Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cuomo Doesn't Understand Budgetary Procedures

Up until today, Little Andy Cuomo has been portrayed in the media as a political genius and saviour who will bring Albany back from the brink of dysfunction and corruption caused by career politicians.

Then came today:

ALBANY — For months, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been raising alarms about the state’s more than $9 billion deficit. On Monday, he baffled many in Albany by saying the state did not really have a significant deficit at all.

And the governor went further, in a draft op-ed article his office circulated on Monday, calling the state’s budget process “a sham” and comparing it to “deceptive practices I fought to change in the private sector,” criticizing practices that have been in place going back to the three terms of his father, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.

Many legislative staff members, advocates and budget experts in Albany, speaking publicly and privately, accused the governor of either lacking a basic understanding of how states across the country put budgets together, or, more likely, deliberately muddying the water ahead of the formal presentation of his first budget on Tuesday.

Specifically, the governor was training his ire on the fact that spending increases for specific programs, and particularly for Medicaid and education, have been programmed into the budget over the years. Such formulas include so-called trend factors that increase reimbursements to hospitals over time, and are a feature of state budgeting across the nation — and are tied to billions of dollars in federal matching funds.

Part of the political calculation is clear. Mr. Cuomo wants the public to know that much of what he is likely to cut are actually planned spending increases aimed at maintaining current services as defined by law, not cuts to existing spending levels.

Mr. Cuomo, in his op-ed, argues that governors are handcuffed by preset spending increases that create large deficits.

“These formulas (predominantly in education and Medicaid funding) are often inserted into the law by pressure from well-connected special interests and lobbyists,” he wrote. “When a governor takes office, in many ways the die has already been cast.”

James A. Parrott, chief economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-backed research and advocacy organization, said, “It is a little surprising that such an Albany veteran was surprised by the longstanding New York practice of current services budgeting as required by current law.”

“The governor should try to find people who can read the reports of the Division of the Budget,” he added. “This is the sort of bewilderment one would have expected from his November opponent.”

It is interesting to see Cuomo portrayed in the Times as ignorant and "lacking of a basic understanding of how states across the country put budgets together."

If Cuomo is supposed to "save" New York, he might want to, you know, bone up on the budgeting process.

Shelly Silver spoke to reporters today and responded to Cuomo's op-ed about the budget:

Man oh man, it is great to watch Silver.

Little Andy thinks he's high-flying with his 70% approval rating.

Let's see how he looks after the budgetary process and he goes to toe-to-toe a couple of times with Silver.

Murdoch Papers Says ATR's To Be Sold Out

Murdoch Post writer, Fred Dicker, the namesake of the "Fred Dicker of the Day" award, writes the following:
State lawmakers are secretly eyeing a compromise that would allow Mayor Bloomberg to fire thousands of "nonteaching teachers" without consideration of the "last in, first out" law, The Post has learned.

The plan, being discussed at the highest levels of the Legislature and with aides to Bloomberg, would grant the mayor the right to fire between 2,000 to 4,000 nonclassroom teachers -- including all those who formerly languished in the notorious "rubber room" under disciplinary charges.

The plan would also target members of the "absent teacher reserve pool" -- which includes nonworking but on-the-payroll teachers from schools that have been shut down because of poor performance -- and teachers assigned only to "administrative functions," sources said.

Bloomberg warned Friday that the city might be forced to lay off as many as 20,000 teachers because of a combination of a city revenue shortfall and the severe state budget cuts to be unveiled tomorrow by Gov. Cuomo. If the plan becomes reality, about 10 to 20 percent of teachers slated for layoffs simply because they were hired last would be spared.

Bloomberg, conceding that significant teacher cuts are inevitable, has launched an aggressive campaign to overturn the state law that requires the city to fire teachers on the basis of seniority and not competence.

State lawmakers privately say Bloomberg can't win full repeal of the law because of intense union opposition and concerns over the criteria the mayor would use to justify teacher dismissals.

But the dismissal of poorly performing "nonteaching teachers" was described by a top state official as "potentially doable."

Cuomo and Senate Republicans have signaled they're open to such a measure, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and his union-funded Democratic Conference have yet to weigh in.

As always, take ANYTHING written in the Murdoch Post (or any Murdoch "news" outlet, for that matter) with a grain of salt.

But it isn't too hard to believe that Cuomo and the Senate are working behind the scenes to give Bloomberg the power to fire at will.

Silver and the Assembly are all that stands in the way of this.

And once the mayor is given the ability to fire teachers at will, you can bet the "bad teachers" in the system will ALWAYS be the most expensive and senior teachers who will be scrubbed from the system every few years like clockwork.

Going To Church To Bash The Union

What is it with Bloomberg using churches as a place to bash the teachers union?

Bloomberg says getting rid of teacher seniority rules is a "civil rights issue."

That's a joke.

These are civil rights issues.

What Bloomberg is doing is an "oligarch's issue."

Connect The Murdochs

The Rupert Murdoch-owned NY Post runs a story about an "explosive" interview that Rupert Murdoch-owned Joel Klein gave to the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times about how 5%-10% of NYC teachers are incompetent and should be fired but the UFT protects them.

Now there is nothing remotely "explosive" about this charge.

Hell, Klein has been making this charge for eight years or so, as has his old boss, Mayor Bloomberg, and his new boss at News Corp., Rupert Murdoch.

And Rupert Murdoch has been calling for seniority and tenure busting in all his various media outlets - from Fox News to the NY Post to the Wall Street Journal (see here, here and here for the latest teacher-bashing in the Journal) to his overseas papers like the Sunday Times.

In fact, the only thing explosive about any of this is that an oligarch like Murdoch is allowed to get away with the anti-teacher propaganda without somebody in power saying, "You know, maybe we ought to take away some of these media outlets from him."

Seriously, how many news media outlets can one oligarch own?

Here in NY he has the Post, the Journal, Channel 5, Channel 9, FOX News and FOX Business.

That's an awful lot of places to do some teacher-bashing.

No news at any of those places, but plenty of teacher bashing.

And as for Klein, he signed a DOE contract with Wireless Generation, a provider of online education services, right before he quit as NYC schools chancellor, then Rupert Murdoch hired Klein and bought Wireless Generation within two weeks of Klein's quitting the DOE.





Business as usual in the oligarchy known as Bloomberg's NY where Rupert Murdoch owns SIX media outlets?

You betcha.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another Storm On The Way

Light snow tomorrow.

Ice storm and rain Tuesday and Wednesday.

I've had enough winter.

It's time for warmer weather.

Maybe this will bring some:

Online K-12

I have a problem with this:

In its latest foray into higher education, K12 Inc. has teamed up with George Washington University to launch a fully online private prep school for high schoolers.

The partnership between a major research university and the virtual education company aims to bring higher quality curriculum and online classes to students around the world as well as to allow George Washington University and the Herndon, Va.-based K12 Inc., to conduct research on curriculum development and instruction in online learning environments, said Bruce Davis, the executive vice president of worldwide business development for K12 Inc., which operates online public schools in 25 states.

Here s some of the advertising claptrap the program's website is hawking:

GWUOHS college preparation is all-encompassing, helping students with every aspect of the college selection, application, and matriculation process including:

* Student portfolios
* College selection
* Test prep for SAT, ACT
* Top-tier college visits
* College representative sessions
* Application completion and submission
* Teacher recommendations
* Application essays and personal statements
* Scholarship applications
* Financial aid
* Preparing for college life

Counselors engage in personalized coaching, offering the kind of tailored advice that only results from forming a close relationship with each student. Counselors work with students and their families to understand goals, the financial situation, academic performance, extracurricular interests, geographical preferences and constraints, career interests, and special talents. This provides them with a holistic overview, enabling them to provide customized support to every student.

In addition to online college fairs, virtual visits by college admissions officers and tours of college campuses, GWUOHS students will have the opportunity to meet with a representative from the George Washington University Undergraduate Admissions Office.

What the hell is a "virtual visit" by a college admissions officer?

You know, in the old days, they used to call that "Hey - somebody's emailing you!"

Now it's a virtual visit.

As for the personalized coaching and counseling, again, this stuff is being done ONLINE. Just how personalized a coaching or counseling session can you get ONLINE?

Here's more claptrap:

Every Journey Starts with a First Step

The Journeys Symposium is a unique four-year sequence that takes students through a journey of self-discovery, leading to a fulfilling high school experience and a successful college placement. It also provides students with a framework for living life well. The Journeys Symposium emphasizes four core elements:

* Immersion in Self-Awareness
Here students will explore and evaluate their personal interests, habits, and preferences through exercises and guided experiences that will give them greater self-insight and provide a starting point for their journey. Part of this “immersion in self-awareness” is an assessment of their learning styles and needs. Each student emerges with a concrete set of goals as well as an initial college search plan.
* Team and Community
Here students learn how to incorporate their newfound self-awareness into the realm of team and community. Students will experience and reflect on the dynamics that lead to healthy team action and community living. Each student receives hands-on, direct community service experience—including an analysis and inventory of what was gained and given in that experience—providing a blueprint for future team and community work.
* Stewardship and Generational Awareness
Here students take their sense of self-awareness and sense of community/social awareness and begin to build—and tell—their own unique story. We devote time to developing the understanding that each person adds a chapter to the whole human story. The primary goal is to craft a capstone personal essay that will be used as the student’s all-important college essay.

You know, that all sounds great - if it were happening in the REAL world with REAL people in a REAL classroom on a REAL campus in a REAL community.

When it is happening in a VIRTUAL world ONLINE, there is an emotional and spiritual disconnect that renders a lot of the community building and personal interaction VIRTUALLY non-existent.

Humans evolved in the REAL world through AUTHENTIC social and emotional interactions.

For anyone to think that the above kind of program can work solely ONLINE with no ACTUAL human interaction FACE-TO-FACE, they're either in need of a lot of therapy work or they're in it for the money.

In the case of some of the people promoting this stuff as the future of education - like Joel Klein and Bill Gates - it's both.

Bloomberg's Staff Buries Man's Car With Snow

It's good to work for the King of New York:

A Manhattan man's car parked across the street from Gracie Mansion was buried under several feet of snow by Sanitation workers clearing parking spaces for Mayor Bloomberg's staff.

John Connolly, 63, a veteran magazine reporter and ex-NYPD cop, said he stepped outside to clean his vehicle on East End Ave. a day after Wednesday's snowstorm dumped 19 inches on the city.

But instead, he found an army of trucks from the city's Department of Sanitation pushing snow to the side of the street where he parked his 2010 Honda Accord.

"They scooped up the snow from where the mayor's people park and they pushed it to the other side of the street," Connolly told the Daily News yesterday. "I care because my car is buried under that snow."

A Sanitation supervisor told him that a crew would be back to plow around Connolly's gray sedan, which was packed in a mound of snow more than 4-feet wide and nearly 5-feet high.

When no one returned, Connolly said he offered a few men some cash to help dig the car out. The men refused, saying it was too much work.

"I'd rather just pay someone to pull me out," said Connolly, who suffers from arthritis. "I would have a tow truck come and tow me out.

"It was really inconsiderate," said Connolly, who has worked as an investigative reporter for Vanity Fair for about 10 years. "If you make a mistake, then clean it up."

He called 311 Saturday for help, but the operator told him his only options were to complain to the mayor's office or contact his local Sanitation garage.

"I don't mind the white stuff," he said. "I'm a citizen, I'm supposed to dig out my car - but not when you push all the snow from the mayor's people onto my car."

Connolly said he planned to try again today with others parked on the snow-clogged side of the street to remove his car.

Reps for both the mayor and the Department of Sanitation could not be reached for comment.

NY 1 had a story that said you shouldn't dig out your car and throw the snow into the street or onto other people's cars because you could get fined.

But apparently the city will not fine Bloomberg's staff for having their cars dug out and the snow thrown onto other people's cars.

Just another emblem of Bloomberg's New York - if you're connected, you get all the privileges.

And if you're not, too f@#$ing bad.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Corporatists Start Union-Busting Schools In Britain

Inevitable that the Cameron regime would bring this to Britain:

The government today gave the green light for the first eight "free schools" to open in England, with the prime minister, David Cameron, pledging they will bring greater opportunity to the poorest pupils.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, used a conference in London to announce that the business plans of eight schools – four in the capital and the remainder in Suffolk, West Sussex, Norwich and Leicester – had been approved and will open in September in a move that has been attacked by teaching unions.

Gove also revealed that he was open to the idea of establishing a free school in the Department for Education's central London headquarters. "We have been trying to see how we can make use of DfE estates to make space available for schools," he said.


Free schools will have more freedom over their curriculum and teachers' pay and conditions. Teachers employed by them will also not need to have formal teaching qualifications.

The New Schools Network, a charity set up to promote the free schools, has promised they will "improve the quality of education – particularly for the most deprived – by increasing the number of independent, innovative schools within the state sector".

According to the DfE: "Free schools are all-ability, state-funded schools, set up in response to parental demand. The most important element of a great education is the quality of teaching and free schools will enable excellent teachers to create schools and improve standards for all children, regardless of their background."

But teaching unions have warned they will cause "chaos" at a local level and "dismantle state education".


The conference heard from a number of US teachers who had set up charter schools, on similar principles as free schools, in some of the most deprived areas in inner cities.

Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City education department, said: "Charter schools have given thousands of underprivileged children across America a better start in life."

Uh, huh - except for the 46% that perform the same as traditional public schools and the 37% that perform worse than traditional public schools.

Alliance For Quality Education: No To Cuomo Cuts

Little Andy wants to fire teachers and cut taxes on hedge fund managers. The corporate media cheer this. The Alliance for Quality Education say not so fast:

Education advocates say spending cuts would be devastating – and so would reductions in teacher pay, our Glenn Blain reports from the State Capitol.

Flanked by more than a dozen lawmakers – most of them Assembly Democrats – the Alliance for Quality Education’s Billy Easton held a press conference this morning to release a study showing, among other things, that the state’s better performing schools spent $1,712 per pupil than schools classified by the state as needing improvement.

The message from Easton and the lawmakers was simple: The massive education cuts expected in Gov. Cuomo’s budget would be devastating, especially to schools in poor areas, and the state should not think of cutting school funding without first renewing the so-called "millionaires’ tax."

“This year, that alone is not going to solve the state’s fiscal crisis, but that’s a billion dollars that could go to closing this gap,” Easton said. “That’s a billion dollars that we believe, before a single dollar should be considered to be cut from our children’s education, that the state should say we want to keep that money coming in.”

The tax, which impacts individuals earning over $200,000 a year, is set to expire at the end of 2011. Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Senate’s GOP majority oppose its renewal.

While AQE -- which is backed financially by the state’s powerful teachers unions -- wants high-income earners to continue to pay the tax, it does not believe, according to Easton, that teachers should also be asked to sacrifice when it comes to their pay.

“It is kind of stylish to say, 'Well, the way we can fix our schools is by cutting teachers' compensation,'” Easton said when asked if teachers should be aside to share the pain of the fiscal crisis. “But then it is like we have to attract the very best teachers and keep them and we should reward them more if they are doing well.”

Easton added: “How are we going to keep our best teachers, especially in our neediest schools, if we start cutting their pay? If we start eliminating their benefits?”


Cuomo And Layoffs

The Murdoch Post, always a dubious source for news, reports that Little Andy won't do what the mayor wants and address LIFO layoffs in his budget proposal this coming week:

Gov. Cuomo rebuffed Mayor Bloomberg's request to immediately endorse a plan to scrap the "last in, first out" (LIFO) teacher-seniority layoff policy by including a repeal in his state budget plan, The Post has learned.

Cuomo's spending proposal -- to be unveiled Tuesday -- will not include the mayor's proposal.

" 'Last hired, first fired' won't be addressed in the governor's budget because it's not a state budget matter," said a source in the Cuomo administration.

The source stressed that all of the mayor's proposals "will be given serious consideration" in the weeks following the budget's submission.

City Hall wants the proposed elimination of LIFO included in the governor's spending plan to give school officials more flexibility to implement thousands of expected layoffs based on merit rather than seniority.

Bloomberg laid out a doomsday scenario claiming the city may be forced to slash 21,000 teaching positions.


The Cuomo insider said school districts have to be "more efficient and effective" and doubted that budget cuts would trigger layoffs.

But if layoffs are necessary, the source said, Cuomo was willing to sit with all parties -- including the mayor and teachers union -- to come up with a new personnel policy "based on professional performance review and standards that will utilize fair and objective criteria to make such determinations."

In other words, the axing of teachers would no longer be based solely on longevity.

As I wrote last night, the economy is slowly getting better and tax receipts are slowly going up. So this is the last, best chance for the corporatists to use the Shock Doctrine of "Economic Armageddon" to get seniority and tenure rules changed.

They are going all out to do just that.

Next year, the budget will be a little better, employment in the private sector will be a little better and GDP will be a little better.

They won't be able to trumpet "Economic Armageddon" as a reason to gut seniority and tenure.

So the all-out push is on.

Cuomo of course will eventually give Bloomberg and the corporate overlords what they want on this. I have no doubt about that.

But Cuomo cannot change these rules himself, as they are embedded in state law.

And so the key becomes Shelly Silver and the Dems in the Assembly.

Silver has already indicated he thinks it is ridiculous that Cuomo wants to let a millionaire's tax that contributes $1 billion to the state sunset while cutting an additional $10 billion from the budget.

Right now, Cuomo has 70% approval ratings and the NY State legislature is about as popular as a urinary tract infection, but that's BEFORE Cuomo enacts cuts.

In a face-off between governor and legislature, it looks like Cuomo has the upper hand.

But wait until the state forces thousands of layoffs of teachers, cops and fire personnel, closes state parks, libraries, and hospitals, stops paving roads and does all the other budget-cutting measures Cuomo has been bragging about doing.

His approval will plummet and he'll be even LESS popular than a urinary tract infection.

Again, the key is fighting these proposals, educating people that LIFO is the only fair way to do layoffs now that schools have to pay for teachers' salaries themselves (giving them the incentive to ALWAYS lay off more expensive vets), point out that Wall Street is back to 2008 levels and the hedge fund managers are raking in the dough, and the economy is turning around, albeit slowly.

Not exactly the strongest hand to play, of course, especially with the corporate media playing up the unionized workers vs. nonunionized workers class war angle so often.

But it's the hand we've got and I do think it can be played for a win.

The key here is to point out the obscene amount of money the Masters of the Universe are making on Wall Street even as their taxes are being lowered and middle class teachers, cops and fire personnel are being cut.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I won't dignify Bloomberg's threat to lay off 21,000 NYC teachers in June - more than 25% of the workforce - with much other than to say, please go read this.

But I will say this - with GDP up and the employment picture looking brighter for 2011, the ed deform/corporatist movement MUST get all of their demands on LIFO and tenure THIS year.

Next year, the tax receipts are going to be up (unless Cuomo and Bloomberg continue to cut taxes on rich people, of course), so they won't be able to use a huge looming budget deficit as leverage against the teachers union.

They have to finish this fight this year or wait perhaps another generation to get the perfect economic storm they can use to end LIFO and tenure protections.

Mulgrew and the UFT leadership SHOULD know this, but just in case they don't, you all ought to call and let them know it.

Prices are up. Wall Street is back near 2008 levels. The economy is improving, albeit slowly. There is light at the end of this long, nightmarish tunnel.

We just have to survive this year without giving in to either Bloomberg or Cuomo.

What About This Dictator?

Fred Klonsky points out that this week hasn't been such a good week for dictators around the world, what with demonstrations breaking out across the Mideast against authoritarian regimes.

I cheer these, of course, but I would note that there is one dictator who hasn't been overthrown and who continues to impose his will upon millions without regard for democratic ideals or opposing viewpoints.

I bet you can guess who he is.

But I'll put a link to a google news search anyway.

Take a look at how many strings he pulls around the world.

It's time he goes to the same exiled island for authoritarian monsters and murderous thugs like Baby Doc, Kissinger, Mubarak, and Ben Ali.

And if you don't think he belongs in the same sentence with the above evil monsters, please take a look at this.

How many people will HE kill through policies like these?

New Teacher Evaluation System Unwritten, But Still Go Into Effect

The Tennessean reports that a new evaluation system of teachers in the state of Tennessee is a mess, yet it will STILL be going into effect in six months and teachers WILL BE FIRED using this system:

A new teacher evaluation system is set to kick in across the state in six months, even though parts of it haven't been written and principals haven't been trained how to use it.

Tennessee's legislature passed it a year ago as part of an education reform initiative that secured $500 million in federal Race to the Top grant money.

Critics said the old evaluation system, which monitored most tenured teachers once every five years, left too many ineffective teachers in the classroom too long, was vague and largely didn't help teachers improve. The new system will judge teachers and principals using student learning gains — called value-added scores — along with a prescribed checklist to determine their placement, pay and, ultimately, whether they will keep their jobs.

Forty-nine schools across the state, including some in Sumner County and Metro Nashville, are field-testing parts of the new system. But with many specifics still undecided, state officials say they hope educators will be patient.

"I'm sure there are some across the state who have expressed concern, but we're focused on getting this done," said Patrick Smith, acting education commissioner.

Fifty percent of teachers' evaluations will be based on student achievement. Of that, 35 percent is their classes' value-added scores, taken from students' standardized testing. The remaining 15 percent is a measure the school chooses, such as the graduation rate or something from a list of other options the state is expected to adopt in the coming weeks.

"This is not a way to point fingers at anyone, but the intention is to provide helping hands to drive instruction," Smith said.

The other 50 percent will come from a principal's classroom observation, but the state has yet to choose which observation model it will use.

Come on teachers, be patient.

Sure the system isn't finished yet and sure the margin of error on those value-added measurements are 12%-35% and sure you'll be fired if you aren't rated well in this system - but you have to be patient with us.

We're working as hard as we can to find a way to scapegoat you and fire you at will.

With the help of corporate-friendly politicians like Barack Obama and Lamar Alexander, we have the mechanism to do so in the state of Tennessee (and elsewhere - like New York!)

Now just give us a chance to get the system right - and by right, we mean so complex and screwy that we can essentially declare every teacher a "bad teacher" and fire all your asses, close down all the schools and turn everything over to for-profit education companies.

Cheap way to run the government when there is no public education system to pay for.

So be patient, folks - this isn't about making education better, this is about making sure we can use these uncertain times in the economy to destroy the public education system, teachers unions and government employees and turn all public education over to our for-profit cronies.

And education "reform" sure is one terrific way to do just that.

Billionaire Bribes NY State

From the Post:

ALBANY -- Charter-school backers have kicked in $4 million to help the state Board of Regents craft education reforms -- raising questions from school officials about the influence of private money on education.

The donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are part of the budget-squeezed board's effort to raise $18 million to implement "Race to the Top" reforms.

That $4 million will go to make sure that 40% of my teacher evaluation will now be based on test scores.

Never mind that those tests will be taken on computers running Gates software and the test scores will be tracked on Gates software as well.

No conflict there.

And no criminally activity that the Gates Foundation is handing $ million to the state to do what it wants.

Where Is The Accountability?

Business people, Wall Streeters and politicians like to point at teachers in public education systems and ask "Where is the accountability?"

But that's the wrong question.

The right question is, given what happened in 2007-2008, "Why is ANYBODY listening to these people in the first place?"

A Congressional report looking at who caused the 2008 financial meltdown finds plenty of culprits and not ONE was a teacher:

Twelve of the 13 largest U.S. financial institutions "were at risk of failure" at the depth of the 2008 financial crisis, while at least 50 hedge funds tried to capitalize on it, according to a report released Thursday by a U.S. panel investigating how the financial system unraveled.

The report quantifies a huge run on the bank at Morgan Stanley, describes the alleged trading practices of a secretive hedge fund and tallies the number of such funds betting against U.S. homeowners.

The 545-page document paints a picture of a financial system let loose by lax regulation and careening out of control. Regulators now are hammering out a financial-regulatory overhaul, though some analysts say not enough has been done since to prevent a recurrence.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission didn't produce new culprits or scandals in a crisis already analyzed at length by the news media, a U.S. Senate investigation, a congressional oversight committee, an inspector general and financial regulators.

The report described a shadow banking system that helped trigger a more than tenfold surge in financial-sector debt, to $36 trillion in 2007 from $3 trillion in 1978.

Then it crumbled, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the commission in a November 2009 interview.

"As a scholar of the Great Depression, I honestly believe that September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression," Mr. Bernanke said, according to the commission's report.

Of the 13 most important U.S. financial institutions, "12 were at risk of failure within a period of a week or two," the report quoted Mr. Bernanke as saying.

Mr. Bernanke declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

The list of potential failures included Goldman Sachs Group Inc., people familiar with the report said. The only major financial institution not at risk at the time was J.P. Morgan Chase.

Spokesmen for J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the report.

After regulators let Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapse in September 2008, one of the most vulnerable banks was Morgan Stanley, the report notes.

Hedge funds pulled $86 billion in assets from the investment bank in the week following the Sept. 15 Lehman bankruptcy filing, stemming from concerns about Morgan Stanley's viability, according to a Morgan Stanley email at the time to the New York Federal Reserve titled "Liquidity Landscape."

"Many of our sophisticated clients started to liquefy," Morgan Stanley Treasurer David Wong told the commission in October. A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman declined to comment.

The report also provided clarity about the number of hedge funds gambling homeowners couldn't pay their mortgages.

And all we hear from so many at JP Morgan Chase, at Goldman and other "connected" banks is how the country's financial ills are brought to us by government workers and ll the problems in public education is brought to us by unionized teachers.

We hear the same from politicians like Little Andy Cuomo.

But all this blaming of government workers for the economy and teachers for education is horsebleep.

The problem is Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, et al.

These guys have gobbled billions in tax payer bailouts.

They would have been out of business had tax payers NOT bailed them out.

And you know who some of those tax payers were?

Teachers and policemen and fire personnel and government workers.

The same people the Goldmans and Morgans are coming after.

The same people the Goldmans and the Morgans BLAME for the problems in the country - problems either started or exacerbated by themselves.

Again I say, where is the accountability for the Wall Street and hedge fund criminals?

Bloomberg And The Regents Exams

I'm going to do something I bet you never thought you'd see at this blog.

I'm going to defend Mayor Moneybags.

That's right - Bloomberg, the King of New York himself.

The mayor took some criticism for closing NYC schools yesterday because it was a Regents test day for students taking the U.S. history, geometry, physics and chemistry exams.

Gotham Schools says 98,438 Regents in all were ordered for today.

So presumably at least 90,000 students were taking Regents yesterday and since the exams were ONLY given yesterday, many might have to wait until June to take the exam again.

This includes some students who are slated to graduate at the end of the month but need to pass all five major Regents exams first - including the ones given yesterday.

The mayor got a little testy when pressed about his decision to close schools on a Regents test day (and make no mistake, it was HIS decision, not Cathie Black's):

1st Reporter: And so, all of these thousands of people will have to take the exams in June and will have to study for them again?

Black: That’s correct.

Bloomberg: Well, hopefully if you learned the material, you don’t have to study again? I mean, think about what you’re - they should be learning the material. That’s the whole idea of the test, to see whether you know the material, not whether you can pass the test.

2nd Reporter: The idea is that you can take it three times and pass it with at least a 65, so like, if you are not given that time in January to take it, you fail it in June…

Bloomberg: You know — unfortunately, we have a snow storm which we didn’t want, but God gave us. And the state will figure out ways to work it out, for the kids who need to take the test, but learning the material is not a bad idea. As a matter of fact, they’ve got the day free, they can go back to the books, and I’m sure most of them will want to spend this day doing that.

Leaving aside the mayor's incredulity that students who have been prepped for a January test might actually forget that preparation if forced to wait until June to take the test, let me note a few things here.

This one WASN'T Bloomberg's fault.

Had he kept the schools open, he would have been hammered for bringing children and teachers into schools on morning when the MTA buses were still suspended, the LIRR was running one train an hour, Metro North was partially suspended, and NJ trains were mostly suspended.

A delayed opening wouldn't have helped students taking the Regents exam since they can only be given right at 9 AM and even had he kept the schools open just so that high school students could come in to take their Regents exam, the percentage of student absences would have been incredibly (and legitimately) high.

Many teachers also would have difficulty getting in.

19 inches of snow falling between midnight and 5 AM kinda does that sort of thing.

So even had he kept the schools open, many students would STILL have their Regents problems, but on top of that, Bloomberg would have opened himself and the city up to criticism that he was putting students at risk.

And that would have been a valid criticism.

Bloomberg had a heads he loses/tails he loses proposition here.

He was going to get criticized no matter what he did.

Now this is his own fault - after the Bloomberg Blizzard Disaster of 2010, after CityTime and after the Cathie Black nomination, neither citizens nor the political press are in a mood to give him a pass on anything.

That is because he has worn out his welcome and people are sick of him and his arrogance.

That said, I think he made the right call here.

Well, almost.

He could have called school off earlier than he did (which was 5 AM), especially since MTA buses had been suspended from midnight on.

But since the storm was much stronger than forecast and left a lot more snow on the ground than the weather people were predicting, I think he did the right thing by closing schools and waiting until the morning to do it.

As of Wednesday night, most media outlets were forecasting somewhere between 4-9 inches of snow overnight and even those forecasts came with caveats - they weren't really sure because of the unpredictable nature of the storm.

If they weren't sure about the forecast, Bloomberg couldn't be either.

So there you have it - hell has frozen over and I have said something nice about Moneybags.

And that will be the LAST time I say anything to defend Bloomberg.

Okay, now back to your regularly scheduled Bloomberg-bashing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rainy Days

Change I Can Believe In: Scheniderman Edition

Now this I like:

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he is creating a taxpayer-protection unit to target multi-state corporate tax fraud schemes, corrupt contractors and firms that rip off public pension funds.

The unit, which also will encourage whistleblowers to expose corruption, will be empowered by the state’s newly strengthened False Claims Act, which Schneiderman called “the strongest anti-fraud statute in the United States.” The revised act makes New York the only state that can bring false claims against those who commit tax fraud, Schneiderman said today at a press conference in Manhattan.

Schneiderman also will bolster his office’s Medicaid Fraud Control unit, taking advantage of a federal program that matches state investment by three-to-one. The money to expand the unit will come from recoveries, he said.

“Today’s announcement is a signal to anyone thinking of ripping off New York taxpayers,” Schneiderman said. “We will go after you with every tool we have.”

The enhanced False Claims Act, sponsored by Schneiderman when he was a state senator and approved by the Legislature last year, has a provision aimed at illegal off-shore tax shelters, he said in a statement when it passed. The provision is a first- in-the-nation state program to allow whistleblowers to go after what he called “millionaire tax cheats” that defraud the state of more than $350,000, he said last year.

Schneiderman said today the new unit also will pursue off- shore tax cheats.

If Schneiderman wants to catch off-shore tax cheats, he ought to start with an investigation of Mayor Moneybags.

Then everybody who gets listed in the next WikiLeaks document dump involving off-shore tax cheats in the Cayman Islands, which is set to come out any day now.

This is the kind of change I can believe in.

Rich, powerful, influential crooks being held accountable.

Rahmbo Back On Ballot For Good

I guess the Supreme Court justices in Illinois got the envelopes with the cash in them:

Rahm Emanuel can run for mayor, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled.

In a 7 to 0 decision, the court Thursday said an appellate court erred in taking Emanuel off the ballot earlier in the week.

The decision means Emanuel holds onto his position as the first name on the ballot in the Feb. 22 election. Emanuel has been leading in both the polls and fund-raising in the race that includes candidates Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico, and Miguel del Valle. Patricia Van Pelt Watkins and William “Dock” Walls are also on the ballot.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturns an appeals court ruling Monday that knocked Emanuel off the ballot.

Not a surprise - in a political system as rotten and corrupt as ours, rules are ONLY for little people, not for important connected corporatists like Rahm Emanuel.

Uh, What?

I usually don't do celebrity news here at Perdido Street School.

Okay, I NEVER do celebrity news here at Perdido Street School.

But this story - well, I just had to:

Lady Gaga wants her first fragrance to cause a visceral reaction.

She reportedly wants her scent to smell like "blood and semen," sources have told Fashionista.

Her "little monsters" shouldn't be surprised. Insiders told Marketingmagazine in the UK that it will have an extremely "unusual" fragrance.

The wacky pop star signed a deal with Coty last year, and her signature scent will hit shelves next year.

If Gaga's seminal scent is as out there as it's rumored, it already has company on the shelves.

Kilian Hennessy has a high-priced perfume called Liaisons Dangereuses that is meant to evoke the scent of an orgy.

And Demeter Fragrances has been selling near-ghastly smells for over a decade: Sushi, Lobster and Turpentine scents are just a few of their olfactory creations.

Yes, I'm looking for a gift for my wife, a perfume.

Something that smells a little like, I dunno, blood and semen?

Or how about something that evokes Plato's Retreat from the late 70's?

Maybe a combination of marijuana, bourbon, sweat, other bodily fluids, lust, and desperation?

Yeah, sounds great.

It's on my Valentine's Day list.

Snow Days Mean E-Learning

We can't afford to lose a day of instruction!

A small rural Ohio school district is experimenting with a new version of the traditional snow day -- one that some kids are not likely to enjoy much.

When snow makes it took difficult to keep schools in operation, classes are cancelled and kids sleep in and goof off the rest of the day.

But this year the Mississinawa Valley School District, on the Ohio-Indiana border, has lessons ready for students on their computers at home that they are expected to do.

There are rules, too, for kids who don’t have home computers: They are expected to complete the work too, though they have longer to do it because they don’t get the assignments until they get back to school.

Humans evolved in the real world.

These days, we do everything in the virtual world.

I say, give kids the snow days off, let the little kids go sledding and play snow fort and the bigger kids make some money shoveling.

Rally Against School Closures Today

I have a doctor's appointment this afternoon, and supposedly the doctor HAS made it in from Connecticut (we shall see once I get to the office.) But if I make it out in time (and given the delays due to snow, that is a BIG if), I will be heading to the Tweed Court House for the demonstration.

You should too if you have the chance.

Norm says they will be building snowpeople to resemble Bloomberg, Black, Duncan, et al,, then knocking them over with snowballs.

I say, leave 'em up and let the NYC dogs take care of the problem.

Either way, heckuva day for a rally.

Ralph Nader and Ron Paul

Interesting conversation - Nader says the U.S. spends $30 million an hour on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And public employee pensions are the problem?

Uh, uh - overseas empire is the problem.

Eighth Largest Snow Storm In NYC

NY 1 says 19 inches of snow fell on NYC last night after 4 inches fell yesterday afternoon.

That's 23 inches of snow in Central Park in the last 24 hours.

Last night was a crazy night - thunder, lightning, sleet, snow, and wind.

The Daily News called it "thundersnow"!

The Weather Channel says that snow was falling at 3 inches an hour in Newark.

This has been the snowiest January on record.

So far, this is the sixth snowiest winter on record for NYC.

We have more snow coming tomorrow (just about an inch or so) and another possible storm set to hit the city on Tuesday.

And still another 52 days of winter remaining.

Rick Hess Slings Some Horse@#$%

Conservative Rick Hess analyzes the president's SOTU address and says that Obama should have said that the unemployment problem could be solved by addressing "worker productivity".


Worker productivity of the last twenty years is up way above worker pay. In addition, one of the reasons there is an unemployment problem in the first place is because worker productivity is up so much that employers have been able to get by without adding new workers because they can squeeze current ones they have for all their worth.

Don't believe me? Here's the Kaplan Test Prep Post on that:

When workers become more efficient, it's normally a good thing. But lately, it has acted as a powerful brake on job creation. And the question of whether the recent surge in productivity has run its course is the key to whether job growth is finally poised to take off.

One of the great surprises of the economic downturn that began 27 months ago is this: Businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.

That means high-level gains in productivity -- which in the long run is the key to a higher standard of living but in the short run contributes to sky-high unemployment. So long as employers can squeeze dramatically higher output from every worker, they won't need to hire again despite the growing economy.


the question of what caused the burst in workers' efficiency is one of the great unanswered questions of the expansion and has huge stakes for the economy over the coming year.

"It is an episode that we're going to -- we, economists in general -- are going to want to understand better and look at for a long time," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said at a hearing last week in which he described the productivity gains as "extraordinary" and acknowledged he had not foreseen them.

Businesses have certainly not been investing in new equipment that might enable workers to be more efficient -- capital expenditures plummeted during the recession and are rebounding slowly. And the structural shifts occurring in the economy are so profound that one would expect productivity to be lower, rather than higher, as people need new training to work in parts of the economy that are growing, such as exports and the clean-energy sector.

So what's happening? As best as anyone can guess, the crisis that began in 2007 and deepened in 2008 caused both businesses and workers to panic. Companies cut even more staff than the decrease in demand for their products would warrant. They were hoarding cash, fearful that they wouldn't have access to capital down the road.

When demand for their products leveled off in the middle of last year, the companies could have stopped cutting jobs or even hired people back. But they didn't -- payrolls have continued declining.

Instead companies squeezed more work out of remaining employees, accounting for a 3.8 percent boost in worker productivity in 2009, the best in seven years. Which raises the question: Why couldn't companies have achieved those gains back when the economy was in better shape? The answer to that may lie on the other side of the equation -- employees.

Workers were in a panic of their own in 2009. Fearful of losing their jobs, people seem to have become more willing to stretch themselves to the limit to get more done in any given hour of work. And they have been tolerant of furloughs and cutbacks in hours, which in better times would drive them to find a new employer. This has given companies the leeway to cut back without the fear of losing valuable employees for good.

So tell me, Mr. Hess, how does making American workers more productive than they already are solve unemployment when part of the problem is productivity?


The corporate shill at Ed Week who writes the Teacher Beat column fellates computer monopolist/education reformer Bill Gates today.

Gates pontificates about teacher effectiveness.

Hey, Bill, how about working on Microsoft effectiveness instead?

You know, like fixing those Xboxes that blow up?

Puts Rhee And Ed Reformers Into Perspective

Can't argue with any of this comment at Politico from a reader:

Here is what another reader said:

Rhee is just the latest in a long line of progressives' educational 'new and improved'. She taught for a mere three years in a government program, touted her so-called accomplishments and was revealed to be all hype. This is how we got into trouble in education in the first place-by changing for the sake of change itself. Teachers, by and large, are not the problem. We have a country full of disinterested parents who are not held accountable for their actions yet we want to attach an onerous burden on teachers to produce. There are many variables for which teachers cannot compensate and many begin at home. We need to cut out all the frills of the modern American education and return to a laser focus on the basics. Concentrate more on helping kids to get a firm grasp on math and science and, for God's sake, teach them how to write effectively!! BTW, I am not a teacher but I have tremendous respect for them.

Ah, if only some people like this worked in, you know, journalism.

Politico Provides PR For Michelle Rhee

A largely positive article about Michelle Rhee in Politico.

Politico even spoke to her fiance, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, to hear more about her greatness.

But of course they never did ask KJ about his sexual harassment issues or the allegations that showed up in a Congressional report that Michelle Rhee tried to bribe KJ's victims to stay silent about his groping.

Ask those kinds of questions and suddenly the savior of public education just seems like a sleazy criminal.

Schools Closed?

I seriously assumed schools were open this morning when I woke up about twenty five minutes ago.

The PATH is delayed by 15 minutes, MTA buses are suspended, the LIRR just resumed services and the Metro North New Haven Line has been suspended.

But I figured Bloomberg's street on the UES was plowed and cabs were available, so school was, you know, in session.

I started some coffee, watched a little Channel 2, and began to get ready for the day. Since PATH was delayed 15 minutes, that meant leaving at about 7:30 or so to make sure I got into school in time to proctor the Regents exam.

And then, just for fun, I checked NY 1 and saw this:

It's a rare snow day for New York City's public school students.

With a heavy winter storm making many roads impassible, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black announced shortly before 5 a.m. that public schools will be closed today.


Central Park received 11" of snow overnight, in addition to the four inches that fell on Wednesday. All told, some areas of the city have received up to 17" over the two days.

All parking rules have been suspended for Thursday as a result of the storm.

As fast-falling snow clogged city streets, the MTA suspended bus service throughout the five boroughs at 12:25 a.m. The MTA's decision came on the heels of numerous reports throughout the city of buses being stuck in the hard-to-navigate snowy conditions.

What do you know - a snow day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

U.S. History Regents And Snow

Bad week for a snow storm.

Tomorrow is the U.S. History Regents exam here in New York. At our school, the main block of students take the U.S. History Regents in January to ensure that they will still have another chance to take it in June if they don't pass. This is important, since seniors take the U.S. History Regents and they need the exam to graduate.

So tomorrow's storm wreaks havoc with that plan. Unless the storm is a bust, I know that student attendance will be lighter, even though it is an exam day. I teach in Manhattan, but we have students who come from as far away as the neighborhoods that border Queens/Long Island, Far Rockaway, Staten Island, and the North Bronx. 14 inches of snow can be a legitimate impediment to students traveling into Manhattan from those distant places.

Nonetheless, the mayor says schools are open tomorrow, so if students don't show up for the Regents, well, that's their tough luck. And ours too, of course. Since that means a programming nightmare next semester as the Social Studies department will have to scramble to make sure seniors are STILL prepared for their U.S. History Regents exam five months from now. Of course, school closure would mean the same thing.

So, a lose-lose.

I can totally empathize with history teachers tonight. A few years ago, it looked like a storm was going to wipe out the second day of the ELA Regents exam. We prayed to the snow gods to hold off on the snow until after the exam and lo and behold, that was just what the snow gods did. The snow held off until the next day.

Unfortunately, the next day was the U.S. History Regents exam, if memory serves me. And the mayor had to declare a snow day, which he dutifully did at 5:30 AM or some late hour like that.

What do the snow gods have against history teachers?

The Teach For America Teaching Model

Move 'em, use 'em up, move 'em out:

“I’ve heard a number of our alumni—people who are running schools and school systems—think a lot about different models for the teaching profession,” Kopp says. “Models sort of like in the law profession, where people come in and have to meet a very rigorous bar to make partner, maybe in year seven. You could consider a structure like that, where you try to recruit folks to spend five or seven years in teaching, and then retain a very, very few of them.”

I'm better at year ten than I was in year one through nine.

Where I have especially improved is in how I handle the problems students are dealing with OUTSIDE of the classroom that affect them INSIDE the classroom.

I am better at this part of the job because a) I have learned from previous years how to handle situations in productive way b) I have learned when to push and prod a student and learned when a hands-off approach would be better c) I am in my 40's and have developed socially, emotionally and psychologically above where I was when I was in my 30's so I instinctively know how to handle situations with students that, quite frankly, used to baffle me.

I have more life experience. I have more teaching experience. I have more work experience. I have less energy than I did in my thirties and I couldn't do the 10 hour/6 day a week that Kopp and the the other ed deformers want their missionaries to do.

But I am a better teacher.

In Kopp's world (or the KIPP world, or For-Profit Geoffrey Canada's world, indeed, even in Barack Obama's world), I am TOO OLD and TOO EXPERIENCED to be a good teacher.

This is an amazing thing to me.

When I first started this job ten years ago, everybody asked me if I had any experience at the job. Experience was a plus to getting work.

Now, if you have experience, you're on the chopping block.

Welcome to the new 21st century feudalism - the corporate overlords make all the decisions for your life and some are based simply on age and experience.

Too old, too experienced?

Move on.

Obama Calls For Firing Teachers During SOTU Address

Yes, he did - but only "bad" ones, of course:

"We must reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones."

Ah, but how do you figure out the "bad" ones?

With value-added measurements that have 35% margins of error?

Gee - that seems fair.

And productive.

Obama also called for people to become teachers. Said it was the best thing you could do with your life.

Except that he wants to fire you, have you evaluated by student scores, use a rating system that has a 35% MOE to evaluate you, humiliate you in public by having those ratings printed in the press, wants to take away your pension, your job protections and your self-respect by denigrating you in public every chance he gets.

Why would ANYONE want to become a teacher in the current teacher-bashing environment?

Meanwhile, the architects of the 2007-2008 financial collapse have gotten off scott free:

WASHINGTON — The 2008 financial crisis was an “avoidable” disaster caused by widespread failures in government regulation, corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking by Wall Street, according to the conclusions of a federal inquiry.

The commission that investigated the crisis casts a wide net of blame, faulting two administrations, the Federal Reserve and other regulators for permitting a calamitous concoction: shoddy mortgage lending, the excessive packaging and sale of loans to investors and risky bets on securities backed by the loans.

“The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done,” the panel wrote in the report’s conclusions, which were read by The New York Times. “If we accept this notion, it will happen again.”

While the panel, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, accuses several financial institutions of greed, ineptitude or both, some of its gravest conclusions concern government failings, with embarrassing implications for both parties. But the panel was itself divided along partisan lines, which could blunt the impact of its findings.

Many of the conclusions have been widely described, but the synthesis of interviews, documents and testimony, along with its government imprimatur, give the report — to be released on Thursday as a 576-page book — a conclusive sweep and authority.


Many of the conclusions have been widely described, but the synthesis of interviews, documents and testimony, along with its government imprimatur, give the report — to be released on Thursday as a 576-page book — a conclusive sweep and authority.

The commission held 19 days of hearings and interviews with more than 700 witnesses; it has pledged to release a trove of transcripts and other raw material online.

Of the 10 commission members, the six appointed by Democrats endorsed the final report. Three Republican members have prepared a dissent focusing on a narrower set of causes; a fourth Republican, Peter J. Wallison, has his own dissent, calling policies to promote homeownership the major culprit. The panel was hobbled repeatedly by internal divisions and staff turnover.

The majority report finds fault with two Fed chairmen: Alan Greenspan, who led the central bank as the housing bubble expanded, and his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, who did not foresee the crisis but played a crucial role in the response. It criticizes Mr. Greenspan for advocating deregulation and cites a “pivotal failure to stem the flow of toxic mortgages” under his leadership as a “prime example” of negligence.

It also criticizes the Bush administration’s “inconsistent response” to the crisis — allowing Lehman Brothers to collapse in September 2008 after earlier bailing out another bank, Bear Stearns, with Fed help — as having “added to the uncertainty and panic in the financial markets.”

Like Mr. Bernanke, Mr. Bush’s Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., predicted in 2007 — wrongly, it turned out — that the subprime collapse would be contained, the report notes.

Democrats also come under fire. The decision in 2000 to shield the exotic financial instruments known as over-the-counter derivatives from regulation, made during the last year of President Bill Clinton’s term, is called “a key turning point in the march toward the financial crisis.”

Timothy F. Geithner, who was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during the crisis and is now the Treasury secretary, was not unscathed; the report finds that the New York Fed missed signs of trouble at Citigroup and Lehman, though it did not have the main responsibility for overseeing them.

Former and current officials named in the report, as well as financial institutions, declined Tuesday to comment before the report was released.

The report could reignite debate over the influence of Wall Street; it says regulators “lacked the political will” to scrutinize and hold accountable the institutions they were supposed to oversee. The financial industry spent $2.7 billion on lobbying from 1999 to 2008, while individuals and committees affiliated with it made more than $1 billion in campaign contributions.

The report does knock down — at least partly — several early theories for the financial crisis. It says the low interest rates brought about by the Fed after the 2001 recession; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants; and the “aggressive homeownership goals” set by the government as part of a “philosophy of opportunity” were not major culprits.

On the other hand, the report is harsh on regulators. It finds that the Securities and Exchange Commission failed to require big banks to hold more capital to cushion potential losses and halt risky practices, and that the Fed “neglected its mission.”

It says the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates some banks, and the Office of Thrift Supervision, which oversees savings and loans, blocked states from curbing abuses because they were “caught up in turf wars.”

“The crisis was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire,” the report states. “The captains of finance and the public stewards of our financial system ignored warnings and failed to question, understand and manage evolving risks within a system essential to the well-being of the American public. Theirs was a big miss, not a stumble.”

Apparently holding teachers "accountable" and firing "bad" teachers is very, very important to President Accountability and the future of the nation, but holding the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street and the people in government who were supposed to regulate them is not.

No Evidence Of Snow Slowdown

What do you know - Dan Halloran was full of shit:

The story rocketed around New York City when streets went uncleared after the Dec. 26 blizzard: Sanitation workers, angry about job reductions, had deliberately staged a work slowdown.

It resulted in wisecracks on “Saturday Night Live,” fiery denunciations of unions on cable news and four criminal investigations.

And it occurred because one man, Councilman Daniel J. Halloran, Republican of Queens, said five city workers had come to his office during the storm and told him they had been explicitly ordered to take part in a slowdown to embarrass Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

But the more that investigators look into Mr. Halloran’s story, the more mystifying it becomes.

Mr. Halloran said he had been visited by two supervisors in the Transportation Department and three workers in the Sanitation Department. But the two transportation supervisors did not back up his story in interviews with investigators, according to two people briefed on the inquiries. And Mr. Halloran has steadfastly refused to reveal the names of the sanitation workers.

Mr. Halloran expects to testify this week before a federal grand jury looking into the question of a slowdown, according to a person familiar with his intentions, and it is not clear whether prosecutors will try to compel him, under oath, to divulge the workers’ names.

Meanwhile, investigators had hoped that extensive publicity would bring out others with knowledge of the purported plot. That has not happened, according to the people briefed on the investigations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are continuing. This leaves prosecutors with no proof that anything occurred.

“When you’re talking about establishing a negative, I don’t know how it’s going to get firmer,” one person briefed on the inquiries said.

Mr. Halloran declined to be interviewed for this article.

Of course, someone could still bring forward evidence. Investigators are examining videos of trucks driving with their plows up, although officials say the drivers must sometimes put the plows up to stay on their routes.

Yet in the days since Mr. Halloran first made his explosive accusations, he has revised his account.

In an article that appeared in The New York Post on Dec. 30, he said the workers had been told “to take off routes” and “not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner.”

“They were told to make the mayor pay,” Mr. Halloran said in the article, “for the layoffs, the reductions in rank of the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank and file.”

More recently, the councilman has said the workers were not explicitly told to take part in a slowdown, but were subtly informed there was no need to rush while clearing the snow.


Mr. Halloran’s assertions helped prompt investigations by the Brooklyn and Queens district attorney’s offices, the city’s Department of Investigation and the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn. But expectations are shrinking that the efforts will produce indictments or official findings of a slowdown, according to the people briefed on the investigations.

Mr. Stites said investigators had asked the councilman not to reveal the nature of their conversations. He also said Mr. Halloran would not reveal the names of the sanitation workers who spoke to him because they had been seeking his advice as a lawyer at the time, and Mr. Halloran believed that their names were protected under attorney-client privilege.

“The council member sees that investigators take this issue as seriously as he does and is hopeful that any crimes committed will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Mr. Stites said.

Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics at New York University, said the state law governing attorney-client privilege generally only shielded communications, not the names of the clients or the nature of the representation. But, he added, even protecting the communications could be hard for Mr. Halloran.

“If he was approached as a public official,” Mr. Gillers said, “with the power to call attention to official misconduct, there is no attorney-client privilege.”

Read the rest of the piece and you discover that Halloran is a loudmouth, constantly involved in controversy, and simply simply full of shit.

If investigators find no evidence of a slowdown, they need to investigate Halloran to find out if he made the whole conversation between himself and the sanitation workers up.

And if so, he should be charged with a crime and relieved of his duties as councilman.

You Can Tell A Lot About The Politics Of Education Reform By This

Just who was upset that "Waiting for Superman" was snubbed by the Oscar academy this year?

Let's see - the right-wing Washington Times, the right-wing National Review Online, and the right-wing Andrew Breitbart site Big Hollywood are all upset that "Waiting for Superman" won't be flying home this year with an Oscar statuette.

You know, when I think about three places where I can see people who care a lot about the needs of inner city people and poor people, it's at the Washington Times, at theNational Review Online and at Andrew Breitbart's site.

Oh, no - wait. That's not right.

Actually, they don't give a shit about that at all.

They care about union-busting (indeed, the hack at the Breitbart site called teachers unions one of the most evil organizations on the planet.)

But now that "Superman" got hit over the head with some Oscar kryptonite, there will be no opportunity to use the Oscars to bash teachers unions and promote a union-free future for public education.

Sad Washington Times.

Sad NRO.

Sad Andrew Breitbart.

No word yet on whether hedge fund criminal/education reformer Whitney Tilson has been saddened by this news.

But given that he claims to have started his education "reform" career after watching the Davis Guggenheim-directed "An Inconvenient Truth," I can't imagine he will be too happy.

Oh, well - there will always be some pensions for Whitney to steal and maybe even some old, poor people for him to throw out onto the sidewalk sans Medicaid.

That's the kind of stuff that Whitney likes.

Incidentally, that's the kind of stuff they like at the Washington Times, at NRO and at Andrew Breitbart's site too.

Just how did Whitney get to call himself a "Democrat" when he so clearly fits in with the right-wingers?

Dunno, but I guess you could ask the same thing about the corporate putz in the White House too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Couldn't Watch Obama Drivel

Luckily, Jim Horn at School Matters could.

He responds to the horseshit Obama was slinging.

Read it.

Obama Favors Crony Capitalists And Crooked Bankers

From Charlie Gasparino at the NY Post:

The naming of General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to head the new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is supposed to show the country that President Obama really is serious about dealing with the nation's economic woes through the free market system, rather than the government programs and handouts that characterized his first two years in office.

Except it doesn't.

Sure, Immelt brings a lot of business experience to the post -- he's spent many years in the trenches of one of the world's biggest companies, and his last 10 as its CEO. Problem is, this isn't necessarily the kind of experience needed to deal with "jobs and competitiveness."

Rather, Immelt's selection underscores the inherent flaw in Obamanomics: It favors the crony capitalists at the banks and large corporations that feed off government bailouts and contracts at the expense of entrepreneurs and small businesses, who in the past have pulled the nation's economy out of recession and created jobs.

GE has seen some of its darkest days under Immelt. Since he replaced the iconic Jack Welch as head of the manufacturing/financial services conglomerate, the stock has fallen significantly, despite a more recent recovery.

Some of that can be attributed to timing; Immelt took over just before 9/11 and inherited a flailing stock price that never quite made it back to the highs achieved under Welch (highs undoubtedly bolstered by the late-'90s stock-market bubble).

But in the '08-'09 financial crisis, Immelt's GE was nearly decimated as its financial-services unit threatened to bring down the company. The once-mighty firm had to fall in line with the rest of the financial industry and accept a federal bailout.

When Obama took over, with his lofty "social justice" and environmentalist goals, a beaten and bruised GE became one its best corporate partners -- advocating policies that would make the US economy more like Europe's and supporting the talk of "green jobs" miracles and the wisdom of taxing energy use.

It paid off for GE, in the form of huge government contracts and other subsidies -- which, coupled with the bailout guarantees, helped the company survive and then thrive.

Despite all of this, friends of Immelt tell me he's a registered Republican who voted for John McCain in 2008, a staunch free-marketeer who wants to move Obama away from redistributionist policies.

One person close to Immelt told me he has plans to transform Obama from "community-organizer-in-chief" into the country's "chief marketing officer," selling the US economic brand across the globe.

Thing is, Immelt has been a fixture at the anything-but-free-market White House all along. Since early 2009, he's served on the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, chaired by the recently retired Paul Volcker, and said not a negative word publicly about the president's policies, from the $800 billion "stimulus" program to the absurd push to socialize health care when the economy was bleeding jobs. How is promoting Immelt to head of the (renamed) board supposed to change anything?

Plus, he's famous for having remarked "We're all Democrats now" after it was disclosed that GE, with his close ties to the administration, was feasting off of government contracts.

Back when GE was majority owner of CNBC (and I worked for the network), Immelt showed his allegiance by calling a meeting of top network talent to discuss whether coverage of the administration's left-leaning eco-

nomic policies was too negative. People who were present told me that Immelt didn't wind up overtly pressing for any change in coverage; he didn't have to, because his message was clear.

The president's message is clear, too. Crony capitalists like Immelt -- or William Daley, the new White House chief-of-staff and a former top executive at JP Morgan (another bailout winner) -- will be calling the shots.

The White House won't say what rules it has to prevent Immelt from using his appointment to get even more business for GE, but Immelt's spokesman says unabashedly that the CEO has no plans to back away from GE's government-serving business model and will continue to lobby the administration he's now a part of for business -- "as long as he's transparent," adding that he "doesn't intend" to use his role on the council for business purposes.

All of which might be good for Immelt's GE -- but it's hardly the cure for the joblessness and other economic problems facing the country.

For that, the president might seek advice from someone who actually created something -- rather than a guy whose claim to fame is knowing his way around the White House.

Can anybody see what has changed since Bush?

I can't.

Crony capitalists and crooked bankers still have all the influence.

Why "Waiting For Superman" Was Snubbed By The Oscar Academy

This analysis at the Washington City Paper sounds about right to me:

More forcefully pushed on critics, politicians and the rest of the zeitgeist than any other film in 2010, Waiting for "Superman" did not receive the Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature it so expected to this morning. Though the education reform plea directed by An Inconvenient Truth helmer Davis Guggenheim carried the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey, NBC News, and the White House, in the end it could not hold the same sway over the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's Documentary Branch. Instead, the nominations went to Exit Through the Gift Shop, Gasland, Restrepo, Inside Job, and Waste Land.

This will be my final post on Waiting for "Superman". It's no secret that while I found the film's intentions noble, it was poorly argued and heralded charter schools as a silver-bullet fix to one of the country's more complex problems, so I was quite pleased to find out this morning that it did not make the final cut for the Academy Awards.

In an end-of-year essay last month, A.O. Scott charged Guggenheim with "intellectually lazy and emotionally manipulative" filmmaking, and it was easy to see why. Waiting for "Superman" positioned former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee as one of the film's heroes for her dogged moves against teachers' unions and promotion of charter schools. When I spoke to Guggenheim last September as the movie premiered, the director—a D.C. area native who attended some of the region's most prestigious private academies—was dismayed by Rhee's inevitable replacement under the mayoralty of Vincent Gray.

"I would say just because the mayor changed doesn’t means the kids have changed," Guggenheim said. "Those kids still need great schools and great teachers and they still need those reforms." But the reforms profiled in Waiting for "Superman" tended to focus on Rhee extracting unprecedented concessions from the Washington Teachers' Union in the face of the monstrously portrayed American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten. And the film's lone proposal—charter schools to cure all educational woes—came with a single, fleeting mention of the statistical truth that only 20 percent of charter school outperform nearby public schools while the remainder are equivalent or worse. The institutions selected by Guggenheim were outliers, not the rule.

Still, Oscar nominations are about slick campaigns as much as they are about the films' contents. And Waiting for "Superman" was promoted as much as any documentary.

"It was as well-run an Oscar campaign as you can have for a documentary," Scott Feinberg, an awards prognosticator, told me today. "Part of the reason why, people speculate, is that the only people to see all of the eligible films (a requirement in the Documentary category) are older, retired and perhaps less in touch. Then again, they nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop."

Feinberg added that the omission of Waiting for "Superman" will go down as one of the bigger snubs in the category's history. Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line, which led to the exoneration of a falsely convicted death-row inmate, and Hoop Dreams, the finest sports documentary ever made and one of the best on any topic, did not get nominated either. Another education documentary, The Lottery, was on the 2010 shortlist too, and could have prompted some ballot-splitting, but that film was virtually unseen compared to the Paramount Vantage-backed Waiting for "Superman".


One other possible explanation for the snubbing was broached by Scott this morning on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show. In a discussion with Slate's Dana Stevens, Scott noted that the anti-union message of Waiting for "Superman" may have turned off Oscar voters, many of whom are as actors, directors, and screenwriters, union members themselves.


ONE MORE THING: I attempted to be measured in this last assessment of a film I spent much more copy on than I intended. However flawed, it earned its place in an important national discussion. It was never personal. The same cannot be said for the song that accompanies the end credits. John Legend's syrupy, manipulative, detestable ballad "Shine" also failed to grab an Oscar nod, and I'll be spinning this playlist all night.

The Washington City Paper analysis fails to mention the hammer job Diane Ravtich did on the "documentary" in the New York Review of Books.

I bet that helped put a knife or two into the film.

Either way, glad to see the film snubbed.

Sad Michelle Rhee and KJ - no Oscar for you.

Sad Geoffrey Canada - no Oscar for you either.

No worries, though - there'll still be plenty of hedge fund largesse for you and perhaps a televised blowjob from Obama in the SOTU tonight when he talks "education innovation."

Bloomberg Criticized For Saying City Streets Safe For Women

The Mayor of Money is revealed as an out-of-touch elitist once again:

Mayor Bloomberg crowed Monday that city streets have never been safer - day or night - for women, but some skeptical New York ladies suggested he take a walk in their neighborhoods.

At a tour of a Queens school Monday night, the mayor proudly declared: "People don't remember 10 years ago. They've really already forgotten when you couldn't walk the streets."

"Today, a woman could walk in virtually every neighborhood in this city during the day and not look over her shoulder, and most neighborhoods at night," he added.

But Bronx resident Carla Banks, 31, said living on the upper East Side has left the mayor clueless about what women face.

"Bloomberg's trippin'," said Banks, of Kingsbridge Heights. "This isn't the upper East Side. He's definitely out of touch with what women deal with in the Bronx."

Her pal Devon Irving, 29, said he should take a solo stroll down her block. "I know the mayor doesn't have to worry about walking home from the subway, but I sure do," said Irving, of Mount Eden. "If he thinks we don't still have to watch our backs, he's crazy."

Nora Nestor, 32, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, said she wouldn't change where she lives, but she never lets her guard down.

"I love my neighborhood. I feel safe in it, but I wouldn't walk anywhere in New York without being aware of what's behind my shoulder," she said. "As a woman, you have to be aware of your surroundings."

Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Elizabeth Truemper, 25, said some parts of Brooklyn are more dangerous for women than men.

"There's no way I'd walk from Bed-Stuy to Bushwick, but I have male friends that walk from Bushwick to Bed-Stuy," she said.

The mayor boasted about female safety after Rabbi Yaakov Bender, the dean of Yeshiva Darchei Torah School in Far Rockaway, thanked him and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly for keeping the streets safe.

But at a community meeting the mayor later attended in Far Rockaway, Beverly Champion didn't second the sentiment.

She complained to the mayor about crime in housing developments, saying, "I've lived here all my life, and I've never seen it as worse." Champion said she doesn't feel safe walking around with her purse and laughed when told what the mayor had said earlier about crime.

"He's not telling the truth," she said. "He just takes the reports that they give him, but he doesn't know."

Even women with tony Manhattan zip codes called the mayor out on his comments.

"He's a bit off the mark," said Carson Demmons, 26, of NoHo. "I've lived in neighborhoods where I wouldn't give it a second thought during the day, but it was a whole different story at night. You still need to keep your wits about you."

Bloomberg's boasts did get some support - from women who live in his neighborhood.

"Yes, it has gotten better," said upper East Sider Theresa Ackerly, 43. "This nabe changed a lot. Back in the '80s, there were a lot of gangs. Mayor Bloomberg is doing all right in terms of crime."

Come on, ladies - if the snow is cleared on the UES, the city is cleared.

And if the UES feels safer to the mayor and that other woman the reporter talked to, then the city is safer.

The Bronx? Far Rockaway?

Where the f@#k are those places?

The mayor doesn't know, and he doesn't really care.

Obama To Do Even More Hippie Punching During Next Two Years

Not a surprise to me.

The only time he ever seems to smile is when he's mocking liberals for wanting, you know, liberal policies or promoting policies that blame teachers for all the problems in public education and "solve" those policies by closing schools and firing teachers.

I do wish the water carriers at TPM or the Daily Kos would get the point, however.

Billionaires Defend The Working Man From Evil Unionized Workers

Brilliant piece from Danny Lucia at

Read it all, but here's my favorite part:

WHO SAYS the corporate media doesn't care about the opinions of ordinary people? There have been lots of articles lately about what workers think, written by the people who study them the most--bosses.

As a vice president of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and a Wall Street Journal columnist, William McGurn naturally has his finger on the pulse of the American working class:


According to McGurn, a true American worker doesn't mind having their 401(k) cut by a CEO looking to increase his year-end bonus. But he's fighting mad at his daughter's teacher because she has a union that's been able to keep her pension intact.

This analysis truly does go against "popular orthodoxy"--otherwise known as: what most people think.

But McGurn's observations must have merit because they are corroborated almost word for word by Mort Zuckerman, real estate billionaire and publisher of U.S. News and World Report:

We really are two Americas, but not those captured in the stereotypical populist class warfare speeches that dramatize the gulf between the rich and the poor. Instead there is a new division in America that affronts a sense of fairness. That division is between the workers in the private sector and the workers in the public sector.

In Zuckerman's vision, government workers are different than you and me. They live in gated communities like Fireman Estates and flaunt their wealth on TV shows like Lifestyles of the Defined Benefit Plan and Who Wants to Marry a Child Services Case Worker?

In Public-Sector America, unionized postal workers and crossing guards pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for exclusive private schools for their kids, while the rest of us--Starbucks baristas, bank presidents, etc.--send our kids to overcrowded public schools. And now, this obscene inequality is apparently spurring a backlash from ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Mort the Media and Real Estate Mogul.

If Zuckerman and his fellow billionaire class warriors had any shame, they would be embarrassed by the bullshit they're slinging around.

But they have no shame.

Only an insatiable thirst for all the money in the world.