Not an incident; An anti-democratic attitude

The news that e-mails show that conversation was taking place in the Democratic Party, by its managers, about how to defeat Bernie Sanders represents something far worse than bad behavior. It represents disrespect for the demo

The news that e-mails show that conversation was taking place in the Democratic Party, by its managers, about how to defeat Bernie Sanders represents something far worse than bad behavior.  It represents disrespect for the democratic process and not party in a democratic nation is a legitimate party if it violates basic principles of fairness that allow “the people” to make choices regarding who they want to hire to serve as their executive.  This is not simply an error in judgment.  It is about error at all.  It is about intention driven by attitude and probably by greed–greed for power and, yes, greed for the kind of money that power brings and greed for the kind of status money buys, status that allows one to cavort with those who have enough money to buy the decision making process that should be the people’s.

Debbie Wassermann Shultz will no longer serve as Chair of the democratic party and she will not be appearing at the convention.  Hillary Clinton will still be the candidate.  She might lose because a good part of the appeal of the democratic party has been its concern (real or not) for those who do not have much power, who do not have the power to buy it, and those poor and misguided schmucks (the schools are good at confirming such status) who do not really care as much about money as they do a good and humane society and a decent life for all.

I have no party now and feel a bit ashamed for hanging with the democrats for so long, this despite my knowing for a long time now that it did not stand for the things most important to me and that the people who ran the party and benefited most from what it really stood for and did were the people who had wrested ownership of the country, its political system, to serve their own desires no matter how what the cost to those “less fortunate” than themselves.  For their own sake, so that they could feel comfortable walking the streets where those who had been taken and taken from roamed, they built a society of mass incarceration.  To hide the real causes of poverty, they found ways to blame and shame those without, those who would not work who would have worked if the jobs available to them, if there were any to be found, payed enough to sustain life with as semblance of decency.

They, the party elite became an elite and they not only stopped serving the masses of “common” people, they helped to insure that they could continue to ignore the people by making sure they remained common.  In all the years I have been alive, no matter which party has been in office, schools have been underfunded and none with power have ever done much of anything to change the conditions of school, to even advocate for truly decent pay for educators so that those actually qualified to teach would find their way into classrooms and stay.  This is good for an elite because to have an elite there has to be a something below and schools in America have for a very long time remained, as Joel Spring once called them, “sorting machines” worked to label and then insure that the “product” lived up to (or down to) the label, the children of the disenfranchised, of course, most always labelled incapables.

My old party has supported many a war whose purpose was to insure business as usual, that usual business so very often so blatantly exploitive of the people of other nations that their “liberation” by us caused them to hate all of us even though most of us had nothing to gain by the sacrifice.  And those of us sacrificed; hardly ever of the classes that had something to gain from the fight.

I won’t ramble on any longer here, except to say that there has always been but two parties with viability in this nation and this by design, not the design described in the Constitution or supported by the humanist philosophy that was to serve as the basis for our constitutional democracy in the Declaration, has made the United States something far less than a democracy, a nation run not by the whole of the people but by a few of an elite class that works to maintain its elite status and benefit, at the expense of the most people, from something far less than democratic state they have worked to create.

The recent manipulation of party politics to insure that the party elite’s anointed candidate for the presidency occurred because the leaders needed to make certain that a true democrat would not be allowed to begin to bring democracy back into the political system.  The underhanded dealings by the party elite were precipitated by real fear because what they had to loose in a fair and honest nominating process is great, great in wealth and great for the power wealth brings those who are wealthy to remain wealthy and powerful and become even more wealthy and powerful.







Blog Achives

A while back I took down what I had posted over the years on this site and I did this because I wanted to clear the slate so that I could refresh.  That done, I think I like some of those previous posts enough to repost them here from time to time.  I am going to post several now and will continue to repost into the future as I see relevant and fit.

Here is the first of these:

A Moffett-Wagner Quote of utility: Obviously curious, February 17, 2015

What fascinates me more and more each day is what infuriates me every day as I try to teach and to teach teachers how to teach. The dependency problem is not a small problem but, for those who are to operate a democracy, it is a stumbling block that is of great magnitude. If schools are teaching students dependence rather than independence; if they are teaching students to conform and capitulate rather than to be original in their ways of going about things, in finding for themselves the best things to do and the best ways to get them done, then the educational system is broken, cannot work to grow proper citizens of free and democratic societies.

James Moffett and his work with Betty Jane Wagner has infused into the mechanics of my thinking certain principles that I live by and teach by and when I read again some of the most influential passages in their work, I am reminded of the source that triggered so much of my thinking and the thinking that influenced how I teach others.

I have held to principles without being bound to those principles. I have grown with the principles I found and those principles have grown with me. I test them constantly by observing and participating in life activities and the tests are rigorous and sometimes exhausting but worthwhile, nonetheless, because they keep the mind alive and, thus, allow me to live a life that is about being human.

These citations from Moffett and Wagner are so basic as to seem obvious. My students sometimes tell me that Moffett and Moffett and Wagner are difficult to read because the points they make are so obvious that it is hard to understand their meaningfulness. Then they tell me, though obvious, these are things they have never really thought much about and, by being made to think about the obvious, something people regularly resist doing, they find there to be considerably more meaning in the obvious than was obvious. So here are obvious points that deserve the kind of play I like to call “making the obvious curious.”

“As soon as others want the results of learning more than the learner, the game is over.”

The argument against student choice is usually that youngsters don’t know what there is to choose from or how to make wise decisions. This is truer than it should be because schools seldom teach students to choose. The longer a student has been in school the harder it often is to help him make decisions. He may be conditioned to obey, not to exercise his will and make decisions. He may even resist doing what he wants to do, because it is so painful to decide. But to use crippling conditioning as an argument for further infantilizing of students compounds the problem and fulfills its own prophecy. The point is that decision-making is the very heart of education.”

Student Centered Language Arts, p.22


Last Facebook Post, Hillary No

As of today I no longer hold membership in the democratic party and I will not support its candidate for the presidency if that candidate is Hillary Clinton.  I cannot support any organization that, particularly any American political organization that is demeaning to democracy.  I am a democrat, a strong supporter of the American democracy and I feel an obligation to denounce those who interfere with its progress.  As those who read my postings know, I supported Mr. Sanders endorsement of Ms. Clinton and urged others to vote for her while continuing to work to push the party and its candidate toward something resembling true liberalism and away from advocacy for neo-liberal policies that harm the many to benefit a few.  I said this even after the party humiliated me and others like me who questioned the process, called for transparency and, for doing so were, by party leadership through their collaboration with the liberal media, made to look like fools, intent on destroying real democratic process.


Lying, deceitfulness undermines democracy and its promise.  To lie in order to prove others liars, is a special kind of deceit and this is what notes passed between the leaders of the democratic party prove for those who will not allow themselves to be lied to again.  The democratic party did interfere with the nomination process.  The party’s leaders, it is evident, do not like democratic process, particularly when it seems to them that it might not produce the outcomes they wish.  Throughout the nominating process, stalwarts of the party, worked to nominate a particular candidate; they interfered to insure that Ms. Clinton would be the nominee and they lied aloud over and over again with their claims of impartiality.


I argued up until today that people who care about the country and its future vote for Ms. Clinton, not because she was the better of two evils, but because I saw in her and those who supporter the better character.  I put aside my resentment for lying and tried to call it something different.  I said that Ms. Clinton, despite her behavior in the political arena, was still a decent person with integrity who would be smart enough to listen to the voices of those who had good reason to feel disenfranchised in society and by party if people such as those who supported Bernie Sanders continued to push her in the right direction.


Yesterday she chose Tom Cain as her running mate.


Trump will be very bad for the country and, in some ways she is most definitely better.  But neither candidate is a true democrat.  If either was, they would be anti-deceit and both have been deceitful and supporters of practices that deceitful.  For me to vote for Hillary, to advocate for her as a proper candidate for the presidency would be deceitful on my part.  I apologize for my arguments in support of her candidacy.


To those who pushed Hillary at me with such vigor, I hope that you may finally take a step back and reassess your advocacy and the means you have used to make your case and the ways in which you too have mocked those who think differently than you do.  To constantly use as reason for support the improbability of a Sanders victory in the general election caused far too many to ignore what he was saying, to mock his candidacy without even attempting to evaluate what he was saying—and he has much to say that any reasonable liberal would have to like, was to undermine the goodness of reasoned debate, something, by the way, in which Mr. Sanders has been accused of trying to engage.  The election of Hillary became the only concern of too many of her supporters and they would not listen to reason.  When it became clear that Mr. Sanders really did have something important to say and such realization among a good many began to undermine unviability, some began to tell me and others like me that our problem was our inability to accept the possibility of a woman as president.  Support of Mr. Sanders was about our sexist attitudes, attitudes we, of course would never admit to having, would never allow ourselves to get in touch with.  To resent the claims, of course, served as proof that a sexist belief system was so much a part of ourselves that we were blind to it being of us.


In regard to me, say what you will, the claim is total bullshit.  I know of many women I would work my ass off to support for office, of many women I have supported in their candidacy for office and I would and have supported them because they are good candidates and not because they are women.  I think the Hillary candidacy has done some harm to the feminist cause that I have supported vigorously throughout my adult life.


I can no longer take it on the chin.  I am burned out because I feel that have burned by the only party to which I have ever belonged, a party that left me a good many years ago when it began to make the case that it could be as conservative as the other party—tough on crime, tough on the poor, tolerant of religious bullshit, militaristic, and sold down the drain on the virtues of unbridled capitalism.


I have no party and, unless there is some kind of revolution, I will surely have no country that I can honestly say to be my own.


With this I leave Facebook too because I am discouraged terribly by a discourse limited to sound bites.  I cannot stand arguments made in a sentence.  These aren’t arguments at all and for those I know who teach, your use of cribbed captions is particularly disappointing.  To post the quotes with no personal context to explain your agreement is to sanction the end of meaningful conversation.


This is not the end of a conversation.  This is the end of misguided belief in having finally found one.


Signing off but always available through the blog page and e-mail.






Bullshit, unedited, unleashed



This is a catalog of recent posts to Facebook that come of my concern for Turkey and the people of Turkey in light of recent events there, beginning with the failed coup attempt and leading up to the post-coup purges that, according to the sources available to me, are being carried out by the Turkish government against those it has labelled coup-conspirators.  I write, not only because I am concerned with the fate of people I know who are being gravely affected by the government’s post-coup response, but also because about 10 years ago, because of my association with several individuals who are Turkish citizens, began to study Turkey as a nation moving toward the formation of a vibrant democracy, as a place where democracy, frayed and diminished in nations that considered themselves to be democracies, might be revived and improved upon.

July 15 at 4:46pm ·

Turkey! So interesting and so complex. The history is fascinating and the coup underway could have been predicted considering the Turkish military’s role in the affairs of the country, doggedly fighting to keep in force the constitution created when the modern Turkish state was established after WWI. The man considered to be the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who fought to keep Turkey from becoming an appendage of western powers. Every time a government has come into power that is seen by the military to violate that constitution (worth reading), the military has stepped in and then, eventually restored constitutional rule, never ruling for very long before elections take place. A most contentious aspect of the Turkish Constitution is that it requires secular government, this problematic to many, the current president being one, he, in fact, very much involved in writing a new constitution, one that would, it can be assumed, write out the secular requirement.

The current president, who has ruled the country for at least the past decade,

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is seen by many Turks to be an autocratic ruler and many of his actions in the recent past support that concern; he has imposed severe restrictions on the media and the social media, for example.

I was in Nigeria several years ago, about the time Erdogan was elected, doing some work at a Turkish school there. I said to my Turkish colleague who was at the school with me that it seemed to me that a coup was eminent in that Erdogan was an anti-constitutionalist intent on bringing the religious element back into government. What surprised me, has surprised me over the years is the failure of the military to respond. A decade later, they have responded.

I am not sure, and no one else seems to be sure, as to exactly what is happening there but I am listening to our media with interest and skepticism. The will of the people? I am think there is a rush to draw conclusions that most likely will have to be substantially revised in the days ahead.

Interesting and ever so complex! What is the will of the people? Are most really in support of the president? Possibly but, as possibly, not.


‪Stephen Lafer /react-text  I see that some Turkish friends have read this. If possible, amend, correct, refute, confirm what I said in the previous post. But only if there is no risk in doing so. Again, I care deeply for your safety.

July 15 at 4:49pm ·

Friends in Turkey! Stay safe and, if you can safely do so, help us understand sentiments.

July 15 at 6:25pm

(from correspondent) The reference is to a self-exiled Imam who is living in PA.

Like · Reply · July 15 at 6:25pm

His name is Gulen and I know many of his followers. Galen, because he is an Iman who supported Erdogan at the onset of his administration before Erdogan turned against Gulen, took over Gulen movement media (very potent in Turkey) and declared him an enemy of the state. As I said, a very complex situation, Erdogan hardly a sympathetic figure especially considering his actions over the past few years.

July 15 at 6:23pm ·

Erdogan: “This country is not going to be ruled from Pennsylvania.” To whom can he be referring? He is now back in Ankara? “Coup attempt is a gift from God.” What is going on???

July 15 at 6:40pm ·

Erdogan has been working diligently at consolidating power, making the presidency the more powerful element of the Turkish government after he won election following his terms as prime minister, in modern Turkey, the position that has been the primary one in the federal government system. He has, as some commentators have begun to discuss, not been favorable to democracy and, as president has been trying to replace the current constitution with one he is writing.

July 15 at 6:47pm ·

My sense is that if the military, the whole of the military, were in support of the coup, Erdogan would be gone. Now I have to think that, given twhat Erdogan is saying, there could be a purge of those who are supporters of Gulen and several of them i consider to be my good friends. Again, stay safe and get in touch if you can, please. I am worried.

July 15 at 10:47pm ·

Possibly linked to what just happened in Turkey?

July 16 at 10:30 A.M.

July 16 at 10:53am · 

“21st century autocrats like Erdogan are smarter and more agile than their predecessors. In order to avoid pressure from the international community and to push back against groups defending civil rights and democracy, they no longer murder or even imprison as much as they used to. Instead, they data-mine, manipulate information, control the traditional media, and inundate the social media with disinformation. Even the smallest autocrats have more means at their disposal to control their constituents than ever before in history. (From the Foreign Affairs article I just posted).”

And for some reason, American politicians and media continue to repeat the phrase “democratically elected” to get around the fact that manipulated elections are not really democratic elections. The lesson for this country goes beyond teaching us how we should think about what is going on in Turkey and other countries labelled and labelling themselves as democracies. We should reflect on how we go about electing leaders and whether or not our elections are undemocratically manipulated–the money, corporate media, suppression of voting rights, access to information and polling places–and consider if we need to do something more to give democracy a chance.

July 17.

Too long, of course, but Facebook asked me what I was thinking. Blame the platform: Article referenced–…/ataturk-versus-erdogan-turkeys-l…

Though I am not as much a fan of the Gulen movement as Tom, I am very much interested in what happens in Turkey as I have made many friends there since my visit to a Gulen school in Nigeria several years ago, right when Mr. Erdogan was taking office as PM. At that time, Erdogan was on rather good terms with Gulen because, I believe, there was some agreement between the two on the goodness of scraping that part of the Turkish Constitution that required that government be a secular operation in the country. I did make mention to Turkish friends of the danger of going along on the basis of a single issue. I thought that the secular clause was something that was helping the Turkish nation move toward real democracy and was rather excited by what I understood to be going on there through the reading I was doing in preparation for my visit to the Turkish school in Nigeria. Erdogan made it clear, right off the bat, that he wanted to do away with the constitution, written by the first leader of the modern Turkish state, Atatürk. And my Turkish friends and acquaintances, many of them Gulen supporters, were in support of Erdogan because of his promise to do away with the constitution’s restrictions on religion in government.

So, while he may have been democratically elected, he was elected in good part to do away with the constitution that brought into being the democracy that was the Turkish state. On several occasions, in conversations and in presentations at conferences in Turkey, I made the case for constitutional government and for the separation of religion and government and made reference to my belief that religion, by its very nature, was anti-democratic because it handed people a belief system and demanded that they accept that belief system without questioning it. This, I said, made religion anti-human, inhumane because it interfered, by its nature, with the individual’s quest for discovering for him or herself what is true and what is right. That sense of what is true and right is basic to who one is as a human being and for government to be truly humane and, thus, fully democratic, it must recognize that individuality, the growth of individuals toward full realization of themselves as human beings, as independent thinkers, is what good and democratic government exists to serve and protect. The writers of the American Constitution, in fact, give as reason for revolution King George’s unwillingness to recognize the most natural and basic of human rights, the right to independence of mind. He did not “respect the opinions of men.”

Giving up the right to independence of mind should be understood to be an unnatural act for it means giving up what is basic to one is and becomes more fully living a truly human life. The Founders of the American democracy realized this, and so did Ataturk, I have to think. And, when the religious fight for the right to bring religion into government, they fight against democracy, against what is humane IF what they call for is the right to make prescription of belief a legitimate governmental function. No one can prevent another from being influenced by religion or any other system of belief but a true democrat must make sure that he or she is not governed by religion, religion, in most of its iterations, demanding unquestioned allegiance to a system of belief that is not to be honestly examined for its real truth value.

The Gulen people fell behind Erdogan because they wanted religion in government. His popularity is based in single issue politics and, in this case, the issue, religious “rights,” made people blind to what an Erdogan government would mean and how it would treat what are, by nature, basic human rights.


It is difficult—it has certainly been difficult for me—to accept the notion of a military that inserts itself into the politics of a nation in order to preserve democracy and with it, basic human rights. But, as the New Yorker article attached implies, this has been the role of the Turkish military since the days of Ataturk, since constitutional democracy was instituted in Turkey. There are, of course, ever so many problems with military deciding what is right within a society but there is also something seemingly right about military existing to ensure that democratic government survive. What better purpose can it serve?

And, the military as a force in preserving democracy has certainly been a principle espoused in the USA and other democratic countries. Unelected, the military cannot truly represent the will of the people. But it can and maybe should exist to uphold a nation’s principles and, in constitutional democracies, those principles are embodied in their constitutions. When constitutional principles are threatened, be it by a rogue individual or by the expressed will of a nation’s people, what force exists to insure that constitutional law prevails?

I am not offering an answer to that question because I am truly terrified by the notion of a military taking on the role of arbiter of right and wrong in any society, what is constitutional and what is not. In the USA we have a supreme court in which the power to do so is vested. But what if that court is filled, through the prescribed process, with individuals who decide in favor of that that undermines democratic process?

Again, I am not going to attempt to answer the question I, myself, just asked. I do not want military to exist as a decision making force. And nor do I wish for there to be no mechanisms within democracy to correct a path being taken that is anti-democratic.

I probably over-think such matters, but I do think that it is absolutely necessary that we, as human beings, work to fully understand the issues and the meaning of the events that transpire in this world in which we live. Gulen good; Erdogan bad or vice versa is not good enough a result of our attempts to made sense enough of what is going on upon which to base our opinions or take action. The role of religion in the world is something that every human being in the world should be contemplating and contemplating with bold honesty, a kind of honest religion and demigods try to prevent through their various methods. Whatever one thinks is not necessarily good for the fate of human beings or the world in which they live. The meaningful conversation, the conversation with really potential for leading us to what is true and right needs to take place right now and for it to take place we have to trust in ourselves, as individuals, that we can, with others find sensible ways to move toward improvement, toward that more perfect union mentioned as important in the Constitution of the United States of America.


July 18 at 2:55pm ·


A misconception one my part? It does seem to me, based on my understanding or modern history, that the USA is considerably more likely to accept, even support coups that come from the right than it is coups from the left. We certainly did not like much the revolution in Cuba but we did, our government did, make the effort to support the Contras in Nicaragua. We openly supported the Shah of Iran when he overthrew the democratically elected Mossadeq in 1952 (“The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq”—The Guardian, August 19, 2013). We stood by (probably not the proper characterization) when an attempt was made to overthrow the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez and we were complicit in the coup in which Salvador Allende, also democratically elected, was deposed and murdered. These are but a few of the many instances in which American foreign policy worked to put into power, keep in power, governments of the right, often terribly undemocratic, often brutal, and undermine governments from the left, democratically elected governments, some of which truly served in the best interests of the people of their nations.

Of course our opposition to the coup in Turkey is proper and correct, of course. We value democracy and we respect the will of those who elect their leaders through the democratic process. That is, unless…