Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, February 28, 2011

NY Times Poll Shows Support For Public Workers Unions

The corporate media - owned by corporate elites like Mort Zuckerman, Rupert Murdoch, and Michael Bloomberg or huge conglomerates like Comcast, Viacom and Disney - like to portray the country as a place divided between the "haves" (members of public employees unions with cushy jobs, great benefits, good pay and job protections) and the "have nots" (the rest of us without that stuff.)

They say that the rest of America is sick and tired of these unionized public employees with their "gold-plated benefits and pay" and want to bust them (see here for an example from Mort Zuckerman in US News.)

Just watch the cable news networks, even the supposedly "liberal" MSNBC, and you'll hear a bunch of corporate shills dish dirt on unions as "special interests" that most of America no longer supports.

Of all the public sector unions, teachers unions get special attention from corporate media types on both the right and left.

But the NY Times did a little poll about this issue and found the following:

As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them. But the nationwide poll found that embattled public employee unions have the support of most Americans — and most independents — as they fight the efforts of newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to weaken their bargaining powers, and the attempts of governors from both parties to cut their pay or benefits.

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Feb. 24-27 with 984 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said there was a union member in their household, and 25 percent said there was a public employee in their household.

OK, so this poll has a MOE of 3%, which is a helluva lot less than the 12%-35% margins of error the new teacher ratings systems have, so I think we can safely say that we now have hard data to show that Mort Zuckerman, Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the corporate class warriors may NOT be speaking for the country at large like they say they are.

In fact, they speak for themselves, and as corporate moguls with union-busting histories themselves and business interests that are served by powerless employees, they WANT people to think they speak for America at large.

But it looks very much like Americans are starting to wake up to the fact that a teacher in Rhode Island with 15 years seniority making $60,000 a year isn't receiving "gold-plated benefits."

This is good to see.

The fight in Wisconsin is exposing quite a few of the biases of the corporate media, especially the shills who work for Murdoch, Zuckerman and Bloomberg, but it is also providing us with evidence that many Americans think unionized public sector workers are receiving fair wages and benefits and do NOT support the busting of these unions or the downgrading of the wages or benefits that these workers receive.

Another thing we have seen as a result of the fight in Wisconsin is how union workers AND non-union workers are coming together to support the rights of ALL workers.

Watching 100,000 people protest Scott Walker's union-busting policies in Wisconsin has galvanized many in the middle and working classes to begin to FIGHT BACK in the class war being waged by the corporatists.

This is so interesting because I think the Walkers and Bloombergs and Zuckermans and Murdochs think they have this war won and they're just putting the final nails in the feudal chains right now.

And that certainly WAS the case before these past few weeks when protests in SUPPORT of unions and workers have erupted ALL over the country.

Wisconsin was SUPPOSED to be the beginning of the end for public employees unions.

Instead, it is the BEGINNING of the GREAT AWAKENING of the middle and working classes to the class war that has been waged against them for the last 30 years.

As a member of a teachers union in NYC, as the son of unionized policeman and the grandson of a unionized trackman, I couldn't be happier to see this.

As Victor Laszlo told Rick Blaine in Casablanca "Welcome back to the fight."

Framing The Layoff Issue Correctly

Like I noted earlier today, the news accounts of the Mayor4Life's threatened layoffs have so far been almost entirely FROM THE MAYOR'S PERSPECTIVE.

There have been few questions about whether these layoffs are necessary given the mayor's bragging that he has a budget surplus, two billion in extra tax revenue and the governor says they don't have to happen.

Instead the issue has been framed from the perspective that layoffs HAVE to happen, that they are a force of nature that CANNOT be stopped (kinda like a tsunami or really bad diarrhea) but they CAN be mitigated by changes to seniority rules which would allow the mayor to lay off "bad" teachers instead of "good" young ones. But the EVIL teachers union has refused to budge on these archaic (and perhaps communistic) seniority rules and so some schools (particularly ones in Harlem) are going to lose as many as 70% of their teachers and the children will be taught by the custodians and bedbugs.

Or something like that.

There is just NO WAY for the union to win a political fight about layoffs and seniority when that's the way the issue is framed.

So it's imperative that Mulgrew and company stop dining on quail and get out the message that these layoffs DO NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN, that the mayor is CHOOSING to lay people off because he WANTS to, not because he HAS to.

It is also important that the UFT point out all the things Bloomberg and the DOE WASTE money on - like CityTime, tax breaks for rich condo owners, no bid contracts that go millions over budget, etc.

Finally it is important for Mulgrew and company to DEFEND seniority anyway, to note that seniority protects older teachers and veterans who WILL ALWAYS be the ones laid off if seniority protections are weakened or destroyed. In addition, if seniority protections are ended, layoffs will happen EVERY year instead of once every two generations because the mayor and the DOE will be able to FIRE ANYBODY THEY WANT FOR ANY REASON THEY WANT WHENEVER THEY WANT.

These are the important frames for this issue to me, and so far, I haven't seen Mulgrew address the issues very well in the corporate media.

Or if he is framing the issues that way, the corporate media certainly isn't going with that particular frame.

This NY 1 article, for example, STILL frames the issue from the mayor's perspective. The article even uses parents upset about LIFO, saying they don't understand why the union won't budge on seniority instead of FORCING the city to lay off all these great teachers.


I wish I could say to these folks, "Listen, I understand your feelings, but this is an issue that the mayor HIMSELF is forcing. Your kids DON'T have to lose their teachers AT ALL. There is plenty of money in the budget to KEEP ALL of these teachers, but the mayor refuses to do so.

Instead he is FORCING this issue because he is playing politics with the seniority rules.

Why is it so DIFFICULT to get this essential TRUTH about the layoff issue out?

If the union is unable to get this message out SOON, they will lose on this issue and we will see layoffs EVERY year, no matter how the budget looks or the economy is doing because the mayor and the DOE are ALWAYS going to look to save money by laying off veteran teachers.

Just the way they love to lay off older people in private enterprise and private corporations.

They used to call it downsizing.

Then it got renamed outsourcing.

Whatever you want to call it, it basically means that if you hit a certain age or make a certain level of income, when a company decides to let people go, your ass is first on the list.

If the mayor and his ed deform shills are allowed to win this seniority issue, the school system will quickly become a 5 YEAR AND UNDER racket.

I know that's exactly what Bloomberg, Obama, Christie, Rhee, Klein, Black, Cuomo, et al. want.

But the public doesn't know that's what they want.

The public needs to be informed about this.

Perhaps they think it's a good idea to have a constantly rotating teacher corps of 22-27-year old Barbie and Ken Educators4Excellence dolls in the classroom.

But I doubt it.

They, like most humans, know that the schools need both younger and older teachers, that experience in both the classroom and life informs a teacher's work as much as the energy and verve that the ed deformers say the younger teachers bring.

That has been my experience, at any rate.

I suspect it has been the experience of many of you out there in the DOE too.

Now let's get this TRUTH across to the city.

And UFTer's, for god sakes, can you frame an issue correctly for once?

The layoffs and budget cuts are NOT about snow.

They are about a mayor and a power elite that would rather cut income taxes on millionaires and let millionaire condo owners pay pennies to the dollar on their real estate taxes while slashing school budgets to the bone and laying teachers off than do what's right for the school system.

If you're having trouble framing things that way, you could get Cynthia Nixon to do it for you.

She managed to do this Cuomo budget issue pretty well:

R.A. Salvatore On The Fight Against The Middle Class

Fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore posted this at the Daily Kos yesterday:

"I stand with the protesters in Wisconsin."

And started a firestorm...

This will be a very short diary, as others more in the know are covering Wisconsin brilliantly.

As an aside to the larger issue: I have been wringing my hands for years over whether it is right and wise to speak my mind politically, or to only do so anonymously. My first account at Dkos was under a different name.

in truth, I really can't believe that I went to a Facebook fan page and let fly on Wisconsin, even in such a minimalist way. That tells me something about how strongly I feel that THIS fight in Wisconsin is a pivotal battle in the future of America. Personally, I believe that an America where the middle class can't afford their health care, their college education, their retirement, even their homes, is an America doomed.

A couple of posters have already said they won't read my books anymore...oh well.

To the bigger issue: unions are the only things that are going to save the middle class. The Democrats - even those who believe in the middle class - won't be able to do it, or won't dare try, but the Republicans will continue to go after them for the benefit of the already obscenely rich.

I'm a blue collar kid from a blue collar neighborhood. Shared sacrifice? How about making the wealthy pay a bit more?


Take 'Em Down

The Dropkick Murphys have released this pro-union song in solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin:

Their website is here.

The new record is out on March 1 and can be purchased from Amazon here.

Glenn Beck and his right wing wacko squad have gone after the Dropkick Murphys
, so it is important to show the band support even as they support the unionized workers in Wisconsin.

I like the Dropkick Murphys anyway, so why not buy the cd in time for Saint Jimmy Cagney Day in a few weeks?

And then take 'em down.

Bloomberg Releases Layoff List - Then Travels To Albany To Lobby For End To LIFO

The media mogul/billionaire dictator really knows how to frame issues.

First he had the DOE release a list of projected layoffs late last night that shows some schools will lose almost half their current teachers to layoffs.

Then he travels to Albany to lobby for the bills in the Assembly and the State Senate that he HIMSELF paid for that end seniority protections for teachers.

And of course all the papers frame the story the way he wants it framed and will no doubt frame the Albany story the way the mayor wants it framed too unless some Assemblyman gets up in his face and says he's full of shit pushing this LIFO issue when layoffs do NOT have to happen because the city has a surplus and $2 billion extra in tax revenue.

I guess media coordination is what you get when you have a billionaire media mogul with close allies at all the other corporate-owned media outlets who wants to get out his anti-union anti-teacher propaganda aimed at creating fear among teachers, students and parents so that he can demagogue the LIFO issue.

The Lay Off Issue Framed As All About LIFO

Just watched CBS 2 and the layoff issue was framed almost completely around the seniority issue.

Not should layoffs be done, but why do veteran teachers get protected?

So there you have it from one media outlet - the layoff issue framed completely from Bloomberg's perspective.

Bloomberg is not put on the defensive for insisting upon layoffs when the city has a budget surplus, $2 billion in extra tax revenue, and the governor has declared no layoffs have to happen under his proposed state budget.

Instead, the teachers union is the problem and the layoffs will happen unless LIFO is changed in Albany.

Heckuva job, UFT.

Somehow an issue which should be of moderate difficulty to frame - layoffs don't have to happen because the city has a budget surplus, $2 billion in extra tax revenue, and the governor has declared no layoffs have to happen under his proposed state budget - you guys have managed to allow Bloomberg to frame as: the evil teachers union won't change seniority so schools with newer teachers are going to lose 70% of their staff.

Let's see if the UFT can change the framing of the story by the 6 PM news.

They had better, or Bloomberg is going to get what he wants.

And make no mistake, if seniority changes occur, layoffs will happen every few years instead of once every two generations.

UPDATE: This NY Daily News article isn't much better than the CBS 2 report - it's all about how seniority and LIFO will exacerbate the problems with the layoffs instead of looking at whether layoffs actually have to be done.

Where Are The Dems And The Protesters On The Rhode Island Firings?

I don't get it.

The mayor of Providence FIRED EVERY teacher in the city on Thursday and I have yet to see ANY action from the union to push back on this.

I know that the protests in Wisconsin are sucking up a lot of media oxygen, but it shouldn't be too difficult to tie the Rhode Island firings to the Wisconsin workers' protests.

I wonder if the fact that the mayor is a Democrat has anything to do with the silence on the part of many on the left on this issue?

I also wonder if Barack Obama, cheerleading the firing of teachers up the road from Providence in Central Falls, Rhode Island last year doesn't complicate this somewhat?

Not for me, of course.

I see Barack OBama for EXACTLY who he is - a bought politician doing the dirty work of his corporatist owners and overlords, no different from George Bush or Bill Clinton before him.

Frankly on education, Obama is EVEN WORSE then Bush, perhaps because the Dems in Congress decided to give in on every neo-liberal wet dream policy Obama wanted as part of Race to the Top - from school closures, to teacher firings to merit pay to teacher evaluations tied to test scores.

No way the Dems would have given Bush that stuff.

So now here we are, a year and a half later and the fall-out from the concerted Obama teacher bashing policies are coming to fruition all across the country, but especially so in Rhode Island.

It's easy for the Dems and the unions to get together and push back against Scott Walker for trying to bust the public employees unions in Wisconsin.

But how do they get together to push back against a Democratic mayor who fires ALL of the teachers in his city in order to bust their union after a Democratic president put into place policies that helps unionbusters in public education and cheerled the firing of teachers in Rhode Island last year?

The fight in Wisconsin?

That's R vs. D.

But the fight in Rhode Island?

That's Dem vs. Teachers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

NYCDOE Releases Layoff List

Bloomberg says he is laying teachers off despite a budget surplus, $2 billion in extra tax revenue this year and the declaration by Governor Cuomo that no school layoffs have to happen in NYC.

Tonight he released the school layoff list
as a scare tactic to get the State Senate and Assembly to change seniority rules for him so that he can lay off whomever he wants whenever he wants:

The New York City Department of Education made public on Sunday a list that estimates the number of teachers each school will lose to layoffs if the state does not allocate more money for schools and seniority rules are not changed.

The layoffs, totaling 4,675 teachers, 6 percent of the active teachers in the system, would spare virtually no academic subject or neighborhood, and they would affect 80 percent of the approximately 1,600 public schools in the city. Most would lose one to five teachers; nine would lose half of the teachers they have.

The list details the worst case, and its projections may never materialize. City Hall chose to release it as the State Senate prepared to vote on a bill that would allow the city to lay off teachers based on factors like performance and disciplinary records, rather than seniority. By releasing the list, the department hopes to draw more parents to its corner by reminding them that virtually no school would be untouched.

The mayor DOESN'T need to lay off any teachers.

He's doing this to get his way on seniority.

Will it work?


I do know that if I were a parent in a school that was going to see a ton of layoffs, I wouldn't be mad at HOW the layoffs were done, I would be mad AT the guy who did the layoffs, especially since the governor says they don't have to happen.

That would be Bloomberg.

Given all the money he spends on no bid contracts and outside consultants, all the money he refuses to collect from rich condo owners for taxes, all the money he spends on testing contracts and the like, the money is ABSOLUTELY in the budget to stave off layoffs.

That is the bottom line here

As Mulgrew said:

"I think it's clearly a strategy of the mayor to try to create fear and panic amongst people when he has a three billion dollar surplus and doesn't need to do layoffs.

What Time Tonight Does Waiting For Superman Win The Oscar?

And will Michelle Rhee put the Oscar statuette next to the broom on her "No Excuses" mantelpiece?


(Woody Guthrie)
Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land
Hard working man and brave
He said to the rich, "Give your goods to the poor."
So they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand
His followers true and brave
One dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
Has laid Jesus Christ in his grave
He went to the sick, he went to the poor,
And he went to the hungry and the lame;
Said that the poor would one day win this world,
And so they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
He went to the preacher, he went to the sheriff,
Told them all the same;
Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the Poor,
But they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
When Jesus came to town, the working folks around,
Believed what he did say;
The bankers and the preachers they nailed him on a cross,
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
Poor working people, they follered him around,
Sung and shouted gay;
Cops and the soldiers, they nailed him in the air,
And they nailed Jesus Christ in his grave.
Well the people held their breath when they heard about his death,
And everybody wondered why;
It was the landlord and the soldiers that he hired.
That nailed Jesus Christ in the sky.
When the love of the poor shall one day turn to hate.
When the patience of the workers gives away
"Would be better for you rich if you never had been born"
So they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
This song was written in New York City
Of rich men, preachers and slaves
Yes, if Jesus was to preach like he preached in Galillee,
They would lay Jesus Christ in his grave.

Do Barack Obama And Arne Duncan SUPPORT The Firing Of Every Teacher In Providence?

As Modern School points out here, two weeks ago Secretary of Collaboration Arne Duncan praised the Rhode Island teachers union for all the "collaboration" they have done with the districts in the state.

Last week, the mayor of Providence FIRED EVERY teacher in the city.

Ironically, Obama's Secretary of Collaboration Arne Duncan was silent on the Rhode Island firings.

Perhaps that was because, despite all the collaboration the unionized teachers in Providence have done on issues like Race to the Top, school closures and teacher evaluations, Duncan SUPPORTS the FIRING of EVERY teacher in Providence.

I think, considering his (and his boss's) cheerleading of the FIRING of EVERY teacher up the road in Central Falls, Rhode Island last year, a pretty good argument could made that both Duncan and Obama SUPPORT the FIRING of EVERY teacher in Providence.

Perhaps somebody could ask the Secretary of Collaboration the next time they see him about this?

Or perhaps somebody could ask his boss, President Obama?

I think their silence on this issue is more telling than any jive ass words they could utter, but let's hear those words anyway.

FOX's Roger Ailes To Be Indicted?

The NY Times reported that Ailes urged Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators about her relationship to Bernie Kerik when they were vetting him for DHS.

Barry Ritholtz says the scuttlebutt has Ailes getting indicted this week on that charge.

Apparently Ms. Regan taped her conversations with Ailes and this has the lie on tape.

One of the commenters at Barry's site notes:

This would just be so sweet, given Fox News’ war on women and minorities through (doctored) tape recordings!

They do tend to do that, don't they?

Well, maybe they'll claim this tape, if it really exists, is doctored too and show us just how they do the deed at FOX News every night...

Where Are The Education Reformers On Collective Bargaining Rights?

Russo says they're either silent and hoping nobody notices or making lame one sentence comments and hoping nobody notices.

Well, of course.

Obama, Duncan, Rhee, Eduwonk, Gates, Broad - these people don't want a powerful teachers union with the right to collectively bargain.

Rather, they want a defanged union easily manipulated to "collaborate" with the feds, states and districts to enable the continued privatization and charterization of the school system.

Their silence on the Wisconsin fight - or in Obama's and Duncan's case, their essential silence since the words they issued in "support" of unions were NOT followed up by any meaningful actions - exposes them for who they are and the policies they want.

They are corporatists looking to bust the unions, disempower working and middle class people and impose their privatization and charterization policies on the entire country.

As for the DFER's "supporting" teachers rights to collectively bargain and be part of the union, well, they may SAY that's what they support, but their actions and efforts say otherwise.

I have yet to see the DFER's miss an opportunity to support the closing of a union school, the firing of unionized teachers and the replacement of both with non-unionized charter schools and help.

"Support" like the DFER's offer, unions can do without.

As for Obama and Duncan, smarmy arrogant pricks that they are, they probably think they've walked the tightrope just right here.

They undoubtedly think by issuing words of support, they have fooled the union people into thinking they're on the union side, but by taking no meaningful action to help the unions in this fight, they have signaled to the corporatists just whose side they're on.

Don't think the more discerning members of the teaching profession haven't noticed that tightrope act, boys.

We have.

And we'll be sure to remember that in 2012 and let the rest of union colleagues know as well.

One last thing I would like to say about this - I don't agree too often with deformer Mike Antonucci, but his post that this Wisconsin fight, coming during the same week that Duncan put together Collaborpalooza in which unions and districts supposedly got together at the behest of the Obama admin to find ways to collaborate on reform, is a "work of fate."

I agree.

It exposes this collaboration stuff as the jive it is.

As I noted in this post here, the Rhode Island union collaborated at every opportunity it was asked to do so - on RttT, on teacher evaluations, on school turnarounds - and got 2,000 fired teachers in Providence for its efforts.

EVERY teacher in Providence, Rhode Island got FIRED.

Collaboration did not save them.

Reformers friendly to the union while the collaboration was happening did not come out in support when they were all canned.

Duncan and Obama, cheerleaders of teacher firings in the state just last year, have been COMPLETELY silent on this horror.

That, my union friends and colleagues, is where "collaboration" gets you.

Better to take the streets, put up the barricades, and take a baseball bat to collaboration.

Citigroup's Pandit Belongs In Jail

Another day, another allegation of wrongdoing by one of the Masters of the Universe:

Outspoken bank analyst Michael Mayo turned up the heat on a long-simmering dustup between himself and Citigroup's top brass.

In a one-page research note yesterday, Mayo accused Citi CEO Vikram Pandit of breaking Wall Street securities law only months after taking the helm of the bank in early 2008.

Mayo's accusations center on recently unearthed records that show that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency sent a letter to Citi on Feb. 14, 2008, informing the bank that the regulator harbored serious concerns about its internal risk controls.

Despite the letter, Pandit signed documents vouching for the integrity of the firm's internal controls and its public filings just days later.

According to Sarbanes-Oxley rules, both Pandit and Citi's chief financial officer at the time, Gary Crittenden, are required to sign off on Citi's publicly released financial records.

Merely eight months later, Citi accepted a $20 billion lifeline from Uncle Sam, which included a government agreement to guarantee $300 billion in dicey mortgage securities.

"The failure to highlight any disagreements or concerns on valuations and controls by Citi's primary regulator seems to us like a breach of Sarbanes-Oxley requirements to formally vouch for the company's financials," Mayo wrote.

In a statement Citi said its actions were "appropriate" at the time.

"Citi maintains rigorous disclosure controls and procedures to support its CEO and CFO certifications," said Citi spokeswoman Shannon Bell.

"These controls and procedures were followed in connection with the filing of the 10K in February 2008, and Citi's certifications were entirely appropriate," the spokeswoman added.

The three-year-old OCC report has come to light after the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission recently released a 545-page report and reams of documents obtained as a part of its year-long investigation into the roots of the financial crisis.

Mayo told The Post that the new revelation raises questions about Citi's current risk management practices.

"We've got ongoing concerns about Citi's risk management," he said.

Is Pandit in jail?

Nope - he's getting a raise:

Four of Citigroup’s top executives will receive a total of nearly $12m in cash if the bank’s core operations earn a total of $12bn over the next two years, in a profit-sharing scheme that has raised eyebrows among some corporate governance experts.

John Havens, Citi’s second-in-command below the chief executive Vikram Pandit, stands to earn at least $5.2m, if Citi hits the profit target, while Manuel Medina-Mora, the head of the bank’s consumer unit and of its Latin America operations, could earn $2.7m. Alberto Verme, chief executive of Citi’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is in line for a $2.3m pay-out while John Gerspach, the finance chief, could get $1.7m.

The payments will be tied to the performance of Citicorp, the group’s core operations, and exclude the earnings or losses recorded by Citi Holdings, the unit that houses non-core assets and businesses to be divested.

The awards are part of US banks’ drive to tie more of their executives’ compensation to long-term performance as regulators push Wall Street to reform its pay structures. The Citi executives will receive two-thirds of their awards in January 2013, with the rest payable a year later.

Silly, RBE, expecting accountability for a Master of the Universe.

Maybe if Pandit were a teacher...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ireland Throws Crooked Bankster Government Out

Not that the new crooks will be any better than the old crooks, but it's good to see SOMEBODY pay for the mess the banks and the hedge fund criminals made in Ireland.

Unfortunately it wasn't the banksters and hedge fund criminals:

LONDON — Ireland ousted its discredited government on Saturday, electing new leaders who pledged to restore faith in the country after the trauma of a calamitous economic collapse.

With most of the votes counted after the general election on Friday, a coalition government of the center-right Fine Gael and the Labour Party was on track to win a comfortable majority in Parliament.


Fianna Fail, which has run the government for 14 years, suffered its worst showing in its more than 80-year history. It won 78 seats in 2007; this time, it was on course to win as few as 25. Of the 47 parliamentary seats in Dublin, only the seat held by Brian Lenihan, who served in the government as finance minister, was set to go to Fianna Fail.


Fianna Fail has been blamed for presiding over an economy that spiraled out of control and then, unregulated and unmanageable, came crashing down. In 2008, when Ireland’s spectacular building boom collapsed, and the Irish banks that had fueled it threatened to collapse, too, the government, led by Prime Minister Brian Cowen, tried to solve the crisis by pledging to guarantee the banks’ debts.

That move has proved to be a huge drain on the nation’s finances, with the government pumping tens of billions of dollars into the banks to keep them afloat. In November, Ireland reluctantly accepted an international loan worth about $93 billion; in return, it pledged to adhere to a brutal four-year austerity program and to repay much of the money at onerous interest rates.

The terms of the loan humiliated Ireland, and many economists say they are worried that the country will be unable to keep up with even the interest payments.

Mr. Cowen, whose resignation as party leader last month led to the election, said in a television interview that his government had nothing to be ashamed of. He said he had explained his decisions fully and repeatedly.

“Everything I did, I did for the good of this country as I saw it; I did it conscientiously,” he told the state broadcasting network RTE.

You want to know what Cowen and the ruling bankster party did for the country?


Unemployment is up to 13.8 percent (it was as low as 4.2 percent as recently as 2005); public spending has been savagely and repeatedly cut since 2008; the deficit has risen to 14.3 percent; and current predictions suggest that 100,000 people will emigrate in the next several years, from a population of 4.3 million. The bill from the struggling banks may, in the end, total upward of $135 billion 100 billion euros, in an economy with a G.D.P. of $220 billion 160 billion euros.

Heckuva job, Mr. Cowen.

Heckuva job.

And how's that austerity thing going?

Not so well, I think.

Which is why thousands are sailing again:

Can't wait to see what austerity does here.

How Goldman Sachs And Wall Street Caused The Wisconsin Mess

From the CBS Business Network:

Wisconsin state employees fighting for their jobs should ask Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein for their money back.

What’s the connection? During the dog days of the financial crisis in 2008, the investment bank advised clients to bet that Wisconsin and 10 other U.S. states would go broke by purchasing credit default swaps against their debt. For Goldman and other Wall Street firms that used this ploy, the beauty part was that they had also previously earned millions in fees by helping most of those states sell municipal bonds.

In other words, these banks made money by finding investors to buy state debt, then made more money by selling derivatives to other investors who wanted to short that debt. As Bloomberg reported at the time:

As part of a September presentation to institutional investors on “Best Long and Short Risk Strategies,” Goldman recommended buying credit-default swaps on “a basket of liquid State General Obligation credits with current and worsening fiscal outlooks,” including California, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The firm also recommended the derivatives on states with “significant unfunded pension” and other retiree obligations, including Illinois, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Nevada.

2008: A very bad year for Wisconsin

For states, growing concerns about their credit raised their borrowing costs. Estimates suggest that a one percent interest rate hike on a $1 billion bond issue would cost taxpayers roughly $10 million a year. In 2008, rates in Wisconsin more than tripled, reaching 15 percent.

Wisconsin, other states, and scores of town and cities around the country also lost big after going to Wall Street to buy variable-rate auction securities and other types of structured financial products. The market for auction-rate securities collapsed in early 2008, leaving states and municipalities holding the bag. Goldman and other Wall Street banks agreed that year to pay a total of $160 million in fines over and repurchase $15 billion worth these securities to settle several state probes into the transactions.

In another case of speculation gone awry, some Wisconsin school districts lost millions after purchasing so-called synthetic collateralized debt obligations. Wall Street banks sold CDOs to bet on the value of housing in the years leading up the financial crisis.

How the housing bubble killed pensions

Ancient history, you say? Not at all. Because whatever Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says about the state’s pension problems — which, incidentally, are far less severe than he claims — they’re not the result of employees contributing too little to their retirement. Rather, Wisconsin’s shortfall stems largely from the state getting killed in the stock market during the financial crisis.

As the housing bubble was inflating in 2003, for instance, Wisconsin issued $950 million in auction-rate bonds to fund its pension plan. The bonds did well until mid-2007, when souring subprime loans began rippling into the auction-rate and other bond markets. That turned into a full-blown crisis early the following year, when Goldman, Citigroup (C) and other large Wall Street firms stopped supporting auctions.

The bottom fell out. As the state’s auditor told lawmakers last fall in explaining the long-term impact of Wisconsin pension funds losing nearly $24 billion in 2008:

[T]he value of Wisconsin Retirement System assets has fluctuated significantly over the past ten years as financial markets have experienced their worst decline since the 1930s. For example, losses in 2008 totaled $23.6 billion. While these losses were partially offset by gains of $13.5 billion in 2009, the combined value of the two retirement funds on December 31, 2009, was 17.1 percent below its peak in 2007. The losses of 2008 will significantly affect Retirement System participants and employers for the next several years.

What if states had played it safe?

That’s the broader lesson here for Wisconsin and other states. Numerous state pension funds are hurting not because employee benefits are excessive, as Walker contends (As an aside, see here for a remarkable recording of the governor discussing his plans to, among other things, lay off state workers with someone he thinks is chemicals mogul and Tea Party activist David Koch.) It’s because the financial crisis — caused in part by Wall Street pushing risky products and worsened by banks betting against their own clients — crushed the stock market, which lowered the value of pension fund assets.

Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research calculates that if after 2007 states had instead invested their retirement funds primarily in 30-year Treasury bonds, then state and local pension plans would be $850 billion richer (click on chart below to expand).

As for Blankfein, he should be able to spare a little change for Wisconsinites. His base salary recently tripled, to $2 million, even after he warned the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission last year that raising base pay on Wall Street causes bankers to take risks. No argument there.

Yeah, but this is all about greedy public employees who make too much money and receive too many benefits, you know.

Nothing to do with these crooks.

Lawyering Up For The Layoffs

I posted yesterday that if the Assembly and State Senate bills are passed that allow the mayor to lay off teachers using measures other than seniority - like ever being "u" rated or convicted of any crime or fined by the DOE - the first thing I would do after receiving such a notice is seek legal counsel to protect myself and my job.

Even the Murdoch shills at the Wall Street Journal acknowledge today that laying people off based upon some of these criteria - like ever being convicted of a crime - is problematic and perhaps discriminatory:

A bill introduced in the Senate and soon to be introduced in the Assembly seeks to change the law that requires teachers to be laid off solely on the basis of seniority. It aims at the 529 New York City teachers who have been convicted of crimes.

The bill also aims to put at the top of the layoff list those teachers who have been rated "unsatisfactory" by principals; who have been absent or late too often; or who have faced misconduct allegations that have been substantiated.

The assistant general counsel for New York State United Teachers, Claude Hersh, said he doubts there are 529 teachers who have been convicted of crimes, as most in that position tend to seek out the union for help. He said there are fewer than 50 such cases coming through his office each year, and added that the Department of Education has the option of seeking to dismiss any teacher convicted of a crime, but doesn't always do so.

Mr. Hersh also said that in many cases the crimes are related to teachers who did not properly disclose their incomes as they sought to continue to qualify for subsidized public housing.

The DOE did not provide figures for how often it seeks to dismiss teachers who have been convicted of crimes.

"The vast majority of our teachers are law-abiding citizens who are doing a great job—but, if we have to lay off 4,600 teachers, we certainly think those who have been convicted of crimes should be laid off before a good teacher who has done nothing wrong," said a DOE spokeswoman, Natalie Ravitz.

Legal experts said picking off teachers merely because of their convictions is problematic. State law bars discriminating against people with criminal convictions unless the crime was directly related to the job at hand.

"It's unfair and discriminatory for all employers in New York, not just school teachers, to hold against someone a conviction based on conduct that had nothing to do with the fitness of their job," said Samuel Estreicher, who teaches labor and employment law at the New York University School of Law.

Okay - couple of things here:

First, note that the DOE can ALREADY fire teachers convicted of a crime, but the NYSUT says they don't always seek to do so.

Next, note that the NYSUT doubts the figure of teachers convicted of crimes publicly disclosed by the mayor and the DOE.

Gee - Mayor Moneybags and the DOE lying about data? What a surprise!

Then note that they're going to seek to fire ANYBODY ever convicted of ANY crime - including someone who has been arrested and convicted of trespassing or making a public nuisance during a public protest or someone who got arrested for some public vandalism as a teenager.

In other words, misdemeanors AND felonies will be treated the same under these layoff provisions.

Look, I'm not out to defend teachers convicted of crimes, but I do want to make the point that this is Bloomberg, the DFER's and all the other anti-union forces looking to manipulate public opinion by tarring any teacher ever "u" rated, arrested for something or fined as some scumbag criminal malcontent who belongs in jail, not a NYC classroom.

If that is so, then the DOE ALREADY has the means to seek their dismissal - as they have with the two teachers allegedly found to be having sex in a classroom or the former sex worker who openly bragged about her prostitution past on her blog.

So for the mayor and the DOE and the DFERer's and the Journal to make believe like there is a whole bunch of scumbag criminal malcontents in NYC schools who ought to be fired is just jive.

This is about PUBLIC MANIPULATION to get their way on a larger issue that will allow them to lay off senior teachers at will and save the system millions of dollars.

Finally, let me state again that if the state senate and assembly bills go through with the convoluted provisions for how to lay off teachers using "U" ratings, two years of "bad" student test scores as measured by a value-added assessment with 12%-35% margins of error, a criminal conviction, or a DOE fine, there are SO MANY grounds to sue on, both individually as a teacher and collectively as a union, that the first thing everybody who gets notice should do is LAWYER UP.

34 Year Teaching Vet Says: I Used To Love Teaching, But Not Anymore

Read it.

Then send it to this teacher-bashing asshole.

And tell him that he - along with his corporate benefactors (see here, here, and here for three prime examples) - are a large part of the reason for this.

Rhode Island Firings Strike DIRECTLY At Seniority System

In LA, the ACLU successfully sued to ban the use of seniority in determining layoffs in some schools.

In NY State, Mayor Bloomberg has had his paid state senate and assembly whores introduce bills that will end the seniority system as a basis for layoffs.

There are no guarantees the mayor will get what he wants on this issue, since the plan put into place to replace seniority is complicated and even some lawmakers in favor of ending LIFO for teachers have expressed reservations about the bills.

These are all shots at the seniority system, damaging but perhaps not completely fatal to it.


But the Providence, Rhode Island policy to fire EVERY teacher is fatal if the mayor and the city is allowed to get away with it:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- No matter how you slice it, the decision Thursday by the city School Board to notify Providence teachers that they might be terminated at the end of the school year strikes at the heart of their union contract's seniority system, school experts say.

Mayor Angel Taveras says that the decision he recommended to the board is strictly about balancing the city's budget.

He says that termination will save money because teachers who are dismissed and not rehired will not end up in a substitute teaching pool.

But David V. Abbott, the state's deputy education commissioner, said the difference between layoffs and dismissals is this: When a teacher is laid off under state statute, he or she is put on a recall list. Although that teacher is no longer working and no longer paid, that person exists in an employment "limbo." The teacher hasn't been actually dismissed.

If a job becomes available for which that teacher is qualified, that person must be rehired based on seniority.

"If you are laid off, you have the right of recall," Abbott said Friday. "You still have one stick in your bundle. If I'm dismissed, I'm out of work and I need to be rehired."

In effect, every teacher who is terminated has to re-apply for his or her job as would any new teacher entering the system.

As I pointed out yesterday, Rhode Island has become the union-busting, teacher-bashing laboratory for America, so forget about Wisconsin for a moment and focus your sights here:

If Mayor Taveras is able to get away with this move legally to fire EVERY teacher in the city and rehire whoever he wants to teach (i.e., the cheapest and the newest), then mayors and governors all across the country will be doing this stuff next year.

Yes, the Wisconsin battle is an important one for unions.

But this Rhode Island battle against teachers is even MORE IMPORTANT for teachers.

So Randi Weingarten, rather than issuing some jiveass comments about the move on the same day that she issues an AFT plan to fire teachers ought to be doing what her members want her to do - protect them against corporate scum like Mayor Taveras who seek to balance their budgets - budgets that were blown up by the Wall Street criminals who caused the financial crisis of 2007-2008, btw - on the backs of loyal, hard-working teachers.

Your ball, Randi.

What do you intend to do?

Bloomberg: Stop Whining About PCB's - The Food's Even MORE Toxic

On his radio show yesterday, the mayor told parents, teachers and students to STFU about PCB's and get back to the test prep:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says PCB chemicals found in more than a dozen city public schools do not pose an imminent danger.

Speaking on his radio show this morning, the mayor said polychlorinated biphenyls can be compared to asbestos, in that there is no threat unless the toxins become exposed.

Bloomberg added the city's former health commissioner, Tom Frieden, says a lunchroom staple is more toxic than the schools' lights.

"Tom says basically that one tuna fish sandwich puts more PCBs in your body than breathing air in a normal school for an entire career as a student,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor's remarks came just days after federal inspectors found abnormally high levels of the chemicals at an elementary school in Brooklyn.

After a standoff with the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg recently approved nearly $750 million to replace light fixtures in hundreds of schools over the next 10 years.

The EPA has found toxic PCB levels in EVERY NYCDOE school they spot checked this year.

That's EVERY school.

But the mayor say, "No worries, Starkist is more toxic than the PCB's in the schools!"

Hey, you know what, mayor?

Why don't you get the toxic food AND the toxic PCB's in the lights OUT OF THE SCHOOLS.

Only Bloomberg would think to defend PCB's in the schools by saying that people shouldn't worry because the food is even MORE toxic.

Not ONE Wall Street Criminal Goes To Jail

Joe Nocera of the NY Times, the same guy who gave a print blow job to Joel Klein a few months back for "holding teachers accountable," looks at how the Wall Street criminals who caused the financial collapse of 2007-2008 have ALL gotten off scott free:

Late last week, word leaked out that Mr. Mozilo, who had co-founded Countrywide Financial in 1969 — and, for nearly 40 years, presided over its astonishing rise and its equally astonishing fall — would not be prosecuted by the Justice Department. Not for insider trading. Not for failing to disclose to investors his private worries about subprime loans. Not for helping to create a culture at Countrywide in which mortgage originators were rewarded for pushing fraudulent loans on borrowers.

In its article about the Justice Department’s decision, The Los Angeles Times said prosecutors had concluded that Mr. Mozilo’s actions “did not amount to criminal wrongdoing.”

Just months earlier, the Justice Department concluded that Joe Cassano shouldn’t take the fall for the financial crisis either. Mr. Cassano, you’ll recall, is the former head of the financial products unit of the American International Group, a man whose enthusiasm for credit-default swaps led, pretty directly, to the need for a huge government bailout of A.I.G. There was a time when it appeared that there was no way the government would let Mr. Cassano walk. But it did.

And then there’s Richard Fuld, the man who presided over Lehman Brothers’ demise. Though he was the subject of an investigation shortly after the Lehman bankruptcy, it appears that prosecutors are moving on.

Most of the other Wall Street bigwigs whose firms took unconscionable risks — risks that nearly brought the global financial system to its knees — aren’t even on Justice’s radar screen. Nor has there been a single indictment against any top executive at a subprime lender.

The only two people on Wall Street to have been prosecuted for their roles in the crisis are a pair of minor Bear Stearns executives, Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, whose internal hedge fund, stuffed with triple-A mortgage-backed paper, collapsed in the summer of 2007, an event that anticipated the crisis. A jury acquitted them.

Two and a half years after the world’s financial system nearly collapsed, you’re entitled to wonder whether any of the highly paid executives who helped kindle the disaster will ever see jail time — like Michael Milken in the 1980s, or Jeffrey Skilling after the Enron disaster. Increasingly, the answer appears to be no. The harder question, though, is whether anybody should.


It seems safe to say that the government’s failure to convict those two Bear Stearns executives has caused prosecutors to shy away from bringing other cases. After all, the case against Mr. Cioffi and Mr. Tannin was supposed to be the easy one. By contrast, a case against Angelo Mozilo would have been, from the start, a much harder one to win.

Although the Justice Department never filed charges against Mr. Mozilo, one can assume that its case would have been similar to the civil case brought earlier by the Securities and Exchange Commission. (On the eve of the trial date last fall, the S.E.C. blinked and settled with Mr. Mozilo.) One of the S.E.C.’s charges was insider trading — that Mr. Mozilo sold nearly $140 million worth of stock after he knew the company was in trouble. But the defense countered by pointing out that Mr. Mozilo was selling his stock under an automatic selling program that top corporate executives often use — thus mooting the insider trading accusation.

Like the Bear Stearns executives, Mr. Mozilo had written his share of e-mails expressing worries about some of Countrywide’s loan practices. He called one of Countrywide’s subprime products “the most dangerous product in existence, and there can be nothing more toxic.” The government argued that Mr. Mozilo had a legal obligation to share that information with investors.

But this case, too, would have been awfully difficult to make. Countrywide’s descent into subprime madness was hardly a secret. It made all sorts of crazy adjustable rate mortgages that required no documentation of income; its array of products was also well known and disclosed to investors. Indeed, Mr. Mozilo was quite vocal and public in saying that the housing market was due to fall, and fall hard. But he always assumed that whatever its losses, Countrywide was so strong that it would be one of the survivors and would feast on the carcasses of its former competitors. No internal e-mail he wrote contradicted that belief.

Was there outright fraud at Countrywide? Of course there was. That is a large part of the reason that Bank of America, which bought Countrywide in early 2008, has struggled so mightily with the legacy of all the Countrywide loans now on its books. But most of the fraudulent actions at Countrywide took place at the bottom of the food chain, at the mortgage origination level. It has been well-documented that mortgage brokers induced borrowers to take loans that they never understood, and often persuaded them to lie on their loan applications.

That kind of predatory lending is against the law — and it should be prosecuted. But going after small-time mortgage brokers isn’t nearly as satisfying as putting the big guy in jail, especially a big guy like Mr. Mozilo, who symbolizes to many Americans the excesses and wrongdoing embodied in the subprime lending mess. The problem is that Mr. Mozilo, though he helped create the culture that made such predatory lending acceptable, never made the fraudulent loans himself. Legally, if not morally, he’s off the hook.

A few days ago, I listened to a recording of a lengthy interview with Mr. Mozilo conducted by investigators working for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and posted recently on the commission’s Web site. It was a remarkable performance; Mr. Mozilo expressed no regrets and no remorse. He extolled subprime loans as a way to allow lower-income Americans to get a piece of the American dream and “really build wealth” — just like people used to do during the housing bubble. He bragged that Countrywide, unlike the too-big-to-fail banks, never took a penny of government money. He said that Countrywide had helped put 25 million Americans in homes.

His voice rising passionately, he said finally, “Countrywide was one of the greatest companies in the history of this country.”

Which is a final reason Mr. Mozilo would have been difficult to prosecute. Delusion is an iron-clad defense.
This is the "new normal" in the country, as blowhard Chris Christie likes to say.

The REAL culprits in the financial crisis of 2007-2008 get off scott free.

Public employees and teachers vilified across the country as the problem.

Meanwhile Angelo Mozilo - the scummiest of the Wall Street scum - is free to live off his ill-gotten gains.

Maybe he'll look to rehab his public persona by getting into philanthropy work - you know, like education reform.

What the hell - it's worked for monopolist Bill Gates, slave laborer Steve Jobs, and all the hedge fund criminals at Democrats for Education Reform.

Cory Booker Operates Shadow Government Funded By Billionaires In Newark

Newark Mayor Cory Booker finally offered some information on just who is funding education "reform" in Newark other than Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg:

Newark Mayor Cory Booker Thursday provided his most detailed accounting yet of private donations made to bolster reform efforts in the state’s largest school district.

There is $25 million from a New York investor, $10 million from a venture capitalist, $5 million from a team of husband-and-wife bankers and $3 million from one of the world’s most prominent philanthropists.

The disclosure comes amid a week of questions about just how much Booker has raised to match Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the city schools, what the money is being used for and in what amounts.

It also comes days after revelations of acting state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s relationship with a consulting firm hired by Booker to audit Newark schools. The firm, Global Education Advisors, produced a controversial plan to close or consolidate low-performing, under-enrolled schools and provide space for charter and new high schools.

"There is no hiding going on here with the Zuckerberg grant/Match," Booker wrote in an e-mail.

Ah, but there is LOTS of hiding going on, Mayor Booker.

You still won't say who in your administration gave the go ahead to hire an education reform company started just a few months back by newly appointed New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf and STILL run out of his Montclair, New Jersey house to lead an audit of Newark's schools.

You kept other officials in the Newark education establishment in the dark about these plans so that they didn't realize who was running the audit until they actually met with someone from the group.

And of course you keep saying you have sought public opinion on these plans and gotten consensus even as the announcement that you plan to close schools and replace them with charters - a plan that will DIRECTLY benefit Global Education Advisors, the group that created the plan - has inspired community outrage and anger.

Why not just be open about all of this and say "Listen, I don't give a shit what anybody thinks. I'm going ahead with what my corporate overlords who dole out my money want me to do."

Because that's essentially what you're doing, only you don't have the guts to be open about it.

Here's more from the Newark Star Ledger on just who those overlords are and how they allow Booker to run a shadow government in Newark that operates in secret, subverts the will of the people and enriches the corporate donors to Booker's coffers:

The potential influx of hundreds of millions of dollars into Newark’s public schools has political and education leaders calling for greater oversight of the donations and how they are spent.

"I know the mayor’s heart is in the right place, but the need for greater transparency should be obvious" Assembly Education Committee Chairman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) said.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who sits on the committee that will rule on Cerf’s nomination, said the growing trend of private dollars being spent on public schools will likely require new legislation to govern its use.

"We’re seeing a whole new cottage industry growing in the operation of quasi-public schools," Weinberg said.

"If you want to deal in the public arena, then I’m not sure you can expect anonymity."

Weinberg said she has been dealing with similar issues in gaining disclosure from private for-profit hospitals and parallels with education donations, specifically for charter schools.

"We have to find out who’s spending the money and are they getting any return on their investment other than better students," Weinberg said.

Of the $43 million raised so far, the donations came from:

• $25 million from New York investor William Ackman, head of the Pershing Square Foundation.

• $10 million from venture capitalist John Doerr, a founder of the NewSchools Venture Fund.

• $5 million from Elizabeth and Ravenel Curry, founders of the New York investment firm Eagle Capital Management.

• $3 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

So what's the problem with all of this "free" billionaire philanthropy coming into Newark? Plenty:

Rutgers School of Law-Newark professor Paul Tractenberg said he’s not aware of any state laws that require public officials like Booker to be more forthcoming about donations made to the cities they represent and said the average citizen is not aware of how many private dollars are at work in the public sector. But the lack of a statute is not an excuse for Booker to operate a "shadow government," he said.

"We have a bunch of private people having tremendous influence over education policy, and exercising that influence through public officials, in this case Booker," Tractenberg said. "It’s this notion of ‘I don’t have to act like an elected official, I can act like a private power broker’ and there’s something that really smells about that."

Booker said sending private money to public schools is nothing new, citing districts in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

"There have been millions and millions of private dollars flowing into our public school system over the last decade and years before," Booker said, noting "tremendous investments by private individuals as well as corporate foundations who have been seeking to help our children and NPS leadership in their efforts."

Former Newark Superintendent Marion Bolden said Booker’s use of foundation money to shape education policy is unlawful because he has no authority over the district. Newark has been under state control for the past 15 years and only a citywide vote could return decision-making power to the mayor or the board of education.

"The mayor has no legal role in running the schools, and yet he is acting as if has direct control of the schools," said Bolden, whose contract with the state ended in 2008.

"He would need a referendum in order to take control of the schools but he is bypassing that, pretending he doesn’t need one."

Bolden, who has criticized Booker in the past, said the lack of transparency surrounding Booker’s use of donations like those from the Gates and other foundations disenfranchises Newark residents.

She also predicted that community groups would seek a court order to prevent Booker from meddling in the schools.

Robert Curvin, a prominent education and civil rights leader, said this influx of money represents a growing national trend, but the sheer magnitude of donations in Newark is causing alarm.

"You generally have not had private money take over an entire public sector and that is what is very different here," Curvin said.

As the economy becomes more global, American students are struggling to keep up, Curvin said, which is driving private investment in schools. "Given the nature of globalization there’s thoroughly a sense of nervousness about America’s place in the global marketplace and education is the place where that nervousness is most manifested."

But according to Curvin and others, Booker’s recent handling of events, including a the secret plan to phase out numerous schools, is harming reform efforts in Newark.

"I think it’s a manifestation of a total lack of understanding of urban life," Curvin said.

"If this is the man who says he’s going to set a new standard for urban transformation he has, in my view, shown a lack of understanding of what urban transformation is."

Booker is looking to transform Newark all right - right into a feudal playground owned by the corporate overlords with a corporate school system to train obedient workers and shoppers to do just as the overlords want - WORK, SHOP, OBEY - even as the overlords devour more and more of the power, influence, real estate and wealth until Newark the city and America the country become little more than a quasi-democracy in name but a feudal corporate state in practice.

The corporate overlords need friendly faces to do this work and make no mistake, they like to have people of color like Obama, Booker, Fenty, and Patrick to do this stuff.

It looks better than if you have a bunch of white rich guys like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family and most of the financial industry doing this out front.

But make no mistake, Obama, Booker, Fenty and Patrick are just the face of the neo-urban colonialism we are seeing in places like Newark.

They are operating at the behest of the rich white guys behind them who fund them.

Booker is a crook on the take, operating in the shadows to hand over power and real estate to the corporate interests.

Friday, February 25, 2011

STOP Collaborating!!!

The future of American public education has been happening in Rhode Island these days.

In Central Falls, Rhode Island, teachers were all fired this week last year because their school was "failing". These firings were a DIRECT result of the Obama administration's Race to the Top policy which promotes firing teachers at the "worst" schools in America, closing those schools and reopening them as charters.

Eventually those teachers were rehired when they agreed to concessions like a longer work day, a longer work year and extra professional development.

But the point had been made - GIVE the administrations in Washington, the states and the municipalities what they want or you're gone.

In the year since, the teachers union in Rhode Island has gone out of its way to be collaborative with reform - agreeing to a new teacher evaluation process, signing onto Race to the Top without any reservation (and hrlping the city get $75 million in federal funds), agreeing to other concessions in school turnarounds to make the districts and state happy.

And what have the teachers of both Central Falls, Rhode Island and Providence, Rhode Island gotten for all this "collaboration"?

They were fired this week.

ALL of them.

Just like that.

Here was AFT President Randi Weingarten's reaction in the Providence Journal today:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, considers it "shocking" that Providence may send dismissal notices to the city's 2,000 teachers.

"What makes this even more stunning is that the district and the Providence Teachers Union have been working collaboratively on a groundbreaking, nationally recognized school transformation model," Weingarten said in a statement released Wednesday night. "A mass firing, announced in the middle of a school year, does not help solve a budget problem -- the purported reason -- but, rather, disrupts the education of all students and the entire community.

"The mayor claims he needs flexibility," she said. "We looked up "flexibility" in the dictionary, and it does not mean destabilizing education for all students in Providence or taking away workers' voice or rights."

Weingarten said that mass firings are not fiscally or educationally sound. She urged the mayor and the school superintendent to resolve their issues by working in a collaborative way.

"For the past two years,'' she said, "that's what they have been doing when it comes to work on improving low-performing schools, developing an innovative hiring process and revamping the teacher evaluation system."

Yes, for the last two years the teachers have been collaborating with the state and the districts, giving them the "reforms" they wanted, even when those reforms seemed short-sighted, badly designed or just plan wrong, and what have they gotten for all that collaboration?

They ALL got FIRED.

So much for the collaboration on the part of the state and the districts, eh?

Guess the collaboration is only on one side.

Here is how some Providence teachers and the head of the union reacted to the news of the mass firings:

As the fall-out from Obama's Race to the Top continues to spread nationwide, you can be sure that what happened in Central Falls, Rhode Island last year will happen all across the country in the next few years.

And just as the Providence, Rhode Island mayor decided to fire EVERY teacher in the city to plug an alleged hole in the budget, you can be sure that many mayors and governors around the country will do the same if they can get away with it.

This Rhode Island mass firing is in many ways WORSE than Scott Walker's trying to end collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin.

The mayor of Providence just said "F--- you, I don't care what rights you have or what union you belong to. You're all fired and I'll hire who I want to hire. What are you going to do about it - complain to Obama? Ha!"

Okay, so what have we learned from the last two years of collaborating with Barack Obama and Arne Duncan, with the ed deform movement and with the corporatists who insatiably ask for more, more, more from teachers and teachers unions.

That collaboration gets you fired.

Collaboration gets you screwed.

There is NO amount of collaboration that will save you when they want to fire you.

In fact, if you've collaborated with them in the past, you might be first on the chopping block because they KNOW what a stupid sap you've been, that you've given them EVERYTHING they wanted and gotten NOTHING in return.

I don't want to take this analogy too far, but really, Weingarten and the union leadership act like Neville Chamberlain in these aggressive, anti-teacher and anti-union times.

They declare we need to do more collaboration with the ed deform movement and hail past collaborations even as the end result of that collaboration is that EVERY TEACHER IN PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND HAS BEEN TERMINATED.

The leadership just DOES NOT GET IT.

Seriously, ALL of the teachers in Providence and Central Falls were fired this week and as NYC Educator points out, Weingarten was hailing a new AFT system to fire teachers today.

View the tape of the fired teachers above and then read Randi's words and tell me she doesn't sound like Chamberlain?

We have collaboration in our time.

Uh, huh.

And a whole swath of fired teachers and a broken teachers union in Rhode Island.

It is time to end COLLABORATION - with Obama, with Duncan, with the mayors and governors, with anybody in the ed deform movement, especially the rich oligarchs like Bill Gates.

They ARE the enemy and until every teachers union local in the country realizes this and bands together to STOP them, they are going to keep squeezing, keep scapegoating, keep firing.



Call Your Reps In Albany

Here is the portal to find contact info for your assemblyperson, your state senator and the governor.

Call them, email them, leave a message - let them KNOW that while ending LIFO seems like a common sensical thing to do, the rationale that will be used to lay off or fire teachers will be very simple - how much money do they make?

The vets will go, the cheaper rookies will stay.

That's the issue in a nutshell.

So start calling and let's let them KNOW what teachers - actual working teachers, not two year Asshats4edcuators who know work as DFER lobbyists - think about this legislation.

Mass Teacher Firings: Betrayed Trust

That's how Providence, Rhode Island teachers feel about the notices this week that went out telling ALL Providence teachers they had been FIRED:

PROVIDENCE — After two hours of contentious discussion, the School Board voted 4 to 3 Thursday night to send out termination notices to each of the city’s 1,926 public school teachers.

More than 700 teachers jammed a high school gymnasium to tell school officials that their hearts were broken, their trust violated and their futures as teachers jeopardized.

“How do we feel? Disrespected,” said Julie Latessa, a special-needs teacher, before the vote. “We are broken. How do you repair the damage you have done today?”

Every teacher received a certified letter from the School Department on Thursday informing them that they might be terminated at the end of the school year. It also said the School Board would vote on the proposed dismissals at Thursday night’s meeting, which was moved to the Providence Career and Technical Academy to accommodate the huge turnout.

Many of the teachers were caught off guard by Mayor Angel Taveras’ decision to terminate teachers instead of laying them off. Last night, speakers questioned the mayor’s rationale: a $40-million school budget deficit and a March 1 deadline by which the School Department must notify teachers if their jobs are in jeopardy.

“This is a quasi-legal power grab,” said Richard Larkin, a teacher at Classical High School. “You want to pick and choose teachers. Well, we will not be bullied.”


Speaker after speaker demanded to know why they were being fired. Didn’t the teachers union sign on to the federal Race to the Top initiative? Hasn’t the union collaborated with Supt. Tom Brady on new curricula? Isn’t the union working with the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers on a new teacher evaluation?

“I’m feeling disrespected, devalued and marginalized,” said Ed Gorden. “Termination is a career-ender. You are putting a scarlet letter on every one of us.”

Teachers begged the School Board to issue layoffs rather than fire them outright because, under the layoff provisions, teachers are recalled based on seniority. There is no guarantee that seniority would be used to bring back any of the fired teachers. School leaders have been vague about exactly how seniority will play out in the case of terminations.
It's very simple - Providence, Rhode Island just busted the teachers' union.

They can hire the cheapest teachers now, dispense with the more expensive vets and save the district millions.

So what if the school system is destabilized beyond breaking?


The rich oligarchs - these guys, the superrich who already own 85% of the country's wealth - want more, more, more.

The last powerful union - the teachers union - is being broken in their power grab.

And of course this has been done with the full consent and help of "liberals" like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Miller.

Even worse, the teachers union leadership doesn't seem to understand the danger.

Or maybe they're on the neo-liberal payroll too, just like "liberals" like Barack Obama, George Miller and Bill Clinton.

Either way, while teachers are being fired all over the country for the simple of crime of making too much money or being a member of a union, AFT head Randi Weingarten is putting out plans on how to fire teachers with more ease.

Hey, Randi, haven't you noticed the oligarchs have been doing this pretty easily already?

So now we're down the the end game. Hundreds of thousands of teachers will be fired across the country this year, evaluation rules have been changed so that in the near future most teachers will be graded using value-added systems tied to test scores with huge margins of error, setting up perhaps a million teachers to be fired in the next few years.

And that's not hyperbole - that's reality.

Hell, they just fired nearly two thousand in Providence alone.

Oh, and those teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island who were fired as a result of Obama's RttT policy who got their jobs back because they collaborated with the ed deformers to add time, days and other goodies to the school?

They got fired this week too.

ALL of them.

The lesson for teachers is to STOP COLLABORATING with the ed deform movement or their political shills.

How many fired teachers will it take for the NEA and AFT leadership to get that through their heads?

Or will it take an Egypt-like coup inside the teachers unions to finally bring the point across - NO MORE COLLABORATION.


The Providence teachers collaborated and gave the reformers everything they wanted.

They were fired for their collaborative efforts.

Same for the Central Falls teachers.

And the same will happen all across this country until teachers FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE OLIGARCHS

Bloomberg Gives Millions In Property Tax Breaks To Wealthy While Calling For Layoffs And Budget Cuts

The Shock Doctrine New York City/Bloomberg style continues unabated.

As two bills were introduced into the state senate and assembly to help Mayor Bloomberg lay off off thousands of teachers at will because city finances are in such bad shape, the Daily News' Juan Gonzalez reports on property tax breaks Bloombgerg gives for luxury condo owners that costs the city $900 million a year:

Yankees star Alex Rodriguez will pay virtually no property tax for a $6 million apartment he is buying on the upper West Side.

Rodriguez will be billed around $1,200 this year in real estate tax for his 3,000-square-foot, five-bedroom penthouse with spectacular views of the Hudson River.

Over the next 10 years Rodriguez and his fellow residents will continue to receive huge discounts on their tax, a city housing official said.

For Rodriguez, a full tax bill would be at least $60,000 annually, the latest city assessment records show.

A spokeswoman for Extell, the company that built the 2-year-old luxury Rushmore Towers near the West Side Highway, declined to discuss the taxes on the slugger's new bachelor pad.

But the only two penthouses that went into contract this month at the Rushmore, each of which was listed at more than $6 million, have been assessed at a little over $100 per month in taxes, one real estate expert told the Daily News.

So how is it possible that tens of thousands of ordinary city residents struggle each year with soaring tax bills for their co-ops, condos and homes, while the Yankees' $33-million-a-year star gets to pay next to nothing?

Well, Rodriguez and many other well-heeled New Yorkers have learned to take advantage of a little-known tax abatement program that has existed for decades.

The politicians and real estate insiders call it the "421A" program. It grants as much as a 98% percent tax abatement for up to 25 years to condo owners in newly built housing.

The bulk of the 421A benefit has gone to luxury housing in Manhattan, though a few reforms by City Hall and the Legislature in 2007 at least required developers to build 20% affordable housing to qualify for the tax abatement.

This year alone, the 421A program will cost our city more than $900 million in lost revenues, the Independent Budget Office says.

That's money that could prevent layoffs of firefighters and teachers. That could fund senior citizen centers and pay for after-school programs.

You haven't heard much about this, but the 421A program ended in December for any new construction. But the city's powerful real estate industry is determined to get it renewed and even get it expanded. Its lobbyists are working feverishly behind the scenes to pressure Council and lawmakers in Albany.

Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander has been leading the fight against that renewal.

It's too much of a giveaway to developers, Lander says, especially since there's already a glut of luxury housing in this town.

The developers want to link any extension of rent stabilization laws for tenants, which the Legislature must vote on by June, to a deal on extending the 421A tax abatement for builders.

The industry hopes Gov. Cuomo, who made a name for himself a long time ago as an advocate for affordable housing, will take their side.

In so many ways, big and small, the minority who have the big money keep trying to get government to give them more financial breaks at the expense of the rest of us.

"Where's the fair share if people who have paid millions of dollars for an apartment get away with paying no real estate taxes, when people in co-ops are being slaughtered?" said Bayta Lewton, of the Coalition for a Livable West Side.

Even before the pennant race begins, A-Rod has become the poster boy in another race - to end these tax abatements that have run amok.


But you can bet that Bloomberg and his real estate cronies (remember Deputy Dan Doctoroff?) will be working overtime to get the tax abatement for rich people extended.

They will argue that this MUST happen or new construction won't take place in the city.

Meanwhile, crying poverty, Bloomberg is closing 20 senior centers, laying off thousands of teachers, and slashing other programs to the bone in the spirit of fiscal prudence.

Hey, Bloomie, you want to be fiscally prudent?

Support the extension of the millionaire's tax in Albany and the end to the tax abatement giveaway to wealthy condo owners.

Both of those moves will bring in an extra $1.25 billion to the state and an extra $900 million to the city.

And then you wouldn't need to do layoffs at all, would you?

But I bet you WANT to do layoffs and are using this supposed financial crisis the city is in to push through your corporatis,t right wing, union-busting agenda.

Just as Paul Krugman notes the Bushies did in Iraq back in 2003 and the Repubs are doing in Wisconsin right now.

Shock Doctrine Bloomberg-style.

Layoffs - Time To Lawyer Up

Okay, so the end game on seniority and tenure is upon us here in NY State - bills to change seniority-based layoffs have been introduced in both the Assembly and the State Senate.

Gotham Schools has the details of the bills - and there are an awful lot of details.

Here they are:

If the bill is passed into law, there will be nine categories of school employees who will be laid off before their peers. Employees who fall into all of these categories would lose their jobs first, followed by those who fall into eight of the categories, and so on down the scale to employees who fall into two categories. If the city finds that it still needs the lay off people after that, the next rung of layoffs will hit teachers and supervisors who are in the first category — those with unsatisfactory ratings.

The categories, in order of layoff priority, are:

1. Teachers and supervisors who have received an unsatisfactory rating in the last five years. If the new teacher evaluation system is put in place before layoffs are carried out, then teachers labeled “ineffective” would be the first to go.

2. Teachers and supervisors who have been fined or suspended without pay in the last five years. This means that teachers who’ve been charged with misconduct or incompetence and have either pled guilty or been found guilty in the last five years would be laid off. For example, the Bronx principal who was found guilty of arbitrarily giving her teachers unsatisfactory ratings and was fined $7,500 would be laid off before another principal. Under the current system, a principal with less seniority would be laid off before her.

3. Teachers and supervisors who have been in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool for more than six months. These are school employees who were forced out of their jobs when their schools could no longer afford them and have not yet been hired by another school. They remain on the city’s payroll while some work in administration and others work as substitute or full-time teachers. Given that it’s rare for schools to excess staff in the middle of the year, the six-month deadline in the law would include most of the teachers in the ATR pool at the present time.

4. Any teacher or supervisor convicted of a crime in the last five years.

5. Teachers and supervisors who have been fined for being chronically absent or late in the last five years. Also includes employees who have been fined for “improper use or recording of leave time.” The terms “chronically absent” and “chronically late” are not defined in the teachers union contract as a set number of days, according to a spokesman for the UFT.

6. Teachers and supervisors who have been the subject of an investigation in the last five years that ended with the charges being substantiated. This covers school employees who have been investigated by the city school district’s special commissioner of investigation, the city school district’s office of special investigations or the city school district’s office of equal opportunity. Having charges substantiated translates to an indictment, but it does not mean that these people have been found guilty.

7. Teachers and supervisors who, by the August 31 of the year in which layoffs take place, have not completed their certification.

8. Teachers who, for two years or more, have been ranked in the bottom 30 percent of teachers based on their students’ test scores. These rankings, which measure students’ progress against a model that predicts what their test scores should have been, cover a small percentage of teachers. Only teachers who teach math and English in grades 4-8 receive teacher data reports.

9. Teachers and supervisors who were not granted tenure after three years, but were put on probation for the year preceding layoffs. Recently, the Department of Education has begun encouraging principals to extend teachers’ probation rather than offer them tenure if they believe the teacher shows promise, but is not yet ready for a lifetime commitment from the city. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from teachers who’ve had their probationary periods extended by one or two years when their schools had a series of new principals, each of whom requested an additional year to get to know her staff.

And we’re not done yet.

If the city lays off all of the teachers who fall into multiple categories, then proceeds to the first category — those with unsatisfactory ratings — but discovers that it only needs to lay off a fraction of these people, then new measures come into play. Employees with the most unsatisfactory ratings in the last five years will be laid off first, followed by those who have been given U-ratings, as they’re commonly known, most recently.

Employees in the Absent Teacher Reserve will be laid off based on how long they’ve been in the pool. And teachers and supervisors who have been convicted of a crime in the last five years will be laid off based on how recent the conviction was. Among those who fall in the low value-added score category, teachers with the lowest scores will be laid off first, unless they teach children with disabilities or who require special education services.

If the city makes its way through this labyrinthine process and still needs to lay off more teachers, the ball rolls into the court of the Board of Regents, who will get to decide what types of teachers are laid of next. The bill contains a measure meant to protect high needs schools — defined as those where 90 percent of students get free or reduced lunch — against being overly burdened by layoffs. It states:

Any such regulations must ensure that in a high-need school the number of staff laid off shall not exceed the percentage of the overall number of positions in the school that represents half of the average percentage of staff laid off citywide.

If the Board of Regents does not come up with a layoff plan within 75 days, individual school principals will get to decide who to let go, using guidance from the city’s school chancellor. A committee of parents, teachers, and administrators is supposed to advise the principal in making this decision. However, if the city decides that it wants to eliminate all the positions within a certain license area (e.g. gym or art), it can overrule the Board of Regents and principals’ decisions.

Gee - this seems like such a simple process to carry out.

Except that of course it's not in the least simple.

In fact, it makes for a tortuous process that is almost wholly subjective at the higher end of the layoffs and is patently unfair at the lower end.

To wit - if you have ever been "u" rated - even unfairly and just once - you're gone.

If you have ever been arrested - say for protesting budget cuts or corporate education policies or even the Iraq war - you're gone.

If you come in at the lower end of the TDR value-added rankings - you know, the ones with 35% margins of error because they're only using two years of data or 25% margins of error because they're only using five years of data - you're gone.

If the chancellor decides to get rid of all art teachers. Or music teachers. Or Spanish teachers. Or gym teachers. Or whatever.

You're gone.

In other words, the rationale for the UFT will no longer exist because the city, your principal or your assistant principal will be able to trump up any old reasons they want to let you go and succeed within a reasonable amount of time.

And keep in mind, in a year or two thanks to President Obama and Race to the Top, we will ALL be subject to ratings by test scores, so every teacher in the city will be subject to getting fired if they are declared "ineffective" two years running.

As I have noted before, you can bet that if these regulations go into place, an inordinate number of senior teachers will be found to be "ineffective" and subject to dismissal every few years.

It will become a regular occurrence every April or so when notices will go out that five or ten thousand teachers are being laid off because the city "needs to cut the budget."

And ALL of those teacher will have fifteen years or more in the system - you can take THAT fact to the bank.

Then, miraculously come July, the city will be able to rehire teachers again because of newly found revenue or an act of God or whatever and teachers - newbies only and TFA's preferably - will be hired to replace the vets let go in April.

Teachers will have NO recourse to any of this except for this:

If and when these regulations go into place and layoff notices are sent out, get yourself a lawyer and sue.

Better yet, get a bunch of teachers together and file a class action.

The rationale for the lawsuit will be that the city is laying off veterans and replacing them with cheaper rookies.

These kinds of lawsuits have been filed in the past.

Back in 1998, DC 37 filed suit against the city for laying off union workers and replacing them with workfare recipients.

That doesn't sound all that different from the city laying off "expensive veteran teachers" and replacing them with "cheaper and younger rookies."

Or perhaps you'll want to file an age discrimination lawsuit against the city for replacing you with a 22 year old Barbie or Ken Asshat4Educator doll.

Or perhaps you'll want to argue that the layoffs have been capricious and arbitrary, especially since the mayor refuses to open the city books and show EXACTLY why the layoffs are necessary, and sue on those grounds.

Or perhaps you'll want to sue because your TDR ranking was calculated using a value-added system that has a 12%-35% MOE which means the city and your school cannot be certain that you really ARE an "ineffective teacher" no matter what the value-added ratings say.

These kinds of discrimination lawsuits based on race, gender, age, or alleged retaliation have become more common since the 2008 Wall Street-fueled financial collapse.

I dunno, I'm not a lawyer and I might be mistaken here, but I see PLENTY of grounds to sue the city, the mayor, the chancellor and a host of others if these regulations are passed and signed into law.

I do know that if I get a layoff notice for ANY reason, I will be seeking legal counsel to find out my options to protect myself and my job.

I suspect that I won't be the only one looking into those options.

No wonder the corporatists were so intent upon limiting litigation - once they've got all the unions busted (and make NO mistake, if these regulations go into place, the UFT IS BUSTED), the only recourse you will have to protect yourself from the oligarchs is litigation.