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Pamela Price is the wrong choice for Alameda County District Attorney

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Eight of the ten points in Pamela Price’s political platform for the upcoming District Attorney race in Alameda County are direct attacks on cops. If you know the language of anti-copspeak, you can see how radically she would undermine their ability to do their job, which is to protect us.

Here are her ten points:

  1. End Mass Incarceration
  2. Stop Criminalizing Our Youth
  3. Eliminate Use of the Death Penalty
  4. Protect Immigrant Communities
  5. Hold Police Accountable
  6. Reduce Gun Violence
  7. End Illegal Stop and Frisk Practices
  8. Promote Transparency and Reform
  9. Implement Smart Public Safety Measures
  10. Protect and Free the Innocent

You hear a lot of anti-copspeak in Alameda County (which includes Berkeley and Oakland, my town). I usually scratch my head and wonder what they’re thinking. At their worst, these anti-cop activists actually call for defunding the Oakland Police Department. As insane as this proposal is—no cops in Oakland? Really?—some well-meaning people are buying into it. Recently, a few local churches have taken the extraordinary step of announcing that they will no longer call the police, “even for violent crimes,” in a move they call “divesting” from the police department.

When I heard that, I thought, Fine. Don’t call the cops the next time somebody sprays graffiti all over your church, or robs your collection box, or mugs your parishioners, or takes up illegal residence in your pews. Less protection for you means more protection for those of us who realize that our safety and property, and possibly our lives, is only one thin blue line away from vanishing.

And now, here comes Price with the mother of all anti-cop platforms. It’s impossible to tell if she really believes this stuff, or is just appealing to a certain angry base, which plays to the far Left the same way that Breitbart and Fox play to the far Right. Oakland happens to be a very dangerous town. Oakland has the 17th highest murder rate among U.S. cities. NBC News, quoting FBI statistics, reported a few years ago that Oakland is “the most crime-ridden city in California,” and while the crime rate has gone down a little since then (due to an improving economy), it remains a dangerous place: the average Californian has one chance in 225 of being the victim of a crime, while in Oakland, he or she has a one in 69 chance.

So why would anyone be in favor of de-policing such a violent city? People like Pamela Price, who’s Black, seem to harbor a deep-seated grudge against police, even though the majority of crimes against Black people are committed by Black people. When I hear the phrase “criminalizing our youth” (a standard slogan in anti-copspeak), I wince. Some young people in Oakland (and elsewhere) are feral—and they can be of any race. By “feral” I mean a young person who was not raised to respect the rights of others, but to view criminality as normal. This results in everything from minor offenses (littering) to car window smash-and-grabs to mugging, home invasions, hard drug dealing and gun violence. I would think most law-abiding Oaklanders would want such youths to be swept up into the criminal justice system, where at least we can get them off the streets and try to rehabilitate them. But people like Pamela Price keep the fires of racial resentment stoked.

Another standard part of anti-copspeak is “hold police accountable.” Certainly, I want cops who break the law to be held accountable. But I want everybody who breaks the law to be held accountable! It seems to me that Pamela Price feels that criminals are less of a problem than the cops who are trying to stop them.

I’ve lived in Oakland for more than 30 years. I read the local papers and watch the news, I talk to people, I’m politically engaged, and I know how hard OPD has worked to improve its performance. The department is committed to community policing, to hiring more women and minorities (our new chief is a woman), to increasing transparency, to increasing outreach to the community, to instilling in beat officers a respect for the rights and feelings of citizens. I’m happy to say “Thank you for your service” whenever I encounter a uniformed officer. These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect us.

The ultimate irony in Price’s platform is her call to “reduce gun violence.” Yes, this is something we all ardently hope and pray for. But what does coming down on cops have to do with stopping a criminal from shooting a firearm? Nothing. The ways to reduce gun violence are complicated (I’m in favor of very strict gun control), but surely one solution is for a parent or parents to instill values of respect and obedience to the law in their children. It starts in the home. Cops can’t make up for a lack of proper child-rearing. I’d love to for Price to replace some of her Ten Points with these:

– Work with churches and agencies to reduce out-of-wedlock births among teenaged girls.

– Imbue children with the value of respecting others and obeying the law.

– Teach kids the importance of police forces in protecting us all against crime.

– Ensure that kids graduate from school and obtain a higher education.

Now, those are points I could support.But I’m not hearing them from Pamela Price.

Price is running against the incumbent D.A., Nancy O’Malley. One point of contention between the two women concerns Proposition 47, a 2014 statewide ballot initiative that reclassified some nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors. Price supported it; O’Malley opposed it (as did most police), which earned her the wrath of the anti-cop brigade. The billionaire liberal, George Soros (whose support of Democrats I welcome), poured a lot of money into the pro-47 fight; he also has given Price money. I understand how issues of social justice can get involved in anything and everything having to do with policing and police reform politics. But the answer is not to defund police departments! The answer is not to accuse cops (black, white, brown, whatever) of being pigs. The answer is not to send a message to young people of color that their problems are caused by racist cops. I will be voting for Nancy O’Malley, and urging everybody I know to do the same, so we can bring sane, rational solutions—not incendiary rhetoric—to my city’s problems.


North Korea: Trump’s Rapallo?

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In the Spring of 1922, when the European continent was trying to reassemble itself following the end of the Great War, during which empires ceased to exist and new states popped up from the Arctic to the Adriatic, two disgruntled former enemies in the war found themselves with much in common.

Germany had lost the war and been harshly punished in the Treaty of Versailles settlement. Russia—now the Soviet Union following the October, 1917 Revolution—had retreated into itself, with Stalin effectively isolating the country as it tried to establish a Marxist economy. Both Germany and Russia were, to much of the rest of the world, outcasts.

Germany and the Soviet Union had completely opposite political systems. Germany had a rightwing, democratic, capitalistic government. Russia was a Communist dictatorship. But both realized that they could help one another. Both were being shunned by the rest of Europe and by America; both nurtured grievances of past injustices, real and perceived. Economically, Russia’s markets could provide trading outlets for German productivity, while the Ukraine could provide grain and other foodstuffs to a starving Germany. Militarily, the treaty afforded Germany the opportunity to repair its broken Wehrmacht. Soviet experts could train German officers and technicians in areas such as aviation, in furtive ways that had been outlawed by Versailles. Both nations had made war upon each other, a war that had ruined them. Making peace seemed logical. The Treaty of Rapallo ended the war between them. It was signed in Switzerland on April 16—Easter Sunday.

Rapallo meant different things to different people, depending on their point of view. “To Western liberals,” wrote the great American diplomatist, George Kennan, it was “the symbol of [a] sinister German-Soviet conspiracy.” But to the Russians and Germans themselves, the pact was a brilliant resolution to the problems that plagued both. “The treaty united the two pariahs of Europe,” wrote the British historian, Nigel Jones, “in a mutually beneficial way.”

The leaders of both countries—Stalin in Russia and Rathenau in Germany—made much of the treaty. Formally, it ended the state of war existing between their countries. It bought both time, to lick their wounds and redevelop their shattered institutions. But what it gave them in the short term did not translate into the long term. Nineteen years later—on June 21, 1941—Germany invaded the Soviet Union, leading to the greatest land battles and death toll in the history of war on Earth. Rapallo, in retrospect, had been only a convenient place holder.

Our country, America, will probably sign some sort of deal with North Korea pretty soon. Like the Treaty of Rapallo, the deal will end a state of war—in this case, the Korean War, which never formally ended, but only resulted in an Armistice in which hostilities ceased. Both sides, America and North Korea, have substantive reasons for a treaty. North Korea desperately needs economic revival and relief from punishing sanctions, just as did Germany and Russia in 1922. The American president, Trump, would like a deal in order to burnish his own credentials, in the wake of the mounting investigations of his possible criminal activities. The deal thus satisfies short-term goals on both sides.

With 20-20 hindsight, we can see that Rapallo turned out to be a disaster. Because it allowed the Germans to secretly build up their military, it gave them confidence in their ability to, not only defend themselves, but to act offensively, in what became Hitler’s plan for lebensraum: to seize control of Europe, including Russia. It also blinded Stalin to the threat that Germany actually posed to him—so blinded was he that he failed to appreciate the many warnings prior to Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 invasion. Both sides thought they had played a winning hand; both turned out to be big losers. Germany lost the Second World War, badly. Russia was on the winning side, but at an unimaginable cost in lives and treasure.

Will the Treaty of Pyongyang, or whatever it’s called, have longterm negative consequences for America? Will North Korea denuclearize itself and become a happy member of the Family of Nations? If so, then what have the last 65 years (the period since the Armistice) been all about? Did the Kim family drive North Korea into the poorhouse to develop nukes and missiles simply for the opportunity to sit with a U.S. president and sign a peace treaty? Will this treaty, if there is one, have unforeseen consequences?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad it looks like the Korean War will finally be over, and I’m willing to give credit to Trump for whatever part he played (which I think was less than what he claims). If Hillary Clinton had been elected, the North Koreans still would have tested their hydrogen bomb and perfected their missiles in 2017, and while we don’t know what Hillary would have done, she likely would have been as militant as Trump was, leading to the same result. At any rate, Trump should enjoy whatever acclaim he gets over the next few months, because it looks like the case against him is stronger than ever for collusion.


Trump scuttles Iran deal to please his rural supporters

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So he’s done it. He’s left the accord.

The thing to realize is that Trump does things that appeal to his base, not things that are good for the country or the world.

Take the Iran deal. Ninety-nine percent of his base has no idea what’s in it. They can barely locate Iran on a map, much less understand how Iran can use its Arak heavy water reactor, or how the country will make its calandria inoperable, or how fuel pins are tested, or why 6 cubic meters is the limit of the shielded glove boxes Iran is permitted to build and operate, or why Iran can test an IR-5 centrifuge through 2025.

All of these things are explained in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran signed on July 14, 2015, with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), a lengthy document Trump claims to have read (but probably didn’t, since by his own admission he doesn’t read much). But does anyone think that Trump’s rightwing Tea Party/evangelical/Breitbart base has any idea what the deal means? Don’t be silly. All they know is:

  • Iran is bad, because Islam is bad. Therefore anything that Iran does, including signing the deal, is bad.
  • The deal was brokered by Barack Obama. Therefore, it’s bad, because Obama is a foreign-born Muslim.
  • The deal was negotiated on behalf of the United States by John Kerry, a war hero whom the Right despises. Therefore, the deal must be bad, because John Kerry is a bad man.
  • Republicans truthtellers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Donald Trump say the deal is bad. Therefore, it must be bad, because everything those men say is always true.
  • The Allies who support the deal—France, the U.K. and Germany—are weak-kneed, lily-livered appeasers. They may mean well, but they’re too dumb to realize how bad the deal is.

Because the base “knows” these things, it’s easy for Trump to repeat his charges over and over, even if they’re absurd. Truth has never been a criterion for Trump’ supporters. Instead, they base their conclusions on their feelings and emotions, which Trump—who’s been a ratings-based T.V. entertainer for years—knows how to manipulate, in the same way advertisers know how to manipulate images to prompt viewers to buy stuff they’re selling.

Something else needs to be pointed out. In trashing this deal, Trump also is carrying Netayahu’s water. Netayahu’s own base–similar to Trump’s in religiously-inspired ignorance–consists of far-right, often under- or non-educated Russian immigrants, who, like American evangelicals, believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. These are mentally unstable, intellectually challenged individuals, but they have an undue influence in Israel, as they do here, due to the bizarre love affair between the American evangelical community and Hasidic Jews; and while Trump personally probably believes both are whack jobs–and Netayahu might, too–both politicians need them.

It’s not unusual for a politician to cater to his base, but better leaders try to educate their base when the base is wrong. A prime example of this was in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. Franklin Roosevelt always understood that it was in America’s interests to stop Hitler (and imperialist Japan), who, if successful, would eventually have declared war on the Western Hemisphere and imperiled our country. The problem was that isolationists in America—Republicans as well as Democrats—had convinced majorities not to get entangled in foreign wars. George Washington himself had warned against this (but in very different times and under very different circumstances), and leading Americans, like Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin (the forerunner of neo-fascist preachers like Franklin Graham), were running around the country giving speeches in which they accused FDR of being an interventionist warmonger.

It would have been easy for FDR to knuckle under to the isolationists. But he had the courage to act upon his belief that they were wrong. He couldn’t plunge the country into war headlong (Pearl Harbor eventually gave him the opportunity), but he could educate his constituents concerning foreign policy as well as our own traditions of liberty and democracy, and why intervening on behalf of Great Britain and France was, in the long run, essential to America’s national security and in conformance with the liberal views of the Founders.

The difference between FDR and Trump is that Trump has no interest in educating his supporters about the Iran deal or anything else. They voted for him precisely because they are low-information voters. This is reflected in the polls that show college-educated voters preferring Hillary Clinton by substantial majorities. It is therefore in Trump’s interest to keep his base under-educated, not only about Iran but about climate change and many other things. An ignorant base is good news for Trump; an educated base is bad news for him. This is why he loves Fox News, a T.V. network that offers no real information on issues, but merely trumpets Rupert Murdoch and the Republican Party.

Let’s face it, this decision is a neo-con, warlike one, prompted by the likes of John Bolton, one of the guiding forces behind the Iraq War (and Trump’s speech was scarily reminiscent of George W. Bush’s 2003 speech announcing the start of that war). Trump’s supporters are now beating their chests and crowing about how tough America is. MAGA! U.S.A. kicks ass! Just like we kicked ass in Iraq, right?


Breitbart goes ballistic on Guns, Facebook, U2…and Bangladeshis!

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If you want to know what the Republican Party is obsessing on, on any given day, just go to Breitbart. There, you’ll find all the latest grievances, spelled out in excruciatingly paranoid rage.

From yesterday, here are some top headlines.

STORY #1

Facebook Creating Global Jihadist Networks, Experts Claim

Yes, the social media giant is actively working with “terrorist supporters in 96 countries [to] create a system which helps connect extremists and terrorists.”

Who are the “experts” cited in the headline? An outfit called the “Counter Extremism Project,” a neo-conservative American group whose founders include Joe Lieberman and George W. Bush’s U.N. ambassador, Mark Wallace.

Let us posit that among Facebook’s two billion users there are extremists communicating with each other. But these extremists aren’t merely of the radical Islamic variety; Breitbart itself publishes on a Facebook platform, so one could just as easily have headlined, “Facebook Creating Global white supremacist and neo-nazi hate groups.”

See the irony? But the Right never does. Without a sense of humor, they’re incapable of understanding that they have become parodies of themselves.

STORY #2

Oklahoma Senate Concurs with House: 2nd Amendment is Your Carry Permit

Pretty straightforward story: Oklahoma, in many respects the most backward State in the country, is about to abolish all requirements for open carry, because “the second amendment protects a constitutional right to bear arms.” The new law evidently means that Oklahomans are allowed to open-carry AR-15s and other weapons of mass killing. They call Oklahoma “the Sooner State”; as for me, I’d sooner stay away from it than visit a place where armed, angry white yahoos are playing vigilante games and running around with stuffed holsters–with the state’s encouragement.

STORY #3

Border Patrol Agents Arrest 15 More Bangadeshi Nationals in South Texas

This story is designed to prove to skeptics that it’s not just criminal, rapist Mexicans whom Breitbart readers hate, it’s Bangaladeshis! Yes, those brown bad boys apparently are wreaking havoc along the border, but fortunately, “Border Patrol officials attending the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Dallas told Breitbart [they have] arrested…Bangadeshi nationals…for illegal entry.”

Good to know that Laredo no longer has a Bangladeshi terrorist problem! Now they’re going to have to go after those Nepalese thugs.

STORY #4

Christian Fans ‘Devastated’ with U2 For Backing Abortion in Ireland

It’s a sad day for Bono and the boys in the band. They came out in support of a woman’s right to choose in Ireland, and next thing you know, they were hit by “a barrage of more than 800 negative replies.”

I give U2 credit for declaring their beliefs even though they know some of their fans will be pissed off. That’s the way things work. I’d rather have my artists stand for something, instead of hiding behind a milquetoast demeanor and not standing for anything. I’ll give Kanye West some credit, too. I think he’s a fool to be sucking up to Trump, an out-and-out racist whose father was in the KKK. But that’s his right. I’m sure that U2 will still sell out every concert they give, and as for the women of Ireland, good for you! Abortion is a matter to be decided between a woman and her doctors (with perhaps the husband involved as well). When I was a little boy, I remember well the teenaged girls from our neighborhood who “went on vacation” for a week or so, to Mexico or Puerto Rico. These weren’t real vacations; they went to get abortions. And they were the ones who could afford to travel. Other girls weren’t so lucky; they ended up in alleys or basements with knitting needles shoved inside themselves, and often died. Republicans would love to go back to that era, but we’re not going to let them. As for those poor, devastated Christians, there’s plenty of really bad Christian rock around.

Anyhow, there it is, the news according to Breitbart. Aren’t you glad I tell you about it, so you don’t have to degrade yourself by going there?

* * *

Meanwhile, the angrier Trump gets with the Mueller investigation–and his rage meter is exploding–the more you know he has something to hide. If he were innocent, he’d cooperate 100% and get the thing over with. The fact that he’s fighting like an angry bull—and has ordered his minions to fight alongside him—can mean only one thing: There are some very, very serious crimes he’s trying to cover up. We mustn’t let him. Please do whatever you can to protect Mueller, and be prepared to scream your head off and take it to the streets if Trump tries some dumb stunt, like firing Rosenstein.


Howdy, neighbors! I’m a Republican, and I’m a neo-nazi

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California, as you may have heard, is having a Senate election this November, and while there’s absolutely no doubt that the Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, will win a fifth term (Obama just endorsed her, by the way), we now know who her likely Republican opponent will be: Patrick Little.

Who’s that, you ask? Good question. I’d never heard of him either, until a few days ago, when a new Survey USA poll came out. It asked Californians, “If the primary for United States Senator were held today, and these names all appeared on your primary ballot, who would you vote for?” The statewide results were

Dianne Feinstein 39%

Patrick Little 18%

Kevin DeLeon 8%

with a number of other candidates showing in the low single digits, and about 19% Other/Undecided. (Kevin DeLeon is a Democratic state senator.) That sent me scurrying to find out who this Patrick Little is.

Here’s what he looks like.

Pleasant looking fellow, isn’t he? Young and clean-shaven, if a bit tight-lipped. The cute little pompadour suggests a certain fashion sense.

He has a blog. (Who doesn’t?) On May 4 he posted his official campaign song, entitled “The Naming of the Jew.” What are those names? “Shysters, crooks and shylocks: infiltrators, traitors too.” But wait, there’s more! “Kikes.” “Sludge.” “Slimy.” “Shameless bastards.”

 Well, you get the idea. Little doesn’t care much for Jews (which Feinstein is, by the way). The day before his campaign song post, Little wrote that he is running to resist “the lying jewish press” (note the absence of a capitalized J) and “the zionist bankers.” For good measure, he wrote, “[T]here is no proof that supports the ‘6 million jews got gassed by Germans in the second world war’ lie,” with the “evidence” of this so-called “holocaust” manufactured by “jews who are being paid for their lies.”

 Little (who’s been endorsed by the KKK leader, David Duke) also has a Twitter account. Here’s one of his more charming tweets: “Jews have no seat at the table in matters of white self-determination.”

Little’s shtick is tedious, but after Charlottesville, when Trump supporters (including Little, who was there) screamed anti-semitic slogans, we’ve come to understand that white supremacy and resentment of Jews and various “Others” (gays, Muslims, Mexicans) are integral components of the modern Republican Party, and particularly of Trump’s base.

So let this sink in: a neo-nazi will in all likelihood be the official Republican candidate for Senator in California, the nation’s biggest state. That should play well overseas, don’t you think?

The California Republican Party, caught in an embarrassing position, is pretending to be shocked, shocked. Mr. Little has never been an active member of our party. I do not know Mr. Little and I am not familiar with his positions,” Matt Fleming, communications director for the California Republican Party, told Newsweek. And then, on Saturday, the party wouldn’t let Little enter their annual convention, in Sacramento, with the Republican state executive director saying, “There is no room” for him in the party.

But of course, all this is public relations hokum. Little’s only crime, from a Republican point of view, is that he aired their pathology a bit too publicly. From Joe Arpaio to Roy Moore, from David Duke to Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Paul Nehlen (the Jew hater who is running in the Republican primary in Wisconsin to replace Paul Ryan, and whom Little admires), the modern Republican Party stands for intolerance, alt-right fascism, religious bigotry and racial and ethnic hatred. Patrick Little may be among the more extreme proponents of Republicanism, or he may just be saying things that Republicans think but are afraid to say out loud. Either way, Little is the new poster boy of the Republican Party.

As Bill Maher observed, “I would never say all Republicans are racist because that would be wrong. But let’s face it: If you are a racist, you are very probably a Republican.” This is the Big Tent the GOP has erected, a cozy little hate-fest in which Patrick Little feels—not only comfortable—but invited. Like the characters in Close Encounters of the Third Kind who felt impelled to get to Devil’s Tower, Little is merely responding to a Republican summons: Come join us. We welcome you. Here, you will find your own kind. Together, we march under the banner of Donald John Trump. We may occasionally have to make believe you’re not really one of us, but don’t take it seriously! We’re all on the same side.

 So, memo to Republicans: You can run but you can’t hide. Patrick Little IS the Republican Party. The Republican Party IS Patrick Little. No daylight between the two, no matter how much you say otherwise. Little feels comfortable in your party because your president, Trump, sent him an invitation SWAK.

By the way, if Trump takes the fifth with Mueller (as that increasingly freakish Giuliani said he might), I would expect Congressional Republicans to turn against him in droves. Am I overly optimistic? Maybe. But this is America, damn it, not some frigging banana republic!

 

 

 

 


Leaked! a call from Cohen to Trump, earlier this year

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Cohen: Boss, Sarah [Huckabee Sanders] really blew it at her presser the other day, when she told the reporters that Stormy’s allegations weren’t true.

Trump: Why? They’re not.

Cohen, Well, boss, they are. I mean, that’s why we paid her—Stormy—the $130 grand. To shut her up. Sarah really stirred the pot with that remark.

Trump: The Feds don’t know that we paid her anything!

Cohen: I think they do. At any rate, we have to come up with a story for when this [inaudible].

Trump: What do you propose, Mike?

Cohen: That I paid her out of my own personal funds. You didn’t know anything about it.

Trump. Hmm. Sounds good.

Cohen: You’re gonna have to deny it if one of those damned reporters asks you about it, though. Nobody can ever know that you reimbursed me.

Trump: Right.

Cohen: Because we pretty obviously broke campaign finance laws.

Trump: How’s that?

Cohen: Well, I gave her the money right before the election, so that proves it was a financial contribution to your campaign, not just a simple NDA.

Trump: Exactly what laws were broken?

Cohen: Boss, there’s a $2,700 limit on the amount an individual can contribute to a candidate in a federal election. Somebody could argue that I personally exceeded that limit—which I did.

Trump: Can’t you say that the money wasn’t a contribution but only a donation to Stormy?

Cohen: Nope. Federal election law specifically defines “donations” as “in-kind contributions” that count against contribution limits.

Trump: Could you say the money was a loan?

Cohen: Nope. Loans are considered contributions.

Trump: So, what if I come clean and admit I paid her? I mean, it would be messy, politically, but it would get me off the hook legally, right?

Cohen: Again, boss, no. Because you didn’t disclose it. You gotta disclose your own contributions to your campaign.

Trump: Wow. Fucking election laws. What’s the penalty for violating campaign finance laws?

Cohen: That’s the good news, boss. It would only be a fine—typically, a few thousand bucks. Trouble is, I could lose my license to practice law.

Trump: [silence]

Cohen: Boss? You there? Did you hear what I said?

Trump: Yeah, sure. Well, so what? You don’t really practice law anyway. I’d still keep you on the payroll.

Cohen: That’s good to know.

Trump: Provided…

Cohen: What?

Trump: Provided you protect me. Never, ever flip on me, Mike.

Cohen: Boss, you know I’d never—

Trump: I know, Mike. I know. And don’t forget this: If worse comes to worst, I have the power of the pardon. I’m not gonna let you go down, Mike—and you’re gonna protect me, too. Capiche?

Cohen: I do, boss. Meanwhile, what about Sarah? I mean, you’re sending her out there every day, telling lies.

Trump: So what? She’ll land on her feet. Get a cushy job at some evangelical outfit. That kid, Falwell, told me they’d love to hire her as chief counsel. I’m the best thing that ever happened to her.

Cohen: I know, but every time she gets caught in a lie, she loses credibility.

Trump: Look, Mike, leave the politics to me, okay? She’s in a no-win situation anyway. She could tell the truth from now until Doomsday and that goddamn D.C. press corps would still hate her.

Cohen: True.

Trump: Besides, this is all about me, Mike. Me, myself and I. Okay? It doesn’t matter who falls, who gets thrown under the bus, who goes to jail. As long as it’s not me. Or my family.

Cohen: Boss, we got another problem. Ivanka.

Trump: Explain.

Cohen: Well, she knows pretty much everything. The Moscow real estate. The Trump Tower meeting. Jared’s Qatar deals. Donald Junior’s lie. The Assange thing. The fake statement on Air Force One.

Trump: Are you saying you think my daughter will flip?

Cohen: Boss, I’ve seen mothers flip on their sons, and vice versa, when they’re threatened with hard time.

Trump: Ivanka’s a red line. A red fucking line. They touch her, they touch me. Mike, your job is to protect her. I don’t care what you have to do. That’s my baby you’re talking about. A beautiful girl. Hell, if she wasn’t my daughter, I’d make a move on her, know what I mean?

Cohen: She’s a babe, all right.

Trump: So just go out there and do your job. Lie if you have to. Deny. Insult our enemies. I do it all the time, and it works.

Cohen: You’re right about that, boss. One more thing.

Trump: Make it fast. I have a phone call to Putin.

Cohen: I’m glad that the Feds aren’t tapping my phone, boss, because these conversations we’re having are pretty incriminating.

Trump: They’d never do that, Mike. Sessions promised me. And I own his ass.

Cohen: Take care, Mister President. God bless.


Charter school money enters the California Governor’s race

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I have mixed feelings about charter schools, of which there are several here in Oakland. Our former Mayor, Jerry Brown (who’s now California’s governor), favored them. That had some influence on my thinking. On the other hand, I worry about their effect on public schools. My mom was a junior high school teacher in New York City. I am the product of public schools. Free public education, funded by taxpayers, has been a backbone of American democracy since the 1800s. Charter schools threaten that tradition, and there also are questions about the propriety of using tax dollars to fund what are essentially unregulated, or under-regulated, private entities.

So dire is the threat of charter schools to public schools that a recent academic paper warned: Unfettered expansion of the [charter] schools…could further drain the educational resources of these [Black and Latino] communities, creating conditions even worse than those in the Jim Crow-like era.” California already has given $2.5 billion in tax dollars and subsidies to charter schools for school buildings, “thereby drain[ing] these resources away from already underfunded traditional public schools serving poor minority students.”

Inner city schools are suffering from lack of funding for infrastructure, maintenance, books, equipment and teacher salaries. The wholesale transfer of public funds to private charter schools could bankrupt our public education system if it continues unchecked.

Charter schools may seem like an obscure issue to most people, but they’ve popped up into California’s increasingly bumptious 2018 Governor’s race. The few Republicans who are running generally favor charter schools over public schools, but it’s virtually impossible for any Republican to get elected in Blue California; and given the peculiarities of California election law, no Republican may even appear on the top two ballot slots this November (although that could change). Among Democrats, the race is boiling down to two contenders, Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagairosa. Both men this week began airing T.V. ads. Newsom leads by a substantial margin, in both the polls and campaign funds.

The policy differences between Newsom and Villaraigosa are not stark, which leaves each trying to figure out how to distinguish himself from his opponent. One fault line that has opened up is charter schools. Villaraigosa has become the pro-charter school Democrat. His campaign has received a boost with millions in donations from pro-charter activists and independent expenditure committees working on their behalf; he says he supports “public charters” as a way to “incubate best practices.” Villaraigosa been “strongly endorsed” by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, whose president recently warned that, if elected, “Newsom would…inflict major harm on our schools.”

Newsom, meanwhile, has been endorsed by the California Teachers Association, which views charter schools as a direct threat and has launched a vigorous campaign against them, accusing charter schools and “a group of billionaires” that owns or supports them of having “a coordinated agenda…to divert money from California’s neighborhood public schools to privately-managed charter schools.”

It’s not known exactly how much money either group—the charter school advocates or the teachers’ unions—is pumping into the campaign. And whatever it is, it will go up in the next months. The Los Angeles Times reported that Netflix owner Reed Hastings, a pro-charter school billionaire who has been on the board of the California Charter Schools Association, personally contributed $7 million to Villaraigosa, an amount Newsom called “a rather jaw-dropping amount of money.”

Newsom’s position on public education has been consistent over the years, but Villaraigosa himself has undergone such a radical transformation that the L.A. Times reported how he “went from a union organizer to a union target” when, after “launch[ing] his political career…as a union organizer,” he “blasted the city’s [Los Angeles] teachers union…as the largest obstacle to creating quality schools.”

 It’s an interesting discussion, and probably the answer to the charter-public school conundrum is to find the right balance between both—one that allows charter schools to experiment and innovate, while protecting public schools, especially in poorer neighborhoods, from being eviscerated.

Politically, I think Newsom has the momentum and talent to win this race, not only the primary in June, but the general election in November. But a ton of money is likely to be expended between now and then, with pro-teachers union and pro-charter school interests throwing millions of dollars into the campaign. As Capital Public Radio, in Sacramento, noted, Hastings’ $7 million gift to Villaraigosa is “the first sign that the big money is starting to move” in the election cycle.

With the backing of the teachers union, in addition to the California Nurses Association, the Service Employees International Union, the California Labor Federation and other large, powerful groups, Newsom’s fundraising lead and get-out-the-vote efforts appear to be secure. Moreover, he’s far better known statewide than Villaraigosa, and celebrated in liberal circles for his early championing of same-sex marriage when he was San Francisco’s mayor, 14 years ago. More recently, he’s cemented his popularity on the Left by strongly taking on the National Rifle Association.

If Newsom chooses to make supporting public schools a central issue of his campaign, he would do well to remind voters that, in siding with charter schools, Villaraigosa has aligned himself with the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary and a strong proponent of for-profit private charter schools. DeVos is one of the least popular of Trump’s Cabinet members; in a Politico poll, she scored 28% favorable and 40% unfavorable. Moreover, the recent wave of teacher strikes across Red states has demoralized and frightened Republicans, and encouraged not only union supporters but a wide swathe of the American public, who see public school teachers as selfless, underpaid public servants. A 2017 poll found that “among the general public, support for charters is down to 39 percent from 51 percent last year [2016],” with only 34% of Democrats supporting them. So it’s clear that, for Democrats, there are few political risks in limiting charter schools and supporting public schools, and rampant risks in inordinately supporting the charters.


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