Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Daily News, Post Continue To Act As Unofficial Public Relations Bureau For NYCDOE, Bloomberg

There is yet another piece of stenography in today's New York Daily News alleging a teacher at James Madison High School in Brooklyn engaged in a sexual relationship with a 16 year old student.

This Daily News story comes on the heels of the front cover story the Murdoch Post did yesterday of another teacher who is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with an 18 year old student at the Manhattan Lab School.

The Post has the Madison High School tryst story as well.

It is not an accident that the stenographers at the Daily News and the Post are running these stories two days after a state senator on Michael Bloomberg's payroll introduced legislation to give the NYCDOE the ultimate authority to fire any teacher accused of sexual misconduct - even if an arbitrator has found that teacher innocent of the charges.

That Bloomberg pays off politicians in Albany to do his bidding has been a mainstay of his entire tenure as mayor, of course.

The same goes for the union-busting Murdoch-owned New York Post and the union-busting Zuckerman-owned New York Daily News doing his public relations work and calling it "news".

That's been a mainstay of the mayor's tenure too.

Here we see once again a coordinated effort by Bloomberg and the NYCDOE to manipulate public opinion and get their way on a policy that would essentially erode work protections for teachers.

Here's how this works.

Bloomberg gives politician cash contributions up to legal limit, promises much more cash through other sources (a la John Haggerty) if state senator will introduce bill that Bloomberg wants giving him power to fire teachers.

State senator obliges, Bloomberg and NYCDOE have big press conference announcing bill that is covered by the media.

Simultaneously, the unofficial NYCDOE stenographers/education journalists at the Daily News and the Post are handed materials by their "sources" at the NYCDOE alleging sexual misconduct by two different teachers.

These media stenographers, ever mindful of the politics of their bosses at the Daily News or Post, ever mindful too that Mayor Bloomberg runs a ton of media outfits himself that they might want to work at some day, ever mindful of the crushing debt they still carry from journalism school, and ever mindful of the shrinking number of media outlets to work at these days, swallow whatever credibility and integrity they had and put out the very stories Bloomberg and the NYCDOE want to get out in order to put some wind behind the sails of the state senator's bill.

Next, the editorial writers at the News and the Post - one of whom is actually a criminal who will be called before Parliament in the near future to face censure and possible jail time for perjury in the Murdoch hacking scandal case - will wring their hands about all the "perverts" in the school system and call for the "common sense" solution of passing the state senator's bill.

The polling outfits will next find that the public, bombarded with media stories about teachers who have engaged in sexual misconduct, agrees with this "common sense" solution promoted by the state senator (and his benefactor, Michael Bloomberg.)

Bloomberg still has to "buy" more support for the bill in Albany, so there is no assurance that it will actually come to fruition, but the longer term goal Bloomberg has, to erode teacher work protections, to erode the confidence the public has in teachers, to denigrate teachers as individuals and teaching as a profession, will have been served by this travesty.

This is how corrupt modern America has become - business interests, politicians, and the media stenographers all in the backroom together, acting in concert to promote their own agendas under the guise of "protecting the public."

The Daily News article notes that "at least seven Education Department employees have been arrested for sex crimes this year."

There are over 75,000 NYCDOE employees.

Even one case of misconduct by a NYCDOE employee is too many.

But seven alleged cases of misconduct out of 75,000 employees is not the crisis the politicians, the media or Bloomberg are making it out to be.

But they'll use this "crisis" for their own ends anyway.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Andy Coulson Detained By Police In Scotland Over Suspected Perjury

More quality behavior from the quality people in Rupert Murdoch's organization:

Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former director of communications, has been detained by police investigating alleged perjury at the trial of the Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan.

Strathclyde police said Coulson was detained in London on Wednesday morning for questioning in connection with evidence the former News of the World editor gave during Sheridan's own trial for perjury in December 2010.

Coulson is currently travelling under escort with Strathclyde police officers and being taken to Govan police station in Glasgow, the base for Operation Rubicon, the inquiry set up to investigate alleged perjury at the trial. He will be questioned later on Wednesday.

Coulson, who was then serving as the prime minister's chief media adviser at 10 Downing Street, was called as a defence witness by Sheridan, who was on trial for lying in court when he won a £200,000 defamation action against the NoW.

The former NoW editor was questioned over two days at the high court in Glasgow by Sheridan, who conducted his own defence, about his knowledge of a hacking operation against Sheridan carried out by Glenn Mulcaire.

During the trial, Sheridan produced documentary evidence that he had been twice targeted by Mulcaire, a private detective hired by the NoW, in 2004.

It has since emerged that other close members of Sheridan's family and associates were also named and potentially targeted by Mulcaire, including the politician's mother, Alice Sheridan, and the Scottish politician Joan McAlpine, a former friend of his who co-wrote a book on Sheridan's anti-poll tax campaign in the early 1990s.

Strathclyde police, in tandem with senior prosecutors at the Crown Office, Scotland's prosecution authority, launched an inquiry into alleged perjury at Sheridan's trial and into hacking in Scotland last autumn. The investigation, Operation Rubicon, involved at least 50 detectives.

Under Scottish police procedure, Coulson has not been formally arrested as he has not yet been charged. This is the second time he has been detained in connection with the wider hacking affair: he has already been arrested by the Metropolitan police as part of its investigations into NI.
So it goes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bloomberg Doesn't Care About Kids

In announcing the introduction of a State Senate bill that, if passed, would give the mayor and the NYCDOE the ability to fire teachers accused of sexual misconduct even if they have been found innocent of the charges by an arbitrator, Bloomberg said the following:

“If city government can’t take care of them, I don’t know who is going to...The teachers union is not there to protect our kids. The teachers union is there to protect members of that union. They may use children as pawns, but the bottom line is, protecting the public is the obligation of the government...If there’s going to be a mistake, I’d rather have it on the other side than on this side. Our first responsibility is to our children.”

You see, the evil teachers don't care about kids, only Bloomberg and the Tweedies care about kids.

That's why it is so important for Bloomberg to get the power to overrule arbitration decisions - it's for the kids, you see.

But I seem to remember some decision just a year and some months back where parents and environmental groups had to shame Bloomberg into agreeing to remove PCB's from 800 schools after some schools actually had cases of dripping toxins in classrooms.

Oh, yeah - here's that case:

The Bloomberg administration announced on Wednesday that the city would replace light fixtures containing the toxic chemicals known as PCBs in nearly 800 city school buildings over the next 10 years, after months of pressure from federal officials and worried parents.

City education officials said they had allocated $708 million to the effort, which would also involve broad improvements in energy efficiency, and would open bidding for a contract this year. A total of 772 schools have fluorescent light fixtures that must be replaced because they contain PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, the officials said.

For months, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has been pressing the city to assess and replace older fixtures containing PCBs in all of those schools because of the danger of leaks. With so many buildings involved — nearly two-thirds of the city’s 1,200 school buildings — the Bloomberg administration balked at the cost, which it initially calculated at about $1 billion.

But advocates for environmental improvements countered that the city would recoup the investment through savings in electric bills because modern light fixtures are more energy-efficient.

The new plan immediately drew criticism from school advocates who said the problem was too urgent to be addressed over a decade.

“The work can be completed in two years if they decided to make it a priority,” said Miranda K. S. Massie, director of litigation and training with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which has represented parents in a lawsuit against the city over PCB contamination from caulk used in school buildings. “There’s no reason to subject schoolchildren to PCBs contamination for an extra eight years.”

...

City officials cast the plan as a broad effort to make school buildings more energy-efficient and save the city money in the long run. In addition to the lighting retrofits, they said, the buildings will undergo energy audits. The audits are expected to result in recommendations on how to improve each building’s overall energy efficiency through additional upgrades, including the replacement of outdated No. 4 and No. 6 fuel oil boilers when necessary, the officials said.

The 10-year period for making the improvements will be revisited in 2014 “to see if the timeline can be accelerated,” the Department of Education said.

“This is a progressive plan to increase energy efficiency at our schools and simultaneously address the issue of PCBs in old light fixtures,” the city schools chancellor, Cathleen P. Black, said in a statement. “Given that both the E.P.A. and the Department of Health have said there is no immediate health threat to students in these buildings, we believe this is the most responsible way to proceed.”

“This plan can be accomplished without any significant interruption to student learning, and it will generate significant energy savings in the long run,” she added.

But Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, called the plan “frustrating.” “It’s pretty clear that the mayor is kicking the can into the next administration,” he said. “The idea that they are prioritizing boilers and energy efficiency — how about prioritizing the hazardous materials first? There’s a health hazard inside the buildings. That’s the priority right now.”



How dare the evil teachers union declare the ten year timeline to remove the cancer-causing PCB's be accelerated?

Don't these evil mothers know only Bloomberg cares about kids and knows what's best for everybody.

So what if toxins are dripping from the light fixtures?

So what if some kids come down with headaches, vomiting and other illnesses in a toxic school?

What's important here is remembering that the mayor knows what's best for everybody, and right now what's best is giving him the power to override arbitration decisions on teachers.

Removing toxins from schools?

Not so important.

Firing teachers, even ones found innocent in arbitration?

Very important.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tony Blair Reveals Murdoch's Pressure

From CNN:

London (CNN) -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under "political pressure" from media baron Rupert Murdoch during his time in office, he testified Monday at an independent inquiry set up in response to phone hacking and alleged police bribery at Murdoch newspapers in Britain.

Asked if he was "too cozy" with Murdoch, as current Prime Minister David Cameron says many in the British political establishment have been, Blair denied it.

"Coziness is not quite the way I would put it. You were in a position where you were dealing with very powerful people," he said, elaborating on the power of the British press, a theme he referred to frequently. "If they were against you, they were all-out against you."

Separately, London police announced the arrest of a 42-year-old woman in connection with their probe into phone hacking.

The woman was arrested Monday morning on suspicion of money laundering, police said without naming the woman.

The arrest came as Blair was testifying at the Leveson Inquiry into British press ethics.

He said the relationship between the press and politicians is complicated.

"The relationship is one in which you feel this pretty intense power," he said.


Blair said he occasionally decided things that went against Murdoch's wishes and interests.

Of course Blair was eventually named godfather to Murdoch's daughter, so that couldn't have been too often.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mulgrew And Bloomberg Meet Every Six Weeks

The NY Post FOILed Mayor Bloomberg's schedule and found he met with Anthony Weiner a year before Weiner resigned in disgrace.

That's not surprising to me, of course. While Weiner played a fierce Bloomberg critic in public, I am not at all shocked to find out he was meeting with Bloomberg behind the scenes in order to make nice with Herr Mayor.

Weiner has no soul, no political conscience. He existed in the public sphere simply to aggrandize his own ego and advance his career ambitions.

Good riddance to him.

But even more interesting is this information from the end of the article:

In another fascinating tidbit from the schedule, teachers union president Mike Mulgrew met more frequently with Bloomberg than any other municipal-union leader, about once every six weeks.

What do Mulgrew and Bloomberg talk about at these meetings?

Is our venerable UFT president much like Anthony Weiner, playing fierce Bloomberg critic in public, while making nice with Herr Mayor in private?

Are Bloomberg and Mulgrew like wrestlers who meet before the match to telegraph their moves in order to maximize the drama while minimizing the potential for damage to the two of them?

I know labor leaders have to meet with the mayor and governor.

But given how dazzlingly inept the UFT often is at fighting Bloomberg's reform agenda, it's hard not be cynical about these kinds of meetings.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Scott Fitzgerald, Gatsby And The 99%

Very interesting piece in The Guardian about Scott Fitzgerald and his use of the phrase "99%":

On 19 October 1929, just five days before the first stock market crash and 10 days before Black Tuesday, Scott Fitzgerald published a now-forgotten story called "The Swimmers," about an American working for the ironically named Promissory Trust Bank, and his realisation that American ideals have been corrupted by money. This corruption is emblematised by sexual infidelity: as in Gatsby, Fitzgerald again used adultery to suggest a larger world of broken promises and betrayals of faith. There's a remarkable moment early in "The Swimmers" – which Fitzgerald called "the hardest story I ever wrote, too big for its space" – when an unfaithful wife, who is French, complains about the American women she sees on the Riviera:

"How would you place them?" she exclaimed. "Great ladies, bourgeoises, adventuresses - they are all the same. Look! …"

Suddenly she pointed to an American girl going into the water:

"That young lady may be a stenographer and yet be compelled to warp herself, dressing and acting as if she had all the money in the world."

"Perhaps she will have, some day."

"That's the story they are told; it happens to one, not to the ninety-nine. That's why all their faces over thirty are discontented and unhappy."


The story has much relevance for today:


The American dream comes true for just 1%: for the other 99%, only discontent and bitterness await, ressentiment on a mass scale. More than 15 years later, the Marxist critics Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer used a similar image of the typist who believed she would be a movie star to reveal the American dream as a rigged lottery that no one wins but everyone plays. Today, almost 100 years after "The Swimmers" appeared, the Occupy movement has clenched its fist around the same angry realisation that we are all the 99%, not the 1%. More remarkable than the fact that Fitzgerald beat Adorno and Horkheimer and the Occupy movement to the punch, however, is that he saw all this before Wall Street came smashing down.

The villain of "The Swimmers" is a rich, vulgar banker who preaches an updated version of the gilded age's "gospel of wealth": "Money is power … Money made this country, built its great and glorious cities, created its industries, covered it with an iron network of railroads." The banker is wrong, the story makes clear, but his vision of America is winning. Feeling increasingly alienated, the protagonist, Marston, finds himself musing on the meanings of America, and especially its eagerness to forget history: "Americans, he liked to say, should be born with fins, and perhaps they were – perhaps money was a form of fin. In England property begot a strong place sense, but Americans, restless and with shallow roots, needed fins and wings. There was even a recurrent idea in America about an education that would leave out history and the past, that should be a sort of equipment for aerial adventure, weighed down by none of the stowaways of inheritance or tradition." The buoyancy of modern America depended on its being unanchored by history or tradition, and this is the America we have inherited. Historical amnesia is certainly liberating – so liberating that America is once again diving into free fall, unmoored by any critical or intellectual insight into its own myths, or even into the histories of the debates that we think define our moment.

Marston eventually decides that there is no place for him in the crass society symbolised by his rival, but he will not relinquish his faith in the ideals that America can represent. As Marston sails for Europe, watching America recede into his past, Fitzgerald offers a closing meditation nearly as incantatory as the famous conclusion of Gatsby: "Watching the fading city, the fading shore, from the deck of the Majestic, he had a sense of overwhelming gratitude and of gladness that America was there, that under the ugly d├ębris of industry the rich land still pushed up, incorrigibly lavish and fertile, and that in the heart of the leaderless people the old generosities and devotions fought on, breaking out sometimes in fanaticism and excess, but indomitable and undefeated. There was a lost generation in the saddle at the moment, but it seemed to him that the men coming on, the men of the war, were better; and all his old feeling that America was a bizarre accident, a sort of historical sport, had gone forever. The best of America was the best of the world … France was a land, England was a people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter – it was the graves at Shiloh and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of the heart."

Wall Street crashed 10 days later.


And finally, Fitzgerald foresaw the doom and gloom of the Depression and the war long before they happened:


Two years after The Great Gatsby appeared, a reporter was sent to interview the famous author. Meeting "the voice and embodiment of the jazz age, its product and its beneficiary, a popular novelist, a movie scenarist, a dweller in the gilded palaces", the reporter found instead, to his distinct hilarity, that Fitzgerald was "forecasting doom, death and damnation to his generation". "He sounded", said the reporter, like "an intellectual Sampson" predicting that the Plaza Hotel's marble columns would crumble. Fitzgerald's absurd prophecy was that America would face a great "national testing" in the very near future:

"The idea that we're the greatest people in the world because we have the most money in the world is ridiculous. Wait until this wave of prosperity is over! Wait ten or fifteen years! Wait until the next war on the Pacific, or against some European combination! … The next fifteen years will show how much resistance there is in the American race."

"There has never been an American tragedy," Fitzgerald ended. "There have only been great failures."

It was 1927. The reporter was vastly amused.


Perhaps Scott was forecasting his own personal doom and gloom and projecting that onto the country.

Alcoholics with dysfunctional personal lives and families sometimes do that.

Nonetheless, Fitzgerald's critique of America and American culture was quite apt.

I think I shall seek out some Fitzgerald stories this weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Headline Of The Day

From a story in the NY Times:

Drugs Help Tailor Alcoholism Treatment



Oh goodie - people susceptible to substance abuse will be given substances to stem their susceptibility to substance abuse.

That should work swell.

We live in a culture that looks for the easy way out of things.

We also live in a culture that is looking for a way to cash in on everything.

Personal transformation and spiritual, emotional and physical recovery from addiction?

Nah, that's too hard.

Here's a pill for your abuse problem.

If that doesn't work, we'll give you another pill.

Then another.

Just keeping drugging until your cravings for a drink go away.

And keep paying for those drugs while you're at it.

Soon you'll be all better!

So long as you continue to pay for and take our drugs, of course...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rules Are For Everybody But Michael Bloomberg

From The New York Times:

Mr. Bloomberg, an experienced pilot, found himself under fire after he was discovered flying his private helicopter where he was not supposed to.

An amateur video, filmed by an annoyed Manhattanite and broadcast Tuesday on WABC-TV, showed the mayor landing and taking off several times over the weekend from the East 34th Street helipad, where trips on Saturday and Sunday have been expressly banned for more than a decade.


The mayor's spokesman said other mayors had used the helipad on weekends, so there should be no problem with Bloomberg doing so, even if it is closed.

But those mayors were using police helicopters and flying on "official" city business.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, was flying a helicopter he owns and was most expressly not flying it on city business, though he won't say where he was going with it:

The mayor’s office would not say where Mr. Bloomberg had been traveling last weekend, or why his helicopter apparently took off from or landed at the 34th Street helipad eight times in two days. The mayor had no official events scheduled for the weekend, but he did attend the wedding of the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, on Saturday evening in Manhattan’s meatpacking district.

Mr. Bloomberg was accompanied on at least one flight by his companion, Diana L. Taylor, and the couple’s two yellow Labradors, Bonnie and Clyde.


His dogs are named Bonnie and Clyde?

That's more information than I wanted to know about him.

At any rate, this is just another example of there being two sets of rules in this city - one for Bloomberg and his friends and cronies, one for everybody else:

Gale Brewer, a council member who has worked for years to reduce helicopter flights in and around Manhattan, said Mr. Bloomberg had rarely been supportive of those efforts. She said she was disappointed to hear about his weekend flights.

“You have to follow the rules,” she said. “When you read that the mayor takes off at times that are restricted, I think it’s shocking.”

Dr. Ron Sticco, 50, a physician whose footage of Mr. Bloomberg’s flights, taken from his high-rise apartment overlooking the helipad, led to the report on WABC, said Wednesday that the mayor did not understand the disturbances that his flights had caused.

“There are times it’s so noisy I have to go in my bathroom to talk on the telephone,” Dr. Sticco said in an interview. “I don’t doubt the mayor has essential business to perform. But, going back to Fiorello La Guardia, they didn’t need the perpetual use of a heliport to govern the city.”

Some critics viewed the mayor’s copter trips as evidence of his disconnect from the average New Yorker. But Kenneth Sherrill, a professor of political science at Hunter College, said something else was afoot.

“This is, on a very trivial matter, about the arrogance of power,” Dr. Sherrill said. “It’s the type of thing you do when you stop thinking about the political and public consequences of what you’re doing.”


Until New Yorkers return to treating him the way people in Rockaway did after the Bloomberg Blizzard Debacle of 2010, he'll think he can get away with this stuff.

But one thing our oligarch does not like is to be publicly humiliated.

If people booed and jeered him wherever he went, treated him with the disdain that he treats rules and regulations, sent his poll numbers back below the Mendoza Line, some of this crap would stop.

I blame this on New Yorkers for putting up with this little arrogant autocrat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

John King Attacks Adults Who Oppose Pearson Field Tests

Buried at the end of a Wall Street Journal article on rising parent and teacher opposition to the field tests Pearson plans to administer next month in 4,000 elementary and middle schools around the state is this quote from John King:

Mr. King said he's concerned the reaction from parents misses a larger point. "Reading a passage and answering questions, or doing a set of math problems is an ordinary part of life of school," he said. "The environment around standardized testing has become so acrimonious that we've forgotten that adults need to set a positive tone for students around assessment as a natural part [of education]."

When you use standardized tests to bludgeon students, teachers and schools, when you create an environment where FEAR over these tests rules the day, what do you expect the reaction is going to be?

King makes it sound like parents and teachers opposed to the Pearson field tests are against "Reading a passage and answering questions or doing a set of math problems."

No, they're not.

What they're against is making those activities so high stakes that the outcomes - the scores - become the only thing that matters.

This is especially so when the tests have been so badly devised and the scoring rubrics have been hammered as "amateurish."

And we haven't even gotten around yet to the value-added measurement they're going to use on the teachers - the one with the wide swings in stability and huge margins of error.

Can't wait to see that put into place.

I can't decide if our dear NYSED commissioner truly doesn't understand why there is such acrimony over his testing regimen or if he's just playing dumb.

Either way, he had better get used to this opposition to his testing regimen and his education philosophy at the NYSED.

Because as the state starts to roll out the Common Core exams in the next few years, and the local districts start to roll out the local exams and students have to sit for 35+ high stakes standardized exams a year so that their teachers can be evaluated in the new "scientific" and "objective" Cuomo/King/Tisch/Iannuzzi/Mulgrew system, the opposition to what they're doing is only going to grow.

Obama Barely Wins Kentucky, Arkansas Primaries

From Political Wire:

President Obama barely eked out Democratic primary wins in Kentucky and Arkansas, Politico reports.

The president didn't even have an opponent in Kentucky, but took just 57.9% of the vote, with the remaining more than 42 percent of ballots cast for "uncommitted."

In Arkansas, his unknown opponent, John Wolfe (D), won 41% of the vote.

Washington Post: "Although the results haven't stopped Obama's march to renomination -- he officially clinched the Democratic nod on April 3 -- they remain an indicator of not-insignificant pockets of unrest within his party."

The Post article goes on to say that there are two reasons Obama is underperforming in these southern state primaries - one is race, the other is many Dems in these states feel the Obama administration has been too far to the "left" on many issues that affect them, especially environmental issues.

Perhaps.

But in my state, when the Democratic primary comes around, I too will be voting for a candidate other than Barack Obama.

I will then call the Obama campaign AND the Obama White House and let them know - the teacher bashing, the education privatization policies, the bank bailouts, the miserable HAMP mortgage program, the treatment of Bradley Manning, the use of drones to slaughter innocents around the world, the illegal surveillance - these are the reasons I am not voting for Barack Obama.

Not in the primary, not in the general.

And they're not going to scare me with the alternative.

Sorry, whether Mitt Romney brings us to feudalism at 100 MPH or Obama brings us there at 80 MPH, we're still getting to the Feudal State.

Oh, and last but not least - as soon as Obama is re-elected, he plans on going after Social Security and Medicare.

One more reason not to vote for this corporatist.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

President Obama's Commencement Speech To Joplin, Missouri Seniors

President Obama, giving the commencement speech to graduating seniors in Joplin, Missouri, the town destroyed by a tornado last year, stunned the crowd when he said:

"Secretary of Education Duncan once said the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina, because it gave us a chance to start over with the education system there. I couldn't agree more. And folks, the best thing that could have happened to Joplin, Missouri was for a tornado to come around and wipe out the old education system and take those failing teachers with it, because we now have a golden opportunity to start over here too. Now that Mother Nature has brought accountability to this old failing school system and the bad teachers who once worked there, Secretary Duncan and I can help the Gates Foundation and Walmart and the hedge fund industry get down to business and really start educating kids here so this town can compete globally in the 21st century high tech, neo-feudal economy. We want you indoctrinated to expect 13 hour work days, garbage pay, no benefits and nothing but fear for the rest of your lives and by golly, charter schools are helping to bring that kind of America to fruition!"

Obama used the refrain "We're from the Gates Foundation and we're here to test you!" repeatedly to jazz the crowd up for his latest education reform program, Race to the Disaster Scene - a controversial program that gives the federal government $4 billion in aid money to charterize any school district that has suffered a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood, tornado or the Obama economic policies.

Jonathan Alter, official Obama biographer and current Bloomberg Views columnist, compared Obama's Joplin commencement speech to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

"Look, we know what works in education and this is it - bring Mother Nature in, destroy what stands, replace it with privatized, for-profit charters, and test, test, test! This president is just a rock star when it comes down to getting those ideas across. And look how cool he looks smoking his after-speech cigarette!"

This Obama speech was noticeably different from the one he gave at Barnard College last week, where he acknowledged that students who attend elite private schools like Barnard have not had to suffer under his education reforms like test-based accountability for teachers and 35+ high stakes tests a year for students.

"Yeah, there's no way we're doing that shit to kids like you," the president told the Barnard crowd. "You're being groomed to be 21st century leaders and innovators. It's the rest of the schmucks in this country, the one's who might try to Occupy, that we've got to brainwash with all that education reform bullshit."

Daily News Editor-In-Chief Colin Myler May Be Called Before Parliament For Punishment

Does Colin Myler still get to run the Daily News now?

Three former News International executives accused of lying to parliament have been referred by MPs to a Commons committee that has the power to recommend punishment.

Ex-News of the World editor Colin Myler, the paper's former legal manager Tom Crone and one-time News International chairman Les Hinton were accused of misleading the culture, media and sport committee during its investigation into phone hacking.

All three deny giving misleading testimony and further action will now be decided upon by the standards and privileges committee after MPs passed a Commons motion on Tuesday afternoon.

Therese Coffey, a Conservative member of the culture committee said: "We are the parliament of the people, we should not be lied to."

Labour MP Chris Bryant said parliament should consider fining or even imprisoning the men.

"I simply think we were hoodwinked, indeed for a long period politicians were so nervous and frightened of what the press would say about us we effectively put the hoodwinks on ourselves," he said.

"It is time we asserted the freedom of parliament, the rights of parliament … if parliament is lied to we can not do our job on behalf of our constituents."

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, the chair of the culture committee, John Whittingdale said: "The conclusions we've reached have serious repercussions. I'm not sure what they are but these are serious matters.

The vote to refer the three men to the standards committee was supported by both the government and Labour front benches.

Parliament hasn't fined anybody since 1666.

The last non-member of Parliament called to apologize before Parliament was in 1957.

And the last time Parliament imprisoned a non-member of Parliament was in 1880.

But Myler, Crone and Hinton face all three of those possibilities.

In addition, it is believed that Hinton may eventually face criminal charges related to the News Corporation hacking scandal as well.

I wonder, can Colin Myler run the New York Daily News from a British prison cell?

NY Post Says Custodian Denies Seeing Mulgrew And Guidance Counselor "Tooling Around" In School

Pretty much a slam dunk that this case will be dismissed:


UFT chief Michael Mulgrew was accused in court papers last week of selling out union members’ work protections in order to cover up a 2005 sexual tryst with a colleague in a Brooklyn school — a charge his spokesman dismissed as “absurd.”

...

The lawsuit filed by Queens high-school teacher Andrew Ostrowsky alleges that Mulgrew rendezvoused in a classroom with guidance counselor Emelina Camacho-Mendez, when both were working at William Grady HS in Brooklyn.

The up-and-coming labor leader brought his alleged paramour up the union ladder with him.

The mayor and schools chancellor colluded in a coverup of the incident — gaining contract give-backs from the union in exchange for remaining silent, according to the rambling federal court papers.

Ostrowsky claims it was the erosion of work rights that prohibited him from successfully challenging a recent negative rating.

“Everything in the lawsuit is false,” Mulgrew said yesterday, speaking directly about the claims for the first time. “It really does read as a book of crazy fiction.”

Ostrowsky’s lawyer, Joy Hochstadt, admitted in the court papers that she had no concrete proof of the alleged sexual tryst — but says it was witnessed by the former principal and a custodian.

Yet the custodian whom sources identified as the witness in question flatly denied to The Post yesterday that he had seen any tooling around in the shop room.

“The guy didn’t do nothing in front of me. If they did do something like that, I would have thrown them out,” said retired custodial helper Donald Herb.

So the filing of the lawsuit has been used by the NY Post (and now the Daily News and the mayor) to humiliate Mulgrew, to compare this lawsuit based upon hearsay to lawsuits the union has filed against school closures, and to once again smear a teacher in the press as a "perv."

Of course, this time the teacher is actually a former teacher and a current labor leader.

A mess all around.

The only thing that I hope comes out of this is Mulgrew now realizes how horrific it is to be smeared in the papers and comes to the defense of his members when the Post or the Daily News turns their smear lenses on them.

But I won't hold my breath for that.

The UFT leadership, from Randi Weingarten to Michael Mulgrew, have been only too happy to throw their own members under a bus for political expediency.

That policy is so ingrained at the UFT that I cannot imagine this Mulgrew episode will change it.

But at least Mulgrew now gets a "Walk A Mile In Someone Else's Shoes" moment.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Village Voice: Mulgrew Suit Won't Go Far

From The Running Scared blog:

It looks like the courts will have an easy time dismissing this one. It is reported that the lawyer of Ostrowsky, Joy Hachstadt, has no evidence whatsoever to present to the court and that her and her client are actually on the lookout for some. All they have now is "hearsay" evidence, which, in terms of the legal world, is near the equivalency of a $2 bill.

Ostrowsky also mentions in the suit that he was unfairly targeted for firing with a bad teacher rating and demands reparations for emotional distress. That might not be the best information to put into an argument to present in front of a jury. Quickly, the 73 pages becomes Angry Ex-Worker Seeking Revenge Vs. Boss.


And The Post reports the lawyer who brought the suit has been cited and fined for bringing frivolous lawsuits before.

Still, the allegations are damaging to Mulgrew and the UFT leadership.

You'll note that he does not deny a relationship with the woman in question in his letter to the membership, nor does he deny handing her a job at the union.

But in his letter, Mulgrew does state the following:

When an organization like ours strongly defends the public schools, their students and its members, our opponents will seize on any opportunity to make teachers and their union a target.

Union opponents aren't making teachers a target by bringing this suit.

The suit was brought by a "U" rated teacher who is disgruntled by the lack of defense he received from Mr. Mulgrew and the UFT leadership after his rating.

And no one is attacking teachers in this suit.

The target of the attack is Mulgrew and the UFT leadership for their patronage system.

These allegations open up a window for the membership, even the blindest members, to see the core of corruption and patronage at the top of the UFT.

Now whether that translates into anything next election year is another story.

But it does put Mulgrew and the UFT leadership on the defensive at a crucial time in the waning years (we hope) of King Bloomberg I's Reign of Terror.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Robin Gibb



A nice tribute in The Guardian.

Not So Great Googa Mooga

There was lots of hype about a food and drink festival called The Great Googa Mooga that was taking place in Prospect Park this weekend.

It was a "free" festival, though you could pay $250 for what they called the Extra Mooga experience.

The company that runs Bonnaroo, Superfly, was running it.

I know somebody who worked with one of the "experiences" at Googa Mooga.

The whole event was a disorganized mess from beginning to end.

Given how Bonnaroo is run (and how many people have died at the festival), that shouldn't be a surprise.

But I just wanted to capture some of the flavor of the event with some comments from The Great Googa Mooga's own Facebook page:

Went yesterday to the ExtraMooga section (yes, I fell for the ads telling me it was a better alternative to the pesky lines in general admission). Restaurants ran out of food by 3pm. Cops had to be called to break up a fight over FRIED CHICKEN. FRIED CHICKEN! When food did appear, it was sad, like watching UN peacekeepers show up with bags of rice at a refugee camp (sorry, no offense, but it really was every man for himself and I felt embarrassed for everyone. No reason to act like this in NYC in 2012!). Ridiculous. I want a refund. The most frequently asked question was, "Where'd you get that food?"

...

This was the worst event I've ever been to EVER. I know as New Yorkers we'll wait in line for food and beer, but this was a total nightmare. The idiots who ran this event should be ashamed of themselves. Not only were the wristbands, googa moula and layout epic fails, but the fact that you ran out of beer is embarrassing. You told food vendors to bring 2000 portions to an event with 40,000 people??!? Are you nuts? And why on earth would you have a summer event with no water options other than waiting in an hour-long line? We left hungry and thirsty and annoyed. Not only did it seem like the organizers had never organized a big event before, it seemed like they'd never even BEEN to a big event before. You guys should apologize to everyone who had the misfortune of trying to go to this event instead of spinning a pathetically-transparent positive PR campaign to pretend like it wasn't so bad. You should just bow your heads and apologize. I mean, you ran out of wristbands and beer 3 hours into a two day event!? It was the definition of an Epic Fail!

...

I had to leave the festival after advancing 5 feet in 25 minutes on line to buy water.I felt like I was gonna pass out and didn't have much confidence in medical aid reaching me..I love the idea of this fest and would hope lessons were learned..but if I had paid $250 and experienced what has been posted..for sure I would be on the phone to my CC company..as soon as I got out of there and got some cell service..


Please Prospect Park Alliance, if you are reading this: DO NOT APPROVE THIS EVENT FOR NEXT YEAR! I have donated money to you this year and in the past and love Celebrate Brooklyn. But after spending a few hours there today I can assure you, Superfly have no idea WTF they are doing.

...

Absolute shit show. To post that there were some problems and give yourself a pat in the back is Indicative that this show was run by a gang of idiots. Whoever posted this please go home don't pass go. Don't collect $200 go straight to jail and ram a splintery broom up your ass and keep it there for 9 hours and then we will be even.

...

1) Not sure why you had two southern entrances so close to each other but it was very confusing to try and meet friends when I'm at one and they are the other with none of the volunteers able to explain how to get from one to the other.
2) Great app. Too bad it crashed EVERY time I clicked on the map at the event.
3) No wi-fi is understandable but with spotty to no 3G, good luck ever finding your friends if they wander off for a second. My fully-charged phone went dead by 3PM from finding the network and I left after giving up trying to find any of my group.
4) To the person above who said the wine tent lines were short: They were short because the Googa Moola money card system was so horribly broken that most people couldn't get one and the wine people didn't take cash. We were lucky to get one AND to get the card to work so that led to our next problem.
5) It was an hour wait to get a drink of water or soft drink but only a few minutes for our group to get wine so the only liquid we had all day was wine. Heat plus wine is a terrible combination. Where was my bottle of water? Your friendly staff made me throw away my reusable water container since it was already open. Where would I have refilled it? No where as there were no fountains.
6) The only horrible lines while I was there (left at 6) were for water, soda, wine, and beer. Who was the genius who thought to combine these and have no other options for getting the first two? Sure, you could get lemonade or some other nonalcoholic drinks at food lines but they were often sugary sweet and as bad as wine for rehydration.
7) I still don't get why I could get unlimited packs of free gum but not water!?!


...

here's what to do if you had extra mooga tickets yesterday. call your CC company and dispute the charge for service not delivered. it was 250$ per person after all. GM please don't delete this, apologize for the mess and let the CC companies do their job in refunding the money. no hassle. hope you learned from your mistakes.

...

faillllllllllllll. terrible execution... We left within 20 minutes of it being a total bomb... if you enjoy being in line for hours plus minutes, then good luck. Epic failure.

I want my afternoon back.


On a plus note, nobody who attended the event has died from dehydration or sun poisoning yet.

But skin cancer takes a long time to develop.

Boy, these folks at Superfly are really tops.

Maybe Superfly can run the Philadelphia school system?

Sex, Lies, And Drafting Tables

The New York Post is out this today with a front page "exclusive" about a lawsuit brought by a New York City teacher alleging the UFT, the NYCDOE and the City Hall have engaged in a cover-up of a sex scandal involving UFT President Michael Mulgrew and a high school guidance counselor.

The suit alleges that the UFT caved to Bloomberg and the Department of Education in contract negotiations because they had the goods on Mulgrew, a rising star in the UFT leadership, for having sex with a guidance counselor on a drafting table when he was a teacher at Grady.

The Post reports that the lawyer who brought the suit, Joy Hochstadt,

told The Post she is seeking evidence of the alleged tryst. “Everyone has only hearsay knowledge, but almost everyone in the school talked about it,” the suit says.

Not exactly a smoking gun that Mulgrew engaged in a sex act on school property, is it?

I'll leave it to the judge to decide if the allegations in the lawsuit merit a hearing in court or whether they ought to be thrown out for being unsubstantiated.

There is one part of this story I want to say something about, however.

The meat of the suit claims the UFT collaborated with Bloomberg and the DOE because they had damaging information about Mulgrew and this guidance counselor (who later was given a cushy UFT position and a special "award" by Mulgrew.)

On the face of it, the allegation that the UFT collaborated with Bloomberg and the DOE on reform because the city had damaging information about Mulgrew is ludicrous.

Mulgrew wasn't so far up the leadership ladder that Weingarten couldn't have thrown him under the bus if she had wanted to back in 2004-2005 when the drafting table tryst between Mulgrew and the guidance counselor was alleged to have occurred.

More importantly, the UFT leadership was selling out the UFT membership long before 2004-2005, so even if the city had damaging information on Mulgrew, the collaborative policy of the UFT leadership was in place long before that.

As Michael Fiorillo wrote over at Chaz's blog:

UFT leadership sell outs and concessions predate this alleged affair and the 2005 contract by years.

Unless Bloomberg can employ a time machine, how does this story explain the UFTs acceptance of mayoral control, which has been the primary vehicle for undermining the union and the public schools? How does it explain Weingarten's caving in before virtually everything the privatizers seek, whether it's school closings, charter schools, smooching with Bill Gates, merit pay, or the overall acceptance of the premises of corporate ed reform?


It's not exactly the defense Michael Mulgrew and the UFT leadership might want, but the merits of the suit are undercut not only by the unsubstantiated nature of the allegations, based upon only rumor as they are, but also by the piss poor track record of the UFT in protecting teachers and labor rights over the last decade plus, long before the tryst allegedly took place.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chicago Police Trump Up Bogus Charges To Arrest Three NATO Protesters Who Posted You Tube Video

Barack Obama's America:
Three Nato protesters, arrested in a late night raid on Wednesday, have been charged on terrorism-related offences.

Police claim the charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism and possession of an explosive or incendiary device, are the result of a month-long investigation into a group they believe was making Molotov cocktails. They had already been pulled over by police last week and asked about their protest plans in a stop they posted on YouTube.

Attorneys representing the men say the charges are fabricated and aimed at intimidating activists. "We cannot say enough that we believe that these charges are absolutely … very trumped up charges," said Sarah Gelsomino of the Peoples Law Office. "Clearly in an attempt to continue this intimidation campaign on activists. Charging these people who are here to peacefully protest against Nato for terrorism, when in reality the police have been terrorising activists in Chicago, is absolutely outrageous.

"All three of these guys, interestingly, were in the car about a week ago that was stopped and harassed by the Chicago police department," Gelsomino said. "They then posted that video online in an attempt to expose that police misconduct. Each of those three are now being charged with these crimes. That's as much as we know."

The three men are all in their twenties. Two come from Florida and one from New Hampshire. They were arrested in the Bridgeport area of the City after 11pm on Wednesday. Chicago police dressed in black and armed with battering rams broke down doors in an apartment building, searched the units and then arrested nine protesters for allegedly making or possessing Molotov cocktails. Lawyers say it was just beer-making equipment.

"The city has so far failed to produce any evidence or the search warrant affidavit used in the raid," said Kris Hermes of the National Lawyers Guild.

When police detained the people, they also seized parts of a beer-making kit, including bottles and caps, and a cellphone, Gelsomino said.

"This is the playbook," said Gelsomino. "Shoddy police work. It's a fear campaign."


Indeed it is.

One protester said he had been handcuffed for 18 hours in an "interrogation room" before being released. Others say they were held without being told what they were going to be charged with.

Those of you out there still unconvinced that Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the so-called Democrats are as dangerous to democracy and humanity as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, please take note of these arrests, along with all the drone killings across the world in the name of "freedom," the slaughtered Afghan children who show up in a little paragraph on A6 of the Times every week, the treatment of Bradley Manning, the harassment of whistleblowers by the feds, and all the spying and surveillance Obama is having his people do in order to keep us "safe from terrorism."

You could be the next one arrested for "terrorism" with your beer-making kit and your You Tube videos that expose the police for fascist goons.

Because we all just want to be safe, don't why?

Remember, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Something To Keep An Eye On

Krugman:

Suddenly, it has become easy to see how the euro — that grand, flawed experiment in monetary union without political union — could come apart at the seams. We’re not talking about a distant prospect, either. Things could fall apart with stunning speed, in a matter of months, not years. And the costs — both economic and, arguably even more important, political — could be huge.

...

Greece is, for the moment, the focal point. Voters who are understandably angry at policies that have produced 22 percent unemployment — more than 50 percent among the young — turned on the parties enforcing those policies. And because the entire Greek political establishment was, in effect, bullied into endorsing a doomed economic orthodoxy, the result of voter revulsion has been rising power for extremists. Even if the polls are wrong and the governing coalition somehow ekes out a majority in the next round of voting, this game is basically up: Greece won’t, can’t pursue the policies that Germany and the European Central Bank are demanding.

So now what? Right now, Greece is experiencing what’s being called a “bank jog” — a somewhat slow-motion bank run, as more and more depositors pull out their cash in anticipation of a possible Greek exit from the euro. Europe’s central bank is, in effect, financing this bank run by lending Greece the necessary euros; if and (probably) when the central bank decides it can lend no more, Greece will be forced to abandon the euro and issue its own currency again.

This demonstration that the euro is, in fact, reversible would lead, in turn, to runs on Spanish and Italian banks. Once again the European Central Bank would have to choose whether to provide open-ended financing; if it were to say no, the euro as a whole would blow up.

Yet financing isn’t enough. Italy and, in particular, Spain must be offered hope — an economic environment in which they have some reasonable prospect of emerging from austerity and depression. Realistically, the only way to provide such an environment would be for the central bank to drop its obsession with price stability, to accept and indeed encourage several years of 3 percent or 4 percent inflation in Europe (and more than that in Germany).

Both the central bankers and the Germans hate this idea, but it’s the only plausible way the euro might be saved. For the past two-and-a-half years, European leaders have responded to crisis with half-measures that buy time, yet they have made no use of that time. Now time has run out.

So will Europe finally rise to the occasion? Let’s hope so — and not just because a euro breakup would have negative ripple effects throughout the world. For the biggest costs of European policy failure would probably be political.

Think of it this way: Failure of the euro would amount to a huge defeat for the broader European project, the attempt to bring peace, prosperity and democracy to a continent with a terrible history. It would also have much the same effect that the failure of austerity is having in Greece, discrediting the political mainstream and empowering extremists.

Couple the European mess with a weak economy here, a ton of student loan debt about to go into default and a U.S. government shutdown projected for December when the lame duck Congress and Obama have to come to an agreement over budget cuts and the debt ceiling and you have the makings of one hell of a crisis.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer Dead At 63

Sad news:
Donna Summer -- the Queen of Disco -- died this morning after a battle with cancer ... TMZ has learned.

We're told Summer was in Florida at the time of her death. She was 63 years old.

Sources close to Summer tell us ... the singer was trying to keep the extent of her illness under wraps. We spoke to someone who was with Summer a couple of weeks ago ... who says she didn't seem too bad.

In fact, we're told she was focused on trying to finish up an album she had been working on.

Summer was a 5-time Grammy winner who shot to superstardom in the '70s with iconic hits like "Last Dance," "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls."

...

TMZ has learned ... Donna died from lung cancer. Several sources are telling us Donna believed she contracted it by inhaling toxic particles after the 9/11 attack in New York City.


I was never a big fan of synthetic disco music, but Donna Summer always kept the heart in her songs.

Pearson Screws Up State Test Scoring Guides Too

Start lawyering up, folks, because if you get declared "ineffective" based upon these Pearson state tests, you are going to have yourself a hell of a case:

Not only are the state tests confusing for the kids. Now teachers say they can't figure out how to score them.

Long-time principals and teachers say they have never witnessed the level of confusion that has broken out in scoring sessions for the state math and English tests this year. Principals have received several emails with corrections to the scoring guide created by the testing company Pearson. More than 5,000 city teachers have been pulled out of their classes to grade the exams, a job which is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday.

"From what I am hearing, there are huge issues with the scoring and the scoring rubrics from the state, and I have heard this from suburban as well as urban principals," said Elizabeth Phillips, principal at PS 321 in Brooklyn. "What is being reported by teachers who have scored -- who are bound by confidentiality regulations and so are not revealing specifics -- is that the rubrics are extremely confusing and don't align with what experienced teachers believe would make sense."

Some teachers, who also asked to remain anonymous since they had agreed not to reveal details of the exams, said that they believed problems with scoring were as significant as the errors in the exam itself. This year's tests have been riddled with mistakes, including a nonsense story about a talking pineapple.

"I am so disgusted by the afternoon session today," said a math content specialist last week, who is in charge of training other teachers. "The 'expert' from Pearson knew less about the test and rubric than most people in the room. He wasn't able to explain the test items clearly, let alone answer concerns or questions."

"I sat next to a DOE supervisor who seemed to have connections to top people at Pearson, making calls throughout the session," the teacher continued. "She was equally disgusted and made several attempts to manage the chaos in the room."

Other teachers reported widespread confusion about grading English essays. "Scorers differed in their opinions about correct scores for students regularly -- meaning every few minutes at my table and the tables around me," said one teacher. "Supervisors were unable to explain all the reasoning around debated answers, and were just able to say, "This is what the State says." [Schoolbook also reported that teachers are confused about how to grade the tests.]

State Education Department officials said that there would be a statewide audit of the scoring, as there has been in past years.

"While scoring was taking place, SED was in close contact with scoring leaders across the state," said spokesman Tom Dunn.

Technical reports showing the results of the audits will be produced and posted on the Department's web site, he said.

All third through eighth graders took the exams this spring, and the results help to determine where a student gets in middle and high school, if a teacher gets fired and whether a school closes.

Other problems teachers scoring the English essays reported included:

1. It was possible to get a 0 out of 4, even if you comprehended the text, because only certain details were accepted. It was also very possible to get a 2 with no clear understanding of the text if the student copied the correct sentences or paragraphs from the text.

2. Some students had poor handwriting or spelling and were scored down because the reader was not familiar with typical unconventional spelling that elementary students often have due to language issues or developmental issues.

3. The two short answers for one selection asked for virtually the same answers. While you could use slightly different information to answer the question correctly, if you recopied your first answer exactly, you would get the highest score.

4. The guidelines for scoring the 5th and 6th grade essays are the same, even though most schools expect a higher level of performance from 6th graders.

In addition, a listening passage about a kid who loved music asked students to write about how the child in the passage is like and unlike a "typical 6th grader." Teachers debated what would lead to a high score: does a typical 6th graders really like music? Does a typical 6th grader attend after-school? Take the bus? There was not consensus on what details would be considered "meaningful and relevant examples," as dictated by the scoring guide.

Math teachers were also alarmed to see that there was no "reference page" on the 8th grade math exams. In the past, the tests included a page with conversions that many students are not asked to memorize, such as how many pints are in a gallon. The first two of eight questions on the exam demanded conversions. "Students had written down things like, 'I could do this problem, but I can't start it because I don't know the conversion,'" said one educator. "It was kind of heartbreaking. If you can't do two out of the eight problems, that can really break your confidence."

Other teachers described the scoring guide as "vague" or "rigid," and said they believed some student scores depended more on a teacher's understanding of the scoring guide rather than the actual answers children had given.

"There is a great deal of subjectivity to the scoring," said Ms. Phillips. "If this were not so high stakes, it wouldn't matter, but when teachers' jobs depend on a couple of points on a couple of students' exams, this is completely unfair."

A total mess.

And yet, both Governor Cuomo and Regents Chancellor Tisch maintain the teacher evaluation system built upon these state tests is going to be "scientific" and "objective" and the best in the nation.

Sure it will.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Being An Education Reformer Means Never Having To Say You're Wrong

This is really, really hitting bottom:

Kindergartners in Georgia — many of whom don’t yet read — could soon play an important role in deciding which teachers get raises or get fired. Under a new pilot program, 5-year-olds will be guided through a survey that includes such statements as “My teacher knows a lot about what he or she teaches” and “My teacher gives me help when I need it.” As the youngsters circle a smiley face, a neutral face or a frowning face, they will be playing their part in new high-stakes teacher evaluations.

The kindergartners could help put Georgia at the forefront of a growing national movement to make student surveys part of how teachers are rated. Students in every grade across the state will participate in the pilot program, and, depending on its results, Georgia may incorporate the student feedback into teacher evaluations as early as next school year, when it will join such measures as observations by principals and student test scores. The state has yet to determine how much weight the student evaluations will carry in teacher ratings.

I didn't think that there could be a worse education reform idea than grading teachers based on a value-added measurement using student test scores on badly designed state tests that has a median margin of error of 52% and a maximum margin of error of 87%, but I think this student survey idea may be it.

As Diane Ravitch wrote:

In college, in high school and in middle school, teachers will be wary of asking too much of their students, for fear of losing their favor. If they assign too much reading or if they are tough graders or disciplinarians, their students might retaliate by giving them a low mark.

If teachers must seek their students’ approval, how does that make school better?

To rely on kindergarten students to judge their teachers brings this idea to its lowest possible level. At what point does a bad idea get revealed as sheer idiocy

Never.

Merit pay has been around for 100 years, it's been proven not to work in schools and yet they still promote it as the solution to all that ills education.

The same is happening with high stakes test scores.

Evaluating schools using high stakes test scores in a punitive way hasn't improved public education?

Oh, well - let's evaluate individual teachers using high stakes test scores in a punitive way.

And when that doesn't work, we'll STILL blame the teachers and never the idea or the reformers who brought it to us.

You see, being an education reformer means never having to say you're wrong.

Like when Gates failed with his Small School Initiative.

He blamed teachers for the failure rather than the program itself.

Same with the Pearson tests and NYSED Commissioner John King.

He blamed the small panel of teachers who rubber stamp the state tests for the problems rather than Pearson or his own NYSED.

Same with Michelle Rhee, who still won't take responsibility for the cheating scandal in Washington D.C. or Joel Klein, who still won't admit the achievement gap actually increased on his watch in NYC.

Yes, being an education reformer means never having to say you're sorry and never having to say you're wrong.

And so inevitably the student survey idea will take off and be added to the VAM and the 57 page rubric on the Danielson framework to evaluate teachers.

Just another brilliant idea brought us by the best and brightest in education reform.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Murdoch's Former Chief Aide To Be Prosecuted For Hacking Cover-Up

From The Guardian:

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, is to be charged over allegations that she tried to conceal evidence from detectives investigating phone hacking and alleged bribes to public officials.

Brooks, one of the most high-profile figures in the newspaper industry, will be charged later on Tuesday with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in July last year at the height of the police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced.

She is accused of conspiring with others, including her husband, Charlie Brooks, the racehorse trainer and friend of the prime minister, and her personal assistant, to conceal material from detectives.

Brooks and her husband were informed of the charging decision – the first since the start of the Operation Weeting phone hacking investigation last January – when they answered their bail at a police station in London this morning.

They are among six individuals from News International, along with the company's head of security, Mark Hanna, to be charged over allegations that they removed material, documents and computers to hide them from officers investigating phone hacking. The charge is a serious one which carries a maximum penalty of life, although the average term served in prison is 10 months.

...

Brooks is accused in one charge of conspiring with her PA Cheryl Carter to "remove seven boxes of material from the archives of News International".

In a separate charge she is accused of conspiring with her husband, Hanna, her chauffeur and a security consultant to conceal "documents and computers" from the investigating detectives. All the offences are alleged to have taken place in July last year.

Alison Levitt QC, Starmer's principal legal adviser, said the decision to charge six of the seven individuals arrested over the allegations came after prosecutors applied the two-stage test they are required to when making charging decisions.

"I have concluded that in relation to all suspects except the seventh there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction," she said.

"I then considered the second stage of the test and I have concluded that a prosecution is required in the public interest in relation to each of the other six."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Study Finds 10% Of Those Who Work On Wall Street Are Clinical Psychopaths

If you've ever watched Larry Kudlow's show for even five minutes, this news will not surprise you:

A recent study found that 10 percent of people who work on Wall Street are “clinical psychopaths,” exhibiting a lack of interest in and empathy for others and an “unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation.” (The proportion at large is 1 percent.) Another study concluded that the rich are more likely to lie, cheat and break the law.

Hey, I know. Let's put these clinical psychopaths in charge of everything - from government at the local, state and federal level to social policy via "philanthropy" to education to the environment to the media to...

Well, you get the idea.

No wonder the world's in such bad shape.

Maybe it's time to stop worshiping wealth and material goods and start valuing occupations in our society other than the criminal activity the psychopaths and sociopaths on Wall Street do on a daily basis.

Just saying.

Oh, and putting some of these psychopaths from Wall Street in jail, where they belong, wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When Will Jamie Dimon Be Held Accountable?

Hey, it was just $2 billion his bank lost - nothing to sweat, right? Plus he said he was real real sorry and promised it won't happen again. So everything's fine, right?

Uh, no:

Flawed. Complex. Poorly reviewed. Poorly executed. Poorly monitored. Sloppy. Self-inflicted. Stupid. Badly judged. Yes, Jamie Dimon scored high marks in the confessional stakes for his various descriptions of how JP Morgan came to lose $2bn by trading credit derivatives.

But there are two points to remember here that no amount of breast-beating can disguise. First, the losses occurred right at the heart of the bank – its so-called chief investment office, which is responsible for managing JP Morgan's entire balance sheet. This was a failure at mission control.

Second, JP Morgan had been warned that something was amiss. The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and the Zero Hedge website have been writing for weeks about the out-sized positions taken by the so-called London Whale. JP Morgan's response was to say it was "comfortable" with its positions. When outsiders know more about what's going on inside a big bank than the bank's own management, none of Dimon's adjectives does justice to the character of the cock-up. He even ended up saying he wished he'd paid more attention to the newspapers.


I would add one more thing to the list above - it is clear that nothing has changed on Wall Street post-meltdown.

Nothing.

And it won't be long before the next one comes along.

The NY Times hints today that the next bubble to burst will be student loans.

Others say China's economy is the next major problem.

And of course European sovereign debt remains an incubating crisis.

One thing is certain, no matter what comes.

The criminals running things on Wall Street will continue to land on their feet.

Accountability, like austerity, is only for the little people.

Donald "Duck" Dunn Dies

From The Guardian:

Musician Donald "Duck" Dunn, the pioneering bass player whose grooves drove Booker T and the MGs and hits including Otis Redding's Respect has died in Tokyo, age 70.

Dunn was in Tokyo for a series of shows. News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.

"Today I lost my best friend, the world has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live," wrote Crooper.

Miho Harasawa, a spokeswoman for Tokyo Blue Note, the last venue Dunn played, confirmed he died alone early Sunday. She had no further details.

Dunn, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1941, performed on recordings with Eric Clapton, Neil Young and many others, and specialized in blues, gospel and soul. He played himself in the 1980 hit movie "The Blues Brothers".

Dunn was given his nickname by his father as the two watched a Donald Duck cartoon on TV. "It was just one of those things that stuck," he said. "Most of my school friends and even a few of my teachers called me Duck."

Dunn and Crooper met at high school and formed their first band, The Royal Spades.

It was Cropper who gave Dunn his first big break, calling him in 1962 to join famed record label Stax's house band Booker T and the MGs.

Stax had a tightly knit, racially mixed band of musicians and Dunn played with stars including Isaac Hayes and Wilson Pickett as they began to break down musical barriers to reach a wider audience.

Dunn added the famous bass lines to hits including Albert King's Born Under a Bad Sign and Sam and Dave's Hold On, I'm Coming. He toured the world playing with Stax's stars and was on stage with Otis Redding in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, which was seen as instrumental in introducing the black star to white audiences.

Despite all the hits, Dunn made relatively little money from his Stax years. "I always look back and say I should have made more," he said in an interview. "It should have been more lucrative, but it wasn't.

"We were cheated a little bit. But with the music and what I learned, it doesn't matter. I have no regrets."

In the 1970s Dunn became a session musician, playing for stars including Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, Robert Palmer and others.

The bass player received the most publicity in his career when Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi picked him to play in The Blues Brothers. He also appeared in the sequel Blues Brother 2000.

He received a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2007 for his work with Booker T and the Mgs.

Here's Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper, Bill Murray and Eddie Floyd from June 2011:

DOE Tells Parents Of Wait-Listed Kindergartners To Send Their Kids To $16,000 Private School

With the NYCDOE, it's "children first...always":

Officials at a popular lower Manhattan public school have outraged dozens of parents whose kids are wait-listed for kindergarten by suggesting that they consider a $16,000-a-year private school down the block instead.

In an e-mail to prospective parents, PS 276 staffers gave parents scant hope of landing an open slot while touting the opening of “The Learning Experience Children’s Academy,” a new private school set to open next week.

The sales pitch hailed the private school’s class-size limits of 16 kids, and noted that it models its program on the Department of Education’s “core curriculum” for kindergarten.

Unmentioned in the e-mail from parent coordinator Erica Weldon — on which PS 276 principal Terri Ruyter is copied — is the private school’s price tag of $1,600 per month for 10 months, with summers off.

Well, I guess this solution is better than the last one the DOE came up with - birth control for parents to keep the kindergarten population down.

But something the NY Post fails to mention is just how "hot" this new Learning Experience Children's Academy chain is - and indeed, it is a "chain."

Here's a press release from the company crowing over their new Manhattan location:

NEW YORK, April 18, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Learning Experience® (TLE®), the nation's top growing early learning academy for children 6 weeks to 5 years old, announced today it has opened its first Manhattan location. The newest TLE® Children's Academy, the 150th location nationwide, is located at 20 West Street, New York City, NY.

On the heels of a study released by the Education Department stating that nearly 5,000 children qualified for gifted and talented kindergarten seats in New York City public schools in the fall (22 percent more than last year), TLE's® Brooklyn location reported that 100 percent of its center's children that qualified for kindergarten passed the New York City Gifted and Talented test and 85 percent were already performing at the first grade level.

"In spite of, or possible directly related to our economic displacement, parents are stressing advancement through early education as a high priority for their children," says Richard Weissman, TLE® President. "Our nationally proven platform is best suited to instill preschoolers with the necessary tools for future academic and life successes."

The 9,600-square-foot state-of-the-art center in the landmark Art Deco building, formerly the Downtown Athletic Club in Battery Park City, Manhattan, will serve the growing demand of parents who wish for their children to be fully prepared for grade school, and beyond. The exceptional, high-quality curriculum - including yoga, early reading program Fun with Phonics®, sign language for infants, foreign languages such as Spanish, and manners and etiquette - has 90 percent of children enrolled at TLE® reading before the age of 4.

Averaging a center opening every 15 days, TLE® has a growth rate of 81 percent for the past 7 years. "We recognized the continuing demand for high-level preschool education in Manhattan and sought to bring our centers to key locations throughout the city for some time," said Mr. Weissman. "We bring more than 30 years of educational and business success to the market, which makes this a perfect fit for an established city."

Headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., TLE® is thriving and continues to be a leader in the advanced preschool industry with a mix of company-owned and franchised locations. In addition to the Manhattan location, TLE® has a prominent presence throughout the Tri-State area with over 60 centers in New Jersey, 5 in Connecticut, and 13 in New York, including one in Brooklyn, and several more scheduled to open throughout the 5 boroughs including Staten Island.


Gee, it sounds wonderful. I mean, who wouldn't love a school that offers yoga for four year olds.

And yet, I seem to remember that the DOE letter to parents with wait-listed kids stated how the Learning Experience Children's Academy stresses a "core curriculum," you know, like the Common Core curriculum the NYCDOE uses to indoctrinate, er, educate children for 21st century feudalism, er, challenges.

Is yoga for four year olds part of that "core curriculum"?

Or do you have to pay $16,000 a year to get that?

Just wondering.

Oh, and you know what else I noticed about the Learning Experience Children's Academy?

It doesn't seem to be obsessed with standardized testing and test prep.

Indeed, they still have something call "playtime" on what they call Make Believe Boulevard
, an indoor Main Street, USA playset that allows for socio-dramatic play.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but most NYCDOE kindergartens don't have this kind of thing anymore, do they?

I can't say for certain, but I just don't there's a "socio-dramatic play" component in the Common Core curriculum.

Not in between all that test prep and drills they're doing...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Off Duty Police Join Public Sector Worker Protests

This scene from a few days ago is bound to give the hedge fundies and Wall Street criminals nightmares - the cops joining in London protests against austerity cuts:





Somebody wrote in one of the comments "How come there's no police there to beat the police?"

Indeed.

The Cozy Connection Between NYCDOE Officials, Charter Operators And Their Hedge Fund/Wall Street Backers

Bloomberg was forced to release a treasure trove of emails between NYCDOE officials, including former chancellor Joel Klein, and charter school industry operators and their hedge fund/Wall Street backers.

The emails draw a curtain on the way Klein manipulated public opinion as chancellor, using his connections in the media and proxies from the community to promote what was essentially a DOE-crafted message but making it look like grassroots support for the city's policies:

The city released hundreds of e-mail messages Friday, providing a behind-the-scenes look at one of the major battles of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration, the 2010 campaign to expand charter schools, or, as one dramatic e-mail put it, the “fight of our life.”

The e-mails, released in response to a Freedom of Information request by the city’s teachers’ union, detail the central role that Joel I. Klein, who was then the schools chancellor, took in the effort, including constant contact with charter school advocates and lobbyists for the city. They were then fighting to raise the statewide cap on charter schools to at least 400 from 200 and communicated regularly about their struggles to herd state lawmakers to their side and their exasperation with the union.

...

At one point, a member of the mayor’s legislative affairs staff e-mailed to say he was searching for someone to write an op-ed article supporting the mayor’s charter school stance and was hoping to recruit the Rev. A. R. Bernard, an influential pastor in Brooklyn. On Friday, Mr. Bernard said that he wrote the article, which appeared in The New York Post, with city officials’ input.

The emails show the heavy-handed effort to raise funds from Wall Street and the hedge funds in order to raise the charter school cap from 200 to 400 as Klein used his public position as chancellor to raise funds for a private concern.

They also show a relationship between Bloomberg, Klein, the NYCDOE and the charter school industry that is so close that they might have all been one big happy family.

In one email, New York City Charter School Center executive director James Merriman asks Klein if the charter school industry can get a “public shoutout from mayor today.”

Diane Ravitch puts the coziness shown in the emails between Klein, his DOE deputies and the charter school operators into context:

The first thing I noticed was the chummy exchanges between the public officials in change of the New York City public school system and the top dogs of the charter leadership–the Wall Street hedge fund managers, the leader of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the leader of the New York City Charter Center, and various others. It comes clear that there is a strong and concerted effort to hand over as much public space as possible to the charters. The charter leaders are not the poor and oppressed of New York City; they are the powerful and monied, and the public officials who are paid to protect and support the PUBLIC schools of New York City are working hand-in-glove to advance the interests of the privately-managed charters, not the public schools. You will also notice, in one of the emails, that the charters are very concerned to make sure that there is no cap on their executive compensation. Heaven forbid! It’s important that their leaders continue to pull down $400,000 a year to oversee a few small schools.

The collusion between those who are sworn to protect the public schools and those who are incentivized to privatize them is surely the most important thing to be gleaned from this correspondence.


Indeed, it is becoming quite clear that this city is for sale under Bloomberg and the buyers are his cronies on Wall Street.

And because Bloomberg and the people he hires to do his Shock and Awe work are savvy media people, they know how to manipulate their privatization schemes so that the public thinks they're in the public interest.

But essentially Bloomberg has sold the city school system off to privatized interests so that they can run "prison schools" for children of color and make money in the process.

Bloomberg Brings Jim Crow To The NYC School System

There is a devastating article showing the effects of segregation on NYC schools in today's Times.

It's entitled "Why Don't We Have Any White Kids?" and takes a close look at Explore Charter School in Flatbush, or "the prison school" as it is known to its students.

First, here are the numbers on segregation, first city-wide, then at Explore Charter:

In the broad resegregation of the nation’s schools that has transpired over recent decades, New York’s public-school system looms as one of the most segregated. While the city’s public-school population looks diverse — 40.3 percent Hispanic, 32 percent black, 14.9 percent white and 13.7 percent Asian — many of its schools are nothing of the sort.

About 650 of the nearly 1,700 schools in the system have populations that are 70 percent a single race, a New York Times analysis of schools data for the 2009-10 school year found; more than half the city’s schools are at least 90 percent black and Hispanic. Explore Charter is one of them: of the school’s 502 students from kindergarten through eighth grade this school year, 92.7 percent are black, 5.7 percent are Hispanic, and a scattering are of mixed race. None are white or Asian. There is a good deal of cultural diversity, with students, for instance, of Haitian, Guyanese and Nigerian heritage. But not of class. Nearly 80 percent of the students qualify for subsidized lunch, a mark of poverty. The school’s makeup is in line with charter schools nationally, which are over all less integrated than traditional public schools.

At Explore, as at many schools in New York City, children trundle from segregated neighborhoods to segregated schools, living a hermetic reality.

The school’s enrollment is even more racially lopsided than its catchment area. Students are chosen by lottery, with preference given to District 17, its community school district, which encompasses neighborhoods like Flatbush, East Flatbush, Crown Heights and Farragut. Census data for District 17 put the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade population at 75 percent black, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent white and 1 percent Asian. But the white students go elsewhere — many to yeshivas or other private schools.


And of course the predominantly white teaching staff imposes strict discipline on their black charges:

Explore students wear uniforms and have a longer school day and year than the students in the other schools in the building, schools with which they have a difficult relationship. A great deal of teaching is done to the state tests, the all-important metric by which schools are largely judged. In the hallway this spring, before the tests, a calendar counted down the days remaining until the next round.

Explore’s academic performance has been inconsistent. Last year, the school got its charter renewed for another five years, and this year, for the first time, three students, including Jahmir, got into specialized high schools. Yet, on Explore’s progress report for the 2010-11 school year, the Education Department gave it a C (after a B the previous year). In student progress, it rated a D.

“We weren’t doing right by our students,” Mr. Ballen said.

In response, a new literacy curriculum was introduced and greater emphasis was put on applauding academic achievement. School walls are emblazoned with motivational signs: “Getting the knowledge to go to college”; “When we graduate ...we are going to be doctors.” Teachers are encouraged to refer to students as “scholars.”

Convinced that student unruliness was impeding learning, the school installed a rigid discipline system. Infractions — for transgressions like calling out without permission, frowning after being given a demerit, being off task — lead to detention for upper-school students. On some days, 50 students land in detention, a quarter of the upper school.

Positive behavior does bring rewards, like making the Respect Corps, which allows a student to wear an honorary T-shirt. Winning an attendance contest can lead to treats for the class or the freedom to wear jeans.

Still, some students have taken to referring to Explore as “the prison school.”

25%-35% of the teaching staff turns over every year.

But one thing remains constant.

65% are white.

Now an integrated school environment doesn't ensure an excellent education for children.

It doesn't ensure that kids will learn racial and ethnic tolerance.

But it does ensure one thing:

When you have an integrated school, you do NOT have a predominantly white teaching staff imposing strict (and sometimes harsh) discipline onto a student body that is overwhelmingly black.

Explain to me how there is a difference between Bloomberg setting up a school system run by white people to "discipline" students of color and a police policy which, in the words of Commissioner Kelly, seeks to "instil the fear in black and Hispanic youth that every time they leave their homes they will feel that they could be stopped"?

On Thursday I posted that P.W. Bloomberg had built South Africa on the Hudson.

Today's Times story does nothing to undercut that statement.

Welcome to Bloomberg's South Africa on the Hudson - a racist, fascist police state.

Watch out for the truncheons, orange netting, pepper spray and stop-and-frisks.