Challenging shaming: Trader Joe’s takes the lead

 

joes2

Finally, somebody stood up to the mob.

Briones Bedell, 17, a California high school senior, thought Trader Joe’s used racist branding and packaging, so she started a Change.org petition to stop it. “We demand that Trader Joe’s remove racist branding and packaging from its stores,” her petition says. “The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of “Joe” that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.”

The petition touched a nerve with some people, generating castigation of Trader Joe’s by a Twitter mob and even a New York Times  story on July 19, even though the petition had captured fewer than 2,000 signatures at that point, hardly evidence of a groundswell in public condemnation.

That all led to what appeared to be capitulation by Trader Joe’s, though the company said it had decided to get rid of the allegedly racist branding and packaging before the petition emerged.

In an unexpected and groundbreaking twist, however, Trader Joe’s reversed course, issuing a statement on July 24, 2020 saying the branding and packaging would stay: “We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions…We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and Crew Members… those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.”

Has the tide finally begun to turn against social media zealots? There are good reasons why it should.

In the case of Change.org, one good reason to ignore it is because its petitions are useless social barometers generated by a for-profit private company, not a nonprofit charity as many falsely assume. It makes millions by selling advertised petitions on its website. According to Activist Facts, its revenues come from tracking profile data on petition signers and promoting advertised petitions to targeted Change.org members. The promotion comes from Change’s staff of professional campaigners and organizers.

The Wall Street Journal reported on how the system works on the individual user’s end:

[You] join Change.org and sign a petition. Your email is registered as having an affinity with that subject. Change.org then matches you with petitions dealing with similar causes that are sponsored by political groups, activists or nonprofits such as Oxfam. You can sign their petitions and opt to learn more about the groups. If you do opt in, the sponsor gets your address.

 “I have huge problems with Change.org because they are a lead-generation business disguised as a social-change organization for whoever is willing to pay them for the email addresses,” Clay Johnson, author of “The Information Diet” and a veteran of fund raising through social media, told the Journal.

A New York Times story on the effectiveness of online petitions expanded on this point. “Digital petitions are popularly used to build databases of names, emails and phone numbers of those who can be called on to act or donate. ‘It’s moved from an organizing effort to an intelligence-gathering operation,’ said Scott Payne, who worked as an organizer for a software company that helps clients gather supporters and donors. That granular level of detail also allows organizations to direct ads to supporters on Facebook.”

Change.org also makes money from people who choose to promote petitions. Promoted petitions let you pay to show any petition (including your own) to other potential supporters on Change.org or its distribution channels. As Change.org puts it, “When someone chips in to promote a petition it helps us share it with wide audiences of action-takers in the Change.org community. Each contribution helps cover the costs of distributing the petition to hundreds, thousands, even millions more people in the Change.org community, many of whom go on to sign the petition.”

Change.org petitions are also unreliable barometers of public opinion because, as the saying goes, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” The people the petition is trying to influence don’t know much of anything about the signers. Does a signer buy their product, for example? Petition targets also don’t know if people are signing multiple times or signing for other people.

Is the signer a registered voter in a congress member’s district? When I worked for a congressman from New Jersey, he paid a lot more attention to a communication from somebody in his district than from an activist in Santa Clara, CA. That’s why members’ websites ask commenters to identify where they live. In the case of Change.org petition signers, it’s not clear where they’re from or even if they’re Americans. Signers are pretty much a blank slate.

A large number of petition signers is also an unreliable gauge of public opinion. A petition calling for hazard pay for United States Postal Service (USPS) employees, for example, had attracted 979,249 signatures as of early Tuesday afternoon, but the petition is hardly an action by a public-spirited citizen. It was submitted by “Carrying Mail 365”, an organization of U.S. postal workers, who on their own number almost 500,000. Nevertheless, media such as Newsweek, Fox Business and MSN have covered the petition as though it is news.

As with Change.org, mobs on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other Internet-based applications are often unreliable reflections of broad public opinion and should be treated with caution. One reason is because their algorithms pour gasoline on the flames, spreading the grievances of a scant few to the attention of millions.

In the case of twitter, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report:

  • Adult Twitter users are younger and more likely to be Democrats than the general public. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Twitter users ages 18 to 49 identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, leading to a lot of urban liberal condescension.
  • Twitter users are more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall.
  • Twitter users are more likely to see evidence of racial and gender-based inequalities in society.
  • Much of the content posted by Americans on Twitter comes from a small number of authors.
  • The 10% of users who are most active in terms of tweeting are responsible for 80% of tweets from adult U.S. users

As with Twitter, it’s important to understand the demographics of Instagram’s users. In the U.S. they skew young, with 67% of those age 18-29 and only 23% of those age 50-64 using the app. Users also skew urban. A  Pew Research survey found that 46% of urban respondents are using Instagram, but only 34% of suburban respondents and 21% of those living in rural areas.

Instagram’s audience is also a factor in its influence. Instagram is most popular with Hispanic Americans, with 51% of this audience using the app, compared to 40% of Black Americans, and 33% of white, according to Business of Apps. This may be connected with the rural/urban split, with Hispanic and Black users more likely to live in cities.

One unfortunate result of the insistence on personal accountability that emanates from social media campaigns is the lack of any notion of proportionality. Those with opposing views are assailed as enemies to be punished, rather than as fellow citizens to be persuaded (or, at worst, provocateurs to be ignored), U.K.-based researcher, Noah Carl, wrote in Quillette.

What’s the solution?

The best remedy would be resistance by strong adult leaders—university presidents, newspaper publishers, heads of corporations such as Trader Joe’s and so on—capable of standing up to Twitter, other nasty social media and profit-driven petition companies, says Lance Morrow, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

What’s the chance that will happen?  “The odds are against such a miracle,” Morrow says. “The woke, like hyenas, hunt in packs, and those in authority are craven.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jumping to homeschooling because of COVID-19 is a risky bet.

 

Homeschooling

Will the COVID-19 crisis lead to more homeschooling in Oregon? If it does, for many children (and parents) that will be a mistake.

David Henderson, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, thinks the forced shift of public school children to ineffective and impractical online schooling will lead many parents to opt for homeschooling. “What if, as I predict, home-schooling works, on average, better than the public schools before the pandemic?” Henderson asks. “Once the pandemic ends, many parents will want to continue with home-schooling.”

There’s no question that the idea of homeschooling can be seductive. After all, it can offer flexibility, more curriculum choice, religious freedom, self-paced learning, and protection from threatening ideas. And it can be appealing to parents who want to have a larger role to play in conveying important values to their children.

It’s not clear, however, that homeschooling is the right choice for a wide swath of children or that it adequately prepares young people to succeed and participate in our complex economy.

In addition, the fragmentation of our educational system may undermine the need for all members of our society to see themselves in common cause – a necessity for the survival of our democracy. Where too many people are isolated from their peers, they may be less likely to see a relationship of mutual commitment and responsibility to others.

The most recent analysis from the U.S. Department of Education/National Center for Education Statistics reported the number of homeschooled students increased from 850,000 in 1999 to 1,690,000 in 2016. The percentage of students who were homeschooled increased from 1.7 percent to 3.3 percent over the same time period.

According to the Oregon Department of Education, almost every school district in Oregon has seen an increase in homeschooling in recent years, with more than 22,000 students registered as homeschoolers in 2018. There’s general agreement, however, that the number of actual homeschoolers is higher because not all homeschooling parents register their child with the state.

Parents of students between the ages of 6-18 are supposed to notify their local Education Service District (ESD) of their intent to home school within 10 days of beginning to home school, but compliance is not comprehensive.

A homeschooler is expected to take standardized testing by August 15 of the summer following the completion of 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grades, as long as the child has been homeschooled since at least February 15 of the year preceding testing (18 months before the test deadline).

The required tests include grade-level math (concepts, application, skills), reading (comprehension), and language (writing, spelling/grammar, punctuation, etc.)

Given the above information, you might be tempted to say that public oversight of homeschoolers is obviously comparable to that of public schools because the state knows how all homeschooled students are performing. You’d be wrong.

First, homeschooled students are not required to take common standardized tests that measure academic progress. They can opt out, and many of them do.

Second, homeschoolers’ tests are scored on a percentile, so the score a child gets represents how many people taking the same test got a lower score. In other words, the scores don’t represent how well the child knows the material, only how well the child performs relative to every other homeschooler taking the test. Even then, If a child scores at the 15th percentile or above, then the ESD simply files the report and there’s no follow-up.

Third, homeschoolers don’t have to report their scores to anybody unless their education service district (ESD) asks for them. But the state cares so little about how these children are doing that ESDs almost never request test scores, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

Not that it would make much difference if ESDs did request the scores.

That’s because homeschoolers would only need to report their composite percentile score. This is an almost useless single percentile representing a child’s performance on all three subjects together. It’s almost as though the state doesn’t really want to know how homeschoolers are doing.

What is clear, then, is that nobody in the Oregon Department of Education really knows whether parents who are homeschooling their children are providing them with an equal or superior alternative to district schools.

I get it that homeschooling can reflect a lack of confidence in traditional educational institutions. However, despite the almost messianic belief in homeschooling held by many supporters, there are major flaws in this alternative. If one result of the pandemic is widespread abandonment of Oregon’s brick-and-mortar public schools for homeschooling, the damage inflicted on some children could be severe.

All Oregonians, particularly the legislature and governor, should care because education is not just a private good. Studied indifference or washing our hands of the consequences of educational malpractice can have serious consequences for the community at large.

As Chester Finn Jr., Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said, “Once you conclude that education is also a public good—one whose results bear powerfully on our prosperity, our safety, our culture, our governance, and our civic life—you have to recognize that voters and taxpayers have a compelling interest in whether kids are learning what they should…”

40% of American workers couldn’t come up with $400. Is that true?

payingbillsworry

There it was again.

Only six in ten American workers could afford a surprise $400 expense, John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation Hope, an Atlanta-based non-profit, told the Wall Street Journal for a profile that ran today (July 25, 2020)

That $400 figure crops up everywhere like a persistent weed, portraying a large segment of Americans as living perilously on the edge of catastrophe.

“Some 40% of Americans would struggle to come up with $400 for an unexpected expense,” reported CNBC.

“In America right now today, almost half of Americans are a $400 unexpected expense away from complete upheaval,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said on April 1, 2020 when announcing plans to introduce a Rent Relief Act.

“The gap between incomes and costs is so gaping that 40% of Americans can’t come up with $400 in an emergency,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on May 9, 2019.

Those pushing the $400 story usually cite the Federal Reserve’s report, “Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018.”   The Report writers interviewed a sample of over 11,000 individuals—with an online survey in October and November 2018.

But the 40% figure is wrong.

People who just skimmed the initial text of the executive summary of the Report or relied on a text message, probably saw this: “Results from the survey show that many adults are financially vulnerable and would have difficulty handling an emergency expense as small as $400.”

If they read the Report itself further, however, they would have seen this: “If faced with an unexpected expense of $400, 61 percent of adults say they would cover it with cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement—a modest improvement from the prior year. Similar to the prior year, 27 percent would borrow or sell something to pay for the expense, and 12 percent would not be able to cover the expense at all.

So it’s not true, as Warren claimed, that 39% of people “can’t come up with” the money they’d need to handle this situation.

The Federal Reserve report makes clear that, although 4 in 10 adults “would have more difficulty covering such an expense,” many of them would be able to make it work by carrying a credit card balance or borrowing from friends and family.

covering400

Parents are often the source of financial help. One in 10 adults received some form of financial support during 2018 from someone living outside of their home. Over one-quarter of young adults received such support and among young adults with incomes under $40,000, nearly 4 in 10 received some support from outside their home.

Only 12% of adults “would be unable to pay the expense by any means,” the Federal Reserve Report concluded.

This doesn’t mean, however, that all is well in the American economy. Although many families reported that they had made substantial gains since the survey started in 2013, persistent disparities remained by race, education, and geography. Also, the report relied on interviews in 2018, well before COVID-19 struck the United States and massive economic dislocation occurred.

All the research done so far is showing that the economic fallout from COVID-19 is hitting lower-income adults harder.

The Pew Research Center has noted that The financial shocks of the outbreak have hit Hispanic and black Americans especially hard. When it comes to public health, black Americans appear to account for a larger share of COVID-19 hospitalizations nationally than their share of the population. One result is that, according to a July 2020 Rand Corp. survey, 40% of non-Hispanic black households and nearly 50% of Hispanic households reported problems paying their bills, compared with 21% of non-Hispanic white households.

We won’t know for quite a while what the public has to say to the Federal Reserve about how things are 2020, but it probably won’t be good.

Is “Safety” the new goal in journalism?

Nearly 300 reporters, editors, and other employees at the Wall Street Journal sent a letter to the publisher on Tuesday asserting the Opinion section’s “lack of fact-checking and transparency, and its  apparent disregard for evidence, undermine our readers’ trust and our ability to gain credibility with sources.”

So far, so good. One would hope that Opinion pieces in the WSJ are factual, although there’s not always agreement on “the facts.”

But the letter went on to criticize one opinion piece, “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism,” noting that “multiple employees of color publicly spoke out about the pain this Opinion piece caused them.”

Is this what it’s come to? Newspapers shouldn’t publish Opinion pieces that may make some staff feel discomfort.

This reminds me of the brouhaha over the New York Times’ Opinion section running an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) that called for the U.S. government to deploy military troops to deter looting amid protests sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A slew of New York Times reporters and editors revolted, claiming  in high dudgeon that the op-ed endangered their Black colleagues and contained factual errors.

Aggrieved Times staffers went so far as to tweet a screenshot of the piece’s headline captioned with the same phrase: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”

Even the staff’s unions jumped in, issuing a statement “…in response to a clear threat to the health and safety of journalists we represent.”

Nonsense!

This kind of overreaction is just another example of the current insistence of the fragile among us that society must focus on ensuring all people are “safe,” that their self-esteem isn’t damaged.

An op-ed pissed somebody off. Some reporters found an op-ed in their own newspaper objectionable. So what.

I spent 10 years as a reporter at The Oregonian. I disagreed, sometimes vehemently, with editorials and opinion pieces in the paper, but I never felt threatened by them.

Bari Weiss, a former writer and opinion editor at the New York Times, tied the turmoil over Cotton’s op-ed to a conflict between the “Old Guard” that “lives by a set of principles we can broadly call civil libertarianism” and a “New Guard” with “a different worldview” that endorses “ ‘safetyism’, in which the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech.”

“Heaven forbid an opinion on a newspaper’s op-ed page should offend someone,” wrote Washington Post  columnist Kathleen Parker.

Or as one the New York Times’ own columnists, Bret Stephens, put it, “As important as it is to try to keep people safe against genuine threats, it is not the duty of the paper to make people feel safe by refusing to publish a dismaying op-ed.”

Yes, being a reporter can be dangerous. Forty-nine journalists were killed in 2019, 57 were being held hostage and 389 were in prison, according to the non-profit group Reporters Without Borders.

murderedjournalist

Javier Valdez Cárdenas, 50, a veteran journalist who specialized in covering drug trafficking, was gunned down in broad daylight in Culiacán, the capital of Mexico’s northwestern state of Sinaloa.

But who was in imminent danger because Sen. Tom Cotton wrote an inflammatory op-ed?

The exaggerated sensitivity seen today on many college campuses is not modulating as students graduate. It is being retained as graduates enter the workforce.

Weiss thinks what’s going on at the New York Times is representative of what’s happening across all U.S. media.  “The civil war inside The New York Times between the (mostly young) wokes and the (mostly 40+) liberals is the same one raging inside other publications and companies across the country. The dynamic is always the same,” Weiss wrote on Twitter. “They assumed they shared that worldview with the young people they hired who called themselves liberals and progressives. But it was an incorrect assumption.”

 

Lake Oswego businesses are big winners in Paycheck Protection Program

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Lake Oswego businesses have stepped up to take advantage of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. As part of the program, the government provided up to $659 billion in financial support to banks to make low-interest loans to companies and nonprofit organizations in response to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A ProPublica analysis shows 210 Lake Oswego businesses in zip codes 97034 and 97035 have had loans approved by lenders and disclosed by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The largest loan recipients, 21 businesses receiving loans of $1 million or more, are:

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $5-10 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Limited Liability Company(LLC)

Loan Amount: $2-5 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Subchapter S Corporation

Loan Amount: $2-5 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $2-5 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Loan Amount: $2-5 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Limited Liability Company(LLC)

Loan Amount: $2-5 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Limited Liability Company(LLC)

Loan Amount: $2-5 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Limited Liability Company(LLC)

Loan Amount: $2-5 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Partnership

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Limited Liability Company(LLC)

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Subchapter S Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Partnership

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Limited Liability Company(LLC)

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Subchapter S Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Subchapter S Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

Location: LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Business Type: Corporation

Loan Amount: $1-2 million

 

A complete list of all Lake Oswego recipients of $150,000 or more is available at ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism.

Note:
This data comes from the Small Business Administration, and includes lender-approved loans under the Paycheck Protection Program of at least $150,000. The federal government released data on loan approvals of less than $150,000, and that data was used to calculate summary figures for states. Organizations with lender-approved loans of less than $150,000 do not appear in this data. Other loan programs, such as Economic Injury Disaster Loans, are not included in this database.

Why do Republicans want to undermine Oregon’s public schools?

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What were they thinking?

Oregon’s traditional brick-and-mortar public school system is under stress and needs support. So what did the Republicans propose coming into the special session that started on June 24?  They wanted to make it easier for students to transfer from their district’s brick-and-mortar public schools to virtual public charter schools, taking State School Fund dollars with them.

Oregon law provides that a school district may deny a parent’s request to shift their child to a virtual public charter school if more than 3% of the students who reside in the district are enrolled in virtual public charter schools not sponsored by the district.

Senate Republican leader Fred Girod (R-Stayton) proposed raising that 3% figure to 8% to allow more students to abandon their district’s schools. “Given this pandemic, people are going to want an alternative, and that alternative is going to be virtual schools,” Girod said.

Not only would this have potentially siphoned millions from already stretched district budgets, but research on virtual charter school performance outcomes across the country generally paints a distressing picture. In other words, Oregon’s traditional public schools clearly have their problems, but the virtual public charter schools are even worse.

The desire of some parents for school choice is understandable, but numerous studies have concluded that full-time virtual charter schools are not the right option for many K-12 students. The fact is many K-12 virtual charter schools are like tribute bands, just a facsimile of real education.

“Current online charter schools may be a good fit for some students, but the evidence suggests that online charters don’t serve very well the relatively atypical set of students that currently attend these schools, much less the general population,” the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University said in a report. “Academic benefits from online charter schools are currently the exception rather than the rule.”

In the same vein, a report from the Colorado-based National Education Policy Center (NEPC) concluded, “There is…little high-quality systematic evidence that the rapid expansion of (virtual charter schools) the past several years is wise. Research has …consistently found that students enrolled in full-time virtual schools have performed at levels well below their face-to-face counterparts.”

A Fordham Institute study of virtual charter schools reached similar conclusions. “Online schools offer an efficient way to diversify—and even democratize—education in a connected world,” the study said. “Yet they have received negative, but well-deserved, attention concerning their poor academic performance, attrition rates, and ill capacity to educate the types of students who enroll in them.”

As most educators and parents learned in the widespread switch to online schooling spurred by COVID-19, it has been a worst-case outcome for most students. “There’s a sense that this has been an unmitigated disaster,” Dana Goldstein, a national correspondent for The New York Times, said in a June 28, 2020 Innovation Hub interview.

A recently published study published in Educational Researcher examined the effects of attending a virtual charter school on student outcomes. “We find the impact of attending a virtual charter on student achievement is uniformly and profoundly negative,” the authors wrote in a Brookings article.

The study authors concluded that “virtual charter schools are ill-equipped to take on a more prominent role” in light of the COVID-19 crisis. “Based on their dismal track record, policymakers should instead focus on greater oversight and accountability for these schools. Perhaps the worst policy response during the COVID-19 crisis is to promote these schools…”

Thankfully, Girod’s proposal didn’t go forward as a bill in the special session. It would be a shame if it rears its ugly head again.

Further reading:

Oregon’s Public Virtual Charter Schools Don’t Compute

COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime

Too Many Schools Leave Learning to Chance During the Pandemic

Oregon Connections Academy: Still a Virtual Calamity

Alternative Schooling in Oregon: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is State School Fund money being misused by some Oregon virtual public charter schools?

virtualschoolpic

If an Oregon child attends a regular brick-and-mortar public school or the school’s online program, parents cover any outside extra-curricular expenses. But if a child attends an Oregon virtual public charter school there’s a chance parents will get a kick-back of up to $2,000 per year for personal use.

That’s not right.

Virtual public charter schools don’t collect tuition from their students. Instead, the schools are supported by money diverted from the state’s traditional brick-and-mortar public schools. The Oregon Department of Education distributes State School Fund money to each school district that sponsors a charter school; the district keeps a portion and passes on the rest to the charter school.

Oregon law provides that a sponsoring district must pass on to its charter school at least 80 percent of its per-pupil grant for K-8 students and 95 percent of its per pupil grant for grade 9-12 students.

Marcola SD 79J in Lane County, for example, sponsors the virtual public charter school, Teach-NW. The State School Fund gave the district $2,348,684.27 for the 2018-2019 school year to support the sponsorship and the district passed on most of that money to Teach-NW.

But Teach-NW didn’t spend all the money.

Instead, the school set aside $2000 per student for “allotments” which parents were allowed to spend in support of their child’s education. A family with three children at Teach-NW, for example, got access to extra allotments totaling $6,000 each year.

According to Teach-NW, “Allotments can be used to cover academic materials such as textbooks, school supplies, curriculum materials, approved instructional programs (i.e. music, dance), enrichment experiences, educational subscriptions, educational fees, tutoring services, some athletics fees and equipment, field trips, and internet expenses as approved by the student’s Educational Facilitator (assigned teacher).” Families can access the money through a debit card or request reimbursements from the school.”

Some parents say the $2,000 allotments are a key factor in enrolling their children at Teach-NW. Other parents deny the allotments are a factor in enrollment decisions. But as satirist and cultural critic H. L. Mencken put it, “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

The practical effect of this arrangement is that parents who choose to send their children to Teach-NW, rather than their local brick-and-mortar public school or their school district’s online program, get a substantial extra financial package. And it’s all paid for with taxpayer dollars.

That’s wrong.

Bolton’s Blather: The decline and fall of political biographies

boltontrump

When Dean Acheson wrote “Present at the Creation,”  a memoir of his years at the State Department, he was hailed as “probably the most consequential American diplomat of the twentieth century” and his book was applauded as  “…a must-read book not only for historians, but also for anyone interested in national policy, diplomacy, or military strategy.”

“As Truman’s Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953, he became the primary spokesman for America’s leadership in the world and for the creation of the post-World War II international system that exists today, a reviewer wrote in Foreign Policy.  “Present at the Creation is an insightful, absorbing and even occasionally humorous insider’s guide to how that system was created.”

Compare that with the reception of “The Room Where It Happened,” a memoir by John Bolton, who spent 453 days as President Trump’s national-security adviser. “John Bolton’s Epic Score-Settling – a scathing account of the President’s ‘stunning ignorance,’ incompetence, and corruption,” announced the New Yorker. “Bolton Spills the Beans,” declared the Dispatch. “John Bolton Dumps His Notes and Smites His Enemies,” wrote the New York Times.

How times have changed.

Bolton was apparently appalled by what he observed, but not appalled enough to go public with his concerns and resign in disgust. And certainly not appalled enough to forego a lucrative book advance.

Instead of offering readers a sweeping perspective of momentous occurrences, too many of the Trump books are just hatchet jobs, spiteful tell-alls written by peevish, self-aggrandizing, hangers-on. And too often they commit the cardinal sin of not even being well written.

 “The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much,” Jennifer Szalai wrote of Bolton’s book in the New York Times. “It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged….(The account) has been written with so little discernible attention to style and narrative form that he apparently presumes an audience that is hanging on his every word.”

A librarian noted last year that she had found no less than 51 books about the Trump presidency, excluding self-published works, if you start counting with The Truth About Trump in May 2016.

Former press secretary Sean Spicer wrote just one Trump book, The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President. Cory Lewandowsi, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and David Cay Johnston have each written two Trump books.

“Eventually, perhaps there will be nothing more to say about the President’s competence or lack thereof,” the librarian said. “At that point, it’s unclear what will happen to this ballooning literary phenomenon. A bubble bust situation seems possible.”

And unlike Present at the Creation, most of the Trump screeds will likely be soon forgotten. Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault-Newman is surely one of those, as is Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels and Michal Avenatti.

That will also likely be the fate of many Trump books still to come, including one by Trump’s niece, Mary L. Trump. Her book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” is set to come out on July 28.

This book is being pitched as a revealing missive that, according to Amazon, “shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.”

I can’t wait.

I suppose the next book after Mary Trump’s will be “Life with me and mine,” by Arabella Rose Kushner. Put your order in now.

When a COVID-19 vaccine is found, give it to me first.

karenzimmerman

Karen Zimmerman

Karen Zimmerman, 74, died on April 14, 2020 at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. Two of her four children were by her side.

Bobby Rutledge, 77, died April 1, 2020; Robert Rykken, 83, died May 8, 2020; Merle and Delores Tofte, 87 & 85, died March 16, 2020.

All Oregonians, all died from COVID-19, all older adults.

They fit a pattern.

People 65 years old or older account for 80% of COVID-19-related deaths in the United States to date, according to the CDC.  It’s not just their age that’s relevant. Older people are more likely have underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, lung conditions, diabetes and cancer. These complications, not just age, dictate the mortality of older adults.

The mortality of COVID-19 patients is just 0.3% for patients in their 40s, according to research by Imperial College London published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. Mortality rose to 1.25% of those in their 50s,  4% of those in their 60s, 8.6%, of those in their 70s and 13.4% of patients 80 and older.

“These early estimates give an indication of the fatality ratio across the spectrum of COVID-19 disease and show a strong age gradient in risk of death,” the research concluded.

Not only are older adults more at risk, but as treatments have improved fewer young people are dying. In late March, Americans over age 75 made up about half of all weekly deaths while Americans under 45 made up between 4-5%, according to the CDC. People over 75 now make up about two-thirds of deaths while those younger than 45 make up less than 2%.

Covidagechart

With these kinds of numbers, it only makes sense that when a successful vaccine is developed it shouldn’t be given away willy-nilly or first come-first served. It should be given first to those most at risk, older adults. I’m 76, so that includes me and my older folks cohort. Right?