Saturday, February 27, 2016

SOCIAL PROMOTION OR THIRD-GRADE RETENTION

[NOTE: The proposal to address student reading deficiencies in New Mexico is not greatly different from proposal to address this problem in other states.  So the issues addressed are relevant to all.  This version replaces an earlier version.]




As they retreat from their ill-conceived educational reforms on testing students, evaluating teachers, chartering schools, and implementing Common Core, Governor Martinez, PED Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandara, and others who have a business-oriented political agenda but know little about education advance the ill-conceived proposal to retain third-grade students not reading at grade level.  The situation is indeed dire: recent test scores based on national, not state, scales, reveal that a large majority of New Mexico’s fourth graders cannot read at grade level.  The implication remains ominous: those who have not learned to read cannot read to learn.



Advocates of this proposal offer a punitive, not a pedagogical, approach to this situation.  They believe that a glut of retained students will pressure administrators and teachers to improve student reading abilities.  But pressure cannot improve reading instruction.  Teachers who have failed to teach reading in four years are unlikely to magically teach it in one more year.  Adding more reading specialists, a once-favored but decades-long failed approach to assist teachers failing to teach reading, will again increase staff and salaries, without achieving success.



State officials and legislators know little about the situation or the consequences and costs of their response.  Which teachers at which grades fail to teach reading effectively?  Why does social promotion occur at any K-3 grade level?  How many third-grade students would be retained?  What are the costs—staff retraining, additional staff, and administrative costs—of third-grade retention?  What percentage of retained students would become capable readers?  Would retained students who did not become capable readers after one more year be retained for a second year or socially promoted?



Teachers admit, and state officials and legislators know, little about the causes or conditions of this situation.  Children go to school, become students, and do not learn to read.  Some blame the parents or poverty; they think progress impossible until parents get involved in their children’s education or make more money—responses which await the Second Coming.  Meanwhile, teachers must teach their students, whatever their backgrounds, as they are, not as teachers wish they were.  Given the results, neither teachers nor state officials and legislators are honest or knowledgeable, and daring, enough to suggest the obvious: K-3 teachers do not teach reading because they are not competent to teach reading.



This teacher incompetence is the problem, to which I suggest two legislative solutions focusing attention on the training of elementary school teachers.  One, require state-funded college programs of education to ensure teacher mastery of the subjects which elementary school teachers must teach, according to the requirements implicit in state curriculums.  Two, create an independent agency (1) to develop, administer, and score subject-matter tests as a sufficient standard of certification of all new in-state, and all out-of-state transfer, teachers; and (2) to develop, maintain, and audit the integrity of, a second, higher salary scale to attract or promote and retain the best and the brightest teachers; and, for this salary scale, to develop, administer, and score rigorous subject-matter tests; and to conduct personnel evaluations of candidates which rely on records and interviews, and disregard seniority.



These solutions do not constitute a quick, easy, or cheap fix.  However, putting subject-matter competent, confident, and committed teachers in the classroom is the best assurance of high academic performance.  Students respond to such teachers with respect and enthusiasm.  So do their parents.  And teachers who know that they can do, and are doing, the right job the right way will be gratified by their professional success.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

PRAISING AND RE-APPRAISING SCALIA


The death of Antonin Scalia has precipitated an outpouring of praise for his warm personal relationships, good humor, and cultivated tastes; and for his legal ingenuity, acerbic dissents, and principled opinions.  Muted is the criticism that he lacked the impartiality and the temperament of a Justice of the Supreme Court.  Only a few whisper that he was a partisan driven to use his voice and his vote to achieve, not legal, but political, ends.

Scalia’s sharp tongue does not imply a sharp mind.  On the contrary, it suggests that aggression superseded argument.  His dissents, although sometimes witty, became more often and increasingly indecorous and insulting, and cheapened discourse on the highest court in the land.  His lack of rhetorical restraint reflected his partisan commitments, particularly as the strain of losing votes on major cases took its toll.  Indeed, Scalia became unable to read views or hear news deemed liberal, and made his sources of information highly selective and exclusively conservative.

This bias is most evident in the doctrine with which Scalia is famously associated: originalism.  This doctrine, which he urged as a basis of Constitutional interpretation, holds that judges should be restricted to, and guided by, the meaning of its text as drafted or amended.  The suggestion is that originalism, not reinterpretations of, or departures from, the Constitution, ensures fidelity to it.

The doctrine is a legal fiction about an interpretive approach theoretically and practically impossible.  The Constitution is not self-interpreting.  Some meanings of its words were disputed at the time, were ambiguous or vague, or have changed since written.  How does an originalist pick one meaning and not another or make imprecise words precise?  What does “life” mean (used only once, in Article III, Section 3)?  What are the Eighth Amendment meanings of “cruel” and “unusual” in matters of punishment (then including flogging, branding, mutilation)?  Scalia approved studying contemporary texts to ascertain “originalist” meanings but disapproved studying legislative histories to ascertain the meanings of enacted laws.  Consistency would rule out The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers or rule in such histories.

Scalia’s application of originalism reflects his biases against new laws to address new circumstances or situations.  He invoked or applied it in dissents, not in concurrences.  The most recent and egregious instance is his supporting the majority opinion in Citizens United, which declared financial contributions to political campaigns protected speech under the First Amendment.  Yet neither the Constitution nor its Amendments connect, much less equate, money and speech (only the street adage “money talks” does so).  His failure to invoke originalism in this case shows him less intent on interpreting law than serving moneyed interests.  Scalia used originalism as a cover to conceal his political activism.  He was at least as much a judicial activist as any other justice has ever been; he just deplored judicial activism in other justices.

Ultimately, originalism renders one branch of the government defined by the Constitution a needless appendage.  If it creates a judiciary without the authority to interpret laws when their meaning or applicability is the basis of cases before it, then it creates a branch of government with no purpose.  Court decisions in such cases always influence the meanings of the laws.  If such decisions are called judicial lawmaking, so be it; American law has usually evolved incrementally in this way.  Scalia fabulates otherwise: each word in the Constitution retains its first, fixed, and unchanging meaning and has only one correct interpretation.  Such a Constitution never was, never was intended to be, and never can be.  With Scalia’s passing, we can move beyond his legal myth-making and his pseudo-judicial posturing.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

AGAINST A JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION



 A personal statement may prevent misunderstanding.  I am an unaffiliated, non-observant, but committed Reform Jew.  Both of my wives have been Episcopalians.  My original and two married families embrace five religions, three races, two nationalities.  Despite our close family relationships, I am dead set against the idea of a Judeo-Christian tradition because it disrespects Judaism and Christianity, and those who live their faiths.

The phrase Judeo-Christian tradition refers to any of a variety of ideas with widely different meanings.  Significantly, neither the phrase nor its meanings have the historical warrant which one would expect of a tradition: a distinctive and enduring set of specific attitudes and values; assumptions, beliefs, and principles; and practices—all different from other traditions in the same cultural domain.  First, a Judeo-Christian tradition would have to ensure that it did not overlap with other religions on most major points.  Thus, although Judaism and Christianity share the Golden Rule, most faiths have this principle central to their moral code.  Second, the tradition would require that Judaism and Christianity share realizations of these distinctive features equivalent in reality, not appearance only.  Thus, although Passover and the Last Supper are roughly alike and readily set apart from ceremonies in other religions, the additional features of the latter make it quite unlike the former; in fact, the Passover ceremony serves mainly as a Jewish context for a Christian message unrelated and inappropriate to the meaning of Passover.

Obviously, there are problems with the idea of such a hybrid tradition.  Until about the mid 1940s, Judaism and Christianity sharply differed on theological grounds and strongly reinforced those differences.  An earlier notion of a Judeo-Christian tradition was and remains a relatively new way to express the old doctrine of supercession, by which Christianity replaces Judaism.  In this meaning, the former repudiates the latter, rejects shared content, and sustains the anti-Semitic (more accurately, anti-Judaic) view that Judaism is defective because not completed or perfected by the arrival of the Messiah.  Ann Coulter adheres to this notion and advocates it without realizing—indeed, denying—that it is anti-Semitic.  This notion, far from indicating a shared tradition, signifies a sequence of opposed traditions.

Two different notions, one political, one religious, arose in the aftermath of the Second World War.  The post-war political notion of a Judeo-Christian tradition was a mix of vapid feelings and vague thoughts in contra-position to the Cold War emergence of the Soviet Union as the bastion of godless communism.  The notion persists today mainly in contra-position to Islam.  In short, this notion uses a union of Jewish and Christian religions to define a political in-group excluding “them,” be they atheists or infidels, and usually implies that they, especially Muslims, are un-American.

The post-war religious notion of a Judeo-Christian tradition reflected the response of some Christian academics, seminarians, and ecclesiastics to the Holocaust.  Its horrors shocked their admission that the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, as the Nazis euphemistically phrased it, traced its roots to centuries of Christian text-, teaching-, and preaching-based anti-Semitism.  They think that one way to expiate the guilt implied by this admission and promote tolerance between Christians and Jews is to emphasize similarities and elide differences between the two religions.  Their message, the obverse of that of proselytizing Jews for Jesus, is that Christianity can be comfortable with Judaism because Jesus was born, lived and died a Jew.  Yet this well-meaning Christian approach respects Judaism, not in its terms, but in terms of apparent congruency between the two religions in sharing the same figure, as if Jesus the Jew and Jesus the Christ are similar—ironically, a kinder, gentler version of the doctrine of supercession.

In the elaboration of this notion of the Judeo-Christian tradition, some viewed inter-religious communication and fellowship as signifying a Judeo-Christian tradition.  Their respectful, even friendly, relationships, although commendable, avoid, obscure, or devalue theological discriminations.  Improved professional and social relationships are not theologically shared elements of a religious tradition.  Even an apparently shared interest in, and support for, the State of Israel can reveal important differences between Jews and Christians.  Jews regard Israel as the Promised Land; some Jews urge others to relocate as a restoration of the Jewish people.  Many fundamentalist Christians regard Israel differently, as an instrument of Christian fulfillment stated in Revelations.  That is, the in-gathering of the world’s Jews, partly effected by Christian encouragement and support, is an immediate precursor to, and prompter of, Last Days and the Second Coming.  The value of Judaism is its utility for Christianity.

*   *   *

The history of discrimination, persecution, and annihilation because of religious differences has encouraged many to prefer to emphasize religious similarities to religious differences.  The cost of this preference for homogenization is the diminution of religion, the denaturing of Judaism and Christianity, and the eradication of the important choices of moral and religious significance which they provide.  In reactive opposition, I proceed to sketch a few of the major differences between these religions until the mid-twentieth century to recognize the integrity of each as worthy repositories of moral and religious guidance and inspiration.  I sketch in general terms which ignore postwar innovations.

However, I begin with a story, purportedly Talmudic, but likely apocryphal.  It goes like this: with the Archangel Michael at His right hand, God debates the most learned rabbi of the day about the proper interpretation of a point of Torah.  The debate goes back and forth for some time.  Finally, God delivers His last and strongest argument for His interpretation.  After a respectful pause, the rabbi rebuts God’s argument and makes his best and final argument for his interpretation.  God sees that the rabbi is right.  He turns slowly to Michael and, beaming with pride, says, “that’s my boy!”

Such a story is possible in Judaism, impossible in Christianity, for Jews can and do argue with God, but Christians cannot and do not.  This difference is easily understood.  Jews have a contract with God.  God is all-everything, but the law of contracts binds both God and Jews to their deal.  The deal seems simple enough: God promises Jews the Promised Land; they promise to obey His law.  But what do the terms of His law mean?  Their contract with God gives Jews the right to question their meanings and the standing to debate them with God.  Thus, His law is a living one, which evolves as both parties to the contract mature in moral thought and feeling.

Christians have a different essential relationship with God.  God offered His Son as a gift to humankind to redeem them from sin; Christians, through their faith in His Son as their Savior, accept God’s gift of grace with thanks.  They lack any basis for quarrel with the giver of an unconditional gift which they freely accept or with the gift itself.

As in later contrasts, there is no need to judge one relationship superior to the other.

Judaism and Christianity have other significant differences.  Jews and Christians do not share any foundational texts.  Jews call their sacred texts Holy Scriptures; Christians call their sacred texts The Bible, comprising the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Christians wrongly assume that the Old Testament and Holy Scriptures are the same.

The order of contents is different.  In Holy Scriptures, the Book of Ruth occurs in the Writings and concerns identities and loyalties; in the Old Testament, it occurs in the Historical Books and concerns religious evolution.  The meaning of words is different.  The Hebrew word for “maiden” becomes the Greek word for “virgin.”  A maiden may be sexually inexperienced, but a virgin must be, with conception immaculate because sexually unsullied, thus miraculous.  Interpretations of text are different.  For Jews, the story of Abraham and Isaac teaches not only Abraham’s greater love of God than of his first-born son, but also the rejection of human sacrifice; for Christians, it teaches the first lesson but a different second one, an allegorical prefigurement of God’s love for mankind in sacrificing His Son.  The differences are enormous; the meanings, contradictory; the analogy ugly.  For, in the language of family relations and the law of human society, a father who plans his son’s death commits murder.

Jews and Christians read these foundational texts for different purposes.  Jews read Holy Scriptures for moral instruction and mythological bases for religious observances.  If Abraham and Isaac never existed, Jews would still read and interpret the story for its moral lessons.  If Moses never existed, Jews would still tell the story that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to give to the Jewish people because it dramatically emphasizes the importance of God’s laws given to the Jews.

Christians read the Old Testament as historical predictions come true, to vindicate Christianity; they read the New Testament not only as realized predictions, but also for doctrinal truth.  But therein lies the threat: no Jesus, no Gospel stories, no miraculous birth of the Savior, no crucifixion of the Messiah, no God’s gift redeeming believers of their sins.  One response to this threat is Biblical literalism; the Word of God is true in all respects lest the text be historically suspect and prompt theological doubt.  The opposite response is to ignore the historical Jesus entirely.  Both the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed omit all reference to the life of a historical Jesus except his suffering under Pontius Pilate.  The distinguished scholar John Meyer, author of a magisterial, multi-volume biography, thinks that the historical Jesus is irrelevant as a matter of faith to the risen Christ.  Ironically, such would be a “Jewish” reading of The Bible.

What Jews and Christians read and how they read these texts are also different.  In general, Jews do not read the New Testament, and Christians read both testaments.  They debate among themselves about interpretations of the text, but they do not consider or criticize aspects of Christianity in doing so.  Christians often interpret the Old Testament in ways reflecting misunderstandings of Judaism or serving polemical ends.

For example, Christians commonly compare the “angry God” of the Old Testament to the loving God of the New Testament by focusing on the God of the Torah, the first five books of Holy Scriptures, and ignoring the God of later books.  They ignore both the evolving concept or nature of God, who earlier stresses righteousness and punishes sins but later stresses love and forgiveness, and the corresponding change of emphasis in the narrative of Holy Scriptures.  This change reflects a turning point in history, between the Hebrew tribes before the Persian Exile and the Jewish nation after it.  The pre-exilic God of the Hebrews had to make a people of the various tribes.  To do so, He had to enforce the laws which established unity and identity, and, like a loving father, angered by disobedience, to punish violations of His law.  The post-exilic God of the Jews had no such need; the exile, seen as punishment deserved for violating the terms of the deal (no obedience to His law, no Promised Land), had unified the Jews, made them one people, and caused them to repent.  This later God is Jesus’ God, whom he addressed as “Abba” (father), is forgiving, loving, and personal.  The Christian contrast between an “angry God” and a loving one is polemic; likewise, other common dichotomies—law versus love, letter versus spirit, justice (or revenge: a misreading of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” or just compensation) versus mercy—are also polemic.

The many important differences between Judaism and Christianity—perhaps the most important being between waiting for a messiah or worshipping The Messiah—make clear that, in my definition of “tradition,” these religions do not share one.  Which means that each religion has an integrity of its own.  They can be compared without competing or ranking.  The certainly cannot respectfully be compared by making one’s religion the measuring stick of the other and the implement to beat it.  At their best, they urge, not tolerance, but respect.  Accordingly, we should reject the very idea of a Judeo-Christian tradition as disrespecting both Judaism and Christianity.

-       -       -       -       -       -       - 

These tables indicate other points of contrast with basic Jewish and Christians beliefs.  I recognize that some individuals and some denominations never have and do not now invariably subscribed to some or all of these points.  I provide those which have long been associated with traditional Jewish and traditional Christian beliefs at least until the mid-twentieth century.


JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN BELIEFS: GOD
JUDAISM
CHRISTIANITY
1.      God is undifferentiated as One
1.      Godhead is trinal: Father, Son, Holy Spirit
2.      God is a righteous, loving, and forgiving god
2.      God is a loving, forgiving god
3.      God created the world good; it remains good despite man’s sins
3.      God created the world good; it became bad by mans original sin
4.      God’s relationship is with a people (“Israel”) and persons
4.      God’s relationship is with individual persons, maybe mediated by a church
5.      A Jew’s relationship to God is reverential and respectful
5.      A Christian’s relationship to God is reverential and submissive

JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN BELIEFS: SALVATION
JUDAISM
CHRISTIANITY
1.               Salvation is universal to all by right conduct according to Noachian laws
1.             Salvation is universal to anyone who believes in Jesus as Christ
2.               Non-Jews merit salvation depending on their ethical conduct in their everyday lives
2.             Non-Christians do not merit salvation because they do not believe in Christ
3.               Jews are people chosen to receive God’s law and live by it, to set a moral example for the world (laws are mitzvahs, or “blessings,” because living according to laws makes a person a moral being)
3.             Christians are the new Israel and are joined together in and by Gods love
Note: The Messiah of Judaism is awaited as a political and religious savior and leader who will bring justice and peace to Israel; the Messiah of Christianity has arrived and brought salvation to those who accept him as their Savior.

JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN BELIEFS: ETHICS
JUDAISM
CHRISTIANITY
1.             Humankind is morally guided by universal laws
1.             Humankind is morally obliged by love of all
2.             Jewish law is basis of ethics: justice paramount (=just compensation – eye for an eye)
2.             Christian love is basis of ethics: mercy paramount (=forgiveness – turn the other cheek)
3.             Righteousness is demanded of one’s self
3.             Forgiveness is requested for one’s sins
4.             Conduct – rite and right
4.             Creed – faith (& works?)
5.             Negative Golden Rule
5.             Positive Golden Rule
6.             Jews emphasize social reform
6.             Christians emphasize personal charity
7.             Reward for a good life of good living is a good life (no “dress rehearsal”)
7.             Reward for a good life of faith (and works) is in the afterlife


Saturday, January 9, 2016

FLINT: MICHIGAN REPUBLICANS ARE THE PATTERN OF REPUBLICAN RULE

If the government of the State of Michigan is anything, it is Republican.  All three of its branches are Republican and have been since 2010.  Today, in 2016, the Governor, Rick Snyder, is Republican.  The 38-seat Senate has 27 Republicans, 11 Democrats.  The 110-seat House has 61 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 3 vacancies.  The 7-member Supreme Court has 5 Republicans, 2 Democrats.  Most branches of government were dominated by Republicans before then.  So Michigan’s legislation and administration are what Republicans have enacted and directed for most of the twenty-first century.

For decades, Michigan’s larger industrial cities have suffered from the decline of heavy manufacturing in the emerging global economy.  Corporations have collapsed or relocated with tax benefits; employees have been left behind with little or no assistance.  Results include declining population, increasing unemployment, declining housing values and state tax revenues, deteriorating public services and schools, and increasing costs of social services to aging and disproportionately minority populations.

Michigan’s Republican politicians have adopted conservative Republican analyses to explain the decline and prescriptions to prevent metropolitan bankruptcies.  Notably, it passed legislation (first PA 4 in 2011, then PA 436 in 2012) empowering the Governor to appoint City Managers to replace local elected officials for all practical purposes, with powers to dismiss elected officials, appoint department officials, set budgets, impose new taxes, abolish labor contracts, privatize services, and sell public assets—all ultimately intended to balance budgets.  Because of their ideological blinders, Republicans do not recognize that balanced budgets do not address the conditions necessary to revive the economies of the cities in dire financial straits prompting this dictatorial legislation.

Given autocratic powers irrelevant to that purpose, Republicans have enacted legislation to plunder already impoverished cities for personal and political benefit.  The results have been predictable: cronyism and corruption, and budgets balanced, urban life eroded, and local economies further deteriorated.  One City Manager gave himself a quarter-million-dollar-a year salary.  Other City Managers have awarded uncompetitive contracts or sold public assets to friends or corporate supporters.  In short, Republican legislation and administration have further impoverished the cities which they pretended to rescue but have enriched appointees and their apparatchiks.

At present, six cities—Allen Park, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Ecorse, Flint, and Pontiac—lack democratically elected leadership yet are liable to higher per-unit costs or higher taxes without representation.  Most of them are majority African-American, and all of them encompass a majority of the state’s African-American population.  In short, over half of Michigan’s minority population is disenfranchised in the cities in which they live and work.

The consequences of autocratic Republican rule are clear in the case of Flint, with its population of about 100,000.  The Governor-appointed City Manager decided to save money by shifting from treated water treated purchased from Detroit to water pumped directly—that is, without treatment—from the Flint River.  This raw river water contains toxic contaminants which, when pumped through Flint’s lead pipes, have corroded them, added lead to the other contaminants, and become poisonous water used for drinking, cooking, bathing, and plumbing.  As is well known, lead in elevated levels has many irreversible damaging effects on children, especially those under the age of seven.  Flint has over 25,000 minors, about 9,000 in this younger age group.

The sight and smell of this untreated Flint River water immediately prompted concerns by residents.  State officials assured residents that their concerns were unwarranted and that the water was safe.  Independent scientists tested the water and reported elevated levels of lead two or three times higher that water-quality standards.  State officials dismissed their reports and attempted to discredit scientists.  Months later the state was forced to admit the truth.  For weeks thereafter, the state did nothing.  When the Republican Governor apologized, he did not bother to visit Flint, an hour’s drive away.  Only when the federal government launched a criminal investigation, did he declare a state of emergency.  However, in the week thereafter, the state did almost nothing, did less than it needed to do, and did not ask for help from FEMA.  Michigan still refuses to declare the water now coming from Detroit safe for use by residents.  Whatever his press releases say to the contrary, the Republican governor shows no evidence of caring about inadequate supplies of safe water and the permanent effects of polluted water on residents.

Accountability for endangering the health of an entire city population and damaging the development of hundred or thousands of children by the decisions and conduct of Republican officials and agents remains uncertain.  Government officials usually, but citizens rarely, can escape indictment and prosecution for actions harmful to others.  Any parent who sought to save money on water bills by substituting polluted river water for safe tap water and exposing children to it would likely face a variety of criminal charges for abuse, endangerment, or negligence.  But elected and appointed Republican officials who make and implement comparable decisions, with health-destroying and life-impairing consequences, may get off by pleading good intentions or governmental immunity.  My non-lawyer’s opinion is that Michigan Republicans have engaged in a conspiracy to advance their interests in reckless disregard of dire consequences from using industrially polluted river water.

This disastrous record of health, economic, and political abuse teaches important lessons about the nature of Republican rule in Michigan.  Despite their slogans about small government, freedom, and opportunity, Republicans, given this chance, have operated in disregard of traditional American democratic principles: the consent of the governed and no taxation without representation.  In Flint, they denied citizens the freedom and opportunity to drink safe water; instead, they forced them to drink poisoned water.  They have exercised exclusive power autocratically and irresponsibly, without consulting with or accountability to the people whom they rule.  They have acted out of partisan ideological concerns like a balanced budget, not basic, practical concerns like safe drinking water.  Once again, they have shown a greater interest in property than in people.  Not surprisingly, they have defied the facts which undermine their political decisions and have attacked those who tell the truth.

Federal and state Republican officials know that knowledge is power and that those with truth speak to power.  Accordingly, they hinder or oppose government agencies which, as a requirement of their work, collect information: among federal departments or agencies, EPA, Education, Justice, FBI, and ATF.  The information which such agencies collect tends to support efforts contrary to Republican positions.  They also serve as the basis for and justification of regulations to mitigate or prevent problems of health and safety.  The Republican opposition to these agencies means to prevent informed discussion of their purposes, policies, and regulations; to weaken or eliminate them; and to make their regulations few, unenforceable, or ineffective.  The purpose behind their attacks on “too many regulations” is to enable corporations to operate without legal accountability or economic penalty for any harm done to people’s health or wealth.

Like Michigan Governor Snyder, Republican politicians (in my congressional district, “Freedom Caucus” member Steve Pearce) are indifferent to the deleterious consequences of their ideology except to conceal them with assurances to the contrary or by attacks on critics.  When they speak of “job-killing regulations,” they talk economic nonsense; they also advocate the “people-killing” absence of regulations which minimize the risks of diseases, disorders, disabilities, and deaths to thousands or millions.  Their opposition to regulations promoting clear air, clean water, and clean soil means to encourage or enable profiteering by permitting corporations to put biological and chemical poisons into what we breathe, drink, and eat.  For Republicans, Flint is an embarrassment about which they are silent.  Otherwise, they would be hard to put explain this disaster as anything other than a failure of national Republican ideology, not of “freedom” and “opportunity,” but of fraud and force.

Republican rule in Michigan is a portent of Republican rule in the United States.  For Republicans nationally show the same tendencies to autocratic rule, ideological rigidity, and fact-denial or fiction-creation to advance otherwise untenable positions.  Thus, in states under their monopolistic control, Republicans are impeding voters or restricting the franchise by reliance on fabricated claims of voter fraud.  At the federal level, Republicans are fabricating facts about immigrant invasions when more Hispanics have been leaving the country than entering it; accepting phony documentation and acting on its allegations to defund Planned Parenthood; and denying science and attacking scientists about man-made pollution causing climate change.  Given their ideological commitment to autocratic oligarchy, unfettered capitalism, political and religious intolerance (xenophobia, homophobia), and anti-scientific ideologies, Republicans are a clear and present danger to America’s survival as a democracy.  Michigan’s Republican government is a warning example to Americans everywhere who believe in democracy.