Thursday, June 29, 2017

Racism, White Supremacy and Obamacare Repeal

Here is an op-Ed in the Boston Globe by Michael P. Jeffries that links racism to THE agenda to repeal Obamacare.  Read the whole piece here. below I highlight a few important quotes. -Angela


Obamacare repeal is based on racial resentment

“What white supremacy does, eventually, is normalize and spread the abuse, trauma, and destruction initially prescribed for targeted groups.” The damage prescribed by hateful ideologies is most severe within targeted groups, but it is never contained.

Financially secure people who criminalize and denigrate poor people for being born poor do not understand the threat that poverty poses to their own health. Those who hate and traumatize women and LGBT people do not understand how sick their idea of manhood is, and the threat that such toxic masculinity poses to their own health. Those who dehumanize people of color and people who worship different gods do not understand that ethnic cleansing is never complete. It requires the constant conjuring of new witches to hunt and more wood for the pyre, starting a fire that burns down the whole village.
Perhaps this legislative catastrophe will result in new understanding about the infectious capacity and true danger of racism, sexism, and the unmoored
pursuit of profit. Disease, gruesome suffering, and undignified death are
powerful forces that can redraw moral lines. But hoping for this moral
awakening — for the authors of this bill and their colleagues in the Senate to
suddenly realize the error of their ways — is a grave mistake. We cannot count on
those who literally toast to the death of their constituents to reverse course before
or after the legislation is finalized.
House Republicans refuse to be our caretakers, so we must care for each other. We must continue to call our representatives, continue to march, and prepare to vote for our lives in 2018.
Michael P. Jeffries is an associate professor of American studies at Wellesley College and author of three books, most recently, “Behind the Laughs: Community and Inequality in Comedy.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

Manufactured Illiteracy and Miseducation: A Long Process of Decline Led to President Donald Trump

Powerful must-read by scholar Henry Giroux.  Thanks to Dr. Rudy Acuña for sharing.  He links the collapse of civic culture to the manufactured literacy as follows: 
Illiteracy is no longer restricted to populations immersed in poverty with little access to quality education; nor does it only suggest the lack of proficient skills enabling people to read and write with a degree of understanding and fluency. More profoundly, illiteracy is also about refusing to act from a position of thoughtfulness, informed judgment, and critical agency.
Us educators have a lot of work ahead of us.

A deep-rooted crisis in education, and a long cultural and political decline, is what got us here. There's hope!
Photo Credit: Lightspring /

Donald Trump’s ascendancy in American politics has made visible a plague of deep-seated civic illiteracy, a corrupt political system and a contempt for reason that has been decades in the making. It also points to the withering of civic attachments, the undoing of civic culture, the decline of public life and the erosion of any sense of shared citizenship. As Trump has galvanized his base of true believers in post-election demonstrations, the world is witnessing how a politics of bigotry and hate is transformed into a spectacle of demonization, division and disinformation. Under President Trump, the scourge of mid-20th century authoritarianism has returned not only in the menacing plague of populist rallies, fear-mongering, threats and humiliation, but also in an emboldened culture of war, militarization and violence that looms over society like a rising storm.
The reality of Trump’s election may be the most momentous development of the age because of its enormity and the shock it has produced. The whole world is watching, pondering how such a dreadful event could have happened. How have we arrived here? What forces have allowed education, if not reason itself, to be undermined as crucial public and political resources, capable of producing the formative culture and critical citizens that could have prevented such a catastrophe from happening in an alleged democracy? We get a glimpse of this failure of education, public values and civic literacy in the willingness and success of the Trump administration to empty language of any meaning, a practice that constitutes a flight from historical memory, ethics, justice and social responsibility.
Under such circumstances and with too little opposition, the Trump administration has taken on the workings of a dis-imagination machine, characterized by an utter disregard for the truth and often accompanied by the president’s tweet-storm of “primitive schoolyard taunts and threats.” In this instance, George Orwell’s famous maxim from “Nineteen Eighty-four,” “Ignorance is Strength,” materializes in the administration’s weaponized attempt not only to rewrite history but also to obliterate it. What we are witnessing is not simply a political project but also a reworking of the very meaning of education as both a crucial institution and a democratizing and empowering cultural force.
Truth is now viewed as a liability and ignorance a virtue. Under the reign of this normalized architecture of alleged common sense, literacy is regarded with disdain, words are reduced to data and science is confused with pseudo-science. All traces of critical thought appear only at the margins of the culture as ignorance becomes the primary organizing principle of American society. For instance, two-thirds of the American public believe that creationism should be taught in schools and a majority of Republicans in Congress do not believe that climate change is caused by human activity, making the U.S. the laughing stock of the world. Politicians endlessly lie, knowing that the public can be easily seduced by exhortations, emotional outbursts and sensationalism, all of which mimic the fatuous spectacle of celebrity culture and reality TV. Image-selling now entails lying on principle, making it easier for politics to dissolve into entertainment, pathology and a unique brand of criminality.
The corruption of both the truth and politics is abetted by the fact that much of the American public has become habituated to overstimulation and lives in an ever-accelerating overflow of information and images. Experience no longer has the time to crystallize into mature and informed thought. Opinion now trumps reason and evidence-based arguments. News has become entertainment and echoes reality rather than interrogating it. Popular culture revels in the spectacles of shock and violence. Defunded and corporatized, many institutions of public and higher education have been all too willing to make the culture of business the business of education, and this transformation has corrupted their mission.
As a result, many colleges and universities have been McDonald-ized as knowledge is increasingly viewed as a commodity, resulting in curricula that resemble a fast-food menu. In addition, faculty are subjected increasingly to a Walmart model of labor relations designed “to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility.” Students are relegated to the status of customers and clients.
In addition, public education is under siege to an almost unprecedented degree. Both political parties have implemented reforms that “teach for the test,” weaken unions, deskill teachers, and wage a frontal assault on the imagination of students through disciplinary measures that amount to pedagogies of repression. Moreover, students marginalized by class and color find themselves in schools increasingly modeled after prisons. As more and more security guards and police personnel occupy schools, a wider range of student behaviors are criminalized, and students increasingly find themselves on a conveyor belt that has appropriately been described as the school-to-prison pipeline.
On a policy level, the Trump administration has turned its back on schools as public goods. How else to explain the president’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education? DeVos, who has spent most of her career attempting to privatize public schools while acting as a champion for charter schools. It gets worse: As a religious Christian extremist, DeVos not only supports religious indoctrination in public schools but has gone so far as to argue that the purpose of public education is “to help advance God’s Kingdom.” Not exactly a policy that supports critical thinking, dialogue or analytical reasoning, or that understands schooling as a public good. DeVos is Trump’s gift to the billionaires, evangelicals, hedge fund managers and bankers, who view schools strictly as training and containment centers — and as sources of profit.
On a larger scale, the educational force of the wider culture has been transformed into a spectacle for violence and trivialized entertainment, and a tool for legitimating ignorance. Cultural apparatuses that extend from the mainstream media and the diverse platforms of screen culture now function as neoliberal modes of public pedagogy parading as entertainment or truthful news reporting. As “teaching machines,” these apparatuses — as C. Wright Mills once predicted — have become the engines of manufactured illiteracy while producing identities, desires and values compatible with the crudest market ideologies.
Under these circumstances, illiteracy becomes the norm and education becomes central to a version of zombie politics that functions largely to remove democratic values, social relations,and compassion from the ideology, policies and commanding institutions that now control American society. Welcome to the land of the walking dead.
I am not referring here to only the kind of anti-intellectualism that theorists such as Richard Hofstadter, Ed Herman, Noam Chomsky and Susan Jacoby have documented, however insightful their analyses might be. I am pointing to a more lethal form of manufactured illiteracy that has become a scourge and a political tool designed primarily to make war on language, meaning, thinking and the capacity for critical thought. Chris Hedges captures this demagogic attack on thoughtfulness in stating that “the emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idioms of mass culture.” Freedom now means removing one’s self from any sense of social responsibility so one can retreat into privatized orbits of self-indulgence, unbridled self-interest and the never-ending whirlwind of consumption.
This updated form of illiteracy does not simply constitute an absence of learning, ideas or knowledge. Nor can it be solely attributed to what has been called the “smartphone society.” On the contrary, it is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the political and economic forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives. At the same time, illiteracy bonds people: It offers the pretense of a community bound by a willful denial of facts and its celebration of ignorance.
How else to explain the popular support for someone like Donald Trump who boldly proclaims his love for the “poorly educated”? Or, for that matter, the willingness of his followers to put up with his contemptuous and boisterous claim that science and evidence-based truths are “fake news,” his dismissal of journalists who hold power accountable as the opposition party, and his willingness to bombard the American public with an endless proliferation of peddled falsehoods that reveal his contempt for intellect, reason and truth.
What are we to make of the fact that a person who holds the office of the presidency has praised popular “rage addict” Alex Jones publicly, and thanked him for the role he played in his presidential election victory? Jones is a conspiracy trafficker who runs the website InfoWars. He has suggested that the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job” and that the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was faked.
Illiteracy is no longer restricted to populations immersed in poverty with little access to quality education; nor does it only suggest the lack of proficient skills enabling people to read and write with a degree of understanding and fluency. More profoundly, illiteracy is also about refusing to act from a position of thoughtfulness, informed judgment, and critical agency.
Illiteracy has become a political weapon and form of political repression that works to render critical agency inoperable, and restages power as a mode of domination. Illiteracy in the service of violence now functions to depoliticize people by making it difficult for individuals to develop informed judgments, analyze complex relationships and draw upon a range of sources to understand how power works and how they might be able to shape the forces that bear down on their lives. As a depoliticizing force, illiteracy works to make people powerless, and reinforces their willingness to accept being governed rather than learn how to govern.
This mode of illiteracy now constitutes the modus operandi of a society that both privatizes and kills the imagination by poisoning it with falsehoods, consumer fantasies, data loops and the need for instant gratification. This is a mode of illiteracy and education that has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship. It is important to recognize that the prevalence of such manufactured illiteracy is not simply about the failure of colleges and universities to create critical and active citizens. It is about an authoritarian society that eliminates public spheres that make thinking possible while imposing a culture of fear in which there is the looming threat that anyone who holds power accountable will be punished. At stake here is not only a crisis of education, memory, ethics and agency but a crisis that reaches into the very foundation of a strong democracy.
In the present moment, it becomes particularly important for progressives, educators and concerned citizens to protect and enlarge the formative cultures and public spheres that make democracy possible. The relentless attack on truth, honesty and the ethical imagination makes it all the more imperative for the public to think dangerously, especially in societies that appear increasingly amnesiac — that is, countries where forms of historical, political and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but celebrated. All of which becomes all the more threatening at a time when a country such as the United States has tipped over into a mode of authoritarianism that views critical thought as both a liability and a threat.
Not only is manufactured illiteracy obvious in the presence of a social order and government that collapses the distinction between the serious and frivolous, it is also visible in media platforms marked by the proliferation of anti-intellectual discourses among a range of politicians and anti-public intellectuals who are waging a war on science, reason and the legacy of the Enlightenment. How else to explain the present historical moment, with its collapse of civic culture and the future it cancels out? What is to be made of the assault on civic literacy and the institutions and conditions that produce an active citizenry at a time when massive self-enrichment and a gangster morality are operative at the highest reaches of the U.S. government, all of which serves to undermine the public realm as a space of freedom, liberty, dialogue and deliberative consensus?
One of the challenges facing the current generation of leftists, progressives and cultural workers is the need to address the question of what counts as education, and what it should accomplish in a society that is slipping into the dark night of authoritarianism. In a world in which there is an increasing abandonment of egalitarian and democratic impulses, what will it take to educate young people and the broader polity to challenge authority and hold power accountable? Such a vision suggests resurrecting a democratic project that provides the basis for imagining a life beyond a social order immersed in massive inequality and endless assaults on the environment, a social order that elevates war and militarization to the highest and most sanctified national ideals.
At issue here is the need for educators, progressives, artists and other cultural workers to recognize the power of education both in schools and the wider culture in creating the formative spaces being mobilized against the ideas of justice and democracy. At the same time, there is a need for the left and others to fight for those public spheres that offer alternative modes of identity, thinking and social relations that support democratic socialism and radical democracy.
At the very least, this requires that education be regarded as central to politics, and that cultural apparatuses such as the mainstream media, digital culture and Hollywood films be perceived as powerful teaching machines and not only as sources of information or entertainment. Such sites should be viewed as spheres of struggle that need to be removed from the control of the financial elite and corporations who use them as work stations for propagandizing a culture of vulgarity, self-absorption and commodification while eroding any sense of shared citizenship and civic culture.
There is an urgent political need for the left and progressives to understand and combat an authoritarian society that uses education to weaponize and trivialize the discourse, vocabularies, images and aural means of communication in a variety of cultural sites. Or, for that matter, to grasp that a market-driven discourse does not and cannot provide the intellectual, ethical and political tools for civic education and the expansion of the social imagination.
On the contrary, the pedagogical machinery of capitalism uses language and other modes of representation to relegate citizenship to the singular pursuit of unbridled self-interests, to legitimate shopping as the ultimate expression of one’s identity, to portray essential public services as reinforcing and weakening any viable sense of individual responsibility, and to organize society for the production of violence as the primary method of addressing a vast array of social problems.
One of the most serious challenges facing progressives, educators and diverse cultural workers is the task of grasping education as a crucial political tool that can be used to enhance the capacities of people to translate their hidden despair and private grievances into public transcripts. At best, such transcripts can be transformed into forms of public dissent or what might be called a moment of rupture, one that has important implications for public action in a time of impending tyranny and authoritarianism.
In taking up this project, individuals and cultural workers can attempt to create the conditions that give the wider public an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and courage necessary to make desolation and cynicism unconvincing and hope practical. In a world in which there is an increasing abandonment of egalitarian and democratic impulses, what will it take to educate young people and the broader polity to challenge authority and hold power accountable?
In the age of financial and political zombies, the ability of finance capitalism to cloak itself in a warped discourse of freedom and choice has been weakened. Its willingness to separate toxic economic, cultural and political policies from their social costs has ruptured neoliberalism’s ability to normalize its worldview. The contradictions between its promises and its harsh effects have become too visible as its poisonous policies have put millions out of work, turned many black and brown communities into war zones, destroyed public education, undermined the democratic mission of higher education, flagrantly pursued war as the greatest of national ideals, turned the prison system into a default institution for punishing minorities of race and class, pillaged the environment and blatantly imposed a new mode of racism under the fanciful notion of a post-racial society.
The crisis of capitalism and the production of widespread misery has opened up new political opportunities to reclaim education as a central element of politics and resistance. Education as it functions on multiple levels and through diverse registers matters. It is one of the most powerful sources for changing consciousness, desires and agency itself.
Pierre Bourdieu was right to argue that leftists “must recognize that the most important forms of domination are not only economic but also intellectual and pedagogical and lie on the side of belief and persuasion.” Bourdieu’s concerns about leftists underestimating “the pedagogical and symbolic dimensions of struggle” are more relevant today than ever, given the accelerated political merger of power, culture and everyday life.
Too often leftists and other progressives have focused on domination as mostly an economic or structural issue and in doing so have forgotten about the political role of education and consciousness-raising in providing a language and narrative in which people can recognize themselves, make identifications that speak to the conditions that bear down on them in new ways, and rethink the future so as not to mimic the present. Yet matters of subjectivity, identity and desire are not only central to politics, they are the crucial underpinning through which new theoretical and political horizons can be imagined and acted upon.
In an age in which authoritarianism is dismantling the foundations of democracy across the globe, the ideological and subjective conditions that make individual and collective modes of agency possible — and capable of engaging in powerful and broad-based movements of resistance — are no longer an option. They are a necessity.

Henry A. Giroux's most recent books include The Violence of Organized Forgetting and America's Addiction to Terrorism. A prolific writer and political commentator, he has appeared in a wide range of media, including The New York Times and Bill Moyers.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Only Mass Deportation Can Save America by Bret Stephens

Great Sunday reading.  From the Opinion pages of the New York Times.  It's interesting to read this piece back-to-back with the one I just posted on the agenda of the radical right. I'll leave it at that.

Only Mass Deportation Can Save America

In the matter of immigration, mark this conservative columnist down as strongly pro-deportation. The United States has too many people who don’t work hard, don’t believe in God, don’t contribute much to society and don’t appreciate the greatness of the American system.
They need to return whence they came.
I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.
On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and at more than three times the rate of legal ones.
Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of United States-born parents. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, just 9.5 percent of graduate students in electrical engineering were nonimmigrants.
Religious piety — especially of the Christian variety? More illegal immigrants identify as Christian (83 percent) than do Americans (70.6 percent), a fact right-wing immigration restrictionists might ponder as they bemoan declines in church attendance.
Business creation? Nonimmigrants start businesses at half the rate of immigrants, and accounted for fewer than half the companies started in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005. Overall, the share of nonimmigrant entrepreneurs fell by more than 10 percentage points between 1995 and 2008, according to a Harvard Business Review study.
Nor does the case against nonimmigrants end there. The rate of out-of-wedlock births for United States-born mothers exceeds the rate for foreign-born moms, 42 percent to 33 percent. The rate of delinquency and criminality among nonimmigrant teens considerably exceeds that of their immigrant peers. A recent report by the Sentencing Project also finds evidence that the fewer immigrants there are in a neighborhood, the likelier it is to be unsafe.
And then there’s the all-important issue of demographics. The race for the future is ultimately a race for people — healthy, working-age, fertile people — and our nonimmigrants fail us here, too. “The increase in the overall number of U.S. births, from 3.74 million in 1970 to 4.0 million in 2014, is due entirely to births to foreign-born mothers,” reports the Pew Research Center. Without these immigrant moms, the United States would be faced with the same demographic death spiral that now confronts Japan.
Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be — when “we” had just come off the boat.
O.K., so I’m jesting about deporting “real Americans” en masse. (Who would take them in, anyway?) But then the threat of mass deportations has been no joke with this administration.
On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security seemed prepared to extend an Obama administration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows the children of illegal immigrants — some 800,000 people in all — to continue to study and work in the United States. The decision would have reversed one of Donald Trump’s ugly campaign threats to deport these kids, whose only crime was to have been brought to the United States by their parents.
Yet the administration is still committed to deporting their parents, and on Friday the D.H.S. announced that even DACA remains under review — another cruel twist for young immigrants wondering if they’ll be sent back to “home” countries they hardly ever knew, and whose language they might barely even speak.
Beyond the inhumanity of toying with people’s lives this way, there’s also the shortsightedness of it. We do not usually find happiness by driving away those who would love us. Businesses do not often prosper by firing their better employees and discouraging job applications. So how does America become great again by berating and evicting its most energetic, enterprising, law-abiding, job-creating, idea-generating, self-multiplying and God-fearing people?
Because I’m the child of immigrants and grew up abroad, I have always thought of the United States as a country that belongs first to its newcomers — the people who strain hardest to become a part of it because they realize that it’s precious; and who do the most to remake it so that our ideas, and our appeal, may stay fresh.
That used to be a cliché, but in the Age of Trump it needs to be explained all over again. We’re a country of immigrants — by and for them, too. Americans who don’t get it should get out.

What Is the Far Right’s Endgame? A Society That Suppresses the Majority

This is a must-read.  Thanks to Bruce Banner for sharing with me the enlightening work of Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America.

Her analysis speaks to the "psychology of threatened domination" that undergirds far-right intellectual, James McGill Buchanan's writings and agenda. Here's how she words this psychology:
People who believe it will harm their liberty for other people to have full citizenship and be able to work together to govern society. And that somehow that goes much deeper than money to me. It’s hard to find the right words for it, but it’s a whole way of being in the world and seeing others. Assuming one’s right to dominate.
An important take away is their shrewd, calculated dishonesty with the public about who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.  So to just "follow the money," while helpful and necessary, she points to an agenda that is much deeper than that.  Accordingly, she states, "They’re doing a lot of things for strategic reasons and not being honest with the public about it. That suggests to me that we need a new vocabulary for grasping what we’re dealing with here."  She continues, "I think that what we need to convey to people is that this is a messianic cause, with a vision of the good society and government that I think most of us would find terrifying, for the practical implications and impact that it will have on our lives."

I can't help but feel that our recent battle against Texas' SBOE regarding an incredibly flawed and racist textbook—that would have been abundantly more accurate had the authors Wikipedia'ed their way through it—was part of this agenda.  As a community of fair-minded individuals, we should be warned and we must fight against this agenda at every turn.  They fear a "super-majority."  Let's be the supermajority that we are actually already becoming.  In the meantime, let's not underestimate the elite, extremist right.

Angela Valenzuela

What Is the Far Right’s Endgame? A Society That Suppresses the Majority.

Nancy MacLean, author of an intellectual biography of James McGill Buchanan, explains how this little-known libertarian’s work is influencing modern-day politics.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by MBisanz, Dechateau, Atlas Network, and Thinkstock. Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by MBisanz/Wikimedia, Dechateau/Wikimedia, Atlas Network/Wikimedia, and Thinkstock

When the Supreme Court decided, in the 1954 case of Brown vs. Board of Education, that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Tennessee-born economist James McGill Buchanan was horrified. Over the course of the next few decades, the libertarian thinker found comfortable homes at a series of research universities and spent his time articulating a new grand vision of American society, a country in which government would be close to nonexistent, and would have no obligation to provide education—or health care, or old-age support, or food, or housing—to anyone.

I spoke with MacLean about Buchanan’s intellectual evolution and its legacy today. We discussed whether it’s helpful or counterproductive to call the network of organizations funded by Charles Koch a “conspiracy,” the line of influence between Buchanan and what’s going on in MacLean’s home state of North Carolina, and that time Buchanan helped Chile’s dictator craft a profoundly undemocratic constitution. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

So why is James Buchanan so unknown? He had a Nobel Prize; how did he manage to fly under the radar?
170621_BOOK_AmericanInChainsHe had a very different personality from somebody like Milton Friedman. I think of them as kind of a yin and yang. Friedman was very sunny, and Buchanan was kind of a darker figure. Friedman was always very anxious to be in the limelight, and Buchanan was not like that at all. He was very interested in making an impact over the long term and training other people, and he seemed to be content to talk to powerful people more than to talk to public audiences. His books were really written for other scholars, not so much the general public.
Can you put him in relationship with other people, besides Friedman, who might be more familiar to us today?
People might be familiar with the Mont Pelerin Society, the international invitation-only group that began in 1947 launched by Friedrich Hayek. That society included Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Buchanan, ultimately Charles Koch (which I think not many people know!), and many others.

Friedman and Hayek put much more emphasis on making the case for free markets, whereas Buchanan’s distinctive mission was to make a case against government. … His basic idea is that people had been wrong to think of political actors as concerned with the common good or the public interest, when in fact, according to Buchanan’s way of looking at things, everyone should be understood as a self-interested actor seeking their own advantage. He said we should think of politicians, elected officials, as seeking their own self-interest in re-election. And that’s why they’ll make multiple costly promises to multiple constituencies, because they won’t have to pay for it. And he would say agency officials—say, an official at the EPA—would just keep trying to expand the agency, because that would expand their power and resources.
Now there were other people who actually tested that empirically and found out that it didn’t hold, so it’s really a caricature of the political process, but it’s a caricature that’s become very, very widespread right now.
You mentioned a few times in the book that Buchanan didn’t really do empirical research. So what was he writing from?
He was also trained in game theory at the Rand Corporation, so he uses a lot of that. But basically he writes more like a social philosopher, someone studying the social contract.
Did his ideas change over time?
The core ideas kind of stayed the same. What did change over time was his own outlook. It became much darker over the years. His first big book in his field, which is called public choice economics, was titled The Calculus of Consent, and it came out in 1962 and was co-authored with Gordon Tullock. It was the work for which Buchanan was most recognized in his Nobel citation. In that work, he seemed to believe that somehow people of good will could come to something close to unanimity on the basic rules of how to govern our society, on things like taxation and government spending and so forth.
And by the mid-1970s he concluded that that was impossible, and that there was no way that poor people would ever agree … there was no way that people who were not wealthy, who were not large property owners, would agree to the kind of rules he was proposing. So that was a very dark work. It was called The Limits of Liberty. He actually said in that work that the only hope might be despotism.
And he went from writing that to advising the Pinochet junta in Chile on how to craft their constitution. This document was later called a “constitution of locks and bolts,” [and was designed] to make it so that the majority couldn’t make its will felt in the political system, unless it was a huge supermajority.
So yeah, it’s pretty dark.
Tell me more about the relationship between Koch and Buchanan.
I think too many people on the left have really underestimated Koch’s intelligence and his drive, and also misunderstood his motives. There’s been brilliant work by journalists, really good digging on the money trail and the Koch operations, but much of that writing seems to assume that he is doing this just because it’s going to lower his tax bill or because he wants to evade regulations, personally. I think that really misgauges the man. He is deeply ideological and has been reading almost fanatically for a very long time. I see him as someone who’s quite messianic. He’s compared himself to Martin Luther and his effort being like the Protestant Reformation. When he invested in Buchanan’s center at George Mason University, he said he wanted to “unleash the kind of force that propelled Columbus.”
This is not someone who’s just trying to lower his tax bill. He wants to bring in a totally new vision of society and government, that’s different from anything that exists anywhere in the world or has existed because he is so certain that he is right. I think it’s more chilling because it doesn’t correspond to the ideas we have about politics.
Right, like he’s not trying to get a particular person elected. You mention several times Buchanan was very against that idea, that the point was to get a particular person elected. The point, for him, was to change the whole system.
Right. You asked how the two men connected. I only have the documentary trail that I found. But from what I found, I believe that they first came in contact or first began to work together about 1969 or 1970, and that was in the context of the campus upheaval against the war in Vietnam, and for black studies, and so forth. Buchanan wrote a book about the campus unrest that applied his particular school of thought to it. Koch had an operation called the Center for Independent Education, and that center took Buchanan’s book and turned it into a kind of pamphlet that could be circulated more broadly.
In 1970, Koch joined the Mont Pelerin Society. Once he got in, he began to advertise his many different organizations and efforts and try to recruit and get people to events and so forth, through Mont Pelerin. Buchanan helped with the founding of the Cato Institute and with various other intellectual enterprises that were close to Charles Koch’s heart, like this thing called the Institute for Humane Studies.
And then Koch funded Buchanan’s center, as well as other projects, at George Mason University. One of Buchanan’s ideas that Koch liked was the concept of making a flurry of changes all at once so that people have a hard time opposing them.
Yes, and in the same year that Koch invested all this money in George Mason, [economist] Tyler Cowen got a commission by the Institute for Humane Studies to produce this review of places where economic liberty has made big advances. Cowen advocates what he calls a “Big Bang.”
Interestingly it’s that same phrase that gets used by Civitas, the Koch-affiliated organization in North Carolina, after they take over the state legislature here in 2011. I actually have to give the North Carolina Republican-led General Assembly some credit for this book because I was struggling through Buchanan’s ideas, trying to understand the implications, because he did write in a somewhat abstract manner. And then the General Assembly came in in North Carolina and just made it all so clear. I saw the practical measures being taken and was like, “Oh, this is what he’s talking about! That’s what this is!” I should have put them in the acknowledgements.
I’d like to talk more about the way racism works in Buchanan’s intellectual project. You write in the conclusion to the book that this school of thought advocates “enlisting white supremacy to ensure capital supremacy.” Is it possible to disentangle those two?
So this is a challenge for the left because some of our categories, I think, are not very supple, and are also driven by the political world in which we operate. So for example, as we try to think about what’s going on with these voter suppression measures, the only thing that’s actionable is racial discrimination. Right? And so people think of voter suppression efforts as being motivated by racism. These are these good old boys who hate black people and that’s why they’re doing this.

I think actually what’s going on is that these people are extremely shrewd and calculating, and they understand that African Americans, because of their historical experience and their political savvy, understand politics and government better, in a lot of ways, than a lot of white Americans. And they are a threat to this project because they will not vote for it. So they want to keep them from the polls.
Similarly, young people are leaning left now, and they don’t accept a lot of these core ideas that come from this project, so this project has been very determined to keep young people from the polls. Frankly, if they could keep women away, they would, too. Because they understand that women suffrage opened the way to greater government involvement in the economy, and greater social provision and regulation.
We make a mistake when we think these are just reactionary prejudices, and we need to see them as shrewd calculations to keep people who would oppose this vision away from the polls.
So it’s about power, money.
Not just money. I think it’s also much more about this psychology of threatened domination. People who believe it will harm their liberty for other people to have full citizenship and be able to work together to govern society. And that somehow that goes much deeper than money to me. It’s hard to find the right words for it, but it’s a whole way of being in the world and seeing others. Assuming one’s right to dominate.
Your book calls Buchanan’s ideas a “stealth plan.” How can we, on the left, avoid falling into the trap of conspiracy-theory thinking while trying to understand this movement?
One of the challenges is that our language is not up to the threat that we’re facing. As a scholar, I understand the problem of conspiracy theories. I don’t want to be seen as promoting a conspiracy theory. Not least because this is not a conspiracy, by definition. A conspiracy involves illegality, and the people who are funding, and supporting and promoting this operation have extremely good lawyers and I think they actually do believe in the rule of law, and they are being, with the possible exemption of nonprofit tax law, scrupulously legal in what they are doing.

So conspiracy is not a good word. But on the other hand, this is a vast and interconnected and not honest operation. They say these anodyne things about liberty—like the title of one book is Don’t Hurt People And Don’t Take Their Stuff! And that’s not what this is about. The reality is that they are gerrymandering with a vengeance, to a degree we’ve never seen before in our history; they’re practicing voter suppression in a way we’ve not seen since Reconstruction; they are smashing up labor unions under fake pretenses, not telling people that they actually do want to destroy workers’ ability to organize collectively ... I could go on and on.
They’re doing a lot of things for strategic reasons and not being honest with the public about it. That suggests to me that we need a new vocabulary for grasping what we’re dealing with here. I guardedly used the term “fifth column” in the book, and you know, there’s problems with that term too, but at least it gets at the fact that these wealthy donors that Charles Koch has convened are deeply hostile to the model of government that has prevailed in the United States and in many other countries for a century.
While I think we need all the great investigative work that’s being done to try to show us how these organizations that are being presented to the public as separate are actually coordinating together, I don’t think that just laying that out is enough. I think that what we need to convey to people is that this is a messianic cause, with a vision of the good society and government that I think most of us would find terrifying, for the practical implications and impact that it will have on our lives.
We are at a crucial moment in our history, and we will not get another chance, by this cause’s own telling. They say again and again that this is going to be permanent, and they’re very close to victory. So I think we need to be really clear-eyed about understanding this and reaching out to one another without panic.

The most important thing I want readers to take from this book is an understanding that the Koch network and all of these people are doing what they’re doing because they understand that their ideas make them a permanent minority. They cannot win if they are honest about what they’re doing. That’s why they’re doing things in the deceitful and frightening ways that they are.
And that, I think, is a sign of great power for the majority of people, who I think are fundamentally decent, and agree on much more than we’re led to believe.

*Update, June 22, 2017: This article has been updated to add MacLean's academic credentials. (Return.)

Rebecca Onion Rebecca Onion
Rebecca Onion is a Slate staff writer and the author of Innocent Experiments.

This radical vision has become the playbook for a network of people looking to override democracy in order to shift more money to the wealthiest few, historian and professor at Duke University Nancy MacLean argues in her new book, an intellectual biography of James Buchanan called Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.* Buchanan’s life story, she writes, is “the true origin story of today’s well-heeled radical right.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Public Notice: Ted Gordon Believes Is it too late to fix the AISD bond package?

A lot of changes ahead in AISD with the proposed bond package.  Trustee Dr. Ted Gordon was the sole, dissenting vote on the board.  Here's why.


Public Notice: Ted Gordon Believes

Is it too late to fix the AISD bond package?

Public Notice
"I believe in AISD. And I believe in quality education. And I believe in equity. And I believe indiversity. And I'm on the school board because of those beliefs."
That's how AISD trustee Ted Gordon, the board's lone African-American member, began a long, impassioned plea to the AISD board Monday night, bemoaning the district's plan to move the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy off of the campus it shares with low-income students at LBJ High, and to drop a much-anticipated Mueller middle schoolfrom the proposed bond project list under consideration for a November vote (see "AISD's Big Balancing Act," June 23), and otherwise – in his eyes – snub his largely minority Northeast District 1. It was such an extraordinary speech that I'm going to give him the bulk of this column space to expound.
"We've got to make some tough decisions about allocation of resources, and in those tough decisions about allocation of resources, we each as trustees, and the officers of the administration, have to decide where their priorities lie, and what our priorities really are." Gordon went on, "When we get through moving Eastside to Old Anderson, we will have three high schools [Eastside, LBJ, and Reagan] in District 1, of which I'm the trustee, and … in each one of those high schools, we're well over 90 percent black and brown. In each one of those high schools, we're well over 80 percent and heading into 90 percent in terms of socioeconomically underprivileged. This board has stated that desegregation is one of its principles. I don't see it. Where is that represented in what we're about to do? It's not."
Gordon granted that if LASA had to move, the proposal to move Eastside High to Old Ander­son, and then LASA to the Eastside campus, "is a better solution than any other I've seen. But let's not lose sight of the fact that we're still promoting a segregated high school situation in District 1, and in Austin, Texas.
"To me it's unacceptable," he concluded. "If reinventing the urban school system means abandoning the urban areas of the city, then we're in trouble. It can't mean that. It has to mean a way in which the east and west can come together to create a school district which is diverse, which is equitable, and which provides all our kids with a quality education – not some kids an elite quality education, and other kids no education – all our kids a quality education."
It's worth recalling that the AISD board had two minority members when this facility bond process began. One, Paul Saldaña, resigned days after the board passed the facility master plan upon which this bond is based. The other, Gordon, has wondered openly and repeatedly whether he can continue to serve, when he has so little success getting equity for his constituents.
There's still fat to be found elsewhere in the budget: Trustees could take $30 million off of the Ann Richards appropriation without even touching their new tennis courts, and another $13.3M if they just follow the original FABPAC recommendation. That's almost enough to fund the entire Mueller school right there, but it's hardly the only example of where the funding priorities – as difficult as these decisions are – have diverged from the "worst-er, first-er" path the administration claims to follow.
The AISD board has one more chance to make some tweaks, and salvage a bond package that will pass the smell test with voters. They clearly aren't there yet.

There's a community engagement meeting at Eastside tonight, Thu., June 22, 7-8:30pm, "to hear from parents, students, teachers/staff, alumni, and community members about facilities proposals that affect the future use of Eastside Memorial, LBJ HS, LASA, and the ALC/Old Anderson HS building."

Meanwhile, it appears City Council is ready to acknowledge the inevitable regarding CodeNEXT. They're poised to pass a resolution at today's final meeting before the July hiatus, asking for a much-needed extra draft of the text and map, to be sent through the commission process before the draft that will eventually make its way to Council.
Clearly, there will be policy differences on the Council regarding the code, and city planning strategies more generally (see "Council: Take a Deep Breath," June 23). But for the time being, there remain such basic questions about the structure and application of the code that it's hard to engage effectively on the policy level.
As if to demonstrate how far they are from being ready to go on this, Council raced through a work session on Wednesday, barely scratching the surface of the newly released plan for affordable housing and thedensity bonus program, and putting off two extremely dense and contentious topics until a new work session next Wed., June 28, 1-3pm:
 How Neighborhood Plans and Small Area Plans are to be incorporated into CodeNEXT;
 How CodeNEXT fulfills the aims of Imagine Austin and its Growth Concept Map.
That follows a session Mon., June 26, noon-3pm, covering parking (including the Residential Permit Parking program); infrastructure needs, flooding, and other planning; and environmental regulations.
And remember, July 7 is the deadline for comments on the first draft of the zoning map. To view and comment, visit

A (mostly) full transcript of AISD Trustee Ted Gordon's 12-minute opening remarks at the June 19 board meeting, about the proposed facility bond package

I believe in AISD. And I believe in quality education. And I believe in equity. And I believe in diversity. And I'm on the school board because of those beliefs.
But it's very difficult for me – as it is for the rest of the trustees, and I guess the administration – to be placed in the position that we've been placed in. We've got to make some tough decisions about allocations of resources, and those tough decisions about allocation of resources, we each as trustees, and the officers of the administration, have to decide where their priorities lie, and what our priorities really are.
I've played Don Quixote here with the whole LASA situation, for the last month and a half, almost two months. And also, to a lesser degree, with the Northeast middle school situation – tilting at a windmill when it's been clear for a while that the game was lost. But I've been tilting at those windmills because there's something important that's at stake here.
The administration's decision to move LASA before FABPAC got going was a decision that's put a whole series of things into play that I find objectionable, and have left me as an individual and as a trustee seeming to oppose things that I absolutely support, like, for example, a bond of over $950 million (we'll see what it ends up being); like, for example, magnet schools, and LASA in particular, which I think is a fine institution; like, for example, Eastside High School, which I think deserves everything it can possibly get; like, for example, my brothers and sisters from the Anderson community, who want desperately to have something reasonable done with a facility that they were forced to abandon a number of years ago.
And how is it that I got placed in this situation? I got placed in this situation because the administration began a process which left open the option of moving a school of choice, LASA, off of a campus which is otherwise inhabited by my folks, black and brown, and relatively socioeconomically underprivileged, and to be able to hive off and go and have their own campus, where it is that they can hang out amongst their own kind – as people on the board have told me – with their own culture, distinct from the culture they're leaving behind. And in making that decision, have placed people like me in the situation of having to oppose what a good group of folks at LASA seem to think is best for that community; has placed me in a position where, through manipulations of other trustees, the Anderson community is … in favor of something I can't support (or may have to support). These are all very bitter.
When we get through moving Eastside to Old Anderson, we will have three high schools in District 1, of which I'm the trustee – and I welcome Eastside to District 1 – but let's make no mistake about it, in each one of those high schools, we're well over 90 percent black and brown; in each one of those high schools, we're well over 80% and heading into 90 percent in terms of socioeconomically underprivileged. This board has stated that desegregation is one of its principles. I don't see it. Where is that represented in what we're about to do? It's not.
We've got a Northeast middle school plan, which isn't just about the problem of we've got too much excess capacity in our middle schools; it's a plan which seeks to make our area a school that is diverse. Without this we run the risk of having, in Mueller, an elementary school, which is probably going to be a charter school, which is going to draw kids from all the surrounding elementary schools – making it, more than probably, socioeconomically undiverse, and more than probably, racially and ethnically undiverse, [and] at the same time increasing the segregation of the surrounding elementary schools. The middle school is the solution to that set of problems.
We're talking about, well, why can't we just put more kids in Bertha Means? Bertha Means has an FAC score of 49 and part of the building is uninhabitable, as it stands. We're going to put kids in a failing school? We already have girls in that school, and there's a rank and really problematic differential between the status of that school and Garcia where we have the boys. Why do we have girls in a school that's got such a low FAC rating? Why didn't we, as Trustee Anderson asked, why didn't we take up the issue of Garcia and Means when we were talking about FABPAC? We didn't do it because the administration didn't want to do it, even though this trustee asked over and over and over again for that to happen. … Why didn't we do it? Because we as trustees and the administration didn't take it up. So there's not a plan for them.
We currently have before us a plan for LASA – let's face the facts, folks – a plan for LASA which also has now become a plan for Eastside, which also has now become a plan for LBJ. Since I could not keep LASA from moving, and I could not get the administration, even though I tried from the very beginning of my time as a trustee, to step into the situation at LASA and LBJ, and create a solution amongst the adults there which could allow them to cohabit that place – even those two schools were able to cooperate enough to be able to produce a plan for expanding LASA, and to a certain extent, LBJ, on that campus – they've got blueprints for it; that's been ignored; we're not going to do it; I've lost that case – the solution that we have now is a better solution than any other I've seen. But let's not lose sight of the fact that we're still promoting a segregated high school situation in District 1, and in Austin, Texas.
All right; having said that, the other problem with this solution is that we're still spending close to $110 million to get LASA its own campus. So, that spending $110 million means that we can't do some of the things that we've talked about on the board here already – Cowan, Blazier, the Northeast middle school – we don't have the money. Should we reduce Ann Richards? Will that gore somebody else's cow or whatever it is that you gore?
The only solution to the problem that I see now, … now that we're in the process of promising Ann Richards their $70 million … is for us to go above a billion dollars, and increase the tax rate – if these things are all-important, if it's so important to have LASA have its own school that we're going to uproot two other high schools, then let's stand by our convictions, and let's go for a bond that does the things that we know are right, or that we say we think are right.
Otherwise, I guarantee you, without a Northeast middle school, and a solution for Garcia and Means, we will lose District 1 and much of East Austin to the charter schools. They're licking their chops. And we will continue on with the process that I've talked about before from this dais of transferring our resources, from the east to the west. …
To me it's unacceptable. If reinventing the urban school system means abandoning the urban areas of the city, then we're in trouble. It can't mean that. It has to mean a way in which the east and west can come together to create a school district which is diverse, which is equitable, and which provides all our kids with a quality education – not some kids an elite quality education, and other kids no education – all our kids a quality education.
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