This strife among ourselves wastes our energy and destroys our unity. My message to those of you involved in this battle of brother against brother is this: Take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea! ~Nelson Mandela
When I was 25 in 1985, I took a course in South African political culture and current affairs. The general consensus at that time, at least among my professors, was that the lower third of Africa was headed inexorably towards murderous race war, probably within the next decade. The Reagan administration had no interest in mediating the situation and, in fact, tacitly supported the apartheid government in South Africa and its satellite in Rhodesia. South Africa had a nascent nuclear capability and a VERY well-armed white populous as well as a highly trained professional army and an extensive and brutal internal police apparatus. The African nationalists including the ANC had plenty of guns of their own, vastly superior numbers, time and moral authority. On the periphery, the Soviets, the CIA, the Israelis and the Organization of African Unity to name just a few, were all sniffing around. In the townships, a state of constant, low-level rebellion existed with civilians being killed on a daily basis either by a vicious police force or a murderous vigilante opposition. It seemed as if every night on the news there were more images of police massacres and the aftermath of “necklacing”. The Afrikaners were trying (and largely succeeding) to buy out the Zulus and make side deals with the mixed race half-casts who had marginally better rights than the blacks. The Communist wing of the ANC was threatening a full-scale reorganization of society if they took power and everyone knew that there was going to be a bloodbath in those circumstances. Would the US and Europe stand by if the Afrikaners lost and a black on white genocide began? Would the rest of the African continent and the US and Europe stand by if white South Africans won and sought to extend and intensify their own longstanding policy of ethnic and racial cleansing? If outside powers were seen to take a hand, would the Soviets get more involved, maybe through their client state Mozambique? After all, there are few places in the world of more strategic importance than the Cape. Southern Africa is a veritable treasure chest full of strategic materials like chromium, aluminum, beryllium, cobalt, diamonds and gold among other things. Many nations might be tempted to intervene for any number of reasons and a much larger and more general continental war was likely to start from a localized apartheid war. The Afrikaner administrations of Botha and later DeClerk were desperately looking for a way to step down from this precipice, ideally with their white supremacy intact, but there were few credible takers.
In the mid eighties, across Europe and the US, young people on college campuses began agitating for their schools and for major corporations to divest themselves of South African investments (I am proud to be one of those students), this threatened the last real connection the South African economy had with the West, and the Afrikaners understood that Reagan wouldn’t be there forever to protect them and Israel alone wasn’t much of a trading partner. The most militant elements on both the Afrikaner and Pan-African and Black Nationalist sides were ready and willing to kick this thing off, and I for one saw little chance that this could end in anything other than war waged on a map as big as the US with millions of civilians trapped in the middle.
Into this mess stepped Nelson Mandela, a man in the midst of his third decade of captivity, a man who had been tortured and abused, often in solitary confinement for as long as I had been alive. South African leader F. W. DeClerk deserves his share of the Nobel Peace Prize he and Mandela were awarded later for seeing the writing on the wall and choosing peace over war, but it is Mandela who shines. He brokered a peaceful transition to majority rule that convinced whites to largely remain in the country of their birth and keep the wheels of the economy turning, and convinced blacks to hold their rage in check and begin building a positive multiracial society. He did this through a brilliant political acumen and masterful diplomatic skill, but also in large part it seems through the power of his personal character and integrity. He had the credibility born through hardship and sacrifice among his colleagues in the ANC. This allowed him the room to negotiate with DeClerk. He had the gravitas and sense of the moment needed for the Afrikaners to take him seriously as a partner.
South Africa is not perfect and neither was Mandela, I am sure. The nation today has a terrible AIDS epidemic, and a generation later many blacks have yet to see much economic progress for themselves or their families. The ANC leaders who have come after Mandela are lesser men and they are prone to the kind of mortal weaknesses that apparently didn’t affect the great man, but one has only to look North to Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) to see the way things might have gone if not for the smooth transition in the south. While Zimbabwe limps along on the verge of becoming a failed state still ripped by racial and class resentment on all sides, the nation Mandela built continues to nurture the seeds necessary to one day become an international powerhouse like Brazil or India.
What has happened in South Africa is still something of a miracle to me, and Mandela was the catalyst. He will of course be compared to Gandhi and MLK and there are clearly many similarities and cross-references, but perhaps the most striking and gratifying difference to me is that Nelson Mandela died in his bed at the ripe old age of 95 in a largely peaceful region of the world that he primarily made, not a martyr for whom we can only speculate as to what he might have done, but as a beloved and respected leader who served his nation and mankind to the fullest of his capacities.
When I was a young man, that part of the world looked set to explode. Because he lived and because he could put aside the wrongs done to him and his people, that never happened. We’ll never know just how bad it could have gotten. His strength gave others the strength to forgive while not forgetting; and for that the world owes Nelson Mandela a massive debt of gratitude.
~ Scott Price, APV President
For a long while, Teach For America was the dazzling new kid on the educational reform block. All doors were opened for the program that recruits elite college graduates (many from Ivy League Universities like Harvard or Princeton), gives them about a month of intensive training, and places them in two-year termed teaching positions at low-income schools across the country. President Obama praised TFA corps members as “a generation of activists possessed with that most American of ideas — that people who love their country can change it.” Their political support crossed party lines, and just about everyone was on board, except, unfortunately, for the people who were actually affected by the program.
In Chicago, the push back originally came from the teacher’s union. Teach For America was initially instituted as a temporary solution to a temporary shortage of teachers. The five-week ‘intensive’ training program that substituted for a BA or MA in Education and much lengthier student teaching requirements was meant to fill an immediate need—to get teachers on the ground and teaching in poorly served areas. But that ‘temporary solution’ became a permanent fixture that displaced seasoned veteran teachers, many of whom had 20 plus years experience. When one teacher moved to New York after graduate school, boasting high grades and a teaching award, she found the district closed to external applicants. “But they had a contract with TFA where they were still taking college graduates with no training besides doing TFA.” The pattern is happening nationwide, she complained. “Meanwhile, they’re laying off highly experienced teachers.”
According to a recent article in the American Prospect, the criticisms come in triplicate. “The organization’s five-week training program is too short to prepare its recruits to teach, especially in chronically under-served urban and rural districts; corps members only have to commit to teach for two years, which destabilizes schools, undermines the teaching profession, and undercuts teachers unions; and TFA, with the help of its 501(c)4 spin-off, Leadership for Educational Equity, is a leading force in the movement to close “failing” schools, expand charter schools, and tie teachers’ job security to their students’ standardized test scores.”
What once looked like a kind of Peace Corps styled guardian angel for troubled inner city schools, more and more resembles a Trojan horse designed to eviscerate unions, privatize schools and leave public school systems worse off than when they started. As with so many other things in the private/public debate in this country, the public side is wildly outspent. Indeed, the resources devoted to TFA alone go far beyond what most large school districts could ever dream.
“The organization’s total assets for the 2011 fiscal year topped $350 million. That includes eight-figure support from the Broad, Walton, and Gates Foundations, leading bankrollers of campaigns to privatize school districts and ramp up standardized testing. The TFA orbit is also growing. It now has more than 10,000 corps members in 48 regions, as well as more than 32,000 alumni. Districts pay thousands in fees to TFA for each corps member in addition to their salaries—at the expense of the existing teacher workforce. Chicago, for example, is closing 48 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff while welcoming 350 corps members. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans cut 7,500 school staff, converted the majority of its schools to charters, and, between 2005 and 2010, saw its share of black teachers drop from 73 percent to 56 percent. Over the past five years, TFA expanded its Greater New Orleans corps from 85 teachers to 375.”
In addition to the money bags approach, there’s something a little unsettling about the underlying ideology which insists that “singular change agents can overcome poverty.” As TFA founder and CEO Wendy Kopp likes to put it, successful teaching “requires all the same approaches that transformational leadership in any setting requires” The emphasis on the individual and the so-called ‘transformational leadership’ devalues and patronizes current staff, of course, and elevates a solipsistic view of the world where individual effort trumps community context and values. Perfect for the libertarian billionaire’s ethos, but rather a contradiction if you’re actually trying to build communities and community standards. Indeed, there’s a shallowness to all the sloganeering and when push comes to shove, many of the TFA darlings simply quit. The high turnover of trainees being dispatched to some of the country’s most challenging school districts—often without any long-term plans to be teachers—is a major problem. In a typical cycle, a school might lose about half of its corps members after their second year. By the third year, half of those who had remained after the second year would be gone. The root problem, of course, is precisely that lack of community context and commitment. Many—perhaps most– who join Teach For America don’t actually want to be teachers in the first place, instead using the program as a prestigious stepping stone for policy work, law school, or business school. According to the Prospect, “One study found that roughly 57 percent of corps members planned to teach for two years or less when they applied, while only 11 percent intended to make teaching a lifelong career. (TFA has claimed, however, that 36 percent remain in the classroom as teachers. But their recently announced partnership with Goldman Sachs, which provides TFA recruits with jobs at the banking firm after two years of service, doesn’t entirely help their cause.)”
Ultimately, the two years of service is an empty promise to communities who more than anything need continuity and long-term commitment. If you want a school to become a community hub, you necessarily need to minimize ‘churn’—the rotation of teachers and principals. “Their framework is about developing leaders, not teachers.”
Gary Rubinstein, a veteran teacher, TFA alumni, and prominent critic of the program explains his motivations in joining as many do: “It [TFA] sounded exciting. For once, I’d be doing something ‘real.’ I’d be doing something valuable for society. I’d be making a difference.” But in its mission to enact progressive education reform and eliminate the cycle of poverty, TFA has advanced a conservative agenda that doesn’t seek education reform so much as its privatization. Like many others, he’s become acutely aware of the difference.
Now, of course, never one to let a bad idea go to waste, Richmond wants to join forces with TFA.
With a vote of 5-2 (with two members absent) the Richmond School Board has decided to contract with Teach For America to hire up to 30 teachers. Since TFA ‘teachers’ are paid an additional $5000 dollars for their services, Richmond taxpayers will need to pay out over $150,000 extra ($5,000 per corps member = $150,000) to TFA to hire folks who have had all of 5 weeks of training.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch,“During Monday’s (November 4th) work session, two board members and half a dozen members of the audience — including Christine S. Walther-Thomas, the dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education — vehemently opposed the idea of bringing Teach For America to Richmond.
“What we know is that they are talented young people but they don’t get a lot of preparation,” said Walther-Thomas, who spoke in favor of a 3-year-old teacher residency program VCU runs with Richmond Public Schools.
Jacqueline T. McDonnough and Kurt Stem-hagen, associate professors at VCU, were more direct. McDonnough said she would “lay down in the door” before she would allow Teach For America into city schools. Stemhagen said “poor and minority students deserve the best.”
Mamie Taylor, 5th District, and Shonda Harris-Muhammed, 6th District, were also vocal in their opposition, and both voted against the proposal.
On Tuesday, Taylor said the school system can’t afford Teach For America’s fee of $5,000 per teacher. And even if it could, she said she would still oppose it. “You can’t show me data that supports it,” she said. “Everything I’ve heard has been individual people’s experiences. I don’t see anything that tells me this is a direction Richmond Public Schools needs to go.”
At the November 4th meeting, Alliance for Progressive Values’ Deputy Kirsten Gray also pointed out that the rationale for hiring 33 TFA positions because of a shortage of teachers didn’t make a lot of sense, “… the city needs 33 positions filled but the openings aren’t advertised on the Richmond Public School system website. We were told there is no money to hire teachers and that “quality” teachers are hard to find. 8 licensed long term subs have been hired but we cannot afford to hire them full time. It was recommended that the School board work within budget and not ask the city for more money. ….but when the subject of Teach For America came up, all of a sudden almost half the board is willing to pay $5,000 more plus salary for a TFA teacher. I can not wrap my head around this. How can a system claim it is hard to find “quality” teachers when the RPS website claims zero openings?”
Teacher, parent and public school advocate Rachel Levy posted on her own blog that she had problems receiving a timely response from the Richmond Public School systems when she applied for an ESOL position. She was ultimately notified that a position might be available, but the reply came so late in the season — a month after school had started — that she had already accepted a position at another school.
“The problem there is not lack of “creativity” or lack of qualified applicants; it’s lack of competence, disorder, and a lack of, um, hiring. TFA’s presence won’t change that.”
Kirsten Gray said, “I believe change in the Richmond Public Schools needs to start with the people, not from above in the form of Corporate Reform. We know what works in this city, but it is a slow process, one chosen by the people. Look how many good elementary schools we have compared to just over a decade ago. Look how long our alternative schools such as Open High School and Community High School have been around. … These schools did not form out of corporate interests. This organization [TFA] is being used as a tool of the privatization movement.”
Kirsten added that when you looked at the rush of local events, it was hard not to see a concerted push toward privatization. She said that a Style Weekly piece recently noted public school closures and the possible inclusion of additional Charter schools.
“This is not sheer coincidence. It is happening in other cities… All of the measures that have been implemented so far have been fought against in the General Assembly by citizens and organizations such as the PTA.”
Public school advocate Sarah Radcliffe Gross added, “TFA teachers are not the answer for our hard-to-staff schools and most challenging students. But they are an easy out for a school board bent on reforms– for the sake of reforms.” Richmond’s public schools need strong committed teachers and leadership determined to address the needs of all students, but contracting to hire a revolving door of less qualified personnel from Teach For America barely gives the appearance of solving problems.
It does, however, assist a deeply conservative agenda that seeks to deconstruct our public school system -one teacher at a time.
In the Richmond Times Dispatch on the day after Virginia’s statewide elections resulted in Democrats winning the Governorship and the LT. Governorship outright and deadlocking the race for Attorney General, editorialist Jeff Shapiro opined that Virginia had chosen divided or in his words “splintered” government. Mr. Shapiro knows a lot more about the ins and outs of Virginia governance than I do and at one level it is hard to quibble with the idea that Virginia, which now has a split General Assembly (assuming special elections keep the 20-20 divide in the Senate with marginal control by the Democrats which is not a given), and with Democrats in control of the administration. So I hesitate to take issue with his article on the grounds of my own lesser knowledge, but never-the-less I do have some problems with both his analysis and his choice of language.
Democrats win state-wide elections because there are more Democrats than Republicans voting in Virginia! They are often moderate Democrats sure, but the D’s have won three out of the last four Governor races and taken the last two presidential contests and both Senate seats easily. Frankly, it is only the gerrymandering of districts that keeps 2/3rds of seats in the house Republican, and 8 of 11 Congressional seats in the hands of the GOP. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of Republicans in Virginia, clearly there are, but when the whole state turns out, they lose. It‘s that simple. So don’t tell me Virginians opted for a divided government, they in fact had little choice in the matter and where they could, they voted for a Democrat.
“Terry McAuliffe defeated Ken Cuccinelli for governor on the strength of his bankroll: nearly $35 million, compared with $20 million for the Republican.”
Really? But doesn’t this beg the question of where the GOP money went? Of course McAuliffe out raised the Cooch. It’s what he made his bones on, bundling money for the Clintons, plus he’s very rich himself. For once a Democrat could spend at the levels Republicans routinely spend. Part of the reason of course was also his opponent. Cuccinelli was an extreme, radical conservative with an extreme and demonstrable agenda and that brought out oppositional money like Planned Parenthood’s PAC by the bucket full. What is more interesting is that the GOP outside groups seemed to back out of this race at some point in the late summer, early fall. Where were the Koch brothers, and Tea Party AstroTurf groups like Freedom Works and TPP? Maybe the difference in money can be explained in part by the fact that these groups realized that Cuccinelli was a deeply flawed candidate and they decided not to go too deep into their very deep pockets on this one. This is speculation of course, but the fact that McAuliffe had more money raises as many questions as it answers.
“Much of McAuliffe’s money was spent fanning the hostility of women for Cuccinelli over his stout opposition to abortion.”
Sure, but let’s be clear. This “hostility” didn’t get ginned up by a savvy campaign, it came from a large, grass-roots movement of Virginians (men and women) who were appalled by the concrete actions of Mr. Cuccinelli as a Senator; and as an Attorney General, Cuccinelli earned every drop of the enmity he received through his “stout” support of TRAP and forced ultrasound. I know the people who formed organizations like Cooch Watch. They have no great love for Governor-elect McAuliffe, but they were dead set on keeping the Cooch out of the Governor’s mansion because of the clear threat he posed to women’s rights. Believe me, Mr. McAuliffe doesn’t have enough money to produce the level of passion that this campaign engendered. Mr. Cuccinelli did that himself.
While he managed to rig the GOP convention so he wouldn’t have to run in a primary against Bill Bolling (Who I suspect would have had a much better chance against McAuliffe), Cuccinelli also came away with E. W. Jackson as a running mate. Do I need to elucidate what was wrong with that outcome? O.K. I will, briefly. Many conservative seem to think the road to getting African Americans to consider voting for them is to run African American candidates, and on the surface that makes eminent sense, but because the GOP’s rhetoric and policies have so consistently, abundantly and maliciously targeted African Americans as a group they find it hard to field serious African American candidates. Sure they get some wiggle room at least in their own press bubble regarding the persistent taint of racism that the modern GOP regularly flirts with, but it also results in “not ready for prime time” candidates like Herman Cain or E. W. Jackson. Jackson was an embarrassment for much of the campaign, I doubt he made many inroads into minority communities and he helped solidify the sense that the GOP was running a fringe ticket. The accusation of pernicious racism that dogs the GOP in Virginia and nationwide gets under the skin of lots of Republicans who are not, in fact, racist in any demonstrable way, but throwing out an E.W. Jackson for the second highest office in the Commonwealth doesn’t make you look better, it makes you look superficial, pandering and un-serious about important issues involving minorities. The Party that condemns affirmative action for women and minorities for promoting less qualified candidates on the basis of race is often the Party most guilty of doing just that… see Justice Clarence Thomas, Alberto Gonzales or Harriet Myers for prime examples. How much Jackson hurt Cuccinelli remains to be seen, and it may not have been as important as the knifing of Bill Bolling last spring, but it sure didn’t help.
“Cuccinelli returned to an issue that endeared him to tea party activists and more moderate Republicans: his first-in-the-nation legal challenge in 2010, ultimately unsuccessful, to the Affordable Care Act.”
OK, so this election was a referendum on ACA? If it was then Virginia voted for the ACA because Cuccinelli lost. Shapiro seems to hold out the idea that campaigning against the ACA helped Cuccinelli… does that mean he would have lost by significantly more if this national program had not existed? That had this program not existed Cuccinelli and his plans for Virginia would have been that much more repugnant to voters? Maybe so, but I would counter that Cuccinelli out preformed the polls because the GOP base did what it always does; it got up and voted no matter how bad the candidate. It was easy to tell pollsters that you didn’t care for the Attorney General that wasted millions of state dollars on a quixotic, grandstanding lawsuit, or spent his staff’s time advising private corporations on how best to avoid paying fines and taxes to the state he represents, or hounding scientists at state universities because their research doesn’t comport with what his corporate and religious friends want to believe about climate change…but in the end, they turned out to vote for the red candidate and that happened to be Cuccinelli this cycle… and he still lost. “This race came down to the wire because of Obamacare.” Said Cuccinelli. Again, if I take the Cooch at his word (and I don’t) this means that even with a “winning” issue like repealing affordable healthcare insurance, he couldn’t deliver the goods–golf claps all around.
“Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, affirmed his caucus’ opposition, noting that GOP House candidates, combined, received nearly 25,000 more votes than McAuliffe’s 1 million. “This … is a clear vote against higher taxes, more spending and bigger government,” Howell said in a written statement.” So if Cuccinelli had won… would it have been a clear vote against higher taxes, more spending and bigger government? Probably, so according to Speaker Howell it’s heads the GOP wins and tails the Democrats lose. Sadly, Mr. Shapiro doesn’t call that feat of circular logic out. Instead he gives us the conventional mainstream logic that whenever a Democrat wins an election he needs to immediately begin tacking to the right and compromising. Sure, the House of Delegates will be a dry, hard place for legislation coming out of the Mansion to land, but I resent the idea that it is incumbent on McAuliffe to come hat in hand after winning an election. Again let me point out that this state is changing and that tide will eventually wash over the General Assembly. Maybe Mr. Shapiro should caution Mr. Speaker about intransigence in the face of yet another Democratic victory, but that may simply be too much for the editorial page of the RTD.
Jeff Shapiro knows the GA and the state politics better than I do, no doubt. But I differ with his interpretation and the way he couches it. The way I see it, Virginia rejected radical Tea Party conservatism at the ballot box once again. Democrats retook the Governor’s mansion that they lost four years ago by 17 points and the Obama coalition mostly hung together. For many of us, this was not a vote for the suspect and damaged Mr. McAuliffe; it was a rejection of Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson and perhaps the stealthier Mark Obenshain. Oh, and Jeff never mentioned Star Scientific or the dirty coattails of the outgoing (maybe sooner than he thinks) Governor who signed the TRAP and Ultrasound bills Cuccinelli and his radical friends introduced.
As a true Progressive I think Mr. McAuliffe and I are not going to see eye to eye on a lot of things, he got my vote because allowing Ken Cuccinelli to be Governor would have been a true disaster. That, to me, is the story of this election but I doubt I’ll see much of that in the mainstream local media.
Because APV is a non-partisan organization devoted to a wide range of civic activities (and because we have a tax exempt status), we do not, as a rule, endorse candidates. As far as APV is concerned, we only want you to vote.
Toward that end, I would encourage everyone to keep in mind no matter how politically loathsome a candidate might be, they are also fellow citizens who have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to convince you they are the cat’s meow. And they’re going to feel very bad if all that work isn’t recognized in some way. So, in an effort at bipartisan comity, I’d like to offer a few kudos to those I might not personally favor, much less vote for.
For example, in the Governor’s race, Republican candidate, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has made outstanding strides in areas hardly mentioned in a political context, much less advertised. I speak, of course, of sodomy. As far as I can tell in all of recorded history, sodomy has never before been used as a campaign issue for a Virginia Governor. Either pro or con. Ken defiantly pressed the issue until the US Supreme Court had to tell him to shut up, go home, and don’t come back. A defeat, at one level, but, on another, consider how bravely Mr. Cuccinelli walked into dens where grandmas feared to tread. That’s chutzpah, baby.
Ken Cuccinelli is also a vigorous climate change denier. And yes, this is a good thing, if you happen to be president of a large energy firm or a lobbyist for a large energy firm, or you work for Exxon. He hasn’t exactly advertised this on the campaign trail, but for those who know the candidate, his resume as a climate change denier is pristine. Way back in the mid-2000s, before people really worried about the end of Earth as we know it, Ken was vigorously assaulting the scientists who would make such predictions possible.
Ask Dr. Mann, previously of UVA, whom Mr. Cuccinelli attempted to attack on a tax technicality while conducting climate change science.…
Dr. Mann said that Cuccinelli actions as attorney general were “completely unacceptable, a witch hunt, an inquisition, and a crusade,” all of which “threatened me and my family all to advance his political career.”
This may not sound good, superficially, but if you, too, are a climate change denier (or powerful energy lobbyist) and willing to go after scientists who are trying to report their conclusions to the public despite major disinformation and interference by politicians who wouldn’t know a carbon molecule if it bit them on the butt, than Ken might just be your man.
This goes without mentioning Mr. Cuccinelli’s vigorous support of various financial entities around town, including, of course, Star Scientific, the star (so to speak) at the center of Governor Bob McDonnell’s recent fall from grace (a-hem, scandal), which, curiously, Attorney General Cuccinelli has refused to investigate. I would also mention in passing his illustrious career in the State Senate, funded in part by Pay Day Lending organizations. No doubt those who find usury especially compelling will also enthusiastically support his candidacy.
Of course, if you find litigious usurers, anti-sodomy crusaders and climate change deniers to your liking, Cuccinelli is hardly the only candidate. There’s E.W. Jackson currently running for Lt. Governor whose prosperity gospel makes Cuccinelli’s money changing at the government temple look like an Easter bonnet. Jackson doesn’t defend usurious laws for Pay Day lenders like Cuccinelli. No! He actively seeks the money for himself. If you want a go-getter grifter all in the name of Jesus is Lord, E.W. Jackson is your man. Oh, and bonus points, he’s also totally down with the anti-sodomy campaign.
And finally, we have the man who would be Attorney General looking to fill some BIG shoes. Mark Obenshain can’t quite reach Ken’s stature, but he makes a valiant effort.
Back in 2009, while in the State Senate, Mark Obenshain wanted to require women who had miscarriages without medical attendance to report it to authorities within 24 hours, or be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor (because shortly after a miscarriage every woman wants to race down to the court-house to make sure they aren’t charged with the criminal intent). There’s probably a small, but valid demographic of women who love bureaucratic and potentially criminal entanglements shortly after a miscarriage that will vote for him.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Mark is also a climate change denier which will certainly broaden his appeal. According to Dr. Mann, “The ONE person who stood up to oppose the bill [aimed at preventing another anti-climate-science witch hunt] was Mark Obenshain, and that speaks volumes…about what sort of person he is, what sort of Attorney General he would be…. ”
According to Dr. Mann, Obenshain “will say or do anything to get elected… that’s extremely dangerous for Virginia.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily. There may, in fact, be a small, but vocal minority who favor dangerous things for Virginia. Who are we to judge?
This is all by way of suggesting that each candidate has something to offer the state. As an organization, APV takes no stand either way. But, please– no matter what you decide on Tuesday, remember to vote.
Yesterday brimmed over with news events highlighting what the government shutdown meant in real, “I can’t see the fucking Statue of Liberty?” terms. They poured in from all over, the semi-humorous suspension of a KKK rally due to a park closing, to the far more serious loss of funding for the Women’s Infants and Children’s food program leaving 9 million mothers and children in desperate straits, to the tragedy of children turned away from cancer wards.
Alan Grayson accused Republicans of drinking on the House Floor and I don’t doubt it for a minute. If you’re approaching a political guillotine, you might drink. Or, if you are an absolute idiot and don’t understand you are approaching a political guillotine, you might drink as well. I suspect the latter is the case with the GOP Tea People but there are at least a handful of establishment pols that understand this might not be the best of times. According to Noam Scheiber over at New Republic, Fox News was especially entertaining.
“Every half hour brought another report from a correspondent in the field surveying the landscape of shuttered facilities. The Statue of Liberty. Bunker Hill. My favorite was a group a World War II veterans who’d trekked to Washington to tour the World War II memorial, only to find it barricaded when they got there. Fox played the footage over and over, clearly sensing a prime Kulturkampf opportunity—aging war veterans made to suffer indignities by socialist president. But none of the Foxies narrating the story could quite figure out what to do with the fact that it takes government money to build memorials, and government money to keep them open.” So it stuck out there like a kind of implicit rebuke of the primary reason for Republican’s existence. Luckily, RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus has kindly stepped in and offered to PAY to keep the World War II memorial open for the Greatest Generation because that’s not socialism, I guess, that’s private charity. Sweet guy, but it’d be nice if he ordered a round for the house and did the same for EVERY agency shuttered and federal employee shafted since the shutdown has taken effect…
Still, this is a walk in the park compared to the economic meltdown that might occur should we default on our debt. Economists like Paul Krugman have been pointing this out for the last few weeks, and even stalwart conservatives like the Wall Street Journal get it. I was shocked this morning to read an editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, of all places, lamenting the childish antics of Republicans and eviscerating, in particular, Boehner’s craven leadership. And with good reason. If the US defaults on the debt ceiling, the repercussions will reach beyond our little skiff on this side of the pond and shake the world community. Yesterday, Christine Lagarde, managing director at the IMF said as much: “failure to raise the debt ceiling is a far worse threat to global economy than the current government shutdown.”
So, basically we have about 15 days to raise the debt ceiling. The votes are there to fund the government. According to the Huffington Post, there are now more than 17 Republicans who say they’re ready to pass a bill with no strings attached, giving the House the votes it needs to pass a clean funding bill.
The hitch? House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would have to be willing to put it to a vote, which so far he has given no indication he will do. Why? Because he might very well lose his leadership position thanks to the crazy Tea Party faction that has cornered the Republican brand. So, it appears, the fate of the world economy rest on the vanity of one man.
But maybe RNC chairman Reince Priebus can flag a few right wing billionaire donors and take care of the world economy, too?
In one of Bill McKibben’s environmental speeches on climate change (he’s the co-founder of 350.org) he describes the sophisticated behavior of bees gathering pollen. They calculate the distance they must travel weighed down by precisely as much pollen as they can carry. They navigate many miles and return to a specific hive–and not just a specific hive–but to the very slot from which they departed. Really a miracle of nature, but with a wrinkle. A beekeeper demonstrated for McKibben. He turned the hive so that the entrance slot no longer faced the original direction. The bees stacked up, one on the other, trying to enter the hive in the exact position where the slot should have been, but of course, there was no entrance. Bill and the beekeeper watched in amazement until they could stand it no longer and finally flipped the hive back to its original position so that they bees could flow in.
Yesterday, the Republicans stood in stony silence as the government shut down. As political bees, they seem adept enough at the usual boiler room politics: gerrymandering, fundraising, giving uncomfortably long and pointless speeches, but their single-minded instincts at crucial times do them a disservice. Not just them and their political futures, but, of course, the entire country.
Worse than children, who, after all, are wildly adaptable and after a few failures, will alter course and survive. No, our current crop of Republicans embody the relentless, yet simple hive mind of the worker bee–but, alas, without the work ethic. There’s a kind of zombie efficiency to their destructive behavior. One suspects, deep down, they know they are the walking dead, and simply don’t care. They have been sent to Washington to drown the government and, to that extent, they have succeeded. They are also starving children, slashing 800,000 people from pay rolls, and pushing the country to the edge of another financial crisis.
Worse than worker bees, really. They are bullies who will mindlessly stack up, one on the other, uttering the same banalities to a desperate public. They will surely lose elections over this, but maybe they don’t care in the end? Either way, they are more than a few degrees off from home.
It’s difficult to locate a single act that better exemplifies the right’s ideological incoherence than the current farm bill. Larded with billions for the huge and predominately white agribusiness firms, the GOP tried to balance their largesse at the billionaire’s table by stripping another 20 billion in food security from our poorest citizens, doubling down on their previous SNAP reduction. Because apparently the previous 20 billion cut just wasn’t enough.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the bill would deny SNAP to approximately 3.8 million low-income people in 2014 and to an average of nearly 3 million people each year over the coming decade.
The individuals who would lose basic food assistance under the House provision are among the poorest people in the nation and they are a diverse group. More than 40 percent are women. One-third are over age 40. Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African-American, and a tenth are Hispanic. They are your neighbors, and some may even be your friends.
Questions naturally occur. Does the right honestly believe that hundreds of thousands of poor people are living the high life on SNAP, an assertion flying around the right-wing echo chamber utterly un-backed by either facts on the ground or reason? (David Darden shows how specious the ‘free loader’ argument is here … or you can check out The Center On Budget Policies and Priorities here.)
What to say to such Scrooges? Sometimes I’m afraid there is no chain that can be rattled loudly enough.
It appears the only thing the far right fears more than libertine sexual mores or strangers with strange skin color is the thought that someone, somewhere might be able to get something for nothing in this ridiculous economy. The notion of community isn’t just ignored with this latest rounds of cuts; it’s taken out back, stripped, whipped and then shot through the skull for good measure. It’s as though the right is vigorously trying to define themselves as the worst pack of jackals to ever inhabit Congress—and, if you know the history of that peculiar institution, you know that’s saying something.
Panem et Circenses was the old adage from the failing days of the Roman Empire. Bread and Circuses. The bread in question was actually a grain dole, or an ‘Annona’. It was a necessary ‘dole’ because the consolidation of Roman agricultural lands in the hands of a few noblemen had pushed landless peasants into the city, where they could not find jobs—a rather interesting parallel. Under the Roman grain law established by Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC, a portion of the grain collected as revenue for the state was sold at a subsidized rate to citizens.
I imagine many conservatives today would line up to denounce this activity, ignoring the historical precedents, naturally, and the brute fact that there were no jobs for those peasants whose land formed the basis for the Roman nobleman’s wealth. After all, to channel Paul Ryan, dependence on any form of public assistance “erodes the moral fiber” of the poor. Like morality is a set of jeans that somehow gets threadbare in the ass. No word yet if that same morality applies to agribusiness firms and their privileged helping of government subsidies. If you’re rich, you are apparently absolved of the need to ‘fend for yourself’, ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’, or of even possessing ‘moral fiber’, much less wearing it out. Jon Chait makes a point in the NY Times magazine that the Republicans are probably aware of the blatant hypocrisy of their position, but so fearful of losing elections, they try to bury it. Specifically, “The ultraconservative Republican Study Committee recently banned the Heritage Foundation from its meetings because Heritage denounced the GOP’s farm subsidies. There is a grim hilarity here: Republicans punished Heritage for its one technocratically sane position.”
So now the far right has offered themselves up as a kind of inverted moral circus, lined with the usual measure of hypocrisy, deciding to keep bread from those who most need it. No doubt, their deluded base approves, and the leadership certainly doesn’t suffer. Paul Ryan helped quaff a 350 dollar bottle of wine with like-minded economists last week while SNAP was being cut, one of two $350 bottles consumed that evening. That’s a total of $700 in wine consumed over the course of a 90 minute dinner or more than the entire weekly income of a couple making minimum wage. When confronted by a Talking Points Memo reporter, Paul Ryan said he had no idea how much the wine cost when it was being ordered.
TPM: So you wouldn’t do it again?
Ryan: Well, of course not, because I think it’s too much money to pay for wine. Yeah, I don’t really know what exactly it cost. It was expensive. But um, 250 maybe it was 250, I don’t really remember.
Besides a faulty memory his remark rather misses the point about the hypocrisy. He seems genuinely irritated at the cost, but not the incredible disparity between his life and the millions of others his actions seek to make worse. So here’s a historical parallel that might offer a note of caution for the right. The last time thousands asked for bread and didn’t receive it, a royal dame, equally clueless, suggested the starving peasants should simply “eat cake.”
We all know how well that turned out.