Trump’s papier-mache-education flunky cancels 1200+ civil rights probes

❝ Our data analysis shows that the Trump administration is less likely than its predecessor to find wrongdoing by school districts on issues ranging from racial and sexual harassment to meeting educational needs of disabled students…

❝ “This is indicative of how they are now evaluating and handling complaints,” said Kaitlin Banner, a senior attorney with the Advancement Project.

A ProPublica analysis of data on more than 40,000 civil rights cases, obtained through multiple public records requests, bears out Banner’s point. We found that, under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the department has scuttled more than 1,200 civil rights investigations that were begun under the Obama administration and lasted at least six months. These cases, which investigated complaints of civil rights violations ranging from discriminatory discipline to sexual violence in school districts and colleges around the country, were closed without any findings of wrongdoing or corrective action, often due to insufficient evidence…and other phony excuses.

This is what anyone who cares about maintaining and improving public education feared. Trump, DeVos, the whole wrecking crew on the racist, class war Right have looked forward to the opportunity handed over by populist chumps in the 2016 election. It doesn’t matter whether your excuse is “stupid” or ignorance or “golly, I never thought anything like this could happen in America” – it is happening and it was predictable. If you voted for Trump? You own it!

Trump’s budget slashes child care for military families

Trump promised to improve child care for all working families. He’s not keeping his word.

❝ If President Trump has his way, more military families will struggle to find child care.

…Trump proposed a budget with a $100 million cut to child care and youth programs for military families. These programs provide early education programs to children aged 6 weeks to 12 years old as well as after-school and summer enrichment activities for school age children. In total, 700,000 children of military service members receive such services. The budget would defund these programs — despite calls for increased child care funding from military families and advocates.

The military has a model child care program designed to support the unique needs of military families. Ninety-five percent of programs are nationally accredited, and all teachers participate in training and professional development to improve their skills. Parents pay on a sliding scale based on their income so that programs are affordable for all service members.

And, yes, this is the sort of aid that should be available to all Americans.

❝ Cuts to child care could also have consequences for military spouses. About one in five military spouses are unemployed, often due to career interruptions from frequent relocations. Losing access to child care would become an added barrier for military spouses pursuing a career. In addition, many spouses rely on child care when the military parent is deployed to help them balance parenting alone.

❝ Throughout his campaign and into his presidency, Trump promised to bolster support for military personnel and to improve the affordability of child care for all working families. But Trump reneges on both of these promises in one fell swoop by proposing a cut to child care funding for military families.

I hope none of y’all expected Trump to come through on any promises that don’t involved tax cuts for corporations, the wealthiest Americans, racist and bigoted discrimination against all minorities including women. Trump thinks he owes nothing to folks who believed his blather, who voted for him.

Trump’s EPA doesn’t care about protecting kids from lead paint


Noah Berger/Reuters

❝ Environmental Protection Agency officials are proposing to eliminate two programs focused on limiting children’s exposure to lead-based paint, which is known to cause damage to developing brains and nervous systems.

The proposed cuts, outlined in a 64-page budget memo revealed by The Washington Post on Friday, would roll back programs aimed at reducing lead risks by $16.61 million and more than 70 employees, in line with a broader project by the Trump administration to devolve responsibility for environmental and health protection to state and local governments.

Old housing stock is the biggest risk for lead exposure — and the EPA estimates that 38 million U.S. homes contain lead-based paint.

❝ Environmental groups said the elimination of the two programs, which are focused on training workers in the safe removal of lead-based paint and public education about its risks, would make it harder for the EPA to address the environmental hazard…

❝ Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and particularly harmful to children and the elderly. Its dangers in gasoline, paint and drinking water have been scientifically documented over many decades, which has led to stronger regulatory protections.

Trump and his cohort in the Republican Party simply don’t give a damn about what happens to working class families. They belong to the 1% class. They owe their peronal political budgets to the 1% class. Establishment conservatives of either party consider the 1% class the only power worth listening to, worth emulating.

The rest of us – and our families – can fend for ourselves as best we can. Our elected officials bear no responsibility for the well-being of the nation.

The US “leads” the solar energy revolution by laying off solar energy researchers

On Monday, Oct. 5, Stuart Farrell had planned to take the morning off from his job as a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., after being awake all night taking care of his sick 2-year-old son. But at 10:30 a.m., he received a call asking him to come in for an 11:30 meeting…

Farrell, who had worked in solar energy research at the laboratory for two and a half years, was one of 15 solar research staff members laid off that day due to federal funding cuts, according to NREL public affairs manager George Douglas. And another 40 to 60 staff members are expected to be lost through a voluntary separation program that the lab will initiate on Oct. 12.

Almost all of the researchers already laid off were involved in “next generation,” or long-term, solar research, Douglas said. Farrell’s work, for instance, involved research on improving the efficiency of cadmium telluride solar cells.

It’s the latest sign of a trend that experts say is undermining U.S. efforts to promote alternative energy: Federal funding for solar energy research has declined steadily over the past several years, despite emphasis from the Obama administration on continued investment in research and development of clean energy technologies. These cuts have affected the federal solar program at large, not just solar research at NREL…

“NREL is actually one of the smallest of the national laboratories, and I think it’s been one that has had one of the largest impacts of any of the national laboratories,” said Al Compaan, president and CTO of Lucintech, a company involved in the development of photovoltaic modules. “I’m particularly pained to see any further cuts in funding [to NREL].” For instance, support from NREL was integral to the success of photovoltaic manufacturer First Solar, which Compaan referred to as “one of the bright shining stars in the success of federal government support for solar energy.”…

Yet the budget appropriations have fallen short of the requests over the past few years, and applied research, particularly on long-term, forward-looking technologies like the project Farrell was involved with at NREL, has been one of the areas to suffer. The reasons for the funding cuts could be tied to budget sequestration, or limits on the size of the federal budget, which can force spending cuts in certain areas in order to bring the total budget down…

Despite these reductions, solar energy itself has continued to expand and contribute to decarbonization in the U.S., at least partly thanks to the importation of solar modules from other nations, particularly China. The U.S. market share in photovoltaic manufacturing has dropped significantly since the late 90s, and China has become the major source of module shipments over the past five years…

Jobs, jobs, jobs – the mantra of political hacks from both parties. But, as long as the government is run by an amalgamation of reactionaries and cowards the inevitability of change continues to be driven by the nations with a real dedication to alternative energy.

President Obama can blather all he wants at press conferences celebrating his joint energy and environment agreements with President Xi. At the rate we’re going the only American jobs flowing from the solar revolution will be as installers. Manufacturing for domestic consumption – much less export – will continue to diminish in a nation that would rather dedicate research to new and exciting weapons of mass destruction.

Our politicians take Americans another step backwards – bowing to the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel empire.

During the Great Recession, the states that already spent less on education made even bigger cuts

Our governor keeps her concealed carry gun permit up-to-date

Public schools have struggled during the long, slow economic recovery…I noted that urban districts — especially big-city districts — have been hit particularly hard. But there’s also tremendous variation by state.

Idaho, for example, spent 12 percent less per student in the 2011-2012 school year than in 2008-2009, after adjusting for inflation. More than 80 percent of Idaho’s school districts experienced cuts. North Carolina’s cuts were slightly smaller (11 percent on average) but even more widespread: Nearly all its districts reduced spending.

Compare those states to North Dakota, where per-student spending is up 8 percent since 2009, or New Hampshire, where it’s up 6 percent.

What’s going on? Given the disproportionate impact on urban districts, you might think the hardest-hit states would be those where the highest proportion of students live in cities. But it turns out there’s no clear relationship there: City-heavy California has experienced big school funding cuts, but even more urban New York has seen per-student spending increase…

What turns out to make a difference is actual spending levels. States that spend less per-student, such as Idaho, Utah and many Southern states, have made significantly bigger cuts (on a percentage basis) than states, such as New York and Connecticut, that spend more. The relationship isn’t perfect: Arkansas, a low-spending state, has increased funding, while big-spending Hawaii has made big cuts. But…there’s a clear relationship.

How does your state rank? Click here to see the table.

We have a game we play here in New Mexico. If there’s bad economic news, PR about mediocre healthcare, poverty, education – we look to see if we’re worst or second worst. That gives you an idea of the sum of decades of over-relying on the federal dole from military bases, extractive industries like oil, gas, lumber. Couple that with state government dominated by Conservative Democrats and Republicans.

Right now we have a Republican governor who tries to be all things to all people. She lies a lot. Elected because she ran against a truly forgettable Dem who was nominated “because it was her turn” – Susana Martinez was inevitable. We’re consistent in New Mexico politics; so, her challenger for a second term is Gary King, son of a previous governor. Now, it’s his turn to be governor as far as Democrat party hacks are concerned.

And Governor Susana campaigns on “her” improvements in education among other lies. The reality is the Albuquerque Public School system – normally run like most state highway departments – brought in someone with knowledge and smarts a couple years ago and he’s turned things around a bit. Since he’s in charge of a third of the schoolkids in the state – he makes a difference. No one, including me, has any idea of his politics. Frankly, I don’t know why many good teachers are working anywhere in our state’s schools – given mediocre pay and little voice in direction.

That doesn’t matter to Governor Susana. She’ll gladly take credit.

Thanks, Helen

Pentagon’s “Deep Cuts” are phony – Press swallows every drop

85

The Pentagon said on Monday it would shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 spending caps, setting up an election-year fight with the Congress over national defense priorities.

The pre-War Army was less than 270,000. The Sequester brings current levels down to about 450,000. Hegel actually wants more than that.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, previewing the Pentagon’s ideas on how to adapt to government belt-tightening, said the defense budget due out next week would be the first to look beyond 13 years of conflict, shifting away from long-term ground wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.

He cautioned, however, that the country needed to be clear-eyed about the risks posed by lower budget levels, which would challenge the Pentagon to field a smaller yet well-trained force that could cope with any adversary, but might not be able to respond simultaneously to multiple conflicts…

Defense analysts said the budget priorities sketched out by Hagel would begin to move the Pentagon in the right direction on issues like military compensation reform and eliminating waste but could have difficulty winning support from lawmakers facing mid-term elections to Congress…

The proposed cuts ran into resistance from senior lawmakers in both houses of Congress.

Representative Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it would be “foolish” to change military benefits before a report on the issue next year, while Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon would have “heavy challenge” convincing lawmakers to retire the A-10 fleet.

Hagel said the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers. The Army is currently about 520,000 soldiers and had been planning to draw down to about 490,000 in the coming year.

A reduction to 450,000 would be the Army’s smallest size since 1940, before the United States entered World War Two, when it counted a troop strength of 267,767, according to Army figures. The Army’s previous post-World War Two low was 479,426 in 1999…

Despite a congressional rebuff of Pentagon efforts to reform personnel costs in recent years, the defense chief announced a series of new steps to try to curb military and civilian personnel spending, which now makes up about half its budget.

Hagel said the department would seek a 1 percent raise in pay for military personnel but would slow the growth of tax-free housing allowances, reduce the annual subsidy for military commissaries and reform the TRICARE health insurance program for military family members and retirees.

Let the farce be with you! Political hacks representing everyone you can think of who profits from military expenditures will be howling like monkeys in heat. Either road, Hagel is actually asking for an increase of $151 billion over sequester limits over the next five years. Just cuts in the proportion spent on some Air Force hardware.

In a bullshit ploy worthy of Ronald Reagan, Obama and Hagel put forth a budget calling for increases above sequester levels – and call it “Deep Cuts”. Mass media from newspapers to local TV stations quote this crap as if it was something more than a PR release. Over the past 50 years, the actual drawdown in military size after one of our imperial wars has been negligible.

Here’s another easy way to cut expenses, folks. Bring our troops home. We have over 750 bases in more than 150 countries doing exactly nothing except making it clear to them furriners we are the cops of the world. A soldier inside the United States costs taxpayers half of what it costs to support one on the other side of the world.

Of course, that means having a Department of defense actually concerned with defense – instead of being enforcers for American foreign policy.

Danes propose scrapping military service


The winds of change

Compulsory military service may be suspended in order to help the Ministry of Defence find the 2.7 billion kroner of cuts it has promised to make.

The news comes ahead of the start of negotiations today between the government and the parties that voted in favour of the last defence budget that expires in two years time.

Compulsory military service is written into the Danish constitution, making it difficult to abolish. That is why the government has instead proposed to suspend the tradition…

Reports suggest that the preliminary negotiations seem to have found about two billion kroner of cuts, while suspending military service is hoped to save an additional 500 million kroner a year.

Almost all 18-year-old Danish men – and a small number of women – serve at least four months of military service once they complete upper secondary school.

The tradition started in the middle of the 19th century and is now considered a rite of passage for most men while also providing the Danish military with a large recruitment ground for its professional army.

As a result, right-wing parties the Konservative (K) and Dansk Folkeparti (DF) are against suspending it.

DF’s defence spokesperson, Maria Krarup…and K’s defence spokesperson, Lene Espersen…said blah, blah, blah!

Opposition party Liberal Alliance (LA) is for getting rid of it though.

National service belongs to the past,” LA’s defence spokesperson Villum Christensen told Ritzau. “It’s a very expensive way to educate soldiers. We would rather have a professional army.”

Overdue. Of course, even having such a discussion is beyond the comprehension of the slurry of Cold Warriors and spineless hacks we have in Congress.

Governor Perry cuts Texas firefighting budget while wildfires burn

Rick Perry hates the federal government so much, he wishes they would just go away, completely, except when he needs them to send him bulldozers. Why does Rick Perry need bulldozers? Because he is the governor of Texas, and much of Texas is currently on fire. Wildfires are right now burning thousands of homes, exacerbated by a devastating drought that has persisted all year, despite prayer.

Perry has spent this entire disastrous year berating the feds for not spending enough time, attention, and — most importantly — money on helping his fire and drought-ridden state, at one point claiming the president had a personal vendetta against the state of Texas. (The U.S. Forest Service and National Interagency Fire Center are currently commanding firefighting efforts near Bastrop.)

Of course Rick Perry doesn’t want to see Texas burn, so it is rational of him to ignore his rhetorical distaste for the federal government and demand that they help. And Texas could use the help, because Perry and the Republicans who control all three branches of Texas government have severely slashed the budget of the Texas Forest Service.

Perry’s fanatical opposition to raising revenue to close Texas’ budget gap meant that his allies in the legislature had to find creative ways to cut costs, like cutting $34 million over the next two years from the agency that fights wildfires. The Forest Service is largely volunteer-based, and the cuts will largely affect the state’s assistance grants to buy volunteer departments the tools they need to fight fires.


Rick Perry’s legacy

Perry cut 75% of the budget designed to aid volunteer fire departments – which is most of what the great state of Confederate Texas loves him for. Then he whines about not receiving aid for the disasters where he could have used that civil service.

The hypocrisy of political correctness in its rightwing roots is astounding. It is only matched by their unwillingness to accept responsibility for anything that may have been caused by human stupidity, ignorance, greed and egregious behavior.

To quote John Hightower, Rick Perry put the Goober back in Gubernatorial.

Supercommittee focuses lobbyists’ clients against one another


It will be a profitable Xmas season

The bipartisan congressional supercommittee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings is leaving Washington lobbying firms in a quandary, seeing their clients pitted against one another in a competition for government cash.

Major defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin have a dozen or more lobbying firms working for them, many of whom also represent the health-care industry, another likely target of budget cuts. While firms often deal with conflicts of interest, the supercommittee represents an unusual challenge, said Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

“This actually is going to be much more like a zero sum game,” Wilcox said. “If someone wins, someone loses…”

If all else fails, “I suspect that they’ll be rational businesspersons and make a decision based on their long-term financial interest,” Jeffrey Berry said. “They have a bottom line, just like their clients.”

You do recall, I hope, that principles, ethics, the needs of the people are irrelevant?

The 12-member panel, whose work has taken on greater urgency since Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating in August, will be the central focus of political and lobbying activity for the next few months…

It’s akin to working with congressional leadership, which we — as most firms — do all the time,” Stewart Verdery [whose clients include clients Boeing, General Dynamics, Eli Lilly & Co. and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] said…

The politicians will have their hands out – and will find them filled.

Town rallies to save police dog from beancounters

Southwestern Pennsylvania residents are rallying in support of a hometown victim of budget cuts — the local police dog.

Officials in Jefferson Hills cut the funding for the canine program that supported Fritz, who rode in a patrol car with a handler and visited schools in campaigns to combat drug abuse.

The canine program cost about $7,000 a year but the handler earned as much as $30,000 extra for having the dog, said Police Chief Jack Maple. The canine program shut down in December.

But residents started raising money to revive the canine program after last month’s closing, and dozens of Fritz supporters attended a council meeting this week to encourage officials to reinstate the 5-year-old German Shepherd…

A local convenience store has sold nearly 600 “Fritz Bones” — pictures of bones that customers can buy and hang on the walls of the store — for $1 apiece.

Proceeds will be given to the dog’s handler, who is caring for Fritz whether officials reinstate the program or not, said store owner Carrie Howard.

“We’re angry,” Howard said. “We’re not done with this.”

The town council has no end of excuses. No surprises there, either.

Pehaps they might experiment with laying off administrators and accountants.