Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, April 30, 2010

Heckuva Job, Barack

From Political Wire:

"It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced."

-- President Obama, quoted by Think Progress on April 2, 2010.

Just 18 days later a rig operated 41 miles off the Louisiana coast exploded and caused what may be the largest oil spill in history.

The picture above is one of those technologically-advanced oil rigs that generally don't spill anymore.

It is STILL spilling oil as I write this.

They haven't figured out how to shut the rig off.

It is leaking 5,000 barrels of oil per day.

Spill, baby, spill.

St. Vincent's RIP

Saint Vincent's Hospital officially goes out of business at 8 AM today after 160 years of treating patients.

All 3,500 employees will lose their jobs.

The lower west side of Manhattan will be without a full-service hospital.

On the plus side, NYU will have some buildings they can take over if Mayor Bloomberg's gift of Governor's Island to the university isn't enough space for their planned future expansions.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

18,000 Students Support Teachers In New Jersey

Every once in a while there is a story about education that actually warms my heart.

18,000 students walked out of New Jersey classrooms yesterday
to protest Governor Christie's budget cuts to education.

They carried signs like "We are the future" and "We love our teachers."

They marched to City Hall in Newark to chant "No More Budget Cuts!"

They made their voices heard.

They think Chris Christie and the other education deform wankers demonizing teachers and teachers unions are WRONG. They think the "fiscal conservatives" trying to balance state budgets with education cuts while refusing to raise taxes on people making over $400,000 a year are WRONG.

But of course Governor Christie didn't hear any of it:

Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, released a statement on Tuesday saying that students belonged in the classroom. “It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever,” Mr. Drewniak said, “and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey.”

Spring fever? Youthful rebellion?

When tea partiers show up in Washington on Tax Day to protest having to pay taxes (even though we now pay the lowest level of federal taxes in generations), you never hear a Republican say "Gee, I hope they're just inspired by spring fever or youthful rebellion."

Instead you hear how the tea partiers are channeling Tom Paine and Sam Adams and other "patriots" who protested unfair tax policies back in the day.

But when students - 18,000 of them - come out to protest Governor Christie's budget cuts to schools and demonizing of teachers, those same Republicans say "Oh, it's just spring's just youthful rebellion...they'll be back to playing video games tomorrow..."

Well, maybe. But maybe not:

Not every school had students walk out. Nancy Dries, a spokeswoman for the top-ranked Millburn district, which has used surplus money to avoid major cuts, said it was “business as usual” there.

But in many other places, students came to school ready to make a political statement. Emma Wolin, a junior at Columbia High, walked out of second-period Spanish with several classmates, even though the school had warned that they would face detention

They certainly did make a political statement yesterday. I hope Christie and Obama and Duncan and all the other eduwankers heard it.

But I doubt they did.

There will have to be more political statements made in the future.

We will start this November by letting Democrats who sign on to Obama's education plans to close schools, turn them into for-profit charters and scapegoat/fire thousands of teachers know how we feel about those policies.

The mood is already the most anti-incumbent since 1994.

Just wait until all those teachers who voted for Democrats sit out this fall.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Think We Just Might Have To Have An Accountability Moment

Political Wire reports that President Accountability has rolled out his strategy for the 2010 midterm elections:

In in a new video, President Obama lays out the 2010 election strategy for Democrats.

It essentially boils down to re-engaging the voters who propelled him to the White House in 2008. Obama also warns that only by keeping the House and Senate under Democratic control will he be able to pursue his agenda.

President Accountability says only by keeping the House and the Senate under Democratic control will he be able to pursue his agenda!

Who wants to break the news to President Accountability that all those teachers who voted for him and walked door to door for him and worked the GOTV machine for him on Election Day '08 and sent him their hard-earned cash WON'T be doing ANY of that this time around?

Not after Race to the Top.

Not after Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Not after his proposals in No Child Left Behind Jr. - the Obama Years.

Not after the administration encouraged that abomination of a bill down in Florida that would have banned teacher tenure and forced all teachers to take 50% of their compensation in merit pay tied to test scores and then didn't even have the guts to say they were FOR IT on the record.

Not this time.

Who wants to break the news to President Accountability that we want NOTHING to do with his agenda?

The number at President Accountability's temporary house is 202-456-1111.

Emails can be sent here.

Normally I say be polite when you call, but this time I say DO NOT be polite.

Be as mad as you ought to be by his pro-privatization/anti-teachers union policies and statements.

Let 'em know EXACTLY why you're not voting for Dems or sending them money or canvassing for them.

Call your senators and congressmen and let them know too.

With Obama at the lowest level of approval in his presidency (see here and here for the latest) and with health care "reform" very unpopular, Dems are going to be VERY open to teachers and union members telling them EXACTLY why we're NOT voting for them.

They might even stop taking teachers unions for granted if we make them pay a political price for Obama's policies.

So start calling.

Tell President Accountability it is time for his own "accountability moment."

Now There's A Bill I Can Support

The NY Post reports today in their phony WAR ON CHARTERS series that a bill has been introduced that would force charter schools to admit the same kinds of students that traditional public schools do:

Charter schools that don't enroll as many kids with disabilities or limited English as do traditional public schools would be shut down under a bill introduced by a top Democrat in the state Senate, The Post has learned.

State Senate Conference leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) has quietly introduced legislation that would revoke the state license of charter schools that don't meet a quota for enrolling special-needs kids over two consecutive years.

"A charter school must enroll the same or a greater percentage of students with disabilities and limited-English-proficient students when compared to the enrollment figures for such students in the school district in which the charter school is located," the bill states.

The bill -- which mirrors recommendations made by the United Federation of Teachers in January -- also has the backing of Assemblyman Alan Masiel (D-Brooklyn) and 19 other Assembly Democrats.

Just as charter operators do not want any outside independent oversight of the financing and management of schools, they also are opposed to any regulations regarding the type of students they enroll.

Because they know the advantage they have - enroll who they want, dump them when they no longer want them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Charter Schools: The Most Accountable Entities In The Western Hemisphere

The NY Post has been running a series the past few weeks called "War on Charters."

The gist of the series is that the valiant folks running charter schools are up against big, powerful, wealthy forces trying to destroy them.

Today's article is typical
- charters are wonderful, they have smaller class sizes, the buildings and facilities are nicer than regular public schools, the kids are engaged in learning, parents are involved - why would anybody want to be opposed to the charter school movement?

Here's my favorite quotation:

"Anyiha goes to a school where classrooms are small, her parents are involved in her homework, she studies violin and piano -- she's engaged, and she wants to learn. This is what we all should have, and it's needed, especially in black communities," Mcbean said.

Indeed, it is what we should have in every school, especially in the black community, and yet we don't.

Of course charter advocates say it is the big bad teachers unions that are the problem - just bust the unions and destroy their stranglehold on public education and every school will be just like the one little Anyiha attends.

But on the face of it, that's laughable. If the powers that be wanted every public school to look like the one little Anyiha attends, they would actually FUND them.

But they don't. Because they're not looking to actually improve the quality of education, they're looking to bust the union and privatize public education (as they have privatized and deregulated every other major part of American life since the Reagan 80's - from the way we fight our wars with Halliburton running things to the way quarterly results on Wall Street seem to be the only gauge of success these days.)

So let's bust some of those myths the Post has been running with the past few weeks and in the process explain just why Rupert Murdoch and other charter advocates are so scared by any outside accountability of the charter school movement (and they must be terrified, actually, because Murdoch ran 8 pro-charter, anti-union stories on the same day State Senator Bill Perkins held hearings on charters.)

First off, charter schools are not tiny powerless entities up against big powerful wealthy forces. Quite the opposite - they are the big powerful wealthy forces, backed by the hedge fund industry and Wall Street, with access to hundreds of millions of investment dollars across the country.

Next, they have some very powerful political advocates looking out for their needs (unlike the regular public schools.) Here in NYC, charter school managers like Eva Moskowitz have direct access to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and can get him to do things like close other public schools to give the charters more room or invite him to poker tournament fund raisers with all the hedge fund managers and Wall Street execs taking some time off from shorting the mortgage market to help raise some cash for charter schools.

Let us also not forget that the mayor, the governor, the president and the secretary of education are all huge fans of charter schools and have been doing all they can to spread the movement far and wide while also doing all they can to hurt unionized teachers (think Central Falls, Rhode Island.)

Finally, let us remember that the reason charters have so many motivated children with motivated parents or guardians is because the movement ONLY accepts motivated children with motivated parents. Show yourself to NOT be motivated and you get counseled out of your charter school really, really quickly (and you disappear from the state stas on schools too.)The same goes for scoring well on tests - score low consistently and the charter school will counsel you out (or have enough non-motivated students with low test scores - like one year at the Harlem Children's Zone - and they may just close down an entire grade. Helps with the overall statistics, you know.)

So the Post can say war has been declared on charter schools and the big bad teachers unions are out to destroy the tiny powerless intrepids just trying to give small classes, good teachers and state of the art facilities to underprivileged kids of color all they want.

But of course it is all jive. What they really want to do is bust the unions and open up public education to private enterprise and for-profit school management companies like Imagine Schools.

The Times ran a four page article on Imagine Schools
and found that the charter management company

has elbowed the charter holders out of virtually all school decision making — hiring and firing principals and staff members, controlling and profiting from school real estate, and retaining fees under contracts that often guarantee Imagine’s management in perpetuity.

The arrangements, they say, allow Imagine to use public money with little oversight. “Under either charter law or traditional nonprofit law, there really is no way an entity should end up on both sides of business transactions,” said Marc Dean Millot, publisher of the report K-12 Leads and a former president of the National Charter Schools Alliance, a trade association, now defunct, for the charter school movement.

“Imagine works to dominate the board of the charter holder, and then it does a deal with the board it dominates — and that cannot be an arm’s length transaction,” he said.
Imagine is a private for-profit company that calls itself non-profit and runs schools with public money - making millions in the process.

Imagine charges exorbitant rates to its schools for "rent" - according to the Times article, a charter school in Nevada called 100 Academy pays 40% of the $3.6 million it receives from the state to Imagine Schools for rent.

That's an awful lot of rent money, isn't it?

In addition, they charge a fee to "manage" the school, leaving very little left over to actual run the school and educate the children.

How's that for leaving no for-profit charter school management company behind?

In Philadelphia, a city controller's report found after a year-long investigation

repeated examples of complex real estate arrangements in which charters leased or rented facilities from related nonprofit organizations, excessive salaries for chief executive officers, compliant boards whose members are handpicked by school chiefs, and rampant conflicts of interest.

The controller also concluded that the Philadelphia School District had failed to monitor charter schools, leaving it and taxpayers "extremely vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse."

Here is New York City, politicians found charter schools and move them to land owned by political donors, even if that means sticking the kids in trailers on barren, undeveloped land near the ocean.

Or charter operators pay themselves close to $400,000 dollars
to "manage" three charter schools with fewer than 1000 students - a much higher salary than principals in regular public schools make. In fact, it is a higher salary than the schools chancellor makes or the secretary of education makes.

Or charter operators dole out the nepotism and conflicts of interest to family and friends as the Daily News reported on this week:

At some New York City charter schools, it's a family affair.

A Daily News investigation has found some charters hiring wives, husbands and children of school officials and board trustees as vendors, teachers aides and consultants.

Employees of public schools face penalties and suspension for even minor conflicts of interest, such as the teacher fined $1,250 last week for lending her parking permit to her husband.

But at some charters - which are publicly funded but privately run - there's little worry about bringing family members on board.

At the hearing on charter school financing held by Bill Perkins this week, charter advocate and New York Charter Schools Association Policy Director Peter Murphy said that charter schools are the "most accountable entities in the Western hemisphere."

Given the financial improprieties found in charters all across the nation, the test score manipulation schools like the Harlem Children's Zone engage in by getting rid of an entire class of students when the test scores aren't high enough, the financial predation of the charter school management companies, and the nepotism and conflicts of interest so many charter operators engage in, charter schools are actually the LEAST accountable entities in the Western Hemisphere.

Only the derivatives markets and hedge fund industry seem to be less accountable than charter schools these days.

And look at the mess they've created.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why Is Bloomberg Praising Mulgrew?

Seriously, this is troubling, though given the history of the UFT lately, not unexpected:

Bloomberg heaped praise on UFT President Mike Mulgrew, whose union is under fire from charter school advocates who believe it blocked efforts to raise the cap in Albany in advance of the state’s “Race to the Top” application (which failed).

The mayor called Mulgrew “just spectacular” and “tough as nails,” but also someone who “understands we have to move forward.”

Any idea why Bloomberg is publicly praising Mulgrew?

Christie Wildly Unpopular

If you read George Will's slobbering column on Chris Christie vs. the NJEA yesterday, you'd be under the impression that Chris Christie is beloved by nearly all in New Jersey for taking on the teachers union, slashing state aid to school districts and forcing thousands of teacher layoffs across the state.

Yeah, that would be the impression that you would get from Will's piece, but it would be wrong:

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been in office for just three months, and a new eyewitness news poll shows voters are not giving him any kind of a honeymoon as he presses for budget cuts.

Only 33% of New Jersey residents approve the job Christie is doing as governor.

Nearly twice the number, 63% disapprove.

The telephone poll by SurveyUSA has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

33% approval is below the Bush line though not quite at the Paterson line.

Nonetheless, Christie is wildly unpopular in this state for refusing to cut taxes on millionaires while cutting the budgets on everybody else - including canceling the property tax rebate many people across the state get.

He's got more than 3 years to get that approval up, but given his glee at screwing powerful constituencies like the teachers union, his willingness to screw middle and working class homeowners so that his millionaire and billionaire buddies can avoid paying their fair share of taxes and his overall losing personality (he really does just seem like an asshole and a blowhard), I think Chris Christie has "one term" written all over him.

But we'll see - lots of stuff can happen in three years.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bloomberg Defends Using Overseas Tax Havens To Avoid Paying Taxes

Mayor Moneybags says taxes are for the little people, not for the rich and powerful:

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday said there's nothing wrong with his money managers investing hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore tax havens, defending it as a practical way to make more money for his philanthropic foundation.

The billionaire mayor's foundation has transferred some $400 million to offshore funds in widely known tax-sheltering countries like the Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Mauritius and Bermuda, according to the Bloomberg Family Foundation's tax forms.


The practice is legal and not uncommon, but it could be considered to conflict with the spirit of Bloomberg's oft-repeated message that it is crucial to the financial health of New York City and the nation to keep companies and their economic activities in the United States, funding the tax base that pays for government services.

"We need more people here paying taxes and when they make money, they pay more taxes," he said this week.

Uh, huh - except they find all kinds of ways to NOT pay taxes.

Like when they're rich and wealthy and have access to overseas tax havens.

Bloomberg is a hypocritical scumbag.

He first got caught lying about the tax havens to the AP.

When asked about the practice of overseas tax havens, he said he didn't know anything about his investments, they are all done through a blind trust.

But the AP reporter pressed and noted that Bloomberg has SIGNED HIS NAME to tax returns saying this was where the money was.

Then and only then did Bloomberg admit to the practice.

BTW, do not follow his lead unless you are a filthy rich crony of his because he'll make sure he comes down hard on you and gets the city's tax money plus interest and fees and perhaps even jail time for you.

But for himself and Steven Rattner and other really really rich people, investing in overseas tax havens and hedge funds on mysterious tropical islands with post office boxes for offices is perfectly fine and dandy.

In fact, it's good business.

Daily News Covers Conflicts Of Interest At Charter Schools

Today Bill Perkins is holding hearings on charter school oversight.

Charter proponents say they already have more oversight than regular public schools and should be left alone.

But as we have seen in Philadelphia where 13 charter schools have been investigated for criminal activity, fraud and corruption and 9 are being investigated by the US attorney's office, oversight often turns up funky things.

Here in NYC, the Daily News found lots of conflicts of interest at charter schools - things like principals hiring family members for services at the school and paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars - while pointing out that

Employees of public schools face penalties and suspension for even minor conflicts of interest, such as the teacher fined $1,250 last week for lending her parking permit to her husband.

But of course charter proponents continue to say NO outsight oversight is necessary.

It will stifle innovation.

If by innovation, they mean stealing, I think they're right.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Real Emergency

The NY Times ran an article this morning about how the 2010-2011 school year is shaping up to be the most "austere" in decades, as many districts are being forced to cut teachers, programs, and even school days in order to meet their budgets.

Secretary Arne himself weighed in on the crisis:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimated that state budget cuts imperiled 100,000 to 300,000 public school jobs. In an interview on Monday, he said the nation was flirting with “education catastrophe,” and urged Congress to approve additional stimulus funds to save school jobs.

“We absolutely see this as an emergency,” Mr. Duncan said.

Now the Obama administration have over $3 billion sitting around from the first stimulus bill that Duncan and Obama have put into the Race to the Top competition, but they refuse to give it to states unless they "innovate" schools with programs like replacing teachers' salaries with merit pay programs, tying teachers' evaluations to test scores, adding longer school days and school years and building expensive "data-tracking" systems in order to collect, collate and analyze student and teacher performance data.

In fact, the two states that won the first round of the RttT competition are using most of the extra federal money for computer systems to track data, not to keep teachers on the payroll or lower class sizes.

So when Duncan says states are facing economic catastrophe and he thinks Congress should appropriate more funds to help them, you can be certain that those funds, even if appropriated by Congress, will only be available to the most "innovative" of states.

They will come with lots of strings attached.

And the strings will require states to use the extra money not to keep teachers in classrooms or after school programs going but to purchase data tracking systems and put merit pay programs into place.

It is a real emergency these days in public education, but not only because times are hard and budgets and jobs are being slashed in districts all across the country.

It's a real emergency because the corporate whores running the country do not give a shit about any of that and only see this as an opportunity to force permanent "education reforms" they want onto schools all across the country.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Not much of it at the NY Post where they have three, count 'em, three (no link - go find them yourself if you want, but I'm not providing Murdoch with any extra revenue hits today) anti-Bill Perkins articles.

One of them actually starts with the sentence "Why Does Bill Perkins hate kids?"

Perkins is a state senator from Harlem who used to be pro-charter school but has since seen how charters skim off the cream of the crop of students in his district, suck up much of the money and space and leave regular public schools with what is left.

So he has decided that charter schools need to be better regulated, their finances need to be audited by outside independent sources to make sure they are doing things on the up and up and the cozy relationships between some charter operators like Eva Moskowitz and some public officials like Joel Klein need to be examined a little more closely.

He's not saying that charter schools need to be abolished, just that they need to be better regulated and should be forced to play by the same rules that public schools have to be play by (including financing and space rules.)

So he's decided to hold public hearings to shine a light on the doings of charter schools and their operators. He has also introduced legislation to regulate charter school financing and creation a little more than currently happens now.

For that, charter school proponents have made him Public Enemy #1 and the Post is attacking him today with THREE articles today.

He must be on to something for the Post to be going at him with full guns ablazing, saying he hates kids and all that jazz.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Don't GS Me, Man

Via Barry at The Big Picture, a new use for the term "Goldman Sachs":

The term “GS”, now entering the popular lexicon as a verb, meaning to lie AND make money from doing so, as opposed to “BS” – which is just to lie without the benefit of compensation. -- Richard Ambrose

I think we can use the "GS" term when we talk about Klein and Bloomberg and pretty much anything they say about education.

As in "Klein is GSing us again with this 'kill seniority' jive."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Crooks In Washington Play Golf With The Crooks On Wall Street

I don't usually add pictures to blog posts at this blog, but that picture to the left is too emblematic to NOT put up.

That is Barack Obama last summer playing golf with the Chairman and CEO of UBS, Robert Wolf.

Obama invited Wolf to play golf while vacationing at Martha's Vineyard.

That Obama himself invited Wolf to play golf matters for a number of reasons.

The most obvious, of course, is that a president playing golf with a financial CEO is not exactly the CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN jive Obama and his propaganda meisters who spin for him sold during the 2008 election season.

The second is that the bank Wolf heads, UBS, had just settled the largest offshore tax evasion case in U.S. history, admitting to fraud and paying $780 million dollars to the U.S. treasury, a few months before Obama invited Wolf to play 18 holes.

The third reason is that UBS had just been charged by the New Hampshire securities regulator for "dishonest and unethical" practices in selling notes from the now-defunct Lehman Brothers, causing New Hampshire investors $2.5 million in losses. Those charges came before the golf game with President Accountability on Martha's Vineyard. Just as Goldman Sachs was selling toxic crap to investors without telling them it was crap and betting against it (and was just charged by the SEC with fraud for those actions), UBS was selling garbage and conning its customers and making billions off the deals.

Since that golf game, UBS, along with JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, have been charged with fraud linked to the sale of derivatives to the city of Milan. Here are the details of the Milan case. Notice how similar they sound to the allegations made by New Hampshire state officials or the details of the SEC case against the Goldman Sachs VP charged with fraud on Friday:

Prosecutor Robledo alleges the London units of the four banks misled Milan on the economic advantage of a financing package that included the swaps and that they earned 101 million euros in hidden fees.

He also claims the banks violated U.K. securities rules by failing to inform Milan in writing that for the swap deal the city was a counterparty to the lenders rather than a customer. Banks abiding by the rules of the Financial Services Authority are required to shield customers from conflicts of interest and provide them with clear and fair information that isn’t misleading.

Officials for the FSA in London didn’t have an immediate comment.

The prosecutor, who seized assets from the banks equal to their share of the alleged profit, is claiming JPMorgan charged about 45 million euros in commissions that were hidden from the municipality, while Deutsche Bank made about 25 million euros, Depfa Bank earned 21 million euros and UBS made 10 million euros, court documents show.

So Obama invited the guy who runs a bank that knowingly defrauded customers, admitted to running fraudulent tax havens for rich people to avoid paying U.S. taxes, and just in general is a sleazy entity to play golf with him and have a nice photo op at Martha's Vineyard.

Did Obama invite him in order to lecture him about the bank's sleazy and/or criminal activities and warn him to run the bank on the up-and-up or the feds would come down on UBS with all their might?

Doubtful - that shit eating smile on President Accountability's face doesn't look like he's either about to or already has given a dressing down to UBS's Wolf.

Rather that smile says "Look at us - we're pals!!! Sure, I talked some jive about going after UBS and their offshore tax haven business when I was senator, but now that I'm president I see things a whole new way."

And Juan Gonzalez explained in Friday's Daily News
just why that might be:

A former banker who blew the whistle on thousands of secret bank accounts rich Americans held at Swiss giant UBS claimed Thursday some U.S. politicians also kept off-shore accounts with the bank.

"We had an office in Washington that we all referred to as the PEP office - for 'Politically Exposed People,'" Bradley Birkenfeld said.

He was speaking by phone - on tax day, no less - from Schuylkill County federal prison in Pennsylvania, where he is serving a 40-month sentence for his role in the tax evasion scheme.

"Only top managers from the bank knew the names of the political clients," Birkenfeld said.

Executives from the bank's U.S. subsidiary, UBS America, he added, helped promote those off-shore accounts through a New York "referral desk" that steered U.S. clients to their Swiss colleagues, and through dozens of high society events that the U.S. subsidiary often sponsored.

Who are the politicians who had offshore tax havens with UBS? Was Obama one of them? You wouldn't think MR. CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN would have an offshore tax haven with his golfing buddy's bank after he spent part of his Senate career railing against UBS and offshore tax havens, but then again, you never know. It would be fun to get the names on that UBS list, but it is of course doubtful that it will ever happen. I suspect bodies would turn up in landfills before we ever get the names of the politicians on that list (I am happy to be wrong, of course.)

The Obama administration, btw, is making sure that the UBS whistleblower is the only UBS official doing jail time. No other charges have been brought against any higher-ups at UBS. Birkenfeld's lawyers are filing a clemency petition for their client, saying that if not for Birkenfeld's testimony, the government never would have gotten UBS to admit to fraud and pay $780 million in fines. But until Obama decides on whether to grant clemency or not, Birkenfeld remains in jail.

Nice message for other potential whistleblowers in the financial industry, yes? If you did some of the crime, but your higher-ups approved of or even directed you to do it, you WILL do the time, they will NOT.

That has been the message from the Goldman Sachs case too.
Just a mid-level VP at Goldman has been charged with fraud while the higher-ups who made billions go free.

The people at these financial institutions stole billions from municipalities, pension funds, and mom and pop investors and are getting away with all of it. They took billions from the federal government bailout programs and continue to get 0% interest loans from President Accountability and Helicopter Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve, adding billions if not a trillion to the federal deficit and debt, then have the chutzpah to decry government debt levels and claim that we cannot fund pensions, Social Security or Medicare.

Of course we can't - between the trillions we spend on American Empire and the forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the billions in lost revenue from tax shore havens and legalized loopholes that corporations and wealthy people use to pay the lowest level of taxes in decades, how could we?

And Obama is happy to start a commission to look at ways to take care of the deficit problem. Of course the overseas wars and the money paid to keep the Empire going are not on the docket to get cut. Just Social Security, Medicare and other "entitlement" programs.

Meanwhile the real entitlement programs for the wealthiest and most powerful in the country continue unabated.

Not one person who caused the near financial collapse the past few years has been held accountable for their fraudulent activities and crimes.

Instead they have been rewarded with bonuses, bail-outs and golf games with the president.

As President Accountability said about Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon

“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

Savvy businessmen? More like crooks who have gotten away with it all even as a peon or two below them and one whistleblower do the time for the crimes of the century.

Might that be because the president and the other politicians in Washington are benefiting almost as much from the quid pro quo relationship between the government in D.C. and the real permanent government on Wall Street as the financial industry is?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

So Much For The Accountability

President Accountability famously said about the Rhode Island teachers who were fired as a direct result of his Race to the Top policy

"If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability. And that's what happened in Rhode Island last week."

You see, nothing is more important in this world than holding teachers accountable for all the ills of society and blaming them when schools "fail."

But when it comes to holding the men who nearly brought the world financial system to collapse the past few years (and who made billions from the building of the bubble, the collapse of the bubble and the taxpayer-funded bailouts of the Too Big To Fail institutions that the Bush/Obama administrations handed out), not so much on the accountable.

That's the message from the SEC case against Goldman Sachs. The more I think about the case, the more I think Obama is doing what Primadonna said he is doing in this comment thread:

The whole thing may very well be a public relations thing. Make the public think the government is doing something. My question is why only a civil suit and not a criminal? Where was the SEC all along? So sick of the charade they put on.

Let me add that the guy the SEC named in the case is a mid-level guy who COULD NOT have been doing all of this on his own. The SEC has made this guy a fall guy while they let the real perpetrators of the fraud go free.

This article in today's NY Post says as much:

While the Securities and Exchange Commission hangs fraud charges on a Goldman Sachs vice president, several sources suggested the lower level executive might be taking the fall for his bosses.

Though Fabrice Tourre, a London-based trader for Goldman, was viewed within the firm as a smart "up-and-comer," sources noted that many of the alleged misdeeds he's accused of committing involved decisions that normally would be above his pay grade.

Tourre and Goldman are accused of failing to let investors know that a pool of loans used in a collateralized debt obligation, or CDO, had been cherry-picked by billionaire hedge fund king John Paulson, who planned to bet against the pool's performance. The investors lost $1 billion, while Paulson earned the same amount.


Several sources told The Post they found it unlikely that Tourre, 31, was able to accomplish any of these acts on his own. Indeed, these sources noted, Wall Street culture, particularly at Goldman, dictates that someone at Tourre's level never would have a wide enough berth to operate unchecked.

"I think that Tourre is just being used as the fall guy," said one Wall Street observer.

That has led some people to question the role of Tourre's superior, Jonathan Egol, a Goldman star mortgage trader who is widely seen as the brains behind the area in which Tourre worked.

As a senior member of Goldman's CDO structuring team, Egol helped create tens of billions of similar, made-to-order CDOs from 2004 to 2008. A Princeton graduate with an aerospace engineering degree, Egol is said to have produced upward of $11 billion worth of CDOs similar to the one at the center of the SEC probe.

Egol, who has not been named in the SEC suit, could not be reached for comment.

Let us also note that Goldman was not the only institution involved in this kind of fraudulent activity.

Paulson worked directly with Deutsche Bank creating similar CDO's to sell to unsuspecting investors.

And of course Paulson made billions in these transactions and is getting off scott free.

So once again, accountability is for the little guy - in this case the arrogant, greedy and stupid Tourre who wrote some idiotic emails that clearly implicate him - but not the men above him at Goldman Sachs who okayed the transactions and set up a culture where these kinds of transactions were valued (stealing from one set of customers to benefit another set of customers and charging fees to both sets - BRILLIANT!!!)

Nor are the men who created these fraudulent instruments, the policymakers who de-regulated the system to allow this kind of fraud to flourish, nor the regulators at the SEC or the Federal Reserve who missed even obvious cases of fraud being held accountable.

Hell, the SEC managed to miss both the Madoff and the Stanford schemes even when people told them funky things were going on and rather than be held accountable for the screw-ups, some of the officials were PROMOTED to positions of power in the Obama administration (specifically Treasury Timmeh Geithner and Mary Schapiro.)

This is accountability?

Uh, no, it isn't.

It's jive.

But that's what happens when you have a president - whether it is Bush or Obama - who is wholly owned by the corporations who are robbing this country blind and turning the United States of America into one big Ponzi Scheme/Rigged Casino.

And so we fire teachers in Rhode Island and talk tough about accountability for teachers and allow the same hedge fund managers and Masters of the Universe who rob and steal for a living and brought the country to the brink (and still may - NOTHING has changed, the punch bowl for Goldman and the rest remains as yummy and available as ever!!!) to create and run education policy while they take their ill-gotten billions and laugh all the way to the bank.

A taxpayer-funded, bailed out bank.

Heckuva job, President Accountability.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Springtime for Goldman

Having a tough time understanding the complexities surrounding the SEC's fraud case against Wall Street Masters of the Universe Goldman Sachs?

Barry at Big Picture has a great analogy
- essentially the boys at Goldman (including President Obama's friend, Lloyd Blankfein, the man Obama says "deserves" every penny he makes in bonuses and salary) created the worst hedge fund known to man guaranteed to fail, sold it to investors without telling them what was really in it (toxic waste) and then bet against it all.

Just like Bialystock and Bloom in The Producers.

For a while now we kept hearing how "brilliant" the Masters of the Universe at Goldman were (and JP Morgan Chase too) and how "smart" and "savvy" and all that other jive about navigating the housing crisis without collapsing blah blah blah.

But they were simply crooks.

That's how they navigated the crisis - they helped create it, had the political connections to use when it came time for government action and intervention (Remember Geithner making sure AIG counterparties got 100 cents to the dollar for the shit on AIG's books? Remember Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein was at the meeting between Paulson and Geithner to figure out how to do the AIG bailout?), and rode the crisis for all it was worth.

And it was worth plenty.

We'll see what happens from here. I suspect the Obama administration will find a way to fuck this up because further investigations into this mess will lead investigators closer and closer to Paulson, Geithner, and who knows who else in both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Obama wouldn't want that, would he? Might take the gloss off his More Change We Can Believe in re-election slogan for 2012.

Plus corporate whore that he is, Obama thinks Goldman did everything above board and is deserving of all the money they've raked in.

I bet he STILL thinks Blankfein is a fine sort.

But we'll just have to see.

Hopefully more charges will be filed against Goldman and Chase will be targeted as well.

Heck, I'd like to see Greenspan off the talk show circuit and in the courthouse awaiting trial.

And Bernanke impeached or whatever the hell you have to do to remove a Fed chairman.

Hell, I'd like to see Obama impeached for nominating Bernanke to another term.

That would truly be Change I Can Believe In.

But I won't hold my breath. I bet Obama and company will be too busy working with Florida Repubs to relaunch their Teacher Pay/Test Score bill to get meaning financial reform through the Congress or hold the crooks who took this nation to the financial brink accountable.

Teacher Surveys

Chancellor Klein says teachers never bow to administration pressure when filling out the DOE surveys about school quality.

I can't speak to pressure from the administration on how we fill out the survey, but they do keep reminding us to fill it out.

Apparently that was a weakness of ours last year - only 75% of staff filled it out.

Nonetheless I did not approach the survey in any way that could be described as "honestly."

I simply thought: What is the response to each question that makes the school look best so that I do not give Klein and Eva the excuse to close us down and use our 10 floor art deco building for a couple of charter schools and a condo?

That, I think, was the rationale for most teachers in my building.

That's because we understand that while the school and the administration where we work is not perfect, it is a pretty good place run by some pretty skilled people, but if you say ANYTHING even mildly critical of either the school or the administration in some official DOE survey, it will be almost certainly used against the school in the future.

And then Eva will write Klein and email saying we're hurting the kids and we need to be shut down and reopened as Chelsea Promise Charter Academy I and II.

So I would have to say, no, I did not fill out the survey honestly.

I bet with Klein trying to close 19 schools and the state trying to close another 16 related to President Accountability's RttT competition, a lot of other people didn't answer the survey honestly either.

There can be no honestly and no trust in an era of fear.

And Klein and Bloomberg rule by fear.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crist Vetoes Education Bill

Every once in a while a politician does the right thing:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday vetoed the most far-reaching education bill of its kind in the nation, legislation that would have made it easier to fire teachers and linked their pay to student test scores.

The veto put him at odds with Republican legislative leaders and former Gov. Jeb Bush, who worked hard for the bill's passage and touted it in national media interviews.

Crist denied the veto was a signal he's about to drop out of the Republican U.S. Senate primary, where he badly trails in the polls, and instead campaign for that seat as an independent.

He said the veto was not about politics but about the state's children though he acknowledged an outpouring of opposition by teachers, parents and local school officials around the state had an affect. Phone calls and e-mail ran 65,259 against to 3,090 for the bill.

Crist once favored the legislation and said he still supports the concept of pay for performance and holding teachers accountable.

He said he began having second thoughts about how the bill would achieve those goals when a friend back home in St. Petersburg called him and questioned how his special needs child could be fairly tested.

"It touched my heart, frankly," Crist said. "His son's teacher came to him and was crying about how she might be evaluated."

Crist cited several other problems with details of the bill and the way his fellow Republicans, who control both legislative chambers, rushed it through.

He compared it to GOP criticism that the Democratic Congress had rammed through President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

"A month later, the very same thing happens here in education," Crist said.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, chairman of the Florida Republican Party.

Thrasher, of St. Augustine, said he'll keep pushing for such a measure although probably not this year as only 15 days remain in the session.

"Major legislation like this sometimes takes years to pass," Thrasher said. "I'm confident this is an idea that's going to sweep across America."

For his part, Crist said the merit pay proposal, tying teacher pay to increased test scores, along with the mandate to increase testing in every grade in every class, violated the principal of local control and probably the Florida constitution, and was a major reason he vetoed the bill.

Thrasher and education reform proponents say education reform is too important to worry about such things as local control, constitutionality, and the law.

Sound like anyone you know in New York?

Anyway, a narrow victory for teachers, though a significant one.

For now.

As Thrasher says, the ed deform people will be pushing this stuff in every state.

It is paramount that we fight this until the vast majority of the American public come to see the voodoo education policy for what it is - the same crap that brought us the financial disaster.

And remember, with Walmart, the hedge fund industry, the for-profit school industry and the media on their side (and remember that much of the media is actually owned by test prep companies these days!!!), they will be well-funded and well-positioned to get their propaganda out.

But you can see where most people stand in this battle - witness the calls and emails that Crist got pro and against - 65,000 to 3,000.

That's a bit heartening.

But it's still tough to fight these guys because they get so much free publicity - in the News, the Post, the Times, the WSJ, the networks, et al. Don't forget that the Washington Post media conglomerate is owned by Kaplan Test Preparation, so you know where they stand even if you didn't see Evan Thomas's charter school slobber job in NEWSWEEK a few weeks back.

And they've got all that money the hedge fund industry and the Wall Street CEO's have stolen from the middle and working classes to pay to get their message out.

Not to mention direct access to the corridors of power.

I heard Joel Klein has a special Batphone that only takes calls from Eva Moscowitz.

Still, savor Crist's veto tonight. It was an important one and it showed how a politician can be swayed to do the right thing.

Remember, just last week Crist was going to sign this abomination.

The Soul Of America

Here's a suggestion for a new American national anthem, courtesy of the folks at the now defunct WaMu Bank:

"I like big bucks and I cannot lie."

Nope, Sir Mix-a-Lot didn't remix his 1992 "Baby Got Back" rap with these new lyrics. WaMu employees did (yes, the same WaMu that became one of the largest bank failures in US history), evidence from Senate panel hearings reveals.

A group of employees at the now-collapsed bank sang, "I like big bucks and I cannot lie/You mortgage brothers can't deny" at the company's swanky 2006 retreat in Kauai, Hawaii, Politico uncovered from Tuesday's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearings. They sang it in front of a whole group of mortgage lenders.

The song continued:

“That when the dough rolls in like you're printin’ your own cash/And you gotta make a splash/

You just spends/Like it never ends/Cuz you gotta have that big new Benz/

All of that bling you're wearin'/Shining so bright peoples starin'/

It's crazy, I gotta ski Aspen/That's all I'm askin'"

That was 2006, and Washington Mutual thought it was flying high, making myriad risky mortgage loans and raking in obscene profits for it. And it was shelling out the cash to its employees at the same time. Former Washington Mutual CEO Kerry Killinger raked in $100 million between 2003 and 2008.

But fast-forward to September 2008: Regulators seized the savings and loan amid a collapsing financial system, and it became one of the largest bank failures in the history of our nation. Kerry was ousted.
That really sums up how the financial guys and their politician-friends in Washington view life.

Making money, more than you, squeezing as much of it as they can from as many people as they can.

And of course the people who brought us these values, this financial crisis, are not in jail.

Rather, they're still running the system (Ben Bernanke) or giving speeches (Alan Greenspan) or making policy (Timmeh Geithner, Larry Summers).

And of course they want to take these same values and bring them to education courtesy of President Accountability's NCLB Jr. law.

Great - maybe we can sing similar songs to the WaMu song in school.

POSTSCRIPT: And guess who is a big charter school/education reform proponent?

That would be former CEO of WaMu Kerry Killinger - the man who brought his company down.

Here is his call for more charters and more reform and more union busting back in 2004 in the Seattle Times.

Quite literally the people in the education reform movement are the same people who brought us the financial crisis and near-collapse.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bloomberg Charges Rent On Homeless People

I'm not kidding:

Nothing's free in New York - not even a stint in a city shelter.

Homeless people with jobs are going to have to start paying the city rent to stay in shelters, officials said Tuesday.

"Open-ended handouts, we know, don't work," Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said. "This is not a moneymaker. We're not doing this to close budget gaps. It's really the principles ... involved."

A 1997 state law requires New York to charge rent to the homeless who can afford it. The city never did, but has been pressed to do it since a state audit last year.

Shelter residents would have to pay as much as 44% of their income in their first year in the program.

Critics say the plan penalizes people who are struggling.

"It makes far more sense to allow those families to save their meager funds in order to be able to get out of the shelter system sooner," said Steven Banks, chief attorney of the Legal Aid Society, which may sue to block the plan.

"This is an extreme policy that has no discernible benefit, that will end up hurting the families and costing the taxpayers money," Banks said. "If necessary, we'll certainly go to court."

What a novel idea - charging homeless people 44% of their income to stay in the shelter system.

That will certainly make saving money and getting out of the shelter system easier.

You know, Bloomberg ought to extrapolate the idea to other things.

Maybe we can charge the mentally ill rent to keep them in the hospital.

Maybe we can charge prisoners rent for the jail cells.

Maybe we can charge the dead rent for their graves - extra money for big tombstones.

Unless of course the family of the deceased is really, really rich.

Then they don't have to pay anything.

As Bloomberg likes to say, we can't charge rich people more money or ask them to pay higher taxes because they might move to another state.

But homeless people living in a shelter - those people we can charge.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The city appeals the court decision on school closures:

The city has appealed a court decision that's forcing school officials to keep open 19 public schools that had been slated to begin closing in June.

The appeal, filed late last week in Manhattan, argues that a Supreme Court judge applied the wrong legal standard in her determination that the public had not been properly included in the closure decisions.

The city argues that the judge applied the wrong legal standard in it's case.


And what, pray tell, is the correct legal standard?

Is it that Mayor Moneybags has lots more money than everybody else so he's always right and should always get what he wants?

Yes, that would actually be the standard the city wants applied to the case.

And to every case.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Repub: Obama Is Not A Socialist, He's A Corporatist

It drives me crazy when some moron like Sarah Palin or my idiot uncle in Florida who gets all his news from FNC and World News Daily says Obama is a socialist.

There is not a socialist bone in Obama's body.

He's all about profit - not for you or me or working people in general, of course, but certainly for himself and his corporate buddies.

Leave it to Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) to speak truth to the idiots calling Obama a socialist:

Near the end of the third day of this year's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, it was time for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to take the stage. Paul, fresh off his victory in the CPAC straw poll, gave a characteristically fired-up speech that took on the views of the Republican party establishment.

"The question has been raised about whether or not our president is a socialist," Paul said. "I am sure there are some people here who believe it. But in the technical sense, in the economic definition of a what a socialist is, no, he's not a socialist."

"He's a corporatist," Paul continued. "And unfortunately we have corporatists inside the Republican party and that means you take care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country."

Paul said examples of President Obama's "corporatism" were evident in the heath care reform bill he signed into law last month. He said the mandate in the bill put the power over health care in the hands of corporations rather than private citizens. But he said the bill wasn't the only place where corporatism is creeping into Washington.

"We see it in the financial institutions, we see it in the military-industrial complex," he said. "And now we see it in the medical-industrial complex."

One might add that we also see it in the education-industrial complex as well, as represented by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the New Teacher Project (funded by Bloomberg), the Kaplan Corporation (which runs the Washington Post and Newsweek and pushes all kinds of education deform that will profit other parts of the company) and other for-profit school companies and their subsidiaries in the media.

It's nice to hear Dr. Paul once again explain reality to the reality-challenged in the Republican Party.

The reality-challenged on the left need to hear the truth too.

Obama is no progressive, no friend of the middle class or the working man.

And he certainly is no socialist.

The only socialism Obama seems to believe in is the same kind Bush believed in - socializing the losses of Wall Street to the taxpayer.

But in every other way he is EXACTLY like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Ronald Reagan - a wholly-owned subsidiary of the multi-national corporations that run this country and the world.

The real owners.

David Brooks Says Rich People Work Harder Than The Rest of Us

You can read Bobo's Rich People Suck-Off here.

Matt Taibbi calls Bobo on his bullshit here.

I had to read this thing twice before it registered that Brooks was actually saying that he was rooting for the rich against the poor. If he keeps this up, he’s going to make his way into the Guinness Book for having extended his tongue at least a foot and a half farther up the ass of the Times’s Upper East Side readership than any previous pundit in journalistic history. But then you come to this last line of his, in which he claims that “for the first time in history, rich people work longer hours than middle class or poor people,” and you find yourself almost speechless.

I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who’s pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn’t work as hard as Jamie Dimon.

Only a person who has never actually held a real job could say something like this. There is, of course, a huge difference between working 80 hours a week in a profession that you love and which promises you vast financial rewards, and working 80 hours a week digging ditches for a septic-tank company, or listening to impatient assholes scream at you at some airport ticket counter all day long, or even teaching disinterested, uncontrollable kids in some crappy school district with metal detectors on every door.

Most of the work in this world completely sucks balls and the only reward most people get for their work is just barely enough money to survive, if that. The 95% of people out there who spend all day long shoveling the dogshit of life for subsistence wages are basically keeping things running just well enough so that David Brooks, me and the rest of that lucky 5% of mostly college-educated yuppies can live embarrassingly rewarding and interesting lives in which society throws gobs of money at us for pushing ideas around on paper (frequently, not even good ideas) and taking mutual-admiration-society business lunches in London and Paris and Las Vegas with our overpaid peers.

You can see where a pundit who works so hard to propagate the mythification of rich people and how "hard" they work would also push an education deform agenda that forces working class kids to spend 60 hours/6 days a week and 48 weeks a year in school.

Heck, it's just the kind of long hours and hard work rich people already do.

We're just socializing these kids to work as long and hard as their overlords in the hopes that some day they will be part of that class.

Uh, huh.

Never mind the advantages of access, privilege, connections, nepotism and cronyism rich people enjoy that allow people like Chuck Prince or Stan O'Neal or Bob Nardelli or Carley Fiorina or other CEO's who drive their companies into the ground the opportunity to parachute out with huge severance packages and then work in industry again (even though all the "data" and "evidence" needed is available to show just how stupid and incompetent these people are.)

Hell, Fiorina is running for Senate even after nearly driving HP into the ground and being forced to resign from her position as CEO.

If there were any justice in the world, she would be slogging some minimum wage job somewhere instead of running for Senate.

Nardelli tried his best to destroy Home Depot when he was CEO, received a golden parachute when he left of $250 million and then went on to drive Chrysler to bankruptcy.

How much you want to bet he gets some board positions even with his track record of failure wherever he goes?

Tell us, Bobo, is that from all the hard work and long hours Fiorina and Nardelli put in or is it just because people of privilege continue to get advantages the rest of us don't?

For the above column he wrote with Gail Collins (another idiot who write the most inane drivel you've ever seen) Bobo Brooks wins the Fred Dicker of The Day award for the month.

What a Dicker.

UPDATE: I should add that even "successful" CEO's like Jamie Dimon of Chase and Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman are "successful" because they had access to people in the corridors of power, were "successful" at lobbying those people for an AIG bailout and made sure that AIG's counterparties were paid 100 cents to the $1 for the derivatives crap deals they had between them.

Bobo of course would say Dimon and Blankfein work harder than everybody else.

President Obama would say the same (actually he has.)

I would say they just steal better than everybody else - they're so good at their cons that they have their marks saying "Thank you, would you like some more?" after Dimon and Blankfein rob them blind.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stories About Praying For The Death Of Chris Christie Are Much Exagerrated

Anti-union newspaper editors and Governor Christie are making a big deal out of this:

A furious New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday tore into the state's teachers union for circulating a memo that featured a prayer for his death.

"To pray for my death" is "beyond the pale," said Christie, who has long been waging war against the New Jersey Education Association.

The newly elected Republican governor made it clear that he was speaking about the union leaders, not the state's teachers.

"I'm sure there are teachers all across New Jersey who . . . are going to be ashamed. Ashamed to be a part of a union leadership that would actually pray for the death of an elected official," Christie said.

"I wonder what the children of New Jersey will think when the leadership of the teachers union is praying for the governor to die?"

The NJEA memo included a mock "prayer" suggesting Christie should suffer the same fate as Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and celebrity pitchman Billy Mays, all of whom recently died.

It was signed by NJEA field representatives and distributed to union members in Bergen County, The Record of Hackensack reported.

The note also was posted on an NJEA Facebook page called "New Jersey Teachers United Against Governor Chris Christie's Pay Freeze," which has 67,000 members.

Of course the state union leaders condemned the "joke" and apologized to the governor for any offense.

And remember, the "joke" came from a bunch of field reps in one county in Jersey - it's not like the head of the NJEA signed off on this thing.

Nonetheless Christie and the anti-unions newspapers have dug their teeth into this story in order to demonize the teachers union even more than they already have.

I have a couple of things to say here.

First, the "joke" was a stupid thing to say and an even stupider thing to put into writing. It is inexcusable.

Second, the "joke" does show the feelings teachers have toward Christie, however, as he wages a war to the death to destroy the teachers unions, teachers' rights and teachers jobs. To paraphrase Shakespeare - He who takes away my way to make my livelihood takes away my life. This is serious business as Christie wields a heavy hammer to destroy the union. Emotions are raw, as teachers turn on their TV's every day or read the papers and see themselves demonized as "bad," "incompetent," "selfish," and "in need of firing." You can understand where the gallows humor of the "joke" came from, though I repeat that it was a) not funny and b) not helpful in pushing forward the teachers' positions. Rather, it has given Christie and the media something else to demonize teachers with.

Third, have you looked at Chris Christie lately? Take a good look at him. Seriously. There's no need to pray for this guy's death. There are no givens in life, but judging by the guy's sedentary lifestyle, excessive weight and apparent level of health, he's taking care of his death all on his own. No prayers needed.

Remember Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas? He was once a very big man too, but he decided to lose a lot of weight in a healthy way, to change his eating habits, to begin exercising and to write a book about it in order to promote the message that if he, a fast food junkie, could get healthy, anybody could.

Chris Christie might want to read that book.
Might even want to talk to Huckabee. He can find the Huckster here. Find out how Huckabee lost all that weight and got healthy while still working as governor of Arkansas.

That would be one way to turn the "Praying for the Death of Chris Christie" outrage stories into something good and productive for Christie.

But I bet he doesn't do that.

Instead, I bet he continues to use it as a political weapon to bludgeon the teachers union and teachers with it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Florida Is Full Of Stupid People...

...and that pool of stupid people will grow if Governor Charlie Crist doesn't veto the Teacher Pay Tied To Test Scores bill.

Interestingly enough, Secretary Arne and President Accountability were quick to publicly support the firing of all the teachers at the Central Falls, Rhode Island high school.

But Duncan wouldn't comment on the Florida law.

Haven't heard what Obama thinks about it either.

I think it is important that we get both of them on the record on this bill.

Given that Obama's RttT program and NCLB Jr. re-authorization plans both include teacher evaluations tied to test scores, I would assume both Duncan and Obama like the Florida plan a lot.

But still - time to get them on the record so that we know EXACTLY where they stand.

Then the NEA and the AFT can stop pretending like Obama is some kind of misguided friend to teachers and public education and treat him like enemy to both he really is.

POSTSCRIPT: Crist isn't a completely crazy GOPer and he may be open to rational arguments against the bill:

TALLAHASSEE — In a dramatic shift, Gov. Charlie Crist signaled Wednesday he might veto a bill tying teacher pay to student test scores, even as Florida legislators prepared for a final vote on the politically polarizing measure Thursday.

Crist, who appeared to support the merit-pay plan as late as Monday, said teacher concerns are affecting his thinking. The plan would base teacher pay raises primarily on student learning gains on standardized tests, such as the FCAT, and eliminate tenure job protections for teachers hired after July.

The Republican governor, who is running for U.S. Senate, said he spoke over the weekend with a longtime friend who has a special-needs son. “And he’s like, ‘How can my son have progress?’ It’s very challenging,” Crist said, referring to the learning gain requirement. “So it’s weighing on me heavily.”

Crist was noncommital on whether he’d sign or veto the bill, which is a top priority for Republican legislative leaders. But the outpouring from teachers has clearly had an impact. “Shame on any public servant who doesn’t listen to the people,” said the governor.

Compare that to Crist’s statement Monday, when he praised the House for holding an eight-hour hearing on the merit-pay plan and said he hoped to “have comprehensive reform bills on my desk for action this session.”

The shift fueled Capitol buzz that Crist is weighing whether to run for Senate as an independent, rather than face Marco Rubio in a closed Republican primary. Crist trails in the polls and is increasingly estranged from the conservative GOP base.

Helping sway Crist on the tenure bill: teachers like Marie Angel Welsh, who teaches at Nova Middle School in Broward and was among dozens of teachers to testify against the tenure bill in Tallahassee this week. She told legislators she’s taught at high-scoring and low-scoring schools, and teachers were “no less talented” at the latter.

I called the governor's office and left a message as a "NYC teacher with family members in Florida who are opposed to the bill."

You should call too - just wait until both the English and Spanish messages play, then you can leave a message.

  • Citizen Services Hotline: (850) 488-4441

NYCDOE Merit Pay For Students Program Dubbed A "Failure"

Surprise, surprise - merit pay for students doesn't work:

A program that paid city students if they got higher test scores earned an F, a new study shows.

The Harvard-based study led by former city Education Department consultant Roland Fryer examined the program he spearheaded, which poured $6.3 million in private funds into 261 schools in four cities.

Fourth- and seventh-graders at 58 high-needs city schools were paid to show up for tests and also earn high marks. A fourth-grader could earn up to $250, and a seventh-grader could pocket up to $500.

But students who were paid showed no significant improvement on math or English tests compared to their unpaid peers.

"The study found that incentives provided for actions, for example, reading books, school attendance and behavior were effective at increasing test scores," said Fryer, "but that incentives tied to results, such as test scores and grades, were not as effective at increasing test scores."

The city Education Department, which heralded the plan at the time, expressed no regrets.

"While incentives didn't substantially improve student achievement in New York, we consider our participation in the national study to be a great success and a testament to our approach of pairing innovation with rigorous evaluation to find new programs that make a difference," said Education Department spokesman David Cantor.

Translation - "innovation" matters more than success when it comes to education policy.

You can see that in the approach Obama and Duncan are taking at the federal level as well.

RIF is a program that works? Ahh, screw it - let's defund it and force the program to "innovate" if it wants to survive.

Merit pay for kids doesn't work? Ahh, screw it - let's force states to tie teacher pay to test scores because that's more innovative than the old ways of compensation.

CHANGE FOR CHANGE'S SAKE - that's what the motto of the education deform movement.

And that's Obama's motto too.

As long as the "change" and the "innovation" mean more money for the privatized education companies, that is.

Obama Destroys RIF Program

At least that's the plan unless somebody stops him:

Changes in the way the federal government plans to allocate money to increase and improve literacy pose a severe threat to one of the country’s best-known nonprofit groups, Reading Is Fundamental.

Known commonly as RIF, the organization, which provides free books to needy children and has been promoted in memorable public service announcements by celebrities like Carol Burnett and Shaquille O’Neal, stands to lose all of its federal financing, which accounts for roughly 75 percent of its annual revenues.

“We are looking at having to completely reinvent ourselves,” said Carol Rasco, chief executive of RIF, which has received an annual grant from the Department of Education for 34 years.

Under the federal budget proposed for the 2011 fiscal year, the Department of Education has proposed pooling the money it allocates to RIF, another nonprofit organization, the National Writing Project, and five of its own grant programs, and instead distributing it to state and local governments. Under that plan, RIF and the writing project would have to compete state by state for federal funds.

“One of the things that’s challenging about this is that the administration keeps talking about how much it wants to support innovation and program and ideas that it can help scale up,” said Sharon J. Washington, executive director of the writing project. “But if you are an organization that has already been built with federal investment over time, what do you do?”

A similar competitive approach to awarding $4 billion in federal education grants to states has been criticized by some states, which complain that it may not be worth the amount of time and effort needed to apply.

David Thomas, a spokesman for the Education Department, in e-mailed responses to questions, defended the new method of allocating money for literacy programs, saying it would be “more likely to drive improvements in student achievement.”

“This proposed approach will give state education agencies and local education agencies greater flexibility to focus on their areas of greatest need and will be more effective than the narrow categorical programs,” Mr. Thomas said.

This is the problem with the Change You Can Believe in President. He likes changing everything - even programs that have worked for a long time.

I suppose all the ed deformers and pro-privatization people are licking their lips now that the entire Dept. of Ed budget has been turned into one big Race to the Top competition wherein only the most "innovative" receive federal money.

Maybe if RIF adds standardized tests for every book that they hand out and tracks the value-added test score improvement statistics of the people handing out the books (or the people advertising for RIF - Like Carol Burnett and Kermit the Frog), Obama and Duncan will consider the program "innovative" enough to survive in the Era of Privatized Education Deform.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

For-Profit Schools Means FOR PROFIT

There is a tone of shock and surprise in this Daily News article that tells of a for-profit school management company that is charging three charter schools interest on fees, but I'm not sure why.

First, here's the story:

Three city charter schools are on the hook for thousands of dollars in interest payments to a for-profit management company.

Victory Schools Inc. charges charter schools between $2,000 and $2,700 a student for back office support and help with curriculum planning and hiring.

But if the schools can't pay up, they get socked. The company charged more than $100,000 in interest payments to three of its schools last year alone, using rates ranging from 6% to about 15% if a school pays late.

By comparison, the averagecredit card interest rate wasabout 11% last year, says.

"No school should be using tax dollars to cover interest payments, especially at credit card rates," said city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Merrick Academy charter school in Queens has paid $85,464 in interest for a loan from Victory over the past three years. The management group charged a 9.85% interest rate, which a spokesman called "competitive."

"This is cash loaned to the school when the school cannot find any other lender," said James Stovall of Victory Schools.

Audits show that the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts was charged $74,050 in interest over two years and was in hock to Victory for $1,132,206 as of last June.

Last year, the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries in the Bronx was charged more than $19,000 in interest.

Victory asserts that it has not collected the money from the two Bronx schools, even though the money is listed as part of the schools' expenses.

"It's something [that's] in there because we've made a business decision that there should be an interest fee," said Stovall, "but where we have good relationships, we don't collect it."

Why would there be any shock or surprise that Victory Schools Inc. (I wonder if the crooks who run the company get the Orwellian/1984 irony to their name?) is squeezing the charters it supports for every dime.

That's what for-profit companies do.

It's like saying, I can't believe that shark attacked that swimmer in the wetsuit that made him look like a yummy dolphin.

Makes no sense.

If you want companies like Victory to stop squeezing schools, then stop privatizing the school system.

Otherwise you're going to have lots of parasites and predators looming about taking all that they can.

This is also not the first controversy involving Victory Schools Inc. this year. Juan Gonzalez detailed that back in January:

Hours after rebuffing parents and voting to shut 19 public schools, education officials announced plans to end most programs at Alfred E. Smith High in the Bronx and replace them with a charter school.

That charter school, however, has its own troubled history.

It's called the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI), and it has been in operation fewer than two years.

Last June, a Manhattan federal grand jury charged its founder and chairman, Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, with stealing more than $200,000 from a nonprofit South Bronx housing organization.

Prosecutors say Izquierdo spent the money on designer clothes, fancy restaurants and trips to the Caribbean for his grandmother, state Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, and his aunt, City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo.

Another board member of the school, Margarita Villegas, an employee of the housing group, was indicted with Izquierdo. Both have pleaded not guilty. They immediately resigned from AECI's board and from the board of the South Bronx Charter School, where Izquierdo was chairman.

Virtually all the teachers who began at AECI when it opened its doors in September 2008 resigned within the first year.

This month, 17 of the 19 new staff members at the school filed a state labor petition to have the United Federation of Teachers represent them.

The angry teachers claim that Victory Schools Inc., the for-profit management company hired by AECI to administer their school, is charging an exorbitant management fee.

Meanwhile, DOE has posted little information on the academic performance of AECI students.

James Stovall, the executive at Victory in charge of AECI, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Irma Zardoya, the retired DOE administrator who replaced Izquierdo as chair of AECI's board.

None of these problems seem to trouble the educrats at Tweed.

One day soon, our city will wake up to discover that Bloomberg's mad rush to create hundreds of independent charter schools has unleashed bigger financial scandals than in the bad old days of community school boards.

So Klein and the eduwankers at Tweed wanted to close down a school and replace it with one run by Victory Schools Inc. - the very company charging interest on its support fees to schools.

Klein says he has to lay off senior teachers because they make too much money at the very same time he is paying interest money out to usurious school support/management companies and doing business with gangsters who run mobbed up bus companies.

Something is rotten at Tweed and in Klein's office and it isn't just the education policy.

There is an awful lot of money being pushed into the hands of the wrong people by Klein and his cohorts.

It is time for John Liu to look into this.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mobbed Up

I've covered this before when talking about NYCDOE no-bid contracts, but in light of a recent news story, it bears repeating:

Why do Joel Klein and Mayor Moneybags insist on doing business with a mobbed up bus company that carts kids to school?

Let's see if we fully understand this: Department of Education transportation chief Eric Goldstein won an order of protection against Atlantic Express owner Domenic Gatto -- who runs some 25 percent of the city's school buses -- after Gatto produced a gun during the talks.

And the talks, as best can be determined, continue?

One more time, for emphasis: Gatto pulls a gun and DOE keeps talking?

It gets an order of protection?

For its negotiator?

Okay, we'll ask: Who the hell's protecting the kids?

It is utterly astonishing that the city continued any relationship with Gatto for one nanosecond after the gun came out -- especially given the school-bus cartel's long history of mob-related corruption.

For all we know, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein ended up with a horse's head in his bed and opted to keep talking.

Now, it's good that Gatto was charged with menacing, harassment and reckless endangerment. Charges are pending.

Yet when queried about Gatto's future relationship with DOE (his current contract expires in June), the department said it "cannot comment on the status of any negotiations."

The key word being "negotiations." It's hard to take that to mean anything other than that DOE is still talking with guys who carry guns to the table.


This shouldn't be difficult: You pull a gun, you lose any chance of a city contract -- and it's profoundly troubling that Team Bloomberg won't say so publicly.

Gatto's lawyer, of course, maintains his client did nothing wrong: "The gun was never removed from its holster. No one was threatened, nobody was menaced."

Sure -- and cement shoes are just a fashion accessory.

DOE needs to cut this guy loose.

Klein wants to fire the ATR's and senior teachers making $90,000 or more a year but won't cut off negotiations with a convicted mobster who pulled a gun during contract negotiations.

Somebody needs to investigate Klein.

There has to be a reason why the DOE continues to negotiate with Domenic Gatto.

And I bet it's got $ signs all over it.

Bloomberg Should Pay For The Extension Himself

I used to live over on the far West Side of Manhattan. Back in those days, Mayor Bloomberg said the city would become anachronistic and tourists would stop visiting if he didn't get a stadium on 34th Street, a whole new swath of real estate development in the West 30's and an extension to the 7 train up 42nd Street and over to the Javits Center.

The city and state didn't want to pay for the development, of course, but Bloomberg said it was a good investment and heck, we have the money anyway if we really look for it..

But of course the MTA didn't have the money. Within a year and a half after the approval of the 7 train extension project, the MTA started screaming about raising fares. Then they raised fares. Now they're screaming about raising fares again and cutting services and making kids pay for their MTA cards to go to school. And guess what project is over budget?

The West Side extension of the No. 7 subway line is
going over budget, engineers warn, creating
another financial headache for the MTA and the city.

Construction costs are "trending above" the $2.1
billion price tag set years before tunneling began,
says a report from McKissack + Delcan, an
engineering firm retained by the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority.

The consulting firm hasn't determined the size of
the developing deficit, but Assemblyman Richard
Brodsky (D-Westchester) called the situation a
"huge, unresolved mess."

"The MTA is looking at a project no one has the
money to complete," Brodsky said. "The city's broke.
The state's broke. The MTA's broke."

The 1.5-mile extension - from Times Square to 34th
St. and 11th Ave. - wasn't in the MTA's plans, but
was sought by Mayor Bloomberg to spur
development. In September 2006, the MTA agreed to
build it after City Hall pledged up to $2.1 billion for

City and transit officials never signed an agreement
fixing responsibility for cost overruns. At the time,
some transit advocates and officials feared the MTA
would wind up diverting money from more
worthwhile projects to the No. 7 line extension.

Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Bloomberg, said
yesterday, "If it becomes clear at some point that
overruns are unavoidable, we'll address how they
would be covered then."

I think it's simple to address the problem of the overruns.

Bloomberg should pay them himself out of pocket.

He insisted on the 7 train extension so that his real estate buddies would have more of an incentive to develop the far West Side with both commercial and residential real estate. Clearly the $2.1 billion spent on the project already could have plugged the hole in the MTA's budget back when Spitzer agreed to raise the fares and might even still plug some of the budget hole now.

But Bloomberg said we needed the train extension for the good of the city. Now the MTA is broke, the extension project is over budget and the MTA has already scheduled disastrous service and employee cuts.

If Bloomberg wants to continue building the 7 train extension, he needs to pay for the thing himself.

Which is what the op-ed people should have said in the first place back when Bloomberg was clamoring for the project.

But they were too busy calling for the firing of "bad" teachers to notice how over budget and underfunded Bloomberg's pet project for his real estate buddies was.

Pay up, Mike.

Out of your own pocket.