Translate

Friday, February 23, 2024

Project 2025 and Trump's Well-Planned Revenge in a Second Term [should he win the presidency]

Friends:

We would all do well to inform ourselves on Project 2025. It is authoritarian libertarianism on steroids. It represents the culmination of efforts orchestrated by the Heritage Foundation together with at least 75 other groups to take the entire country toward an anti-democratic path that would, as Dr. Nancy MacLean has been saying, "put democracy in chains."

This agenda is clearly an urgent matter for Jeffrey Clark who is spearheading Project 2025 as he is one of "six unnamed co-conspirators whose actions are described in Trump’s indictment in the federal election interference case." 

We should further heed Liz Cheney's words that "a Republican House majority in 2025 would present a ‘threat’ to the country." Why? Because the Republican part of today "has not chosen the Constitution."

If anything, Project 2025 is precisely about undermining the U.S. Constitution. Read it for yourselves. 

This dystopian vision is no less fully workshopped, strategically planned, and well-funded. We, the people, must not allow this to come to fruition under any name.

-Angela Valenzuela

Reference

MacLean, N. (2017). Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. Penguin.


Advisers have also discussed deploying the military to quell potential unrest on Inauguration Day. Critics have called the ideas under consideration dangerous and unconstitutional.

Updated November 6, 2023 at 1:27 p.m. EST|Published November 5, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST

Former president Donald Trump at the courthouse in Manhattan on Oct. 17. (John Taggart for The Washington Post)


Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.


In private, Trump has told advisers and friends in recent months that he wants the Justice Department to investigate onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to people who have talked to him, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump has also talked of prosecuting officials at the FBI and Justice Department, a person familiar with the matter said.


In public, Trump has vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” President Biden and his family. The former president has frequently made corruption accusations against them that are not supported by available evidence.


To facilitate Trump’s ability to direct Justice Department actions, his associates have been drafting plans to dispense with 50 years of policy and practice intended to shield criminal prosecutions from political considerations. Critics have called such ideas dangerous and unconstitutional.


“It would resemble a banana republic if people came into office and started going after their opponents willy-nilly,” said Saikrishna Prakash, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia who studies executive power. “It’s hardly something we should aspire to.”


Much of the planning for a second term has been unofficially outsourced to a partnership of right-wing think tanks in Washington. Dubbed “Project 2025,” the group is developing a plan, to include draft executive orders, that would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act, according to a person involved in those conversations and internal communications reviewed by The Washington Post. The law, last updated in 1871, authorizes the president to deploy the military for domestic law enforcement.


The proposal was identified in internal discussions as an immediate priority, the communications showed. In the final year of his presidency, some of Trump’s supporters urged him to invoke the Insurrection Act to put down unrest after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, but he never did it. Trump has publicly expressed regret about not deploying more federal force and said he would not hesitate to do so in the future.


Supporters listen during the national anthem before Trump arrives to speak at a campaign event at the Kingswood Arts Center on Oct. 9 in Wolfeboro, NH. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)


Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung did not answer questions about specific actions under discussion. “President Trump is focused on crushing his opponents in the primary election and then going on to beat Crooked Joe Biden,” Cheung said. “President Trump has always stood for law and order, and protecting the Constitution.”


The discussions underway reflect Trump’s determination to harness the power of the presidency to exact revenge on those who have challenged or criticized him if he returns to the White House. The former president has frequently threatened to take punitive steps against his perceived enemies, arguing that doing so would be justified by the current prosecutions against him. Trump has claimed without evidence that the criminal charges he is facing — a total of 91 across four state and federal indictments — were made up to damage him politically.


“This is third-world-country stuff, ‘arrest your opponent,’” Trump said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire in October. “And that means I can do that, too.”


Special counsel Jack Smith, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Biden have all said that Smith’s prosecution decisions were made independently of the White House, in accordance with department rules on special counsels.


Trump, the clear polling leader in the GOP race, has made “retribution” a central theme of his campaign, seeking to intertwine his own legal defense with a call for payback against perceived slights and offenses to right-wing Americans. He repeatedly tells his supporters that he is being persecuted on their behalf and holds out a 2024 victory as a shared redemption at their enemies’ expense.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Libertarian CATO Institute Ranks Texas Last in Personal Freedoms. This IS an Anti-Democratic, Extremist National Agenda

If you don't feel a little bit less free in Texas, you haven't been paying attention. This piece will refresh you and all Texans on the matter. Relatedly, it's important to know the levers, the Wizards of Oz, behind the curtain. This post, these two articles, and a must-see documentary offer a good primer.

This comes straight out of the CATO Institute that's happy for us and the rest of the nation to lose every other freedom except to be a capitalist. Notably, reproductive and transgender rights aren't factored into the ratings. And these are huge for young people, in particular in our state.

I do encourage you to learn about this well-organized, work-shopped, strategically planned, well-funded agenda to take away our rights for the benefit of the one percent. Treat yourself to an in-depth exploration with these two well-researched texts by Jane Mayer (2017) and Nancy MacLean's (2017) award winning text, Democracy in Chains. You can also read both of these in Audiobooks. 

Trust me, this is the history that the CATO Institute, the Koch Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Farris Wilks, Tim Dunn, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and others who don't want you to know. 

A little bit of education and an organized response, after all, might disrupt their stealth plan to not just deprive us and all of America of our rights, but to make it near impossible to break out of their devious, well-conceived shackles that are instrumental to their design. 

-Angela Valenzuela

References

MacLean, N. (2017). Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. Penguin.



Texas Ranks Last in Personal Freedoms, According to the Libertarian CATO Institute

The think tank, founded by a conservative billionaire who supports Greg Abbott, ranks Texas 39 places behind California. 


by  Dan Solomon | December 1, 2023 | Texas Monthly


Getty/Texas Monthly

Speaking at a meeting of Bell County Republicans in 2017 in Belton, about sixty miles north of Texas’s capital, Greg Abbott opined about the freedoms enjoyed in the state he governs. “As you leave Austin and start heading north, you start feeling different,” Abbott told the crowd. “Once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different. And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom.” 

Leaving aside Abbott’s swipe at Austin, there’s a question now about what he smells when he passes into Williamson County these days. According to a recent study by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank cofounded by prominent Abbott donor Charles Koch, Texas ranks dead last among the states when it comes to personal freedom. (Probably of some relief to Abbott, Cato rates Texans highly on a few particular freedoms: chiefly economic ones. Based on our lack of a personal income tax and our right-to-work laws that ensure a worker cannot be required to join a union, Texas ranks number six on the think tank’s index of economic freedom.)

Cato relies on twelve metrics, each weighted differently, to create its personal freedom index. Almost across the board on those categories, Texas fares poorly. We rank thirty-fifth on educational freedom, thirty-ninth on gambling, forty-second on asset forfeiture, forty-third on incarceration, forty-fourth on marriage freedom, and dead last on both cannabis and travel freedom (see below for fuller definitions). Alcohol, gun, and tobacco rights; the right to give large sums to political campaigns; and the right to engage in activities that harm no one, such as safely setting off fireworks, are the only categories in which Cato finds Texas doesn’t rank in the bottom half of the states. Notably, the institute doesn’t factor key issues such as reproductive or transgender rights into its ratings. 

Cato finds that the fragrance of Texas freedom right now stinks. Let’s take a closer look at how and why the institute thinks Texans might need to hold their noses, whether they’re driving through Austin or elsewhere. 

Arrests and Incarceration

Cato’s ranking assigns a heavy weight to incarceration rates, which are adjusted for violent and property crimes, to look at whether each state incarcerates more individuals than the crime rates suggest it should. Cato also considers such factors as how often a state makes arrests for victimless crimes—which the study lists as including drug, sex work–related, and “gun” offenses (presumably possession-related only); driver’s license suspensions for such offenses; and whether a state has passed reforms regarding qualified immunity, which protects police officers from most civil lawsuits. 

Texas’s low ranking here isn’t surprising; our incarceration rate dramatically outpaces that of the U.S. as a whole and puts us firmly in the top ten states in locking up residents per capita. A drug offense triggers an automatic six-month suspension of a driver’s license, which requires classes and fees to restore. An attempt in the Legislature in 2021 to end qualified immunity went nowhere in the face of opposition by police unions; a similar attempt in 2023 was another flop

Criminal justice reform in Texas was once a popular, bipartisan issue championed by Republicans such as former governor Rick Perry—but in recent years, it’s grown much more difficult to advance reform-minded legislation in the state. 

Cannabis

Texas, which bans THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in virtually all cases and has harsh sentencing laws, ranks dead last on the Cato Institute’s list. The metric also considers other factors, such as whether laws that stop short of legalization drive up consumer costs for cannabis and economic impacts on producers. 

Civil Asset Forfeiture

If you have an asset that officials deem suspicious, and they decide it may have been acquired in relation to criminal behavior, they can seize that asset and are under no obligation to give it back—even if you’re never charged with, let alone convicted of, anything illegal. Most often, this type of asset forfeiture plays out when police officers, during traffic stops or other encounters with the public, find large sums of cash. (Here’s a story about a man who drove with $42,000 to Houston to buy a tractor trailer and lost it after being accused of following the vehicle in front of him too closely in his rental car.) Federal law enforcement is also able to engage in the practice. In Texas, state law not only protects asset forfeiture but allows law enforcement to share the proceeds of assets claimed by federal agencies. For these reasons, Cato ranks the state forty-second.  

Civil asset forfeiture is a rare issue that can unite both libertarian- and progressive-minded Americans in opposition. This practice is unpopular among Americans nationally, who believe that, say, a person may have a legitimate reason to carry a large amount of cash while driving. But civil asset forfeiture is popular among police, whose departments often enjoy receiving the additional funds, as well as among politicians who wish to demonstrate their support for police. In 2017, Donald Trump offered to “destroy” a Texas lawmaker who opposed the practice. 

Educational Freedom

Now we’re getting into something that has sharply divided the state: “educational freedom”—which the study considers mainly in terms of laws establishing education savings accounts (voucherlike programs in which public tax dollars help parents, primarily upper-income ones, pay for private schools), tax credits for private schools, and direct vouchers. Education savings accounts have been a key issue in the civil war between factions of the Texas GOP. 

Despite Abbott’s efforts, Texas has not passed a law creating education savings accounts or vouchers. The governor has demanded that lawmakers do so several times this year, but many rural Republicans and Democrats have blocked each effort in the Texas House, in large part because many rural areas lack affordable private school options, and because the public schools serve as centers of community life in such areas. 

Gambling

Texas ranks low here because most forms of gambling are illegal. The state makes limited exceptions for horse and greyhound racing, certain charity events, “social gambling” (say, an office March Madness bracket contest), and the state lottery. That didn’t change in the 2023 legislative session, despite the House approving a bill that would have put the issue directly to voters, as the bill died in the Senate. 

Marriage Freedom

Previous editions of Cato’s personal freedom index focused primarily on same-sex marriage; for as long as the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized those unions nationally remains in effect, that’s a nonissue for these purposes. Now Cato focuses mostly on cousin marriages, which are outlawed in Texas, at least among first cousins, half first cousins, and adopted cousins. Texas here ranks forty-fourth, which is actually last place—it shares that ranking with six other states that also discriminate against cousin lovers.

Reproductive Freedom

Actually, this doesn’t factor into Cato’s analysis at all. 

Travel Freedom

While this issue doesn’t weigh heavily in any state’s ranking in the index, Cato does partially consider the freedoms of drivers. Texas, which restricts texting while driving, requires the wearing of seat belts, uses cameras to read license plates on toll roads, and mandates that motorcyclists wear helmets, is at the bottom of the list on this category as well. 

Notably, “travel freedom” does not, in Cato’s estimation, include the freedom to travel for the purpose of taking an action that’s legal in one jurisdiction but illegal in another. Some cities in the Lone Star State have begun testing that proposition by restricting travel for Texans who pass through to seek abortions. While most legal scholars consider such restrictions a violation of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, theoretically, similar laws could be created that would ban Texans who wanted to, say, drive to Las Vegas to gamble. (What happens in Vegas stays in Lubbock!) At that point, perhaps, the Cato Institute will take notice. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

A Bilingual Educator’s Critique of the Science of Reading (SoR) Movement, by Jill Kerper Mora, Ph.D.

Dr. Jill Kerper Mora is the author of Spanish Language Pedagogy for Biliteracy Programs (2016) and thusly abundantly qualified to critique was is regarded today as the "Science of Reading (SoR)." Currently, an associate professor emeritus at San Diego State University, Dr. Kerper Mora is a credible voice in this contentious debate on literacy considering that she has over 40 years of experience in the field as a teacher, researcher, and scholar in these very areas of literacy, including biliteracy, instruction (also see Bowers, 2020; Johnston & Scanlon, 2021; Reinking, Hruby, & Risko, 2023; Thomas, 2022).

Of great concern to Dr. Kerper Mora is that what is not science at all is actually a movement that politicizes, as opposed to professionalizes, the teaching of reading and writing in schools. She encourages teachers to debunk the false claims of this movement which is particularly led by journalist Emily Hanford.

With respect to multilingual literacy, it is clear that the SoR approach compounds an already flawed model for monolingual speakers of English. Dr. Kerper Mora not only debunks various claims that Hanford and others make, but also draws on research from Spanish-speaking countries to make her case. She further shares this pertinent review of Spanish literacy research as part of her evidentiary base for her detailed response to this arguably harmful, and ill-informed movement.

-Angela Valenzuela

References


Bowers, J. S. (2020). Reconsidering the evidence that systematic phonics is more effective than alternative methods of reading instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 32(3), 681-705. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10648-019-09515-y.pdf


Johnston, P., & Scanlon, D. (2021). An Examination of Dyslexia Research and Instruction With Policy Implications. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 70(1), 107-128. https://doi.org/10.1177/23813377211024625

Mora, J. K. (2016). Spanish language pedagogy for biliteracy programs. Montezuma Publishing. 

Reinking, D., Hruby, G. G., & Risko, V. J. (2023). Legislating Phonics: Settled Science or Political Polemics?. Teachers College Record125(1), 104-131.

Thomas, P. (2022). The Science of Reading Movement: The Never-Ending Debate and the Need for a Different Approach to Reading Instruction. National Education Policy Center. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED625611.pdf


Mora, J. K. (2016). Spanish language pedagogy
for biliteracy programs
. Montezuma Publishing.





Science of Reading: A Critique

A Bilingual Educator’s Critique of the Science of Reading Movement

Jill Kerper Mora

The Science of Reading is a hot topic on the internet and in the media these days. A plethora of Facebook groups and other social media venues advertising themselves as Science of Reading for XYZ group of educators have sprung up recently. These groups are drawing considerable interest and lots of members with hundreds of comments daily. One example is a Facebook group that calls itself Science of Reading for Bilingual Education. Many of the posts in this group are by dual language teachers who are seeking information about whether the instructional programs they are using in their classrooms are “Science of Reading-aligned.” These queries reflect a genuine concern among teachers who seek confirmation and validation that their instructional approaches are maximally effective for the students they teach.

The issue with these social media that tout their bilingual credentials is that there is often no way for teachers to verify the bona fide expertise of group administrators or participants who comment in the group on the Science of Reading (SoR) research. This is especially problematic for teachers in dual language programs who implement instruction for bilingual and biliteracy learners. This concern is what prompts me to post this analysis and critique of the SoR. My purpose is to challenge the claims made in these groups by self-proclaimed “experts” regarding the research on literacy instruction in Spanish/English dual language programs. I present this critique of the SoR as it applies to bilingual learners based on my 40 years of experience as a bilingual teacher, teacher educator and researcher.

This analysis makes an important distinction between the Science of Reading and the Science of Reading Movement (SoRM).  Bilingual educators who visit my website do so with trust in my advocacy for biliteracy learners and their teachers, families, and communities. The term Science of Reading is a global descriptor of research from multiple academic disciplines that informs literacy program design and instruction (reading and writing). In and of itself, the term is not problematic. However, determining the extent to which research meets the criteria for claiming that it is “science” or “scientific” very quickly becomes problematic. Much of what is touted as the Science of Reading does not meet the criteria that the research community sets for itself to ensure the credibility and legitimacy of research and the interpretation and application of research findings. A concern is that the term “science” is being used as a cudgel to marginalize and discredit certain theoretical perspectives and bodies of data that have a track record confirming their legitimacy and credibility, while some other research frameworks claim to be “more scientific than thou.” When we go below the surface, we discover misuse and abuse of the notion of scientific research in service of ideological and political agendas. 

Purpose of the Critique of SoR

The purpose of this critique of the Science of Reading is to accomplish the following:

  • Review criteria for judging the legitimacy and credibility of claims made in the name of science.
  • Identify misrepresentations, misinterpretations, and misapplications of scientific research that lead away from, rather than toward, effective literacy instruction.
  • Examine what neuroscience research tells us about the bilingual brain and literacy learning to articulate the implications of bilingual brain research for effective instruction for multilingual learners. 
  • Present the research that documents the “common thread” of metalinguistic skills between decoding and language comprehension that challenges the SoR proponents’ arguments against “cueing” from the applied linguistics and psycholinguistic perspectives on the relationship between the two components of the Simple View of Reading. 
  • Debunk false claims that are unscientific and without a credible evidence base in the research literature made by proponents of the Science of Reading to avoid perpetuating inequities in language and literary education for multilingual learners. 

The format for this analysis is a presentation of a summary of an argument that I make with a link to further elaboration of the argument on a separate webpage. I begin with an analysis of the media’s portrayal of the Science of Reading perspective of the Reading Wars. I elaborate on how journalists are framing an argument around particular teaching strategies for the purpose of promoting fear and distrust of teachers and publishers of instructional programs to promote policies and regulation to mandate more teaching of phonics in the public schools. I present the reasons why this media campaign is detrimental to public education, and specifically to language minority students. I point out that despite claims of “science” as the basis for the policies that the Science of Reading Movement promotes, the media’s portrayal of reading research and the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of certain instructional practices do not qualify as scientific. The SoR Movement seeks to politicize rather than professionalize the teaching of reading and writing in the public schools. The purpose of this analysis is to empower teachers to combat the abuse of the term “science” and to respond with knowledge and expertise to false claims and misrepresented research from the SoR Movement. 

Here I list the related webpages that together present a thorough analysis and critique of the applications of the Science of Reading to language and literacy instruction for multilingual learners. 

Neuroscience Research: Literacy Learning in the Bilingual Brain

Miscue Analysis Research: The Ghost of Whole Language

The Structured Literacy Approach: Implications for Multilingual Learners

Lexical Inferencing: The Truth About Cueing

Science as Metaphor: Debunking the More-Scientific-Than-Thou Argument

Simple View of Reading

Is Reading Natural? A Metalinguistic Perspective

California’s Reading Wars: A Brief History

Science of Reading Legislation: Unconstitutional Laws and Indecipherable Policy

So, without further ado, let us examine together the claims and counterclaims that arise from the new battlefront in the Reading Wars.

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

"Anti-DEI Law Implementation Has Been a Disaster," by Emilio Zamora & Angela Valenzuela, Texas Observer, Feb. 13, 2024

Many thanks to the Texas Observer for publishing this piece appearing today that captures the sad state of affairs with respect to the carrying out of anti-DEI policy at UT Austin. Please share widely.

-Angela Valenzuela



Anti-DEI Law Implementation Has Been a Disaster

Kowtowing to the legislature, UT Austin disbanded all its diversity, equity, and inclusion programs wholesale—with little input from students or faculty.

February 13, 2024 | Texas Observer

In Texas, we know that incoming hurricanes require preparations to reduce damage. But the state’s colleges and universities were ill-prepared for the superstorm of Senate Bill 17 (SB 17). Passed during the recent, regular session of the 88th Texas State Legislature, SB 17 ostensibly prohibits the privileging of individuals based on race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation, thereby defunding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in higher education.

Officials from the University of Texas at Austin, a leading university with Texas-size influence, have been recklessly inconsistent in implementing SB 17 in anticipation of a legislative audit. Administrators have also been indifferent to the vigorous response by students and their supporters to the highly consequential decision to defund initiatives designed to meet their needs.

Beginning on January 1, 2024, the University of Texas directed the Multicultural Engagement Center to shut its doors and discontinue the critical support that it provides for student-centered programs. Instead of a transparent and deliberative approach to redesigning and redefining student service programs to retain much of what has been built over the years, university officials’ interpretation of SB 17 has been an astonishing one of demolition. 

To wit, the university bulldozed the many programs that the Multicultural Engagement Center housed, including: the New Black Student Weekend, Adelante, CultivAsian, Bloq Party, Four Directions, the Leadership Institutes, Afrikan American Affairs, the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, Latino Leadership Council, Native American and Indigenous Collective, Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color and Allies, Students for Equity and Diversity, and signature graduation ceremonies like Black Graduation, Latinx Graduation, GraduAsian, Lavender Graduation, the Monarch Center.

Almost everyone who followed the legislative process understood that the passage of SB 17 would lead to the elimination of DEI offices and initiatives in all higher education institutions statewide. We further assumed that this would result in a plan to safeguard units like the Monarch Center, which serves undocumented youth of all races, ethnicities, and genders—SB 17 criteria that might have reasonably, if not lawfully, disqualified it from this sweep.

This blunt instrument of policy reflects fears of antidiversity legislators who are not only protecting their incumbencies but also doing so as part of a well-funded national assault on DEI programs throughout the country—a hostile, gale force campaign rooted in the fear of a browning America.

The core premise of DEI detractors is that DEI programs violate the principles of fairness and meritocracy when they accord “differential treatment of or providing special benefits to individuals on the basis of race, color, or ethnicity.” This despite an utter lack of evidence surrounding their claims. They also failed to offer credible, first-hand information on the long-standing operations of the numerous DEI programs in Texas that have been beneficial to students. Though conservatives have lacked good reason, sound evidence, and the sensibility of just change, they nevertheless wield excessive decision-making power in the Texas Legislature.

Higher education institutions inherited the responsibility of informing the Legislature, the governor’s office, and the public about how they would implement SB 17. Based on the wholesale dismantling of the Multicultural Engagement Center, it is highly likely that UT officials indeed had a preapproved plan. This raises important policy and procedural questions.

First, University of Texas executives began dismantling DEI programs without either a transparent or democratic process that would have ideally included consulting with important stakeholders, including students, faculty, and staff. They also failed to respond to requests from Texas senators and members of the university community for copies of the implementation plan that they were preparing. Further, they conspicuously failed to offer exceptions to programs like the Monarch Student Scholarship Program that serve students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The executives also self-servingly overlooked the fact that the spirit of SB 17 does not exempt whites from preferential and privileged status in senior management and faculty positions. 

Finally, this flagrant disregard for sound judgment and a culture of fairness and equity that we all strive to maintain at the university may be violating federal law and guidelines that guarantee equal rights under the law. We may differ on how to define, measure, or enforce equity principles or antidiversity ideas, but we must, in all instances, proceed in an open, deliberative, and democratic manner. To not do so is to incite unnecessary political acrimony and strife.