Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, April 30, 2012

Former Wall Street Journal Publisher, Les Hinton, Accused Of Misleading Parliament

Interesting article from The Guardian on what tomorrow's committee report will look like:

James Murdoch will be criticised by MPs investigating phone hacking on Tuesday, but their assessment of his conduct is expected to fall just short of accusing the former chairman of News International of misleading parliament about the extent of his knowledge of the affair.

The all party culture media and sport select committee concluded they could not reach a final decision about whether Murdoch misled them because of what the MPs described as conflicting evidence, according to a source close to the process. However, there was enough to lead members to agree that Murdoch had not asked the questions that would help determine the true extent of phone hacking at the News of the World for several years.


The select committee will reserve some of its strongest condemnation for Murdoch's predecessor in the role, Les Hinton, who had appeared before the committee three times over the past five years. Hinton told the committee last October that he was right to have told MPs in 2009 that phone hacking was not rife at the newspaper.

Hinton is expected to be accused of misleading parliament as a result, with MPs particularly focused on his evidence as regards Clive Goodman, the former News of the World royal editor, who went to jail for hacking in 2007.

Goodman subsequently made an unfair dismissal complaint, saying hacking was "widely discussed" until reference to it was banned by the then editor. But Hinton said the complaint was unfounded, and amounted to "accusations and allegations".

The parliamentary report will also criticise the former News of the World editor Colin Myler and the newspaper's long serving chief lawyer Tom Crone in a long awaited document due to be released on Tuesday.

Myler, who is now editor of the New York Daily News, and Crone had been repeatedly pressed on their failure to uncover what had happened.

However, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, the two previous editors of the Sunday tabloid when phone hacking took place, will not be singled out, because both have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the intercepting of voicemail messages.

Committee members felt they could not condemn indiduals who had been arrested – providing some relief for David Cameron, who appointed Coulson as his chief spin doctor after Coulson resigned from the News of the World after Goodman was jailed.

Here are some questions:

So now the ball is in Les Hinton's court - does he take the fall for the hacking and corruption scandal or does he tell what he REALLY knows Rupert Murdoch knew about the whole thing? (as Rupert's right hand man for a long, long time, Hinton knows where some bodies are buried...)

Also, will Colin Myler be criticized for not taking enough steps to clear up the hacking matter at NOTW or will he too be accused of misleading Parliament?

And can he remain as Daily News editor if he is criticized in the committee report for not taking the corrective actions needed to clean up the newsroom? (I think if he is accused of lying to Parliament, he has to go - but what do I know? I wouldn't have thought he'd have gotten another job after the NOTW mess!)

So far the Murdochs and their "fixer" Joel Klein are managing to hang the scandal onto others.

Some of those people have pushed back.

Myler and Tom Crone have already accused James Murdoch of lying.

When does Les Hinton take on the Murdochs?

NY Times: Hacking Scandal Begins To Take A Toll On News Corporation Business

The NY Times takes a close look at some potential problems News Corporation may face down the road in the hacking scandal and how the scandal has affected business so far.

Tomorrow we get the the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Independent On Whether The Hacking Scandal Ignites In The U.S.

The Independent has a great summary of the Week That Was at the Leveson inquiry and where things may go from there.

The Independent also reports
that Jeremy Hunt, a cabinet secretary in Cameron's government, is hanging by a thread over allegations he misled Parliament - and if he goes, the firewall protecting George Osborne and David Cameron goes too.

David Puttnam writes in The Guardian about how Rupert Murdoch undermined democracy.

Vanity Fair covers the "civil war"
going on within News Corporation (and not a surprise, Joel Klein is behind some of the whackings.) Vanity Fair also reports that two former Sun journalists, now accused of hacking crimes, have attempted suicide over the treatment they have received from their former employer, News Corporation.

And we await the Parliamentary committee report on hacking that will be released on Tuesday. Reuters says that report looks to be very critical of Rupert and James Murdoch:

LONDON (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's tetchy and uncompromising appearance at a British inquiry into phone hacking could come back to haunt him this week when politicians give their verdict on the scandal at his defunct News of the World newspaper.

Three days of grilling at the Leveson judicial press inquiry last week extracted few new facts from Rupert and his son James as the 81-year-old casually threw out insults at politicians and described himself as a victim of a corporate cover-up.

That appearance will only increase pressure on a powerful parliamentary committee to be harsh in its verdict on the scandal, putting Murdoch's News Corp further on the defensive.

"The timing of the select committee report, following the week we've just had at Leveson, is crucial," a person familiar with the thinking and mechanics of the committee, told Reuters.

"Anyone putting their name to an amendment that supports Rupert and James, or dilutes the criticism of Rupert and James, would look very different now than they would have done a week ago."

Another person familiar with the situation said the report had become much more critical in recent months.

The committee will meet on Monday to vote and agree the final wording for the report, which had originally been expected late last year. It will be published on Tuesday.

I'm still waiting to see how many cases Mark Lewis files against News Corporation here in the United States.

I agree with Michael Wolff that the Obama administration has no will to take on Murdoch during this election season (or perhaps even after that.)

But if revelations come in civil cases brought by Lewis against Murdoch and his media outlets like the NY Post and FOX News, they will not be able to ignore that.

We'll see.

Every time the consensus is reached that the Murdochs have put out the flames on this scandal, the scandal continues to smolder and eventually reignites.

Right now we have three strands of flame on this scandal:

There's the government corruption angle that looks like it is about to take down Jeremy Hunt and threatens to take down George Osborne and David Cameron as well.

There's the TV piracy angle, which has the Murdochs accused of hiring hackers to steal code and use the theft to destroy rivals (a similar accusation was made against a Murdoch-owned advertising paper a few years ago, as reported in the NY Times. The Times reported that News Corporation paid $655 million dollars to make the "embarrassing charges of corporate espionage and anticompetitive behavior go away." )

And finally there is the American angle - with Mark Lewis about to file civil cases against Murdoch for the hacking of British and American citizens here on American soil and for other "dark arts" practiced by Murdoch's media outlets.

So far, Murdoch and his "fixer" Joel Klein have managed to keep those three flames from igniting into one huge conflagration (Reuters reports that Klein was one of Murdoch's "coaches" preparing the 81 year old oligarch for his Leveson inquiry.)

We'll see how much longer they can continue to do that.

Merryl Tisch Calls Bloomberg's Closure Policies "Honorable"

Mayor Bloomberg planned to close 26 schools using the turnaround process.

The city took two schools with political connections off that list - Bushwick Community and Grover Cleveland High School.

The other 24 will still be closed.

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who couldn't be reached for comment last week about the Hare and the Pineapple or the state math tests containing questions with two answers, jumped to congratulate Herr Bloomberg for his gracious concession, calling it "honorable."

What about the other 24 schools that are going to be closed, Ms. Tisch?

You know, the ones that the kids begged the city not to close?

Is it honorable to close those?

And what exactly do you know about honor?

Honor means taking the responsibility for your own screw-ups - you know, like when the NYSED and the Regents put out state tests with egregious errors on them or incomprehensible stories with even more incomprehensible questions attached to them.

But you were nowhere to be found last weekend, were you?

No you weren't - and that's because you know nothing about honor, responsibility, honesty or integrity.

Just like your colleague at the NYSED, Commissioner John "It Was The Teachers' Fault!" King, and Mayor Bloomberg.

Blame Others First - that's your reform program.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tom Watson Looks To Expose News Corporation Intimidation Of MP's

From The Guardian:

Tom Watson, the Labour MP who helped uncover the hacking scandal, is to write to all other MPs asking whether they have ever been threatened or bullied by News International.

He is taking the action after Max Mosley, the former Formula One racing boss, announced he was funding legal assistance for MPs to reveal potential blackmail and intimidation against them by Rupert Murdoch's newspaper group. Chris Bryant MP, who was also instrumental in exposing the scandal, said the intimidation of MPs was widespread and that he intended to list all the threats he had received in his evidence to the Leveson inquiry.


Watson has said that attempts were made by News International to make him drop his investigations into the company. Another Labour MP, Chris Bryant, said in a Commons debate last year that an associate of Rupert Murdoch had warned him that campaigning on hacking would "not be forgotten".

Bryant said he intended to detail all the threats he had received from News International and News Corp when he gives his evidence to the Leveson inquiry. "News Corp always worked a double pincer, offering fear and favour. Intimidation was relatively widespread but mostly aimed at people who were the most exposed such as those on the culture, media and sport committee."

Mosley told the Independent that he was aware of two other cases in which News International had brought undue influence to bear on MPs.

In 2011, News International executives instructed journalists to scrutinise the lives of the MPs of the culture, media and sport select committee. Private detectives were hired to tail Watson.

Shortly after the appearance of the Murdochs before the select committee in July 2011, committee member and Conservative MP Louise Mensch said she was emailed by a journalist called David Jones threatening to expose past misdeeds including taking drugs. The email was copied to the Conservative chairman and the Conservative chief whip. Mensch then issued a statement to the media confessing to the accusations and concluding: "I have not the slightest intention of being deterred from asking how far the culture of hacking and blagging extended in Fleet Street."

The true identity of David Jones was never established but colleagues on the select committee say that Mensch has kept a low profile on the subject of News International and phone hacking ever since.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, just working for the "public interest."

Daily Beast: Only A Matter Of Time Before Murdoch Hacking Scandal Breaks Here In U.S.

The Daily Beast sums up Murdoch's corrosive influence in Britain:

It is the behavior of his U.K. papers that have made him a pariah in Britain today. Under the guise of cheeky, daring, dashing tabloid journalism, Murdoch has presided over widespread criminality. Scoops have not been discovered, they have been stolen. Politicians who have dared stand in his way have been spied upon, had their phones intercepted by his detectives, and then found their peccadilloes splashed across his front pages. Murdoch’s papers have been running a protection racket, pure and simple: do as we say or face the consequences.

Among the illustrious roll-call of victims are princes William and Harry; former prime minister Gordon Brown; Blair’s wife, Cherie; and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Among celebrities whose private voicemails have made headlines are the manager of Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson, Man U star Wayne Rooney, actor Hugh Grant, and Paul McCartney (singing “We Can Work It Out” to Heather Mills when she deserted him). But the crime that caused the most public outrage in Britain was the hacking of the cellphone of a murdered 14-year-old schoolgirl, Millie Dowler.

Now the former government minister Tom Watson has written a scathing indictment of Murdoch’s shady methods, Dial M for Murdoch (Penguin). He explains how he was followed by Murdoch’s private eyes, slandered to the prime minister by Murdoch’s ambitious flame-haired favorite Rebekah Wade, and been driven to deep despair. When Watson refused to play ball, he was trashed by Murdoch’s Sun, and described as “treacherous Tom Watson—a tub of lard who is … suspected of being in [a plot against Brown] up to his bloated and bulging neck.”

Watson lists the charges against Murdoch chapter and verse in a catalogue of criminal subterfuge that would put Communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police to shame. Murdoch is blamed for: allowing the routine bribing of police and public officials to buy stories; paying off Scotland Yard top brass with cash and lucrative book and newspaper column contracts to halt investigations that would have blown the cover on his company’s criminality; threatening prime ministers with hostile coverage and the withdrawal of his papers’ support; and intimidating cabinet ministers to decide in favor of his businesses rather than the public interest. As Blair explained to Piers Morgan, “I had to court [Murdoch]. It is better to be riding the tiger’s back than let it rip your throat out.”

Murdoch's former editor at the Sunday Times, Andrew Neil, explains how Murdoch set the tone for his employees:

“You create a climate in which people think it’s all right to do certain things. And I would argue that Rupert Murdoch with his take-no-prisoners attitude to journalism—the end will justify the means; do whatever it takes—created the kind of newsroom climate in which hacking and other things were done with impunity on an industrial scale."

So if hacking and other criminal acts were being done by Murdoch employees with impunity and on an industrial scale in Britain, how could those same acts not occur at Murdoch's media outlets here?

The Daily Beast says it is only a matter of time before we find out they did:

It is only a matter of time before the Murdoch scandal breaks in the U.S. The New York Post, run by Australian and British journalists who work to a different standard than their American counterparts, is as feared in Manhattan as The Sun is in Britain. They operate an identical system of gossip-based intimidation to call politicians and celebrities to account. It runs vicious vendettas that target a blacklist of individuals who have fallen foul of Murdoch.

Justice Department and SEC investigators are exploring allegations of “a pattern of illegal activity [that] involve[s] thousands of potential victims” by News Corp. employees, after Senate Commerce Committee members Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) demanded to know whether Murdoch’s company had broken either the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which “prohibits corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business,” and/or the Wiretaps Act, after reports that Murdoch papers hacked victims of the September 11 attacks.

“Rupert Murdoch wanted to become an American citizen,” Boxer told the BBC. “He needs to obey American law.” In response to federal investigators, News Corp. has handed over 60,000 emails for them to determine whether hacking took place on American soil. If the scandal breaks on American shores, Murdoch can expect to be summoned before Congress to explain himself, and he may not be given the gentle grilling he enjoyed in London last week.

And civil cases by Cherie Blair and two others accusing News Corp. employees of doing just that are heading for court in New York. Mark Lewis, the British lawyer whose dogged determination to unpick the Murdoch scandal, despite being harassed by Murdoch private eyes who followed and secretly filmed his teenage daughters, represents “more than 10” Americans “raising issues against other [News Corp.] titles [notably The New York Post] or Fox News, not necessarily about hacking but about other untoward dark arts to obtain information that should be private.”

Today the NY Times takes a look at Murdoch's denials that he received any political favors in return for the support of his media and finds those denials ludicrous.

We're already starting to see more scrutiny of Murdoch and his influence and dealings here in the U.S., but with civil hacking cases to be filed against News Corporation here in the U.S. over the hacking of American citizens on U.S. soil, I think Murdoch and News Corporation are going to get a lot more scrutiny before this is all over.

Perhaps Murdoch's "fixer," Joel Klein, will be able to contain the damage to Britain.

But for that to happen, they've got to hope that the civil cases here in the U.S. do not indicate widespread hacking and criminality and lead to their cover-up unraveling over here too.

Bloomberg's Education Policies: Toxins First!

Bloomberg claims he MUST close the 24 SIG schools because that policy is "in the best interest of students."

Meanwhile in Brooklyn:

Angry Brooklyn parents rallied at Public School 29 in Cobble Hill Friday to protest the city’s plan to start asbestos abatement during the school year.

About 30 parents huddled together in the school’s playground as construction workers began clearing asbestos from building windows as part of a multimillion dollar renovation project.

Parents demanded a delay in asbestos abatement work until summer. But Department of Education officials told parents that the asbestos work would be done in the evenings, after the school was empty.

The city School Construction Authority project involves the demolition and rebuilding of exterior walls and the replacement of the building’s roof and parapet. The work is expected to be finished by July 2013.

Oh yeah - Bloomberg cares about the best interests of students.

That's why he's having asbestos removed while there are kids around at PS 29.

Or let's not forget when he hid the fact that the building where PS 51 is located in the Bronx was full of toxins that were causing vomiting, dizziness, nausea, migraines and birth defects:

The state took the first step Monday in addressing longstanding concerns about the dangerous levels of toxins found at Public School 51 The Bronx New School last January.

The DEC will take environmental samples of the building and surrounding area, especially the basement and cafeteria, where TCE levels were highest.


“Three times a day kids were in that lunchroom,” charged parent Adeline Walker, who has three children who attended the school and have histories of migraines. “Recess, lunch and gym.”

Meanwhile, the DOH will publish a health consultation report, which will address possible health issues related to TCE exposure.

Many parents said over the years that their kids came home complaining of headaches, nausea, dizziness and vomiting.

But there is evidence the toxic chemical increases problems in fetal development, and a teacher who worked for five years at the school sued the city after terminating her pregnancy due to birth defects.

The state investigation started in the fall. Parents learned of the dangerous contamination nine months after the city Department of Education first made its discovery. The students have since been moved to the closed St. Martin of Tours school building on E. 182nd St.

“I think the reaction from the DOE has been outrageous,” said parent Miriam Ford, who had two children at P.S. 51. “The reality is, we have to push to make sure all the people affected are notified.”

How many cases of cancer, both current and future, is Bloomberg responsible for at PS 51?

Hard to know, but one thing is certain:

Bloomberg does not care about children, parents or teachers.

The best interest he is concerned with is his own political interest and the economic interests of his cronies.

PS 29 and PS 51 prove that.

Hey Bloomberg, you want to shut some schools?

Try the ones with the toxins in them.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Central Falls x 24

Let us remember that while it is Bloomberg pushing the closure policy, President Obama is the man who put the policy into place.

Does He Get His Job And Reputation Back?

The New York Daily News, a newspaper currently run by a man accused of covering up thousands of incidents of illegal phone hacking, bribery, extortion and other crimes when he was the editor for Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, is on a crusade.

The Daily News is out to get rid of all the "perverts" from the school system.

They've got a battery of reporters on the beat, meeting with DOE officials and reading through lots of Tweed-edited correspondence and half truths which they then publish verbatim in the News without checking on the validity or truthfulness of the DOE's claims.

This is of course in the public interest, since even people falsely accused of crimes should not work in the school system and must be weeded out by the crack team of Daily News "Perv Teacher" reporters on the case.

In today's News we learn about one of those "perverts" in the school system, a father of three who worked as a school and aide and was falsely accused of a crime:

An Upper West Side public school aide who was arrested for sex abuse and fired was freed Thursday after the charges proved unfounded.

Hany Abdalla, a paraprofessional at Public School 84 on W.92nd Street,St., was accused of touching an 8-year-old girl and arrested Wednesday.

But the 35-year-old married father of three, who has worked at PS 84 since 2007, was freed Thursday and all charges were dropped.

His lawyer, Virginia LoPreto, said the accuser’s account was contradicted by teachers and other students in the second-grade class.

“There were serious questions about the validity of the allegations,” LoPreto said. “We can only hope that the rumors that this was motivated by ethnic bias are untrue.”

At least seven city school workers have been arrested for sex crimes involving students in 2012.

Education officials said that Abdalla had no previous investigations by school authorities or police.

Arrested on Wednesday, fired on Wednesday, name splashed all over the papers Thursday morning as another one of those school perverts...but freed on Thursday when the police dropped all charges because the allegations were false and were contradicted by teachers and other students.

This man will get his reputation back?

No, not after his name was splashed all over the media as a "child molester" and "pervert."

This man will get his job back?

Probably not - because as we have learned from the Daily News' "Perv Teachers" series over the past few weeks, teachers or DOE employees who are falsely accused of crimes and exonerated are STILL guilty and not allowed to work in the schools system.

Once accused, always guilty.

Guilty even when proven innocent.

That's the motto of the NYCDOE, Chancellor Walcott and his crack team of Daily News, NY Post and other media stenographers who post his words for all to see in the papers.

Meanwhile Colin Myler, the Daily News editor who has admitted he lied to Parliament during a hacking inquiry and stands accused of covering up thousands of incidents of illegal phone hacking, bribery, extortion and other crimes when he was the editor for Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, not only STILL has his job, he's STILL on his crusade to root out real and imagined "perverts" from the NYC school system.

Funny how that works.

Actually, it's not funny at all.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pete Fornatale

Just saw this:

Pete Fornatale, a New York deejay, historian and writer who for almost 50 years championed the spirit of musical freedom on the radio airwaves, died Thursday at Beth Israel Medical Center. He was 66.

He suffered a brain hemorrhage on April 15 and been in intensive care for the last week.

I saw him last year at the tribute to the Bottom Line, a great night with a lot of great artists that was made that much greater by host Pete Fornatale.

Levon, now Fornatale.

The voices from my boyhood are disappearing.

Pete and WNEW FM.


Former NOTW Lawyer: Murdoch Told "Shameful Lie" To Leveson Inquiry

Lots of people are saying Murdoch came off the Leveson inquiry pretty much unscathed (unlike say, Jeremy Hunt), but Murdoch spent an awful lot of time blaming the hacking on everybody under him.

You would think it wouldn't take long for those under him to attack back.

And it didn't take long at all:

The former legal manager of the News of the World branded allegations by Rupert Murdoch that he was responsible for covering up phone hacking by the paper's journalists a "shameful lie".

Tom Crone issued a strongly worded statement on Thursday afternoon saying the same applied to Murdoch's suggestion at the Leveson inquiry earlier in the day that a News of the World lawyer had prevented journalists from telling News International executives about allegations that phone hacking at the paper went beyond a single "rogue" reporter.

Although Murdoch did not name Crone during his testimony, the former News International lawyer said he can only have been referring to him.

"Since Rupert Murdoch's evidence today about a lawyer who had been on the News of the World for many years can only refer to me, I am issuing the following statement," he said.

"His assertion that I 'took charge of a cover-up' in relation to phone-hacking is a shameful lie. The same applies to his assertions that I misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that I forbade people from reporting to [former News International chief executive] Rebekah Brooks or to [ex chairman] James Murdoch," Crone added.

"It is perhaps no coincidence that the two people he has identified in relation to his cover-up allegations are the same two people who pointed out that his son's evidence to the parliamentary select committee last year was inaccurate.

"The fact that Mr Murdoch's attack on [former News of the World editor] Colin Myler and myself may have been personal as well as being wholly wrong greatly demeans him."

Crone, a long-serving News International legal executive, left the company after the closure of the News of the World in July 2011, as did Myler.

The pair then became embroiled in a public row with James Murdoch. They claimed they had told the News Corp deputy chief operating officer in 2008 that phone hacking at the News of the World went beyond a single reporter. Murdoch denies this.

Still waiting to hear from former News of the World editor and current editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News Colin Myler on this.

Murdoch tossed him under the bus too.

Sometimes Even The Head Of News Corporation Has To Stand Naked

Nick Davies of The Guardian on the impact two days before the Leveson inquiry has had on Rupert Murdoch and his reputation.

Murdoch has blamed everybody but himself for the hacking, the bribery, the extortion and all the other criminal activity at his company, News Corporation.

Quite a few of those people are going to push back against Murdoch's claims.

We'll just have to see who is left standing after that.

Rupert Murdoch Tells Leveson Inquiry Colin Myler, Other NOTW "Characters," Responsible For Hacking Cover-Up

More ammunition aimed at New York Daily News editor-in-chief Colin Myler by Rupert Murdoch today:

Rupert Murdoch has admitted to the Leveson inquiry there was a "cover-up" at News International over the phone-hacking scandal.

Murdoch, the News Corp chairman and chief executive, giving his second day of evidence to the inquiry in London on Thursday morning, said he was "misinformed and shielded" from what was going on at the News of the World, adding that there was a "cover-up".

Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, said there had been a consistent theme of cover-up during the phone-hacking scandal, and asked Murdoch where he thought this emanated from. "I think from within the News of the World," he replied.

Murdoch said there were "one or two very strong characters" on the now defunct Sunday paper who, according to reported statements, had forbidden people from talking to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the time News International chief executive and chairman respectively.

Murdoch said a News of the World editor was appointed – referring to Colin Myler, although he did not name him at this point – "with specific instructions to find out what was going on". "He did, I believe, put in two or three new steps of regulation but never reported back that there was more hacking than we had been told."

Myler was appointed in January 2007, after the News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire admitted phone hacking and went to prison. His predecessor, Andy Coulson, denied any knowledge of phone hacking but resigned, saying he took responsibilty for what happened.

Murdoch told the inquiry Myler "would not have been my choice", that he was the choice of Les Hinton, who at the time was News International's executive chairman. He said he thought at the time there were stronger candidates from News International sister title the Sun.

Jay then asked if Myler was a weak individual and wrong man for the job. "I would say that was a slight exaggeration," replied Murdoch. "I would hope Mr Myler would do what he was commissioned to do."

Myler has yet to respond to the latest allegations.

I am sure he will get his chance before the Leveson inquiry.

And as usual, we have another "accountability" guy in Murdoch who refuses to be held accountable himself.

UPDATE: I should note that hacking took place at The Sun, the Times, and the partially Murdoch-owned Sky News - hard to see how Colin Myler and other News of the World "characters" were involved with that.

I can believe Myler and other NOTW execs didn't tell the extent of the hacking for fear that the paper might be closed if the extent was known.

In other words, I can believe they tried to cover things up - or at least minimize the damage.

But I cannot believe that Rupert Murdoch, the man who runs News Corporation, is not responsible for the hacking, piracy, bribery, corruption and criminal behavior that is now being exposed throughout his media empire.

The guys at the top set the tone for what happens below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Value-Added Measurement Of Pearson, NYSED And Regents Needed

Pearson has been very sloppy with its New York State tests this year.

First we had the Pineapple and the Hare selection revelation last week, wherein Pearson gave an incomprehensible story to read and incomprehensible questions to answer about that incomprehensible story.

Then yesterday it was revealed that at least two questions on this week's state math exams are problematic. One question has no answers, another question has two answers. (The NYSED decided not to throw one of these questions out, but did tell principals teachers could tell students about the problem on one of the questions IF students asked.)

Today the Daily News reports Pearson used a listening passage that was available in test prep materials so that some students might have an unfair advantage on the test.

At what point do the accountability meisters in the state - Tisch, King, and Cuomo - get held accountable for this testing mess?

At what point does Pearson get held accountable for it?

These tests are being used to make high stakes decisions on students, teachers and schools.

Cuomo bragged about how New York is now at the forefront of teacher evaluation with his vaunted new system that uses a value-added measurement based upon these Pearson tests to see if teachers have "added value" to their students' scores.

Leaving aside the problems with the VAM (which have wide swings in stability and large margins of error - even larger than Cuomo's ego!), how can any honest person say an evaluation system based on these error-riddled tests is a good thing?

Cuomo, who wouldn't shut up during the teacher evaluation battle earlier this year, has yet to make a statement about these Pearson tests.

He refuses to be held accountable for these tests, he refuses to hold the testing company accountable for these tests, he refuses to hold the NYSED, the Regents and most particularly John King and Merryl Tisch accountable for these tests.

We need a law that requires these tests be made public.

It is quite clear that Pearson, the NYSED and the Regents CANNOT be trusted to do the right thing with this.

VAM Pearson.


VAM the Regents.

New Yorkers Oppose Bloomberg's Education Policies, Want Change


A majority of New York City voters disapprove of the way Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has handled his signature issue, education, and are looking for his successor to take the city schools in a new direction, a NY1-Marist Poll found.

The poll, released late Tuesday, found that 34 percent of voters approve of Mr. Bloomberg’s handling of the city’s public schools, 56 percent disapprove and 10 percent are unsure.

It also found that nearly two out of three — 62 percent — want the next mayor to move in a new direction, compared with 27 percent who want to see Mr. Bloomberg’s policies continued, and 11 percent who are unsure.

“He’s been offered up as ‘the education mayor’ and this becomes a focal point for criticism,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Clearly there is significant dissatisfaction with the school system in New York.”


The NY1-Marist ratings are the lowest for Mr. Bloomberg since March 2011, when he was in the midst of the controversy over his appointment of Cathleen P. Black as the city’s chancellor.

Not that any of this matters.

Bloomberg is a dictator and will continue to do what he wants to do the public school system these last 20 months of his autocratic power over schools.

Expect those 23 SIG schools closed and half the teachers sent to the ATR pool.

Expect many schools closed next year - perhaps even the 75 former comptroller Bill Thompson said Bloomberg wants to close - and many new charter schools opened and co-located like a cancer into buildings with traditional public schools.

Expect Bloomberg and the other media oligarchs to put lots of pressure onto the UFT to make a deal on teacher evaluations so that Bloomberg can add dozens of high stakes city tests in addition to the standardized tests that the state will be adding starting next year.

And if the public doesn't support any of this - so what?

We don't live in a democracy - we live in a corporatocracy.

What the autocratic business guys want, the autocratic business guys get.

Joel Klein Accompanies Rupert Murdoch To London Hacking Hearing For "Scorched Earth" Strategy

It seems Consigliere Klein is still orchestrating Murdoch's moves:

Rupert Murdoch arrived in London last Thursday with Joel Klein and a small coterie of advisers, lawyers and communications consultants to prepare to testify before the Leveson inquiry on press ethics. Unlike his last visit to London when he rolled up his shirtsleeves in the newsroom of The Sun, Mr. Murdoch will spend most of his time behind closed doors preparing for the questioning, according to one person close to the company who was not authorized to discuss Mr. Murdoch’s London plans publicly.

In recent months, Mr. Murdoch has been able to pivot his attention to other pieces of his empire, but over the last couple weeks he has been almost wholeheartedly committed to preparing for his London testimony, this person said.

The Independent reports that the Murdoch's are now following a "scorched earth" policy in Britain, settling scores with the political establishment:

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was battling to save his political career last night after it was revealed that his office was secretly passing information to the Murdochs during their £7.5 billion bid to take over BSkyB.

Mr Hunt faced demands for his resignation after hundreds of pages of explosive emails, released by News Corp to the Leveson Inquiry, showed that his political advisers engaged in intimate and frequent briefing of the Murdochs’ chief lobbyist to help get the deal through – despite Mr Hunt’s claim to have acted impartially in his exercise of quasi-judicial powers.

One email quoted Mr Hunt saying “we’d get there in the end” and that he “shared” News Corp’s objective of taking over the broadcaster.

Another email, sent by News Corp’s lobbyist the day before Mr Hunt made a statement to Parliament on the bid, drew gasps when it was read out at the Leveson Inquiry: “Managed to get some infos on the plans for tomorrow (although absolutely illegal...!)”

In a day of dramatic revelations at the judicial inquiry, where James Murdoch gave evidence under oath, it also emerged that:

* Mr Murdoch did discuss News Corp’s bid for BSkyB with the Prime Minister David Cameron over Christmas dinner at the Oxfordshire home of Rebekah Brooks – contradicting Downing Street’s previous denials.

* Emails sent by James Murdoch’s lobbyist Fréd Michel show that Mr Hunt’s office would regularly update News Corp on the progress of its bid and how to get it past the regulators – sometimes speaking several times a day, and once even delaying the Culture Secretary’s trip to the ballet.

* The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, showed enthusiasm in supporting the bid. The emails suggest he linked his backing with a request to Murdoch to “smooth the way” for The Sun newspaper to support the Scottish Nationalists.

* News Corp personally threatened Mr Hunt that it would withdraw the bid if he did not hurry things along. “JH repeated he was definitely keen to see this through as quickly as possible.”

The emails directly contradicted assurances that Mr Hunt had given the House of Commons that he was acting as an independent adjudicator of the bid in a quasi-judicial role, Labour said.


The release of the emails and Mr Murdoch’s evidence also raises questions over the extent to which News Corp is now conducting a “scorched earth” policy over the continued controversy.

James Murdoch and his father Rupert are known to be furious at what they believe to be their “unfair” treatment at the hands of Government ministers and feel they have nothing to lose by shielding them. Rupert Murdoch gives evidence to Leveson today.

This scorched earth policy sure does have Klein's fingerprints on it, given the way he worked as chancellor in NYC.

It will be interesting to see who Rupert throws under the bus today.

I would assume Rupert will try and finish off David Cameron after James directly contradicted a statement made by Cameron's spokesman over the BSkyB bid.

It's an interesting strategy the Murdochs are pursuing here.

It's as if they're sending a message to politicians on this side of the ocean to watch what happens in Britain.

Turn on the Murdochs and they will turn on you and you will end up like Jeremy Hunt, scrambling to survive.

I would think this strategy is less about Britain at this point and more about warning off any pain in the ass pols here who might want to shine some light onto News Corp. - especially if the civil suits Mark Lewis says he will bring for hacking turn up anything untoward.

Gotta say one thing for Klein and the Murdochs.

They really are scrupulous in their unscrupulousness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

James Murdoch Accuses Daily News Editor Colin Myler Of Hacking Cover-Up

Jeremy Hunt wasn't the only score James Murdoch looked to settle at the Leveson inquiry today.

James Murdoch has accused Colin Myler, the editor of the New York Daily News, of withholding the full extent of the phone-hacking scandal at News corporation's UK newspaper arm when he was in charge of the now-defunct News of the World.

Under oath, Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry into British press ethics that he would have "cut out the cancer" if he had known about it earlier.

Murdoch repeated allegations that Myler, the News of the World's final editor, together with the company's former in-house lawyer Tom Crone, had misled him about the scale of illegal behaviour at the newspaper.

Myler and Crone have previously challenged Murdoch's account and called his recollection of events "disingenuous".

The row has shone a spotlight on Myler, now one of the US's top newspaper editors. He was appointed by Mort Zuckerman, owner of the New York Daily News, to edit the paper earlier this year, giving him a place at the top table of American journalism.

Myler declined to comment to the latest set of allegations from Murdoch.

Myler is clearly going to have address these allegations.

Whether he is called to testify under oath to the Leveson inquiry hasn't been made clear.

So far, Myler's keeping his head down here in New York and going after PERVERT TEACHERS!!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!

But he's got his own perversion troubles, as Labor MP Tom Watson is claiming Myler sent News Corporation reporters to dig up dirt on Parliament members in order to intimidate them off the hacking case and now James Murdoch is claiming that Myler, along with another News of the World associate, ran the hacking cover-up at the paper.

Tell me exactly how it is Colin Myler, stinking from the hacking case and already embroiled in a He Said/He Said with James Murdoch last summer over the mess, got hired by Mort Zuckerman to run the Daily News?

Leveson Inquiry Finds Collusion Between News Corporation And British Gov't

This Murdoch hacking scandal just keeps building and building.

Here's the latest from today:

LONDON — The long-running tabloid newspaper scandal that has shaken Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire appeared on Tuesday to have reached into the heart of Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, with evidence at a judicial inquiry suggesting that a senior cabinet minister, or at least an aide claiming to speak for him, worked covertly to help win approval for a $12-billion takeover of the BSkyB network, a deal that would have crowned Mr. Murdoch’s 60-year media career.

The disclosures pointing to a hand-in-glove collaboration between Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation and Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt came in a sheaf of e-mails that the inquiry subpoenaed from a Murdoch lobbyist. The lobbyist was pushing for government approval of a News Corporation takeover of the 59 percent stake that that it did not already own in BSkyB, Britain’s leading satellite TV network, a generator of billion-dollar annual profits, and, increasingly, a serious competitor to the BBC.

During the period covered by the e-mails, Mr. Hunt was assigned by Mr. Cameron to take over quasi-judicial powers to approve the takeover. The deal, though, was vehemently opposed by many competing media organizations in Britain and by many others who argued that Mr. Murdoch, with control of publications that had 40 percent of Britain’s total newspaper circulation, already had a degree of influence and power, particularly over politicians, that was unhealthy for Britain, its political system and its market economy.

The e-mails tracked an intense back-and-forth between Frédéric Michel, News Corporation’s chief lobbyist in Britain, and Adam Smith, a political aide in Mr. Hunt’s office. Mr. Smith’s e-mails depict Mr. Hunt as an avid supporter of the BSkyB takeover and ready, in effect, to manipulate the approval process in the Murdochs’ favor, in part by giving Mr. Michel — and through him, James Murdoch — advance notice of government moves affecting the bid.

James Murdoch, in testimony before the Leveson inquiry, insisted there was no collusion, corruption or quid-pro-quo between News Corp. and the Cameron government.

The Guardian covers the political furor this revelation has caused in Britain:

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has called for the resignation of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, over allegations that he set up a private back channel to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation at a time when he was charged with making a quasi-judicial decision on whether to allow its takeover of BSkyB.

Miliband said the Conservative MP Hunt was "standing up for the interests of the Murdochs" rather than those of the British people, after it was alleged in evidence to the Leveson inquiry that he had provided detailed information to James Murdoch on the state of the bid, as well as the thinking of the media regulator Ofcom.

"He should resign. He himself said that his duty was to be transparent, impartial and fair in the BSkyB takeover. But now we know that he was providing advice, guidance and privileged access to News Corporation. He was acting as a back channel for the Murdochs," Miliband said in a statement.

"He cannot stay in his post. And if he refuses to resign, the prime minister must show some leadership and fire him."

It would be nice if we could a shine a light on the collusion between the Murdochs and politicians in this country - locally, the connection between one Andrew Cuomo, Fred Dicker and Rupert Murdoch.

I suspect the relationship between those three wouldn't be all that different than the relationship the Cameron government seemed to have with the Murdochs.

Tuesday Round-Up (UPDATED BELOW)

Lots going on in the Murdoch hacking scandal - thought I'd put a few links together for those of you watching the scandal.

Frontline has a nice round-up of News Corporation/Murdoch links - including James Murdoch going before the Leveson inquiry today and Rupert Murdoch going before the inquiry tomorrow and Thursday.

The Guardian reports that British investigators have opened another official hacking inquiry into a Murdoch-owned media outlet. Sky News, partly owned by News International, has admitted to hacking into email accounts on at least two separate occasions.

The Guardian also takes a closer look at the allegation that former News of the World editor and current New York Daily News editor-in-chief Colin Myler tried to intimidate those investigating hacking in 2009 by sending reporters to dig up dirt on them.

New York Magazine takes a close look at Myler's journalism career and previous missteps - including lying to the official inquiry looking into hacking charges against the Murdoch-owned News of the World back in 2009.

Michael Moore says he thinks FOX News will eventually be drawn into the hacking scandal.(Moore also criticized Davis Guggenheim for scapegoating public school teachers and unions in his pseudo-documentary Waiting for Superman.)

The Daily Beast reviews Labor MP Tom Watson's book (co-written with Martin Hickman) Dial M For Murdoch and finds it a part Hitchcockian thriller, part All the President’s Men.

Finally, if you're so inclined, you can watch the Murdoch go before the Leveson inquiry here.

UPDATE: James Murdoch goes before the Leveson inquiry and says

when he took over the family’s British newspaper outpost in 2007, responsibility for the journalist ethics of The News of the World, the now defunct Sunday tabloid at the heart of the scandal, lay with its editor and legal manager.

The “ethical risk was something that was very much in the hands of the editor,” he said. “I wasn’t in the business of deciding what to put into the newspaper.”

“The newsroom governance was really an issue for the editor and the legal manager,” he said.


As he has in the past, Mr. Murdoch said he did not recall in detail many aspects of the scandal and believed that he was not fully briefed on it because, if he had been, “I would say: cut out the cancer, and there was some desire not to do that” on the part of senior newsroom executives.

“There wasn’t a pro-active desire to bring me up to speed on these things,” he said.

In other words, James Murdoch is saying former News of the World editor and current New York Daily News editor Colin Myler and former News of the World legal affairs manager Tom Crone did not tell him the extent of the hacking and criminal activity at News of the World, nor were they too eager to get to the bottom of it all.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Daily News Editor-In-Chief Gets Scrutiny Over Latest Murdoch Corruption Allegations

Last week I asked if anybody would look into the allegation made by Labor MP Tom Watson that Colin Myler, former News of the World editor and current editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News, had sent reporters at the NOTW on a dirt-digging expedition against British politicians in order to intimidate them from calling his boss at the time, News International chief Rebekah Brooks, before a committee investigating phone hacking allegations against Rupert Murdoch's newspapers.

Today The Guardian reports that Colin Myler is getting that scrutiny.

And as is usual with people who like to hold other people accountable, neither Mr. Myler nor his boss, Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman, were available for comment about these allegations against Mr. Myler.

More on this later.

Suffice for now that it is good to see that Mr. Myler, a tireless champion of holding others accountable, may just be held accountable for his own crimes - including sending reporters into the garbage of public figures in order to extort them to stop investigating crimes committed by employees of his own company.

Cuomo, Tisch, And King Remain AWOL On Pineapplegate And Other Testing Controversies

During the battle over re-doing the 2010 teacher evaluation legislation earlier this year, you couldn't miss Governor Cuomo, Regents Chancellor Tisch or NYSED Commissioner John King all over the news.

They all talked about the crisis in New York State's public schools that could only be solved by "strengthening" the state's evaluation of teachers - primarily by adding standardized tests to every subject in every grade and using those scores to evaluate teachers.

Cuomo himself hailed the deal with the following words:

“We are writing into law a new national model for teacher evaluations that will put our students first and put New York State at the front of the class when it comes to school accountability,” he said. “I commend the legislative leaders for taking this extraordinary step to create permanent and real evaluations in our schools.”

Tisch and King also hailed the deal in a joint statement to the state:

"This agreement is a significant improvement over the evaluation law passed in 2010," Chancellor Tisch said. "But our work is by no means over. The Regents have adopted a major education reform plan, and teacher and principal evaluations are just a part of that reform. Today is a good day, but the best day will be when we’ve fully implemented the Regents reforms and we’ve made sure all our students get the education they need to succeed in college and careers."

"The goal is and always has been to help students – to give them every opportunity to succeed in college and careers," Commissioner King. "To make that happen, we need to improve teaching and learning. We owe it to our students to make sure every classroom is led by an effective teacher and every school is led by an effective principal. Today, the Governor’s leadership and his commitment to our students have helped us take a strong step toward that goal."

And yet, in the first test period after this "significant improvement" in education here in New York State, we have critics, including parents and educators, denouncing the tests as badly designed, unfair, or prejudicial to certain populations.

Principal Elizabeth Phillips of PS 321 in Park Slope summed up the problems with the tests in a letter to Commissioner King, which the Post covered today:

(She) wrote that she was “genuinely shocked” by the poor quality of the exams — particularly given their high stakes.

She complained that the questions following the fifth-grade reading passages were “ridiculous” and seemed designed to trick students.

“There are so many more flawed questions than ever before,” she wrote. “The idea that teachers may lose their jobs and schools [at least in New York City] may be closed based on how children do on these problematic exams is incredibly upsetting and demoralizing to educators.”

The NY Post also notes that the tests were discriminatory toward deaf children:

State Education Department officials were blind to the feelings of deaf students on this week’s English exams — heartlessly asking them questions about sounds such as the clickety-clack of a woman’s high heels and the rustle of wind blowing on leaves, educators claimed.

One sixth-grade teacher of hearing-impaired kids said they were completely thrown off by a lengthy listening passage rife with references to environmental noises — such as a cupboard door creaking open or the roar of a jet engine.

The kids were then asked to write how a boy who hears those sounds as music in his head is like a typical sixth-grader.

“My kids were looking at us like we had 10 heads. They said they didn’t understand the story,” the teacher said, referring to herself and a sign-language interpreter.

“It was all based on music and sounds in the world they don’t know,” added the perturbed teacher. “They definitely were upset.”

The teacher’s sound criticism was among a host of complaints about the new exams administered to students in Grades 3 to 8 this week, part of a five-year, $32 million deal with the testing company Pearson.

And of course we have PineappleGate, which if you've been under a rock these past few days, you may not have heard about:

Education officials scratched a bizarre item about a race between a pineapple and a hare from the state’s high-stakes exams a day after the Daily News focused attention on the inscrutable puzzler.

State Education Commissioner John King said that the infamous question won’t be counted in New York's eighth-grade reading tests because of its “ambiguous nature” in a statement released Friday.

“It will not be counted against students in their scores,” said King.

The befuddling test item caused students and educators to scratch their heads in confusion - and gave ammunition to critics who say the state tests are flawed.

The story was a take-off on Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, this time written about a talking pineapple who challenges a rabbit to a race.

Other animals ponder whether the legless pineapple can win - and wonder if the fruit is trying to fool them by merely acting immobile.

When the pineapple doesn’t budge and the fleet-footed hare wins the race, the animals all join together to eat the pineapple.

Students who took the test were stumped by questions about why the animals ate the fruit and which animal was wisest.


Last year the state handed a $32 million contract to testing company Pearson to overhaul the exams after they had become too easy to pass.

The new exams are used in decisions to promote students and have higher stakes for principals and teachers, whose evaluations will be based in part on students’ test scores.

Critics have said that the pineapple question - which is the subject of a sarcastic Facebook page with nearly 11,500 “likes” - is proof the new exams are flawed.

The state Education Department finally agree to release the passage yesterday, and there were slight variations from the version printed in the Daily News. But critics still insist its unfathomable.

Other than a defensive statement posted on the NYSED website (which you can view here) that was quoted in all the papers, Commissioner King has been silent on the problems with his high stakes tests.

In addition, while he did pull the Pineapple and the Hare questions from the test, he insisted in his statement that passage and questions were sound (if so, why pull them?) and a committee of New York State teachers had signed off on all testing materials, so it was their fault anyway.

Governor Cuomo and Regents Chancellor Tisch have STILL not issued statements or made public comments about the testing controversies (and make no mistake, there is more controversy than just the Pineapple and the Hare story.)

During the teacher evaluation battle , you couldn't miss seeing these two public figures lambaste teachers and unions (Tisch is actually on record saying the public hates teachers, but once a "scientific, objective" teacher evaluation system based upon test scores is in place, the public will like them again), but now that the tests have been exposed as badly designed, unfair and prejudicial to some populations of students, you can't find them anywhere.

Even the NY Post, which cheerleads high stakes testing and teacher evaluations tied to test scores any time it can, noted that state officials are not responding to the controversy:

Four state Education Department press officers failed to respond to questions from The Post.

The same goes for Pearson, the designer of the tests and the owner of a brand new $32 million state testing contract.

It is disconcerting to students, parents, teachers and administrators to see these people who are in charge of "accountability" refuse any accountability for these tests.

This is particularly problematic because these tests are going to be used to make high stakes decisions on students, teachers, and schools.

In fact, King, Tisch and Cuomo were just bragging about that fact back in February when they steamrolled the changes to the statewide evaluation system.

Now all we here from the governor and the Regents chancellor is silence and from the NYSED commissioner defensiveness.

But they cannot ignore these testing controversies forever.

As the Times noted, those of us who have been pointing out the problems with using high stakes standardized tests for high stakes decisions on students, teachers and schools now have the proof that this system is flawed.

Let's here a response from the accountability advocates who so love to talk when the onus of accountability is on teachers and schools.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Daily News Editorial Takes Tisch, King And Pearson To Task

Clearly the school/teacher accountability movement based upon high stakes standardized tests has been hit by a bevy of rotten pineapples.

Even the Daily News editors, gung-ho testing advocates and teacher bashers, understand the danger that the Hare and Pineapple story did to the high stakes testing/accountability movement.

So they attack those responsible for this mess - the state officials and testing company who are in the business of holding others accountable but refuse to be held accountable themselves:

No one in a position of authority would step forward Friday to defend the now-infamous question, titled “The Pineapple and the Hare,” that appeared on the eighth-grade statewide English exam administered this week.

Queries were put to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, state Education Commissioner John King and to Pearson, the company that produced the test. They dared not venture forth, because this question was a lollapalooza of a damaging embarrassment.

King offered only that the reading passage, taken in context, was not the bizarre exercise it plainly is — while at the same time acknowledging that questions posed to test-takers were “ambiguous.” Thus they have no value. Thus the whole thing will be dropped from future tests.

What was it doing there in the first place? Follow this explanation offered by a state Education Department spokesman:

This particular reading passage and questions were included by the testing company on exams given in a variety of states only as a way to compare student performance among states.

Thus New York students wouldn’t be graded on their answers. Thus New York had no power to ask the company to change the passage — even though staff thought it was goofy. But now it will disappear because making kids try to answer unanswerable questions makes no sense.


Over resistance from testing opponents and teachers unions, Tisch and King are moving to establish new statewide reading and math exams that, they promise, will raise standards and can be used to gauge the performance of both students and teacher.

Allowing nonsense like “The Pineapple and the Hare” to be placed before New York students, many of whom found it absurd, gave testing foes powerful ammunition to argue that standardized exams cannot be trusted.

Tisch and King must a) get their acts together, b) recognize that they have no margin for error, c) build a consensus that their testing program is excellent, d) all of the above.

The right answer is unambiguous and obvious.

The Daily News editors should have added Governor Cuomo to the list of people in power refusing to take responsibility for this mess.

Cuomo was happy to parachute into the teacher evaluation battle, but now that the tests those evaluations are based upon are exposed as horseshit, Cuomo is off eating Sandra Lee's cooking and cannot be reached for comment.

Also, the Daily News fails to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, this Hare and Pineapple debacle occurred not because Pearson, the NYSED and the Regents are full of irresponsible idiots (although that is certainly true) but because the testing regime that Cuomo, Tisch, and King have engineered is going to be impossible to pull off.

Teachers have to be evaluated on both local and state "assessments" (NYSED Commissioner King never uses the word "tests" - it's so gauche!) in every subject in every grade.

Pearson is going to have to create hundreds of quality tests a year so that 20%-40% of a teacher's evaluation can be based upon student test performance (and that's leaving out those districts that will be using "local assessments" for 20% of the test-based part of the evaluation.)

High quality tests do not create themselves - they take a long time to develop, to field test, to ensure are of the highest quality.

It is just not possible to develop that many quality high stakes tests a year as quickly as Cuomo, the NYSED and the Regents want them created.

So Pearson will roll out some quickly developed crap, they'll hope the state resists calls to make these tests public, and they'll refuse to respond to criticism when some turkey like the Pineapple and the Hare is exposed in the media for the garbage it is.

It's not as if Pearson didn't know this thing was a piece of garbage. They've been using it in at least half a dozen states since 2007 and garnering criticism for it whenever they rolled it out.

Kids had made a Facebook page ridiculing this test item back in 2010.

But Pearson, recipients of $32 million state contract largesse, rolled it out again anyway.

And as the DN noted, instead of taking responsibility for this garbage, John King defended it then threw the test questions based upon the passage out anyway.

What the hell is that?

This passage is a quality passage with quality questions - but I'm going to disallow the selection anyway because some of the questions are "ambiguous."

Wow - talk about a walking oxymoron - that's our Dr. John King.

And Regents Chancellor Tisch was nowhere to be found - no response, no statement, no appearance next to Dr. King to address this concern.

Compare that to how she was all over the place during the teacher evaluation fight.

And as I noted earlier, Cuomo was AWOL too.

The high stakes testing/accountability movement has been damaged by this Pineapple and Hare episode, though not permanently.

They'll regroup and try and deflect attention to some other education issue - most likely teacher quality.

I expect another document dump to our friend Ben "Where Are The Perverts?" Chapman and their other media stenographers in the papers and who will dutifully splash stories about criminal teachers all over the papers in the next week.

That's been the M.O. of the NYCDOE and the NYSED so far - no reason think it will change now.

So it is incumbent that those of us who care about quality education continue to keep the pressure of King and Tisch for the high stakes standardized crap they put out there this year, the first year that tests will be used to evaluate (and perhaps fire) teachers.

It is incumbent that Governor Cuomo be made to answer for this mess as well. He claims he has put in place the best teacher evaluation system in the country - something that is "objective" and "scientific" that will do a swell job of weeding out "bad teachers"

But nothing that uses the Pineapple and the Hare for scoring is "objective," "scientific" or fair - Cuomo MUST be made to answer for this.

As for Pearson, they're still hunkered down over the attorney general's investigation into their bribing of state officials for testing contracts.

Now they're hunkered down over this mess.

How is it the company that is in the accountability business can be so above accountability for its own actions and tests?

The Daily News editors have shown that they mean to double down on high stakes testing as a means to fire teachers, close schools, etc.

But if the "accountability people" at the state - like the governor, the NYSED commissioner, and the Regents chancellor - along with the testing company itself - refuse to be held accountable for their own messes then the whole accountability movement falls down like the house of cards it is.

Daniel Pinkwater Writes About "Selling Out" To Sleazy People Who Do Sleazy Things

There is a delightful little piece from Daniel Pinkwater, the "alleged" author of the Hare and the Pineapple, the selection that appeared on Pearson's 8th grade ELA exam this year (and previous other state exams dating back to at least 2007.)

Here are some excerpts:

I received this email from an eighth-grader: “Listen, I love your work, but seriously? Selling out to the state test?

“Also, before my class goes crazy, which was the wisest animal in ‘The Hare and the Pineapple’?”

You bet I sold out, I replied. Not to the Department of Education, but to the publisher of tests, useless programmed reading materials, and similar junk. All authors who are not Stephen King will sell permission to allow excerpts from their books to have all the pleasure edited out of them and used this way. You’d do the same thing if you were a writer, and didn’t know where your next pineapple was coming from.

I’ve done it for years. Sometimes I get paid a hundred or two, and sometimes I’ve been able to jack them up to a couple thousand. It’s dirty money, but I didn’t see that any real harm was done, other than boring students. But that was before these tests became more than a way to try to find out what the kids were learning so they could be taught better.

Now, there are repercussions to these tests. A kid might not be advanced to the next grade, a teacher might not get a new contract, a school could lose funding, get shut down. There are things riding on these tests, and the money is dirtier. I hadn’t given this any thought . . . until now.


On the test, the story makes even less sense, (less sense than nonsense? Yes! I wouldn’t have thought it was possible), and then . . . get ready . . . there are multiple choice questions the kids are supposed to answer.

Well, if a thing is absolutely illogical and meaningless, it’s not possible to ask questions like, “Which animal in the story was the most wise? Choose (a), (b), (c), (d), etc.” And, “Why did the animals eat the pineapple?”

I forgot to mention, my name was on the story — edited to where not a single word of it was mine, just the name.


The communications from kids broke down into three categories: “What? Were you high when you wrote that? Are you an idiot?” or “None of the multiple choice answers made sense. What is the right one? I am upset and confused,” and my favorite category, “Wow, New York State puts out some stupid tests, doesn’t it?”

Yes, it does, kid, yes it does.


Everybody knows what Andy Warhol said about everybody getting his 15 minutes of fame. Is this mine? Do I need to ask that? Obviously it is. I think I’m happy about it. I feel like a real celebrity — real in the sense that I got a whole bunch of media attention, and I didn’t actually do anything.

Well, I accepted money from sleazy people for what turns out to be a sleazy thing. But that is good too! That’s what a lot of celebrities do. Do I want another 15 minutes? Nah. One is plenty.

Governor Cuomo bragged earlier this year about the new "scientific" and "objective" teacher evaluation system the state has developed based upon these Pearson tests.

The UFT and the NYSUT, although many in the leadership know the tests are horrible and the value-added measurements they use to evaluate teachers based on those tests are even worse, agreed to this system.

NYSED Commissioner John King continues to defend these tests, saying next year's tests are going to be just great because they'll be rigorous and tied to the Common Core, so don't you worry you're pretty little heads about anything.

But of course as Leonie Haimson points out, the only reason we found out about the Hare and the Pineapple debacle at all is because somebody divulged it to her and she posted about it.

In NY State, the tests are now being kept secret, allegedly for "security purposes," although given the quality of the tests and the frequency with which they are being given, the reality is the NYSED, the Regents and Pearson HAVE to keep these turkeys secret to keep people from seeing what garbage they are.

The call is now coming for the tests to be made public from Diane Ravitch and others.

Cuomo and King and Regents Chancellor Tisch and of course Pearson (which still hasn't responded publicly to any of this) will ignore calls to make these tests public for as long as they can because they know they will not be able to stand up to scrutiny.

They MUST not be allowed to get away with it.

If this year's 8th grade test contained a Hare and Pineapple, you can bet there were a couple of other selections on tests from other grade levels that were almost as ludicrous, almost as badly designed.

That's why these tests must be revealed to the public.

After all, these test score are now going to be used to hold students back, to declare teachers "ineffective" and fire them, to close schools.

If they cannot stand up to scrutiny in the light of day, than they cannot be used for high stakes decisions.

Daniel Pinkwater noted in his Daily News piece, these are sleazy people at the state and Pearson doing sleazy things with these tests.

Let's shine some light on that sleaze.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rupert Murdoch Never Forgets

The Telegraph interviews Labor MP Tom Watson on the dangers of taking on Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation and just how corrupt the British political system has been made by Murdoch.

The Guardian reports
that Rupert Murdoch plans to take revenge on the British political class, particularly David Cameron, when he appears before the Levenson Committee investigating News Corp. hacking/bribery/corruption charges this week.

Reuters reports that Rupert Murdoch is now at war with the U.K., attacking the Cameron government for education, tax, monetary and energy policy via Twitter as he readies for his Levenson appearance.

The New York Times
reports that 44 more hacking cases have been filed against Murdoch and News Corporation. Claimants include Cherie Blair, Tony Blair's wife, and Ted Beckham, father of soccer player David Beckham.

The News Statesman reports that with these new hacking cases plus the other 1,174 "likely victims" still to file suit, the bill to News Corporation for the scandal could rise to over $1 billion.

It seems Murdoch is going to be in fighting form this week.

I would remind the members of the Levenson Committee that facing off against Rupert Murdoch is a lot like playing The Game of Thrones - You win or you die.

And what do we say to death?

Not today...

Pearson Refuses Accountability For Its Tests

The Hare and Pineapple passage that appeared on this year's New York State 8th grade ELA exam has gotten a lot of coverage over the past three days.

First Leonie Haimson at the NYC Public School Parents blog posted about the absurdity of the passage and questions and asked the following:

Why put a reading passage with questions so nonsensical on a state standardized exam, either as a “field test” question or for any other purpose? Especially given the high-stakes nature of these exams, which will be used in NYC to decide which students to hold back, the school's grade on the progress reports, and in the near future, as in integral part of the new statewide teacher evaluation system.

Pearson didn't respond to her question or concerns.

Then the Daily News and NY 1 both covered the controversial test yesterday, pointing out the absurdity and ambiguity of at least two of the six questions associated with the passage.

Pearson did not respond to those reports.

Gotham Schools actually published the test section itself yesterday when they ran a post on the controversy.

Again, Pearson did not respond.

The Wall Street Journal ran an interview with the author of the original story, Daniel Pinkwater, who was paid a small amount by Pearson to use (and re-use) his story on their tests after they liberally adapted it.

Pearson did not respond to that report.

Today the NY Times covers the ammunition this test is giving to anti-testing advocates, saying that

Antitesting activists have taken up the cudgel, saying that the passage and the multiple-choice questions associated with it perfectly illustrate the absurdity of standardized testing. And by Friday afternoon, the state education commissioner had decided that the questions would not count in students’ official scores.

The Times reports that Pearson has used this passage and questions at least as far back as 2007 in Illinois, Alabama, Delaware, and Arkansas and each time the passage showed up on a high stakes test, there were complaints about it.

Again, Pearson did not respond to the Times article.

There is one constant throughout this furor over the Hare and the Pineapple, and that is the questioners who developed this passage and the associated questions refuse to respond to any questions about those questions.

So Pearson, which has a $32 million contract with New York State and is currently being investigated by New York's attorney general for alleged bribing of state officials with lavish overseas trips and other largesse in order to garner that contract, refuses any accountability on the very mechanism that the state uses to hold students, teachers, administrators and schools accountable - the state tests.

Pearson has managed to place some former employees into high places in New York State. David Wakelyn, former Senior Associate for America's Choice School Design, a leading Pearson sub-division, was appointed Deputy Secretary of Education in New York State by Governor Cuomo.

And Pearson had the former NYSED Commissioner, David Steiner, in its back pocket - Dr. Steiner is one of the state officials who took lavish overseas junkets on Pearson's dime.

So clearly the company figures it can ride this furor out, that the new teacher evaluations requiring so much testing and the connections its got in the corridors of power will make everything all right in the end.

Just don't respond to questions about the tests, never mention the words "hare" or "pineapple" ever again, and avoid as much scrutiny, accountability and responsibility as possible.

This Hare and Pineapple episode is emblematic of education reform and education reformers - the accountability is always on the teachers and the schools, never on the policies, never on the policymakers, never on the politicians and never on the education consultants and never on the test makers.

Silly rabbit, accountability is for teachers...

NYSED Commissioner John King Defends His "Quality" Tests

So the Hare and the Pineapple questions from this week's Pearson-created 8th grade ELA test will not count - even NYSED Commissioner John King admitted some of the questions were "ambiguous."

But King took pains to defend the new Common Core tests coming, which he said will be of a much higher quality:

“It is important to note that this test section does not incorporate the Common Core and other improvements to test quality currently underway,” Mr. King said in a statement. “This year’s tests incorporate a small number of Common Core field test questions. Next year’s test will be fully aligned with the Common Core.”

He added that this particular passage, like all other questions, was reviewed by a committee comprised of teachers from across the state, but it was not crafted for New York State. Mr. King also noted that media reports about the passage weren’t complete. He was specifically referring to a Daily News report that included the reading passage.

He defends his tests he's got Pearson developing for next year and beyond as much more improved than what showed up in the Daily News yesterday because a) the NYSED and Pearson are much more aware of the importance of rigor and quality and b) they're going to be aligned to the Common Core.

So next year's tests are going to scrape the skies in terms of quality and people should move on from this year's tests.

In other words, there's nothing to see here, just keep moving.

But as Elizabeth Philips, principal of PS 321, showed in her letter to Commissioner King, it wasn't just the 8th grade ELA exam that was problematic - they ALL were.

Given that students will be held back based upon these test results, teachers will be declared "ineffective" based upon these test results and schools will be stamped "failing" based on these test results and perhaps even closed and turned into for-profit charter schools, it is certainly important that we NOT just move on from the quality of this year's tests, as Commissioner King would like us to do.

The NYSED is now keeping the NY State tests secret and will look to prosecute anybody who publishes or publicizes the testing material. They say they must do this for test quality and security purposes, but the reality is, they are keeping these tests secret because they are afraid they will not stand up to scrutiny in the light of day.

This goes for not only these pre-Common Core tests Pearson is issuing this year but the so-called improved Common Core assessments the NYSED and Pearson plan to issue next year.

You can be sure that if Pearson feels the need to keep recycling badly designed sections of an ELA test every year in at least six different states for the past half decade or more, they will feel the same need once the Common Core tests arrive.

Quality testing material is a lot like a pineapple that grows on a tree - it takes a while to develop and bring to fruition before it is ripe enough for consumption.

Given the realities of the new teacher evaluation system that are going to require 35+ state and local tests a year per student in grades 3-12, you can be assured that Pearson will not be rolling out quality testing material on a regular basis.

Rather, we're going to get plenty of slapdash material, hastily put together, thrown out without any care or thought, and hidden from scrutiny by politicians and political functionaries like John King for alleged security reasons.

King can defends The Hare and the Pineapple selection and associated questions as fine all he wants.

He can say that if you read the whole selection, the answers for those questions are contained in the passage.

Gotham Schools printed the whole passage and all six questions associated with it and there is a fine Common Core argument to be made here that Question # 7 and Question # 8 are ambiguous at best.

Because we can see this passage and the questions Pearson asked about it, we can see just how problematic this test is (and how even more problematic it is to make high stakes decisions based upon these test results.)

If these tests are kept secret as Mr. King and the Regents want to keep them in the future, we will not be able to expose the slapdash quality and arbitrary nature of the questions and therefore not be able to question the questioners.

I will say again, if teacher evaluations that are based upon these test scores are FOILable and printable in the papers, these tests are FOILable and printable in the papers.

The mayor and the governor, the oligarchs running the Times and the Post and the News, all say that it is the public's right to know the quality of the teachers teaching in the school system.

If that is so, then it is also the public's right to know the quality of the high stakes standardized tests being created by Pearson and rolled out all across the state by Commissioner King and his merry men and women at the NYSED.

These people in power are all for teacher accountability, but they shirk from accountability up the chain of command and consistently like to pass that accountability onto others.

Commissoner King in his defense of the Hare and the Pineapple did this just yesterday when he said that the selection and questions had been approved by a panel of teachers.

See, it's not his fault.

It's never his fault.

And anyway, the passage and the questions are fine.

Nothing to see here, keep moving.

Hey, look! Bad teachers over there!!!!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

No High Stakes Decisions Should Be Made Based On These Pearson Tests

UPDATE: Gotham Schools reports that NYSED Commissioner John King defended the "Pineapple and the Hare" passage, although because of media scrutiny, the questions from that section the 8th grade ELA test have been thrown out.

Here's what King said about the test:

King also defended the passage, saying it wasn’t as confusing as it has been presented publicly so far. King, who appeared in Brooklyn this afternoon at Clara Barton High School to hear from students enrolled in a medical pathways program that partners with SUNY Downstate Medical Center, offered another reason the tests weren’t counting.

“The questions make much more sense in the context of the full passage than the excerpts that folks have seen,” King said. ”But given the press coverage we won’t be able to use those particular questions.”

Here is what the author of the original passage (which Pearson adapted) said about this:

Eighth-graders who thought a passage about a pineapple and a hare on New York state tests this week made no sense, take heart: The author thinks it’s absurd too.

“It’s hilarious on the face of it that anybody creating a test would use a passage of mine, because I’m an advocate of nonsense,” Daniel Pinkwater, the renowned children’s author and accidental exam writer, said in an interview. “I believe that things mean things, but they don’t have assigned meanings.”


I’m on this earth to put up a feeble fight against the horrible tendency people have to think that there’s a formula. “If I do the following things, I’ll get elected president.” No you won’t. “If I do the following things, my work of art will be good.” Not necessarily. “If I follow this recipe, the dish will come out very delicious.” Maybe.

Trust me, there is no formula for most things that are not math.


It's high stakes standardized testing week here in New York State and the reviews are in - Pearson's tests suck.

NYC Public School Parents blog covered the tests here, NY 1 here, the NY Daily News here.

NYC Rubber Room Reporter posts a letter from a NYC school principal to NYSED Commissioner John King complaining about the absurdity of the tests here.

The Washington Post covered the absurdity of the eighth grade ELA exam here.

The NYSED Commissioner, usually not shy about taking about how "cool" and "sophisticated" the state tests the Regents and the NYSED are developing for the new teacher evaluation system are, did not comment on complaints about this year's Pearson exams.

NYCDOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott did, saying

"We expect to see much more rigor and complex reading passages on next year’s tests."

Pearson has apparently recycled some of the test content it's given in at least half a dozen states over the past few years, so the idea that they have a storehouse of quality testing material waiting to be rolled out is absurd on the face of it.

It is quite clear Pearson is squeezing as much profit out of these state testing contracts while putting as little effort into these state tests as they can.

Students will be held back because of the scores on these tests. Teachers will be declared "ineffective" because of the scores on these tests. Schools will be closed because of the scores on these tests.

The tests are kept secret by the state, the NYSED Commissioner is refusing to speak about them, Pearson is refusing to speak about them, the NYCDOE is issuing some boilerplate statement about next years exams - BUT HIGH STAKES DECISIONS ARE GOING TO BE MADE THIS YEAR USING THESE EXAMS.

This cannot be allowed.

The tests cannot remain secret - not with the stakes that are on the line here.

If teacher evaluations and Teacher Data Reports are FOILable, then Pearson's tests that give us the "data" for teacher evaluations and Teacher Data Reports are FOILable too.

Also, NYSED Commissioner King cannot be allowed to duck accountability for these tests.

He MUST answer to the quality of the tests and explain why they are so secretive about the contents.

If Pearson and the NYSED are so confident in the sophistication and content of their tests, let's see that out in the open.

They say they can't do this because of security reasons.

The reality of course is, they know the tests will not be able to take the scrutiny they'll receive if they were to show up in the newspapers.

In the near future we're going to get 35+ tests a year for every child in subjects ranging from math to ELA to science to social studies to music to art to physical education.

The way the state has set up the new teacher evaluation system, many districts will have to give both state AND local assessments for every subject.

You can bet the mortgage most of these tests will be as badly designed as the one with the pineapple and the hare on it.

And high stakes decisions for students, teachers and schools will be made using these test scores.

That fact is as absurd as the "Pineapple and Hare" story.