Progressive Breakfast for April 20

Morning Message Chuck Tyler

Why We Must Save the VA for Veterans

As a ten-year U.S. Army combat veteran, I’ve felt my share of aches and pains following my service to my country. And I know firsthand how the Veterans Administration uniquely cares for returning war-fighters. That’s why I’m alarmed by the talk about privatizing VA healthcare. Trump's pick to lead the agency - Dr. Ronnie Johnson, his personal physician - seems like a good guy. But he's deeply unqualified to lead the agency, which is the second-largest in the Federal government and provides essential care to nine million veterans.

Dems Say No To VA Privatization

Dems see red line for VA nominee on privatization. CNN: “Democratic senators who have met with White House physician Ronny Jackson, the President’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, have made clear that privatization of veterans’ medical care is a red line for them. If Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy, supports privatization, they won’t back his nomination. So far, they say, Jackson has signaled emphatically that he doesn’t support it. As of yet, no Democrats have publicly thrown their support — or opposition — behind Jackson, saying they still have unanswered questions and want to see Jackson show his spine and rebuff the White House on one of the President’s central campaign promises.”

Climate Change Denier Approved To Head NASA

Trump’s next NASA administrator is a Republican congressman with no background in science. Vox: “The US Senate on Thursday confirmed Jim Bridenstine, a Republican Congress member from Oklahoma, to be the next administrator of NASA… Bridenstine, 42, brings some odd qualifications to the job, and some controversy. Typically, NASA administrators are chosen from within NASA’s ranks, come up through the military, or have a background in science. Bridenstine has none of that… As a politician, Bridenstine has hedged on climate change, an issue NASA scientists study and track in many different ways. During his confirmation hearing in November, Bridenstine agreed that humans are the driving force behind climate change, but he would not agree with the assertion that human activity is the primary cause of it. It’s an odd position to hold as the leader of an agency that provides some of the most comprehensive data on climate change in the world. NASA has a staff of 17,000 and a budget of nearly $19 billion (not to mention the numerous contractors it works with). Bridenstine’s experience of managing a museum in Tulsa pales in comparison to the enormous complexity of NASA.”

Teachers Union Drops Wells Fargo Over NRA

National teacher’s union cuts ties with Wells Fargo over bank’s ties to NRA, guns. NPR: “The American Federation of Teachers said Thursday that it is cutting its financial ties with Wells Fargo as a result of the banking giant’s relationships with the National Rifle Association and gunmakers. The AFT, a 1.7-million-member national union, is dropping the bank as a recommended mortgage lender, to which it currently channels more than 20,000 AFT mortgages. The decision came after Wells Fargo dismissed the union’s request to cut lending ties with or impose new restrictions on firearms business partners following the mass shooting Feb. 14 that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.”

Nationwide Student Walkout To Protest Guns

National School Walkout renews calls for gun safety. CNN: “Students from more than 2,500 schools across the country will stream out of class Friday as part of a National School Walkout to demand action on gun reform. The event held on April 20 also marks the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, when a gunman killed 12 students and a teacher. In the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school, many students – including current Columbine students – say not enough has been done to help prevent mass shootings. During the walkout, which starts at 10 a.m. in each time zone, students will leave their classrooms and observe a moment of silence for shooting victims. Other actions during the day will include marching to a local lawmaker’s office, allowing open-mic time for students to share concerns and helping register those who are eligible to vote.”

AZ Teachers Vote For Statewide Walkout

Arizona teachers vote in favor of statewide walkout. NBC: “Arizona teachers have voted to walk off the job to demand increased school funding, marking a key step toward a first-ever statewide strike that builds on a movement for higher pay in other Republican-dominant states. A grassroots group and the state’s largest teacher membership group said Thursday that teachers will walkout April 26. The vote was held following weeks of growing protests and an offer from Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers 20 percent raise by 2020. Many teachers kept up the pressure at schools and on social media, saying the plan failed to address much-needed funding for classrooms and support staff. ‘The worst possible thing we could do is not take action right now,’ said Noah Karvelis, an organizer for Arizona Educators United.”

AZ GOP’s Lesko Copied Bills From ALEC Lobbyists

AZ GOP candidate Debbie Lesko copied and pasted bills written by ALEC lobbyists. The Intercept: “Republican candidate for Tuesday’s special election to Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, cut her teeth in the state legislature, where she has long served as the point person for corporate lobbyists to shape public policy. Lesko’s work attending to corporate interests was mainly carried out through her position as a senior member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC… State legislative records show that Lesko, a board member of ALEC, routinely sponsored ALEC model bills, often without changing more than a few words. One ALEC model bill produced in 2013 suggested language to demand that the state produce a handbook to educate parents about so-called school choice. ‘The catalogue shall describe the educational choices available to students in the state,’ said the second section of ALEC’s model, ‘including but not limited to {as applicable} open enrollment, charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, tuition tax credit scholarships, vouchers, and education savings accounts.’ Later that same year, Lesko introduced a bill that read, in part: ‘The handbook shall describe the educational choices available to pupils, including open enrollment, charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, tuition tax credit scholarships and empowerment scholarship accounts.'”