Teaching the Holocaust: a good idea, a bad bill


Who would want to be accused of voting against teaching kids about the Holocaust?

Obviously not the members of the Oregon Senate. On March 12 they voted unanimously  for Senate Bill 664, which would require all of Oregon’s school districts to teach about the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The bill is now in the House.

Claire Sarnowski, a freshman at Lake Oswego’s Lakeridge High School, came up with the idea of mandating Holocaust instruction after hearing Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener tell his story. Sarnowski approached state Sen. Rob Wagner, who agreed to introduce a bill.

It all sounds so simple and straightforward, but Senate Bill 664 is, in fact, an expansive progressive monstrosity that only a bureaucrat or lawyer could love. Like anti-terrorism laws, it’s a classic example of mission creep.

The 1338-word bill goes far beyond mandating that students be taught about the Holocaust and genocide. It declares, instead, that the instruction must address: the immorality of mass violence; respect for cultural diversity; the obligation to combat wrongdoing through resistance, including protest, and; the value of restorative justice.

Specifically, the bill says the instruction must be designed to:

(a) Prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events;

(b) Develop students’ respect for cultural diversity and help students gain insight into the importance of the protection of international human rights for all people;

(c) Promote students’ understanding of how the Holocaust contributed to the need for the term “genocide” and led to international legislation that recognized genocide as a crime;

(d) Stimulate students’ reflection on the roles and responsibilities of citizens in democratic societies to combat misinformation, indifference and discrimination through tools of resistance such as protest, reform and celebration;

(e) Provide students with opportunities to contextualize and analyze patterns of human behavior by individuals and groups who belong in one or more categories, including perpetrator, collaborator, bystander, victim and rescuer;

(f) Enable students to understand the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping;

(g) Preserve the memories of survivors of genocide and provide opportunities for students to discuss and honor survivors’ cultural legacies;

(h) Provide students with a foundation for examining the history of discrimination in this state; and

(i) Explore the various mechanisms of transitional and restorative justice that help humanity move forward in the aftermath of genocide.

Not only must Oregon schools tackle all this, but the State Board of Education, in consultation with a local organization that has the primary purpose of providing education about the Holocaust, is required to develop academic content standards for Holocaust and genocide studies that comply with the requirements of this section.

The bill is currently with the House Committee on Education which, hopefully will take a thorough look at it and narrow its mandate .

I doubt that Oregon’s already underfunded and overwhelmed teachers will welcome the addition of one more labor-intensive, complicated instructional mandate, no matter how well-intentioned.

And it’s hard to believe all this is what Claire Sarnowski had in mind.





The college admission fraud: and the beat goes on


It looks like there are a lot more people who should be charged in the college admission scandal.

William Singer, who used his Key Worldwide Foundation to help wealthy parents fraudulently get their children into top colleges. said in recorded calls in 2018 that he had helped 760 students in the previous school year get into college by what he described as “the side door”, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In  other words, there’s  a slew of parents and students not yet disclosed who participated in the college admission scheme. Federal prosecutors have so far identified only  50 defendants across six states.

Any parents who funneled money through the fraudulent Key Worldwide Foundation to get their kids into colleges could also be targeted if they deducted the payments on their taxes as charitable contributions.


Then there’s Dawud Raamuh, John Peter Byrne Jr. and Steve Masera.

Never heard of them?

Raamuh is the Secretary of the Key Worldwide Foundation, the 501(c)(3) non-profit that William Singer used to help wealthy parents fraudulently get their children into top colleges. Byrne serves as Director of the Foundation and Masera as Treasurer. They all should be held responsible for this fiasco.

A deeper look into the activities of Singer, who’s the Foundation’s President and CEO, is warranted, too. He may have used the Foundation to reinforce his own son’s attendance at DePaul University. Forms filed with the IRS by the Foundation show it donated $150,000 to the school in 2014, 2015 and 2016 while his son was a student there until graduating in 2017.

Form 990 IRS reports non-profits are required top file annually say the Foundation received $7,065,675 in contributions and spent close to $4,953,630 during 2013-2016. Shouldn’t the Foundation’s personnel be held responsible for the Foundation’s malfeasance?

The Foundation reported to the IRS that in 2016 it received $3,736,160 in Gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees and made $860,112 in cash grants and other assistance to domestic organizations, including:

$150,000 to Chapman University, Orange, CA

$11,000 to Community Donations, Sacramento, CA

$50,000 to DePaul University, Chicago, Il

$18,550 to Friends of Cambodia, Palo, Alto, CA

$10,000 to the Ladylike Foundation, Los Angeles, CA

$39,900 to Loyola High School, Los Angeles, CA

$83,181 to NYU Athletics, New York, NY

$100,000 to Princeville Enterprises, Los Angeles, CA

$60,000 to University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL

$252,500 to University of Texas Athletics, Austin, TX

$25,000 to the USC Soccer Program, Los Angeles, CA

$50,000 to USC Women’s Athletics Board, Los Angeles, CA

There are questions, however, about whether even the listed donations occurred or were legitimate.

For example, NBC Bay Area  TV spoke with Elia and Halimah Van Tuyl, who run Friends of Cambodia. They said they’d never heard of the Key Worldwide Foundation and had never received any money from it in 2016 (or 2015, when the Foundation’s Form 990 reported it donated $18,550 to Friends of Cambodia).

In another case, it looks like the $100,000 listed as a donation to Princeville Enterprises in Los Angeles, CA went to the same address as the home of UCLA soccer coach, Jorge Salcedo.

Salcedo was indicted on Tuesday by the U.S. District Court for conspiracy to commit racketeering in the college admissions fraud case. He is accused of taking $200,000 to help admit one female and one male applicant to UCLA under the pretense they were soccer recruits when they didn’t even play competitive soccer.

Donations to the USC Women’s Athletics Board look suspicious, too. According to the federal indictment, Singer’s clients sent more than $1.3 million in bribes to USC accounts controlled by Donna Heinel, USC’s former senior associate athletic director. Many of the payments sent during 2014 – 2018 went to the USC Women’s Athletic Board.

With these cases in question, others probably deserve scrutiny, too.




Is Pete Buttigieg really a bold new choice?

A Feb. 19-20, 2019 national survey of U.S. likely voters conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that 62% of likely Democratic voters believed Democrats should look for a fresh face to run for president in 2020.

The national media have found that fresh face. No, I’m not talking about Beto O’Rourke. It’s Pete Buttigieg (pronounced “Buddha-judge”), the 37-year-old Democratic mayor of South Bend, IN. He has launched an exploratory committee, but hasn’t formally declared he’s a candidate.


Pete Buttigieg

I didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton in 2016 and can’t imagine myself voting for Trump in 2020, so I’m open to a moderate alternative. I’ve listened to Buttigieg on television and radio and came away impressed. He’s extremely well-spoken (though he can be a bit long-winded) and comes across as thoughtful and good-natured.

“I’m definitely the only left-handed, Maltese-American, Episcopalian, millennial, gay mayor in the race. So I’ve got that lane all to myself,” he told CNN.

Calling himself a “millennial Mayor” who’s offering “a bold vision for our future,” Buttigieg’s well-educated (A Rhodes Scholar, he graduated from Oxford University and Harvard), has military credentials (Served as an officer in U.S. Navy Reserve 2009-17, deployed to Afghanistan in 2014) and is openly gay (Married Chasten Glezman on June 16, 2018).

In contrast to Trump’s bombast, Buttigieg offers calm deliberation. (He calls the other Democratic candidates “competitors, not opponents”) and says he’s considering a presidential race because, “Our democracy needs a tune-up.”

Like I said, he was intriguing and I found myself thinking, “Maybe he really is different and worth considering.”

Then I looked more closely, read about him, listened to his TV and radio interviews.

Talk about disappointment! He may sound calming and creative, but he’s essentially a carbon copy of the rest of the Democratic pack,. He supports:

  • Giving statehood and political representation to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
  • Abolishing the electoral college in favor of relying on the popular vote
  • Expanding the Supreme Court (to 15 members) “What we need to do is stop the Supreme Court from sliding toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution.”
  • Treating healthcare as a fundamental human right.
  • Offering “Medicare for all who want it.”
  • Ensuring wide reproductive freedom. “The last thing (a woman) needs is a male politician like me imposing boundaries that might even be politically motivated on her healthcare choices.”
  • Initiating stronger controls over access to guns, including universal background checks and banning some weapons. “Not every common-sense rule amounts to an infringement of second amendment rights.”
  • Backing off from a border wall as a priority for border security.
  • Implementing the Green New Deal. “The Green New Deal gets it right that this truly is a national emergency.”
  • Aggressively confronting climate change.
  • Raising K-12 teacher pay “so teachers are treated commensurate with other highly valued professionals.”
  • Regulating the financial industry more aggressively.
  • Restoring the influence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “We Need to be more assertive in insuring that the public interest is met through regulation.”

And on and on.

In other words, Buttigieg isn’t so bold and different from the rest of pack after all. They’re all pretty much uber-progressive peas in a pod.

Peas in a pod

Rent control: and the beat goes on


In early January, I argued that Oregon’s enactment of a statewide rent control law would be just the beginning (Rent control: another bad idea out of Salem). Pressure would build quickly to reduce the law’s annual rent increase limit of 7 percent plus inflation, currently totaling about 10 percent, I said.

No surprise, the push for tougher rules has already begun.

It began with a Feb. 1, 2019 editorial in Street Roots, a weekly street newspaper published in Portland that’s sold by members of the local homeless community.

“The profit motive has been allowed to triumph over the fact that housing is a fundamental human need to survive,” the editorial said. “For too many decades, the marketplace has been allowed to skew sharply toward money over humanity, and Oregon is just too attractive of a market to pass up. It’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way.”

The editorial highlighted the need for the prohibition on rent control action by local governments to be lifted and noted that rent increase limits elsewhere are much lower.

“Rent stabilization elsewhere in the country comes in at much lower percentage,” the editorial said. “Take Berkeley, where a different calculation regulates rent increases to no more than 3 or so percent. In New York, it’s approximately 1.5 percent.”

Mary King, a professor of economics emerita at Portland State University, followed up with a March 1, 2019 Street Roots commentary also arguing that the rent increase limit is too high.

Oregon’s new rent control law was “…designed to stop only extreme rent gouging and limit no-cause evictions” and prohibits cities from passing their own, stronger rent stabilization policies, King said.

Ten percent is just too high a limit, particularly when compared with some tighter limits set elsewhere, King wrote. “Capping annual increases at 10 percent would have only slightly limited the unaffordable growth in rents in Portland over the past five years,” she added.

Oregon’s rent control law represented only “…progress against the worst excesses,” King said. “However, if the state would allow it, Portland could pass a much stronger, more effective rent stabilization policy without harming the supply of housing. Our best next step would be to pass a second bill to lift pre-emption on cities hoping to set their own course – and get to work in Portland.”

The Legislature’s rent control bill was essential because it would establish a “better baseline,” the Street Roots editorial said, “but we expect them to keep fighting. We will too.”

Hang on landlords and tenants. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.