charterschoolfight

Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Three

The first time the district is authorized to play a role in the [charter school conversion] process occurs when the application is submitted for decision. (FRS1002.33(3)(b). Despite these restrictions, the district chose to maintain a very pronounced presence at NKC. For the next three months, two very senior district administrators (Ava Goldman, administrative director and Mr. Will Gordillo, Dr. Fernandez’ immediate supervisor) were on our school campus all day long, every day the school was in session. The reason given by the district for this was that these two extremely prominent administrators were there to answer any questions our staff had about converting to a charter school. Quite frankly, all of the questions our staff had were answered within the first 2-3 days of their stay on our campus. Given the high salaries those two officials were paid, it would be interesting to know how much taxpayers had to pay for their three month stay at one of the smallest schools in Miami-Dade County. Rightly or wrongly, the NKC staff viewed the daily attendance of two very senior district officials as an attempt to intimidate the staff.

One day, while the students were still on campus, Ms. Ava Goldman knocked on my classroom door and said she needed to speak to me immediately. Ms. Goldman and I then spent the next 20 minutes standing right next to my closed classroom door while she asked me a series of questions. That year I had the most difficult and behaviorally challenged class of my 30 year career. The only staff person left in my classroom  (while Ms. Goldman interviewed me) was my paraprofessional. As Ms. Goldman continued to question me, the volume of noise inside my classroom steadily increased. I heard a great deal of shouting, both from my paraprofessional and my students. I also heard several crashes  and other loud noises.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I find it hard to imagine that Ms. Goldman could not also hear the chaos inside my classroom, as she was standing right next to me.

At no time did she offer to continue her questioning after the students went home for the day. This is odd, because after spending her entire day at our campus for 3 months, she surely must have been aware of the fact that the entire staff had an hour long planning period every day after the students went home for the day. When I returned to my classroom after Ms. Goldman finished questioning me, my classroom was in a shambles, and my paraprofessional was extremely upset. Several tables and chairs were overturned and some expensive educational materials had been destroyed. Thankfully, none of my students were injured during my 20 minute instructional time conference with Ms. Goldman. If one or more of my students had been injured, I am wondering if Ms. Goldman would have assumed responsibility on my mandatory student injury report. Several other teachers also reported lengthy questioning by Ms. Goldman during instructional time. These teachers also felt that Ms. Goldman’s actions needlessly placed our students at risk for injury.

Prior to NKC notifying the district of our intention to explore the option of converting to a charter school, Mr. Will Gordillo had visited our campus on perhaps a half dozen occasions, never staying for more than half a day. Ms. Goldman had never before visited our campus. Mr. Gordillo and Ms. Goldman were not the only high ranking district officials to visit our school during the next 3 months. On February 3, the day after the district was notified of the NKC decision to explore a charter school conversion, our campus was visited by several senior district officials, including a region director who said she was representing the assistant superintendent for school operations, the region superintendent, and Milagros Fornell, who is the associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and a member of the superintendent’s cabinet. The visits and the conversation included implied threats to Dr. Fernandez’ employment. For example, the region director on numerous occasions reminded Dr. Fernandez that he was “still an employee of the school district” repeatedly making this comment in the presence of the school’s assistant principal. In addition, Ms. Fornell  also commented as to how “disappointed” she was regarding Dr. Fernandez’ recommendation for charter school status. The district instructed Dr. Fernandez to call a meeting of the NKC staff to discuss the charter school conversion. The meeting occurred on February 7, 2012. Approximately 15 high level  administrators, including members of the superintendent’s cabinet, were present at the meeting.

Most of these officials had never been to NKC before. Staff members were given information by district officials that was contrary to FS1002.33 regarding conversion to charter schools. In order to make an informed and intelligent decision regarding conversion to a charter school, staff needed to receive accurate and correct information from district officials. Although district officials had both a legal and moral duty to present NKC staff with accurate and factual information, that simply did not happen. The information we received at that meeting contained numerous egregious errors. For example, district officials told NKC staff that conversion to a charter school would result in a total loss of Federal funds. At the end of our first year of operations, as a charter school, the district told us we could expect to face a deficit of $1.25 million dollars. The figures drawn up by the NKC administrators showed the school enjoying a surplus of $400 thousand dollars at the conclusion of our first year as a charter school. At my request (the writer of this column) I received an extensive briefing by the NKC administrators on our revenues and expenditures as a charter school.

I can therefore state that this $400 thousand dollar surplus was a very conservative estimate. Our actual surplus would probably have been significantly higher. The district officials also incorrectly stated that as a charter school, we would not be allowed to participate in the Florida Retirement System (FRS). School district officials also incorrectly stated that as a charter school, we would lose all of our health benefits. Finally, we were incorrectly told that as a charter school, we could not expect the district to cover the cost of transporting our students to and from school via bus. The district’s information was so grossly inaccurate that a reasonable person would conclude that they were either totally incompetent or deliberately lying to us. To make matters worse, neither Dr. Fernandez or Mr. Cristobol was given an opportunity to speak at this meeting, so they were unable to correct these numerous serious mistakes. a result, NKC staff left that meeting with grossly inaccurate information. As a member of the NKC staff at that time, I can state that the information dispensed at that meeting was HUGELY instrumental in convincing staff that conversion to a charter school was not economically viable.

On February 9,2012, Dr. Fernandez sent an email to his immediate supervisor, Mr. Will Gordillo requesting that Mr. Gordillo forward a memorandum to Ms. Judith Marte, chief budget officer titled “funding sources for charter schools, legal requirements.” Ms. Marte sent Dr. Fernandez a response memorandum dated February 14, 2012, in which Ms. Marte provided inaccurate and incomplete information regarding the budget. The district instructed Dr. Fernandez to call a meeting of the parents of NKC students to discuss the conversion process. The meeting was held on February 16, 2012, and was controlled by administrators from the district. Much of the same incorrect information that was presented to NKC staff was repeated to NKC parents. Dr. Fernandez was in constant communication with district officials, and made numerous requests that correct information be provided to staff PRIOR to the conversion voting. The district provided some but not nearly all of the information requested. As a result, Dr. Fernandez notified his superiors that he was postponing the vote.

On February 18, Dr. Fernandez received an email from Ms. Goldman ordering him not to conduct the voting. This instruction from Ms. Goldman was in direct violation of Florida law and the Florida Administrative Code that a) provides the applicant with the absolute right for one teacher and parent vote per year. b) requires that the school administrator conduct such votes c) assigns full responsibility and control of the overall application and ballot process to the applicant and the school administrator(FS1002.33 (6)7(b);F.A.C.6A-6.0787(1). On April 26,2012, an investigator from the district’s Civilian Investigative Unit (CIU) sent a letter to certain NKC employees indicating that she had been assigned the task of investigating the allegation that Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol may have violated school board policies. The letter stated that this was “an open investigation, no other information can be provided at this time.” The recipients of the letter were “advised not to contact any subject(s) or witnesses, with the intent to interfere with the investigation…”. On April 23, 2012, Ms. Milagros Fornell appeared in Dr. Fernandez’ office at NKC around 2:20 P.M.. She served written notice to both Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol naming them the subject of an investigation for their efforts in attempting to influence the outcome of the vote for a proposed charter school conversion. The notification does not contend that Dr. Fernandez engaged in any unlawful activities in conjunction with an application to establish a charter school. Such contention and subsequent proof would be the only way that the district could cause Dr. Fernandez to lose his protected status under Florida law (FS1002.33(4)(a)).

The district also failed to comply with its own Personnel Investigative Model (PIM) which is subject to the district’s written policy. The notification provided to Dr. Fernandez led to an investigation that was to be conducted by the district’s Civilian Investigative Unit (CIU) According to the policy, the PIM was developed to “address concerns and incorporate recommendations made by educational stakeholders to insure that district-initiated  investigations are completed with objectivity, fairness, and with a FULL APPRECIATION OF OUR EMPLOYEES RIGHTS; (emphasis added) while maintaining the legal integrity of the investigative process.” The district violated Dr. Fernandez right to directly or indirectly participate in the application for charter status as guaranteed by Florida charter school law. (FS1002.33(4)(a)(2011). According to the policy, the PIM is “designed to provide a more transparent process for conducting investigations. It is intended to respect and enhance the Due Process rights of district employees. and provide uniformity to the recommendations for DISCIPLINARY ACTION. (emphasis added) A “disciplinary action” for participating in a charter application process is a direct violation of FS1002.33(4)(a). On April 24, 2012, Julio Miranda, an auditor from the district’s audit department, accompanied by a district investigator, arrived unannounced at the school.

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Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho

These district officials reiterated the districts claims against Dr. Fernandez and served him with a letter dated April 20, 2012, signed by Mr. Miranda containing allegations concerning the investigation. The letter “prohibited”  Dr. Fernandez from contacting any complaintant(s) or witnesses. The identity of the adverse witnesses and the accusers that Dr. Fernandez was not to contact was withheld from Dr. Fernandez. On May 18, 2012, Dr. Fernandez was summoned to Ms. Fornell’s office. Ms. Fornell gave Dr. Fernandez a “Reappointment Recommendation” form for him to sign. In the form, Ms. Goldman and Ms. Fornell recommended “Reappointment SUBJECT TO RESOLUTION OF PENDING ISSUES…” On June 8, 2012, Ms. Ana Rasco from the Office of Professional Standards caused the issuance of a letter to Dr. Fernandez confirming the substance of the meeting in Ms. Fornell’s office concerning Dr. Fernandez’ reappointment. “subject to the resolution of pending issues.”

On June 26, 2012, Ms. Rasco caused the issuance of a letter informing Dr. Fernandez that the outcome of the investigation conducted by the CIU had resulted in a finding of probable cause against Dr. Fernandez for the violation of enumerated district policies. The violations of protected status, adverse actions and the unlawful reprisal detailed above have all occurred since the district was notified of the efforts of NKC to explore charter status and consider conversion to charter school in accordance with Florida law. The district’s unlawful actions and the unlawful reprisal  were a direct and proximate result of the lawful actions of Dr. Fernandez, NKC employees, and parents on behalf of NKC students and their families as they sought to explore conversion charter status for the school. On May 2, 2012, Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were summoned to the district office where each was assigned a directive entitled “terms and conditions of an alternate assignment.” The directive issued instructed the two NKC administrators to remove themselves from Neva King Cooper School and stripped them of their responsibilities as administrators of NKC.

Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were reassigned to menial tasks elsewhere  in the school district that amounted to “changes and duties or responsibilities that [were] inconsistent with the employees salary or employment clarification.” FS1002.33 (40(a). In addition, they were ordered not to contact, visit, or engage in any type of communication with staff, parents, community members, or witnesses to the pending investigation. The adverse transfer and reassignment took effect immediately. Readers wishing to delve further into this case can do so by going to www.floridadoah.org and clicking on case Florida DOAH 13-1492, as mentioned earlier. The penalties both Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol paid for their heroic attempt to defend profoundly mentally handicapped children who literally cannot speak for themselves may move you to tears. On May2, 2012, with a little over a month remaining in the school year, BOTH our administrators were removed from our school, even though both administrators were ENORMOUSLY popular with parents, staff, PTA, and all other relevant NKC stakeholders, causing needless hardship at the school. It is highly unusual to remove even one, let alone both administrators prior to the end of a school year. The obvious question is why Mr. Carvalho simply did not wait until the end of the school year, and very quietly exile them at that time?

The reason given by Mr. Carvalho was that he (Mr. Carvalho) had been told by anonymous sources that the NKC administrators were “attempting to intimidate NKC staff into voting for the charter school.” The two NKC administrators had been removed from our campus, and warned to have no further contact with NKC staff. Furthermore, there was very little chance of them ever returning to NKC, so “intimidated” NKC staff would not have to worry about any retaliation from the two exiled administrators, should they choose to step forward and provide testimony about how they had been “intimidated.” When district representatives visited our campus to take statements from any NKC staff who had been intimidated by Dr. Fernandez and/or Mr. Cristobol, not a single NKC staff person reported any retaliation, or threats of retaliation from either NKC administrator. Had the district posed the question of whether NKC staff felt intimidated by the actions of the district over the preceding three months, nearly the entire staff would have stepped forward to lodge complaints against the district.

Myself and many other NKC staff felt it was highly hypocritical of the district to accuse our school administrators of intimidation when the CONSIDERABLE amount of intimidation came from the district against the NKC staff.

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Multi-Year Disaster at Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Two

Approximately 50% of our students are in wheelchairs. If a child remains in his or her wheelchair all day long, over a period of several years his or her body “freezes” into a position that can cause muscles to atrophy and excruciating pain in adulthood. For this reason, up until 5 years ago, our staff used the M.O.V.E. curriculum which involved getting students out of their wheelchairs and into equipment designed to prevent muscles from atrophying and permanent deformations in bodily posture.

A staff of in-house physical and occupational therapists trained teachers to correctly position our students in this expensive equipment. Occasionally, we achieved minor miracles. We had one man that a doctor insisted would be confined for life to a wheelchair. Through the hard work of both staff and therapists, this young man learned to walk, and then run independently. Tragically, the incredibly successful M.O.V.E. curriculum was abolished from our school 5 years ago.

Even more astonishingly, at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, the new principal of our school, Dr. Tracy Roos, saw fit to transfer en masse our entire physical and occupational therapy staff out of our school, even though our school staff felt these people were highly effective and hard working professionals. Hopefully, a powerful person, possibly a state of Florida or Federal Department of Education person who is reading this blog will have the authority to find out who authorized this transfer, and why such a highly unusual mass transfer didn’t raise a number of red flags. The transferred therapists were replaced by an equally competent staff of physical/occupational therapists who would very much like to do the job they have been trained to do. For some reason, the new staff of physical/occupational therapists are no longer allowed to visit classrooms and train teachers to correctly position wheelchair bound students in the very expensive equipment  (bought with taxpayer money) that is now sitting unused in our school gym, gathering dust and rust.

Hopefully, one or more powerful people will step forward to ask why therapists are no longer allowed to train teachers to use this equipment and to pressure MDCPS to allow the NKC therapy staff to use this equipment. I was the union steward at my school for 10 years. One night, at a meeting of all the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) stewards in the school district, the UTD president made a statement I have never forgotten. The union president said,

“In a nutshell, here is how the MDCPS district operates. The vendors who sell products and services to the school district want to sell as many products/services as possible. School board members want to get reelected. So school board members agree to purchase expensive products of questionable educational value from vendors. In return, vendors make large donations to school board members reelection campaigns. It’s a wonderful system, unless you are a student, a parent, a taxpayer, or an educator.”

For many years, the staff of NKC experienced great success using our Small Step and M.O.V.E. curriculum. Parents were pleased and in some cases astonished with the progress their sons and daughters were making at our school. During his career of over 30 years, the exiled principal of our school, Dr. Alberto Fernandez received the highest possible evaluation for the 15 years he was the principal of NKC, and for most of the nearly 10 years he served as a central office administrator. Prior to his attempt to investigate converting NKC to a charter school, (I’ll discuss that later on in this blog) Dr. Fernandez had never received a negative memorandum from any of his supervisors  in all of his years as a district employee.

Several years ago,  MDCPS began to attempt to persuade Dr. Fernandez to drop our highly successful  Small Step/M.O.V.E. curriculum  and replace it with a very expensive and ineffective new curriculum  called the Unique Learning System (ULS). Florida law allows a public school to convert to a charter school  (see FS1002.33 (3) (b). These laws explicitly state that administrators and staff who choose to exercise this right cannot be retaliated against  by the school board or school board employees in charge of personnel matters.  (see FS1002.33 (4)(a)).

Regrettably, this law does not seem to invoke a penalty of any sort for a superintendent who chooses (however blatantly) to violate this right. (I will discuss this in greater detail later on in the blog). Dr. Fernandez and our assistant principal, Mr. Henny Cristobol felt that we could better serve the needs of our students by converting to a charter school. This decision was made not to defy Alberto Carvalho (the MDCPS superintendent) but to serve the needs of profoundly mentally handicapped students, who literaaly cannot speak for themselves. They (our school site administrators) enlisted the services of Mr. Robin Gibson, an attorney who had helped several other Florida public schools to convert to charter schools. The proposal to explore converting to a charter school was referred to our faculty council, the governing body of our school. In a unanimous vote, the faculty council approved this proposal. When MDCPS top officials were notified, on February 2, 2012, of KNC’s plans to explore conversion to a charter school, all hell broke loose.

No authority is provided by Florida statute 1002.33 or the Department of Education regulation 6A-6.0787 that would authorize the district or any of its administrators to participate or inject themselves into the application or ballet process.

This is the second installment Neva King Cooper Educational Center, which may be accessed at mdcpsallegations.com

VA Pacific Islands Health Care System

New Hawaii VA Chief Tied to Falsified Medical Wait Times, 13 Deaths in Arizona

West Hawaii Today reports:

Jennifer Gutowski

Jennifer Gutowski

Hawaii veterans aren’t worried about new Director of the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System Jennifer Gutowski’s ability to fix whatever problems may already exist inside the system.

They’re fearful she’s going to make those problems worse.

“When it was announced she was coming over here to head the Hawaiian VA, none of us were happy about that because she’s got such a bad record,” said Bill Flynn, chaplain at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12122 in Kona and also the post’s unofficial service officer for the past two years. “We do not want her here at all.”

Gutowski, who will assume the position on May 15, was appointed by the VA Secretary to direct a health system that administers services to almost 130,000 veterans across Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Prior to her appointment in Hawaii, Gutowski spent 18 years with the VA in a variety of capacities and locations. She served most of the last five years as associate director with the Southern Arizona VA, including a stint as acting director from January 2016-March 2017.

Based on misconduct prior to and during her time in Arizona, the branch of the VA she helped oversee became mired in controversy because of long wait times for patient appointments and a variety of allegations brought by whistleblowers as to why access was limited.

The allegations spurred a subsequent investigation by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG fully substantiated one of four claims it investigated — that managers at the branch violated the VA’s scheduling directive in early 2014, a year and a half after Gutowski was hired, when they “improperly directed scheduling staff to zero out patient wait times.”

Patient wait times are calculated by comparing a patient’s desired date for an appointment against the actual date on which the patient was seen. When calling for an appointment patients are asked to supply schedulers with a desired appointment date, despite being unaware as to “scheduling capacity” and the feasibility of being seen on the date requested.

Schedulers are directed to log the desired date along with the date a patient is actually seen. According to the OIG report, dated Nov. 2016, schedulers were instructed by managers to zero out the two dates — or falsify scheduling records by altering the dates to reflect that the desired appointment date was the same as the scheduled appointment date.

The report found that 76 percent of 5,802 routine appointments it reviewed between December 2013-August 2014 showed the same desired and scheduled dates.

Upon a review of 4,855 routine appointments at the clinic between October 2015-March 2016, the number of coinciding desired and scheduled dates dropped to a rate of 46 percent.

OIG also investigated claims by a former employee that these inappropriate scheduling practices led to the endangerment of some veterans’ health. OIG concluded that was incorrect after reviewing the cases of 13 veterans who waited more than 30 days for each of a combined 15 appointments and died before the appointment dates….

That is when the misconduct was confirmed by investigators, but a former VA administrator named Pat McCoy told KGUN9-TV in Tuscon, Arizona, last November that she brought the issue to Gutowski and the rest of the Southern Arizona VA’s top staff long before then.

“(Gutowski) is the associate director,” McCoy said to KGUN9-TV. “She’s as responsible as (former Director Jonathan Gardner). This whole pentad is responsible for what went on with this data. They’re all responsible. They all knew about it. The chiefs of staff knew about it. I know they did. I told them.”

read … Veterans troubled over newly tapped director of Hawaii VA health system

RELATED ARTICLE: Dysfunction at D.C. Veterans Medical Center Shows Rot in Federal Workforce

charterschoolfight

Multi-Year Disaster at Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part One

As this is my first post, an introduction is in order.

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Homestead Public School-Neva King Cooper School. U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Photo: Wikipedia.

My name is Bill Detzner. In June 2015, I retired from a 30 year career as a special education teacher with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). I spent the last 25 years of my career teaching at Neva King Cooper (NKC) a public school exclusively for profoundly mentally retarded students with IQ’s of 25 and below.

During my career, I was selected as my school’s teacher of the year. I served as my school’s union steward (United Teachers of Dade (UTD))  for 10 years and I was a department head.

During the 2011-2012, school year, NKC attempted to exercise its legal option to convert from a public school to a charter school.

MDCPS smashed this attempt using tactics that a court of law ( the case number is Florida DOAH 13-1492) ruled to be illegal reprisal and abuse of authority.

I have written a very lengthy blog about how MDCPS smashed this charter school conversion attempt and the series of actions taken by MDCPS over the past 5 years against the staff of NKC that appear to be retaliatory in nature. That information can be accessed at mdcpsallegations.com. My postings on this site will present the contents of my blog in shorter segments.

NKC serves students between the ages of 3-22. The goal of NKC special education teachers  is for some of those students to attend a sheltered workshop  after graduation from school. Students who cannot be placed into sheltered workshops are sometimes placed in group homes. Sadly, the curriculum my school has been using for the last 5 years, the Unique Learning System (ULS) will greatly reduce the number of students we place into sheltered workshops after graduation. (I will discuss this further later on in the blog.) Special needs adults take enormous pride in earning a paycheck and doing meaningful work. A special needs student cannot be placed into a sheltered workshop unless he or she is toilet trained, relatively free of maladaptive behaviors, and able to remain on-task to perform repetitive tasks.

Up until 5 years ago, the Neva King Cooper school’s curriculum was tailored to help students achieve these goals. Most of our students are not toilet trained when they come to our school. They also exhibit many maladaptive behaviors, and an inability to remain on-task for long periods of time. Up until the last 5 years, our curriculum placed a very heavy emphasis on toilet training, extinguishing maladaptive behaviors, and replacing them with more socially acceptable behaviors, and a vocational program  involving horticultural and other activities designed to increase on-task behavior in repetitive tasks.  With the permission of MDCPS, our staff developed its own curriculum, which we call the Small Step Curriculum (SSC), based on the concept of task analysis. Task analysis breaks complex tasks into a series of simple sequential steps. If a person performs all of the simple steps in the correct order, the complex task is achieved.

Up until 5 years ago, our staff achieved great success using task analysis to teach our students complex self-help tasks such as washing their hands and faces, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, dressing themselves (or assisting in dressing themselves) (this task was done while changing students to participate in our on-site swimming pool program), toileting, and feeding themselves. People who have suffered a stroke who can no longer independently perform these basic self-help skills suffer an enormous loss in self-esteem. Special needs children who master these skills experience a great deal of joy and pride in themselves when they succeed in learning these basic self-help skills.

I believe that the need for accomplishment is a universal human need. (I will discuss this further later on).

RELATED ARTICLE: Lawsuit – Miami-Dade School Board Violated Free Speech by Shutting Down Charter School Bid

EDITORS NOTE: The Neva King Cooper Educational Center is a historic school in Homestead, Florida. It is part of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district. The school serves students with mental disabilities. The school was built in 1914 as the Homestead Public School and designed by August Geiger. In 1934 it was renamed the Neva King Cooper School. On December 4, 1985, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The property is part of the Homestead Multiple Property Submission, a Multiple Property Submission to the National Register.

countable_

America’s Top Civic App, Countable

countable iphoneSAN FRANCISCO, California /PRNewswire/ — Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, America’s top civic app, Countable (www.countable.us), has seen a boom in growth, even attracting the attention and use of a celebrity following, the company is announcing, today.

Countable exists to update users on key political developments with the issues they care about with nonpartisan summaries of legislation and complex news events, and to empower them to take action by holding their elected lawmakers accountable. Users can send video messages, text messages or call their reps from the app – including force touch on the home screen icon to quick access their reps.

Members of the House and the Senate are even mentioning Countable, in their replies to constituents’ messages.

In the app’s most up-to-date numbers, released today, Countable has:

  • Sent 8 million messages to Congress from voters all around the country
  • Delivered 3 million messages sent since the election alone
  • Seen huge growth in millennials and women since the election, and over 2000% growth overall

Among these engaged Americans are celebrities who have sung the praises of Countable on their social media feeds.

George Takei tweeted, “Want to stay on top of Congress? And an easy way to call/write your representatives? I’m trying out the “Countable” App. Just downloaded it.”

“Yes. I have it. Love,” Alyssa Milano responded to a follower asking if she was using Countable.

And Sophia Bush told her Twitter followers, “Want quick action items at your fingertips to be an active constituent? Know when to call Congress? Here ya go!”

Reviews in the App Store are even more enthusiastic.  With hundreds of thousands of installs, the app has maintained a 4-star rating.

“This app is amazing!! I’m so glad that someone finally came up with a simple, user friendly, and mobile way to check up on what your government is doing and then let them know what you think. And from what I can tell this far it seems fair and unbiased in its content. This could be one of the most powerful platforms for nurturing and informed public that can force change,” said one review.

“I’ve been using Countable for several weeks now, and I’ve got to say that it is the best political app I’ve ever seen,” another reviewer wrote.

Another added, “This app is fantastic. I love the civility in forums. It is a breath of fresh air to hear divergent opinions without all the hair pulling and meanie-pantness.”

About Countable

Founded in 2014, Countable (www.countable.us) presents users with easy-to-understand summaries of bills and issues in the news, and a means to immediately, quickly, and easily tell their lawmakers where they stand. Users can choose to have their opinion delivered via email, phone call, or video message. Countable’s advisory board includes former Senator Evan Bayh, former Congressman Jon Runyan, former Howard Dean campaign manager, political consultant Joe Trippi, political consultant Amanda Crumley and legendary news chief Rick Kaplan.

soros-clinton-vatican-coup-pope-benedict-678x381

Pope Maker: Soros partners with Vatican to push UN Climate Agenda

Pope Maker: The Soros Syndicate

Written by 

your puppet

Over a decade ago, with typical hubris, George Soros bragged, that he “is the Pope’s boss, now.” It appears that his boast became a self-fulfilling prophecy in the Francis pontificate.

The two most powerful men in the world joined forces to form a curious and troubling alliance. One of them, often referred to as the most dangerous man in the world, the other, the Vicar of Christ.

Within a few short months of Argentine Bergoglio’s papal election, the Soros inner circle was firmly entrenched at the Vatican, calling the shots, drafting documents, setting the Soros political agenda with the power and moral persuasion of the Vatican. The global eco movement finally found their critical missing component, the voice of moral authority. The greenies can now deposit their feckless leaders, Al Gore, Leo DiCaprio and Michael Moore in the recycle bin.

As the recent WIKILEAKS Soros data dump demonstrates, the billionaire Soros’ tentacles entangle policies and create chaos in countries around the globe through his legions of operatives at his Open Society philanthropies. His money funds extremist groups seeking to topple capitalism, and promote radical environmentalism global order. His coterie of advisors spans the globe in positions of influence and power, carrying out his radical agenda.

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UN Secy Gen Ban Ki Moon, George Soros and Jeffrey Sachs.

Although Open Society funds radical Catholic groups, Soros was unable to capture the papacy as his ultimate prize in world domination because the two previous conservative Popes steadfastly opposed his radical agenda. Until now.

The environmental movement desperately needed a new dazzling demagogue to bolster its sputtering global warming cause and silence its critics under pain of criminal felonies or mortal sin.

On March 13, 2013, with the sudden and unexpected regime change in Vatican City, Soros and his UN operatives understood that the climate instantly warmed and opportunities abounded with the new leftist Argentine pontiff. George Soros could not have imagined a more perfect partner on the world stage, one he has been searching for his entire career: a major religious leader pontificating as the moral authority for the environmental, borderless countries, mass migration, and pro-Islamic movements.

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UN Secy. Gen. Ban Ki Moon, Bishop Sorondo and Pope Francis.

Enter, Jorge Bergoglio, the smiling, all merciful Argentine.  Within weeks of the Francis election, Soros’ collaborator, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon paid the obligatory courtesy visit to the new pontiff, and Moon knew something had dramatically changed at the Vatican. After his papal visit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced to the world, “We discussed a need to advance social justice and accelerate the world to meet MDGs and the Sustainable Development Goals. (SDGs) We also talked about the need for all of us and the world to advance the dignity and human rights, especially for women and girls.”Shockingly, the newly elected Vicar of Christ seemingly blessed the radical pro-abortion MDGs and SDGs, but this was only the beginning of the Soros coup at the Holy See.

In the words of UN Foundation (another Soros beneficiary) Vice Chair Timothy Wirth, famously known for his condom tree at his previous State Department post said: “We’ve never seen a pope do anything like this. No single individual has as much global sway as he does. What he is doing will resonate in the government of any country that has a leading Catholic constituency.”

The friendly papal reception resonated among the global elites. Alleluia! Francis gave the green light to the controversial abortion laden, gender bending, feminist driven Millenium Development Goals(MDGs) and their offspring, the SDGs.

Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to UN Secretary General on the MDGs also enjoys a 30 year long economic relationship as a Soros stalwart, close advisor and grantee of Soros’ millions. Sachs headed to the Vatican to craft the blueprint for the Vatican’s rollout of the theology of global warming.

Immediately, the UN, through its Soros-infused stable of experts, began to dominate the Vatican agenda by silencing and banishing any opposing views on the science of global warming. Happily for Soros and the UN, Pope Francis only wanted to “dialogue” with one side of the climate debate.

longsackof

George Soros      Jeffrey Sachs      Joseph Stiglitz

The Soros Brain Trust at the Vatican-The Green Dream Team: Jeffrey Sachs, Economist, Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Special Advisor to the U N Secretary General, and long time Soros collaborator and beneficiary.

Since 1989, economist Jeffrey Sachs has served as Soros’ peripatetic globe trotting expert, promoting his controversial “shock therapy” by lifting currency and price controls, and various other fast paced tactics to introduce countries into the free market economy with mixed results. Sachs rebounded with the assistance of Soros and heads the Earth Institute at Columbia U and reconfigured his skill sets as the UN poverty czar directing the Millenium Villages project, with the assistance of $50 million from Soros. Now firmly transformed as a poverty expert, and environmental guru, Sachs built his fiefdom at the United Nations with Soros dollars and transformed into a poverty expert and environmental alarmist, as master of global warming catastrophe handwringing.

Within three months of the Bergoglio election, Jeffrey Sachs, close Soros confidante, is featured as the premiere Vatican speaker, expert, author, and cheerleader of the Francis Eco Theology.    Sachs became a perfect fixture at the Vatican, with 10 Vatican addresses promoting the SDGs. Sachs orchestrated the Vatican environmental agenda, by building momentum and consensus for the SDGs. With the input of many other Soros acolytes at the Vatican, they wrote the Vatican’s radical climate change manifesto, Climate Change and Our Common Home in anticipation of the coup de grace, the Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si.

Seemingly overnight, the Holy See became Ground Zero behind UN Sustainable Development agenda as climate change gained new spiritual status as the Francis theology of environmentalism.

Joseph Stiglitz, Economist, Soros Co-Author and Collaborator and Open Society Grantee, Member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

He has been called the Soros economist and his point man. Not surprisingly, he and Soros co-authored books together. He is Joseph Stiglitz, who heads the Soros-funded Initiative for Policy Dialogue, which promotes the institution of “a new international currency” and of an international taxation system. Stiglitz also serves a key role in the Francis/Soros Eco Revolution as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) which housed and operates as the command center for the Papal Eco Plot. Stiglitz, like Sachs, serves as a long time Soros collaborator, consultant. Soros and Stiglitz often serve as co-panel members at major global conferences, and Soros provided seed money for another radical organization, Stiglitz’s Socialist International Group. Stiglitz and Sachs also co-wrote the Vatican’s radical environmental manifesto, Climate Change and the Common Good with other Soros allies.

Interestingly and significantly, Stiglitz also serves as the longtime economic advisor to Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and her husband, the former President, fellow Peronists along with Pope Francis.   

Successfully embedded at the Vatican lurk George Soros’ closest collaborators to carry out his radical leftist global environmental strategy with the blessing and assistance of the Holy See. Yet, more Soros acolytes populated the Vatican.

The Soros/Vatican Mission Control:  Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences serves as the Vatican’s Academic Think Tank. Its Chancellor, Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a radical progressive, was suddenly empowered to carry out his extremist agenda when his fellow Argentine Bergoglio assumed the Seat of Peter.

During 2013-2015, the Academy frenetically and effectively provided cover for the UN/Soros/SDGs plot that was hatched and implemented under Sorondo’s leadership as he opened wide the doors for the Soros allies.

Bishop Sorondo deflected criticism over the Vatican’s sudden and unusually cozy UN relationship. The testy Sorondo remarked in response to serious concerns that the Vatican was letting itself become a platform for the United Nations to promote its own agenda. Bishop Sorondo defended the UN and remarked, “the United Nations is not thedevil. Rather, quite the opposite.”

Sorondo seems to imply that the UN is on some mission from God. But, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details and the details include George Soros’ team.

The Soros Brain Trust of Sachs and Stiglitz led the papal revolt to promote the UN/Soros climate change agenda with the help of the other Soros benefactors.

The Soros/UN/ Cronyism at the Vatican

Climate Change, not Catholicism, on the Vatican Agenda

Sachs and his Soros allies timed their work at the Vatican with strategic precision. On May 25, 2015, the Pope released his eagerly anticipated environmental exhortation, Laudato Si, which called for the passage of the SDGs. On September 25, 2015, the UN scheduled Pope Francis to address the United Nations General Assembly, urging approval of the SDGs, which fortuitously passed on that date.

Francis proudly boasted that he hoped his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, would be used to promote the passage of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, and followed by the passage of the Paris Climate Treaty (Cop 21) in December 2015. Jeffrey Sachs acknowledged that Pope Francis and his encyclical “Laudato Si made the adoption of both the passage of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Sept. 2015 and the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015 possible.”

An eleventh commandment is declared: Thou must reduce thy carbon footprint.

By the end of 2015, the Soros syndicate had delivered to its patron, George Soros, a 185 page global warming papal encyclical, passage of the SDGs, and most importantly, the green light to begin the implementation of the Paris Climate Treaty, global redistribution of wealth through carbon taxes on the industrialized world.

Mission Accomplished, Mr. Soros.

Soros and Bergoglio–a match made in the celestial ecosystems. Their carbon footprints align on many political issues. George Soros is the largest landowner in Argentina (half a million hectares) with more than 150,000 head of cattle, and he also owns massive Argentine financial assets. Jorge Bergoglio, the first Latin American Pope, the Peronist Argentine with a deep concern for the struggling Argentine economy. Two sides of the Argentine peso, one native born pontiff with deep Vatican Bank pockets, the other, a global billionaire power broker with even deeper pockets.

Both love power and chaos; Francis known for his infamous refrain “make a mess, create chaos,” and Soros for his cryptic “discern the chaos and become rich.” Both men understand that they emerge more powerful when institutions and governments are destabilized.

Jorge and George, identical political globalist ideologues: environmentalists, pro-Iran, pro-UN, pro-Cuba, pro-Argentina, pro-mass migration, pro-borderless world, anti death penalty, and, anti-Trump.

George Soros is now the boss of Pope Francis.Special Report: ‘Unholy Alliance’ – Exposing The Radicals Advising Pope Francis on Climate

It’s an inconvenient truth.

ABOUT ELIZABETH YORE

Remnant columnist, Elizabeth Yore, served on the Heartland Institute Delegation that traveled to the Vatican in April 2015 to urge Pope Francis to re-examine his reliance on UN population control proponents who promote climate change. We feature her work both here on our website and in our print edition.  To make sure you don’t miss any of it, subscribe to The Remnant right now.

RELATED ARTICLES:

THE POPE’S BOSS?! — Wikileaks reveals Pope and Soros An Unholy Alliance

Special Report: ‘Unholy Alliance’ – Exposing The Radicals Advising Pope Francis on Climate

environmntal-news

Energy & Environmental Newsletter: March 20, 2017

The Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED) is an informal coalition of individuals and organizations interested in improving national, state, and local energy and environmental policies. Our premise is that technical matters like these should be addressed by using Real Science (please consult WiseEnergy.org for more information).

A key element of AWED’s efforts is public education. Towards that end, every three weeks we put together a newsletter to balance what is found in the mainstream media about energy and the environment. We appreciate MasterResource for their assistance in publishing this information.

Some of the more important articles in this issue are:

Wind Energy is an Attack on Rural America

As Wind Grows, So Does Its Opposition

Five Key Reasons to Pull the Plug on Wind Subsidies

Proposed US Carbon Tax — A Recipe for Disaster

The War on Affordable Electricity

Science Deniers in the Wind Industry

Short video: Poison Wind

How Would Oklahoma’s Anti-Wind Tax Affect The State’s Industry?

Europe’s Lessons Teach Us — Don’t Go Green!

RGGI Works Well — It Just Doesn’t Reduce Much Carbon

How Leonardo DiCaprio Can Persuade Me on Climate Change

A Handy Primer for Deluded Warmists

Climate-Change Models are Flawed Because Climate Science is so Incomplete

Scrutinizing the carbon cycle and CO2 residence time in the atmosphere

G-20 Poised to Signal Retreat From Climate-Change Funding Pledge

Getting to the Bottom of a Climate Crusade

Solar Panels Increased Emissions of a Gas 17,200 Times More Potent Than CO2

President Trump’s Proposed OMB Budget

Greed Energy Economics:

Five Key Reasons to Pull the Plug on Wind Subsidies

How Would Oklahoma’s Anti-Wind Tax Affect The State’s Industry?

The War on Affordable Electricity

Proposed US Carbon Tax — A Recipe for Disaster

‘Conservative’ Carbon Tax Prescribes Liberal Dose of Nonsense

Massachusetts’ Promotion of Turbines Risks $18 Billion in Tourism Income

Wind Turbines Kick Seniors to the Curb in Canada

Amazon Wins NC Offshore Lease Bid, for $9 Million

UK Budget 2017: Solar industry facing 800% tax increase

NY PSC Wants Utilities to Bury Costs of Renewable Energy

Turbine Health Matters:

Once Turbines Arrive, Say Goodbye to Peace and Quiet

Science Deniers in the Wind Industry

Mass DEP After Ten Years Of Wind Turbine Testimony Again Takes No Action

Vermont’s PSB proposes new turbine setback and noise rules

Wind Turbines and Aviation Safety

Renewable Energy Destroying Ecosystems:

Short video: Poison Wind

Environmentalists Question Wind Project off Fire Island (NY)

Miscellaneous Energy News:

Wind Energy is an Attack on Rural America

Europe’s Lessons Teach Us — Don’t Go Green!

RGGI Works Well — It Just Doesn’t Reduce Much Carbon

As wind grows, so does its opposition

Globally, clean energy has been on the decline for the last 20 years

Five Ways Trump Can Improve Environmental Policy

How the EPA Could Gut Climate Change Regulations

OPEC is losing the global oil game

NC County Eyes Stiffer Solar Rules

Proposed Legislation Would Freeze NC’s Energy Mandate

GOP lawmaker confronts Gov Kasich on Ohio’s green-energy mandates

Renewable energy is defective solution in search of a problem, money, and power

South Australia – A Renewable State?

Is the Lappeenranta renewable energy model realistic?

Wind is a financial and political boondoggle

Elaborate Wind Turbulence Study Set to Improve Modeling

Weather service concerned that wind project could interfere with forecasts

Falmouth Wind Turbine Lawsuits and RICO statute

Oklahoma chamber wants state military commission involved in wind project siting

Little Reactors a Big Energy Boon

Manmade Global Warming Articles:

How Leonardo DiCaprio Can Persuade Me on Climate Change

A Handy Primer for Deluded Warmists

Solar Panels Increased Emissions Of A Gas 17,200 Times More Potent Than CO2

Scrutinizing the carbon cycle and CO2 residence time in the atmosphere

Getting to the Bottom of a Climate Crusade

A New SLR Analysis for the US East Coast

Useless’ Climate modeling is the hot new thing at a green bank

Yale Climate Opinion Maps (2016)

German Minister Announces the End of Unilateral Climate Targets

Trump Reported to Cut US UN Funding in half

Trump to Drop Climate Change From Environmental Reviews, Source Says

Trump Orders EPA to Zero Out Global Warming Programs

To Protect Climate Money, Obama Stashed It Where It’s Hard to Find

EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017

Bills to fix EPA “science” introduced in the House

Those “devastating” EPA reductions

Driving policies through fraud and fear-mongering

A Conservative Children’s Book: Carbon Comes Out of the Closet

Financial Stability Board Climate Deceit

Hundreds Of Scientists Urge Trump To Pull Out Of A 25-Year-Old UN Environmental Treaty

Discussion of “Hottest Year on Record” for Australia

Debunking the Climate Scam

The Natives Are Getting RETless

Obama Hid Over $77 BILLION in Climate Change Funds

President Trump’s Proposed OMB Budget

See Prior AWED Newsletters

100days

VIDEO: President-elect Trump on First 100 Days

The President-elect shares an update on the Presidential Transition, an outline of some of his policy plans for the first 100 days, and his day one executive actions.

Watch and enjoy. You’ll be pinching yourself:

Here’s a list of the initiatives President-elect Trump says he wants to pursue starting on day one:

  • U.S. trade — issue a notice of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • U.S. energy — cancel what Trump described as “job-killing” restrictions on American energy production.
  • Regulations — the incoming president says he will seek to formulate a simple rule: for every one new regulation, two old regulations would be eliminated.
  • National security — Trump says he will ask the Department of Defense to develop policies that protect US infrastructure from cyber attacks and “all other forms of attacks.”
  • Immigration — ask the Department of Labor to investigate abuses of visa programs that “undercut the American worker.”
  • Ethics reform — a 5- year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after they leave the administration and a lifetime ban on the same officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Trump Makes Good Moves On Ethics Issue

How Trump Can Reverse Obama Climate Change Regulations

In 2006, These Democrats Still in Office Voted to Build a Wall

Former Staffer Defends Jeff Sessions From Decades-Old Liberal Attack

Trump’s Refusal to Take Presidential Salary Rare, but Not Unprecedented

term limits congress

Paul Ryan just asked for help to pass Congressional Term Limits

This is just days after President-Elect Trump declared on 60 Minutes that he wanted to “drain the swamp” in D.C. by passing Term Limits.

This is all good news.

However,  Speaker Ryan also said he needed help.  He said he wants the House Judiciary Committee to put the Term Limits bill together.  And they will need USTL’s help to do that.

Just because Speaker Ryan or even President-Elect Trump want Term Limits doesn’t mean the rest of the Congress will go along.

The professional politicians HATE Term Limits.

However, we have to try!

That’s why I need your help now more than ever.

We need to make sure than any Term Limits bill in the House is a real one.  Not a phony Term Limits measure that gives the professional politicians cover back home.

Then we need to rally the American people behind this bill.

I expect we will have President Trump on our side in this fight.  But it’s going to be very, very tough.

The American people are going to have to rally like never before.  And U.S. Term Limits will have to lead the charge!

Simply getting a vote on a real Term Limits amendment in the House will help us secure support for the Term Limits Convention in the states.

Actually convincing the House to pass it would rock the country!

So, we need to move quickly.  This is a golden opportunity.

Please give anything you can to this emergency effort.

jill-cody-america-abandoned

The Author of America Abandoned — ‘The United States is now an Oligarchy’

SAN JOSE, Calif. /PRNewswire/ — In her eye-opening new book America Abandoned: The Secret Velvet Coup That Cost Us Our Democracy, author and political activist Jill Cody minces no words about where the U.S. stands in 2016. “Our country, the alleged United States of America, is technically no longer a democracy. It has been abandoned to an oligarchy, defined as ‘a government run by the few’ and ‘a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.'”

Cody, whose book was just published this month, explains how multibillionaires managed to take control of Congress, the Supreme Court and, thus the country in a Velvet Coup that few saw coming. She traces its origins to a 1971 memo written by Louis Powell called the Powell Memorandum. The confidential memo for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce laid out a road map to further the interests of the Chamber’s version of free enterprise capitalism—a road map that was promoted by a parade of highly paid corporate lobbyists and Powell’s eventual appointment to the Supreme Court.

As the presidential election looms, carrying with it the possibility of a billionaire making it to the White House, Cody can talk about:

  • 7 ways the Velvet Coup caused the abandonment of ordinary Americans.
  • Why government should not be run like a business and who benefits if it is.
  • What Living in the Black or Living in the Red means, and how our individual and organizational choices could either rescue or ruin America.
  • How we can boldly recapture our middle class and democracy with personal activism and heightened voter participation.

PRAISE FOR AMERICA ABANDONED

“From right wing conservatives to Wall Street fat cats, progressive writer Jill Cody delivers a no-holds-barred look at a country that’s becoming politically, morally and financially bankrupt.” Thom Hartmann, nationally syndicated talk show host and bestselling author

ABOUT JILL CODY

America Abandoned is Jill Cody’s first book. Her life-long passion for knowledge and desire to inspire change in politics, the environment, higher education and organizational development led her to pursue a 31-year career in public service. She was personally trained and authorized by Vice President Al Gore to share his presentation on An Inconvenient Truth. She has assisted in coordinating national and international strategic planning meetings on Information Literacy in Washington D.C., Prague and Egypt. Cody earned a master’s degree in public administration from San Jose State University and devoted her career to public service.

hawaii-endangered-species

What? Feds Propose 49 New Endangered Species for Hawaii

From Federal Register September 30, 2016 (actually published Sept 29, 2016)

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Proposed rule.

SUMMARY:  We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to list 10 animal species, including the band-rumped storm-petrel (Oceanodroma castro), the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly (Megalagrion xanthomelas), the anchialine pool shrimp (Procaris hawaiana), and seven yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus anthracinus, H. assimulans, H. facilis, H. hilaris, H. kuakea, H. longiceps, andH. mana), and 39 plant species from the Hawaiian Islands as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (Act). If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would extend the Act’s protections to these species.

DATES:  We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before November 30, 2015. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by November 16, 2015.

ADDRESSES:  You may submit comments by one of the following methods:

(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see Public Comments,below, for more information).

read … Federal Register

MN: Endangered species list gets longer

Brazil impeachment president fee

4 Myths about Impeaching Brazil’s President by Juan Carlos Hidalgo

On Sunday night, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies voted overwhelmingly (367-137) to open impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff. The Senate will now vote on whether to take the case and try her, which is all but guaranteed. As a matter of fact, barring some unforeseen event, Dilma’s days as president are numbered.

These are Brazil’s most turbulent months since the return to democracy in 1985. Not only is the president about to be removed from office, but the country is also mired in its worst economic recession since the 1930s. It is not coincidence that Dilma’s popularity (10%) stands at a similar level to Brazil’s fiscal deficit (10.75%), the unemployment rate (9.5%), and the inflation rate (9.4%). The economic and political crises are feeding off of one another.

Here are some facts and myths regarding this impeachment process:

1. “It’s a coup!”

For some in the Latin American left, anything that cuts short a president’s tenure in office —even if it’s an impeachment process stipulated in the Constitution— is a coup. The same narrative was applied when left-wing President Fernando Lugo was impeached by Paraguay’s Congress in 2012.

The impeachment process and the crimes for which a president can be impeached in Brazil are clearly outlined in articles 85 and 86 of the Constitution. Moreover, the entire process has been overseen by the Supreme Court, which has thus far found no fault in how things have been conducted. It’s important to add that 8 of the 11 justices in the Supreme Court were appointed by Dilma and her Workers’ Party predecessor, Lula da Silva.

Tellingly, when the Guatemalan Congress voted last year to strip right-wing President Otto Pérez Molina of his immunity, so he could be prosecuted for corruption charges, no one claimed it was a coup.

2. “Dilma hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing”

It is true that Dilma hasn’t been accused of personally being involved in the Petrobras bribing scheme that inflicted loses of $17 billion on the state-owned oil company. Even though she was the chairwoman of the oil giant when most of the corrupt deals took place, her defense is that she was unaware that this was going on; at any rate, not a very good show of competence.

However, President Rousseff is not being impeached over the Petrobras corruption scandal, but over her government’s illegal handling of budgetary accounts. In this regard, it was an independent court — the Federal Accounts Court — that ruled that the Rousseff administration had broken the law. According to article 85 of Brazil’s Constitution, this is a crime for which a president can be impeached.

3. “Most of the members of Congress are implicated in corruption scandals”

This is actually true. According to an NGO called Transparência Brasil, 60% of members of Congress have been convicted or are under investigation for various crimes, including corruption and electoral fraud. The speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, has been charged with taking millions of dollars in bribes under the Petrobras scheme.

It is true that Brazilians aren’t simply dealing with a corrupt ruling party, but a crooked political class. Impeachment won’t fix this, but it will certainly set a powerful precedent. However, if the ultimate aim of Brazilians is to clean up the political system, they must be more rigorous in how they elect their political leaders in the future.

Other reforms are badly needed, such as overhauling the rules that grant immunity to members of Congress when they face criminal charges. Brazilians who have taken to the streets demanding the ouster of Dilma should now set their sights on political reform and those who oppose it.

4. “There is a political vendetta against the Worker’s Party from the Judiciary and the right-wing media”

It is true that Brazil’s judicial institutions, including the federal police, the attorney general’s office, and leading judges have been very active uncovering, prosecuting and convicting politicians involved in corruption scandals. But those implicated thus far have belonged to different political parties, including those of the opposition. As mentioned above, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies leading the impeachment process against Dilma has been charged with corruption.

The media has also played a critical role in exposing the Petrobras scheme. This is good. Unlike other South American countries where the press has been stifled by their governments, in Brazil there is a vibrant and free press that hold politicians accountable, and not only those that belong to the incumbent party. As a matter of fact, big news outlets considered “anti-Workers’ Party” have exposed the shenanigans of Speaker Eduardo Cunha and pointed out the fact that numerous Congressmen impeaching Dilma are also facing their own corruption charges. This doesn’t look like a cover-up.

The impeachment process is without a doubt a distressing affair for Brazil’s young democracy. But the country will emerge stronger if the right lessons are learned.

Cross-posted from Cato.org.

Juan Carlos HidalgoJuan Carlos Hidalgo

Juan Carlos Hidalgo is a policy analyst on Latin America at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

obama duncan

Obama’s former DOE Secretary Wanted More Mayoral Control of Public Schools Nationwide

Not long after President Obama brought former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Arne Duncan to Washington, D.C., to become U.S. Secretary of Education, Duncan spouted out this March 31, 2009, declaration regarding his desire to establish mayoral control over more school systems. As NBC Chicago reports:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that mayors should take control of big-city school districts where academic performance is suffering.

Duncan said mayoral control provides the strong leadership and stability needed to overhaul urban schools.

Mayors run the schools in fewer than a dozen big cities; only seven have full control over management and operations. That includes Chicago, where Duncan headed the school system until joining the Obama administration.

Speaking at a forum with mayors and superintendents, Duncan promised to help more mayors take over.

“At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control, I think I will have failed,” Duncan said.

He offered to do whatever he can to make the case. “I’ll come to your cities,” Duncan said. “I’ll meet with your editorial boards. I’ll talk with your business communities. I will be there.”

To my knowledge, no school system has been placed under mayoral control since Duncan was appointed as U.S. Secretary of Education in December 2008. Certainly there was no rush for U.S. cities to place their education systems under control of a mayor. And though there is a lot more about Duncan to which one might tie failure (not the least of which are his coercive No Child left Behind waivers), let us consider a marvelous irony about mayoral control in Duncan’s own backyard of Chicago, Illinois:

On March 03, 2016, the Illinois House passed a bill to convert CPS’s mayorally-appointed school board into an elected board. The legislation, HB 4268, sponsored by Rep. Richard Markwell (D-Chicago) passed by a vote of 110-4 and is currently in the Senate. From the article:

The bill would partition the city into 20 local districts and a 21st board member would be elected at large as president. Each would serve an initial five-year term if elected on March 20, 2018, then four years each to coincide with municipal elections.

The legislation also addresses a few regular criticisms of the appointed board by pushing at least half of the elected board’s meetings until after hours so working parents and community members can attend.

Some believe that the Senate might not get to act on HB 4268 because of addressing Illinois’ state budget crisis. Still, what is remarkable about HB 4268 are the numerous House sponsors the bill has garnered along the way– 44 co-sponsors in all– and all Democrats– the same party affiliation as Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Duncan praises mayoral-run districts for their top-down control– which logically appeals to a guy who held states ransom via Title I funds connected to his NCLB waivers. From Duncan’s 2009 NBC spiel:

Duncan told The Associated Press that urban schools need someone who is accountable to voters and driving all of a city’s resources behind children.

“Part of the reason urban education has struggled historically is you haven’t had that leadership from the top,” he said.

“Where you’ve seen real progress in the sense of innovation, guess what the common denominator is? Mayoral control,” Duncan said.

I do not know of anyone who would describe what Emanuel has done to CPS as “progress” and certainly not as “innovative.”

Furthermore, Emanuel made sure he was not “accountable to voters” by suppressing evidence of the Laquan McDonald shooting until after his runoff election against Chuy Garcia on April 07, 2015.

As of February 01, 2016, Emanuel’s approval rating hit a record low of 27 percent. As WGN-TV reports:

According to the poll, only 27% of Chicagoans approve of the job he is doing.  41% believe he should resign.  55% would support legislation to allow a Chicago mayor to be recalled.

59% of those surveyed say Emanuel is not honest and trustworthy. 70% believe his administration is not transparent. Only 25% believe Emanuel is in touch with people like them.

The mayor’s slide in the polls has accelerated as the result of his handling of the investigation into the police shooting death of teenager Laquan McDonald.  A police dashcam video that shows McDonald being shot 16 times was not released until last Spring, after Emanuel was re-elected.

58% of the poll respondents believe the mayor was not justified in withholding the release of the video; 74% don’t believe his statements about the shooting.

985 registered Chicago voters were polled between January 20 and January 28.  The poll has a margin of error of 3.2%.

Looks like Emanuel is losing his mayoral control on many fronts.

As for the condition of CPS under his (and his appointed board’s) control, Emanuel is also taking a hit. As HB 4268 co-sponsor Greg Harris (D- Chicago) notes on his web page circa November 2015:

There is only one school district in the State of Illinois that does NOT have an elected school board, and that is the Chicago Public Schools.  Currently all members of the Chicago Board of Education are appointed by Mayor and are not accountable to the parents, students or communities they serve. It is time for a change. That is why I am proud to cosponsor HB 4268 which would change Chicago’s school board from appointees to an elected school board.

We know about the recent pay-to-play scandals rocking CPS. But for our neighborhoods there are so many other reasons that we need to take back control of our schools. We have seen our neighborhood schools losing resources for enrichment programs such as music, art, sports, foreign languages, advanced placement and special education. This year, CPS is proposing over $8.7 million in cuts to schools in our area.

It is also worth noting that at the same time the Board is cutting our schools and asking for a property tax increase, we will be paying $238 million in termination fees to banks and investors to get us out of interest rate swaps and other financial deals that the CPS Board itself instigated.

Harris posted the above appeal right around the time of the CPS scandal related to a federal investigation and guilty plea of former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Emanuel’s withholding emails related to the incident.

Add to the above the following observations regarding an Emanuel-controlled board by Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis in the March 03, 2016, NBC article:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has complained for years that the appointed board rarely listens to teachers and families when imposing decisions — or it wouldn’t have closed 50 schools or rubber-stamped a no-bid contract deal that since ousted the CEO and might land her in prison.

“Nearly one year ago, 90 percent of Chicago voters expressed their support for an elected school board, and now, the city’s students and their families are closer to ending the devastation of mayoral control and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Board of Education,” Lewis said. “The CTU now calls on the Senate to pass this bill and give the voters what is long overdue — democracy in our education.”

Mayoral control has not worked in Chicago. Whether or not Duncan admits as much in 2016 is irrelevant. He is currently in no position to advocate for mayoral control.

However.

Illinois should stay alert to Duncan’s December 2015 return to Illinois and the possibility of his doing so in order to qualify to run for governor in November 2018.

For now, as of February 2016, Duncan is not in the public eye, though he has signed Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him, as Deadline reports, “in all areas including books and speaking engagements.”

I wonder what Duncan would get CAA or any other agency to market as his USDOE success in a future bid for any political position of note, Illinois governor included.

And I wonder if he plans to write or speak on the glories of mayoral control, especially in Chicago.

Three words:

Litter box liner.

The First Amendment Could Break the Grip of Government Unions

The First Amendment Could Break the Grip of Government Unions by Charles W. Baird

On January 11, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. It will be one of the Court’s most consequential cases this term. A decision in favor of Rebecca Friedrichs, a California public school teacher, could begin to undo the catastrophic damage caused by the widespread unionization of government employees in the 1960s and 1970s.

Municipal bankruptcies, state insolvencies, decaying public education, political corruption, and attacks on the freedom of speech and freedom of association of government employees are only the most visible wreckage of that disastrous mistake.

The question before the Court is whether forcing government employees to pay dues to a government employee union is a violation of the First Amendment.

In the Abood decision (1977), the Supreme Court sanctioned such coercion. Government workers could be forced to pay for the collective bargaining activities of the unions that represent them, but, the majority held, they could not be forced to pay that portion of dues unions use directly for political advocacy, as that would violate their right to free speech.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Lewis Powell warned the Court that there is no “basis … for distinguishing ‘collective bargaining activities’ from ‘political activities’ so far as the interests protected by the First Amendment are concerned. Collective bargaining in the public sector is ‘political’ in any meaningful sense of the word.”

In Abood, the majority disregarded Powell’s concern. But in Friedrichs, the Court will have to reconsider Powell’s insight that collective bargaining in the government sector is inherently political. The wages, salaries, and other conditions of government employment are political questions: they directly affect voters, taxpayers, and the actions of government agencies. Therefore, no employee should be forced to pay dues or fees for government sector collective bargaining.

If the Court finally agrees with Powell, no union will be able to force any government employee to pay union dues or fees for anything. This will shut down the vicious cycle whereby government unions collect forced tribute from government workers and then use it to help pro-union politicians obtain and maintain political power — who then empower and enrich the government employee unions.

The California Teachers Association (CTA) is panicked by the possibility of losing this case. It’s been showing this PowerPoint presentation throughout the state to try to prod its sympathizers to counterattack. It begs for ideas for “next steps and timelines necessary for CTA to respond to the impact of a negative rulings [sic].”

At the end of the presentation, the CTA finally does what it should have alwayshad to do: It considers how it might do a better job of convincing teachers that union membership is worthwhile. Forced dues and fees make it unnecessary for unions to justify themselves to their captive members.

The unions’ main argument in support of forced dues and fees is the chimerical “free rider” problem. They argue that, under the principle of “exclusive representation,” certified unions must represent all government employees, and if any of those workers did not pay dues and fees, they would receive the benefits of union representation for free. That would be unfair.

But this argument raises a more fundamental question: Why should government unions represent any workers who are not their voluntary members? Without exclusive representation, there could be no free riders. Without free riders, there is no case for compulsory union dues — political or otherwise.

Exclusive representation is not before the Court in this case, but if forced dues and fees in government employment are forbidden, exclusive representation itself may be challenged. After all, forcing anyone to accept the representation of an unwanted union as a condition of government employment seems clearly to violate that worker’s freedom of association. I look forward to such a case.

Charles W. BairdCharles W. Baird

Charles Baird is a professor of economics emeritus at California State University at East Bay.

He specializes in the law and economics of labor relations, a subject on which he has published several articles in refereed journals and numerous shorter pieces with FEE.

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Only Obama Can Shut Down the Government

The inclination many establishment Republicans have shown for premature legislative and ideological surrender is, at times, only matched by their eagerness to surrender the messaging battle as well.

Committed conservatives are already fighting a difficult messaging battle. They face committed liberal activists, far-left elected officials at the local, state, and federal level, an entrenched federal bureaucracy, an ideologically blinded media, an influential entertainment community, and an insulated, left-leaning academic community. We do not need to waste precious resources fighting against our own party. But the establishment has backed us into a corner by integrating the language of the Left into its own messaging.

I witnessed this recently at a Republican debate I attended for Florida’s 18th congressional district. The moderator of the debate asked the candidates a question about a vote for or against a debt ceiling hike, and insinuated via the wording of the question that a “no” vote would be a vote for shutting down the government. I was hoping the candidates would see through the messaging magic trick the debate moderator was playing on them, but many did not. By answering this “question,” without challenging the inaccurate premise of the question, many of the candidates lent credence to the premise that the GOP is responsible for “shutting down the government.” This is complete garbage and no activist, candidate, elected official, or responsible member of the GOP with a media voice should make room for this nonsensical idea.

Democrats, and their ideologically-aligned media friends, invented the false narrative that the GOP is responsible for any government shutdown as a tool to force the GOP to forfeit the constitutional congressional power of the purse, which the GOP-led House of Representatives rightfully holds.

Now that the narrative has been firmly implanted in the American public conscience, with the assistance of many in the GOP, and with Republican leadership afraid to tell the truth about how the government “shuts down,” the GOP insider class has effectively disempowered itself, along with the voters who busted their butts to get them elected and millions of conservative Americans who are pleading for their lawmakers to fight back against President Obama’s “fundamental transformation.”

Here are the very simple, and indisputable facts, about government “shutdowns.” The Republican-led House of Representatives has the constitutional duty to put forth, and pass, a federal budget. When a compromise budget is accepted by both the House and the Senate, it is then passed on to President Obama who can choose whether to sign the budget. If the president refuses to sign the budget and the government “shuts down”—a misnomer in itself because the government’s essential functions continue unabated during a “shutdown”— it is the exclusive result of presidential inaction. This requires no leap in logic or world-class imagination to figure out.

With this said, I am pleading with Republicans across the grassroots and elected spectrum to please stop saying, “We shouldn’t shut down the government.” Of course we shouldn’t shut down the government because we can’t shut down the government. Only the president can do that.

Do you really think that if the roles were reversed, and the Republicans held the White House and the Democrats held the House and Senate, that the media narrative would be the same? Of course not. The media would be blaming the Republican President for “shutting down the government” if he refused to sign the Democratic congress’ budget.

So please stop playing along like media lapdogs and carrying their messaging water for them. Just gather yourselves together and commit to doing the right thing and not the easy thing, and tell the people the truth. We deserve it.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. The featured image of President Obama is by Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP Photo.