Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Education "Reformer" Steve Jobs Caught Using Child Labor To Make Ipods, Iphones, and Macs

Not kidding.

And those are not the only horrifying labor practices factories that make Apple products are guilty of:

At least eleven 15-year-old children were discovered to be working last year in three factories which supply Apple.

The company did not name the offending factories, or say where they were based, but the majority of its goods are assembled in China.

Apple also has factories working for it in Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, the Czech Republic and the United States.

Apple said the child workers are now no longer being used, or are no longer underage. "In each of the three facilities, we required a review of all employment records for the year as well as a complete analysis of the hiring process to clarify how underage people had been able to gain employment," Apple said, in an annual report on its suppliers.

Apple has been repeatedly criticised for using factories that abuse workers and where conditions are poor. Last week, it emerged that 62 workers at a factory that manufactures products for Apple and Nokia had been poisoned by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause muscular degeneration and blur eyesight. Apple has not commented on the problems at the plant, which is run by Wintek, in the Chinese city of Suzhou.

A spokesman for Wintek said that "almost all" of the affected workers were back at work, but that some remained in hospital. Wintek said n-hexane was commonly used in the technology industry, and that problems had arisen because some areas of the factory were not ventilated properly.

Last year, an employee at Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that is one of Apple's biggest suppliers, committed suicide after being accused of stealing a prototype for the iPhone.

Sun Danyong, 25, was a university graduate working in the logistics department when the prototype went missing. An investigation revealed that the factory's security staff had beaten him, and he subsequently jumped to his death from the 12th floor of his apartment building.

Foxconn runs a number of super-factories in the south of China, some of which employ as many as 300,000 workers and form self-contained cities, complete with banks, post offices and basketball courts.

It has been accused, however, of treating its employees extremely harshly. China Labor Watch, a New York-based NGO, accused Foxconn of having an "inhumane and militant" management, which neglects basic human rights. Foxconn's management were not available for comment.

In its report, Apple revealed the sweatshop conditions inside the factories it uses. Apple admitted that at least 55 of the 102 factories that produce its goods were ignoring Apple's rule that staff cannot work more than 60 hours a week.

The technology company's own guidelines are already in breach of China's widely-ignored labour law, which sets out a maximum 49-hour week for workers.

Apple also said that one of its factories had repeatedly falsified its records in order to conceal the fact that it was using child labour and working its staff endlessly.

"When we investigated, we uncovered records and conducted worker interviews that revealed excessive working hours and seven days of continuous work," Apple said, adding that it had terminated all contracts with the factory.

Only 65 per cent of the factories were paying their staff the correct wages and benefits, and Apple found 24 factories where workers had not even been paid China's minimum wage of around 800 yuan (Pounds76) a month.

Meanwhile, only 61 per cent of Apple's suppliers were following regulations to prevent injuries in the workplace and a mere 57 per cent had the correct environmental permits to operate.

The high environmental cost of Apple's products was revealed when three factories were discovered to be shipping hazardous waste to unqualified disposal companies.

Apple said it had required the factories to "perform immediate inspections of their wastewater discharge systems" and hire an independent environmental consultant to prevent future violations.

However, Apple has not stopped using the factories.

In 2008, Apple found that a total of 25 child workers had been employed to build iPods, iPhones and its range of computers.

Wow - there's a lot to unpack there.

So Apple uses factories that repeatedly use child labor and falsify their records to cover their tracks in the practice.

Apple knows about this but continues to use these factories.

Apple uses factories that poison its workers and pollute the environment by sending out toxic waste to companies unqualified to dispose of the hazardous material.

Apple knows about this but continues to use these factories.

Apple uses factories that repeatedly break work week laws, exploit workers and underpay/cheat them out their wages.

Apple knows about this but continues to use these factories.

Apple ought to run a new slogan for the company:

Apple Computer - using 21st century technology to bring the world back to the 19th century "Robber Baron Era."

And Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the darling of Wall Street and the hedge fund crowd, is of course on record saying that the biggest problem in education today is teachers unions:

"I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said.

I guess what Jobs wants is for schools to be run the way his Apple factories are run - with 60 hour work weeks, exploited workers being cheated by their employers out of their wages, and hazardous work environments that save the employer/company money but poison the workers.

Steve Jobs of Apple Computer - criminal, toxic polluter and exploiter of workers, employer of underage laborers, and education reformer.

Eva's First Annual Poker Tournament Fundraiser

The NY Times ran a story about all the chaos the Duncan/Obama policy of "school turnaround" has brought to Chicago.

Here's an emblematic quote from a parent of child who has been in not one but two schools closed by the policy:

Josephine Norwood, a Bronzeville mother of three Chicago public school students, has rebounded from two rounds of school closings that displaced her children from their schools. As she watched the Board of Education approve another set of schools for closing or turnaround last week, Mrs. Norwood had a simple question: Can Chicago Public Schools officials promise that the new schools will be better?

“If this process could guarantee the child the best and they would benefit from the school closing, then maybe it is a positive thing,” Mrs. Norwood said. But she spoke out last week, along with many others, about the need for more transparency and proof that the disruptions are warranted.

Ahh yes, transparency and proof that the disruptions are warranted.

Well, we know from the two articles published by Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News on Thursday and Friday that there is neither transparency nor proof that the disruptions are warranted in the school closure process here in New York City.

Using 125 emails between New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and charter school operator and former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, Gonzalez documented the ease of access and cozy relationship that borders on quid pro quo between the schools chancellor and a woman who sees her life's mission to privatize public schools.

You really need special access and a cozy relationship with Klein to write this sort of thing that Eva Moskowitz wrote on August 3, 2007:


Hope all is well. Wanted to invite you to be the guest speaker at our first annual poker tournament fundraiser for the Success Charter Network and for Harlem Success. When I asked the hedge fund folks who they wanted to speak, your name was unanimously agreed upon. You seem to have a lot of fans in that crowd!

But the relationship between Klein and Moskowitz goes beyond a WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR EVA? thing and more into a HOW CAN EVA HARM PUBLIC SCHOOLS? thing.

In fact, as NYC Educator found in the Klein/Eva emails here, she tells Klein how important it is for him to "distinguish the good guys from bad. And yes take away resources from institutions that are harming children and give to those who are truly putting children first."

As Gonzalez reported, she actually got Klein to agree to close two regular public schools whose space she coveted even though those schools were later given A ratings by the NYCDOE:

On Oct. 3, 2008, Eva Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman and head of four charter schools in Harlem, e-mailed schools Chancellor Joel Klein for help.

Moskowitz wanted more space to expand her Harlem Success academies and she had two specific public school buildings in mind.

"Those schools are ps194 and ps241," she wrote to Klein. "It would be extremely helpful to move quickly on."

Less than two months later, the Department of Education announced plans to phase out those schools and use the space to expand two Harlem Success academies.


DOE officials deny Moskowitz's appeal for more space had anything to do with their decision to close the public schools.

"We based [it] ... solely on the determination that they could not turn around years of poor performance," DOE spokesman David Cantor said.

The chancellor's e-mail address is publicly known and many people often write to him, his aides add.

Asked if Klein directly participated in choosing those particular schools, Cantor said: "The Chancellor signs off on all closure decisions."

Moskowitz rejected any suggestion that she received special treatment.

"I have repeatedly not gotten what I wanted," she said, adding that some of her schools have been forced to relocate "like some nomadic tribe." Harlem Success 2, for example, has moved twice in two years.

Public School 194 and Public School 241 were failing schools, she said, and should have been closed.

Both received a "D" in 2008 on the DOE's performance evaluation. The closing announcement drew the ire of parents and political leaders.

That's because they were the only zoned public schools for their respective neighborhoods, and Klein had not submitted the closings to a vote of the community district education councils, as required by state law.

His action led the United Federation of Teachers to sue, after which the DOE suddenly withdrew its decision and let the schools stay open.

Amazingly, both PS 194 and PS 241 received "A" ratings from Klein's evaluators later in the year, contradicting the DOE's claim the schools could not be turned around.

The Harlem Success academies had to find other space to grow.

Students and staff at PS 194 and PS 241 were fortunate that Eva Moskowitz didn't get her way, but students and staff at other schools slated for closure have not been so lucky.

Now that Juan Gonzalez has provided us with just a little transparency in the process of school closings and the cozy relationship between charter operators and the government officials that administer the public school system and run those school closings, we can see that the charter operators are looking to declare public schools "failing" whether they are or not so that they can grab the resources, space and students (albeit, only the ones who aren't behavior problems or low test scorers) from the regular public schools.

We have absolute proof of this.

Yet because Mayor Bloomberg has sole control over the schools system and as he soon often likes to tell us, accountability moments only come once every four years when he spends $108 million to run for re-election, there seems to be little that is being done by other elected officials to mitigate this disaster.

More needs to happen.

State Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) plans to hold hearings up in Albany to review DOE policy toward charter schools.

But that's not enough.

The city council, Eva's former playground, needs to also hold hearings and both City Controller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill De Blasio need to investigate the relationship between the NYCDOE and the charter school operators in general and between Klein and Eva in particular.

We all need to call Liu, De Blasio, and our city council members a few times a week to remind them how important these investigations are, especially with Klein and Bloomberg closing 19 schools this year, the state readying more closures as part of Obama's Race to the Top policy, and more closures to come from both the city and the state next year.

You can get the numbers for those calls right hear.

And this brings me back to the story about the school closures in Chicago.

It is the Chicago education deform mafia that started this policy and has now forced it upon the nation as a whole through Obama's RttT policy and maybe even when NCLB gets re-authorized later this year.

There is no proof whatsoever that the turnaround policy actually does what it is purported to do, i.e., improve the education students receive. Rather, it adds more chaos to an already chaotic system, but provide no changes in either test scores or graduation rates.

Here's how the Times story puts it:

As the public schools system entered its annual process of selecting schools for closing or turnarounds, parents, teachers and community groups leveled criticism at school officials for the lack of communication with the communities involved and questioned data from the central office that does not match the reality in the schools. Some also pleaded for the district to delay any action until the corrective measures taken at the lowest-performing schools — the wholesale turnover of administrators and teachers — could be better evaluated and a comprehensive plan for school facilities could be developed by a new task force.

Parents and people in the communities where these schools are feel completely disenfranchised from the process which is being run by political appointees like the schools CEO (yeah, that's what they call the schools chief in Chicago) and education deform non-profits like The Academy for Urban School Leadership.

The Academy for Urban School Leadership was founded by venture capitalist, Martin J. Koldyke, whose investments include for-profit colleges like Devry Institute and Rasmussen College.

Politicians in Chicago and in Illinois say that they have no power or oversight over the school closure process, yet the politician who does - the mayor - has turned the process over to a "non-profit" founded by a guy who makes his money off for-profit colleges.

Quite a cozy relationship between the venture capitalists, the for-profit schools and the politicians who say their "reform" policies are developed to help kids even though the groups the policies seem to help the most are the hedge fund/finance/for-profit schools industries.

Like the cozy relationship between Klein, Moskowitz and the hedge fund managers she lovingly refers to for her FIRST ANNUAL POKER TOURNAMENT FUNDRAISER here in New York, you can see the cozy relationship in Chicago between the financial industry and the government officials charged with running the schools, but the complete disenfranchisement of other elected officials or even people in the community themselves to weigh in on policy.

In fact, if anything, Eva's FIRST ANNUAL POKER TOURNAMENT FUNDRAISER that brought together the charter operators, the hedge fund managers, and the schools chancellor is a perfect emblem for how the school closure policy is being run.

You have a smoke-filled back room, unelected officials, former elected officials using their access to enrich themselves, and a bunch of wealthy guys looking to open up public education to private profit.

This is the process that President Obama thinks works so well in Chicago and New York that he has used it as a model for national policy in Race to the Top and wants to enshrine it permanently in the NCLB re-authorization.

This is also the process that brought us the closure of a Rhode Island high school and the firing of over 100 teachers and administrators last week that is highly controversial because it is Obama's preferred education policy of the future (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he "applauded" the firing of the teachers.)

Close the schools, fire the teachers (especially if unionized), turn the school over to for-profit operators like Mr. Koldyke or Eva Moskowitz and keep it up until you "reform" the entire public school system so that it looks like South Korea's (10 hour school days, 6 day school weeks, 48 week school years.)

This despite the fact that South Korea's education system which President Obama seems to be so enamored of is one of the worst performing in Asia:

I live in Korea. I've taught in Korea for three years. My wife is Korean, and my in-laws are parents of children in the Korean education system. And I'm here to warn President Obama that Korea is a model to treat with way more skepticism than he shows above.

I'll start with Samuel S. Kim’s doctoral dissertation, “First and Second Generation Conflict in Education of the Asian American Community,” Columbia University, October 2008 (reported in The Korea Times, 10/3/2008). In a nutshell, Kim's research suggests that all that hyper-schooling in Korea does not result in high university performance. On the contrary, Korean students who enter "top" American universities drop out before graduating at the staggering rate of 44%. China and India, with populations 20 times larger than Korea's, post drop-out rates almost half as low: China at 25%, India at 21%. (American drop-out rates at the same colleges were at 34%.)


Let me drive the point home: Koreans are so good on international test scores because they work overtime being taught to pass these tests. When they hit the real academic world in college, they don't have the skills necessary to succeed. They're great at acing college admissions tests - that's what their k-12 education emphasizes - but they're America's worst at actually getting through college. And Obama and Duncan are sorely disappointing for not understanding this.

And I'll end with my own observations and readings while living and teaching here in Korea: Korean students are forced to study in "hagwons" - private night- and weekend-classes, and yes, full summer classes too. The overwhelming emphasis is on learning English.


I see these kids in their school uniforms at midnight outside my apartment, going home after their night classes at the English hagwon down the block. And the funny thing? Koreans spend all this time and money on English, but they don't learn it. They don't speak it to foreigners, they write and read it horribly for all the time invested. A westerner who teaches English at Korean universities blogs about the problem here. I'll just add that most of that study is worksheet-based, scripted, and devoted to passing college examination tests, the SAT, TOEFL, and all the other tests these classes teach to.

The president is pushing for a school turnaround policy honed in his hometown that has demonstrated plenty of systemic chaos and teacher firings but very little improvement (and some would argue none) in outcomes for students and wants to use a failed South Korean education model to reform America's public school system.

And of course he wants to turn as many public schools as he can to for-profit charter school operators run by hedge fund managers and finance guys.

It sounds like Secretary Duncan and President Obama were the two other guys sitting at the poker table in the backroom of Eva's FIRST ANNUAL POKER TOURNAMENT FUNDRAISER with Eva, Chancellor Klein and the hedge fund guys.

On the other side of the door to that smoke-filled backroom where the wheeling and dealing is going on over education policy are the students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities disenfranchised from the democratic process over schools policy.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that this is what a couple of connected guys from Chicago brought us nation-wide.

Or what a bully billionaire who bought himself an illegal third term brought us in here New York City.

So much for the democratic process.

It has been replaced by wheeling and dealing at the poker table in the smoke-filled backroom.

UPDATE: I should note that Devry Institute, the for-proft school that Martin Koldyke, founder of the "non-profit" entity that is running Chicago's turnaround process, has his money in ought to be shut down and everybody running it tossed in jail.

Here is a sampling of the consumer complaints against Devry Institute.

Devry wasn't any better ten years ago when students filed a class action lawsuit against the college/company for "widespread deception and unlawful business practices, and charges that contrary to advertising claims, DeVry students are not being prepared for high-tech jobs."

So Secretary Arne Duncan steered the Chicago public school turnaround business to a non-profit run by a guy who made lots of his money from one of the most notorious for-profit schools with a track record of consumer complaint and fraud a mile long.

And President Obama put Duncan in charge of running the nation's education policy.


Sounds more like old style, smoke-filled backroom Chicago politics to me.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

They Belong In Prison

I agree with NYC Educator.

Declaring schools "failing" just so you can move your pal Eva's charter schools into the buildings that currently hold public schools that actually receive A ratings from the NYCDOE - that is criminal.

Klein and Bloomberg both belong in jail for rigging the system for their pro-privatization pals.

And Moskowitz should be barred from running any schools funded by any public money in New York State.

Call both John Liu and Bill De Blasio and put pressure on them to open investigations into this.

Call Quinn, Bloomberg's pom-pom gal on the City Council, and tell her how you're going to hold her accountable for Bloomberg's and Klein's crimes against the public schools.

She thinks she's going to be mayor when Bloomberg finally relinquishes his throne, so she'll be open to listening to you.

Here are the numbers:

John Liu: (212) 669-3500
Bill De Blasio: (212) 669-7200
Christine Quinn: (212) 788-6979 or (212) 546-7757

Also call your own City Council members.

Let's get the ball rolling on this. We now have proof that the Klein and Bloomberg are not arbitrarily closing city schools. We now have proof that they are closing schools - even A rated ones - in concert with charter operators and pulling all the resources they can from the public schools and giving them to their charter cronies.

And we also have proof of the contempt they have for teachers and administrators in regular public schools. Now it's time to hold them accountable for this.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Paterson's Gotta Go

Both the Daily News and the Post are calling for Paterson to resign.

Bloomberg just threw him under a bus during a press conference about the snow and said something like "Well, I think the governor has a serious decision to make about this, but it is a very serious matter..."

Not exactly an endorsement of support from Paterson's charter school buddy.

Can't say I've ever said this before, but I agree with the News, the Post and Bloomberg.

It's time, governor.


You're a creep.

To send your security detail to the woman who alleges that your top aide beat her to talk to her about the incident, well, that's pretty horrific.

Then to call her to see if she'd drop the charges, that's even worse.

And to top it off, to be doing all of this while you're calling for Hiram Monseratte to go for beating his girlfriend, well, that's just way too much gall.

So forget about just ending your re-election campaign, governor.

Time to go for good.



17 Inches

That's the amount of snow in Central Park so far.

And it's supposed to snow well into this evening.

Forecaster on Channel 7 says this is going to make the list of the 10 worst storms in NYC ever.

And Bloomberg was going to keep schools open.

But he closed them for the 8 inches we got on February 10.

Snow Day

Once again, Mayor Bloomberg waited until the very last minute to call a snow day.

Here's how CBS2 described the decision:

Kids in New York City can ignore their alarm clocks Friday morning, as the Department of Education announced just after 5 a.m. that all public schools will be closed as the massive winter storm continues to plod up the Atlantic coast, delivering a powerful dose of wet snow, heavy rain with flooding potential and damaging winds near 50 mph across the tri-state area.


City Hall sources said on Thursday that the mayor was confident that city plows could have streets clean and school custodians could have the sidewalks clean in time for classes Friday morning. But as conditions deteriorated overnight into the early morning hours, it became clear that making kids venture out into the blizzard-like storm would be dangerous.

The slow-moving storm by Friday morning had dumped about 10 inches of snow in New York City, where a man was killed by a falling snow-laden tree branch in Central Park -- one of at least three deaths being blamed on the storm.

The city is expected to get 12-18 inches before it all ends. And the storm has stayed over the area and is just spinning, so we probably will be closer to 18 whe it is all said and done.

Yet Bloomberg waited until just after 5 AM to call schools.

What a wanker.

Enjoy your snowday, everybody.

I hope Mayor Bloomberg goes for a walk in City Hall Park today.

UPDATE: Here is how the NY Times described the change in plans:

No school. No school. No. School. No school for New York City public school students. This is not a joke. Yesterday the chancellor said that there would be school today, blizzard or no. Today he said something different. He said, “No school!” Now go back to sleep.

The storm is now supposed to last for three days.

Again, I will repeat - Bloomberg, what a wanker...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Storm Update

Channel 7 says the snow will still be coming down heavy tomorrow at 7 AM, winds will be gusting and roads will be slippery and dangerous.

Snow will continue all day long.

And NYC schools will be open.

Let me ask, why were schools closed on February 10 when the snow accumulation was lower (Central Park already has 8 inches by 11 PM tonight...another 8 inches is expected), the wind was not as gusting and conditions weren't as dangerous as for this storm?

Seriously, is there any rhyme or reason to why they close schools for some storms and not for others?

Or does Bloomberg think "Nope - already gave a snow day...can't give another one no matter how bad it gets..."?

Storm Kills Person In Park, Bloomberg Says Schools Open

I'm watching CBS TV Channel 2. The 5:00 news opened like this (I'm paraphrasing):

"The storm battering New York has already killed a person but Mayor Bloomberg says New York City schools will be open."

That's truly an amazing way for them to open the news.

CBS2 reports that they have closed parts of the park and Fifth Avenue because the snow is very wet and heavy and tree limbs are falling.

They're afraid other people might killed by falling limbs.

The storm is expected to worsen and may dump between 10-16 inches onto the city before it ends tomorrow night.

It is really wet and slick out there, but the scarier thing is the heavy snow on trees and even buildings.

So it's bad, bad enough to kill a man, but not bad enough to close schools

UPDATE: FOX 5 says the accumulating snow will continue all the way until Friday night - 10-16 inches for the city, 15-20 inches for the suburbs.

FOX-5 also reports that part of a tree fell onto a bus on Fifth Avenue from the weight of the snow. No one was injured but part of Fifth Avenue remains closed.

Of course a tree limb killed a man in the park earlier today.

It's bad and it's going to get worse tonight and go well into tomorrow.

Marica Kramer from CBS2 talked to parents in Manhattan and every one was angry that schools will be open tomorrow. Kramer said (I'm paraphrasing): "The anger over the mayor's decision may have him want to take this test of leadership pass-fail."

But what I heard the mayor say is "Our education system is to educate our children. So that;s what we're going to do. Schools will be open tomorrow.


Just hope nobody else gets hurt or worse.

Paterson Losing Support

Governor Paterson lost a respected member of his cabinet today in protest over allegations that Paterson and his personal state trooper contingent tried to (and may have succeeded) in getting a woman allegedly assaulted by Paterson's top aide to not pursue assault charges.

Here is the story from the Times:

Updated, 2:26 p.m. | The cabinet official who supervises the State Police has resigned in the wake of reports of intervention by the State Police and Gov. David A. Paterson into a domestic-assault case against a senior Paterson aide.

The official, Denise E. O’Donnell, commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, issued a statement Thursday after inquiries from The New York Times.

“The fact that the governor and members of the State Police have acknowledged direct contact with a woman who had filed for an order of protection against a senior member of the governor’s staff is a very serious matter,” she wrote. “These actions are unacceptable regardless of their intent.”

The resignation, at 2 p.m., came on a day when New York’s political establishment reeled at the news of Mr. Paterson’s involvement, with some of the beleaguered governor’s few remaining allies publicly suggesting that he should end his campaign for election.

Ms. O’Donnell, a former federal prosecutor and social worker, wrote that she found the breach “particularly distressing” in an administration “that prides itself on its record of combating domestic violence.

“The behavior alleged here is the antithesis of what many of us have spent our entire careers working to build,” she added, “a legal system that protects victims of domestic violence and brings offenders to justice.”

O'Donnell says the State Police Superintendent lied to her about the involvement of the state police in the alleged cover-up.

So far, there have only been calls for Paterson to put an end to his re-election campaign.

But given the disgusting nature of these allegations, I would not be surprised to see more damaging facts come out and Paterson ultimately have to go.

Paterson was calling for Hiram Monserrate's expulsion from the State Senate for assaulting his girlfriend at the same time he was trying to get a woman who was assaulted by his chief aide to drop the assault charges against the aide and he was using the state police to help him in the cover-up.

Yeah, gotta say, that's worthy of a resignation.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snakeoil Harold, Go Away

Helicopter Harold Ford had a difficult time in the Village last night speaking to gay rights activists:

This did not go well for Harold. If he had supporters, it was not evident. Many people held picket signs, with words like "Anti-gay liar," "Liar," and "Snakeoil Harold." If not for the efforts of organizers, it would have devolved into a real scene.

The loudest applause came when Lt. Dan Choi expressed support for incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. He told Ford he seemed to be asking our community to "fire her" to reward her for her fierce advocacy.

Ford didn't do himself any favors by asking a questioner to clarify what "Lawrence v. Texas" was. Ladies will be glad to hear the room was equally activated when Ford tried to distance himself from his pro-life past.

The session was brief, lasting just 20 minutes. It appeared to be cut short when the room burst out in chants of:
"Anti-choice, anti-gay
Snakeoil Harold, go away."

Not a photo-op for his campaign website. Local news channel NY1 was there.

It's been a bad 24 hours for the news cycle if you're a teacher or a union member, but I have to say, this story makes me smile.

They had to cut the session short because the crowd broke out into chants of "Anti-choice, anti-gay Snakeoil Harold, go away."

Now that's great.

Paterson Covered Up Assault Incident Involving His Chief Aide

OK - this is bad:

Last fall, a woman went to court in the Bronx to testify that she had been violently assaulted by a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson, and to seek a protective order against the man.

In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.

Then early this month, days before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.

Many details of the governor’s role in this episode are unclear, but the accounts presented in court and police records and interviews with the woman’s lawyer and others portray a brutal encounter, a frightened woman and an effort to make a potential political embarrassment go away.

The case involved David W. Johnson, 37, who had risen from working as Mr. Paterson’s driver and scheduler to serving in the most senior ranks of the administration, but who also had a history of altercations with women.

On Wednesday night, in response to inquiries from The New York Times, a senior administration official said Mr. Paterson would request that Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo investigate his administration’s handling of the matter. The official also said the governor would suspend Mr. Johnson without pay. He declined to answer any specific questions about the governor’s role in the matter.

The woman’s lawyer said Mr. Paterson’s call came sometime between Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, the scheduled court date.

The lawyer, Lawrence B. Saftler, said that the conversation lasted about a minute and that the governor asked how she was doing and if there was anything he could do for her. “If you need me,” he said, according to Mr. Saftler, “I’m here for you.”

Mr. Saftler said the governor never mentioned the court case, but he would not say if the call had influenced her decision not to return to court.

The call also came as The Times was examining the background of Mr. Johnson, whose increasing influence with the governor had disturbed some current and former senior aides to Mr. Paterson.

The woman’s lawyer asked that she not be identified by name because she feared retaliation, in part because she works at a public hospital.

She told the police that Mr. Johnson had choked her, stripped her of much of her clothing, smashed her against a mirrored dresser and taken two telephones from her to prevent her from calling for help, according to police records.

How does Paterson survive this?

They Fired Everybody

Just watched a report about the closing of a Rhode Island high school on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

Huffingtonpost also has the story.

The gist is, the teachers there wouldn't work longer hours or do professional development without additional pay.

So the education board fired all of them.

Every one of them.

Said it was the teachers' fault that the school was so bad, that test scores and graduation rates were so low for so long.

And as part of Obushma's education policy, the lowest performing schools have to be shut down and all the teachers have to be fired.

So that's what they did in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Secretary Duncan said he not only agreed with the board's decision, he "applauded it."

No comment from Obushma but we can assume he is happy tonight as well.

And there will be hundreds if not thousands more of these closures in the next three years unless somebody does something to wake the public up to the insanity of this,

You know, they will reopen that school with new teachers, new work rules, longer hours, all-year round school, Saturday school - all the things that Obushma and Duncan want - and there will be still be low test scores and low graduation rates.

Because the problems are not caused by the schools or the teachers.

The problem are societal. They are economic.

This school was in the poorest city in the state.

But Duncan doesn't care about that - instead he "applauded" the firing of over 100 teachers .

Hell, Duncan did all of this in Chicago and it solved nothing there either. In fact, it made things worse.

Obushma and Duncan must be stopped.

Those of us who made the mistake of voting for Obushma must know that we CANNOT vote for this union-busting corporate whore again.

At least if a Repub was doing this, the Dem lawmakers would be standing against it.

UPDATE: One of the trustees who actually voted against the closure berated teachers for not working extra hours gratis "for the kids":

B.K. Nordan, one of two trustees who voted against firing all the teachers, nevertheless delivered some of the harshest words of the evening to the high school’s teaching staff. Nordan, a graduate of Central Falls High School, now works as a teacher in Providence.

“I don’t believe this is a worker’s rights issue. I believe it’s a children’s rights issue,” Nordan said. “…By every statistical measure I’ve seen, we are not doing a good enough job for our students … The rhetoric that these are poor students, ESL students, you can imagine the home lives … this is exactly why we need you to step up, regardless of the pay, regardless of the time involved. This city needs it more than anybody. I demand of you that you demand more of yourself and those around you.”

Regardless of the pay, regardless of the time involved - you have to sacrifice for the kids.

They don't want teachers anymore - they want missionary nuns.

I guess only Obushma's buddies at JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs deserve compensation.

Mommy, Daddy, and Chancellor Klein

I love this quote from a high school senior talking about the NYCDOE banning homemade items from bake sales:

“Soon I’ll be in college, and I won’t have Mommy or Daddy or Chancellor Klein sitting right next to me saying, ‘Hey David, don’t eat that, its too high in calories.’”

Don't be so fast, David.

President Obama already plans to track your test scores into your college years

Don't be surprised if Big Brother Obama doesn't pick up from Big Brother Klein and track your calorie count while you're in college too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And The UFT Didn't Back The Other Guy?

Gotham Schools has Bloomberg's/Klein's teachers contract demands.


1. Merit pay
2. 4 months for excessed teachers to find a job or be fired
3. Career ladder with "apprentice," "practicing," "mentor," and "master" designations created
4. Elimination of retention rights
5. Elimination of all sabbaticals except for health-related ones
6. Teachers accused of wrongdoing lose salary while under investigation
7. DOE wants easier rules to declare teachers "incompetent" - currently city has to prove incompetence; under new rules, teacher is assumed incompetent if the DOE says h/she is until h/she can prove otherwise
8. Sick days reduced from 10 to 5
9. High school teachers would have to cover 6 classes without pay
10. Employees would receive 1/3 of accumulated CAR days instead of current 1/2 when they retire
11. Employees cannot go below 0 in their CAR bank (so employees fired if this happens?)

The city's list is dated September 10, 2009. So the UFT knew this was what the city was seeking prior to the election and STILL didn't work against Bloomberg in the election.

Fucking amazing.

Obama Wants To Turn U.S. Into South Korea

Obama speaking to a group of U.S. governors yesterday:

Meeting with the nation’s governors at the White House, Mr. Obama stressed the importance of education to America’s economic competitiveness in a tough global marketplace, a theme he has cited in recent days to undergird a number of his domestic priorities.

He said the depth of the competition was brought home to him during a visit to South Korea last year, when he was told of that country’s determination to educate its children to out-compete American children.

“That’s what we’re up against,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s what’s at stake — nothing less than our primacy in the world. As I said at the State of the Union address, I do not accept a United States of America that’s second-place.”

Alan Singer at Huffingtonpost on the We MUST COMPETE WITH SOUTH KOREA!!!! education meme:

President Obama told a meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:

'Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea every year. That's no way to prepare them for a 21st-century economy. We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed for when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day. That calendar may have once made sense, but today it puts us at a competitive disadvantage."

Expect Education Secretary Arne Duncan, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and New York School Chancellor Joel Klein and a long line of politicos and supposed edu-experts to make the pilgrimage to South Korea any day now, so they can view this educational miracle first hand.

Everybody is not as enamored with the Korean educational system as President Obama is. According to one Korean news source, "Obama's remarks came as a surprise to many South Koreans as the country's education system has been under constant public criticism due to its lack of creativity and heavy dependence on private tutoring." But their kids do get high scores on standardized tests and apparently that is all that counts.

One critic of the Korean educational system, Dr. Samuel Kim, a senior research scholar at the East Asian Institute of Columbia University, reported that 44% of Korean students who enter "top" American universities drop out before graduating. This is much higher than the dropout rate for students from China (25%), India (21%) and even the 34% dropout rate for American students at the same universities. Essentially, years of extra tutoring prepares Korean students for college entrance exams but not for acquiring a college education.

Clay Burell, an American high school humanities teacher, who currently lives with his family in South Korea, reports on his blog that Korean students are forced to study in "hagwons" -- private night, weekend, and summer classes where the overwhelming emphasis is on learning English. The Korean Education Ministry estimates that as a percentage of GDP, South Korean parents spend four times more on average on private education than their counterparts in any other major economy. Most of what they study is "worksheet-based, scripted, and devoted to passing college examination tests, the SAT, TOEFL, and all the other tests these classes teach to." What Burell finds ironic is that despite all of this investment and high test scores, Korean students are notoriously poor at reading, writing, and speaking English. In other words, they can't use what they are supposed to have learned and what they test well at.

There you have it - Obama wants to turn the U.S. education system into Korea's, yet the Korean system is dysfunctional.

And he's using the recession that has devastated the states and federal money as the means to do it.

By the time he is done with his one term presidency, there is going to be some serious damage done to public education.

But I can guarantee you that all the "reforms" he is forcing onto the system will make things worse, not better.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Calls For Bloomberg To Run For President in 2012

Like I said here, it is patently obvious that Bloomberg is greasing the skids with his billions to get people to call for him to run for president in 2012. The latest is here:

The party that made ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura governor of Minnesota wants to make Mayor Bloomberg President in 2012.

Jack Uldrich, chairman of the Minnesota Independence Party, has issued a formal call for the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor to "give serious consideration" to a White House run.

"The two-party system has catastrophically failed America," Uldrich said. "America needs a serious, credible independent to right our sinking ship and get it back on track to a prosperous future.

"There is no one better positioned than Mayor Bloomberg to accept the mantle of this immense challenge."


Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser called Uldrich's comments "very flattering."

But, he added, "The only thing the mayor is focused on is being mayor.

It would be interesting to see how much of Bloomberg's money has recently found it's way into the Minnesota Independence Party's coffers.

No doubt that's why Blooomberg has pulled $5 billion out of a private equity fund.

So that he has his slush fund ready to grease the palms of all the people he needs to grease to get the atmosphere just right for a 2012 run.

Obama's CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN bipartisan jive almost beat Mayor Mike, but fortunately for him, Obama has not been doing so well, Republicans are intractable on compromise, Dems have spent the last year fighting themselves and now the opportunity exists for a third party "savior" to enter the race in 2012.

I would say this, however.

Third terms for NYC mayors are funky. They tend to be rife with corruption problems (think Koch's third term.) All the crookedness and corruption of the first eight years tends to come to the surface and while Mayor Mike is going to play the "savior" who is both above politics and above corruption, he is neither.

Note these corruption stories that swirl around Bloomberg and/or his campaigns for mayor (here, here, and here.)

Or the no-bid contract business the city has done and continues to do with mobsters and other crooks here, here, and here.)

So we'll see what wins out in the end - the truth about Bloomberg's time here in NYC or his billions.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Little Tommy Friedman Wants To Take Stuff From You

Like a livable wage, a 40 hour work week, vacation, health care, a pension and Social Security - but only for working and middle class folks, of course.

From Dean Baker at The American Prospect:

Thomas Friedman told readers that: "But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, 'where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,' said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum."

Unfortunately, Mr. Friedman apparently doesn't talk to anyone who has ever taken any economics. There are no serious forecasts that do not project that productivity will continue to grow for the indefinite future, and many project that productivity will grow at a more rapid pace than it did in the years from 1973-1995. This means that there is no reason, except incompetent economic management and/or the continuing upward redistribution of income, why the vast majority of the population should not experience improvements in living standards. This would mean an increase in both public and private services.

This is the meme that the corporate overlords have been selling for the last 20 years.

Times are tough and global competition is tough, so you are going to have to work longer and harder to make less money.

You're going to have to give up your 40 hour work week and employer-provided vacations and your employer-provided health care plan (if you're lucky enough to have one.)

You're going to have to delay your retirement and work longer and harder longer into your old age (but not at a good paying job, of'll be laid off and stocking shelves at Walmart or delivering pizzas to college kids for those golden years...)

And that's if you can get a job at all. As the NY Times reported today, plenty of people who once lived middle class lives are unemployed, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

Now of course the folks at the top - the Bloombergs, the Gateses, the Blankfeins, the Philip Falcones of the world - they'll be raking in gobs more money, sucking up more of the world's resources - while you're losing your stuff.

And according to Little Tommy Friedman, who lives in a 4,000 square foot house in Washington and writes books about how great the Indian economic system and education systems are, says there's nothing we can do about it.

About all we can do is get used to the new reality and socialize our kids to expect to work longer and harder for a lot less than we ever had to.

And that, of course, is where education reform and the charter school movement that forces a 60 hour/6 day work week onto kids, comes into play.

And notice who is driving the education reform/charter movement - the Bloombergs, the Gateses, the Blankfeins and the Philip Falcones of the world.

And they have Little Tommy Friedman and others of his ilk to to sell their jive in the media.

It's all so perfect.

Unless people wake up to it.

The problem is not education, the problem is not the American workforce.

The problem is that the corporate overlords are crooks and have rigged the system for themselves.

You can see the latest Matt Taibbi article for just how easily they've done it.

Until something is done to take care of the Bloombergs, the Gateses, the Blankfeins and the Philip Falcones of the world and the shills who sell their jive like Little Tommy Friedman, things are only going to get worse for the working and middle classes.

You can see the anger over a lot of this in the Tea Party Movement or the nutcase flying his plane into the IRS building in Austin.

But of course the crazies are directing their anger at the wrong people.

Sure the IRS and the federal government are stealing your money and screwing you over and over - but they're doing it for the Bloombergs, the Gateses, the Blankfeins, and the Philip Falcones of the world.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mayor Moneybags Prepares To Run For President

Mayor Moneybags is worth about $15 billion dollars.

He had a third of that fortune invested in his pal Steven Rattner's crooked private equity fund known as Quadrangle Asset Management.

Now he's moving it:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York has decided to remove his fortune from a private equity firm founded by his longtime friend, 10 months after that firm became embroiled in a scandal involving the state pension fund.

The mayor is shifting about $5 billion from Quadrangle into a new investment firm devoted solely to his interest and that of his charitable foundation. About a dozen employees of Quadrangle will join the new enterprise, suggesting the move is not being driven by a desire to change investment strategy. According to a letter that Quadrangle sent to its investors on Friday, the mayor was seeking privacy and flexibility for his investments.

In assets, Quadrangle will shrink by more than half, leaving the firm only private equity investments in the media and telecommunications industries. The setback caps a year of struggle for Quadrangle, after Steven Rattner — the founder who is Mr. Bloomberg’s friend — departed last year to run the Obama administration’s automobile task force. Mr. Rattner was linked to the New York pension fund investigation within months of that appointment and stepped down from his government role last summer.

No charges have been brought against the firm or Mr. Rattner by the attorney general of New York or the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are both investigating Quadrangle’s past dealings with the New York state pension fund.

The Times speculates that Bloomberg is moving the money so that he can use it in 2012, when he may run for president and drop more than $1 billion of his own money on the race.

Leaving aside whether people who were in charge of Bloomberg's money were involved in the pension scandal, I think the important part of the story is that Bloomberg is running for president in 2012.

You can see how he's setting it all up.

He and Obama were once buddies - now he's been criticizing him over the terrorist trials to be held in NYC, over his bank plan, and over the health care reform business.

He's got his buddies in the press writing lots of stories or talking on the TV about Washington gridlock and partisanship that has government paralyzed (the latest was Bobo Brooks on Meet The Press last week saying he know sees a third party candidate as a viable option in 2012 because the two party system is so dysfunctional.)

He hired Howard Wolfson
, former p.r. hack for Hillary Clinton in the '08 race, after he won re-election for a third term as mayor. Wolfson wasn't brought in to jive the press about what the mayor is currently doing at City Hall. Wolfson was brought in to jive the press about what the wonderful non-partisan technocrat Bloomberg can do to solve Washington partisan gridlock.

And now he's moving his money from his crooked pal Rattner's fund so that he can use it for the 2012 run.

The scary thing is, with the Supreme Court allowing corporations to spend as freely as they want on elections (and presumably they just might want to drop lots of money to elect quite literally one of their own) and with Bloomberg's willingness to drop over a billion on this race, it is just possible he could win.

Not likely, of course. But when you're talking that kind of money being leveraged to buy the White House, who the hell knows what'll happen.

Harlem Children's Zone-Berkeley College Update

In response to this post here, Marty Lipp, the Communications Director at the Harlem Children's Zone says HCZ has no "business relationship" with Berkeley College or any other for-profit college.

Lipp says high school juniors and seniors at the HCZ programs are given a menu of colleges to apply to and Berkeley College just happens to be one of the choices on that menu. The menu also contains CUNY and SUNY schools as well as non-profit colleges and universities like Columbia and NYU.

He also says students are directed to apply to the SEEK program at CUNY schools, the EOP program at SUNY schools and the HEOP program at non-profit institutions if students fit the academic and financial criteria.

Lipp says the majority of HCZ students attend CUNY schools, though there are some at SUNY colleges and universities, a few at non-profit institutions, and a few at Berkeley College.

He says the students at Berkeley College are "doing well." When I asked what "doing well" meant, he said the contact that students at Berkeley have had with staff at HCZ has not raised any "red flags" that there are problems.

I am heartened to hear Mr. Lipp say that Harlem Children's Zone has no "business arrangement" with Berkeley College.

I am also heartened to hear that the staff at the HCZ counsel students to apply to CUNY, SUNY and non-profit schools and suggest the specialized SEEK, EOP, and HEOP programs when applicable.

And yet, something troubles me about the presence of Berkeley College on the menu of school choices made known to students.

Berkeley College is a non-profit institution that charges a little less than $30,000 a year for classes in a Bachelor's Degree program. So a Bachelor's Degree from Berkeley College will cost just under $120,000.

Now $120,000 is a lot of money for a college degree from even a reputable school, but from a proprietary school like Berkeley College, it is ridiculously overpriced. And while Berkeley College does not have notoriety of Interboro, Katherine Gibbs, or other scam schools, current and former students do not rank the school very high in their estimation and overwhelmingly say they would not attend there again if they could do their schooling all over (see here and here for some student reviews of the school.)

Berkeley offers nothing that the much cheaper and more reputable CUNY and SUNY 2-year and 4-year programs offer, so I don't understand why the Harlem Children's Zone has Berkeley College on it's list of schools for students to apply to when they're high school seniors.

If the goal of the Harlem Children's Zone is to, as they say on the website, use their "'whatever it takes' attitude when it comes to helping children to succeed," and "evaluate and track the results of their work" in order "to take corrective actions if they were not," they might want to track the outcomes from the students who attend Berkeley College or any other for-profit post-secondary school that they offer as options on their college lists.

What are the graduation rates of students who attend those schools? What is the debt level? Do they work in their chosen fields when they graduate and if so, for how long? More importantly, could they have worked in those chosen fields without the dubious credential they paid either $60,000 or $120,000 to receive? And finally, do the students who graduate from these institutions make a livable wage that enables them to pay off the loans they had to take out in order to attend these for-profits.

The reality is that the typical student who attends the Harlem Children's Zone programs would go to CUNY for free + receive money for books and expenses from the federal Pell Grant program, the state TAP program, and perhaps even the SEEK or College Discovery program. That same student would perhaps have to take out a $5,000 loan a year to attend a SUNY school where tuition, room, and board is about $17,000 (Pell, TAP, and EOP grants usually cover the rest.) Non-profit institutions like NYU and Columbia can be much more expensive, but if the student is academically eligible for the HEOP program, they can go for a fraction of the cost of the tuition and receive a very reputable education and valuable credential (and some schools cover almost all of the cost for HEOP students - I have had half dozen students attend Syracuse University in the HEOP program for as little as $2,000 a year after receiving federal, state and campus-based aid.)

The reality for students who attend Berkeley College at about $30,000 a year is $15,000-$20,000 a year in loans even after they receive the Pell grant, TAP, and the campus-based aid Berkeley College offers to financially-qualified students.

A low income student who receives a Bachelor's Degree from a 4-year CUNY will complete her/his schooling with little-to-no student loan debt.

A low income student who graduates from a SUNY 4-year school will be carrying some loan debt, but it will be mitigated by the value of the diploma (many of the 4-year SUNY schools are quite good and some, like Binghamton and Stony Brook, are world class.) If the student was part of the EOP program, the loan debt will be pretty small, relative to what colleges cost these days (perhaps about $20,000 in loan debt for all four years.)

But a low income student who graduates from Berkeley College will graduate with $60,000-$80,000 of loan debt.

That's an awfully big debt to start out your adult life with, but especially so if you took it on getting a degree from a school like Berkeley College.

So just checking in with former HCZ students now attending Berkeley College to see if there are any "red flags" isn't doing enough for them.

I meet with every senior I teach in the fall semester to talk about their college plans, their financial situations, etc., and when I saw that every student I had in my class who was also in the Harlem Children's Zone had Berkeley College on their lists of colleges to apply to, I grew concerned. When I called one of the sites back in the fall, I was told by one of the coordinators that HCZ had a "business arrangement" with Berkeley College, which is why students were given that college to put on their list of prospective schools. I asked for more information about this arrangement and was told I would hear back from somebody about this, but never did. I called again last week about this concern, again was told I would hear back from somebody at HCZ, but never did.

It wasn't until I blogged about my concerns that suddenly the HCZ was concerned about my concerns. Mr. Lipp told me that the person I talked to earlier who noted a business arrangement between HCZ and Berkeley was "not authorized to speak for the organization" and was uninformed about the subject.

Perhaps that is so. But when I spoke to another site coordinator this week, I was told that a group from Harlem Children's Zone including this person had just toured Berkeley College. So while I will take Mr. Lipp at his word that Harlem Children's Zone does not have a business arrangement with or receive any money from Berkeley College, I would also note that they're not exactly warning kids about the dangers of the for-profit schools when the staff is also getting a tour of the facilities there.

I will assume nothing nefarious goes on here, that the Harlem Children's Zone folks do not see proprietary schools with the same skeptical eyes that I do. Having heard from too many students who had been suckered in by the sales pitches at Berkeley College, Art Institute, Laboratory Institute of Merchandising and elsewhere who were left with somewhere between $30,000 and $80,000 dollars in debt and either useless credentials or college credits that wouldn't transfer to any reputable school, I believe students need to be made aware of the dangers and track records of these schools.

This doesn't mean that CUNY, SUNY and non-profit institutions do not have their problems, only that they are nowhere near as pronounced and troubling as the ones I see at the for-profits schools.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How The Hedge Funders See The Rest of Us

The NY Daily News has details of a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed against Philip Falcone, hedge fund manager and founder of Harbinger Capital:

A billionaire hedge fund chief and his shapely socialite wife are being sued for sexual harassment and discrimination by their gay former house manager.

William Gamble alleges that he was subjected to repeated come-ons from Lisa Maria Falcone, the wife of the man listed as No. 296 on the 2009 Forbes list of the world's richest people.

Gamble, 47, worked less than two months in 2008 for Harbinger Capital Partners founder Philip Falcone and his wife - but contends that was enough time to face "unwelcome and unsolicited sexual overtures" from the sexually revved-up lady of the house.

The suit says Philip Falcone used anti-gay slurs before hiring Gamble to manage the couple's five homes - including a 10,000-square foot Manhattan spread on E. 67th St. - from a cramped office once occupied by the Falcones' pet pig.

Gamble saved his sharpest arrows for Lisa Maria Falcone, alleging that she drunkenly shoved her hands down his pants and suggested that he needed a "good f---" to go straight.

"[Gamble] became highly disturbed and physically ill as a result of this incident," the suit says.

Falcone, nicknamed the Midas of Misery for making hundreds of millions of dollars off the misery of others, has also been sued by his former partner for allegedly cheating him out of $63 million dollars.

But if you think he's all Gordon Gekko, think again. He's a big charity guy and sits on several education-related boards (see here and here), though even at the charity gigs he tends to put himself before others.

For instance, here he is pushing his way into a charity photo-op over a bunch of underprivileged kids.

What a swell fellow! So glad he is part of the education reform movement! So glad he's making more money than god off the misery of others!

And the wife - wow
. What can you say about a woman who sexually harasses a gay employee and says all he needs to go straight is a "good f---" from her?

But as bad as Falcone and his wife seemed to have been in the past, this lawsuit is the first time we know of that he has been quite literally accused of treating a pig better than an employee.

And given this guy's track record, that's saying something.

Now the NY Post has been doing lots of rubber room stories alleging that all the teachers there are perverts and criminals and as I noted in an earlier post, Joanna Molloy of the NY Daily News extrapolated from the stupidity of one or two teachers that all "teachers are getting dumber."

So if the Post and the News can extrapolate depictions of all public school teachers from just a few bad eggs, should we extrapolate from Mr. Falcone's alleged behavior and treatment of employees, business partners and people who have the unfortunate luck of being in front of him at photo ops that all hedge fund managers/education reformers are crooked, egomaniacal, homophobic creeps?

The Wall Street Con

Matt Taibbi's piece on the Biggest Con In History is essential reading:

There's still a widespread misunderstanding of how exactly Wall Street "earns" its money, with emphasis on the quotation marks around "earns." The question everyone should be asking, as one bailout recipient after another posts massive profits — Goldman reported $13.4 billion in profits last year, after paying out that $16.2 billion in bonuses and compensation — is this: In an economy as horrible as ours, with every factory town between New York and Los Angeles looking like those hollowed-out ghost ships we see on History Channel documentaries like Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes, where in the hell did Wall Street's eye-popping profits come from, exactly? Did Goldman go from bailout city to $13.4 billion in the black because, as Blankfein suggests, its "performance" was just that awesome? A year and a half after they were minutes away from bankruptcy, how are these assholes not only back on their feet again, but hauling in bonuses at the same rate they were during the bubble?

The answer to that question is basically twofold: They raped the taxpayer, and they raped their clients.

The bottom line is that banks like Goldman have learned absolutely nothing from the global economic meltdown. In fact, they're back conniving and playing speculative long shots in force — only this time with the full financial support of the U.S. government. In the process, they're rapidly re-creating the conditions for another crash, with the same actors once again playing the same crazy games of financial chicken with the same toxic assets as before.

That's why this bonus business isn't merely a matter of getting upset about whether or not Lloyd Blankfein buys himself one tropical island or two on his next birthday. The reality is that the post-bailout era in which Goldman thrived has turned out to be a chaotic frenzy of high-stakes con-artistry, with taxpayers and clients bilked out of billions using a dizzying array of old-school hustles that, but for their ponderous complexity, would have fit well in slick grifter movies like The Sting and Matchstick Men. There's even a term in con-man lingo for what some of the banks are doing right now, with all their cosmetic gestures of scaling back bonuses and giving to charities. In the grifter world, calming down a mark so he doesn't call the cops is known as the "Cool Off."

Read the rest to see how they pulled it off and continue to pull it off with the help of the Fed, the Bush administration, and the Obama administration.

These people belong in jail.

Instead, the "socialist" president calls Blankfein of Goldman and Dimon of JP Morgan Chase "very savvy businessmen" and says he "doesn't begrudge" their taxpayer-provided bonuses.

Instead he puts the very people who facilitated this mess - Bernanke, Summers and Geithner - in charge of cleaning up the mess (and surprise, surprise! The only thing getting cleaned up is the taxpayer...)

Instead he offers no real meaningful reform to the financial system and continues the era of the Yummy Yummy Punchbowl for Wall Street and the banksters.

Instead he offers them even more punchbowls - "reforming" health care with a very insurance industry- and Big Pharma-friendly plan and "reforming" education by opening up all that yummy yummy public education money to for-profit education entrepreneurs.

And what we're left with just a little less than two years after the financial system collapsed is more of the same, only worse. Here's Taibbi again:

To sum up, this is what Lloyd Blankfein meant by "performance": Take massive sums of money from the government, sit on it until the government starts printing trillions of dollars in a desperate attempt to restart the economy, buy even more toxic assets to sell back to the government at inflated prices — and then, when all else fails, start driving us all toward the cliff again with a frank and open endorsement of bubble economics. I mean, shit — who wouldn't deserve billions in bonuses for doing all that?

Con artists have a word for the inability of their victims to accept that they've been scammed. They call it the "True Believer Syndrome." That's sort of where we are, in a state of nagging disbelief about the real problem on Wall Street. It isn't so much that we have inadequate rules or incompetent regulators, although both of these things are certainly true. The real problem is that it doesn't matter what regulations are in place if the people running the economy are rip-off artists. The system assumes a certain minimum level of ethical behavior and civic instinct over and above what is spelled out by the regulations. If those ethics are absent — well, this thing isn't going to work, no matter what we do. Sure, mugging old ladies is against the law, but it's also easy. To prevent it, we depend, for the most part, not on cops but on people making the conscious decision not to do it.

That's why the biggest gift the bankers got in the bailout was not fiscal but psychological. "The most valuable part of the bailout," says Rep. Sherman, "was the implicit guarantee that they're Too Big to Fail." Instead of liquidating and prosecuting the insolvent institutions that took us all down with them in a giant Ponzi scheme, we have showered them with money and guarantees and all sorts of other enabling gestures. And what should really freak everyone out is the fact that Wall Street immediately started skimming off its own rescue money. If the bailouts validated anew the crooked psychology of the bubble, the recent profit and bonus numbers show that the same psychology is back, thriving, and looking for new disasters to create. "It's evidence," says Rep. Kanjorski, "that they still don't get it."

More to the point, the fact that we haven't done much of anything to change the rules and behavior of Wall Street shows that we still don't get it. Instituting a bailout policy that stressed recapitalizing bad banks was like the addict coming back to the con man to get his lost money back. Ask yourself how well that ever works out. And then get ready for the reload.

The hucksters on Wall Street and in Washington like to blame public education and teachers for all the ills of the American economy.

But one need look no further than the con men in Washington and on Wall Street (often interchangeable) to see who is really to blame.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's Wrong With For-Profit Colleges?


A Denver Post article about for-profit colleges examined graduation rates, loans, default rates and other federal Department of Education data and reported that "for-profit schools as a group underperform their public and nonprofit counterparts."

Here is a summary of their findings:

• For-profit students are defaulting on their loans at much higher rates than students enrolled in public or private nonprofit schools. Twenty-three percent of students who attended Colorado for-profit schools were in default in the first three years they are required to make payments, according to a Denver Post analysis of 2009 federal Department of Education data.

Adams State College in Alamosa had the state's highest default rate among four-year public schools at 15 percent.

• Tuition rates are high. Associate's degrees usually run $30,000 to $40,000, and bachelor's degrees usually cost between

$60,000 and $75,000 at for-profit colleges.

That compares with Metropolitan State College of Denver, where a three-year bachelor's degree runs about $12,900, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, where the cost is $29,000 for in-state students. At the private, nonprofit University of Denver, a three-year bachelor's degree costs $148,704.

• Taxpayers are paying for it. Last year, Colorado students received $1.6 billion in federal loans and Pell grants. Of that, $690 million went to for-profit schools, according to an analysis of federal loan data.

• Twenty-five percent of students seeking bachelor's degrees at for-profits receive their degrees within six years, compared with 55 percent at public colleges

and 64 percent at private nonprofit colleges, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

For-profit schools say they serve a needier student population than most other colleges, which pulls down their graduation rates. Indeed, public schools that serve higher-risk populations, such as Metro State, do not perform any better. Its six-year graduation rate is 22 percent.

• Since 2006, the Colorado Department of Education has received 164 complaints against for-profit colleges — or one for every 214 students attending for-profit schools allowed to collect federal loan dollars. That compares with 178 complaints filed against public colleges — or one for every 1,224 students.

While the complaints themselves are not public, state officials told The Post the complaints against public schools are mostly academic in nature — disputes about grades or professors, for example. Complaints from students attending for-profit schools are consumer in nature, ranging from recruiting practices to lack of transparency about tuition costs and financial aid, according to John Karakoulakis at the state Department of Higher Education.

Now the Post article focused on Denver, but there is plenty of evidence nation-wide that for-profit schools do more harm than good.

94% of students who attend for-profit colleges take out federal student loans. The Wall Street Journal found that students who attend for-profit colleges have higher default rates on their student loans than students who attend public and nonprofit colleges and universities. Many students at for-profit schools are left with an overwhelming level of debt and scarce opportunities for gainful employment in their specific fields. The link between gainful employment and debt levels has led the Department of Education to review financial aid policies to all schools, but especially for-profits, though like much in Washington these days, it looks like any new proposals in the area are gridlocked and ultimately nothing will get done.

But something needs to be done about these schools.

I know that we live in a society these days that privileges "going to college" but it is very important that high school students be provided with good counseling about the process, especially with college costs so high.

A college degree only helps kids when it actually aids them in finding gainful long-term employment.

A college degree harms kids when it leaves them with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt and useless or less-than-useful credentials.

The NY Times reports this morning that 60% of Americans now see colleges "as businesses, concerned more with their bottom line than with the educational experience of students."

Nonprofit institutions with tuition prices as high as $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 a year are part of the problem here, but for-profits are the most worrisome to me because as a University of Phoenix enrollment director told recruiters in 2003, "It's all about the numbers. It will always be about the numbers."

When you run a school as a business, the bottom line is always the most important thing.

And the bottom line for these for-profit schools is not educating their students.

The bottom line is money.

Incredibly Lame Paterson Expose In Times

Dunno what all the fuss was about the past few weeks concerning Governor Paterson.

There were all kinds of rumors floating around such as Paterson and his wife are swingers and have sex parties in the governor's mansion or Paterson's a coke fiend who enjoys doing lines off the naked bodies of dead hookers.

Quality stuff like that.

The Times was supposedly investigating these rumors and was going to blow the doors out of Albany with an expose about Paterson.

Now that stuff I detailed above may be true for all I know, but the Times either doesn't have that info or plan on publishing it if it does.

What they do have is a story about Paterson's chief aide, David Johnson, a 6 foot 7 fellow nicknamed D.J. who was arrested for selling coke to the cops as a teenager and has been involved in at least three domestic abuse cases, the last one as recently as last October.

Paterson's other aides do not like Johnson and think he has too much power and influence over Paterson.

Johnson used to be Paterson's driver, now he's functioning as a quasi-chief of staff to the governor.

Granted Paterson is a hypocrite for calling for Hiram Monserrate's expulsion from the state senate for a misdemeanor conviction in a domestic abuse case while keeping Johnson, a man with his own domestic abuse problems, as his chief aide.

And granted, that Paterson would essentially give so much power to this "Benson" figure with a violent past and at least one felony drug conviction (his other conviction came when he was underage and has been sealed) is a bit scary and shows, uh, an interesting bit of judgment on Paterson's part.

But surely this story doesn't call for Paterson's resignation.

So either there is more to this story that the Times didn't get into or Paterson was right about somebody being out to get him.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Excise Tax On Employer-Provided Health Care Plans Update

You may remember my blogging furiously about President Obama's plan to fund his health care giveaway to Big Pharma and the health insurance industry with a 40% excise tax on so-called "Cadillac health care plans" provided to employees by their employers.

Eventually Obama made a backroom deal with labor leaders to get unions exempted from the excise tax for a few years. But by 2017 union members would pay the excise tax on their employer-provided health care plans just like everybody else.

President Obama was obstinate over the excise tax because he thinks it's the best way to hold down health care costs. You see, when employers get nailed with the 40% tax on the plan they're providing to you, they'll do one of two things: a) pass the costs on to you in the form of higher premiums and co-pays or b) drop your "expensive" health care plan for a cheaper HMO.

I was outraged by the president's selling out of the middle class and said so more than once here at Perdido Street School. I called the White House and my reps in Congress repeatedly to let them know how I felt.

But to no avail - the excise tax lived!

I, along with my fellow union members and other working and middle class people with employer-provided health care plans, would help fund Obama's giveaway to the health insurance industry.

The loss of the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy to a Republican
last month put all of that on the backburner, however.

Since Dems no longer have 60 votes to get the plan through a GOP filibuster, the health care reform plan seemed at least temporarily dead in the water.

If the House were prepared to pass the Senate version of the health care bill whole, the plan still could pass, but there are many provisions in the Senate version of the bill that House members have balked at.

The loss of Kennedy's seat further eroded support for the reform bill among Dems, who see it as politically toxic to tax middle class and working class people to pay for the reform.

So nothing has happened with health care reform since the Mass. Senate election.

But Obama hasn't given up on his "reform" measures.

The president has set February 25 as a deadline for a final reform bill to be completed. He plans to have a "bipartisan meeting" at the White House on the day on health care reform and wants to have a bill passed after that.

But the New York Times reports
support for the excise tax deal among labor leaders and Congressional Dems has cratered:

WASHINGTON — An agreement to tax high-cost, employer-sponsored health insurance plans, announced with fanfare by the White House and labor unions last month, is losing support from labor leaders, who say the proposal is too high a price to pay for the limited health care package they expect to emerge from Congress.

But the White House is still urging Congress to adopt the excise tax as a way to help pay for President Obama’s ambitious health care proposals.

With support for the tax eroding, Congressional leaders are searching for alternative sources of revenue.

The search has some urgency because Mr. Obama has said he hopes House and Senate Democrats can resolve their differences and come up with a final version of the legislation before he convenes a bipartisan meeting on the issue on Feb. 25.

When the tax agreement was announced on Jan. 14, White House officials described it as a breakthrough that would help clear the way for passage of sweeping health legislation.

Besides producing a substantial amount of revenue, they said, the excise tax on the most expensive insurance plans would slow the growth of health costs by giving consumers a powerful incentive to shop for cheaper policies.

Under the agreement, which builds on a provision in the larger health bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 24, the federal government would impose a 40 percent tax on the value of employer-sponsored health coverage exceeding certain thresholds. To win the endorsement of labor leaders, White House officials agreed to changes in the tax that would lessen its impact on workers, including union members with collectively bargained health benefits.

But labor leaders have backed away from the proposal in the wake of the special Senate election in Massachusetts.

“I do not believe there will be an excise tax enacted,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America. “It appears that the administration and Congress will be taking a much more modest approach to health care reform. The cost and value of such reform would not justify using an excise tax.”

A wide range of House Democrats continue to criticize the tax as bad policy, even with the changes negotiated by labor leaders and the White House.

Moreover, House Democrats said, the tax is bad politics because it would set the middle class against the poor — people struggling to keep health insurance against people struggling to get it.

Boy, this president is tin-eared and arrogant.

According to the Times article, the White House still believes the excise tax will live in the final reform bill.

He didn't get the message that Americans do not want the very-complicated piece of shit bill passed by the Senate that has plenty of sweetheart deals in it for Big Pharma, the insurance industry and others but doesn't contain any cost-containment initiatives except to have employees with employer-provided health care lose that health care and have it replaced with cheaper and shittier HMO plans.

Here's how the Times article puts it:

Reid H. Cherlin, a White House spokesman, said he was not aware of any erosion in support for the tax among administration officials.

“The president,” he said, “continues to believe that charging insurance companies a fee for their most expensive polices — an idea that has the support of experts from both parties — will help achieve the core goal of health insurance reform: putting downward pressure on long-term health costs while ensuring that we aren’t placing new burdens on hard-working middle-class families.”

But as a practical matter, labor leaders said, the excise tax was killed by the election in Massachusetts, where the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, won the Senate seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy.

In opinion polls and in conversations with lawmakers, Massachusetts voters expressed deep hostility to the excise tax.

Members of union households voted for Mr. Brown over his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, according to a telephone poll conducted on election night for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. He won 49 percent of the vote from union households, while she got 46 percent, the survey found.

Michael A. Podhorzer, deputy political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said Massachusetts should be a warning to Democrats, like “a canary in a coal mine.”

“Fully 42 percent of voters believed the health care bill would tax employer health benefits, and these voters supported Brown by two to one,” Mr. Podhorzer said.

Because details of the proposed tax were complex and continually changing, it was difficult for people to know whether they would be affected. Technically, insurers would be responsible for paying the tax, but economists say the cost would be passed on to workers.


It's a shame Obama didn't learn the correct lesson from last month's Senate election in Mass.

But it seems he didn't. He is pushing for the excise tax and his shitty health care reform/giveaway to Big Pharma and the health insurance industry.

He still believes the best way to hold down health care costs is to make sure you have shittier health care.

No wonder Dems are going to lose a shitload of seats in the House and Senate this November.

They deserve to.

I just hope the man who brought all this into being - President Obam - is made to pay for it in 2012 too.