Pence: King of Corporate Tax Subsidies

Trump would have America believe that he and Gov. Pence are wizardlike job-saving innovators with their $7 million tax bargain with United Technologies to save about 1,000 Carrier Corp. jobs — at a cost of $7,000 per job over ten years, and with the employee concession package remaining an x-factor in the deal.

In truth, Indiana has been handing-out corporate tax breaks like candy to multiple large and successful ventures, the bulk of them since 2011. Good Jobs First, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, tracks corporate subsidies. They report that Indiana is the sixth worst in the nation in terms of ceding revenues to the private sector. The state has forked-over nearly $8.3 billion in recent years to over 9,000 companies.

Below is a chart listing the top ten corporate welfare queens in the Hoosier State. Good Jobs First reports that the vast majority of these deals occurred in the past 5 years. For the full report click here.

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Indiana’s top ten corporate welfare queens. Source: GJF

Pence has sucked his gullible boss into a scam.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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Trumpism: You Can’t Fix Stupid, But You Can Call it Out

Trump voters, while not an entirely monolithic group, do share certain commonalities — among them are an acceptance of racism, hatred, xenophobia, sexism, misogyny, among a host of other deplorable traits.

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Trump swag vendor. Source: NYT video still

Additionally, it can be argued that this basket of demographics is noticeably lacking in the department of intellectual dexterity. Rust Belt, Deep South, Evangelical — all to the last one are rigid of mind and impervious to reason. There is little point in the Democratic Party attempting to engage them in “conversation” — as so many have suggested was the missing ingredient in this electoral cycle.

On last friday’s “domestic news roundup” of The Diane Rehm Show, CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett spoke about the utter futility of pressing Trump supporters with actual facts. He explained that while working the campaign trail, they behaved exactly as conspiracy theorists categorically do — any challenge to their beliefs led to a deeper conviction and embrace of their dearly-held falsehoods:

“Any fact checking I did for them, or for many of them, was prima facie evidence that I was biased. And that I was wrong. So fact checking Trump was proof, not that he was wrong, but that he was right, and that anyone who would raise a question about the underlying relationship between what he said in the facts was biased.”

Democrats are not immune to harboring their own strained, yet quixotic, version of reality. They have a long and storied history of believing that if they just explain things slowly and simply enough, the electorate will understand — because surely good sense will prevail. After all, they are the party of inclusion — ever so nice and always politically correct, tolerant of other people, even with those whose ideas and “values” are an abomination to this great democracy, and to humanity as a whole.

This is exactly why the far right heaps ridicule on progressives. They laugh at them.

Democrats need a new playbook.

Stop coddling and cajoling those who deal in the currency of hate speech. Even if only by proxy, all Trump voters struck that Faustian bargain.

You can’t fix stupid, nor can you fix mean, and there’s plenty of the latter among the Trump crowd.

We hear reports daily of people feeling emboldened by Trump’s acrimonious rhetoric — and of those same individuals subsequently paying the price for publicly parroting their chosen leader. Here’s a short list from recent news:

It is imperative that each and every public display of hate be called-out for what it is, and punished accordingly.

Another frontline war of words that needs to be fully engaged is in the media. They must call lies for what they are, and name the monsters for who they are — white supremacists, fascists, nazis, KKK members. It’s not the “alt-right.” The Associated Press has instructed journalists to use the term cautiously and within very specific parameters — with quotation marks, and the qualification that the title is “self-described.” They offer this advice to reporters:

“We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them.”

Google Chrome now offers an extension to users which will automatically convert the term “alt-right” to a more accurate moniker: “white supremacy.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center held a press conference this week focusing on the proliferation of hate crimes and speech since the election, noting that all too many of these events are occurring in academic settings — children acting-out on what they hear at home. The SPLC made a largely symbolic plea for Mr. Trump to denounce these acts of hate, and to apologize for his role in fostering the vile behavior.

Sadly, our soon-to-be sworn in president is more focused on an imaginary epidemic of flag burning, and on how he’s being lampooned in the most recent SNL skit.

True patriots have a job to do. At every turn, and in every dark corner, Americans must shine a light on the ugliness, expose it, and eliminate it from our culture.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

 

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See All of Trump’s Deleted Mean-Tweets

President-elect Trump appears to have no more self-control than candidate Trump. This orange cat just can’t manage to change his spots. Legal questions about maintaining presidential records were raised when he deleted a Tweet critical of the cast of Hamilton last week.

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Trump’s mean-tweet

The Tweeter-in-Chief won’t be able to hide his regrettable tweets though — for two reasons.

First of all, it’s the law.

Back in 2009, the White House issued an official determination that social media content, specifically citing Facebook and Twitter, is subject to the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Trump is legally compelled to obtain the consent of the Archivist of the United States at the National Archives and Records Administration prior to deleting any public communication.

Of course, we all know that the letter of the law won’t prevent Trump from hitting delete. That brings us to the second reason the impulsive president-elect’s gaffes and blunders will remain in the public domain.

His deleted Tweets will be archived through a cooperative agreement between Twitter and ProPublica — who are currently in the process of taking over the service which originated at the Sunlight Foundation. (Sunlight isn’t dropping the ball, but passing it to another excellent organization, while they are refocusing on blunting the effects of the Citizens United ruling.)

The Twitter project is called Politwoops, and it collects and publishes the deleted Tweets of all high-profile politicians. Most of them are examples of poor grammar or spelling, but there are some real gems to be found too.

The hand-off appears to be a work in progress, leaving the data a bit spotty at this time, but we can be confident that as ProPublica gets its tech labs up and running, there will be plenty of ill-thought Tweets to consider from the future President.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

While we wait for Politwoops to go fully online, there’s always the NYTs compilation of Trump’s mean-tweets to review.

And of course — apologies to orange cats.

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Open Letter: Chief O’Brien Must Fire Officer Peters

An Open Letter to Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien:

Dear Chief O’Brien,

Fire Officer Michael Peters.

With an understanding that you are committed to the often lengthy path of due process, note that the officer’s recent conduct was dangerous to the safety of the community which your department is sworn to protect, and it has damaged trust in local law enforcement.

While Traverse City does not boast a wide range of racial and ethnic diversity, it has a small but growing community of color, and is a town known for its progressive culture of inclusivity, and for the thoughtful quality of its public sector servants.

Many area residents were shocked and saddened by the conduct of Officer Peters when he chose to fly a Confederate flag on his pickup truck at a peaceful Veterans Day Love Trumps Hate rally held in opposition to Trump’s abhorrent policy pledges and his un-presidential private and public behavior.

In addition to Peters’ gross public display of such a deeply offensive symbol, the off-duty officer reportedly parked his vehicle illegally and was seen drinking a Bud Light at the scene before driving away. His actions were clearly meant to intimidate rally-goers and are unbefitting of a member of the Traverse City Police Department.

Some may argue that his actions were within his 1st Amendment rights — that it was protected speech. As a public servant though, he is held to a higher standard as a condition of his employment, even while off-duty.

Most police departments have in place a written code of ethical conduct which extends to off-duty behavior. We understand the TCPD has adopted a generic code borrowed from the military — Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer, which specifically states a violation (in an off-duty capacity) would include:

“[An] action or behavior in an unofficial or private capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally, seriously compromises the person’s standing as an officer.”

Typically these codes will include things like personal grooming standards — tattoos, hair length, etc., but more broadly they demand that officers conduct themselves within the bounds of the department’s overall mission — with the primary goal always being public safety.

As a former manager of a financial institution in the same community, I was required to sign a code of conduct pledge that said, as an officer of the bank, I was prohibited from engaging in any conduct which could adversely impact the image of the institution, including my dress, manners, affiliations, and financial transactions. A violation would have led to termination.

In an article in PoliceOne.com, a professional trade publication, on the topic of police ethics and disciplinary actions, the author finds that courts rarely challenge the terms of these agreements, and give police departments wide discretionary authority to implement, interpret, and enforce their codes. Citing a 1976 Supreme Court case as precedent for maintaining a vigorous disciplinary role for administrators, PoliceOne notes that the case touched-on freedom of choice questions for off-duty officers:

“In a footnote to the decision, the Court even gave a nod to the department’s Code of Ethics as an example of those regulations which may “infringe on…freedom of choice in personal matters” but which nonetheless are related to the department’s overall mission and organization. Regulations upon officer conduct when off-duty have been similarly upheld to the extent those regulations did not pry into personal matters.”

Under your watch, Traverse City has recently moved to a “community policing” model — a system intended to strengthen trust between law enforcement and the people they serve.

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, under its guidelines states the primary goal of the program is to promote community trust in police departments, as explained in their handbook, Community Policing Defined. Simply put, trust builds better, stronger, and safer neighborhoods.

Officer Peters’ behavior has cast aspersions on the integrity of the TCPD, offended and frightened the public, violated the core tenet of Community Policing, and likely was a breach of code of conduct rules at several levels. And now word comes that this isn’t the first time he has put the TCPD in a bad light. At Chief O’Brien’s press conference on the topic we learned that Peters was reprimanded for flying the same flag on his vehicle while parked in the city police parking lot.

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers has issued a social media statement on the ongoing process of investigation:

“As many may be aware now, a very unfortunate situation between peaceful protestors in the Open Space and an off duty city police officer occurred Friday evening. After a long day on the phone with the City Manager and our Chief of Police, I can report that an investigation is forth coming and that the officer in question will be suspended pending an investigation and dealt with accordingly. This type of behavior is not something we inTraverse City accept from our employees and especially from a member of our police force. Chief O’Brian [sic] assures me he is working toward a speedy out come to remedy this and that Traverse City citizens will be safe and free from discrimination.”

By way of a small example of the collateral harm the actions of Officer Peters has inspired — when I shared the news story on social media, it immediately attracted a number of disturbing comments which others found offensive and frightful, prompting one of my friends to private message me with the following:

“Wow, you have some really sick guys commenting on your post today. Very scary. Be careful.”

Just as Trump’s words and actions have served as a catalyst for hatred and bigotry across the nation, so have Officer Peters’ in this Northern Michigan community. The ramifications of his poor judgment won’t dissipate with a dock in his pay and a few extra hours of sensitivity training. His behavior has created a dangerous ripple effect, not just in Traverse City though, because news of his disgusting display of intolerance has spread worldwide and will surely have a negative impact on tourism — the bread and butter industry for our town. The National Cherry Capital’s diversity swells during the summer months as guests from all over the world converge to enjoy the Cherry Festival and the Film Festival. Adjacent communities could be negatively impacted too. We want all to feel welcome and safe here.

Officer Peters is not fit for the important duty of protecting the residents and visitors of this welcoming and peaceful community. His behavior is antithetical to the values we hold dear.

Chief O’Brien — fire Officer Peters.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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A Bad Moon Has Risen — A Sociopath in the White House

How I Intend to Survive This — And You Can Too.

One of the perils of being politically plugged-in is the personal price exacted for having that kind of knowledge constantly swirling around in one’s head, even while asleep.

A few months ago, a sense of foreboding over the fascist specter of Trump began to settle in on my spirit. Although I was still producing essays on politics and public policy, it became increasingly difficult to hit “publish.” Writing about municipal finance, fiscal and social policies, legislation, and campaign shenanigans seemed unimportant in the face of our looming national crisis.

Aficionados of the television show The West Wing may recall the episode in which press secretary C.J. Cregg upbraids her coworkers for obsessing on the minutia while they were teetering on the precipice of utter catastrophe — likening it to Butch and Sundance “peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids below, thinking you better not jump because you might drown.” Cregg said:

“It’s the fall that’s gonna kill you.”

That’s the fear that had slithered its way into the very core of my being — it weighed like a cold, heavy stone on my chest. The electorate was falling for a sociopath, and nothing I said or wrote about was going to change that. Who cares about what PAC spent money on whatever issue, or whichever lawmaker was fighting the scourge or virtue of this public policy or that?  If a fascist was about to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — none of it mattered anymore.

The cold stone grew heavier. I was having palpitations.

Two weeks ago, I went to a walk-in clinic with a headache and over-sized heartbeats. My typically normal blood pressure (120/75) was now at 150/96. They sent me straight to the emergency room. Upon arrival I clocked-in at 199/106.

A visit to the special cardiac section of the ER involves many intense-looking people wielding numerous needles, vials, and enough monitors that the patient looks like they’ve just lost a desperate struggle with a tangle of Christmas tree lights.

It’s called a “hypertensive crisis.” Try not to have one. They are often associated with heart attacks and strokes. Mine though, seems to have been associated with the Republican’s toxic nominee.

So, now my worst fear has proven all too real. I was among the 60 million progressive American voters who were shoved over that cliff on Nov. 8, 2016.

But, we didn’t die on the rocks below.

We are hurting badly, yet we will survive to fix this.

I saw a good many of my fellow walking-wounded yesterday. They were at the bank, the restaurant where I had lunch, but the most shell-shocked among them were those middle-aged white women, like myself, that I encountered in the aisles of T.J.Maxx. (Okay, it’s a weird indulgence of mine — I go there often, really to just wander about looking at random and mindless things, particularly when I need to think. The 20-minute drive to-and-from is also spent reflecting — frequently about the politics of the day.) The home-dec section was bustling with dozens of women picking-up objects, considering them, and putting them back. Their carts were empty — just props to lean on in their confusion and despair. They, like me, were desperately grasping for an elusive sense of normalcy.

I did make a purchase. It’s a ceramic star-shaped knick knack — for me, a talisman intended to heal my broken spirit.

At the check-out, I was assisted by a kind man in his early twenties. He inquired of my plans for the sunny day. I replied that was the only good thing about the day — the sunshine, and he hinted with raised brow “Some retail therapy?” Yes.

Also on my daily rounds, I found myself more intensely scrutinizing those individuals who looked suspiciously like Trump voters. No, that’s not mean-spirited to imply someone might possess telltale signs of appearing to be of a particular political persuasion. In the past, while canvassing door-to-door, we used to play a game: Democrat or Republican? Beside the obvious signs like bumper stickers and flags, we’d look for other subtle tells — silk flower wreaths with kitschy placards = Republican, unchecked dandelions and uncoiled garden hoses = Democrat. We had a list that usefully proved accurate once the homeowner opened the door and expressed how they intended to vote.

I contemplated the older gentleman at the table across from mine at lunch — he was a toss-up, until he slung a backpack over his shoulder when he departed.

Surely, I’m not alone in casting an eye of suspicion at fellow citizens, as if in some sci-fi movie, trying to determine if they’re one of us, or the embodiment of evil in human flesh. Okay, with few exceptions, they are not truly sinister, but their poor judgment will assuredly visit a certain hell on this fine nation. And I blame them.

As for those third-party voters — sure, they fucked-up. But only millennials get a pass on this one. They’re entitled to a learning curve, and they will certainly do just that — the hard way. I am confident they will rise-up and make this a better nation just as every last stupid, angry old white male turns toes-up over the next decade.

However, for those Stein/Johnson voters in their middle years — they knowingly enabled the potential destruction of our country over their precious “conscience.” As it turns out, their vote really was one for Trump. Shame on them.

We survived the fall — now it’s time to swim.

Me, I have an important piece to finish writing (and publish) on the looming municipal fiscal debt crisis in Michigan.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Update: I offer this article to the gentleman who is plaguing my comment box, and violating my no ad hominem attack rule.

 

 

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Something is Very Wrong With Trump Women

Why Would any Woman Support Such a Boorish Creep?

maga-trump

Photo: Sociological Reflections

Several months ago, I had the unique experience of my step-mom agreeing with me on a critical political issue. Married to my ultra-conservative father, who came to his political convictions at the intersection of his retirement and the birth of FOX News, my step-mom of four decades also eventually succumbed to the constant drumbeat of negative rhetoric. So, it came as a surprise when she spoke up over dinner, right there in front of dad, expressing her strident opposition to Donald Trump. Notably, our conversation occurred many months prior to the GOP candidate’s multiple groping scandals.

She’s a practicing labor law attorney who marks the bulk of her billable hours consulting on workplace practices and policy — and yes, harassment and discrimination are prominent topics of concern. Trump must be a sea of red flags to her.

This election cycle, American women find themselves on the cusp of the centennial of women’s suffrage, and nearly five decades in the wake of the women’s liberation movement, conditions remain little improved. Polls consistently demonstrate men are supporting Trump — a revolting misogynist of the worst stripe to any intelligent women’s estimation.

The trending hashtag among his male supporters is “repeal the 19th.”

Why does the modern male embrace this caveman attitude? We must have that discussion about men (and we will) — it being a time-honored tradition among women since the stone age, but at this juncture we must call-out women who support the reprehensible beast.

The 2014 documentary, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a film about the 1960’s feminist movement, has a segment of particular prevalence. The topic was the pervasiveness of rape and assault and the routine blaming of women in that time. They cited a specific incident, emblematic of the culture, in which the victim was told by police she was not to be believed because she was not attractive enough to have been raped.

That vile attitude is pure Trumpism, 2016.

Those of us who recoil in disgust at Trump over the repugnant, mendacious, spoiled buffoon that he is, can’t fathom why any woman would support such a dangerous monster. Perhaps seeing Trump for the foul person he truly is might be like those Magic Eye posters of the 1990s, where only perceptive individuals could see the 3D image. Or maybe Trump supporters are Amelia Bedelia literalists, completely unaware of duplicity or ulterior motives — but, in this case the result isn’t comical in the least.

Science points to a phenomenon reported last year in Scientific American in which certain vulnerable individuals are attracted to pathological personality traits — particularly of the likes found in the cornucopia of odious characteristics displayed by Trump.

Or maybe these women are just plain stupid.

Luckily, a majority of women seem to see through his narcissistic facade. What I observe is a deeply troubled man who, had he not been to the manner born, would be clad in an ill-fitted plaid suit while wafting clouds of cheap cologne. However, the rich man/poor man contrast ends there — both Donalds would be grabby braggarts, who apparently bathe in a vat of tikka masala, are awash in too much hair product, and make a living off of cheating and swindling easy marks.

His wife Melania was all over the media this week doing his dirty work, blaming everyone but her loathsome spouse. She threw Billy Bush under the bus, claiming the clueless giggly young man had goaded her husband into “boy talk.” She whined and whined about everyone being mean to her husband and telling all those lies — it’s everybody’s fault but his.

When queried about what cause celebre she would champion as first lady, Melania replied: bullying on social media. That’s rich, coming from the wife of a man who, had he not been well-known and a presidential candidate, would certainly be banned from Facebook and Twitter. Melania sloughed-off his behavior, claiming it was his prerogative.

Michelle Obama, an exceptional first lady and class-act in every way, capsulized the frustration and disgust felt by thinking women in her moving speech last week. Her words were a salve on the wounds inflicted on the American psyche every day by this vulgar cheeto-encrusted manbaby and his apologists and sycophants — of both genders.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

For idiom geeks: Yes, it’s “to the manner born”, not manor. The former is a Hamlet phrase which was cleverly twisted for the BBC series: To the Manor Born — both bearing roughly the same meaning: born of means.

 

 

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Trigger Warning — We Don’t Have the Right Not to Be Offended

Freedom of speech is front and center again on American campuses as the Department of Education continues to abuse its authority over university policies. Dirty jokes are now banned, as are expressing suicidal thoughts.

The flawed notion that “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are healthful, wise, or even vaguely constitutional is not only disturbing but dangerous for the safety and well-being of all students.

Last year, when I was working on an article about 1st Amendment rights on college campuses I asked my son, who attends the University of Michigan, what were the arguments being advanced among the student body in favor of prohibiting certain speakers from addressing college-sponsored gatherings? He explained that some students didn’t want their taxpayer dollars benefitting speech they found disagreeable at a publicly funded institution. Okay, they’re entitled to that opinion, and certainly their freedom to voice it, but no, students and the citizenry at large do not possess the authority to ban campus speech, including that of paid speakers. Complain – yes by all means, ban – not so much. By way of analogy — I don’t much care for my tax dollars going towards war machines and corporate welfare, but that’s not within my direct authority to change.

John Ellison, the dean of students at the University of Chicago, recently sent a welcoming letter to incoming freshmen admonishing them that the administration has no intention of catering to their delicate sensibilities. The only surprise in this communication is that it was deemed necessary at all. Several years ago my son and I attended a campus tour there, and the overarching message was that this was an institution dedicated to the flourishing of a diversity of ideas — both in the classroom, plus, in and off campus. No shrinking violets admitted.

Ellison’s letter specifically cautioned:

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings”, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

Janet Napolitano, the former Secretary of Homeland Security and current president at the University of California, penned an op-ed this week in the Boston Globe expressing similar concerns on the topic. Although mildly critical of Ellison’s stance against triggers and safe zones, she was spot-on in her assessment of the danger of policy creep leading to 1st Amendment violations, reminding us that exceptions to free speech, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater “should be narrowly construed because history teaches us that even narrowly drawn exceptions to free speech inevitably lead to broader limitations.”

This is exactly what is occurring under the cover of expanded and unconstitutional Title IX regulations.

The otherwise laudable and simple intent of the 1972 law has been hijacked over the decades by political appointees at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a division of the Department of Education. Sometimes for better, but mostly for worse, they’ve repurposed the law’s original meaning through a series of surprise regulations — blindsiding schools and bypassing the legal standard of “notice and comment” which requires full disclosure of the question at hand accompanied by an open comment period among stakeholders prior to enactment.

The OCR derives much of its power through Title IX, and they have been wielding it like the Sword of Damocles in the realm of higher education.

In 2011, through new rules they shut-down basic due process for those accused of sexual harassment. Then in 2013, again by fiat, they completely redefined the term to include any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including speech.

Yes, that includes dirty jokes, watching objectionable videos (including the likes of Amy Schumer or Chris Rock), asking a person on a date, casual pick-up lines, films with nudity or strong language….you get the picture — anything college students do on a regular basis.

As if lumping harassment in with honest to god sexual assault isn’t bad enough, redefining harassment to include the petty everyday behavior of students is the height of absurdity.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports that approximately 300 cases are pending under these OCR regulations — with frivolous claims taking-up critical resources needed to investigate serious crimes.

Robert Sibley, FIRE Executive Director and author of Twisting Title IX, offers a number of compelling examples of recent abuses, among them:

Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis penned a 2015 op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education critical of Title IX’s sketchy interpretations where it comes to faculty members involved in consensual relationships with former students.  She was charged by the university for violating Title IX after several students complained about the content of her essay. When another person stepped forward in her support, he too was similarly hit with charges. Ironically, it wasn’t until she wrote a follow-up piece in the same publication, titled My Title IX Inquisition, that the university was shamed into dropping their harassment case against her.

In his book, Sibley cites another egregious overreach which recently occurred in Oregon to a female student who, while studying during exam week, blew off a little steam by yelling from her dorm room window “I hit it first” to a couple outside. The couple, whom she did not know, complained to her RA, resulting in a personal apology. End of story? No. The student was slammed with five conduct charges over the silly prank, including sexual harassment under Title IX.

The important question is why are schools cowering under this abusive and arguably unconstitutional tyranny? Sibley explains that schools have become more focused on the possibility of OCR punitive actions than lawsuits from students and faculty because the OCR holds the purse strings to federal funding. He estimates that there are currently 60 to 70 lawsuits from students over possible Title IX overreach, saying:

“OCR is the agency that has the ability to go to the Department of Justice and ask them to go through proceedings to cut-off federal funding to a school. At most schools, that’s a death sentence  … Whereas, a lawsuit is most certainly not going to be the death sentence for most schools.”

So, schools continue to settle with litigants, with every party understanding that the OCR would lose in a Supreme Court contest were a school to challenge the rules. FIRE refers to the legal dance as a “game of chicken.” The hostility between academia and the OCR has created toxic environments on campuses where students who are in dire need of support are denied, while minor offenses result in harsh punishments.

At Baylor University the Title IX apparatus has become utterly dysfunctional with one lawsuit calling the school a “hunting ground for sexual predators“, and this week brings news of the resignation of the Title IX coordinator and her lawsuit against Baylor claiming the administration prevented her from doing her job.

It seems that it’s mostly individual students who pay the price for the incompetence of college administrators and federal regulators. And in the case of Northern Michigan University, they may well pay with their lives.

The Marquette, Michigan school had, until very recently, a long-standing policy prohibiting students from discussing thoughts of self-destruction and suicide with fellow students. Known for its academic rigor, NMU had been sending disciplinary letters to students suspected of communicating personal troubles with classmates. Beyond being a clear violation of protected speech, the policy is appalling given that suicide is on the rise in our nation with about 43,000 deaths a year, and many more incidents of failed attempts. A recent exposé revealed that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in particular suffers from a suicide problem — a situation only made worse by the lack of available counseling. Friends and family are typically the first line of defense. Under intense media pressure, including warnings from FIRE about the constitutional issues, the university has scraped the policy.

Clearly, this battle isn’t over by a long shot.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

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GOP Rep. Lyons Sold Michigan Schools a Bad Deal

The controversial former chair of the Michigan House Committee on Education, Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-86), bought a bill of goods in yet another Mylan EpiPen scam and brought Michigan schools with her. She sponsored and shepherded successful legislation to force all schools to purchase EpiPens based on a gratuitous initiative led by the mother of Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan — the manufacturer of the life-saving medical device which raised prices from around $100 to $600 in a newly created monopoly on the product under her leadership.

While the idea of stocking EpiPens in every school is certainly meritorious, the impetus behind the push appears much less than noble. Bresch’s mother, Gayle Manchin, assumed leadership of the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012. That same year, Mylan sponsored a presentation to the association on the danger of food allergies. The connection between Mylan and the NASBE was further solidified through contributions from one to the other under their respective mother-daughter team, both of them having assumed their leadership positions in January of 2012.

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Graphic insert source: NASBE Discussion Guide

The NASBE subsequently developed an Epinephrine Policy Initiative and accompanying Discussion Guide for dissemination among state leaders and lawmakers to provide policy guidelines for state boards of education.

In the discussion guide we find the heartbreaking story of a school child dying from anaphylaxis. (See insert from the guide – right.)

After the passage of Michigan’s EpiPen Law the following year, Rep. Lyons was asked by Legal News.com:

“How did you first become involved in this issue?”

Her response below, verbatim (emphasis mine):

Posthumus Lyons: Our schools are constantly revising policies and practices to ensure that our children are safe during the school day. As the chair of the House Education Committee and mother of four young children — one of whom suffered from a peanut allergy as a toddler and has thankfully outgrown — I’m very receptive to listening to other parents about their concerns relating to safety issues. This issue came to my attention when I heard the story of a seven-year-old girl in Virginia who suffered an anaphylactic reaction in school, brought on by a food allergy. Her school did not have an epinephrine injector known as an “EpiPen” on site and her physicians have stated that had she received the injection her life may have been saved. I don’t want that same tragedy to happen here in Michigan. Minutes matter when it comes to allergies, and I want to ensure our schools are able to respond in an emergency situation. I’m so thankful to the Legislature for passing, and to the Governor for signing this important legislation.

Did Lyons realize that her legislation made Michigan one of eleven states that bought into the Mylan monopoly? Probably not. At the time, few were aware of Mylan’s nefarious activities. However, the story is fluid, with continued testimony in Congressional hearings this week. Presumably, Miss Lyons has connected the dots by now, and, no, Lyons has no record of accepting money from Mylan.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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Sending it Back to Trump — Postage Paid

Wednesday’s mail revealed a large envelope with a stars and stripes stamp affixed in the upper right, addressed to me from none other than Donald J. Trump. He wants me to help him make American Great Again — a feat which apparently can only be achieved through my completion of a short survey, plus a small donation, both courtesy of a postage-paid envelope (more on that envelope in a moment.)

trump-return-stuff

Some return mail to Trump

Trump, who initially claimed he would use millions of his own vast personal wealth to finance his campaign, is now clearly in full-on fundraising mode. Yep, he couldn’t even keep his first campaign promise.

He’s gaming the campaign finance system in a way not seen before in American politics. As we already know, a good portion of Trump’s reported spending is being funneled right back into his various business ventures — all perfectly legal, yet marginally ethical. Under another completely legal option, candidate Trump could report his own contributions as loans to the campaign thereby allowing him to reimburse himself through funds raised from guileless supporters. If played with finesse, he could actually profit from all the campaign spending and lending.

I’m not as clever as Donald, but as a frugal person myself, I couldn’t bear to see that postage-paid envelope going to waste, so I stuffed it with a number of thoughtful items, with Mr. Trump’s specific needs in mind of course.

September 16, 2016

Dear Donald,

Thank you for mailing me the unsolicited request for a campaign contribution, along with the thoughtful inclusion of a first-class, postage-paid envelope!

In lieu of sending you money, I’ve opted to fill the return envelope with a number of helpful items intended for you and your campaign.

Please enjoy the following enclosures:

  • A complimentary English Grammar for Dummies cheat sheet. You will need this bigly, and at two-pages in length, it will fit nicely, very nicely, into your very small hands.
  • A Bikram Yoga brochure and class schedule. Hot yoga is just the greatest, really the greatest, way to maintain the “excellent health” of which you’ve proclaimed to Dr. Oz leaves you feeling half your age.
  • A special offer for a free flu shot, again to protect your truly awesome 35-year old body — not that you would ever fall ill due to a common infection! This will be super important during the massive, truly massive, flu outbreak anticipated after you repeal Obamacare on your first day in office.
  • An invitation to a Planned Parenthood Healthy Families Luncheon, just because.
  • Baskets full of hugely useful coupons from various really great pharmacies: LifeStyles condoms – size: small; L’Oreal Sublime Bronze self-tanner for a subtly nuanced glow; Revlon Colorsilk haircolor – we recommend shade #45; Optic White toothpaste; L’Oreal hairspray – extra firm hold; 5-Hour Energy drinks for your low-energy friends; and of course, a blood pressure monitor just in case you miss your meds. (I considered sending you an oily fish for your cholesterol problem, but it just wouldn’t fit in the envelope.)
  • And finally, two tremendously delicious recipes, really, they’re the best: one for Duck L’Orange for whatever that thing is growing on your head; and another for the best tacos — you’ll need it after you ban all those taco trucks and send all the Mexicans home.

You won’t believe how surprised, I mean hugely, bigly surprised, I was to receive your fundraising letter and survey! I hope you equally enjoy my reply.

Amy Kerr Hardin

On a slightly more serious note….

A quick perusal of the Trump survey (it’s only 9 questions, with a font size and vocab worthy of a first-grade primer) reveals the candidate’s true estimation of the intelligence of his supporters. The directions for completing the form include a super-sized graphic instruction on how to properly mark a box. Then, on the flip side, he asks for a contribution with the following listed as an option:

“I can’t send a contribution today, but to help pay for the cost of processing the results of this survey, I am enclosing $15.”

Let’s hope that $15 processing fee comes with a Trump Chia Pet too. Yes, they do exist, and I too am curious as to how they might possibly train sprouts to recreate that weird swirly hairy duck effect.

The mailer was presumably vetted by the Republican National Committee, as it is financed through a joint fundraising committee between Trump and the party. A portion of the contributions are allocated to the RNC to fund down-ticket races.

The whole enterprise is genius in its simplistic appeal to the lowest electoral common denominator. First, the push-poll “survey” provides Trump supporters a means to vent (albeit through checking boxes like lab rats), followed by the linkage of the notion of having their voices being heard to their monetary contribution — it’s master salesmanship — if you’re a chump, a really, really huge chump.

Post Script: We learned today that Trump’s latest physical exam showed him an inch taller than previous exams — that one inch made the difference between being labeled overweight or obese. So it seems, even a manbaby can grow.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Apologies to lab rats.

 

 

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Meijer Bags Michigan Lawmakers

A Michigan-based political action committee thinks they have it in the bag with their timely $20K contribution to state lawmakers. It was recently disclosed that Meijer Inc. PAC greased the palms of Republican Senators on the same day the Commerce Committee was about to take-up the question of preventing local governments from banning the use of plastic shopping bags.

meijer bag

Photo: A. Hardin

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports that Meijer dollars, combined with other significant corporate PAC money, vastly outspent environmental interests on the cusp of the Senate committee’s discussion on the topic of plastic bags last April. The committee is chaired by Sen. Wayne Schmidt – (Grand Traverse County), who has two profitable Meijer stores in his Northern Michigan district. He was also one of the sponsors of the legislation, which went on to earn Senate approval, and is awaiting consideration in the House.

The bill in question, SB 853, would prohibit municipalities from banning retailers’ use of plastic bags — or as listed in the legislation, “auxiliary containers.”  Meijer is on record as supporting the legislation, and we can surely expect a handsome contribution to GOP Representatives as they take up the bill in the House Committee on Commerce and Trade.

Meijer isn’t the only party to give money to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee — the Michigan Retailers Association and the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers gave a combined $3,500, also on the day of the committee hearing.

As Sen. Schmidt is well aware, Grand Traverse County is not unfamiliar with the bought-and-paid-for influence of the Grand Rapids-based retailer within his community. A decade ago, the mega-store attempted to sway, with thousands-upon-thousands of unreported dollars, a number of elections within the county. Their efforts to create favorable marketing conditions were bolstered by gross violations of the law — a possible felony at the time, until the Citizens United ruling rendered their actions as mere misdemeanors. After years of litigation, the Supreme Court ruling dashed all hope of meaningful prosecution.

It is troubling that Sen. Schmidt would accept a bald-faced quid pro quo from a corporate entity that has a history of disruption within his jurisdiction. Also found in Schmidt’s district is a family-owned chain of stores, Tom’s Food Markets, who offer a five-cent discount to shoppers per canvas bag used — from any store, including Meijer. The local chain has demonstrated a commitment to elimenating disposables. When Meijer opened their second mega-store in the county, they launched a campaign to exchange other retailer’s green bags, namely Tom’s bags, for their blue bag — a pitch which fell flat among local consumers for obvious reasons.

Schmidt is clearly nowhere on supporting local business.

There are larger issues at stake though. First, the obvious threat to the principle of home rule — something Republicans are all for, except for when they’re not. Also, the environmental concerns that prompt communities to enact ordinances banning “auxiliary containers”, such as plastic bags, are very real.

The impetus behind this legislation appears to be ordinances like the one recently passed in Washtenaw County which imposes a ten-cent fee for each disposable bag, paper or plastic, used instead of a reusable container. The Michigan county is not alone in their effort to curb the use of disposable bags — they keep good company with communities like Chicago, Seattle, Boulder, New York, Portland, and Washington, D.C., and the whole state of California, among others. Since 2015, 73 pieces of legislation have been proposed in state houses to regulate disposable bags, with 71 of those bills designed to decrease the use of single-use bags. Many states have already enacted laws to regulate bags. As per usual, Michigan falls outside of the norm.

The National Conference of State Legislatures describes the importance of this kind of legislation:

“Regulating bags can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests and the wildlife that inhabit them. Reducing bag use can also relieve pressure on landfills and waste management.”

Joining Michigan in an effort to ban the bans on disposables are six states that, either have legislation pending, or have already enacted a ban on bans. They are Arizona, Missouri, Idaho, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Utah — predominately red states, similarly plagued by retro-grade leadership.

On the side of the environment, California was the first state to take a stand against disposable bags with their 2014 law. They took action after 127 municipalities had already put the kibosh on single-use bags. The primary reason cited was the need to protect some of the state’s greatest assets — its beaches, rivers, and ocean fronts. Nathan Weaver of Environment California, explained the need to protect the state’s waterways:

“From the thousands of sea turtles that are now safer from plastic bags to the thousands of volunteers who remove these bags from our beaches and rivers, this bill means a cleaner ocean for everyone… Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our ocean for hundreds of years.”

It is a shame that Michigan lawmakers show so little regard for its greatest treasure.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Related: Michigan’s bottle return law is 97 percent effective in encouraging recycling, compared to 30 percent nationally, where these laws are less common.

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