VWrClIeqji

— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) August 29, 2017

* Finally, as I’ve been watching the coverage of Harvey and the heroic efforts that are underway as we speak, this is the song that keeps coming to mind:

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Carol Burris Deciphers a Study That Falsely Claims That Charters Benefit Nearby Public Schools

I am reposting this because the original omitted the link to the article. I went to the car repair shop and the computer repair shop today, and wrote this post while paising in a coffee shop between repairs. Carol Burris’s article links to the original study, which has the ironic title “In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Studenys of New York City.” Ironic, since charter schools have nothing to do with the common good.

Recently, a study was released that made the absurd claim that public schools make academic gains when a charter opens close to them or is co-located in their building. To those of us who have seen co-located charters take away rooms previously used for the arts, dance, science, or resource rooms for students with disabilities, the finding seemed bizarre, as did the contention that draining away the best students from neighborhood public schools was a good thing for the losing school.

The rightwing DeVos-funded media eagerly reported this “finding,” without digging deeper. Why should they? It propagated a myth they wanted to believe.

The author of this highly politicized study is Sarah Cordes of Temple University.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former principal, is a highly skilled researcher. She reviewed Cordes’ findings and determined they were vastly overstated. Her review of Cordes’ study was peer-reviewed by some of the nation’s most distinguished researchers.

Burris writes:

“Cordes attempted to measure the effects of competition from a charter school on the achievement, attendance and grade retention of students in nearby New York City public schools. In addition, she sought to identify the cause of any effects she might find.”

She did not take into account the high levels of mobility among New York City public school students, especially the most disadvantaged.

But worse, her findings are statistically small as compared to other interventions:

“Upon completing her analysis, Cordes concludes that “the introduction of charter schools within one mile of a TPS increases the performance of TPS students on the order of 0.02 standard deviations (sds) in both math and English Language Arts (ELA).”

“To put that effect size in perspective, if you lower class size, you find the effect on achievement to be ten times greater (.20) than being enrolled in a school within one mile of charter school. Reading programs that focus on processing strategies have an effect size of nearly .60. And direct math instruction (effect size .61) with strong teacher feedback (effect size .75) has strong benefits for math achievement[2]. With a .02 effect size, the effect of being enrolled in a school located near a charter school is akin to increasing your height by standing on a few sheets of paper.”

Burris noted that what really mattered was money:

“Although it appears that Cordes found very small achievement gains in a public school if a charter is located within a half mile, that correlation does not tell us why those gains occurred. To answer that question, Cordes looked at an array of factors — demographics, school spending, and parent and teacher survey data about school culture and climate.

There was only ONE standout out factor that rose to the commonly accepted level of statistical significance — money.”

Burris concludes that journalists need to check other sources before believing “studies” and “reports” that make counter-intuitive claims:

“The bottom line is that Sarah Cordes found what every researcher before her found — “competition” from charters has little to no effect on student achievement in traditional public schools. It also found that when it comes to learning, money matters as evidenced by increased spending, especially in co-located schools.

“Most reporters generally lack advanced skills in research methods and statistics. They depend on abstracts and press releases, not having the expertise to look with a critical eye themselves. But it does not take a lot of expertise to see the problems with this particular study.”

Sarah Cordes’ “study” will serve the purposes of Trump and DeVos and others who are trying to destroy the common good. Surely, that was not her intention. Perhaps her dissertation advisors st New York University could have helped her develop a sounder statistical analysis. It seems obvious that the public schools that have been closed to make way for charters received no benefit at all–and they are not included in the study.

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Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan Opposed Disaster Relief for Hurricane Sandy, But Now?

When Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Mick Mulvaney (now Trump’s budget director) insisted that any disaster relief had to be offset by budget cuts.

They said the bill was loaded with pork. It wasn’t.

Will they insist that the disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey be offset by cuts? Will they complain about any disaster relief for Texas and Louisiana? Of course not. Nor should they.

Maybe Hurricane Harvey will teach them that there actually is a need for a strong federal government to help people who are in need. Maybe they will discover that problems of epic size can’t be solved by volunteers alone, though volunteer help has been necessary and wonderful. Maybe they will learn something about the importance of the common good, not selfish individualism. Maybe I’m a foolish optimist.

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To the Mainstream Media: Stop Politicizing a Natural Disaster

As the whole genre of “fake news” grows and we have a sitting president who lies constantly in order to reinforce his own delusional thinking, it is more important than ever that our mainstream media outlets provide us with a thoughtful and mature assessment of our situation. Let’s be clear, there are a lot of situations where they do just that. For example, yesterday I quoted important stories on the Russia scandal from both the Washington Post and the New York Times.

But today, both of those newspapers published stories about hurricane Harvey that tell us why so many people complain about the so-called “mainstream media.” While the rain is still falling and rescue efforts are underway, the Washington Post decided to publish a story on how it might affect Trump’s political fortunes.

While personal harm and property damage resulting from Harvey are rightly the overriding concern, there is already speculation about how Donald Trump will handle the first major natural disaster of his presidency and whether it could significantly affect his reelection fortunes.

They proceed to review the research on how natural disasters affect voters. To demonstrate the speculation they refer to, they point to an article in Politico. More than anything else, it is this callous disregard for how events actually affect voters in favor of reporting on the political horse race that turns people off—to both the media and politics.

The New York Times story I want to point to presents a different kind of problem. It comes from Glenn Thrush and is titled, “Harvey Gives Trump a Chance to Reclaim Power to Unify.” The title gives it away, but here’s the point:

Hurricane Harvey was the rarest of disasters to strike during the Trump presidency — a maelstrom not of Mr. Trump’s making, and one that offers him an opportunity to recapture some of the unifying power of his office he has squandered in recent weeks.

Like the story in the Washington Post, this one is all about Trump’s political fortunes while the storm still rages. But it’s even worse than that. I have no idea what goes on in someone’s head who assumes that we can all dismiss what we’ve seen with our own eyes and heard with our own ears over the last year and a half. Trump didn’t squander his “unifying power” in recent weeks. He’s been at it since he decided to jump on the birther bandwagon to launch his political career. In subsequent days, he has never demonstrated the slightest interest in unity. The best example was the one presidents usually use in an attempt to bring the country together—their inaugural address. Even on that occasion, Trump’s message was divisive as well as dystopian.

Even if Trump is able to provide a positive message in the coming days, to forget all of the racist, divisive lies we’ve been hearing for months now would be like assuming that a drug addict is cured if they go a day without a fix. That is what enablers do. Anyone who has ever been to an Al-Anon meeting will tell you that the first (of many) steps an addict must take is to admit that they have a problem—something Trump seems incapable of doing.

All I can say to the New York Times and the Washington Post is, “Get your act together. We need you. And you can do better than this.”

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A Message to Education Deans: Resist!

More than 200 deans of education at scores of colleges and universities have organized to resist the corporate reformers’ efforts to deprofessionalize teaching and destroy public education. They call themselves Education Deans for Justice and Equity. They work in partnership with the National Education Policy Center. If you are a faculty member, please ask your dean to sign on. If you belong to an education organization, please consider adding its support.

“Dear Education Deans:

“As the start to a new academic year unfolds, so do increasing attacks on public education. Building on the “Declaration of Principles” that was released in January of this year and signed by 235 education deans, many of us feel compelled to continue to speak out collectively, publicly, and forcefully.

“Towards this end, we have prepared a new statement from education deans, “Our Children Deserve Better,” that counters the harmful rhetoric and actions currently coming from Washington with alternatives that are grounded in an ethical foundation, sound research, and a commitment to democratic values. The statement is a project of Education Deans for Justice and Equity, in partnership with the National Education Policy Center.

“Invited to sign are all current and former deans of colleges and schools of education in the United States (or comparable positions such as chairs, directors, and associate deans in institutions where there is no separate dean of education or school of education). We urge signing by August 30, because we are planning for the public release and distribution of the statement in early September.

“Please consider signing, and please consider committing to encouraging at least several other education-dean colleagues to sign so that we reach our goal of hundreds of signatories. The statement and the form for you to sign on is here:
http://ift.tt/2vGUNAY.

“In solidarity,

“Kevin Kumashiro, on behalf of EDJE and NEPC”

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