Donald Trump is really president and I’m not really dead.

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If you were watching Chicago Med last night, yes, that was me playing a deceased man.

A few months back I got hired as an extra to play the role.

“How long can you hold your breath?” I was asked. “Don’t know,” I said. So he timed me. I took a deep breath and held it for about a minute.

“Should we do eyes open and mouth closed or eyes closed and mouth open?” asked somebody else.

How would I know?

The entire scene took up less than 90 seconds on air and took three hours to shoot. Anne found it disturbing to watch me but I thought it was all fun.

And I’m not really dead. It’s a TV show.

Donald Trump is not really a TV show. He is president.

I find that far more disturbing and there is no doubt it will be bad, at least for those not represented by his cabinet of dopes and Wall Street wheeler-dealers.

But there is this.

At the exact moment when Trump was taking the oath of office in Washington, I was sitting with a group of kindergarten and first graders at a public elementary school in Chicago, all of us playing the ukulele and singing This Little Light of Mine.

“What’s the light?” I asked.

“Love,” a first grader told me.

Ah. Don’t tell me there are no right answers.

Some of my friends woke up this morning feeling down.

First of all, as bad as Trump is, this is not my first rodeo.

We have been here before.

We can deal with this.

And as bad as things can get, and for many already are, in a room where there are no Grizzly bears, or for that moment any fear of guns, a safe place, things are good.

And I feel alive and ready to go at it.

Betsy DeVos. Stupid, dangerous and a liar.

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Bernie was only partly right when he told Betsy DeVos that she wouldn’t be sitting before him in hearings considering her as Secretary of Education if she hadn’t donated $200 million to the Republican Party.

She is a right-wing self-proclaimed enemy of public education. She has spent her family’s money to harass public school union activists like me.

But if it wasn’t her, Trump would have found somebody else just as bad.

Eva Moskowitz was on the short list.

Her testimony should have been an embarrassment to any normal administration. For Trump and the GOP, nothing qualifies as an embarrassment.

Not even the idea of Grizzly bears in the classroom.

She is a stupid entitled woman who knows nothing about education, teaching and learning. And yet the truth is that she has been influencing education policy for years even as most Americans have never heard of her before her nomination as Education Secretary. That is the power her wealth provides.

While she said many stupid things on Tuesday, she lied about her relationship to her mother’s foundation.

She claimed that being listed as an officer of the DeVos Foundation was a clerical error.

At the very end of the hearing, Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee, allocated the small time she had left to Hassan, who proceeded to reference the 990 tax forms. DeVos then made an astonishing claim. These government tax forms, filed by her own mother’s foundation, were incorrect. For years. Many years. “That was a clerical error. I can assure you I have never made decisions on my mother’s behalf on her foundation’s board.”

Reports Jeremy Scahill:

DeVos is married to Richard DeVos, the heir to the Amway Corporation fortune. She is also the sister of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who is secretly advising the Trump team on intelligence matters, as The Intercept reported Tuesday. The Prince and DeVos families’ merger through marriage was reminiscent of the monarchies of old Europe, and since the 1980s they have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican campaign coffers and the war chests of far-right religious organizations, at least one of which — the Family Research Council — has been designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Scahill again:

When I heard that, I pulled up the 990 tax documents of the Prince Foundation, which I investigated for my book “Blackwater.” Betsy DeVos was clearly listed as a vice president of the foundation’s board, along with her brother Erik, for many years, at least until 2014. DeVos was a vice president during the precise period Hassan was referring to.

 

Caught scamming customers, Ken Griffin settles with the SEC.

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Citadel Securities has reached a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Citadel belongs to billionaire hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin. The price tag for the agreement is $22.6 million.

The SEC said Citadel and Griffin misled customers.

That’s a nice way of saying he cheated them.

While admitting neither guilt or innocence, why would an innocent man pay $22.6 million?

Reuters:

The SEC found that between 2007 and 2010, Citadel used two algorithms to execute stock trades on customers’ behalf that gave investors a worse price for their trades, even when Citadel knew better prices existed elsewhere. The SEC penalized Citadel for failing to disclose the use of those algorithms to clients.

“This affected millions of retail orders,” said Stephanie Avakian, the acting director of enforcement at the SEC.

Griffin is Illinois’ richest man and one of the wealthiest guys in the world.

He is a pal and contributor to both Democrat Rahm Emanuel and Republican Bruce Rauner.

While Illinois may be broke, its richest man sure isn’t. Even after paying a measly $22 million fine to the SEC.

Teachers may get furloughed, but Ken is doing great.

As someone who makes his money from hedge funds he pays a smaller state income tax rate than you do.

Unfazed by his SEC troubles, Griffin has recently been active in the Florida real estate market.

Chicago billionaire philanthropist Ken Griffin has paid $85 million for an oceanfront estate in Palm Beach, Fla., that neighbors property he already owns there.

It’s the second-highest-dollar single real estate transaction ever, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. First was a 2008 deal by President-elect Donald Trump, who sold a renovated mansion in the area for a $95 million.

Griffin, the founder of the Chicago-based hedge fund company Citadel and the market-maker Citadel Securities, plans to build a massive estate. The vacation home will straddle the two properties he now owns and will be designed by San Francisco-based architect Ugo Sap.

The Daily News says Griffin now owns more than 12 acres of contiguous land with about 871 feet of oceanfront. The tab for all that property: $229.85 million.

 

Grizzly bears in the classroom.

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Michael Petrilli is President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, editor of Education Next and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To put it plainly, he does not sit on my side of the aisle.

He loves choice and charters and Betsy DeVos.

Yesterday was not a good day for him. He offered a defensive Tweet.

But it was too late. The flood gates were open. Who knew who was first?

 

 

 

 

 

DeVos’ defenders, like Petrilli, complained that she wasn’t prepared. But what was the billionaire Amway heiress supposed to do? She was just being who she was: Entitled. Not too smart. Ideological. I appreciated that.

I mean, when you can’t recall whether or not you gave $2oo million to the Republican Party – not because you can’t remember whether you did or you didn’t but because you can’t remember how many millions you gave.

I would remember that for sure. I remember giving $37 to the Sanders campaign, for example.

Besides, the Grizzly bear issue is not that outlandish.

There was that time when our school was running a lockdown drill about three years prior to my retirement. Our principal was not too grounded in reality and she had come up with the idea to get on the school intercom and announce the start of the drill with the signal, “There’s a big dog running loose in the hallway.”

This was better than saying there was a gunman or terrorist in the building which she thought, correctly, would upset the young students.

Although the idea of a big dog running loose had the high probability of having the same impact.

Wiser heads prevailed and she was convinced to come up with another code.

Although not a Grizzly bear.

 

Betsy DeVos and the Prince of darkness.

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Okay.

So the next Secretary of Education doesn’t know what the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is.

She thinks schools should have guns in case of Grizzley bears.

I have to admit that I found Al Franken’s gotcha on the debate over growth scores and competency a little confusing myself. I get that it showed that Betsy DeVos has little knowledge of school jargon. But, I mean, what was the past administration’s position on this alleged debate?

Given the time allotted, the Committee’s Democrats did the best they could to undermine the inevitable Secretary of Education.

I found myself wondering: Where was this sharp grilling when Arne Duncan was sitting before them? In so many ways, he set the groundwork on charters and privatization where Betsy will now try and take us.

But for those who opposed Arne Duncan on the basis that his Department exemplified too much federal control, we will now get Betsy “Let-the-states-decide” Devos.

Make America state’s rights again.

This will not be good news for parents of special needs children who depended on federal mandates, often weakly enforced and underfunded – but still there.

Watching the hearings I skipped my plan to begin watching season four of Shameless.

As it turned out, Shameless was exactly what I was watching.

What could be worse news than Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Eduction?

Jeremy Scahill reports that Betsy’s brother Erik Prince of Blackwater fame is now a close advisor to President-elect Trump.

Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and she has all but vowed to embark on a crusade to push a privatization and religious agenda in education that mirrors her brother’s in military and CIA affairs. Prince has long been a contributor to the campaign of fellow Christian warrior Mike Pence, and he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother, Elsa, pitched in another $50,000. That organization, run by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, was one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign.

According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in December Prince attended the annual “Villains and Heroes” costume ball hosted by Mercer. Dowd wrote that Palantir founder Peter Thiel showed her “a picture on his phone of him posing with Erik Prince, who founded the private military company Blackwater, and Mr. Trump — who had no costume — but joke[d] that it was ’N.S.F.I.’ (Not Safe for the Internet).”

Not even Trump is brazen enough to give Prince a public post in his administration. But Prince is operating in the shadows, where he has always been most at home.

There will be no Senate confirmation hearing of Erik Prince.