Rules Don’t Apply to Libertarian GOP Congressmen Who Insist on Not Wearing Masks, Allowing Everyone to Have Whatever Weapons They Want, But Are OK With Schoolchildren Doing Shooter Drills in “Hardened” Schools

January 14, 2021 Leave a comment

This Common Dreams article is one of many (see here and here, for example) that point out the hypocrisy of unmasked libertarian GOP members of Congress complaining about having to walk through metal detectors while school children routinely attend “hardened” schools with protective fences, guarded entrances, restricted entry that make it difficult for parents to enter, and legally mandated shooter drills to protect children from potential freedom loving “patriots” brandishing AK-47s that they can but on line.

The logic of limiting free speech on line while offering unlimited access to the acquisition of combat level weapons on line is head spinning, as is the logic that speaks of teaching children about the glorious freedom they possess while harboring them in secure de facto compounds protected by armed guards and cameras.

We seem to be living in a world where adults seek unrestricted freedom while children are being trained to live in a totalitarian state… and the actions we are taking to “protect” children are doing just that. It’s time for a total reset.

NYTimes Andrew Sorkin Article Flatters IBM’s Political Engagement and Calls for Ban On Direct Donations to Politicians… but PILOTs Have HUGE Impact on State Local Politics… and Schools

January 13, 2021 Leave a comment

As the title of Andrew Sorkin’s NYTimes Deal Book article, “IBM Doesn’t Donate to Politicians. Other Firms Should Take Note“, implies, IBM is presented as an exemplar when it comes to making direct political donations. I know from experience that IBM uses its considerable clout to exact PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Tax) agreements from local communities and States, agreements that lower their taxes and shift the burden onto local homeowners. When IBM wants to locate a manufacturing plant in a community, it will set off a race-to-the-bottom bidding war between communities and States to get the sweetest deal possible on taxes. When one of the competitors in the bidding war is a community that IBM might abandon, it has the effect of creating a double whammy: if the community and the State do not pony up a sweetheart deal IBM will leave and take its jobs with it. 

IBM is far from the only corporation that does this… and as a school superintendent I found the whole process of “economic development” that accompanies the bidding for businesses repellant. In these bidding wars the business can’t lose. Businesses are, after all, trying to maximize its profits and, like every homeowner, trying to minimize paying taxes. If they don’t have to pay the going rate for State of local taxes they increase their bottom line. Many in the community accept PILOTs as the price one needs to pay to “attract and retain” good businesses and, as we witnessed in the Trump era, when a businessman/candidate avoids paying taxes they do not pay a price at the polls. The public expects businesses to gouge local and state governments. But in these bidding wars school districts, State and local governments, and— I would contend– local taxpayers lose. If the businesses strike their optimal bargain their infrastructure costs will be paid by the town and should they close down their business or fail to bring in the jobs they promised they pay no price. In the meantime, instead of tax funds being used to build or upgrade schools or roads, the funds are used to underwrite the costs of a gleaming office park or— worse— a massive warehouse that uses robot technology. In the meantime, in the “losing” community tax revenues are diminished and in the “winning” community costs are increased. In both cases, towns and school districts face the choice of cuts to service or tax increases to local homeowners: a lose-lose proposition. 

Sorkin’s call for decreased spending on political campaigns is welcome and would be a “win” for democracy.. But for schools and towns, getting out of the PILOT business would be even better. . 


Advice for Non-Profit Managers Applies to Classroom Teachers as Well: No Sugar Coating; Name Wednesday’s Riots for What They Are

January 11, 2021 Leave a comment

My daughter in Brooklyn who works for a non-profit shares insightful posts on Facebook… and this one from NonprofitAF, a web page written by Vu Le, offered advice to organizations making “public statements about the violent fascist coup attempt” that took place in Washington DC last week. As I read through it, it struck me that this advice needs to be taken by social studies teachers across the country as well since far too many news reports are not heeding the advice offered in recommendation #3 and are referring to “the events of Wednesday” or “the tragic event of the past week” and not calling them what they were: violent right-wing, white supremacist, fascist coup attempts and attacks on democracy. 

As Vu Le writes, the time for euphemisms and looking the other way is past. To hear the GOP members who voted to negate the will of the voters now complain that voting on impeachment would be “divisive” requires an adjective stronger than “hypocritical”. As Vu Le asserts in recommendations #11 and #12, to overcome what happened on Wednesday, January 6, requires action. 

11. DON’T call for healing and unity. Healing and unity cannot take place without accountability and justice first. We cannot and must not “meet in the middle” with Nazis and fascists. It only gives them legitimacy and power. We’ve compromised so much with racists and bigots, and look where it’s gotten us. No more.

12. DO call for justice: If we do not have justice, if the people who coordinated and fueled these attacks do not get severe legal and professional consequences for their actions, these violent coup attempts will continue. Call for impeachment, expulsion, and criminal prosecution for the president, elected officials, corporations, and anyone else who supported this. If you think that’s too “political,” get over it.

I am an incrementalist and a harmonizer at heart… but I find that Vu Le’s perspective is accurate in this circumstance. Joe Biden will have a lot on his plate when he takes office: COVID; re-regulation; restoring the public’s faith in government; restoring the public’s faith in facts; and doing everything possible to prevent the economy from collapsing due to the impact of the pandemic and the unsettled international scene. If Congress fails to impeach the President and hopes that the pivot to Biden’s inevitable message of “healing and unity” will somehow appease the 128 officials who voted to deny Biden the office he lawfully was elected to they need to look at the flags the rioters waved, the messages they posted on line, and the messages on the clothing they wore. The rioters on Wednesday were not patriots or protesters. As Vu Le reminds us:  “They left bombs and nooses, carried the confederate flag, and wore T-shirts emblazoned with Nazi symbols and slogans.” 

If politicians and pundits want to declare “this is not who we are”, then a strong message needs to be sent to those who were trying to define themselves as “patriots”. 


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