Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

September 11, 2017

Trump’s War on Science: NYT Editorial

Filed under: Environment,Trump — millerlf @ 9:16 am

New York Times Editorial Board Sept. 9, 2017

The news was hard to digest until one realized it was part of a much larger and increasingly disturbing pattern in the Trump administration. On Aug. 18, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine received an order from the Interior Department that it stop work on what seemed a useful and overdue study of the health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining.

The $1 million study had been requested by two West Virginia health agencies following multiple studies suggesting increased rates of birth defects, cancer and other health problems among people living near big surface coal-mining operations in Appalachia. The order to shut it down came just hours before the scientists were scheduled to meet with affected residents of Kentucky.

The Interior Department said the project was put on hold as a result of an agencywide budgetary review of grants and projects costing more than $100,000.

This was not persuasive to anyone who had been paying attention. From Day 1, the White House and its lackeys in certain federal agencies have been waging what amounts to a war on science, appointing people with few scientific credentials to key positions, defunding programs that could lead to a cleaner and safer environment and a healthier population, and, most ominously, censoring scientific inquiry that could inform the public and government policy.

Even allowing for justifiable budgetary reasons, in nearly every case the principal motive seemed the same: to serve commercial interests whose profitability could be affected by health and safety rules.

The coal mining industry is a conspicuous example. The practice of blowing the tops off mountains to get at underlying coal seams has been attacked for years by public health and environmental interests and by many of the families whose livelihoods depend on coal. But Mr. Trump and his department heads have made a very big deal of saving jobs in a declining industry that is already under severe pressure from market forces, including competition from cheaper natural gas. An unfavorable health study would inject unwelcome reality into Mr. Trump’s rosy promises of a job boom fueled by “clean, beautiful coal.”

This is a president who has never shown much fidelity to facts, unless they are his own alternative ones. Yet if there is any unifying theme beyond that to the administration’s war on science, apart from its devotion to big industry and its reflexively antiregulatory mind-set, it is horror of the words “climate change.”

This starts with Mr. Trump, who has called global warming a hoax and pulled the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. Among his first presidential acts, he instructed Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, to deep-six President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to roll back Obama-era rules reducing the venting from natural gas wells of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas.

Mr. Trump has been properly sympathetic to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but the fact that there is almost certainly a connection between a warming earth and increasingly destructive natural events seems not to have occurred to him or his fellow deniers. Mr. Pruitt and his colleagues have enthusiastically jumped to the task of rescinding regulations that might address the problem, meanwhile presiding over a no less ominous development: a governmentwide purge of people, particularly scientists, whose research and conclusions about the human contribution to climate change do not support the administration’s agenda.

Mr. Pruitt, for instance, is replacing dozens of members on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards; in March, he dismissed at least five scientists from the agency’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, to be replaced, according to a spokesman, with advisers “who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.” Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dissolved its 15-member climate science advisory committee, a panel set up to help translate the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete guidance for businesses, governments and the public.

In June, Mr. Pruitt told a coal industry lobbying group that he was preparing to convene a “red team” of researchers to challenge the notion, broadly accepted among climate scientists, that carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels are the primary drivers of climate change.

Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, called the red team plan a “dumb idea” that’s like “a red team-blue team exercise about whether gravity exists.” Rick Perry, the energy secretary, former Texas governor and climate skeptic, endorsed the idea as — get this — a way to “get the politicians out of the room.” Given his and Mr. Pruitt’s ideological and historical financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, it is hard to think of a more cynical use of public money.

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Even the official vocabulary of global warming has changed, as if the problem can be made to evaporate by describing it in more benign terms. At the Department of Agriculture, staff members are encouraged to use words like “weather extremes” in lieu of “climate change,” and “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency” instead of “reduce greenhouse gases.” The Department of Energy has scrubbed the words “clean energy” and “new energy” from its websites, and has cut links to clean or renewable energy initiatives and programs, according to the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which monitors federal websites.

At the E.P.A., a former Trump campaign assistant named John Konkus aims to eliminate the “double C-word,” meaning “climate change,” from the agency’s research grant solicitations, and he views every application for research money through a similar lens. The E.P.A. is even considering editing out climate change-related exhibits in a museum depicting the agency’s history.

The bias against science finds reinforcement in Mr. Trump’s budget and the people he has chosen for important scientific jobs. Mr. Trump’s 2018 federal budget proposal would cut nondefense research and development money across the government.

The president has proposed cutting nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s single largest funder of biomedical research. The National Science Foundation, a government agency that funds a variety of scientific and engineering research projects, would be trimmed by about 11 percent. Plant and animal-related science at the Agriculture Department, data analysis at the Census Bureau and earth science at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would all suffer.

It is amazing but true, given the present circumstances, that the Trump budget would eliminate $250 million for NOAA’s coastal research programs that prepare communities for rising seas and worsening storms. The E.P.A.’s Global Change program would be likewise eliminated. This makes the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, delirious with joy. He complains of “crazy things” the Obama administration did to study climate, and boasts: “Do a lot of the E.P.A. reductions aim at reducing the focus on climate science? Yes.”

As to key appointments, denial and mediocrity abound. Last week, Mr. Trump nominated David Zatezalo, a former coal company chief executive who has repeatedly clashed with federal mine safety regulators, as assistant secretary of labor for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. He nominated Jim Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma with no science or space background, as NASA administrator. Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump’s nomination to be the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist, is not a scientist: He’s a former talk-radio host and incendiary blogger who has labeled climate research “junk science.”

From the beginning, Mr. Trump, Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Zinke and Mr. Perry — to name the Big Four on environmental and energy issues — have been promising a new day to just about anyone discomfited by a half-century of bipartisan environmental law, whether it be the developers and farmers who feel threatened by efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act, oil and gas drillers seeking leases they do not need on federal land, chemical companies seeking relaxation from rules governing dangerous pesticides, automakers asked to improve fuel efficiency or utilities required to make further investments in technology to reduce ground-level pollutants.

“The future ain’t what it used to be at the E.P.A.,” Mr. Pruitt is fond of saying of his agency. These words could also apply to just about every other cabinet department and regulatory body in this administration. What his words really mean is that the future isn’t going to be nearly as promising for ordinary Americans as it should be.

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August 24, 2017

Join Rev. William Barber August 28 in Milwaukee

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today — millerlf @ 12:11 pm

Milwaukee, WI Mass Meeting

When: Monday, August 28, 7:00pm – 9:00pm (CDT)

Where: St Gabriels Church of God, 5363 N 37th St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53209, USA

Join co-chairs Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis for a Mass Meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival on Monday, August 28 at 7:00 pm at St. Gabriels Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to learn about the inspiration, vision and strategy of the PPC. The Campaign will build a broad and deep national moral fusion movement — rooted in the leadership of the poor and dispossessed as moral agents and reflecting the great moral teachings — to unite our country from the bottom up.

August 14, 2017

OSPP Pushing At Racine School District

Filed under: OSPP,Privatization — millerlf @ 12:42 pm

Commissioner could take over Unified schools if District fails again, unless amendment passes

RICARDO TORRES ricardo.torres@journaltimes.com Aug 10, 2017

 

RACINE — State legislators are discussing an amendment to the state budget that would give the Racine Unified School District, in the event the state gives the district a failing grade this fall, an extra year to improve its standing to prevent some failing schools from being part of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program.

Because of the failing report card last year, State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said the district is “looking at that potential this year” which could result in the state and the county determining the future of some failing schools.

“That means they would take five schools out of the Unified school district, eliminate all positions and then rehire all of those positions and then redo all of those schools and they would be out of the district,” Wanggaard said. “That would trigger a potential referendum for Sturtevant, Caledonia and Mount Pleasant, that they could form their own school districts.”

The legislature would likely approve the 2017-19 budget before the state test results are released in November so the amendment, if it goes through, would allow Unified an extra year of leeway before any schools become part of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, if the district receives another failing grade.

In November 2016, the district received a grade of “fails to meet expectations” from the state with 11 schools failing to meet expectations including Case, Horlick and Park high schools. However, several schools were docked points based on test participation, absenteeism rate and dropout rate, which moved them into the “fails to meet expectations” category.

Wanggaard, who has been championing the amendment, said the district has made important changes, specifically highlighting the launching of the Academies of Racine and changing Knapp Elementary School to a community school.

“To allow some of those things to come to fruition, I think that will get them up and going and moving in the right direction,” Wanggaard said.

Report to county executive

According to the state statute, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program would automatically go into action after the second straight year of receiving a failing grade from the state and schools in the program would be run by a commissioner.

The commissioner is selected by the county executive from a pool of applicants appointed by the governor, city mayor and county executive. The commissioner also reports to the county executive.

Wanggaard said the amendment would give the district another year “to prove themselves.”

“If they fail then it goes to an Opportunity School (and Partnership Program) and it also triggers the referendum for those municipalities that want to have their own district,” Wanggaard said, adding it would be up to the municipalities to decide if they want to be involved with the Opportunity School and Partnership Program or try to form their own district.

In the past, some in Caledonia have advocated the community starting its own district.

‘Huge and stressful issue’

The district is aware of the seriousness of a another failing grade from the state and is concerned that if the amendment does not go through, the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program will go into effect.

Stacy Tapp, chief of communications and community engagement for Unified, said a task force was formed to focus on areas to improve the state test results after last year’s failing grade.

“The district has been focused on improving our report card results,” Tapp said. “We’ve also been focused on engaging students through the academy model and other efforts. However, we won’t get the report card until fall.”

School Board President Robert Wittke said he’s been in contact with local legislators about the initiatives the district has taken in the wake of last year’s results, which he views as an anomaly, but he said the community should know the seriousness of the situation.

“This is a huge and stressful issue,” Wittke said. “This would not be something that’s good for the community … Its one of the most important issues that we’re facing.”

Wittke said he’s confident the district has taken the right steps with forming the Academies of Racine and now the middle school transformation.

Delaying handbook, ‘boneheaded decision’

The changes the district has been making have not been lost on local legislators.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the delay would “allow the Academies (of Racine) to take hold.”

Although no amendment has been officially drafted, Vos said this will be part of the discussion but recent issues such as the employee handbook make it difficult.

“I still continue to be frustrated that as we are looking to try to give (Unified) more wiggle room to be able to turn the district around at a local level, then they make a boneheaded decision like delaying the handbook,” Vos said.

If the amendment does pass, it’s likely legislators will insist on certain conditions which could include approving a handbook that is compliant with Act 10.

Recently, the current handbook has come under scrutiny. Specifically, the legality of the Board of Adjustments was questioned by School Board Vice President and Mayor Dennis Wiser.

The Board of Adjustments is defined by the current handbook as being “comprised of equal representation of the District and the authorized representative of the teaching staff… to consider the appropriate level of benefits, plan design, structure, premium contributions and all other issues related to health, dental and disability benefits.”

Act 10 bars public employees from negotiating for benefits and only allows negotiation for salaries.

If the amendment does not go through, Wanggaard said the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program would automatically go into effect, “unless we do a statutory change with a separate bill to change (the program).”

“Every time this (Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program) is done it’s the students that are at risk,” Wanggaard said. “They’re not being prepared for what these changes are. I know it’s difficult for the staff and stuff like that but it’s the students that need the preparation to go on for their potential future.”

 

July 11, 2017

Trump Isolated and Sitting Alone at G20 (G19?)

Filed under: Trump — millerlf @ 11:39 am

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July 3, 2017

Is Mayor Barrett Caving–in to Trump and Clark? Join Voces De La Frontera on Wednesday at City Hall

Filed under: Immigration — millerlf @ 7:31 am

Following is a press statement from Voces:

MAYOR BARRETT DON’T BETRAY THE COMMUNITY!

THE MAYOR WANTS TO CHANGE THE CURRENT POLICE POLICY THAT LIMITS COOPERATION WITH IMMIGRATION. IF THIS NEW POLICY IS IMPLEMENTED IT WILL OPEN THE DOOR TO MORE DISCRIMINATION AND FAMILY SEPARATION.

COME THIS WEDNESDAY, JULY 5TH TO PUBLICLY TELL MAYOR: DON’T BETRAY YOUR PROMISES THAT YOU MADE TO US ON NOVEMBER 12TH AFTER THE NATIONAL ELECTIONS.
JOIN US TO DEMONSTRATE OUR UNITY AND OPPOSITION TO THIS NEW POLICY THAT HE WANTS TO IMPLEMENT.

WHERE:  MILWAUKEE CITY HALL
200 E. WELLS—CORNER OF WATER ST

DATE & TIME: WED. JUNE 5, 2017 AT 11 AM
FOR TRANSPORTATION COME TO  VOCES (5TH &  WASHINGTON) AT 10AM

CALL THE MAYOR AT 414-286-2200 TO TELL HIM:
Don’t change the policy of the Milwaukee Police Department that limits collaboration with immigration. Don’t betray the community. Stand up to Trump’s politics of hate & discrimination.

June 12, 2017

Will Chicago Become the Epicenter of Charter School Unionization?

Filed under: Charter Schools,Unions — millerlf @ 9:22 am
Jeff Schuhrke June 8, 2017 In These Times

In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”

In a move sure to worry neoliberal education reformers, unionized charter school teachers in Chicago are voting this week on whether to formally join forces with the most militant teachers’ union in the country.

 

The proposed merger—which would be a potential first in the country—would see the more than 1,000 member Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), amalgamate into a single union local with the nearly 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), AFT Local 1.

 

ChiACTS president Chris Baehrend said the potential merger “helps all Chicago teachers fight together on the same issues.”

 

Formed in 2009, ChiACTS is at the national forefront of organizing charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the CTU.

 

Since October, ChiACTS teachers have come close to going on strike at UNO, ASPIRA and Passages charter schools. But all three walkouts—which would have been the first charter school teacher strikes in history—were avoided by last-minute contract agreements.

 

In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”

 

Though the CTU is undoubtedly opposed to the expansion of charter schools, as evidenced by the union’s successful effort to win a cap on new charters last fall, its leaders say they are dedicated to building teacher-to-teacher solidarity.

 

“Charter schools are here; they’re not going anywhere,” CTU president Karen Lewis recently said, continuing: “It’s the management companies we have the issues with, not the charter teachers, not the students, not the parents. The key is, organize people to fight for fairer conditions of work, and then that’s good for everybody.”

 

Since September 2015, the CTU has provided support to contract negotiations and enforcement for ChiACTS through a service agreement. Further, CTU members have frequently joined ChiACTS teachers at their rallies, and activists from both locals have met to discuss shared concerns through a joint committee.

 

“We believe that unification is a key step to allow educators to speak with one voice in Chicago, halt privatization and bring additional resources to our collective work,” says a letter from CTU leaders to delegates, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

Union leaders acknowledge that the merger would be “a delicate process and will inevitably bring challenges and tensions.” This seems particularly true as the comparably small ChiACTS local would likely seek to retain some measure of autonomy within the much larger CTU.

 

Speaking for the charter companies, Broy described the unification move as a “hostile takeover” of ChiACTS by the CTU—a bizarre allegation considering ChiACTS members are voting on whether to approve the merger themselves.

 

“There will be trials,” said CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey. “I well imagine there are things that could potentially be tricky, but frankly you could say they’re the same things that divide our teachers now.”

 

Teachers at individual charter schools would still have their own contracts, and ChiACTS members would be able to run for seats on the CTU’s executive board and House of Delegates.

 

This week’s merger vote by ChiACTS members—the outcome of which will not be announced for several days—precedes a similar vote by CTU members, which will likely happen this fall. Further details have yet to be made public.

 

“When people hear the term ‘CTU,’ they’re going to have to understand that the CTU doesn’t just represent CPS,” Sharkey said. “It will more broadly be an organization for public educators in the city of Chicago.”

 

Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to In These Times magazine, or make a tax-deductible donation to fund this reporting.

 

JEFF SCHUHRKE

Jeff Schuhrke is a Working In These Times contributor based in Chicago. He has a Master’s in Labor Studies from UMass Amherst and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in labor history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSchuhrke.

 

Milwaukee Journal Sunday Op-ed, “Plan to fix schools falls short”, Falls Short

Filed under: Privatization — millerlf @ 9:20 am

In Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there is an op-ed (“Plan to fix schools falls short” by Wright and Petrilli http://tinyurl.com/yayfej5v) that criticizes the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act. Their alternatives for schools, identified as low performing, is warmed over privatization: private charters, turnaround districts, receiverships and “innovation zones”. They offer Nashville and New Orleans as examples of these privatization “successes.” Once again neoliberal school “reformers” deny truth.    

Read the following articles:

New Orleans: http://tinyurl.com/yc6g8eof

Nashville: http://tinyurl.com/y7hk6oyk

 

 

June 6, 2017

Trump’s Climate Withdrawal Is an Impeachable Offense

Filed under: Environment,Trump — millerlf @ 1:55 pm

Tuesday, June 06, 2017 By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout

When President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, he acted in concert with 22 Republican senators, who collectively receive $10,694,284 in contributions from the coal and oil industries.

These 22 senators wrote to Trump, asking him to pull out of the accord. The president and the senators put their own political and economic interests above the safety, security and indeed survival of the American people and the entire planet.

The climate accord is a landmark deal, in which 195 countries responsible for 95 percent of carbon emissions worldwide agreed to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow down global warming.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Under the pact, the Obama administration promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 29 percent lower than 2005 levels by 2025.

But according to the Rhodium Group, Trump’s new policies will only cut emissions 15 percent to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, considerably lower than the commitment made by the Obama administration.

The United States is the second largest purveyor of fossil fuels. China, which is first, and India, third, made significant commitments to cut their emissions as well. China is shutting down coal mines and plants and replacing them with solar plants and wind turbines. India is substituting solar panels for expansion of its coal companies.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a consortium of four European research organizations, determined that “without any further action, the [United States, under the Obama pledge] will miss its commitment ‘by a large margin.'” The 2015 Clean Power Plan, which would shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction on new ones, and replace them with new wind and solar farms, was one of the most significant programs in US climate action, according to the CAT.

But Trump signed an executive order in March, directing the Environmental Protection Agency to begin withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan.

Both China and India, on the other hand, are on track toward meeting their emissions goals, CAT found.

A study by the Grantham Research Institute concluded that the existence of the Paris climate agreement has caused dozens of countries to pass new laws requiring the use of clean energy.

The United States is now only one of three countries in the world that will not be party to the climate accord. Nicaragua did not join because the agreement wasn’t strong enough. Syria did not join because it is embroiled in a war and operates under a severe sanctions regime.

Withdrawing From the Climate Agreement Is a Political Offense

Trump’s withdrawal from the climate agreement constitutes an impeachable offense.

The Constitution provides for impeachment of the president when he commits “High Crimes” and misdemeanors. They include, but are not limited to, conduct punishable by the criminal law.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist No. 65 that offenses are impeachable if they “proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

“They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

“The Abuse or Violation of Some Public Trust”

No individual embodies the trust of the public more than the president, who is elected by the people. When the people choose their president, they are entrusting that person with their security, well-being and survival. The voters trust the president to act in their best interests and protect them from harm. By withdrawing from the climate agreement, Trump is violating the trust that “We the People” have placed in him.

Timothy Wirth, under secretary of state in the Clinton administration, told The Nation that Trump’s withdrawal from the pact was “a stunning moral abdication of responsibility to future generations.”

“Injuries Done Immediately to the Society Itself”

“We’ve watched Arctic sea ice vanish at a record pace and measured the early disintegration of Antarctica’s great ice sheets,” Middlebury College environmental studies professor Bill McKibben wrote in the New York Times. “We’ve been able to record alarming increases in drought and flood and wildfire, and we’ve been able to link them directly to the greenhouse gases we’ve poured into the atmosphere.”

In his analysis for Truthout, Dahr Jamail cites a recently published study showing that “the depletion of dissolved oxygen in Earth’s oceans is occurring much faster than previously believed.” Thus, he writes, anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) “is now recreating the conditions that caused the worst mass extinction event on Earth, the Permian mass extinction that took place approximately 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of life. Dramatic oceanic warming and acidification were key components of this extinction event, and these conditions align with what we are seeing today.”

Jamail adds, “Scientists have said that the US withdrawal [from the climate accord] could add up to 3 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis.”

If the climate continues to change at a rapid rate, society itself will be injured. As the glaciers melt and the oceans swell, the land will recede. Crops will die. Mosquitos will increasingly carry diseases. The Earth will be hit with massive floods, devastating heat waves and drought. Polar bears will become extinct. People will lose their lands, their homes and their lives. Indeed, life as we know it will come to an end.

“To refuse to act against global warming is to condemn thousands of people to death and suffering today and millions more tomorrow. This is murder,” Mark Hertsgaard wrote in The Nation.

A Crime Against Humanity

Moreover, by withdrawing the United States from the climate accord, Trump has committed a crime against humanity, which also constitutes a High Crime.

Trump has been aided and abetted in his crime against humanity by the following 22 GOP Senators: Inhofe (Oklahoma), Barrasso (Wyoming), McConnell (Kentucky), Cornyn (Texas), Blunt (Missouri), Wicker (Mississippi), Enzi (Wyoming), Crapo (Idaho), Risch (Idaho), Cochran (Mississippi), Rounds (South Dakota), Paul (Kentucky), Boozman (Arkansas), Shelby (Alabama), Strange (Alabama), Hatch (Utah), Lee (Utah), Cruz (Texas), Perdue (Georgia), Tillis (North Carolina), Scott (South Carolina) and Roberts (Kansas).

Crimes against humanity can be committed even without a state of war. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines crimes against humanity as “inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.” They must be “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”

Since taking office, Trump has mounted a methodical assault on the people of the United States. He has systematically endeavored to destroy the social safety net, including the rights to healthcare, public education and a clean environment, as well as the rights of workers, immigrants, women and LGBTQ people.

By withdrawing from the climate agreement and refusing to shoulder the United States’ share of responsibility for slowing climate change, Trump has intentionally committed an inhumane act that will ultimately cause great suffering to the people of the world.

Although the ICC cannot directly prosecute and try climate crimes, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC said in a policy paper last year that it would construe crimes against humanity more broadly to include “destruction of the environment” and make prosecution of those crimes a priority.

According to the Center for Climate Crime Analysis (CCCA), a new nonprofit established to support the ICC prioritization of environmental crimes, “Climate crimes are criminal activities that result in, or are associated with, the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG). The CCCA does not aim to criminalize GHG emissions per se. Most emissions are legal. However, a significant share of GHG emissions results from, or is associated with, conduct that violates existing criminal law.”

The CCA notes, “Climate crimes are often intertwined with other serious international crimes. As a result of this link, as well through their impact on climate change, climate crimes may represent a threat to international peace and security and potentially affect all of humankind and the very foundations of civilization.”

Richard Harvey, a specialist in international criminal and environmental law, told Truthout, “Given what the ICC prosecutor and the Center for Climate Crime Analysis consider environmental crimes against humanity, Trump’s attempt to renege on this international agreement is a clear invitation to his Big Carbon cronies to continue policies designed to consign humanity to the greenhouse gas chamber. Is that conspiracy to commit a crime against humanity? You be the judge.”

By pulling out of the climate accord, Trump “makes himself guilty of what looks like a grave crime against humanity, the planet Earth, and future generations,” Uffe Elbæk, former Danish minister of culture and leader of Denmark’s Green Party, said.

Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch calls the “system of destruction on a planetary scale … the ultimate ‘crime against humanity.'” He writes, “It is becoming a ‘terracide.'”

The House of Representatives Should Impeach Trump

It takes 51 percent of the House of Representatives to impeach the president. Republicans control a majority of the seats in the House. But imperiling the planet should not be a partisan issue.

The fact that virtually every other country in the world, as well as US states and cities, corporations and activists worldwide are taking steps on their own to slow the changing climate does not absolve Trump from his crime.

It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to vote for the impeachment of Trump.

Meanwhile, we must, and will, continue to build the global climate justice movement.

Marjorie Cohn

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

 

Wisconsin Association of School Boards: On School Funding

Filed under: Legislation,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 1:51 pm

John Ashley Statement on Assembly GOP School Funding Plan

The Assembly Republican school funding plan includes provisions we support and it is a positive sign that Assembly GOP legislators recognize the need to increase state aid for school districts. We appreciate and strongly support removing the “strings” of the healthcare cost shift mandate and how funding needs to be budgeted per school building to receive the proposed increases in per-pupil aid. The WASB also supports raising the low-revenue ceiling to help historically low-spending districts and increased funding for high cost special education aid. There are a wide range of other provisions included in the proposal that we are still reviewing.

However, we are concerned that this plan backs away from the governor’s proposed per-pupil categorical aid investments. The WASB does do not support reducing the governor’s proposed increase by $90 million.  The governor’s original proposal, for the first time in several budgets, provides nearly an inflationary increase in state aid to almost all school districts in the state.  We also have concerns with the proposal to cut $50 per pupil of state support for all districts and instead require a subset of districts to recoup this amount by asking their local property taxpayers to pay more, especially in small, rural communities.  While we support giving local school boards options, the financial burden under the Assembly GOP plan would fall entirely on those school boards’ property taxpayers during this budget cycle.

Overall, we hope legislators will support the governor’s investments in per-pupil aid at the $200 and $204 per pupil level while also supporting local control and incorporating the positive proposals from the Assembly GOP on the low- revenue ceiling.

-John H. Ashley is Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards

Amid state budget impasse, Wisconsin Senate leaders mull going it alone

Filed under: Legislation,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 11:21 am

MOLLY BECK, MARK SOMMERHAUSER and MATTHEW DeFOUR Wisconsin State Journal 6/6/2017

 

State Senate leaders on Monday raised the prospect of crafting their own state budget instead of working with the Assembly through the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee — a fresh sign of the growing budget divide among statehouse Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters this week’s talks on the 2017-19 spending plan could prove pivotal.

With less than a month left to the state budget deadline, GOP Senate and Assembly leaders and Gov. Scott Walker are at an impasse over how to spend money on schools, address taxes and plug a shortfall in the state’s roads budget of nearly $1 billion.

Fitzgerald said he hopes to avoid writing a separate budget from the Assembly. But, he said, “we’re in a rougher spot than I thought we were” if the budget committee doesn’t meet this week as Fitzgerald said he’s urging its members to do.

“Then it becomes a full discussion for the full Senate caucus as to where we’re going to proceed,” Fitzgerald said.

Speaking earlier in the day, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, budget committee co-chairman, said it remains to be seen if the panel will meet this week.

The typical state budget process starts with the governor’s proposal. It then goes to JFC, the state’s budget-writing committee, which adds and subtracts from his proposal. Sixteen lawmakers from both houses comprise the committee in an effort to find common ground and to build consensus between the two houses before the full Legislature votes on the budget bill.

July 1 is the deadline to have a new budget in place. If lawmakers and the governor fail to agree on one by then, current spending levels would carry over into the new fiscal year.

Fitzgerald said it would be “pretty easy” for Senate Republicans to develop their own budget. On two of the most high-profile topics, transportation and education, the Senate and Walker are aligned, Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald signaled his patience for budget talks is waning and he doesn’t want the process to continue into the new fiscal year.

“I want this budget done by 1 July,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve had more than enough time to debate and discuss this budget.”

Responding to the possibility the Senate would finish writing its own budget based largely on Walker’s blueprint, Nygren said: “Is that waving the white flag that they don’t have ideas? I don’t know.”

Assembly crafted K-12 spending plan

The separate-budget idea surfaced on Friday after Assembly Republicans released their own proposal on school spending late last week, which was immediately rejected by Senate Republicans who want to work with Gov. Scott Walker’s schools proposal.

“It can be done,” Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills and co-chairwoman of the budget committee, said Monday of writing a separate budget. “I hope we don’t have to do that.”

Walker said in an interview Monday with the Wisconsin State Journal that the “good news” is the Senate GOP caucus is “clearly on board” with his proposal, but he acknowledged what ultimately is passed could change.

“My hope would be that in the end, it certainly doesn’t have to be 100 percent like what I proposed, but that to me having more money for schools and more relief for property taxpayers are certainly two priorities for us that we’re going to keep pushing for,” Walker said.

Some GOP lawmakers have previously discussed separating transportation from the larger budget process. Nygren said any additional talks about breaking from the normal budget process “are news to me.”

The Assembly K-12 spending proposal called for, among other things, a smaller increase in the amount of money schools receive on a per-student basis.

But the “linchpin” of the proposal, Nygren said, is a provision that allows some school districts to raise more in property taxes, about $92 million, to pay for schools. Those districts are typically those that were spending less than the state average when revenue caps were instituted in 1993.

Darling said Friday that provision would be very difficult to do without new money to pay for it because Walker has said he won’t support a budget that raises property taxes above 2014 levels.

More details about the Assembly’s proposal will be released on Tuesday, Nygren said.

Several disagreements

The education proposal was the latest in a string of budget provisions Republicans in both houses have been unable to come to agreement on. How to fund roads, how much to lower property taxes and whether to self-insure state workers have also divided Walker and legislators.

Nygren said one of the biggest challenges has been the governor’s pledge to lower property taxes on a median-value home below what they were in 2014. Assembly Republicans have only committed to property taxes being lower than in 2016.

Additionally, many Republicans want to eliminate the personal property tax, which primarily affects businesses. Doing so would reduce funding for municipalities and school districts by $261 million a year. Some lawmakers want to get rid of Walker’s proposed income tax cut and reimburse local governments for the lost revenue.

Walker acknowledged in the interview Monday that the budget likely won’t be finished by the end of June. He noted that’s not unusual — the last state budget wasn’t signed until July 12.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Monday that schools can’t afford less money than what Walker proposed.

“Our schools can’t afford to shoulder more cuts while wealthy special interests benefit from massive tax giveaways,” she said in a statement.

Secret wrap-up budget motion not dead

Nygren said he expects the finance committee to once again employ a wrap-up, or “999,” budget motion at the close of this year’s budget-crafting process.

“It’s our intent to keep it limited as much as possible,” Nygren said.

Some key lawmakers said last month that in this budget, they were working to block use of the controversial maneuver, deployed in the past to add major policy changes to the state budget at the last minute with little or no public scrutiny. It was what lawmakers used two years ago just before the July 4 weekend to try to drastically limit public access to government records.

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