Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Trump, Abigail Adams and Jefferson: Has the “Mad Cry of the Crowd” Seized Our Nation?

Within a few years of the end of Revolutionary War former solders were still unpaid, farmers were losing their farms, speculators were snatching land; the gap between the rich and the poor was widening, the goals of the revolution were crumbling. Appeals to state legislatures demanding debt relief went unanswered; Daniel Shay led a rag-tag army that prevented courts from convening and threatened to seize weapons in armories.  The new nation appeared to be on the verge of anarchy.

Abigail Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson,

 Ignorant, restless desperadoes, without conscience or principals, have led a deluded multitude to follow their standard, under pretense of grievances which have no existence but in their imaginations. Some of them were crying out for a paper currency, some for an equal distribution of property, some were for annihilating all debts, others complaining that the Senate was a useless Branch of Government, that the Court of common Pleas was unnecessary, and that the Sitting of the General Court in Boston was a grievance …

 Instead of that laudable Spirit which you approve, which makes a people watchful over their Liberties and alert in the defense of them, these Mobish insurgents are for sapping the foundation, and destroying the whole fabric at once. 

  I cannot help flattering myself that they will prove Salutary to the state at large, by leading to an investigation of the causes which have produced these commotions. Luxury and extravagance both in furniture and dress had pervaded all orders of our Countrymen and women, and was hastening fast to Sap their independence by involving every class of citizens in distress, and accumulating debts upon them which they were unable to discharge. Vanity was becoming a more powerful principal than Patriotism. The lower order of the community were presst for taxes, and though possessed of landed property they were unable to answer the Demand. Whilst those who possessed Money were fearful of lending, least the mad cry of the Mob  should force the Legislature upon a measure very different from the touch of Midas.

Abigail was incredibly prescient.  The “regulators” (the name adopted by the Shay army) can easily be compared to the current Trump voters. Disillusioned, ill-prepared for the 21st century economy and angry; instead of marching against the government they marched against the establishment, and, while Shay’s army was put down with force the new “regulators” seized control of the nation.

A few months after the Adams-Jefferson correspondence the delegates to the constitutional convention began trickling into Philadelphia. A new constitution, a successful battle over ratification, the Federalist Papers, the election of George Washington and the selection of an outsider, Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton, the immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis, saved the nation. His economic policies, a national bank, the federal assumption of debts, borrowing to create  infrastructure programs secured credibility for the fledgling nation, in spite of the increasing opposition by Madison and Jefferson,

A month later Jefferson responded to Adam’s letter

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere.

In 1787 the rebellion was put down aggressively by troops, the “little rebellion” that Jefferson liked did not succeed. Or, perhaps the rebellion will be the new “regulators,” the opponents to the Trump administration “rebelling” against a government that appears to be tearing down decades of bipartisan progressive leadership.

The Trump cabinet nominees are more radical than the nominees that Rubio or Cruz may have made. An Attorney General nominee with racist roots, who opposes the Voting Rights Act, opposes protecting the rights of the disabled and on and on, in many ways rolling back the nation to the 1950s. An Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head who is a climate change denier, an Education Secretary who supports unregulated charter schools and vouchers as well as prayer in he schools, basically an enemy of public schools.

What is especially interesting is how the stock market has responded; instead, as predicted by many, a sharp drop the market has hit all-time highs – the “Trump Bump.”  Has the Trump rhetoric freed up dollars and sent them into the market? Do the usually cynical and tough hedgefunders think that Trump can pump a trillion or two into a massive infrastructure program, renegotiate deals with China and bring jobs back to America?  New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman thinks not. Even conservative former Congressman Joe Scarborough, “Morning Joe,” questions Trump assertions that the government can both spend trillions on infrastructure and reduce taxes.

How will the new administration react to the first crisis?

Italy is tottering on the brink of an economic collapse that could drag down the European Banking system with a world-wide domino effect. Russia and/or China could decide to test the new administration with aggressive actions in the Baltic or in Hong Kong. Acting aggressively in the Middle East, sending in more American troops could further destabilize all-ready fractious part of the world. Obama’s reaction to he 2007-8 fiscal debacle was laudatory, the accretion of recession to depression was halted and slowly but surely our economy recovered. All of the economic indicators show we have returned to a pre-recession economy; however, the constant attacks from the right, that have little basis in reality, played a role in the Trump victory.

I am both cynical and fearful.

How will Trump react when the crisis occurs?

In the years leading up to World War 2 many millions of American were still suffering, ten years after the beginning of the Great Depression. The rise of Hitler was viewed as a European problem, the isolationists and the pacifists in Congress refused to allow us to aid our allies across the Atlantic as the continent fell to the Nazis.  At home the Dies Committee, lead by Congressman Martin Dies persecuted Americans accusing them of being Communists, to Dies a much more serious threat than Hitler. Anti-Semitism was rampant, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion accepted as gospel, and, lynchings were commonplace. Attempts to pass a federal anti-lynching law were thwarted by southern congressman and FDR made a political decision not to pursue the issue.

George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, reminded us that if we don’t learn from the lessons of history we are fated to repeat them.

I fear that as the economy falters, as a crisis abroad escalates the response will be to blame the unions, blame the civil rights advocates, blame the Jews, blame the immigrants, the minorities, blame the press, deflect blame and use the same scapegoating strategies we saw in Germany in the thirties and during the recent presidential campaign.

We live in a new world of communications, I may watch MSNBC, others may watch Fox, and fifteen million Americans subscribe to Trump’s Twitter feed. With a few finger taps the President-elect can send a 140 character message directly to his subscribers, bypassing the traditional sources of news. In fact the very definition of “news,” the code of conduct of journalism has changed. The “first out” wins, a Trump twitter assault on whoever becomes the news story repeated endlessly by the traditional media outlets. News stories no longer require two sources to validate the source as taught in journalism schools; reporting the tweet becomes the story. There are no rules on Twitter, or on Facebook. No one vets the story, the accusation, in fact, fake stories become the news.

Those of us who live in Northeastern cities or the cities along the West Coast live in a bubble. At 5:45 in the morning of Election Day I waited outside my polling place on a long line. It was a party; we were going to elect our first woman president, a woman with decades of experience, actually the most qualified person ever to run for president.

A month after the election we are still suffering from a new illness – post election PTSB. We are shocked, how could this have happened? Everyone we know was deriding Trump and voting for Hillary.

On the other hand I know too many voters who decided they couldn’t vote for Hillary and stayed home, or voted for Jill Stein, or, voted for Trump as a protest vote, after all, he could never win.

Maybe I am overly concerned, perhaps the optimistic market is an accurate predictor of a rosy economic future, or, maybe my concern is real, maybe we are on the cusp of the Inferno, and   whatever our differences we should unite and fight back before the Ninth Circle engulfs us.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Will Anti-Teacher, Pro-Charter School Politics Help Cuomo in the 2016 Presidential Primaries? Is Cuomo the Amoral Politican?

“Every French soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack,” attributed to Napoleon, supposedly refers to every French soldier believing he could rise through the ranks to leadership, today it is the dream of every elected official, anyone can become President and Andrew Cuomo is looking to 2016 and 2020.

Jim Malatras and Joe Percoco, Cuomo’s policy strategists are probably pouring over dense political data.

If Hillary runs, as everyone expects, she will probably not have serious democratic opposition, unless Elizabeth Warren decides to challenge her from the left, if Hillary decides not to run the game is on.

Elizabeth Warren on the left, Governor Martin O’Malley from Maryland, a Hillary stand in, California’s Jerry Brown, and, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo are all possibilities.

Cuomo’s political persona is a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. New York is a marriage equality state, a medical marijuana state, supports a range of women’s equity legislation and the SAFE Act limits distribution of handguns as well as a 2% property tax cap, limitations on public employee pensions, liberal use of tax breaks and tax free zones, and most recently attacks on teachers. The NY Daily News reports on a meeting with their editorial board,

Cuomo, during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board, said better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving and entrenched public education system.

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.”

Cuomo said he will push a plan that includes more incentives — and sanctions — that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it,” Cuomo said. “I feel exactly opposite.”

Cuomo accused teachers of having tried to torpedo the Common Core curriculum in fighting the evaluation standards — and expects they will again.

“They will be using it the way they used it, I believe — to get the parents upset last year about this entire Common Core agenda,” he said.

You may ask: why would Cuomo not only give up on teacher votes and chose teachers as enemies? The answer is his team believes charter school support; both in dollars and voters are more beneficial than teacher support; in communities of color charter schools are popular and Cuomo may be aiming at Black and Latino voters in early primary states.

The winter and spring of 2016 are battles in state after state – one primary after another leading up to the Democratic convention.

Who are the voters in democratic presidential primaries?

Usually party loyalists, older voters and issue voters; however in 2008 and 2012 Obama changed the scenario – through the skillful use of social media, and, hundreds of millions of dollars, Obama mobilized first time voters, college kids, millennials, women and voters of color.

Obama ran against George Bush, ignored Hillary, opposed the wars; he was younger, more dynamic and appealed to a new electorate.

Who would have thought in the fall of 2007 that a first term Senator, an Afro-American, with an Arab name would not only grab the nomination away from Hillary Clinton but defeat Republicans twice?

Cuomo will defeat his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino by 20% or more and garner national headlines. Citizen’s United allows unlimited fund-raising and the incredible influx of pro-charter school dollars served its purpose.

In January Cuomo will make his State of the State address, whether he continues his assault on teachers or presses ahead with his women’s equity agenda or anti-corruption, we will see.

Will he support eliminating caps on charter school altogether? Transfer the unused state cap to the city? Raising the NYS cap? And, how hard will he push?

The teacher evaluation law is only in its second year, first year in New York City, does he actually want to revise the incredibly dense law in the upcoming session? What does he mean by incentives? Merit pay for teachers?
Why is he willing to ignore teacher union political clout? And, the larger enigmatic question: how much clout does the teacher union have?

The state teacher union, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), is one of the largest contributors in the state, how many teachers actually work in political campaigns? Make phone calls? Knock on doors? The grunge work that wins elections.

Teacher unions are in the forefront in gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin (Scott Walker v. Mary Burke) and Pennsylvania (Tom Wolf v. Tom Corbett).

Cuomo is betting that if he runs in 2016 democratic primary voters will pick him out of the pack, the calendar is below:

Iowa caucus: January 18
New Hampshire: January 26
Colorado caucuses: February 2
Minnesota caucuses
Saturday, February 6
Nevada caucuses
Saturday, February 13
South Carolina
Tuesday, February 16
North Carolina
Tuesday, February 23
Tuesday, March 1
Colorado caucuses

Will the Cuomo game plan: both right and left and anti-teacher, pro-testing, pro-charter schools resonate with democratic voters in the early primary states?

You may ask: Cuomo can be both devious and strategic?

Of course, he can decide to only push so hard and blame the Assembly democrats for obstructing his teacher legislative game plan, or, twist arms and get what he wants.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, an iconic founding father, obtained love letters that Alexander Hamilton sent to his mistress and used the letters to besmirch Hamilton’s reputation.

Politics, from Jefferson to Lincoln to Cuomo, is an amoral struggle, do what you must do to achieve your ends; for Jefferson to eliminate a political opponent, for Lincoln to get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment, for Cuomo, to gain the democrat slot on the 2016 ballot.

And the job of public school advocates is to use our votes, our dollars and our advocacy to defeat the bad guys.

Cuomo at the Helm: Wheeling and Dealing to Mollify Parents and Teachers and Positioning Himself for the Gubernatorial (and Presidential?) Runs.

Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

Over the last few days the key players shuttled from meeting to meeting, phone calls, strategy sessions, and different groups with different goals.

For the governor planning his gubernatorial run, and, just if, a run for the presidency.

Supporting charter schools deprives his opponent, probably Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, of funds from the deep-pocketed hedge funders. Not supporting the Dream Act and supporting the Compassionate Care Act (medical marijuana) is part of a strategy to carve out a space separate and apart from other possible 2016 contenders and assure a November 2014 overwhelming majority.

Commissioner John King and most of the Board of Regents blithely moved ahead with the full and speedy implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Common Core tests. Parent anger over the widespread student failures on the state tests never abated, the anger grew and grew.

The governor and legislature needed an answer – how could they assuage the parent anger?

As part of the budget negotiators crafted a compromise,

ALBANY >> As New York students began taking English language arts assessments on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said parents and students should be relieved knowing that the second round of Common Core-aligned test scores will not be included on students’ permanent transcripts under the new budget deal.

“Parents can now exhale, students can now exhale, the test scores don’t count,” Cuomo said during a ceremonial signing of the budget.

Students began the three-day testing Tuesday and were to continue through Thursday.

Under the budget passed Monday night, scores on Common Core-aligned tests for students from third to eighth grade will remain off their transcripts through 2018 and school districts will be prevented from using the scores as the sole way for determining student placement. (http://www.dailyfreeman.com/general-news/20140401/ny-budget-delays-putting-common-core-test-scores-on-students-records)

The commissioner insisted that the feds required an annual test for students in grades 3-8, and steadfastly refused to postpone the offering of the test. The last minute 37-page resolution delayed the impact of the tests; however, parents were not mollified.

Don’t tell the kids: would they try if they knew “the test scores don’t count”?

The decision to emasculate the exams did not impact teachers – the scores may not count for student but according to the governor they would count for teachers, or would they?

The morning after the legislature passed the weighty budget the governor tossed a fillip to teachers.

The Daily News reports,

“We have to deal with the issue of the effect of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations,” Cuomo said. “If you say Common Core testing was premature for students and you just halted the grades on the transcript, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers evaluation and what should be done. That is an issue that we have not addressed and we need to address before the end of the session, in my opinion.”

Arne Duncan must be apoplectic, instead of his buddy Commissioner King pushing ahead with the full implementation of year 2 of the Common Core tests New York State is taking a pass – pushing the impact of the tests to after 2018. The Secretary can challenge the Governor – threaten to withhold federal dollars – shake the federal stick at big, bad New York State. Or, just move on down the road and ignore the folks in the Empire State; of course, to ignore New York State may encourage other states to sidle around the federal regs and threats.

The next step is to craft a solution for teachers, “if … Common Core testing was premature for students … what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers evaluation … we need to address before the end of the school year.”

Cuomo is in the process of deftly marginalizing his opponent and making himself more acceptable to parents and teachers.

Power brokers craft solutions, oftentimes pragmatic solutions that serve the needs of the interests of the seats at the table.

Back in the summer of 1787 fifty-four white, male, mostly rich power brokers spent a summer in Philadelphia at a secret meeting – today we call it the Constitutional Convention. Madison, Hamilton and their co-conspirators made deals – they knew slavery was immoral and also knew that to insist on ending slavery was a fatal stumbling block to a deal. (See Lawrence Goldstone, Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution (2005) and Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (2001).

Arne Duncan and Andrew Cuomo are not Madison and Hamilton. Duncan bullied and bribed and cajoled states to adopt his personal agenda – Cuomo, the pragmatist, is simply moving chess pieces, and positioning him in upcoming elections.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H. L. Mencken (1880 – 1956), Women As Outlaws

Senator Flanagan versus President Obama: Will New York State Challenge Immediate High-Stake Testing for All?

In the corridors of Albany a Republican State Senator from Long Island, John Flanagan, is challenging President Obama – and the challenge has nothing to do with party politics. An increasingly intrusive federal government has pushed aside the 10th Amendment and is setting national policy for education at the local level.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The 10th Amendment is referred to as the “reserve clause,” the catch-all amendment that “reserves” powers not delegated to the federal government nor prohibited to the states. Education is a classic example of a reserved power, states, traditionally, established school governance systems, set course and graduation requirements, funding formula, criteria for teacher licensure, education was a domain of the states.

Diane Ravitch in a blog post writes, “Who owns American public education? Until a decade ago, we might have answered: the public. Or the states. Or the local school boards. Now, the likely answer is: the U.S. Department of Education.”

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), for the first time, introduced a role for the federal government in education. Title I of ESEA provided dollars to states based upon a poverty formula in exchange for directing dollars to specific schools. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the reauthorization of ESEA, in 2002, dramatically changed the role of the feds, school districts that received federal funds, almost all school districts, were required to test all students in English/Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and students in high schools in English, Mathematics and Science and were required to take remedial action for “failing” schools, actions that included replacing staffs and/or principals, school closures and conversion to charter schools.

In 2011 the National Governors Association, using Gates funding, created “standards” in all grades; 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted the standards, now referred to as Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The plan envisioned two consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balance, would create tests to measure student competency based on the CCSS in grades 3-11, tests that were national in scope, all the states in each consortium would take the same tests. States would no longer control the content and structure of federally required tests.

The Race to the Top (RttT) dangled billions of federal dollars to states in exchange for significant commitments – adopting the Common Core standards and student testing based on the CCSS, student test score-based (VAM) teacher evaluations and a data warehouse to store student information.

The powers guaranteed by the 10th Amendment have been significantly eroded by the federal government. The Supreme Court has vacillated on the question of the powers of the federal government and education conservatives, Chester Finn and Michael Petrilli are uncomfortable with the intrusive role of the feds,

The federal government has pushed far too deeply into the routines and operations of the nation’s public schools, now regulating everything from teacher credentials to the selection of reading programs.

New York State has enthusiastically adopted the federal agenda – a recipient of 700 million in RttT funds, and the full federal agenda typified by the rapid adoption of the CCSS and concomitant testing.

In August, 2013 the first set of CCSS state test scores were released – 2/3 of the students in the state failed the tests and Afro-American, Hispanic, English language learners and Special Education students had appallingly low scores.

• 31.1% of grade 3-8 students across the State met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 31% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
• The ELA proficiency results for race/ethnicity groups across grades 3-8 reveal the persistence of the achievement gap: only 16.1% of African-American students and 17.7% of Hispanic students met or exceeded the proficiency standard
• 3.2% of English Language Learners (ELLs) in grades 3-8 met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 9.8% of ELLs met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
• 5% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 7% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

As parent anger grew the commissioner pushed back and defended the full adoption of CCSS and the full implementation of CCSS testing. At meeting after meeting, forum after forum the public pushed and the commissioner defended.

On January 7th the leader of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who rarely comments on any pending issue announced,

“I think the case has been made, if nothing else, for a delay and a reevaluation of the implementation of Common Core,” Silver said. “The problem with it is … No. 1, it was suddenly put upon teachers and students and administrators and schools. The support for it was not forthcoming as quickly as the rigors of Common Core, and the training wasn’t there for a lot of the teachers that are charged with using it as the basis for their education.”

Throughout the fall Senator Flanagan, the chair of the Senate Education Committee held hearing around the state and introduced a number of bills to limit and safeguard the data warehouse, and, announced he was considering the introduction of legislation to slow down the implementation of the CCSS testing.

On January 24th the NYS Senate Education Committee engaged with Commissioner King for almost two hours. Senator after senator asked the commissioner to press the “delay” or the “pause” button and the commissioner, politely and firmly explained that while the state education department could have done things differently, and agreed the implementation was uneven and parent engagement was lacking the feds required annual testing and the only tests were the CCSS tests.

Watch from minute 1:42 until the end (thirteen minutes) for comments from Senator Flanagan and the Commissioner’s reply (See U-Tube here). Well worth watching – Senator Flanagan firmly asked for a plan and the commissioner just as firmly evaded.

A Regents Task Force is scheduled to report at the February 10th Regents meeting – the senator announced he was expecting a “tangible” plan to respond to the criticisms from across the state.

Although thoroughly professional Senator Flanagan made it clear the Senate Education Committee would take actions if they were not satisfied with the report of the Regents Task Force, and the unspoken threat is a bill requiring a delay.

The commissioner has consistently averred that a delay in implementation was out of the question – he argues federal law requires annual testing. Senator Flanagan made it clear – this is New York State – we are the leader – an implicit argument that the feds don’t want to pick a fight with the Empire State.

The actions of the Senate Education Committee may be the beginning of challenges around the nation. Can the federal government require education policies that parents and their legislators think are inappropriate? Will the Regents and the commissioner directly challenge Senator Flanagan’s “advice”? Usually, both sides come to an “understanding” that pushes aside any confrontation; however, the tide of anger on the part of parents around the state requires “tangible” action – anything short of a delay will be rejected by parents.

Senator Flanagan and his colleagues are demanding that the Common Core be de-linked from immediate high-stakes testing for all.

I do not think legislators will risk losing their offices over the issue of Common Core testing; rather challenge the federal law than risk the ire of voters at the polls.

Our founding fathers (and mothers, let’s not forget Abigail Adams and Sally Hemmings) were both creative and deep thinkers. The advice of Thomas Jefferson is especially prescient,

Should [reformers] attempt more than the established habits of the people are ripe for, they may lose all and retard indefinitely the ultimate object of their aim.” –Thomas Jefferson to Mme de Tesse,

I think it would be better to wind up [the settlement of a new constitution] as quickly as possible, to consider it as a mere experiment to be amended hereafter when time and trial shall show where it is imperfect.” –Thomas Jefferson to Comte de Moustier