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  • I've sworn off writing Letters to the Editor. I've dropped my subscription to the local rag, Foster's Daily Democrat, and it doesn't seem fair somehow.

    But on Monday, our mistake-prone paper delivery person brought us a copy of Foster's instead of the Wall Street Journal. And there was a letter on the Opinion page that almost got me to send in a rebuttal.

    I'll do it here instead. The letter is from Chuck Rhoades of Dover, NH. (You have to scroll down a bit at the page linked above to get to it.) Apparently he's a willing volunteer in the Democrat pre-election LTE-writing campaign:

    Governor Sununu prides himself on being a stalwart against raising taxes. But so far he’s played a key role in the ever increasing property taxes in the state.

    Foremost is his support of public funding for private schooling. His appointee as education commissioner, Frank Edelblut has mirrored extremist right-wing tactics by implementing the horribly misnamed Education Freedom Accounts. This funding plan started at $400,000, but has exploded to an estimated $8-9 million.

    Guess where the money will come from? That’s right, our property taxes.

    Ignore the "extremist right-wing" name-calling. I'm pretty sure the NH EFA program (as described by extremist right-wing New Hampshire Public Radio) takes existing per-student funding from "public" (government) schools, and directs it to parents for "private school or home-schooling expenses." So there shouldn't be any increase in the state tax burden. And of course local governments can spend whatever they democratically decide on their schools; they don't lose money either.

    So I strongly suspect Chuck's charge is bogus. But let's skip down a bit:

    On the other side of the ledger, Sununu and the GOP killed a Democratic Party proposal to actually help property taxpayers by having the state pay 7.5% of the retirement costs for municipal, school, and county employees. The state used to pay up to 40% of this cost, but shifted the burden to counties and municipalities.

    The Democratic plan was to help reduce local taxes by having the state return to its past practice of helping defray the cost to local taxpayers. The state has access to a much wider revenue pool than counties and municipalities. Last year, the 7.5% funding would have used $28 million of the state’s estimated $400 million surplus to reduce property taxes. Thanks to the Republicans, this did not happen.

    Ah. So let me get this straight, Chuck:

    You (erroneously) claim the "extremist right-wing" EFA program will cost $8-9 million and cause "increasing property taxes".

    But the Democrat plan to have the state subsidize part of local governments' bills for "retirement costs" will cost (as an opening bid) $28 million. And that funding will magically appear via the "surplus".

    Note that the surplus was a one time windfall (and the legislature has already spent a lot of it). But the subsidy would go on forever. Funded how? You got it.

    But most of all, note that $28 million is over three times bigger than your fictitious $9 million.

    And (by the way) also note that the EFAs go toward kids' education expenses, and theoretically might cause those kids to actually learn something. The subsidies to local governments simply encourage further spending on employee "retirement costs". Maybe we should let local governments bear the full costs of their spending decisions, instead of playing shell games with magic money from the state?

    I'm not sure Chuck thought this through. Maybe he shouldn't have written this self-refuting letter.

  • But for more on EFAs. Damien Fisher is on the hypocrisy watch at NHJournal: 'Choice for Me, But Not for Thee'? NHDems Oppose EFAs, Send Kids to Elite Private Schools.

    State Sen. Tom Sherman is running for governor as a self-declared champion of public schools and opponent of school choice. He opposes allowing low-income families to use public money to choose a private school education for their children.

    Perhaps the same private school Sherman chooses for his son.

    While Sherman says he is a proponent of public school education, he sent his son to the Governor’s Academy in Newbury, Mass., a private school with tuition approaching $70,000 per year, GOP activist Patrick Hynes reported in his Union-Leader column on Sunday.

    Democrat State Rep (and State Senate candidate) Debra Altschiller is also quoted, misstating the funding issue (as did Chuck in our previous item).

    By sheer coincidence, Debra is married to Howard Altschiller, Executive Editor of "Seacoast Media Group", which includes the dreadful local Foster's Daily Democrat. Explains a lot.

  • It's not a pretty picture, Emily. David French is Lifting Up the Rock on the Gutter Right.

    I want to write about cruelty and slander and how those dark sins are wielded as weapons of political and cultural warfare in the worst corners of the online right. While politics has never been a gentle pursuit, the advent of Trumpism and the Trumpist ethos has spawned a host of popular voices who embrace lies as a tactic and character assassination as an objective.

    Consider my last few days as a case study. It all started, as so many of these online mobbings do, with a lie. A person who works for The Blaze and who trolls me constantly accused me of calling management to complain about his tweets. I did no such thing. The claim is completely false, and I told him so. And that, I thought, was that.

    But no. His completely false claim was picked up by a gutter website called “Twitchy.” Twitchy’s business model is to package right-wing Twitter attacks into news stories, slap inflammatory headlines on them, and gleefully claim that this or that person has been shamed, destroyed, humiliated—often by a set of random Twitter trolls.

    It got very ugly, very quickly. I do not want to be associated with people who would do things like this.

  • Why, it's just like shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Harold Hutchison notes the latest push for killing the First Amendment: Major Medical Orgs Demand That The DOJ Prosecute People Who Share ‘Misleading’ Information Online.

    The American Medical Association (AMA) sent Attorney General Merrick Garland a letter Monday calling on him to “investigate the organizations, individuals, and entities coordinating, provoking, and carrying out bomb threats and threats of personal violence against children’s hospitals and physicians across the U.S.”

    “The attacks are rooted in an intentional campaign of disinformation, where a few high-profile users on social media share false and misleading information targeting individual physicians and hospitals, resulting in a rapid escalation of threats, harassment, and disruption of care across multiple jurisdictions,” the AMA, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) said in the letter. “Our organizations have called on technology companies to do more to prevent this practice on digital platforms, and we now urge your office to take swift action to investigate and prosecute all organizations, individuals, and entities responsible.”

    On the other hand, it's a good idea to prosecute people doing the violence. (The AMA doesn't specify any "Organizations, individuals, and entities" carrying out violence.) And "true threats" have always been a 1A exception, if you can prove them.

    But outside that, nope. The word "provoking" really carries a lot of weight in the AMA letter. They should have left that out.

  • Update from Downeast. Jerry Coyne has the latest from Gorham, Maine: Maine Professor demonized for teaching that there are only two human sexes penalized. It's an update to the incident we talked about a few days ago, where a University of Southern Maine education prof claimed (accurately) that there were two human sexes. Two. T-W-O.

    This outraged her students, who whipped themselves up into a mob, staging a walkout. Demands were issued. What would the University do?

    Jerry quotes Jennifer Gingrich, a local:

    Thank you for addressing this, Dr. Coyne. I live in Portland, Maine, where the professor is under attack by her students and I have a petition asking the university to support her. I hope you don’t mind, but the petition quotes you (I put it up before you wrote this piece, so it quotes something you wrote a while back).

    Unfortunately, USM announced today that although they are not firing [Hammer], they have created an identical class with a different instructor that students can attend instead, effectively leaving Dr. Hammer in an empty classroom (the one student who didn’t initially walk out has been pressured into apologizing for it).

    I've signed the Change.org petition; check it out and see if you agree.

  • Total BS: why I'm letting my WIRED subscription expire. Kate Knibbs ("a senior writer at WIRED, covering culture") pens an online article featuring deep thinker Adrienne Buller ("Senior Research Fellow" at "Common Wealth"), dedicated to examining how democratic ownership can transform how our economy operates and for whom.

    (I assume I don't have to translate that into normal language.)

    Anyway, the article wonders: Is ‘Green Capitalism’ Total BS? Adrienne has a new book out:

    How much is a whale worth?

    It seems like a self-evidently ridiculous question, borderline obscene—whales are majestic creatures whose worth transcends the human impulse to quantify, obviously! Yet it is one which has been seriously considered by economists in an effort to convince governments and corporations to value wildlife. In her new book, The Value of a Whale: On the Illusions of Green Capitalism, Adrienne Buller dissects the asinine logic of “green” capitalist thinking, from putting a dollar value on cetaceans to carbon offsets to financial products like “sustainability-linked bonds.”

    The director of research for the London-based progressive think tank Common Wealth, Buller sees market-based corporate “green” initiatives as distracting at best—and, at worst, actively destructive. The Value of a Whale takes a bracing look at how corporate interests are using the superficial trappings of climate activism to reinforce their own power. As one might imagine, it’s not the most uplifting read in the world. But it’s a galvanizing, tough book, one that asks us to not accept a simulacrum of improvement for the real thing.

    It gets worse from there, as Adrienne muses to Kate:

    There are two core tenets of green capitalism I identify. The first is that it’s an attempt to resolve the climate crisis in a way that minimizes disruption to our existing ways of organizing the economy, to existing distributions of wealth and power. The second tenet is pursuing decarbonization in a way that makes sure that there are still opportunities for profit-making and rent extraction in that decarbonized future. In contrast to, for instance, moving away from private car ownership to mass transit as a climate solution, the green capitalist framework is more about making sure we can transition to electric vehicles when we’re moving away from fossil-fuel-driven cars so that private companies can keep profiting.

    Translation: dealing with climate change isn't the point. The point (as always) is to destroy capitalism, expropriate wealth, and socialize the economy. Climate change is just the current excuse.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 4:54 AM EDT