It Was a Very Weird Year…

I’ve been hearing a lot about the year 2013 over the past couple of months.  It made me want to do some research.  But since I’m a lazy bastard, I spent about an hour on the “regular web” and came up with the following.

2013 Involvement with Russia

Donald Trump:

  • Miss Universe pageant hosted in Moscow – Trump paid roughly $14MM (pee tape?)
  • Met Herman Gref, CEO of Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s largest bank
  • FBI wiretapping of suspected Russian money laundering in Trump Tower (Unit 63A, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov)
  • “I do have a relationship” with Putin – Tweet: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?”
  • On 2013 sarin attack in Syria, repeatedly tweeted that Obama should not attack Syria
  • Unit 61L at Trump Tower sells for $14,300,000 (asking price $1.290MM) – other units in the tower were going below asking price
  • Meets Aras Agalarov, Russian real estate developer and recipient of the “Order of Honor of the Russian Federation” (received from Putin)
  • Deutsche Bank, primary lender for Trump when US banks bail on him, investigate Trump’s relationship with Russia, as well as accounts held by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner (Deutsche Bank was recently fined a total of $10 billion for its role in a Russian money-laundering scheme)

Carter Page:

  • Met with Russian intel operative (Victor Podobnyy) and delivered information to him while Podobnyy was trying to recruit him as a foreign agent
  • Declared an “idiot” by Podobnyy

Boris Epshteyn:

  • Moderated “Invest in Moscow!” panel with Russian officials, aimed at Americans interested in investing in Russia

Roger Stone:

  • Quoted as saying that Trump told him on New Year’s Eve that he was running for president

Jared Kushner:

  • Met with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, president of state-run VEB (Putin’s “slush fund”) and graduate of Russia’s “spy school”, prior to Trump’s inauguration during the transition. Prior to 2013, VEB had a spy ring in its New York City offices, and one of its operatives, Evgeny Buryakov, was deported for his role in the spy ring. Another of those agents was Victor Podobnyy (see Carter Page)

I didn’t mention Paul Manafort because he’s been active in Russian circles for a long time.  This is just a quick search for Trump team involvement with Russia in 2013. I chose that year for two simple reasons: I’ve been hearing it mentioned a lot in the past couple of months, and it makes logical sense that it’s the time Trump would’ve started going public about running for president after Obama’s evisceration of him at the 2011 Correspondent’s Dinner.

Can we agree that 2013 was an active year for the Trump team with regard to Russia?  I now firmly believe that this is part of the reason we haven’t heard more from the FBI on the investigation into the Trump campaign – it feels like things started to coalesce in 2013, and from that point forward there are a lot of moving parts than need to be put together.  Stay tuned.


Let’s Hope There’s a “There” There…

So… Trump made the decision, while meeting with the leader of China at Mar a Lago (yet another $3 million a weekend on your taxpayer tab), because apparently he needed to prove that his hands are a completely normal size and there’s no problem “down there” at all, so he fired off a bunch of fireworks in the general direction of an airbase in Syria.  It’s curious that the 59 Tomahawk missiles that were launched from destroyers in the area – missiles that at least one Army general-turned-pundit stated could be programmed to “hit the target’s living room window from a thousand miles” – didn’t damage that airbase’s runways, or target the chemical weapons stockpile that clearly exists in the area.  Sure, we blew up some Syrian planes.  No military personnel were killed or wounded, because apparently the Syrian and Russian troops in the area were given two hours warning.  And according to reports, the Syrian army was back running flights out of that airbase the next morning.

New presidents are always presented with a challenge early in their first term.  It’s just become a global given that some renegade douche halfway around the world is going to see what our new leader is made of.  And some people are applauding Trump’s $30 million adventure, others (John fucking McCain, at the top of that list) are looking at the strike as an open door to a declaration of war against Syria.

Who knows where this goes from here.  We could be looking at another war.  We could also be looking at a staged event, as some are speculating, coordinated between Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad to give Trump some military bona fides.  I don’t think it matters in the grand scheme of things.

What matters more than this kabuki theater that we’ve witnessed over the past few days is what’s going on at home.  After the Republicans “went nuclear” by eliminating the rule that requires 60 votes to confirm a Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by simple majority vote (some wise person once said “elections have consequences”).

Justices sometimes surprise their nominating president by operating under a different ideology, but from all accounts Gorsuch will be a one-for-one swap for Antonin Scalia, the dead asshole he’s replacing.  You might be asking yourself: “Didn’t Scalia die a long time ago???”  And the answer is: yep.  Last February, to be exact.  He just had the unmitigated gall to die while the Black Muslim Kenyan Socialist Fascist was still president.  Obama did what he had every right to do under the Constitution: he nominated a replacement.  And by all accounts, Merrick Garland was everything you want in a Supreme Court justice, regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on.  He’s a moderate, a centrist – hell, he could’ve even surprised Obama as much as Gorsuch could surprise Trump.  But we’ll never know, because the guy never even got a committee hearing in the Senate.

Scalia’s seat on the court sat vacant for almost fourteen months.  And by leading the charge to block Garland’s confirmation hearings, Mitch McConnell, after failing on his promise to make Obama a one-term president, fully succeeded in preventing Obama from winning a third term.

So at best, we’re back to where we were before Scalia shuffled off this mortal coil.  But there are several problems with this.  First, the president who nominated this guy is surrounded by people who are under federal investigation for possible collusion with Russia.  Just this afternoon, we have confirmation that one of his campaign advisers, Carter Page, was the focus of a FISA warrant.  These warrants are very difficult to obtain, and require a reasonable suspicion that the subject may have committed a crime such as espionage.

Page isn’t the “big fish” the Senate, House and FBI investigations are looking for, but the fact that he was surveilled under FISA is an indication that these investigations might be closing in on the big one.  And that’s the reason the Gorsuch appointment is so significant.  A lifelong appointment was just given to a man who was nominated to the position by a person who may not finish his first term, and may well end up in prison.

Elections do indeed have consequences.  And it is up to us to make sure that the last presidential election has consequences:  every House election, every Senate election – hell, EVERY election from here on out needs all liberals to participate.  The Tea Party started this shit in 2009-2010, which led to the bloodbaths in ’10 and ’12.  It’s time to flip the script, because Gorsuch might not be the only vacancy on the Supreme Court that this incompetent gets to fill:  Anthony Kennedy, a moderate and often the “swing vote” on the court, will be 81 in July.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg – The Notorious RBG  – is staunchly liberal and is 84, with recent health issues.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that Trump could fill three vacancies before the end of his first term.  Let’s wish all of our Supreme Court justices good health, and that when it comes to these investigations, there’s a there there.


So… What’d I Miss?

It’s been a while.  I admit that I’ve been too flabbergasted to put pixel to page lately.  But the events of the past couple of weeks have been pinging around in this little pea brain of mine, and since male pattern baldness has a low R value (damn you, DHT!!!), words were bound to come out at some point.

So today is the first day of the death of a presidency.  While the end date on the headstone is still unknown, it’s as if this administration was rolled into hospice this afternoon.

Former (for less than a month) national security adviser and all-around disgrace to the military Michael Flynn sent a letter today to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, along with the FBI, proposing that he testify in exchange for immunity.  When you are given immunity, that means that you’ve probably committed a crime.  But don’t take my word for it:

I’d like to brag about predicting this – I had Flynn as the first to flip the day he resigned after a long (24 days) and storied (I’m sure there are PLENTY of stories…) tenure as the FUCKING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER because of his ties to fucking RUSSIA.  I’d like to, but I can’t, because it was too fucking easy of a call.  I’m sure someone in the Orange Shitgibbon’s transition team asked him if they should vet Flynn.  I have absolutely no doubt that this is an actual transcript of that exchange:

Lackey:  Mr. President-Elect, should we go ahead and vet Michael Flynn?
Orange Shitgibbon:  Vet?  why does Mike need to see a vet? Does he have rabies?
Lackey:  Very well then, sir.  More fries?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself binge watching “Today at the White House with Baghdad Bob”, aka the White House daily briefing.  I have to say, Sean Spicer is really starting to nail his Melissa McCarthy impression.  Every once in a while, I start to feel bad for the guy.  Then I remember:  fuck him.

So today is the day the morphine drip started for this stupid fucking illegitimate money- laundering Russia-loving insecure nepotistic piece of shit presidency.  It’s the exact same feeling that you’re going to have when you hear that Charles Manson has been hospitalized for stage four lung cancer… and then you’ll realize that he was never PRESIDENT OF THE FUCKING UNITED STATES.

The end is going to be bumpy as hell.  There could be hearings that go on forever, slowly circling in on Trump like a turd that just doesn’t want to find its way down the toilet until the very end.  Or, as some people are predicting, Trump steps in front of a microphone some day soon and announces  that he’s resigning because being away from lil Barron has really taken a toll on the kid.

Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele (“the black guy” who Republicans chose because, you know, we elected a Kenyan Muslim dude) is telling clients to start developing relationships with Pence, because Trump isn’t going to finish his term.

And then there’s this, late today, on a fantastic Twitter feed by the patriotic hacker The Jester:

So… yeah.  And then we get Pence.  Just when I was starting to have fun with this.  Fuck.


March 23, 2017


At the risk of being too simplistic, I can only wrap my brain around the new Federal Budget proposal in terms of the environment in which I spend my time.  The proposal includes a massive boost to military and Homeland Security, while cutting huge percentages of domestic programs.  If we drop that Federal Budget scenario down to a microcosm—say a public high school–here’s what it would look like:  We’d have state of the art camera security and a strong police presence around the perimeter of the school in order to protect the students from harmful outsiders.  There would also be a highly visible police presence within the campus, in order to vet each student to ensure that they fit the correct profile of students we want to educate within our walls.  Drones would be enlisted to fly over the campus periodically to make sure all students adhered to appropriate conduct codes, and to ensure that no one on the outside attempts to scale the heavily fortified wall surrounding the compound. God forbid we should want to educate those who didn’t start their education here.

Inside the classroom however, the children share meager materials—

They’ll be sitting on the floors, because there aren’t enough desks.

They’ll be sharing texts, because there is no funding to ensure each child has a book.

More kids than we thought will have books today, though, since several students are home sick, not having the ability to access health care.

Several students are unable to focus on lessons, because they struggle with mental health issues for which there is no assistance—or their parents do.

Students break for lunch at noon.  If they weren’t fortunate enough to bring their own lunches from home, they will be going without. They should have known better than to be born into a family without sufficient means to provide them lunch.

Don’t worry about afternoon music classes; there aren’t any.  Those go by the wayside when funding for NEA becomes obsolete.  Ditto for field trips to the local museums.

Programs to assist students who need additional help in acquiring English language skills, or students who are struggling and falling behind in reading and math?  Good luck.  Perhaps those students should try NOT having another language as their primary language, or perhaps they should just try not to have learning disabilities.  Again, they should have had the foresight to be born into families with better resources.

Yes, unless born to privilege, in our little school the kids will lack resources.  They’ll be hungry, and in need.  Access to the most basic of needs will be limited; access to culture and art non-existent.  Not to worry, though—no harm will come to them from the world outside the school house doors.  Probably.  On the inside, however, they’re on their own.


Back into the Fray

March 22, 2017


It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post.  I feel I’ve been in survival mode, politically speaking—dodging bullets raining down left and right.  Each morning brings a fresh barrage of nerve-wracking, dangerous revelations out of the White House.  Russian ties, blatant racism, nepotism, and misogyny. An endless stream of infantile “Presidential” tweets directing hostility and rancor at the media and begging desperately for respect, credibility, and adoration that he has no idea how to garner from the public.  Legislation designed to gut education, health care, and programs that care for our most vulnerable populations.  An endless parade of appointees who not only DON’T “drain the swamp”, but instead own the swamp and have every intention of erecting a gilt palace and unpacking the finery and the good silver for a good long stay.

It’s tempting to keep dodging the bullets, ducking for cover.  It would be easier to turn a blind eye to the news.  It’s hard to know even where to jump in the fray or which battle cry to raise.  The fray, however, rages on; the easier way doesn’t win victories.  We must battle on.

Breaking Bread in the Trump Era

These last few weeks, I have been feeling frustrated, angry, scared, and heartbroken.  Growing up in highly conservative communities, I have always had several friends who had differing political viewpoints than my own.  And yet, I have been struggling to feel any sort of compassion or warmth towards people on the opposing side and that hasn’t felt right to me.  I want to be accepting; I want to be open; I want to be inclusive.  This past weekend brought me back to that reality.

In the name of Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend, Torrey, and I headed to a cozy cabin in the Redwoods.  When we arrived at the check-in office, I started chatting away with Martin, one of the owners of the property.  Within the next few hours of our stay, different circumstances lead us back to the office and we were hitting it off with Martin.  Torrey and I were later grilling outside our cabin and Martin came over with a bottle of Jameson.  We hung out, sharing our stories and different philosophies and in those few hours, we became genuine friends. 

Later that night, Martin knocked on our door inviting us over for quesadillas and to listen to him play the drums.  While Martin and I walked over to his house, he turned to me and said he had two things to share that I wouldn’t like.    

“The first is I smoke cigarettes.  And the second is I voted for Trump.”

The strangest thing happened to me in that moment: I didn’t actually care.  And that felt so good.  I have been feeling so fearful and divided from Trump supporters and it felt good to just not give a shit about who someone voted for.  

I don’t know why Martin voted for Trump.  I don’t know how Martin feels about our current political climate.  And I don’t know if he agrees with what Trump has done these past few weeks.  But I do know that in the short time we grew to know each other, he was genuinely kind and respectful.  

This past election revealed that our country is divided…  How are we going to resolve that?  I don’t have a scientific solution to share with you and to me, there isn’t one.  I believe our individual kind actions towards each other can lead to a collective unified nation.  I believe that we are not powerful as a nation when we are broken internally and individually.  None of this may be groundbreaking to you.  But hopefully in the midst of how you’re feeling, it’s a reminder to stay open and accepting regardless of what we face in these upcoming years.

Betsy DeVos and the Question of School Choice

February 12, 2017

It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that a president with no political experience saw no issue with appointing an Education Secretary who has absolutely no experience with public education.  Despite that lack of experience, and after a bitter battle in the confirmation hearings this week, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the head of our educational system in the United States.

I have a great many concerns about this, as her appointment will directly affect my students and me.  Never mind that her confirmation came after she and her family made great contributions to many of the senators who voted on her behalf, which means she essentially funded her own nomination.  Never mind that in the hearings, she was unable to respond to the simplest of education policy questions, such as the distinction between growth and proficiency.  Never mind her stance against Common Core—a whole issue in its own right, worthy of deeper discussion in a later post.  Never mind that she has never ‘walked a mile’, let alone a step, in the shoes of hard-working educators all over the country.

There are a lot of issues, but one of the biggest ones is her staunch advocacy of School Choice.  School Choice sounds great, and in theory, it’s meant to level the playing field.  It’s meant to make underperforming schools ‘step up to the plate’ and to allow underprivileged students access to better schools than those in their own backyard, often in the form of charter or voucher schools.  Parents ought to have a say in where their kids go to school, and should be able to send their kids to the best schools, even if that’s not the one in their neighborhood.  In theory—a great idea.  In reality, not so much.  School Choice, and what that looks like on paper, doesn’t play out in reality. From a position of privilege, perhaps that’s difficult to see, but then again if the one has never walked a mile in those shoes, the inherent design flaws are not immediately evident.

Students can still be denied access to private or voucher schools, so “School Choice” can translate into options for those who have additional monies, and those who are academically advanced and therefore desirable to selective schools who want to boost their academic ratings, but that does not mean that those schools have to accept students who might lower their school’s test scores—it’s bad for publicity, which is often what drives high performing and moneyed students there to begin with.  Of course, those students already have those choices now.  School Choice, here, doesn’t so easily open new doors to those who don’t fit into those categories—the ones School Choice is supposed to lift up and bolster.  The economics of School Choice factor in another way as well.  If every student has $12,000 federal dollars which can follow them to the school of their choice, and the private schools charge in excess of that, only those with additional money can foot the bill—just as is the case now.  Factor in additional transportation charges on top of that, to travel to schools outside the neighborhood schools, plus books, supplies, and uniforms, and you have yet again an equation that closes School Choice to the ones who could most benefit from it.  Those students will be left in the local neighborhood schools, now bereft of the federal dollars which could improve and sustain the improvement to the free public education to which all students should be entitled.  If those schools are to be improved so that access to a good education is, in fact, available to all of our children, pulling federal funding out of those schools cripples their ability to make those improvements, effectively widening the divide instead of leveling the playing field.

One of the most troubling issues is that funding following the students means that federal tax dollars will pay for religious schools, since according to the Department of Education, some 76% of private schools have some religious affiliation.  This is a basic violation of the separation of Church and State.  Parents should certainly be able to teach their kids their own religious and spiritual foundation, but taxpayer dollars should not be required to fund those choices.  Setting aside even that fundamental argument, there is the issue of oversight within private schools, which are not beholden to the same degree of transparency as public schools. Private schools, religious and otherwise, do not have to follow the same standards of professional credentialing or curriculum, and are not held to the same testing standards as public schools.  This makes it difficult to even tell if sending our tax dollars to those private/voucher schools is an economically sound move that accomplishes the intended outcome of raising our students’ academic performance nationally.  I know a great many private school teachers, and many of them are hard-working, dedicated, intelligent individuals.  There are certainly high-performing private schools—of that there is no doubt.  I don’t want this to devolve into an us-vs.-them argument, because I believe that there are great things going on in some of the private and charter schools.  What I do expect, however, is the kind of accountability with our tax dollars for ALL schools that won’t happen if Betsy DeVos’ track record at the state level bears out at the national level.

On Betsy DeVos’ own website, she says “I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world. However, out of respect for the United States Senate, it is most appropriate for me to defer expounding on specifics until they begin their confirmation process.”  She’s been confirmed now, and so far I have yet to hear the specifics, other than devaluing the work of public educators and expounding on the dubious benefits of School Choice.  If she is, in fact committed to transforming our education system, I want to see transformation that takes into account some of the real issues facing the students that walk through the public education system daily.  I want assurance that the perceived ‘fix’ for our schools isn’t the Pied Piper waltzing out of our public schools and trailing along with her promises of fattened coffers without oversight for only those who have the ability to catch the train and follow.

Instead, meet with teachers.  Meet with students where they are.  Use those funds to build up public schools and bring them up to speed with the needs we face in today’s society—all schools, not just select ones.  Invest in building business partnerships within communities, to bridge theoretical education with practical application.  Invest in the kinds of technologies that kids need in order to thrive and succeed in today’s society.  Invest in technical and vocational training that help our kids understand complex tasks of the work force of today.  Invest in mentorships that promote engagement in education.  Invest in the creative and critical thinking that encourages our students to begin thinking about and solving social issues today, and even those issues that haven’t surfaced yet.  Invest in an arts education where students can find a voice for their passions, the expressions of their souls. Invest in a humanities education that recognizes our students are not numbers, not inanimate products of a business, but humans who struggle with poverty, depression, teen suicide, violence, financial uncertainty, abuse, language barriers, disabilities, discrimination, and yes, even the real possibility for some of our students of deportation for them or their family members.  Take all that money out of the public schools and send it to private schools, and those problems still exist, and in even heavier concentrations in those neighborhood schools.  Don’t send our students off scrambling in search of a promise of a better education; give them a better education where they are.

A high-functioning, prosperous democracy depends on an educated populace.  It would benefit all of us to make sure all of our children have a strong education.  I hope Betsy DeVos goes to school—our public schools—to learn what good teachers are doing day after day, because it’s going to take a real education in order for her to positively effect change for all the children of our nation.  I hope she’s ready for it.


Some resources and additional reading: