Does the First Amendment’s incontrovertible declaration that
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
apply to the actions of the President? The President can make no law, but can the President take actions that abridge the freedom of speech or of the press? If he does, and the Congress and courts do not step in to stop him, will the freedoms disappear?
We the People Must Protect Our Liberty
“. . . what is clear is that the framing generation understood that liberty of the press mattered. . . . the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 protected the press. [It reads] “That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.” . . . James Madison’s original proposal to Congress [reads] “All of these formulations make it clear that the reason to protect the press is because it is a ‘bulwark’”—i.e., a protector against external danger—of liberty. The external danger to be feared, of course, was despotic government. The press, in other words, was an essential tool for the preservation of liberal democracy because it kept the people informed of misbehavior by government officials, and so permitted a response—ideally through the democratic process, but if that was denied then through revolution. That the Press Clause plays this role has been acknowledged by hordes of commentators and is not really controversial. But this acknowledgement places the Press Clause squarely at the center of the Democratic First Amendment. (Bhagwat, Ashutosh. “The Democratic First Amendment.” Northwestern University Law Review 110.5 (2016): 1097-1124.)
Trump’s first news conference since his election demonstrated clearly enough that he either does not understand freedom of the press or that he is determined to abridge the freedom of the press by whatever means he can find at his disposal. One of the many accounts of that conference is titled, “Trump pits his staff against the press.”
Trump’s constant denigration of the press during the campaign, and his rude and crude methods of quieting reporters hardly need documentation. Americans are concerned (angered? frightened? aggrieved?) about Trump’s attempts to thwart the press in order to limit what the American people know about the workings of his administration.
This blog will provide a forum for sharing both information about the Trump administration’s anti-press activities and actions readers and followers can take to counter those activities.
Watch this space for suggestions for contacting news media to show support and for ways to participate in actions opposing Trump’s policies and activities in relation to the press.
(Note: this blog has moved through several incarnations having to do with the 2016 Presidential campaign. Since the domain name is registered and is available for all uses of a blog, we will keep it as our focal point for the present although we will most likely move to a website or other format eventually.)
According to the Center for Public Integrity, in a 1997 op-ed [BETSY] DEVOS . . . defended her family’s political contributions. “My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party … I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” the piece reads. “Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies and, yes, to win elections.” _______________________
Conniff, Ruth. “Public School Shakedown.” Progressive 77.8 (2013): 18-19.
A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.
___The implications are huge. But the school privatizers—and their lobbyists—have so muddied the waters that the public does not get a clear picture of what is at stake. [. . . .] And the voucher program is destined to grow. Just look at Milwaukee, where vouchers have been in place on an “experimental” basis for twenty-three years. Despite test results that show that voucher students fare worse than their public-school peers in math and reading, the “experiment” is never over. And now Walker is upsizing this failed program to the entire state. ___BETSY DEVOS, the head of the American Federation for Children, criticized Walker for not going far enough, denouncing a 1,000-student enrollment cap on vouchers that is likely to be temporary. Stay tuned for a no-cap voucher plan.
The election of Donald Trump, and his subsequent nomination of BETSY DEVOS for Secretary of Education, may turn the tide in favor of private control of public education. The President-elect promised during his campaign that his administration will spend billions on market-based school choice in the first 100 days. If these funds are taken from federal Title I dollars, Trump, during his first year as President, could cripple the public education system as we know it today [. . . .]
Brown, Simon. “The Great Voucher Fraud.” Church & State 66.9 (2013): 4-7
[. . . . Voucher proponents] would have Americans believe that they are something like modern Martin Luther King Jrs., seeking enhanced opportunities for all. They claim that parents should be able to use taxpayer money to educate their children as they see fit rather than being locked into certain schools, and they say taxpayer-funded “scholarships” – a euphemism for vouchers – are the only way for low-income families to escape failing public schools.
___But the reality is far different. Despite the best efforts of “school choice” advocates to spin the effectiveness of vouchers, decades of accumulated evidence paints a different story: Vouchers do not improve educational outcomes . . .
[. . . .] Powerful groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, BETSY DEVOS‘ American Federation of Children and other far-right groups that hate public services provide a rich funding stream for the voucher movement. Organizations like these talk about helping children. But their real goal is to crush teachers’ unions and shift education from the public to the private sector, opening up potentially billions for rapacious for-profit firms that would love nothing better than to “Walmart-ize” American education.
___Joining them are fundamentalist Christians, who believe public education is “godless”. . . .
Boston, Rob. “SNEAK ATTACK: Michigan Multi-Millionaire Betsy Devos Is A Four- Star General In A Deceptive Behind-The-Scenes War On Public Schools And Church-State Separation.” Church & State63.8 (2010): 12-16.
In March, a Michigan multi-millionaire named Betsy Devosannounced the formation of a new national group to fight for voucher subsidies for religious schools and other forms of “school choice.”
___”Political gamesmanship and special interests should never stand in the way of providing children with access to great schools,” DEVOS fulminated in a press release announcing the creation of the American Federation for Children. “We know that it takes smart public policy – and political backbone – to bring about the types of school choice programs that provide families with better educational opportunities. That is why we have created the American Federation for Children.”
[. . . .] As the press release mentioned, the American Federation for Children was just a rebranding effort for a group previously known as Advocates for School Choice. Why the name change? DeVos, a fundamentalist Christian and far right political activist, probably wanted to jump-start the pro-voucher drive with at least the appearance of something new. At the same time, the revised moniker was a slap at the American Federation of Teachers, a teachers’ union much loathed by DeVos and her allies.
___The real news in the release was the growing prominence of Devos as a linchpin in the voucher movement. Although hardly a household name, if Betsy DeVoshas her way, every American could feel her reach: DeVos’ goalis nothing short of a radical recreation of education in the United States, with tax-supported religious and other private schools replacing the traditional public school system. DeVos rarely states it that bluntly. Instead, she crouches behind the euphemism of “school choice” and pretends to be a kindly advocate for downtrodden youngsters trapped in public schools described as “failing.”
___Driven by a relentless faith in ultra-conservative religion and the privatization of public services, DeVos and her husband, Dick, who is best known as the former president of Amway, are pouring millions from their personal fortune into a nationwide voucher push. They’ll be bringing plenty of antipublic school allies along for the ride – chief among them the Walton Family Foundation, an entity operated by the heirs of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. _______________________
Apple, Michael W. “Understanding And Interrupting Hegemonic Projects In Education: Learning From Stuart Hall.” Discourse: Studies In The Cultural Politics Of Education 36.2 (2015): 171-184. Source . . .
[. . . .] behind a good deal of the Right’s ideological assemblage was the creation of a constitutive outside, a set of ‘raced others’ who were seen as a form of pollution and danger for which only the neoliberal market could provide an answer.
___This, for example, continues to be clear in the USA, where neoliberal proposals for marketization and privatization in education such as voucher plans may be couched in the language of escaping from bad state-supported schools, but the reality is that they constitute an attack on the state and on the entire public sphere. While the implications of these attacks are deeply troubling, the reality is that they have been more than a little successful in changing our common sense and in offering what are seemingly workable alternatives to even dispossessed groups. The power of the neoliberal agenda is visible in the hard and partly successful work that the Right has done in convincing many people, including some Black and Latino/Latina activist groups, that neoliberal policies offer a more realistic hope for the future of their children than, say, existing state-supported schools.
___Of course, in the face of this set of desocializing policies, the radical transformation of the public sphere into simply one more extension of the private is of no little concern. . . .
Jodie T Allen. “Trump’s Latest Chumps.” U.S. News & World Report 136.12 (2004): 35.
MONEY & BUSINESS/FUNNY MONEY
It’s hard to feel sorry for the creditors of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. True, they have been pressing the cash-strapped firm to do something about its near $2 billion in debt, even mumbling darkly about a trip to bankruptcy court. But on the theory that hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice shame on me, the only fingers they can justly point are at themselves. After all, no one made them back that same “top drawer” entrepreneur who, in the 1990s, stiff-armed another bunch of billion-buck bondholders, while wiggling out of personal bankruptcy. Yes, we are talking about the Donald, the self-proclaimed Artist of the Deal, now at new heights of fame as the firer-in-chief on the TV hit The Apprentice and author of yet another bestselling book with the modest title How to Get Rich. Clearly, the backers of his ventures over the years didn’t read his books–or maybe they did.
“Don’t blame the Donald, blame his underwriters and bankers,” says Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, a financial research service. Whalen notes that Trump Hotels had to offer a sky-high 17.6 percent yield on its bond offering last March, a code-red warning for investors.
In the grand American tradition of buck-passing, Trump quite agrees that no fault should attach to him. “This has nothing to do with me,” he told the New York Times recently. Never mind that he is chairman and chief executive, holds 49 percent of the stock, and has garnered millions of dollars in management fees and perks from the company and its Atlantic City casino holdings, even as he has rebuilt his personal real-estate-based fortune to well over $1 billion, by his own count.
Outside investors in his gaming halls have not been so lucky. Trump took the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Casino through bankruptcy in 1991 but persuaded bondholders–including some major institutional investors–to restake him. Starting in 1995, he melded his casino holdings into the publicly held Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. Wall Street pushed the stock above 35 in 1996, but by 1998 it had fallen into single digits as the profitless company struggled even to pay interest on its $1.8 billion debt, let alone make the investments needed to keep up with flashy new competitors like the Borgata.
“These money traps are no longer special, and the Donald is no longer a young bull,” says Whalen. But Trump, whose executive vice president, Scott Butera, stoutly denied on CNN last week that Trump Hotels is near bankruptcy, is mightily resisting any effort to push his gaming properties into receivership, thereby wiping out the value of his stock. Adhering to another hallowed American tradition, he is threatening creditors with protracted litigation that would further erode, if not obliterate, any remaining value in the properties.
Today is the day of giving thanks for Americans. I wonder if citizens of Ohio, and Michigan, and Wisconsin, and such places who are out of work, who live in modest homes and have little extra to be thankful for, are looking forward to the vast change that is about to overtake the country as the man in whom they have put their hopes takes charge.
I did a little research in academic databases for Donald J. Trump. I found many words of advice and encouragement from Mr. Trump that are especially appropriate for this day of gratitude and spiritual remembrance. Here are a few samples.
from: Punday, Daniel. “Kavalier & Clay, The Comic-Book Novel, and Authorship in a Corporate World.” Critique 49.3 (2008): 291-302.
Businessmen can be vengeful too. Donald Trump, in his recent book Think Big & Kick Ass (Trump and Zanker 2007) which teaches how to be successful in business and life beyond, devotes an entire chapter to the importance of revenge. Part of the message reflects repeated-game or reputation concerns, but part is clearly reflecting an innate joy of getting even. The following passage illustrates (p. 198):
Most business writers won’t be so blunt and honest
with you about getting even. They know it’s the truth,
but won’t tell you because they want people to think
of them as a “nice person.” I don’t like to mince
words. When you are wronged and do nothing about
it, you aren’t “nice” you’re a schmuck. That is why I
say when you are wronged, go after the those people,
because it’s a good feeling … I love i
from: Hirschman, Elizabeth C. “Secular Immortality and the American Ideology of Affluence.” Journal of Consumer Research 17.1 (1990): 31-42.
Entrepreneurial achievement is closely linked [to the] concept of achievement motivation, and indeed, most of the persons whose lives and possessions were documented . . . are culturally labeled as high achievers (e.g., Malcolm Forbes, Donald Trump). Because the ideology of affluence is constructed around the acquisition of money and material possessions, many of those whose achievements were documented in the texts examined have succeeded as business entrepreneurs and in other forms of capitalistic enterprise.
[. . . .] . . . the primary theme resulting . . . was an advocacy of entrepreneurial achievement. Entrepreneurial achievements were those in which the individual demonstrated personal efficacy in some secular realm. Entrepreneurial achievement is closely linked to [the] concept of achievement motivation, and . . . the ideology of affluence is constructed around the acquisition of money and material possessions, many of those whose achievements [we have] examined have succeeded as business entrepreneurs and in other forms of capitalistic enterprise.
[. . . .] Two best-selling autobiographies of current entrepreneurs similarly evoke the thesis that those who work hard and make successes of themselves deserve to be socially recognized (and materially enriched) for it. In keeping with Horatio Alger mythology, both Lee lacocca and Donald Trump present themselves as embodying the rags-to-riches tale. . . . Donald Trump represents himself as an entrepreneur in its purest form—an independent person who built “something from nothing.” Like many of the affluent entrepreneurs . . . Trump is fascinated with acquiring possessions that will be recognized as the biggest or the best of their genre. Trump had reserved a triplex apartment on the top of Trump Tower for himself and his family, but after visiting a nearby apartment owned by Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi, he decided his was not large enough. “Why shouldn’t I have exactly the apartment I wanted—particularly when I built the whole building? I decided to take over one of the other apartments on the top three floors and combine it with mine. It has taken almost two years to renovate, but I don’t think there is any apartment in the world that can touch it” (Trump 1987, p. 187). Just as importantly, Trump Tower made him a social celebrity: “Trump Tower was an unqualified success. It has given me visibility, credibility, and prestige” (1987, p. 191).
[. . . .] Trump also views himself as an heir. His father was already a locally prominent real estate entrepreneur when Donald began his real estate career in Manhattan. However, Trump was determined, and has succeeded, in enlarging the family legacy to international proportions. He clearly views himself as establishing a dynasty, has constructed several family monuments (e.g.. Trump Tower), has acquired a family estate (Mar-a-lago), and has begun to structure the possessions he intends to leave his children. One passage in his 1987 autobiography notes that a clause in his will gives his children control over the construction of future Hyatt Hotels in the New York City area.
[. . . .] It is probably not surprising that an ideology celebrating the acquisition of wealth and possessions primarily seeks immortality through material means. What is puzzling is that social scientists in general and consumer researchers in particular have been reluctant to recognize this as a central motivation driving exceptional personal achievement and the oft-resulting accumulation of wealth and possessions. Although some criticize secular monuments as idols of materialism [we have found] little evidence that the possessions acquired by the affluent as a result of their secular achievements represented . . . “terminal materialism.” Terminal materialism is “a habit of consumption [that] can become an end in itself, feeding on its autonomous necessity to possess more things, to control more status, to use more energy.” However . . . media such as magazines directed to the affluent tend to put a gloss on the rich, rarely citing their failings or character flaws. Hence, we must look elsewhere to find evidence of terminal materialism among the affluent.