SENATOR WARREN FALLS INTO A TRAP

warren

UPDATED 02.11.17 : in light of further developments, we have revised this column substantially. Please re-read. Italics indicate the added or revised portions of this story.

—- —- —-

We in Massachusetts like to think that our Senior Senator is a very smart lady. After all, she professes at Harvard Law School — the pillar of young intellectual achievement at the hands of the law’s most brilliant pedagogues. No doubt Warren earns the high opinion that we have of her. Yet as we saw yesterday, even she has her intellectual limitations.

ICYMI, here is what happened : testifying in opposition to confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General, Warren attempted read two documents into the debate : a 1986 letter from the late Coretta Scott King, and a contemporaneous testimony by then Senator Ted Kennedy. Both documents opposed Sessions’s nomination to be a Federal judge. (Sessions was not confirmed.) Warren was stopped from finishing her readings; Senate President McConnell (R-KY) invoked Senate Rule 19, saying that the readings impugned Sessions’ character and/or motive.

Immediately upon being silenced, Warren became a hero to those who are dubbed “the Left.”

Her heroism was confirmed by what happened next. No sooner did McConnell hurl Rule 19 at warren than he allowed four other Senators to read the very same material he had ruled Warren out of order for reading. All of them are men. Who can blame Warren’s supporters for concluding that she was silenced because she is female ?

Thus up went the cry : “she was warned. And yet she persisted.”

Until the silencing of Warren, opponents of Mr Trump had used the hashtag “resist. Now the #hashtag battle flag became “#persisted.”

McConnell’s move sure looks tone deaf. But surface appearances belie a deeper motive that i will discuss later in this report. Whether the motive I perceive is in fact McConnell’s, I have no idea. But if it isn’t his motive, it might well have the same effect as if it were his plan.

Because the heroism bestowed upon Warren was entirely of McConnell’s doing. The letter reading itself inflamed unfairly the debate about confirming Senator Sessions. Here’s why i say this :

First : whatever the merits of Warren’s impeaching Sessions’s character or motive, that the readings come from thirty years ago sends a wrong message about how a democratic society must work.

Second: the common law that we all live under has a device called “statutes of limitations,” by which both civil and criminal must be brought within a stated period of years or not at all. Except for murder, for which there is no limit, the accusation period ends in seven years, or three or even two.

There is a significant public policy reason for statutes of limitations . Beyond the practical — that it is difficult to find witnesses, or to depend ton their memory, of events that occurred many years ago — limitations are a kind of truce, very like the “peace of God” agreements used in the early Middle Ages to put a halt to never-ending feuds and constant anarchy. At some point, according to the “Peace of God” advocates, life just be free of old grievances. Like these “Peace of God” truces that allowed early Medieval Europe to grow and even prosper, limitation statutes call an end to old grievances which, though not resolved., are set aside by agreement so that life can start anew. (Bankruptcy law calls this sort of truce “a fresh start,” and the term is most appropriate in bankruptcy and in civil society.)

Third : we cannot have democracy is every grievance lives on forever, from generation to generation, ever to be re-fought by children, grandchildren, great grandchildren of the aggrieved. In a society where nothing is forgiven or forgotten — like those in the Middle East — wars arise almost without warning because the surface calm never extend s into the societal soul. In a democracy the opposite prevails. Old feuds are set aside, and life enjoys a fresh start in which everyone trusts each other rather than maintaining unending mutual suspicion.

Fourth : by bringing 30-year old accusations into the record, Warren violated this basic principle of democratic consensus. Granted, that her act was far from unique. At least since the 2008 election, there has been a concentrated campaign, on the political right, of refusal to set old grievances aside, indeed to revive them as if they were a fresh trouble. And as McConnell allowed four other Senators to read the letter from Mrs. King, the use of 30-year old material continues.

Fifth : On the other political side, this kind of never-forget tribalism was slow to take hold; Hillary Clinton’s campaign spoke of the future, not of old grievances. (That may be one big reason why she lost, as re-stoking old fires was the flash point of the entire campaign season.) Likewise, most opposition to President Trump’s cabinet nominations has focused on a nominee’s recent record and statements. So what happened this time ?

Sixth : There is plenty in Senator Sessions’s recent record as a Senator to negate his confirmation. So why did Warren choose to attack him from thirty years ago ? Probably for the same reason that Judge Neil Gorsuch’s opponents have cited yearbook language from his high school and college days 30 years ago and more : find the most inflammatory grievance you can, no matter how decomposed by time, and prop it up with the formaldehyde of never-forget.

This tactic works, but it also generates backlash. Just as it did in the era of feuds and grievance.

Warren is not alone here. For some on the Left, the ills of slavery, ended over 160 years ago, remain a source of present grievance, extended into Constitutional interpretation and even into political settlements that had little if anything to do with it, such as the Second Amendment. (And as slavery was the most wrong of many past American wrongs, it serves admirably as a weapon for invalidating all manner of arrangements disliked by those who attack it with the slavery hammer.) Of course we should remember slavery’s wrongs, and the era of lynching terror too, but with shame, and so as never to repeat them, not as present sources of grievance.

I truly believe that Senator Warren is smarter than her censured action of yesterday. But I am sure that she did not think out the excesses of resort to never forget, never forgive ways of doing society’s business. (edited out a long next sentence)

By reading the letter from Mrs. King, she allowed senator McConnell to spring a trap : I think Senator McConnell knew very well that silencing Warren, while allowing four other Senators to rad the same letter, he would make Warren a hero to his opposition, even the opposition’s leader. I think he judges Warren less electable as the 2020 Democratic nominee for President than a less polarizing figure : Missouri’s Jason Kander, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, New Jersey’s Cory Booker.

Senator McConnell plays the long game, ruthlessly, and so far he has won his long bets. Opponents of Mr. Trump — and i am certainly among them — should think carefully avoiding playing McConnell’s game.

So much for the McConnell decision. As for Senator Sessions, I am distressed that he was confirmed as Attorney General. I think he will use the Department of justice to harass immigrants and will prevent it from aggressively protecting the voting rights of people of color. Indeed, yesterday’s oppressive raids by the Immigration Police upon areas of cities heavily populated by people of Hispanic origin signal the pogrom state of affairs that Sessions surely intends to wreak upon immigrant families. He has said as much. But I do not find it at all helpful to bruise him with actions and thoughts that he may or may not have held 30 years ago. Our democracy must be stronger than that; should have more integrity than that; and must pursue a future free at last of the handcuff past.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

BOSTON SCHOOLS 2018 BUDGET : TENURE, PRINCIPALS, AND UNDER-ENROLLMENT

schools

^ looks good, but many classrooms in Boston’s Public Schools are nowhere near this full. Deficits are the result.

—- —- —-

Yesterday I wrote up a first look at the Boston Schools Budget for fiscal year 2018, as presented to the public last week. In that column I discussed chiefly its money allocations. Today I want to talk about the Budget’s most controversial structural priorities and operational outlook : tenure obstacles and classroom under-utilization.

But first of all, as I did yesterday, I post a link to the Budget PDF itself and ask that you read it before continuing on to9 my discussion:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9T_BaHxqRh8OU5rUy1zNGo0Mnc/view

As you see, the “Proposed” Budget includes a “big idea,” number 6 in the 10 idea list, entitled “advocate for changes in tenure law for teachers in Suitable Professional capacity roles.” Though this “big idea” is not discussed in a segment of its own, careful reading of the entire Budget allows that the issue be two : 9 1 ) allowing Principals to hire and choose their own staff regardless of a staff person’s tenure status and ( 2 ) allowing the District to layoff, or buy out the contracts of, teachers who have no assignment because no principal will have them or who teach classes so under-enrolled that maintaining them is a deficit situation.

This is obviously an idea as controversial as big. The Boston Teachers Union (“BTU”) has so far stubbornly opposed classroom consolidation that would eliminate under-enrollment situations. Avoiding tenure rules is, of course, a violation of the current Teacher Union contract. Yet the District’s school principals want — so says the Budget discussion — autonomy to hire and fire, and they want to “move fast” — so the discussion says — as do many school parents.

Moving fast is not something that billion-dollar bureaucracies do well. Boston’s tenure situation and classroom under-utilization have been argued over for many years. The two go together. As enrollment has declined, over the past 40 years,m from 91,000 to today’s 56,045, over-staffing has stymied the District’s budget more and more; and very little has changed. Last year Mayor Walsh announced a “capital building” program designed to replace the system’s 126 very old school buildings with 90 new ones : and no sooner had he made the announcement than the BTU and its advocate allies decried the Mayor’s plan as “school closings.” Walsh was accused of turning the school system over to charter operators, privateers, corporate interests. Opposition moved Walsh to postpone his building program : after all, he had a new BTU contract to negotiate, and the money issues in it were — st,ill are — big enough without adding to them. This is also an election year for the Mayor, and his chief opponent made clear during last year’s charter school expansion battle that he would be a BTU voice on all fronts. Thus nothing happened by way of structural reform.

Next year, however, the election will be past, and the District’s including tenure reform and under-utilization issues in its Budget tells me that Walsh expects to win re-election and that he is unready to wait longer to begin reform of Boston Schools’ big operational issues. This is good news : because the section of the Budget analysis discussing under-utilization shows that, at 50 percent full, a typical classroom operates at a $ 44,695 deficit, whereas an 87 percent classroom turns a $ 3,275 surplus, and a completely full classroom gains the District $ 24,595. costs the District  That’s a $ 79,290 turnaround, per classroom; expand this dollar disparity across 126 schools, each with multiple classrooms, and you’re talking millions of dollars lost through inefficient use of school buildings.

Walsh is right. taxpayers cannot wait any longer to see their taxes not thus wasted, nor should they have to.

Recouping for the Boston School District the millions of dollars that Walsh’s building program will gain depends as well on tenure reform. If Boston classro0oms decrease in number by one quarter, much staff will have to be laid off or atritted. Can Walsh and his Schools Superintendent, Tommy Chang, win union approval for such a major upheaval ? We may soon see once the current teacher contract negotiation is made public. The State managed to win union approval for major MBTA cost savings, but the new Carmen’s Union contract, while agreeing to outsourcing several T operations, saved all the union members’ jobs. I don’t see how a new BTU contract that reforms classroom under-utilization can do that.

Yet it must. The Mayor is signalling that he won’t wait any longer to reform the school plant completely. Impatiently I await the resolution that the new BTU contract — and the FY 2019 Schools Budget — will bring.

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the coming era of employer participation in curriculum, pedagogy, and education procedure, a reform crucial because it is employers, after all, who have to hire thousands of skills-ready new people ever year and cannot stay in, or locate to, Boston if our city’s schools can’t give them a full plate of skills-ready graduates.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

FIRST VIEW : BOSTON’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS BUDGET FOR 2018

scgroupphoto2016

^ The Boston School Committee, Mayor Walsh, and School Superintendent Tommy Chang

—- —- —-

There’s a lot to read in Boston’s proposed Public Schools Budget for next year. There’ll be four more public hearings on it before the School Committee votes the final version, and from what I am able to learn from what’s on the table so far, reform is definitely in the cards. Not enough reform, of the many anomalies our Schools Budget tolerates, but an estimable start; the new budget identifies and confronts several snags.

You should first read the FY 2018 proposal for yourself. Here’s the link : https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9T_BaHxqRh8OU5rUy1zNGo0Mnc/view

On Page five you’ll find what the Budget calls “ten big ideas.” They are indeed major:

( 1 ) Reduce long-distance BPS transportation by adjusting student assignment policies

( 2 ) adopt State-mandated transportation eligibility standards

( 3 ) Maximize efficiencies in transportation

( 4 ) Reconfigure the (School) District’s footprint

( 5 ) Examine Teacher Wages and School day Length

( 6 ) Advocate for Changes in Tenure Law for Teachers in Suitable Professional capacity Roles

( 7 ) Ensure that Special Education Identification and Administration support Students Appropriately

( 8 ) Streamline Central Office

( 9 ) Advocate to realign State Education Formulas

( 10 ) Advocate to Give Boston more Flexibility to Modify its Revenue Structure

The Budget proposes an overall increase from $ 1.032 billion to $ 1.061 billion. Add to this a $ 9 million collective bargaining reserve in FY 2017 and one of $ 20 million in the proposal budget, the entire Budget rises from $ 1.041 billion to $ 1.081 billion.

If $ 40 million is  being added, what then is being “streamlined” ? Not much. Only “central administration decreases, and by a mere $ 2 million. Even though three of the Budget’s ten “big ideas”: concern transportation, the total cost thereof RISES by $ 8 million — the largest percentage increase (7.4 %) in the new Budget proposed.

Salaries and benefits also rise, by $ 21 million; total employee costs rise by $ 23 million. Add in the $ 20 million collective bargaining reserve and you’ve totaled more than the entire 4 40 million increase touted by the Superintendent. In the 2017 budget, salaries and benefits accounted for $ 815.5 — almost 81 percent of the entire $ 1.032 budget. This year, salaries and benefits total $ 838.7 — about 82.5 percent of the entire year’s allocation.

By itself, the salary and benefits allocation tells us little; taken as a whole of the budget, however, it tells the same story as the $ 40 million increase: that Boston’s Schools Budget — touted by the Superintendent as increasing by $ 143 million since the new city administration took office — is barely keeping pace with staff salaries, leaving less than nothing for classroom equipment, supplies, and repairs and maintenance. No wonder the Budget talks of reducing transportation costs — which it does not do — and central administration staffing — which it barely gets to.

Yet there’s actually a note of dollar value progress in this new Budget : the 40-minute extended school day (negotiated with the Boston Teachers Union in 2014) now reaches 57 schools rather than 18, some 23,445 students up from 7,757. Yet nothing has been done about classrooms under-utilized, and no consolidation, which would save much maintenance and some staffing money. The Budget does, however, admit that Boston’s school day continues to be significantly shorter than the norm in Massachusetts and even shorter versus the national norm.

The Budget notes that enrolloment continues to decline, from, about 56,945 in year 2013 to about 56.050 now. Clearly under-utilization of the District’s 126 schools must be addressed sooner rather than later; but evidently not yet. This is an election year, and school consolidation, with attendant layoffs, is a touchy subject for employees and their parent allies.

Instead the Budget lays upon the State the blame for squeezing facilities for the sake of salaries and benefits. We are told that the State has added only 4 1 million to its fiscal obligation pursuant to chapter 70, the law which supposedly :”compensates” school Districts for those students who choose a charter school rather than the standard school facilities. The Budget expressly blames “stagnant” chapter 70p compensation for its fiscal troubles. I have written before about the puzzlement here. If a District enrolls 10,000 fewer students, that’s; 10,000 students it doesn’t have to educate and thus 10,000 students it doesn’t have to budget for. Why should it then receive compensation ? One would think that 10,000 students going out of District, to charter schools, would lighten the District’s financial burden, not weigh it down. I have yet to hear a rational explanation.

But that’s for the future of a Schools Budget that recognizes the need for big changes — especially its questioning the tenure situation — even if it shies from tackling the big deals yet. Heck, the new budget reduces central administration costs by a full $ 2 million ! How often do you see public service budgets decrease at all ? Three cheers may be too generous just yet, but I’ll give this reduction a very solid half a cheer and the sound of one hand clapping.

Onward to the next four Budget hearings with public comment that will surely be noisy even if less than dramatic.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

THE GORSUCH NOMINATION AND ITS POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

gorsuch

^ President Trump had a right to smile as his Supreme Court nominee addresses those who were on hand to see it. Now what ?

—- —- —-

Yesterday President Trump performed one of his most important Constitutional duties. Nominating someone to the Supreme Court has become almost as significant as electing a President because the more laws an increasingly complex nation enacts, the more say the high Court has in directing it all. Thus the significance, both in fact and politically, because what policies the laws enact are at least as important as the enactment itself.

The nomination was expertly handled. We saw none of the incompetence that characterizes most of Mr. Trump’s operation, none of the ignorance, cruelty, and bullying by which he plays his games of us versus them. Whoever advised Mr. Trump in this work knew what they were doing and got him to do it their way.

The professionalism of the operation, and its clever secrecy, match the excellence of the person nominated. Though I am not an originalist as to Constitutional interpretation — just the opposite — the originalist argument is a serious one and deserves its most serious champion in the debates that go on when the (hopefully) nine justices meet to decide how to rule and on what grounds. I am not afraid of having a brilliant originalist participate in those deliberations, nor should you be. If those of us who favor expansionist application of the Constitution cannot carry the deliberative day, shame on us. From I read about Neil Gorsuch, he is “best in show” for originalism (a position I shall explain to you next); I am glad to see that side’s best part of what must be “best in show” for all serious Constitutional points of view.

By “originalism” is meant the principle that the language of the Constitution and its Amendments must be read as those who first agreed to them read them. Those who apply this principle assert that the agreement — which is what the Constitution is, a pact agreed to — made was to those meanings, and not to future meanings perhaps different, as words do change meaning over time because words are used currently by those who live in the years they use them, not by those who may now be dead. The decision top have a written Constitution — not all nations have one, indeed our mother nation, England, has an unwritten one — committed those who so decided to the meanings of the words they agreed to. 229 years have passed since that agreement, and in that time words agreed to in 1787 have in most cases changed meaning quite a lot, and not always the same for everyone: and that is the problem that originalism seeks to avoid : that there is today no common agreement as to the meaning of words that in 1787 were agreed to; and for an originalist, that agreement is the essential act. It is so in contracts generally : there must be (1) a meeting of the minds, or there is no contract and (2) a deal is a deal is a deal; changing even a comma of an agreement changes the deal. About this, originalists are right; a pact like the Constitution is very much a contract between all the parties to it.

My view differs. For me, the Constitution is not a mere contract, for the purchase of goods or a promise of marriage; it is a guide for the operation of an ongoing communal enterprise that must figure out how to navigate unforseen challenges, inventions, customs. The words for such unforseen things may not have even existed in 1787 ! Further, the ent9ire history of the Constitution, as its Amendments demonstrate, is one of expansion, of inclusion of societal agreements no one in 1787 could possibly have imagined, said agreements being made according to general principles expressed in the Constitution’s Preamble : “to provide for the General Welfare” being the most dynamic. The Constitution belongs to those who must live with it. How else can it maintain common legitimacy ? Thus it evolves and adapts and earns the right to be agreed to over and over in the present. Of this view, Justices Brennan and Kennedy — and John Paul Stevens too — have been the most eloquent and influential voices. I would love to see another Justice like them. The Court needs their views in debate as well as it needs the originalists.

But this argument is for the Senate to evoke as it advises toward consent. The Gorsuch nomination will be debated, there will be hearings, a confirmation vote will be taken. My guess is that he will be consented to by a comfortable margin.

There must be no blocking of this nomination. The Republicans acted irresponsibly in not according the Merrick garland nomination a hearing. Their Senators did not do their Constitutional job. This cannot now be the Democrats’ response. At least one of our two major political parties must respect the Constitution’s directives. Right now the Democrats own the moral high ground, leading toward the 2018 mid-Term vote. It would a huge error for them to succumb to extremism; non-ideological, middle-ground voters will reject it. I think most Democratic leaders agree. I am fairly sure that that despite the present social media and street-theater outcry from Democratic extremists, almost all of the party’s Senators will engage, not block.

The other wrong politics of this, or any, Supreme Court nomination is to expect of a nominee any sort of commitment to any agenda. It used to be axiomatic that Senators did not ask nominees their views about matters of legislation that they might have to decide upon as if confirmed. Today it has become harder and harder for nominees to avoid being pinned down to this or that agenda, which is why nominations to the Court have tended more and more to legal neutering. To put my view bluntly : no one is entitled to a Supreme Court Justice’s political platform. Passing laws is the work of legislatures, not of judges. Is the law in question Constitutionally permissible or isn’t it ? That is the sole Constitutional test a Justice can legitimately apply.

I know that almost all of the above goes without saying, is in fact a chestnut. But the narrowness of our present politics, devoid of civic generosity or readiness to agreement, requires that chestnuts show their stuff in the spotlight again. All of this will be fought over as the Gorsuch nomination runs the gauntlet of demagoguery, special pleading, and advocacy combat. It will not be pretty, but unpretty is where we are right now.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

ANNALS OF A DISASTER

mother

^Mother from Iran, 5-year-old son reunited after he was detained for several hours at Dulles Airport

—- —- —-

NOTE >>>>> UPDATED 01/31/17 at 11:00 AM

The execution of it was incompetent, the timing insupportable, the wording sloppy, the consequences a total disaster politically, diplomatically, morally.

I refer, of course, to the President’s Executive Order banning entry to the United States by certain classes of people cited in the order itself. I will link you to the Order itself soon enough — below — but first a few additional comments need be said:

First : why needed the order be issued so soon, at, a time when there is yet no Secretary of State confirmed ? When the entire senior management of the State Department was asked to resign, leaving no one in managerial authority to help implement ?

Second: why were the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Council not given opportunity to vet the Order and suggest details of implementation that, as we saw, were utterly lacking ? DHS Secretary John Kelly said that he only learned of the Order’s being signed by watching the President on television ! Kelly said “we were still discussing it” when he saw the signing on TV !

Third : did the President not realize — did no one TELL him ? — that we are currently locked in battle, alongside Iraqi government forces, at the gates of West Mosul, and having the Order bar Iraqis from entering the US was hardly likely to make battlefield co-operation any easier, indeed just the reverse? How could the Order, for example, make no exception for Iraqi translators and other aides who risk their lives (and that of the families) to assist our soldiers on the scene ? The Order made plenty of exceptions; but none for these people at risk.

Fourth : how could the Order appear to ban holders of H-B1 visas, who form the backbone of our technology and scientific innovation industries, and even to prohibit, or impede, travel by “Green Card” holders, who are permanent residents of the US enjoying, by law, all the rights accorded to citizens except those appurtenant to voting ?

I think there’s a ready answer for these questions, but I admit that it is speculation on my part, backed only by more than 40 years of observing politicians at work. I think the haste, the imprecision, and the secrecy of the Order were all intended. More on this subject later.

And now a link to the Order itself in its entirety : http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/text-of-trump-executive-order-nation-ban-refugees/

( 1 ) Reading the Order, you find that it makes numerous directions to the Secretary of State and to the Attorney General; yet at present the nominees to each position have not been confirmed and thus the two posts are vacant. Why was this Order issued prior to there being persons in office to execute the directions the Order gives them ?

( 2 ) The Order does not only ban travel to the US by citizens of the seven banned nations. it also purports to change immigration procedures and standards. Yet immigration rules are a matter of substantive law, not of executive pleasure. The laws governing various immigration categories cannot be altered by the President, nor can the procedures established by law for immigrant application.

( 3 ) Because the Order purports to alter the laws governing immigration, Green Card holders — who have permanent residency and are accorded all rights of a citizen other than those appurtenant to voting — were initially caught up in the hectic enforcement of the Order. It took almost two days for the Homeland Security Secretary to direct that the Order did not apply to Green card holders.

( 4 ) lastly, the Order barring refugees in some cases indefinitely appears to violate commitments made in the Geneva Refugee Convention, of which we are a signer. The relevant responsibilities are itemized in the Convention, which I link to here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_Relating_to_the_Status_of_Refugees#Rights_and_responsibilities_of_parties_to_the_Refugee_Convention

Those who cite our nation’s (regrettable) refusal to admit 1938-39 refugees from Nazi Germany as a precedent for Mr. Trump’s refugee ban have it wrong, because the GRC did not exist then. It was signed in 1952.

By this act and the Order’s other provisions, enormous damage was done to the respect in which our nation is held, not to mention the denials of rights to those who were detained by the Customs and Border Patrol acting without any precise direction and often uninformed about the order itself. By no means do I excuse the CBP; many of its agents, especially at Dulles Airport outside Washington, acted with callous cruelty. Reports came of agents pressuring incoming Green Card holders to sign away their status or be detained and deported. There were also reports of agents asking incoming, detained travelers if they “love this country” — doubtless as part of the Order’s directive to the CBP to interview travelers in depth as to their attitudes and interests.

These reports, if true — and I have scant reason to doubt them — equate the US with notorious dictatorships in which the government pressures the beliefs and thoughs of citizens and visitors at all points.

We cannot be this kind of nation. We cannot third-degree interrogate visitors and immigrant applicants. We can certainly vet the biographies of immigrant applicants, but even then, we must accord applicants some measure of dignity. Handcuffing five year old children and holding elderly, medical patients wheelchair bound for almost two days cannot stand . (Even those without ordinarily Constitutional rights, are, if under our control, still entitle to basic human rights, as Justice Frankfurter wrote, of prison inmates, in a landmark 1940s Supreme Court decision.) We cannot be extorting Green Card holders, nor granting visas only to cancel them without warning, or remove people from flights to the US without warning on a CBP supervisor’s whim. People spend good money to buy international air tickets; they set aside vacation time to do so; they plan such trips well ahead. Students make plans to attend university here. Technical and medical people accept contracts to work at clinics and laboratories here. Patients in need of advanced medical care book appointments to our hospitals. Many technology firms depend upon Green Card holders and people with H-B1 visa credentials. We cannot be blanking all of their time, career plans, student entry, and money on the spur of a moment — not if we want to attract any respect at all in parts of the world where our word and reputation are crucial to our battlefield success.

It is reported that the President’s top advisor,m Steve Bannon — who incredibly has been appointed to the security Principals List, while the Joint Armed Forces Chiefs have been removed ! — objects to immigrants and visa holders becoming part of our economy, universities, and hospitals; that he considers them a foreign element (to what ?); it has also been very solidly reported that his world view is a white-supremacist one; and that the Order represents his views pursuant to his having written its purpose portions. Certainly the thrust of this Order is to oppress and intimidate citizens of the seven nations cited (and by implication, those who live in similarly Muslim-majority nations not (yet ?) cited. The anti-Mulsim, far right political cliques with which Bannon seeks American collaboration all want complete expulsion of Muslims from their nations; and if such a view is barred by our Constitution and our nation’s ideals, that seems no problem for a man who regards the Constitution as naive and the system upholding it an obstacle to the white tribe, tribal society he wants.

If these things are true, indeed if simply the white nationalism of it is true, then Bannon must go, and the Order he apparently had a major hand in drafting must be revised — as Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has insisted be done.

Most importantly, the Senate just act upon two bills filed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein, bills that would render almost impossible the confusion and skullduggery that made the current Order a disaster on so many fronts. I doubt we’ll ever fo0rget the sight of a Mom hugging her five year old (!!) daughter freed after hours and hours of detention at Dallas Airport. But we CAN assure that this scene never happens again on US soil.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

WE STAND WITH MAYOR WALSH

walsh

^ Mayor Walsh, backed by Boston’s City Council and several other electeds (with schools Superintendent Tommy Chang) issues his defiance : “we will protect and defend every resident of Boston !”

—- —- —-

The lede says it all. In his defiance of threats made by the new President to immigrants living in America, Mayor Walsh spoke well. We endorse his defiance. We support his resolve.

Walsh made clear that Boston will not assist the President in his harassment of immigrants. Police Superintendent Bill Gross joined Walsh at his press conference. The two men threw down the gauntlet to the President : you will not have our assistance, indeed we will op[pose you in our official capacities and personally.

I have never seen public officials defy and confront a President as Walsh and Gtoss defied this president. To find anything comparable, one has to go back to before the Civil War,m to the 1850s, when free states and their autho9rities defied every power of the law to protect persons of color from being kidnapped pursuant to the notorious Fugitive Slave Act. And the present defiance measures fully to that of the 1850s. The current President has stated his intention to hound every immigrant who lacks full legal protection, to deport who he can and to make life as insecure as possible for the rest. (If you doubt me, read today’s story, at Huffington post, about immigration attorneys advising their clients, who hold legal “green cards,” not to leave the United States because if they do they might not be let back in : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-order-immigrants-travel_us_588a7bd4e4b0cef5cf870a7d?section=us_politics

Already, we see that immigrants who aren’t yet full citizens are finding themselves trapped here, their travel rights at risk, their lives curtailed. Just think what is likely to happen once the President issues his actual orders.

Mayor Walsh cannot undo what the President is doing, but he can stand in its way, and this he has done, giving our many thousands of endangered immigrant residents all the security and support that a powerful Mayor has at his command. The President’s immigration police are too few and too lacking in resource to round-ups of immigrants without the assistance of local police; and this assistance they will NOT have in Boston.

Immigrants are all integral to our community and our commerce, no matter what legal papers they have or do not have. Every immigrant is a customer. The more customers a business has, the more it prospers, the more workers it can hire, the more prosperity bit generates for all. Immigrants are the engine of economic growth. Those who want them gone do not understand the negative consequences of what they want.

And thus we stand with Mayor Walsh, we endorse his defiance, we support his resolve to protect and defend — officially and personally — every resident of the City he leads. Remember : Walsh is himself the son of two immigrant parents. This is a fight as personal to him as can be.

The Massachusetts Constitution guarantees to0 every RESIDENT of the State and every VISITOR to it full protection of, and equality before, the law. Citizenship is not the fulcrum of equal rights in our state. Only the right to vote is thus limited. All other civil rights, including jury trial, freedoms, and search and seizure rights, are accorded by our state to EVERY body present within us. Our Constitution was adopted seven years before the Federal Constitution, and it exists independently of it, as do the Constitutions of every state. And though Federal law is, by the Federal Constitution, supreme where there is a conflict, the supremacy is given only to Federal LAW, which is made exclusively by Congress, and not to executive orders or executive arrogations.

Mayor Walsh thus has the full force of law at his side as well as overwhelming public opinion. The current President received only 12.75 percent of Boston’s vote; our rejection of him was no mere whim; it arose from deeply held convictions about justice and ideals. Mayor Walsh speaks for the overwhelming majority of us, and he does so with our full support.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

“SUCCESS IS MEASURED BY WHAT WE ACCOMPLISH TOGEHER”

baker

^ Governor Baker speaks. Behind him : Speaker of the House DeLeo (L) Senate President Rosenberg (R)

—- —- —-

With these words  — and with others that I’ll quote below — Governor Baker delivered a “State of the State”m speech last night as opposite to what we confront from Washington as opposing it was his intention. As Baker continued, “Our obligation ton the people we serve is too important to place politics and partisanship before progress and results.”

These were concluding sentences — roundly applauded by the dignitaries, legislators, and “Team baker” activists present — in a speech dedicated almost exclusively to Baker’s policy commitments : the challenge, his response, and his estimate of how well he has responded, in some cases (such as the opioid addiction crisis and fixing the MBTA, diligent but far, far from job finished. Baker bluntly admitted that both matters would require years of remedy — no quick fixes on HIS watch.

One by one Baker assessed them all : ( 1 ) restoring DCF to full effectiveness (a job incomplete because the agency’s foster home assessment process remains unready; (2) fixing the T; increasing aid to public education, including a substantial “chapter 70 ” “reimbursement for charter school children; (3) enacting legislation ending the practice of sending drug-addicted women to women’s prison (4) reform of incarceration measures at Bridgewater State Hospital (6) solving the homelessness crisis (7) focusing business development on the growing cyber security industry, in which Baker lauded Massachusetts’ s leadership; (8) municipal law reform, the most comprehensive in 50 years; and several more works that Baker has made part of his “fix it” platform.

He did not mention the failure of last year’s charter school expansion (ballot) initiative, which he backed to the hilt: but why should he have ? That fight is over; yet the struggle to close the achievement gap for kids of color remains, and Baker touted a recent idea : the school district empowerment zone. We’ll see if this idea survives the opposition of teacher unions.

Speaking of unions, notable in Baker’s speech was his lauding union leaders — DCF social workers and the MBTA’s Carmen — by name and leading applause for what he emphasized were co-operative efforts. The Carmen’s leader, Jim O’Brien, looked surprised to be singled out, as well he might. How many Republican Governors praise the president of a public employee union ? Yet it is true: Baker and the Carmen negotiated a contract in which each side got most of what it wanted.

Thus Baker didn’t just talk about co-operation; he demonstrated it, for everyone listening to see.

Granted, that in Massachusetts, a Republican Governor has no choice but to work co-operatively with the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and interested activists. Yet two things to note : we elect Republican Governors precisely because they have to govern co-operatively, and almost all of them have done it. But that is not the whole story of what baker accomplished last night.

First : he demonstrated that he will not be intimidated, or his policies sidetracked, by opposition from Trump supporters, nor will he take the bait often being thrown his way by partisan Democrats. Both of these oppositions simply make Baker look strong, and he showed that he understood how to use their opposition to his advantage.

Second, he flaunted the power of a political tactic that will surely be imitated for 2018 : it is a major advantage for a politician in the era of Mr. Trump to be as unlike Trump as feasible. As Baker said in his concluding remarks, “Too much of what passes for political dialogue these days…is talking points. Character assassination. And deliberate misrepresentation.”

And in case anyone in attendance missed his meaning, Baker made these his last words: Our jobs remain the same. That is to represent Massachusetts to Washington, not Washington to Masssachusetts.”

He said this same thing another way : “I can report to you that the state of Massachusets today is strong.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere