Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, April 24, 2014

More Evidence Jeb Bush Will Never Be President

From Political Wire:

A new Economist/YouGov poll finds just 18% of self-identified conservatives want Jeb Bush to run for president in 2016.

Other findings: "26% of Republicans want Bush to run. That puts him behind Paul, at 36%, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 30%. Some 35% of Republicans do not want Bush to run."

He's been out of office for years, the Times has already reported he's got some funky business deals in those years since he left office, the Common Core is an albatross around his neck, and he seems to specialize in saying things that piss off the conservative base of the Republican Party.

Good luck being president with these issues plaguing you, Jeb.

Cuomo Blames State Senate For Not Enacting His Progressive Agenda

The reason why the State Senate is not in Democratic hands is because Andrew Cuomo helped Republicans and the Independent Democratic Caucus to keep control of it.

Yesterday Cuomo responded to criticism that he is not progressive enough by blaming the State Senate for failing to enact his "progessive agenda":

“I support public finance, I support the Dream Act,” he said. “The Womens’ Equality Act is my act, right? The problem is not that I don’t support it.

“The problem is that I can’t get it passed because we don’t have a Senate that supports it. So the answer would be elect people to the legislative body that support the initiatives that you want passed.”

“That's the obvious extension of that. Well, I should force them to do what they don’t want to do? You know, that’s not really the role of a governor. It’s not really possible at the end of the day. Public finance, it’s a close vote, but we don’t have the vote,” he said.

Cuomo compared the opposition to the controversy over abortion, where lawmakers have settled opinions and are unlikely to change their minds.

“Public finance is not one of these issues where we don’t know the facts,” he said. “The opposition is heartfelt, deep opposition. And by the way it’s a controversial issue among the people of the state. It is not a slam dunk that everybody knows public financing’s great, you know?”

“Issues like choice, these people have heartfelt positions on choice, so it’s not that I can go to someone and say ‘Let me explain the facts,’” he said.

Let's think about all the laws, commissions and proposals he's shoved through even though there was resistance on the part of some Albany politicians.

The Safe Act.

Gay Marriage.

Charter School protections.

The Moreland Commission.

The truth is, if Cuomo wanted the Dream Act the way he wanted the Safe Act or gay marriage or charter school protections, he would have threatened enough Albany pols with destruction to get that through.

He didn't do that because he didn't really want the Dream Act.

Same goes for public financing of campaigns and all the other "progressive" parts of his agenda that he claims wasn't enacted because of resistance in the State Senate.

If he had wanted those things, you can bet they would have happened.

New Anti-Cuomo Bill Sweeps Across NY State


Haven't seen one of these yet, but am not surprised these bills are sweeping across the state.

From both the right and the left, Cuomo has a core group of New Yorkers who want to see him GONE from office.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cuomo Says You Can't Get More Left Than Him

I checked the calendar, but it's not April Fool's Day.

Still, have to assume this is some kind of joke:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a defense of his progressive credentials on Wednesday after he was asked about a potential challenge from a liberal gubernatorial candidate this fall.

“I don’t know if there’s a lot of space to my left,” Cuomo said.

He cited the legalization of same-sex marriage, along with the 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act as examples of Democratic base-friendly measures he has successfully pushed through the Legislature which both times was partly controlled by Republicans.

“I think we’ve accomplished more progressive measures than this state has accomplished in decades and decades and decades,” he said while adding, “We have a phenomenal record of accomplishment.”

Okay, first I don't think you can be considered "progressive" while using the "Royal 'We'" - just saying.

Also, Cuomo conveniently avoids the fiscal side of things, where he shoved concession-laden contracts down the throats of the state unions, is starving school districts via a tax cap even as he puts more and more mandates on them, undercuts traditional public schools for privatized charter schools, pushes tax cuts for the wealthy and tuition hikes for working and middle class students at SUNY colleges. 

You can't get much further to the right than Andrew Cuomo on any of these issues without being, say, a Republican.

And quite frankly, a lot of us out there on the left think he is a Republican, in Dem clothes, and while Cuomo thinks he's getting the best of both worlds by eating up all the yummy yummy Wall Street and hedge fundie money from his corporate base even as he pushes a lefty agenda on social issues and calls himself a "progressive", he's fooling nobody - not liberal activists, not the base of the Democratic Party, not the "net roots" at the Daily Kos and elsewhere on the Internets.

Call yourself a "progressive" all you want Sheriff Andy - it's a laughable statement on its face and no one takes you seriously when you make it.

You've got problems on the left and whether you buy off some of the unions and scare some of the activists with threats of retaliation post re-election, everybody's got your number on politics - a corporate whore through and through out to do the business of the 1%.

As Markos said a while back at Daily Kos, run for president all you want because you deserve the humiliation.

You have as much chance of winning the White House as Lieberman in 2004.

Which is to say, none.

Run, Andy, run!

You got the Joementum!

Cuomo Seeks To Pit Unions And Working Familes Party Activists Against Each Other

Blake Zeff at Capital NY with another illuminating column - this one on how Cuomo is working to undercut a WFP challenge from the left by pitting unions and activists in the party against each other.

That's why he's gotten a little friendly to the unions lately, including TWU 100 with last week's contract, as well as CWA (killing some deregulation that was in the Senate and his budget bill), 1199 (money in budget for pay increases for home health car workers) and 32BJ (raising wages for workers.)

The theory goes that Cuomo is bribing the unions now and with promises for the future in return for their political backing this election season - no matter what WFP does.

And if the WFP just so happens to back a third party candidate against him, well, that's when Cuomo goes to work to destroy the Working Families Party as a viable political entity:

In return for all this magnanimity, labor sources suggest, several of the key unions in the party—like 1199, 32BJ, HTC, and possibly, now, TWU—are leaning toward endorsing the governor and, certainly, away from supporting a protest candidacy.

But that might not be enough. 

While unions tend to play a key role in most political decisions made by the WFP (like the New York City mayor’s race, for example), statewide elections are different. They require that the party’s state committee—not the executive board—determine at the end of May who will represent the ballot line in November. And it just so happens that a significant number of the 200 or so seats on the committee are filled by anti-Cuomo activists in the Citizen Action mold. (As Liz Benjamin reported last month, more than 100 state committee members participated in a conference call at that time “to discuss the possibility” of not endorsing the governor.)

Cuomo could still appeal to those activists by addressing one of their pet issues, particularly public financing, before the WFP state convention in late May. But doing that could also cost him some major concessions from GOP senate leader Dean Skelos.

Assuming the activists still oppose him, it raises the possibility of individual unions—like 32BJ, 1199, and HTC—backing the governor and the Working Families Party simultaneously challenging him.

And that’s when Cuomo would go to work undercutting the party. 

If WFP were to launch a challenge to the governor, one theory gaining currency in Albany circles is that he could urge the unions that want to continue to do business with him after he wins to cripple the party’s future efforts by starving it of funding. Several Albany insiders I spoke to suggested that the governor could even conceivably seek to revive the Liberal Party, which is reportedly eyeing a comeback after effectively having been killed off by the WFP (and, unwittingly, Cuomo) in 2002, as a new home for some of those large unions, instead of the WFP.

WFP state director Bill Lipton dismissed this notion out of hand, telling Capital, "I haven't heard of any unions having their arm twisted to pull out of the Working Families Party."

A senior official at one of the party’s largest union affiliates agreed, saying, “The governor’s too smart to ask us to do that.”

Maybe. But the fact that the party’s activists and unions are not currently on the same page means, at the very least, a challenge from the left could get as messy for them as it is for Cuomo.

That will be the strategy Cuomo uses going forward to avoid WFP from endorsing anybody but him - the message is, if WFP backs another candidate, the war between Cuomo and the party is going to get ugly and it may just end with WFP facing its own civil war.

Howie Hawkins Says Working Families Party Should Nominate Him To Take On Cuomo In General Election

State of Politics has Howie Hawkins' reaction to the Siena College poll released yesterday showing a third party lefty candidate nominated on the Working Families Party ballot line could do some real damage to Andrew Cuomo in November:

“The poll confirms what I heard from voters as I went around the state last week announcing my campaign. Voters are upset with Cuomo’s rich man’s budget that pays for tax cuts for the very wealthy by underfunding schools, transit, and aid to municipalities that is needed to pay for state mandates and relieve property taxes. They are angry about Cuomo’s education agenda of high-stakes testing linked to Common Core and of aiding private charter schools over public schools that now must cut more staff and programs due to funding shortfalls. Environmentalists who want to ban fracking don’t trust him. Unemployed and low-wage voters feel Cuomo can’t even see them,” said Hawkins in a statement.

Hawkins, who is seeking the Green Party nomination to run against Cuomo in November, called for the Working Families Party to put him on their ballot line as well.

Given the lame response Dan Cantor had to yesterday's Siena College poll release, I suspect WFP leaders are looking for any way they can to avoid rank-and-file calls to nominate a third party candidate and just simply (and quietly) put Cuomo's name on their ballot line.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Working Families Party Leadership Doesn't Sound Like They Want To Take On Cuomo

In response to the Siena College poll that showed a liberal Working Families Party candidate could do some serious damage to Governor Cuomo's totals in the 2014 general election, Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor released this statement:

 “Most people are decent, and they want decent, progressive policies from their government. That’s why the Working Families Party was originally formed, and it’s what we’re fighting for today.”

Not exactly a call to arms to take on Cuomo, is it?

Rob Astorino: Andrew Cuomo Not Ideological, Just Greedy For Power

Via State of Politics, here's Rob Astorino hitting Sheriff Andy Cuomo hard on ethics and corruption:



My favorite part of the video was excerpted at State of Politics:

“It shows what Andrew Cuomo has sadly always been about: Power. Accumulating it, keeping it, meting it out to punish, intimidate, and reward,” Astorino says in the video. “That’s the Andrew Cuomo insiders have always known and feared, and the public is now getting a peek for itself. It will get more if the press keeps digging. There’s no vision or ideology here; it’s all about power, which has never been a formula for good.” 

Indeed.

What The Siena Poll Means For Cuomo's Re-Election Chances

The Siena poll released today revealed some vulnerabilities for Sheriff Andy Cuomo and his re-election campaign, including the revelation that a third party candidate from the left could take a big chunk out of Cuomo's re-election totals and the finding that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers think the quality of education under Cuomo has either stayed the same or gotten worse (41% say gotten worse; 38% say stayed the same; 15% gotten better.)

But the other number to look at in the Siena poll is how his job performance rating remains underwater:

Overall, Cuomo’s favorable rating dipped slightly: from 58 percent to 34 percent last month to 57 percent favorable, 38 percent unfavorable this month.

His job performance rating remains unchanged, with 45 percent saying Cuomo is doing a good or excellent job as governor.

His personal favorability rating is in a pretty good place for a politician in the fourth year of his first term (not sure what people are seeing in him that I'm not, but whatever...)

But his job performance rating continues to be well underwater, with 45% saying he is doing a good or excellent job as governor and 54% saying he is doing a fair or poor job (1% said they didn't know.)

In a generic, "Would you vote for Cuomo for re-election" question, Cuomo only gets a 50%-41% yes/no response, though those numbers shift in Cuomo's favor if a name is attached to the opponent slot, with Cuomo beating Astorino 58%-28%.

If a third party candidate jumps in the race, those numbers fall to 39% for Cuomo, 24% for Astorino, 24% for a third party candidate.

These are not great numbers going into an election year with a fairly strong Republican candidate opposing him (and by strong, I mean not a circus performer like Crazy Carl Paladino or The Donald) and the possibility of a third party challenger from the left taking votes away from him.

If I had to bet money on the election, I would still take Cuomo for the win, but I think you can make a case that unless Cuomo and his minions are able to smear Astorino as a crazy person or nail him with a scandal, Cuomo's got a real race on his hands that he should be considered the favorite to win but is not the slam dunk that the Paladino race was.

There are two wild cards that I see in the deck right now:

The first is, what does the Working Families Party do in its May convention?

Do they endorse Cuomo (the way Cuomo has been pushing them to) or do they run a third party candidate?

I suspect they'll lukewarmly endorse Cuomo rather than throw a major monkey wrench into the race and risk Cuomo's wrath (and retribution), but you never know how things play out because there is a lot of anger within the WFP ranks even if the leadership might want to make nice with Sheriff Andy.

The second wildcard is what happens in the Moreland investigation.

Preet Bharara has not ruled out investigating Cuomo himself for alleged tampering into the investigations the commission was conducting and if anything unseemly about Cuomo is found and revealed, this poses a serious problem for Sheriff Andy going into the November election.

I suspect Bharara will take his time on the investigation and we may not hear anything much before Election Day (Bharara has already told us that investigations take time, that a baby comes out in nine months but criminal investigations rarely finish forming in that time frame), but Moreland and what Bharara does (if anything) to Sheriff Andy plays a part in how the election plays out in November,

So lots of good news in today's Siena poll if you want to see a diminished Andrew Cuomo going into his re-election battle, and while I wouldn't get too excited about the prospect of Cuomo losing in November, I would say that you should grab some refreshments for the election season because Cuomo's vulnerable and he's going to have an actual battle on his hands.

Siena Poll: Overwhelming Majority Of New Yorkers Say Education Hasn't Improved Under Cuomo

We're going to have a whole host of bad news for Sheriff Andy Cuomo from the Siena poll that was released today.

The biggest piece of bad news from the poll is that a third party candidate would do some serious damage to Sheriff Andy's totals against GOP challenger Rob Astorino, as I posted about earlier.

But there's more bad news for Sheriff Andy in the poll too - bad news like this:

The survey by Siena College finds only 15 percent think the quality of education has improved under Cuomo, 41 percent think it's gotten worse, and 38 percent say it's unchanged.

79% of New Yorkers say the quality of education in New York State has either stay the same or gotten worse - with the biggest group saying it's gotten worse.

Only 15% of New Yorkers think the quality of education has gotten better under Sheriff Andy's leadership.

Cuomo may want to shove the responsibility for education policy off onto the Regents or SED (although his budget does more to steer education policy than either the Regents or SED), but voters aren't buying it.

Siena Poll: Third Party Candidate Cuts 15 Points Out From Cuomo's Totals

Just like we've been saying all along, a decent third party candidate from the left could throw serious frights Sheriff Andy Cuomo's way:

While the latest poll from the Siena Research Institute shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo maintaining his 2-to-1 lead (58-28 percent) lead over Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, there is a thunderhead on the horizon: When a generic Working Families Party candidate is added to the mix, Cuomo’s 30-point margin falls to 15: 39 percent for Cuomo, and 24 percent apiece for Astorino and the Progressive To Be Named Later.

“It’s been 24 years since a minor-party candidate grabbed 20 percent of the gubernatorial vote,” said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg in a statement. “However, clearly facing opponents from both sides of the political spectrum would create a challenge for Cuomo.”

...

“Cuomo’s dilemma with a challenge from the left can be at least partly explained by the fact that Democrats see Cuomo as not liberal enough,” Greenberg said. “More than twice as many Democrats describe Cuomo as moderate rather than liberal. By better than two-to-one, they want to see him be more of a liberal. By four-to-one, they see him as a pragmatic Democrat rather than a partisan Democrat. And by nearly two-to-one they say he’s favored business groups and their positions over labor unions and their positions.”

This is a generic candidate that voters are asked to support in the poll, so expect some attrition if an actual candidate from the left were to run in the general election.

But you can see why Cuomo was begging WFP leaders to endorse him a couple of weeks back.

He's worried that a viable third party candidate, while probably not knock him out of the race, would hold his totals down so much that he would be a laughable 2016 presidential candidate.

As if he's already not a laughable 2016 presidential candidate.

Surprise, Surprise: It Sucks Working For Cuomo

The NY Post reports that the Cuomo administration is such a miserable, nasty place to work that a mass exodus is expected if Cuomo wins a second term - and that's not counting the rats who are already jumping:

ALBANY — A “mass exodus” is expected from the Cuomo administration after November’s election, according to several sources.

“They all want out,” one source said of top Cuomo staffers.

A former staffer who still has ties to the governor’s staff said the rush to leave has been spurred by a “miserable and micromanaged” work environment.

“You’re micromanaged to the point you can’t make a decision because only a select few people do,” said the ex-staffer.

“It’s not the work, it’s the model. It is secretive and clandestine.”

Sources said at least four key high-level staff members are talking about bailing if Cuomo wins a second term.

On Monday, Crains New York reported that the governor’s top aide, Director of State Operations Howard Glaser, will be packing up at the end of the legislative session in June to take a job in the real estate industry.

Getting out of the administration’s grasp is tough, ex-staffers say.

Those who express a desire to move on are “wooed” to stay — and if that doesn’t work, threats of reprisal are not uncommon, said a source.

“It is professional purgatory,” the source stated.

Former staffers recalled one unusual situation early in Cuomo’s term when a junior staffer up and quit by walking out of her office — without alerting anyone she wasn’t coming back.

After several days, senior Cuomo staffers became so concerned that they sent someone to her home to find out what happened.

One senior staffer who has already cut ties is former chief of staff Josh Vlasto.

Several people with knowledge of the situation say Vlasto wanted out last year, but had to work in the governor’s re-election campaign first so it didn’t look like he was bailing out. Now, in the extremely early stages of the campaign, Vlasto has left for a job at a major bank, Cuomo’s office confirmed.

Even more departures are in the cards. Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy is not expected to be on Cuomo’s ticket come November. When asked about who might replace him, neither Cuomo nor Duffy would comment.

Earlier this month, Health Commissioner Nirav Shah announced he was leaving for the private sector. Shah, who was put front and center in the hydrofracking debate, shouldered much of the criticism on behalf of the governor delaying a decision for three years on whether to allow digging in the Southern Tier’s lands for natural gas.

“There is a lot of disempowerment,” a second former staff member said of the turnover. “No money is worth it.”

According to state payroll records, since taking office in January 2011, at least 99 of 238 top staffers on the “executive payroll” are no longer receiving a check from that department.

...

When contacted about the high turnover, several current staff members said they did not want to talk, even on condition of anonymity. They did not deny the reports, but did say they were “scared” or “afraid of the consequences” of discussing the topic.

Can't say I have any sympathy for any member of the Cuomo administration, but I also can't say I'm all that surprised that Cuomo has created a nasty place to work, micromanages his employees or threatens people who want to leave with reprisals.

It's a classic abusive relationship Cuomo has with people who work for him - if this was a marriage, he'd be in jail for abuse.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Winning A Big Battle, Still Focused On The War

Great news that Gates Foundation-funded inBloom will shut down - here's the letter sent from the CEO:

Friends and colleagues:

 In 2011, an alliance of educators and state leaders, non-profit foundations, and instructional content and tool providers formed the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC). The vision of that group was simple: create a resource that allows teachers to get a more complete picture of student progress so they can individualize instruction while saving time, effort and precious resources.

I signed on to the project in November 2012 to lead inBloom, the non-profit corporation that is the SLC’s successor. I joined because I passionately believe that technology has the potential to dramatically improve education. My belief in that mission is as strong today as it ever was. Students, teachers and parents deserve the best tools and resources available, and we cannot afford to wait.

Over the last year, the incredibly talented team at inBloom has developed and launched a technical solution that addresses the complex challenges that teachers, educators and parents face when trying to best utilize the student data available to them. That solution can provide a high impact and cost-effective service to every school district across the country, enabling teachers to more easily tailor education to students' individual learning needs. It is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole.

The use of technology to tailor instruction for individual students is still an emerging concept and inBloom provides a technical solution that has never been seen before. As a result, it has been the subject of mischaracterizations and a lightning rod for misdirected criticism. In New York, these misunderstandings led to the recent passage of legislation severely restricting the education department from contracting with outside companies like inBloom for storing, organizing, or aggregating student data, even where those companies provide demonstrably more protection for privacy and security than the systems currently in use.

We stepped up to the occasion and supported our partners with passion, but we have realized that this concept is still new, and building public acceptance for the solution will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated. Therefore, in full alignment with the inBloom Board of Directors and funders, I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months. It wasn’t an easy decision, and the unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning. I want to thank you for your partnership in our endeavors and look forward to speaking with many of you in the coming months.

 Kind regards,
 Iwan Streichenberger
 Chief Executive Officer

As has been noted around the Internet today, this is a huge win for parent activism and grassroots protest.

For that alone, a big thank you to all the activists who fought against inBloom, educating the public about the privacy issues, fighting the politicians when they were so jejune about handing over sensitive student information and data to inBloom.

But of course as always happens in the battle against the corporatization of human life in America, inBloom will morph into something else (perhaps something else Gates Foundation-funded too) and that will bring more battles to be fought.

As Leonie Haimson noted at NYC Public School Parents blog:

The statement issued by inBloom’s CEO reeks of arrogance and condescension, and makes it clear that those in charge still have not learned any lessons from this debacle.  The fervent opposition to inBloom among parents throughout the country did not result from “misunderstandings”,  but inBloom‘s utter inability to provide a convincing rationale that would supercede the huge risks to student security and privacy involved.
Contrary to the claims of Iwan Streichenberger and others, InBloom was  not designed to protect student privacy but the opposite: to facilitate the sharing of children’s personal and very sensitive information with data-mining vendors,  with no attention paid to the need for parental notification or consent, and this is something that parents will not stand for.  In New York, the last state to pull out of inBloom and the only one in which legislation was needed to do so, parents were joined by superintendents and teachers in pointing out that the risks to children’s privacy and safety far outweighed any educational benefits.
At the same time, we realize that the fight for student privacy is just beginning. There are more and more data-mining vendors who, with the help of government officials, foundations, and think-tanks, are eager to make money off of student information in the name of “big data” and “personalized” learning, and in the process see parents, if they recognize our existence at all, as ignorant obstacles to their Orwellian plans.  This is despite the fact that the educational value of putting kids on computers and subjecting them to canned software programs is not supported by evidence, and is yet another way in which children’s education is being mechanized, depersonalized, and outsourced to corporate hands. 
As a consequence to inBloom’s overreach, parents throughout the country have also become painfully aware of the way in which the federal government has actively encouraged data-sharing and data-mining of personal student information by eviscerating FERPA.  We will continue to work with parents and advocates to see that the federal government returns to its original role as protecting  student privacy, and recognizing the parental right to notification and consent,  rather than furthering the ability of for-profit vendors and other third parties to commercialize this data without regard to its potential harm.

You know the plutocrats want every child tracked from birth to to college (death actually, but that's a post for another time), they want all that information available to be sold to whomever wants to buy it, and they don't care if parents in this state want nothing of this plan.

So a big battle won today, but the war against the commodification of children and education will go on.

Still, a day to savor a hard fought victory.

How To Fight The Testing Industrial Complex

Michael Fiorillo left this comment on NYC Educator's post about why NYSED and Pearson insist the NY State 3rd-8th grade tests must remain secret:

The destruction of public education hinges on everyone's passive acceptance of high stakes exams encroaching more deeply into every classroom. They are the weapon used to close schools, deprive students of a well-rounded education, and beat teachers into submission. They are the primary lever for getting everyone to accept the de-skilling of the teaching profession, and teaching's devolution into temporary, at-will employment.

The tests are also the primary tool for imposing the "social learning" embedded in the testing regime itself, whereby young people are socialized into passive acceptance of the exercise of arbitrary power, tolerance of tedium and absurdity and surveillance/data mining, so as to be powerless worker bees in the future.

Passive acceptance of the exercise of arbitrary power, a high tolerance for tedium, absurdity, and surveillance/data mining: that's what the so-called reformers really mean by students being "career ready."

This abuse will continue as long as we are cowed into respecting the "proprietary" claims of the test makers, which are totally illegitimate. These tests are paid for with public dollars, are used as gatekeepers for public school students, and are the de facto drivers of public school instruction; the public has an intrinsic right to see them and openly discuss their validity.

That right has moral, if not legal, precedence over any copyright claims.

As of now, the only way to force that debate is for teachers to engage in civil disobedience and provide the public service of making these exams available for open examination by all interested parties.

It's time for photocopies, or scanned and scrubbed digital photos of these exams, to be sent to the newspapers, elected officials, parent groups and blogs. They should be handed out at PEP meetings, so that the Chancellor is forced to acknowledge their presence. They need to be distributed so widely that their "secrecy" becomes a dead letter, the media cannot ignore them, and so that threats by Pearson and it's wholly-owned subsidiary, the New York State Department of Education, become irrelevant.

With the Associated Press picking up the stories circulating that the NYSED/Pearson tests have been loaded with product placements and brand name-dropping, NYSED and Pearson may be getting too cute by half trying to keep the tests secret.

As parent Olga Garica-Kaplan put it in response to the news of all the product placement and brand name-dropping in the NYSED/Pearson tests:


So far, SED and Pearson have gotten away with keeping the tests secret, threatening any teacher who divulges test items or tests themselves with legal action.

But the more these weird stories circulate of Pearson sticking brand names of companies with connections to Pearson into the tests themselves, the harder it becomes to keep these tests secret.

Frankly I don't care if Pearson is using the tests for branding or not - as Michael wrote in his comment, these tests are paid for NY State taxpayers to serve as gatekeepers for NY State students and to drive NY State classroom instruction.

NY State taxpayers have a right to see these tests in their entirety, along with the grading rubrics, "norming" materials used for grading, and the methodology used for the scores.

Fred Dicker: Cuomo Will Get No Support From Dems If He Runs For President

If it's Monday, it's time for a Fred Dicker column slamming Andrew M. Cuomo.

Today's no different:

Gov. Cuomo, long known for his presidential aspirations, won’t enjoy the support of his own Democratic Party if Hillary Rodham Clinton decides not to run for president in 2016, top state Democrats have told The Post.

The Democrats said Cuomo’s worsening relations with his party have led many to look elsewhere for a presidential standard bearer, should Clinton not run.

He has had issues almost daily in recent weeks with Mayor de Blasio, top union leaders, the Working Families Party, former state Chairmen Jay Jacobs and John Sullivan, and key party leaders including state Democratic Co-Chair Stephanie Miner, who resigned abruptly last week.

Last month Democratic activist Bill Samuels — whose father, Howard, was the Democrats’ official choice for governor in 1974 (defeated in the primary by Hugh Carey) — even called Cuomo an “embarrassment’’ to his party and said he should run for re-election as a Republican.

“People don’t like Andrew Cuomo, and if you ask about the presidency, there’s no support there,’’ a prominent Democratic activist and party official told The Post.

“People don’t think he’s principled, they see him supporting people they oppose and not supporting people they support, and they believe he only cares about himself,’’ the activist continued.

...

Cuomo’s declining popularity among New York Democrats was reflected nationally in a Fox News poll last week.

Just 2 percent of Democrats picked Cuomo as their preferred candidate for president in 2016, down from 4 percent in December. Biden was backed by 14 percent and Warren by 6 percent.

Cuomo has been widely criticized by left-of-center Democrats for his refusal to back de Blasio’s plan for higher taxes on the wealthy, his support for charter schools, business-tax reductions, restraints on state spending, and his cozy relations with state Senate Republicans.

Cuomo was blistered last week by influential liberal Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, executive editor of “The American Prospect,’’ under the headline “Democrats need to replace Andrew Cuomo.’’

The Post disclosed last week that influential Democrats for the first time believe Cuomo is vulnerable to defeat by GOP challenger Rob Astorino because of a lack of enthusiasm for his re-election.

Unfortunately this lack of support for Cuomo isn't translating into a challenger from the left to take him on in a primary or to run in the general election and take votes away from him this year.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Andrew Cuomo's Budget Causes SUNY Tuition Increases

From Newsday:


Students at Suffolk County Community College will face a tuition increase of $250 this fall, bringing the annual charges to $4,390 at the two-year school.

The tuition hike is part of the $208.4 million 2014-15 operating budget that college trustees sent to county officials Friday.

The increase comes even though the Bellone administration agreed after two days of talks with college officials to a 2 percent increase in the county share of college costs -- or $780,000. College trustees, in the budget vote Thursday night, also included a one-shot use of $4.3 million from the college's $24.9 million reserve fund to keep tuition from rising further.

"Two hundred and fifty dollars may not sound like much unless you don't have it," said trustee Jim Morgo, head of the trustee budget committee, noting the college's mission is to provide affordable education where many students come from "very challenging economic backgrounds."

...

College officials blamed the increased tuition on the state, which increased operating aid for each full-time student by only $75. College presidents had sought $250 and the State Senate had proposed $125. The Assembly, which had sought a $50 increase, compromised with the Senate on $75, to make the per student aid $2,497. In all, the state share is 25.9 percent of college costs.

County aid has remained flat over the past six years with just a 1% increase in aid to SCCC in that time frame, another contributing factor to the cost of SCCC tuition going up next year.

Tax breaks for rich people, tuition hikes for community college students - that should be an Andrew Cuomo campaign ad.

The Assembly and Senate are to blame too.

But this is Cuomo's budget, the one he's bragging about every chance he gets, so the buck and the responsibility for it lie with him.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Rahm Emanuel Got Chicago's Crime Rate Down

To quote from The Sting, it's simple - he cheats:

It was a balmy afternoon last July when the call came in: Dead body found inside empty warehouse on the West Side.

Chicago police officers drove through an industrial stretch of the hardscrabble Austin neighborhood and pulled up to the 4600 block of West Arthington Street. The warehouse in question was an unremarkable-looking red-brick single-story building with a tall barbed-wire fence. Vacant for six years, it had been visited that day by its owner and a real-estate agent—the person who had called 911.

The place lacked electricity, so crime scene technicians set up generators and portable lights. The power flickered on to reveal a grisly sight. In a small office, on soggy carpeting covered in broken ceiling tiles, lay a naked, lifeless woman. She had long red-streaked black hair and purple glitter nail polish on her left toenails (her right ones were gone), but beyond that it was hard to discern much. Her face and body were bloated and badly decomposed, her hands ash colored. Maggots feasted on her flesh.

At the woman’s feet, detectives found a curled strand of telephone wire. Draped over her right hand was a different kind of wire: thin and brown. The same brown wire was wrapped around each armrest of a wooden chair next to her.

The following day, July 24, a pathologist in the Cook County medical examiner’s office noticed something else that had been obscured by rotting skin: a thin gag tied around the corpse’s mouth.
Thanks to some still-visible tattoos, detectives soon identified this unfortunate woman: Tiara Groves, a 20-year-old from Austin. She was last seen walking alone in the wee hours of Sunday, July 14, near a liquor store two miles from the warehouse. At least eight witnesses who saw her that night told police a similar story: She appeared drunk and was upset—one man said that she was crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath—but refused offers of help. A man who talked to her outside the liquor store said that Groves warned him, excitedly and incoherently, that he should stay away from her or else somebody (she didn’t say who) would kill him too.

Toxicology tests showed she had heroin and alcohol in her system, but not enough to kill her. All signs pointed to foul play. According to the young woman’s mother, who had filed a missing-person report, the police had no doubt. “When this detective came to my house, he said, ‘We found your daughter. . . . Your daughter has been murdered,’ ” Alice Groves recalls. “He told me they’re going to get the one that did it.”

On October 28, a pathologist ruled the death of Tiara Groves a homicide by “unspecified means.” This rare ruling means yes, somebody had killed Groves, but the pathologist couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause of death.

Given the finding of homicide—and the corroborating evidence at the crime scene—the Chicago Police Department should have counted Groves’s death as a murder. And it did. Until December 18. On that day, the police report indicates, a lieutenant overseeing the Groves case reclassified the homicide investigation as a noncriminal death investigation. In his writeup, he cited the medical examiner’s “inability to determine a cause of death.”

That lieutenant was Denis Walsh—the same cop who had played a crucial role in the alleged cover-up in the 2004 killing of David Koschman, the 21-year-old who died after being punched by a nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley. Walsh allegedly took the Koschman file home. For years, police officials said that it was lost. After the Sun-Times reported it missing, the file mysteriously reappeared.

But back to Tiara Groves. With the stroke of a computer key, she was airbrushed out of Chicago’s homicide statistics.

The change stunned officers. Current and former veteran detectives who reviewed the Groves case at Chicago’s request were just as incredulous. Says a retired high-level detective, “How can you be tied to a chair and gagged, with no clothes on, and that’s a [noncriminal] death investigation?” (He, like most of the nearly 40 police sources interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name, citing fears of disciplinary action or other retribution.)

Was it just a coincidence, some wondered, that the reclassification occurred less than two weeks before the end of the year, when the city of Chicago’s final homicide numbers for 2013 would be tallied? “They essentially wiped away one of the murders in the city, which is crazy,” says a police insider. “But that’s the kind of shit that’s going on.”
 
For the case of Tiara Groves is not an isolated one. Chicago conducted a 12-month examination of the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics going back several years, poring through public and internal police records and interviewing crime victims, criminologists, and police sources of various ranks. We identified 10 people, including Groves, who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents—all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.

This troubling practice goes far beyond murders, documents and interviews reveal. Chicago found dozens of other crimes, including serious felonies such as robberies, burglaries, and assaults, that were misclassified, downgraded to wrist-slap offenses, or made to vanish altogether. (We’ll examine those next month in part 2 of this special report.)

Many officers of different ranks and from different parts of the city recounted instances in which they were asked or pressured by their superiors to reclassify their incident reports or in which their reports were changed by some invisible hand. One detective refers to the “magic ink”: the power to make a case disappear. Says another: “The rank and file don’t agree with what’s going on. The powers that be are making the changes.”

Read the rest of the Chicago Magazine piece to see how Rahm and his crime lieutenants got their drop in crime stats and think about this the next time you hear Rahm Emanuel or one of his corporate cronies tout his "leadership" in Chicago.

Chicago Police Brass Reclassify Murder Victims To Bring City Murder Rate Down

From The Guardian:

Stung by a 16% spike in killings in 2012 that led Moody’s, the ratings agency, to downgrade the city’s debt due to its "unrelenting public safety demands", Emanuel promised a tough response. Amid spending cuts, the former White House chief of staff to Barack Obama has ploughed tens of millions more taxpayer dollars into policing. Sure enough, in January he proudly announced that 2013 had seen the city’s fewest homicides since 1965 and lowest crime rate since 1972.

Yet a startling 7,000-word investigation earlier this month by Chicago Magazine cast serious doubt over the crime-busting miracle of Emanuel and his superintendent, Garry McCarthy. It identified at least 18 apparent murders in 2013 that had either been quietly redefined as “non-criminal deaths” or shunted off the city’s books by other statistical sleights of hand.

Professor Eli Silverman of the City University of New York, an authority on the CompStat-style data systems used by police in Chicago, New York and other major cities, told the Guardian he had been contacted by several Chicago officers concerned about the determination among chiefs to drive down crime numbers at whatever cost.

“The pressure from the top is unrelenting,” he said one had told him. “The defenders of the system always say ‘You can’t hide a dead body’,” said Silverman. “But you can reclassify one.” City authorities deny any impropriety.


Classic criminal move by Emanuel - put the pressure on from top down, then have the people below put in the statistical fixes to make everything look better.

More later from Chicago Magazine.

How Union Contracts Get Covered In The Media

From the ever municipal union-friendly NY Post:

A day after the MTA offered its workers a new contract with retroactive pay, Mayor de Blasio insisted the deal doesn’t set a precedent for the city’s ongoing negotiations with its unions.

“We have a very different reality here — we have our fiscal circumstances. We have a separate history in terms of labor relations than that which state and MTA has,” the mayor said Friday at a press conference in Brooklyn.

“So we’re going to do things our own way with our partners in municipal labor.”

Chuck Brecher, research director at the Citizens Budget Commission, agreed that the proposed MTA deal — an 8 percent raise spread over five years — doesn’t directly impact the mayor’s options.

“He doesn’t have to be bound by any other model, and to the extent there’s been pattern bargaining, the pattern is usually what’s happened to other city unions rather than state,” Brecher said.

He estimated that if the city were to follow in the MTA’s footsteps the tab this year would run about $3.5 billion — and that doesn’t even include teachers-union demands for retroactive pay dating back to 2009.

The mayor has said previously there’s no way the city could afford to pay full retroactive pay to all 152 unions that have been working under expired contracts.

Ah, but when the state pattern was the old CSEA contract of 4% over 5 years, with three years of zeroes and health care concessions, that's when the editorial boards thought de Blasio should follow the state pattern (even though, as this Post article points out, pattern bargaining is relegated to what happens in city contracts, not state contracts.)

Funny how that is.

Even funnier is how the the MTA/TWU 100 deal is being talked about as if it's some grand giveaway, even though, as NYC Educator points out here, the MTA contract actually leaves TWU 100 workers a little bit behind inflation, so it's not that swell a deal at all.

Sure, the TWU contract is better than the CSEA contract pattern that came before, but it's still not replete with a "bunch of new goodies" as the Post's resident Ayn Randian specialist Nicole Gelinas says it is.

Somehow we've gotten to this point in American culture where any contract that pays union workers just below the rate of inflation, doesn't shove too many onerous work rules on them, and only nails them with a half percent in health care concessions is "full of goodies."

Meanwhile on Wall Street, the criminals at Bank of America and Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase continue to lose money hand over fist due to bad bets and/or criminal penalties lodged by the feds for fraudulent activity and yet, they still keep paying themselves more money.

Funny how that it is too.
 
Can't wait to see the Nicole Gelinas piece criticizing that.

Oh, right - that's the "free market".

You know, the one with the Too Big To Fail banks who took all those government bailouts after nearly taking the world economy to total collapse.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cuomo To Be Honored In Washington D.C. As "Champion Of Charters"

May's going to be a banner month for Andrew Cuomo and the charter entrepreneurs.

First he's hosting a ritzy education reform vacation getaway/conference in Lake Placid for charter entrepreneurs and other reformy types and now we learn that he's to be honored by the National Alliance for Public (sic) Charter Schools in D.C. alongside other charter heroes like sex criminal/Sacramento mayor Kevin "KJ" Johnson and for-profit college shill George Miller:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support of charter schools in New York City and across the state has earned him the honor as a “Champion for Charters” from a national group at a event next month in Washington.

Cuomo was able to overstep New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in the state budget approved March 31 by allowing charter schools to co-locate at public schools, and he secured continued aid for the schools in the city and across the state.

“This year Governor Cuomo stepped in to support the charter school community in New York City at a critical time,” the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said in a news release yesterday. “He negotiated a budget deal with state lawmakers that guarantees future New York City charter schools rent-free space in under-used public school buildings or funding to offset the cost of renting a building.”

The event will be May 6 at the U.S. Capitol. It’s unclear whether Cuomo will attend; he rarely leaves the state.

He will be honored along with Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and Illinois senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, as well as Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star.

Within the Beltway, the kind of support Cuomo has shown for charters and disdain he's shown for traditional public schools is hip and cool.

But of course back in NY State, where Cuomo is facing a state-wide rebellion over his education reform policies, anger over his support for the Common Core and the Endless Testing regime, outrage over his tax cap that starves public school districts of needed funds even as he throws more and more state mandates onto them and rage over his budget that steals funds from public schools and hands them off to the already-wealthy charter entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz, that support is not such a slam dunk.

It wil be interesting to see if Cuomo attends his honor ceremony in the same month that he chairs the education reform conference in Lake Placid.

Given his suddenly shaky re-election prospects, with a US attorney bearing down on him for what he did (or didn't) do in the Moreland Commission investigations, with his "liberal" base pissed at him for the budget, the tax cap and his education policies, the unions pissed at him for his anti-union stances, and upstaters pissed at him over the SAFE Act and other things, I bet he'll think twice about doing two pro-charter/pro-reform events in the same month, especially considering those folks are already supporting him politically and financially.

But we'll see - Sheriff Andy has been floundering a bit of late, ever since US Attorney for the Southern District took him on publicly over the Moreland mess, so he may just decide he needs the bask and glow of the charter folks to salve his wounded ego.