Vol. 12    No. 2
January 19, 2017
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                                     Alternative Facts
A Broad Civil Rights Agenda
Mary Frances Berry at the City-County King
Holiday Celebration
One can’t help but continue to be horrified by the pronouncements and appointments of Donald Trump.

Take his choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. DeVos is basically a politician, not an educator, who believes that a market model —
read privatization — of America’s public schools is needed. DeVos is an advocate for school choice and vouchers. She is not a teacher, principal
or even school board member that I could tell. Yet she will be the number one educator of our country.

This reflects a certain level of arrogance that one does not need to believe in public education or even have a certain level of expertise as long
as one has a MBA frame of mind to make it all efficient and achieve its goals. While I am all for efficiency — I run a business and have to be
economically efficient in order to survive — this efficiency approach to education will result in cut after cut after cut until public education has
been dummied down to its lowest common denominator i.e. the basic skills needed to enter the workforce. Or in the case of UW-Madison, try to
make a premier educational institution into a sophisticated voc-tech school.

I can’t help but feel that the standard of efficiency used as the only worthy factor will steer public education — or should I say publically-funded
education — away from helping students become independent and critical thinkers and contributing citizens of their communities and more toward
the basic ingredient of being a good worker who doesn’t question authority and has no real vision of the larger world in which they live.

I shudder just to think of Betsy DeVos — who got her job through her Republican fundraising prowess, a way to buy a position using other people’
s money — as the chief educator of this country.

I also have grave concerns over Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobile, becoming our next Secretary of State.

Remember back in 2000 when Dick Cheney, the head of Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oil field service companies, became vice-
president? Remember when Cheney vociferously proclaimed that Iraq had the fictitious weapons of mass destruction, which paved the way for
the U.S. to initiate the Iraq War? And remember when Halliburton got a lot of no-bid federal contracts to provide services to the U.S. military i.e. the
privatization of many functions of the U.S. military? Do you remember when it was really all about the oil? And even now, did you hear that Donald
Trump said that we should have kept the oil?

Well it just so happens that Exxon Mobile has more acreage in Russia under exploratory drilling rights than they do in the United States, 63.7
million acres in Russia compared to 14.6 million in the United States. And did you know that Exxon Mobile had to shut down an arctic drilling
project in Russia that could yield tens of billions of barrels of oil because of U.S. sanctions against Russia for invading the Ukraine?

And so I have to wonder whose interests Rex Tillerson will be looking out for as Secretary of State? Will he believe as Louis XIV did that “L’état, c’
est moi,” the state is me? Will he believe that what is good for Exxon Mobile is good for the United States? Will he be making deals with Russia —
We’ll give you Eastern Europe if you give us the arctic oil — that could possible harm many of us or our national interests because it is good for
Exxon Mobile? Or as Secretary of State, will he further the arctic ice meltdown and increase global warming because the U.S. won’t negotiate any
international climate change accords?

Does Tillerson deny climate change? These are things I want to know.

And it concerns me about the Trump administrations non-belief in the scientific method and facts. Or should I say that they believe in alternative
facts?

In spite of facts, Trump asserted that his inauguration was viewed by more people than at any time in U.S. history. Trump’s mindset is that he is
victorious and the best in anything that he does. There are no independent facts. The facts are what he says they are. There is no such thing as an
independent reality out there. Reality is what he makes it. Remember when Hillary Clinton had been declared to have won the popular vote in last
November’s election? Trump claimed that there was massive voter fraud, ineligible people voting, millions of them. And so he won the true vote.
Of course there was no fraud involved when he won close victories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Fraud only happens when Trump
isn’t the best at everything he does.

And so here we have him claiming that his was the largest inaugural crowd in U.S. history. I was at President Obama’s inaugurations in 2009 and
2013 and viewing the aerial photos of Trump’s crows and Obama’s crowd, there is no way that he came close to Obama’s crowds. And yet he
arrogantly says that his was the largest because anything else would be a mortal wound to his ego.

Who are we going to believe, Trump or our own lying eyes?

And then the salt in the wounds is Trump’s press secretary arguing with the press about the questions on the size of the crowd, trying to badgering
them into asking questions only he wants to answer. His chief qualification must have been to emulate Trump and be a big bully.

And then there is one of Trump’s chief advisors, Kellyanne Conway claiming that they were using alternative facts in making the assertion that
Trump’s inaugural crowd was the largest.

This will be the most unscientific, creationist administration in history. Trump is the best at that, hands down.