Republicans eye new front in education wars: Making school board races partisan

“Republicans across America are pressing local jurisdictions and state lawmakers to make typically sleepy school board races into politicized, partisan elections in an attempt to gain more statewide control and swing them to victory in the 2022 midterms.

Tennessee lawmakers in October approved a measure that allows school board candidates to list their party affiliation on the ballot. Arizona and Missouri legislators are weighing similar proposals. And GOP lawmakers in Florida will push a measure in an upcoming legislative session that would pave the way for partisan school board races statewide, potentially creating new primary elections that could further inflame the debate about how to teach kids.

The issue is about to spread to other states: The center-right American Enterprise Institute is urging conservatives to “strongly consider” allowing partisan affiliations to appear on ballots next to school board candidates’ names, as part of broader efforts to boost voter turnout for the contests. A coalition of conservative leaders — including representatives of Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute and Kenneth Marcus, the Education Department civil rights chief under former Secretary Betsy DeVos — have separately called for on-cycle school board elections as part of sweeping efforts to “end critical race theory in schools.”

In Florida, school boards are among the last elected officials who blocked policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis. If Republicans succeed in pushing the state to strip school board elections of their nonpartisan status and gain more representation on school boards, they could break the last holdouts who regularly defy the governor.”

“Making school board races partisan could make an already heated political landscape even more contentious”

““I do think party labels would produce more informed voters,” West said. “But, at the same time, it would likely accelerate emerging trend of nationalization of local education politics.””

The Packers Have a Unique Way To Fund Stadium Improvements: Ask Fans for Money

“The Green Bay Packers have won their last six meetings with the Chicago Bears and are looking like possible Super Bowl contenders. The Bears, meanwhile, look likely to miss the playoffs again. But that’s not the biggest difference between the teams. The Bears have been threatening to move to the suburbs unless the Chicago city government pays to upgrade their stadium. The Packers, despite playing in the National Football League’s smallest market, are asking their fans to fund their stadium improvements voluntarily.

NFL rules require most franchises to be owned by an individual or a small group of owners. The Packers have an exemption: The team has been owned by stockholders since 1923, when it sold shares of the organization to keep the team afloat and to keep it in Green Bay. To prevent owners from selling the team to move it to a larger market, these shares could only be sold back to the team at a fraction of the price.

The Packers held similar stock sales in 1935 and 1950 to financially stabilize the team, and in 1997 and 2011 to fund additions and redevelopment to their stadium. Another stock sale is ongoing now. The shares provide minimal benefits: an ownership certificate, an invite to the annual owners meeting, and trivial voting rights on the future of the franchise. Even so, the sales have been enormously popular, with the offerings raising $24 million in 1997, $64 million in 2011, and a projected $90 million this time around.

It’s common for sports teams’ billionaire owners to push cities into bidding wars for new taxpayer-funded stadiums. The Bears’ current threats are hardly the only example. The Raiders recently moved from Oakland to Las Vegas, where Clark County shelled out more than $645 million in bonds to fund a stadium. The project is going so predictably poorly that the county had to pull reserve funding multiple times to meet its bond payments. Another Packers rival, the Minnesota Vikings, secured hundreds of millions of dollars from both the state of Minnsota and the city of Minneapolis to fund ta new stadium. Minneapolis has had trouble holding up its side of the bargain, and it recently asked the state to pick up the tab for them.

The Packers’ fan-funded model is far preferable (even if Brown County voters once approved a sales tax to fund stadium improvements) and should be available to other franchises. The New Orleans Saints are a perfect example of a team that could benefit from this structure. Saints owner Gayle Benson has stipulated that when she passes away, she wants the proceeds of the sale of the team to go to charity and the team to be kept in New Orleans. Rather than find a traditional owner, why not let the fans purchase the team outright? Between the television broadcast rights and the league’s strict salary cap, all NFL teams are essentially ensured to operate at a profit. This model would basically guarantee the team will be kept in New Orleans and would make it easier for the team’s most dedicated fans to fund the team’s expenses voluntarily.

Back in Chicago, Alderman George Cardenas has introduced a plan for the city to buy the Bears and then sell the team to the fans. Needless to say, there are serious problems with the idea of the city government paying for the team, even if it owns it only temporarily. But at least they’re thinking about alternative models of team ownership and funding; maybe they’ll make it all the way to a market-based system. If Bears fans are borrowing ideas from the hated Packers, they must be ready for something new.”

Congress is on the brink of an immense health policy failure

“The coronavirus pandemic has fully exposed the flaws in the US health care system and deepened many of its disparities. Yet there is a serious possibility, now that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has rendered the current version of the Build Back Better Act dead, that the current Congress will not pass any long-term provisions to cover more people, make health care more affordable, or better prepare the nation for the next pandemic.

Though they have not attracted as much attention as other parts of the legislation, Democrats had written a wide-ranging health care section in Build Back Better. They were planning to patch up holes in the Affordable Care Act, extending assistance to middle-class families as well as people in poverty; to reduce drug costs for millions of Americans; and to make investments in the country’s health care infrastructure, with the goal of better preparing the US for the inevitable next pandemic.”

Why the US is paying more for the military after the Afghanistan war is over

“The US national security establishment sees China as the most urgent threat of the moment, while the entrenched interests of the arms industry endure.

Put another way, although the US is no longer in Afghanistan, taxpayers continue to pay for the American military’s massive global presence. Absent a fundamental rethinking of how the US sees national security and the role the military plays in foreign policy, big cuts are unlikely.”

“Congress didn’t think that Biden had committed enough to combatting China in his original defense budget request, so lawmakers added some $25 billion in all.”

Just how much is Trump’s judiciary sabotaging the Biden presidency?

“No one has ever elected Matthew Kacsmaryk to anything.

Kacsmaryk, whom former President Donald Trump appointed to the federal bench in 2019, was previously a lawyer for a Christian right law firm. He once claimed being transgender is a “mental disorder” and that gay people are “disordered.” He’s also one of the most powerful immigration officials in the country, having successfully wrested control of much of America’s border policy away from the man Americans elected president in 2020.

With the Supreme Court’s blessing, Kacsmaryk ordered President Joe Biden’s administration to reinstate Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires many asylum seekers who arrive at the United States’ southern border to stay in Mexico while they await a hearing.

Even if you ignore the moral implications of reinstating such a policy, there are good reasons to doubt that the policy is a good use of America’s limited border security resources. And Kacsmaryk’s decision is also unlawful for numerous reasons.

One of the most important reasons is that it upends the balance of power between the president and unelected judges. Reinstating the Remain in Mexico program requires the Mexican government’s cooperation — which means that Kacsmaryk ordered the United States to change its diplomatic stance toward Mexico. And that’s despite decades of warnings from the Supreme Court that judges should be “particularly wary of impinging on the discretion of the Legislative and Executive Branches in managing foreign affairs.”

Kacsmaryk’s decision, and the Supreme Court’s decision to stand with Kacsmaryk against President Joe Biden, is one of the most dramatic examples of the Republican-controlled federal judiciary’s many conflicts with America’s Democratic president. But it’s hardly an isolated incident.

In just four years as president, Trump remade the federal judiciary — all with a big assist from a Senate Republican leader willing to break any norm in order to ensure GOP control of the courts. Trump appointed a third of the Supreme Court and nearly a third of all active appeals court judges. He also peppered federal trial courts with conservative activists like Kacsmaryk, who are eager to overturn some of the most fundamental assumptions of US law.

Nearly one year into Biden’s time in office, the result hasn’t exactly been a bloodbath for his policies — in contrast to the seemingly never-ending array of lawsuits seeking to repeal Obamacare, no federal judge has yet tried to repeal Biden’s major legislative accomplishments such as the American Rescue Plan or the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. But in two areas in particular, immigration and public health, the courts have been unusually aggressive.”

“if the Supreme Court wanted lower-court judges to stop ignoring precedents that permit President Biden to govern, it could intervene to stop them from doing so. Instead, it has rewarded many of the most aggressive conservative innovators within the judiciary.”

Joe Biden Says He’s Willing To Kill the Filibuster

“”I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” Biden said. “Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. If that majority is blocked, then we have no choice but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster.”
Democrats hold the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, which is currently split 50–50 with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) says he’s prepared to bring a pair of election bills to the floor in the coming weeks despite nearly unanimous Republican opposition. The Freedom to Vote Act would limit state-level efforts (led by Republicans) to restrict mail-in voting and absentee balloting, make Election Day a federal holiday, impose new rules for the redistricting process, and require more disclosures from political donors. The second bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would reimplement a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

On Tuesday, Biden positioned the two bills as a response to Republican efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to tighten election laws, and a necessary rejoinder to former President Donald Trump’s craven efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to influence the results of the 2020 election.

“That’s not America,” he said. “That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote.”

Those Republican efforts to impose new rules on elections do indeed run the risk of corroding democracy, and Trump’s attempts to overturn the last presidential election were grotesque and condemnable. Even so, it’s not clear that the Democrats’ proposals make sense. If anything, greater federal control over elections might make it more likely that a future president could exercise undue influence over democratic proceedings.

But whether Democrats can pass those bills after suspending the filibuster might be a moot point because it doesn’t seem like there are 50 votes in the Senate for abolishing the filibuster in the first place.”

How humans could live two years longer

“When we burn fossil fuels, not all the resulting pollution goes up high into the atmosphere. Some of it accumulates in the air that we breathe every day.

And it kills us. A lot of us. The Global Burden of Disease study, a common benchmark for public health work, estimates that 3.4 million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution. More recent research puts the total even higher, at 10 million a year. A recent paper suggested that 90 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with air pollution higher than World Health Organization guidelines (guidelines that the organization itself is toughening).

The particles in question here are invisible to the naked eye — but their effects are anything but.”

“Air pollution is a tough problem, but the good news is that we can help solve it by solving another tough problem. Actions to combat global warming can also dramatically cut air pollution deaths.”