Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, July 30, 2010

Open Left Covers The Pushback Against The Obama/Duncan Education Agenda

It's good to see one of the larger leftwing political blogs cover the mess that is the Obama/Duncan education agenda and actually NOT parrot the education deform bullshit.

Open Left does that tonight pretty well.

I'm putting the post up in its entirety, but you should go over to Open Left and read them every day on a whole host of issues. Like Firedoglake and Atrios, it remains essentially daily political reading for me (links are over on the side.)

Anyway, here is the post:

It's been one helluva week on the education front, and I'm sure Jeff will have plenty to say in his Left Ed column this Sunday (new time, for those not paying quite enough attention: 1 PM, EST). It began on Monday, when Jeff noted in a quick hit that a coalition of civil rights groups had issued a document critical of Obama's education policies. Although there would be a somewhat confusing walk-back of criticism afterwards--particularly as Arne Duncan and President Obama both addressed the Urban League--it seems clear that the cat's out of the bag, and it's going to be a whole lot harder going forward for Obama and Duncan to pretend there aren't problems. On Wednesday, data was released showing in the reform showcase NYC schools, the racial and ethnic achievement has shot back up to 2002 levels. Links to a number of related stories can be found here, including one by Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzales. And speaking of Democracy Now!, today its first half-hour was devoted to a renewed look at Obama's initiative and the mounting criticisms. To start things off, here's what Jeff wrote on Monday:
From Valerie Strauss at WaPo:
    "a 17-page framework for education reform being released Monday by a coalition of civil rights groups amounts to a thrashing of President Obama's education policies and it offers a prescription for how to set things right"

Excerpts from the report highlighted by Strauss . . .

on Race to the Top:

    "By emphasizing competitive incentives in this economic climate, the majority of low-income and minority students will be left behind and, as a result, the United States will be left behind as a global leader."

on charter schools:

    "while some charter schools can and do work for some students, they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs."

on so-called reform:

    ""Rather than addressing inequitable access to research-proven methodologies like high-quality early childhood education and a stable supply of experienced, highly effective teachers, recent education reform proposals have favored "stop gap" quick fixes that may look new on the surface but offer no real long-term strategy for effective systemic change."

Right on!
Paul Rosenberg :: Civil rights groups top mounting wave of criticism for Obama's education "reforms"
An update to the blog post that Jeff linked to explained the first shift of the week:
Now we know why civil rights leaders suddenly cancelled today's press conference at which they were going to talk about their new powerful framework for education reform, which includes a withering critique of the Obama administration's education policies.

They met instead with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., head of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said in an interview that he and other leaders felt that meeting with Duncan to discuss policy differences was "a better use of our time" than holding a public press conference.
Considering that most press conferences are a waste of time, Jackson makes a point.

But in this case, the postponement -- or, perhaps, cancellation -- left the impression among some that the civil rights leaders chose not to publicly criticize President Obama's education policies any more than the framework already does.

Later, on Wednesday, Edweek coverage of Duncan's speech began:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the Obama administration's education reform agenda before the National Urban League today, declaring that some of the arguments being made to justify a new framework that several civil rights groups released on Monday were flat out wrong.

The Urban League, which joined at least six other civil rights groups in calling for Duncan to reverse course on Race to the Top, charter schools, and turnaround models for low-performing schools, welcomed him with open arms. They interrupted his 30-minute speech several times with applause. Hugh B. Price, the former president of the Urban League, even called the Obama-Duncan education agenda the "most muscular federal education policy I've ever seen," adding, "We've got your back."

This is a fairly dramatic about-face from the run-up to Monday's release of the highly critical framework, which was supposed to be unleashed with a public relations boom-complete with a press conference featuring prominent black leaders such as the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson calling for a new education direction. Instead, the whole thing fizzled, and left this blogger puzzled as to how strongly the groups still support their own framework.

After reporting on more confusion, particularly on the part of Al Sharpton, the account continued:

In answer to the group's call that he forgo competitions like Race to the Top and concentrate on increasing spending on all students, Duncan said: "Some people say that grant programs like Race to the Top are bad for low-income and minority students. ... But the fact is, Race to the Top has done more to dismantle the barriers to education reform ... than any federal law in history."

He said those who think the Education Department isn't investing heavily in formula programs, too, are either "intentionally misleading or profoundly misinformed."

And to answer their charge that he back off from his enthusiasm for charter schools, Duncan said: "Should we stifle the growth of high-quality public charter schools? ... Absolutely not. Tens of thousands of minority parents are on waiting lists for these schools. ... To suggest that charters are bad for low-income and minority students is absolutely wrong."

Readers of Open Left know very well who is "intentionally misleading or profoundly misinformed." And it's highly doubtful that this sort of empty bluster will prove successful over the long haul.

The Edweek report on Obama's speech began:

President Barack Obama offered a forceful defense today of his signature education initiative, the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, which rewards states for making progress on raising standards, improving teacher quality, establishing data systems, and turning around low-performing schools.

The program-and Mr. Obama's prescription for turning around those low-performing schools-has come under sharp criticism lately from civil rights groups, who say distributing funds through competitive grants hinders poor and minority students, whose schools may not have the resources to compete for the dollars. His speech to the National Urban League this morning offered a rebuttal to such criticism and echoed much of what U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan said to the same group yesterday.

Mr. Obama argued that the steps that Race to the Top encourages states to take, including lifting the cap on charter schools and using student data to inform teacher evaluation, are the right ones.

"None of this should be controversial. There should be a fuss if we weren't doing these things," Mr. Obama said.

In an end-of-the-week roundup, Valerie Strauss wrote:

It's a little hard to make sense of what happened this week in the world of education, but, let's give it a fast try:

*President Obama gave a speech to the Urban League convention in which he joked about the Jersey Shore's Snooki and also said the following: "Now, over the past 18 months ... I think the single most important thing we've done is to launch an initiative called Race to the Top."

Yes, that's what he said: His terribly misguided $4.35 billion competitive grant program is, apparently, more important than health care reform, the economic recovery program, improving the student loan program, increasing Pell Grant payouts, and, well, anything else he has accomplished since becoming president.

Does he read this stuff carefully before he says it?

Yes, folks, I'm not the only one who talks like this by this point in time. The incoherence is getting to be positively Bushian.

She continues:

*The administration did its best to mute the power of a scathing critique of Obama's education policies issued by a coalition of civil rights organizations, who also offered presciptive ways out of the mess.

According to several sources involved in the drama, the "Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn" was actually ready to be released about a month ago, but the administration has been holding meetings with civil rights leaders in an effort to ease the criticism.

A decision was made to finally release it on Monday, the same week as the Urban League convention, and a press conference was scheduled for leaders of the groups to discuss it publicly. The groups were: Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Schott Foundation for Public Education, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Coalition for Educating Black Children, National Urban League, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

But pressure from the administration -- including, apparently, a threat that Obama would not speak, as scheduled, to the convention -- prompted the cancellation of the press conference and a hastily scheduled meeting between the civil rights leaders and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday.

That became news in our education world, along with a few statements released by some of the civil rights groups that talked about working cooperatively with Duncan.

What was missed in the coverage is that none of the civil rights leaders walked away from the powerful framework, except, that is, Rev. Al Sharpton, who was expected to sign onto the framework, but then didn't at the last minute.

So, Obama intimidated his black critics, but only in the short run. (Sharpton is actually more of a booster when it comes to charter schools.) Forget what does or doesn't want to do. It's increasingly hard to see how this "no carrot, all stick" approach to his one-time base can be a winning strategy over any sort of long run. More and more I'm beginning to think that a primary challenge really could emerge. And it doesn't have to come anywhere close to winning in order to fatally wound the President. Two dates for him to look up: 1952 and 1968.

Finally, from Democracy Now!

JUAN GONZALEZ: .... In his address, Obama said his plan for education is working, but he acknowledged it has come under criticism.
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But I think the single most important thing we've done is to launch an initiative called Race to the Top. We said-we said to states, if you are committed to outstanding teaching, to successful schools, to higher standards, to better assessments, if you're committed to excellence for all children, you will be eligible for a grant to help you attain that goal. And so far the results have been promising, and they have been powerful.

    I know there's also been some controversy about Race to the Top. Part of it, I believe, reflects a general resistance to change. We get comfortable with the status quo, even when the status quo isn't good. We make excuses for why things have to be the way they are. And when you try to shake things up, some people aren't happy.

That sounded pretty damn clueless, arrogant and out of touch to me. Downright Bushian, like I said before. One Edweek commentator put it this way:

I watched on TV President Obama's speech before the Urban League. As much as I still admire him, his defense of Arne Duncan and RttT was hard for me to take.

His dismisses legitimate concerns about his administration's agenda as resistance to change or defense of the status quo. He is so insultingly wrong. Critics of RttT want to improve education just as much or more as he and the tycoons who pull Duncan's strings.

Finally, here's an extended comment from Diane Ravitch on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: .... Let's begin with you, Diane Ravitch. Your response to President Obama's major address yesterday on education?

DIANE RAVITCH: Well, I think that what happened in New York City is-shows that the direction he's taking is wrong, because everything he is proposing in Race to the Top and also in his blueprint will rely on exactly the kinds of methods that led to a massive fraud in New York state-that is, that Race to the Top is requiring states to judge teachers by the student test scores, and we now know, based on this immense fraud in the city and in the state of New York, that the test scores are not reliable. So teachers will be judged by unreliable data, and we're going to dismantle the teaching profession in pursuit of this mechanical fix that won't work.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Diane Ravitch, one of the reasons President Obama gave that particular speech was that he's coming under increasing fire even from civil rights organizations who are questioning not only the emphasis on testing, but the push for more and more charter schools regardless of the quality of those schools. And your sense of how the ground is shifting around the country, among parent groups, among civil rights groups, around the whole issue of school reform?

DIANE RAVITCH: Well, you know, I think this week, in the last week of July of 2010, turns out to be a pretty momentous week. First of all, six civil rights groups came together and issued a joint statement that blasted Race to the Top and also the blueprint, the Obama blueprint, because he is building-although he doesn't admit it, he's building his education agenda right on top of the Bush education agenda, which is to test and punish, to close schools, to evaluate teachers in ways that are unfair and unsound from a research point of view, to increase the number of privately managed charter schools. All this is going to be immensely destabilizing, and it's going to hit hardest on minority communities, because most of the schools that will be identified as the lowest-performing schools will be in poor Hispanic and black communities. And there will be massive-excuse me, massive destabilization. This is not good. And the civil rights groups recognize this.

There was a second report out that came out this week from a group of community-from an organization of community groups from across the country, echoing the same complaints: we don't want more community schools, we don't want more charter schools, we want better public schools-help our public schools get better, not by more testing, not by more charters, but by sensible approaches like more pre-kindergarten, smaller class size, more support for the people who are teaching in those schools-commonsense approaches, which this administration seems to be avoiding and looking for the quick fix that George Bush pursued and that Mayor Bloomberg pursued, and it didn't work. So I think there are immense implications here.

And we also saw in the Congress where Congressman Obey tried to strip money away from Race to the Top, away from merit pay and away from charter schools. And the administration's response was, "Don't take money from Race to the Top. Take it away from food stamps." And Joel Klein said to take it away from Title I. These are all programs that benefit the neediest families in our society, and there were prepared to harm people who are in need of help in order to preserve the President's favorite program.

So I think that the implications of this week, with the test score explosion, the blowup of the fraud in New York City, and these two grassroots groups saying, "This is not working, and take a more commonsense approach, and stop this destructive test and measurement and punishment approach," this is big, because up 'til now everybody seems to have gone along with the rhetoric of President Obama. But you have to separate his rhetoric, which is always very elegant, from what his administration is actually doing, which is just more Bush, more No Child Left Behind.

What we're seeing is still well below the radar of the braindead Versailles media. But the push-back against Obama's Bush-lite agenda is clearly growing at an ever-increasing rate, and things came to a sort of head this week. With the mid-terms looming, there's no telling what the short-term dynamic is going to be. But it seems virtually certain that opposition is only going to grow stronger and stronger.

Just like with Afghanistan, tweaking a fundamentally flawed policy that the Democratic base despises is simly not a viable strategy. And the more you think about it, the more you just have doubt whether Obama is really anywhere near ready for the office he now holds. He's a great campaigner, there's no doubting that. But when it comes to governing, he just doesn't seem to get it.

You know, a primary challenge from the left could be just the thing to put an end to Obama.

I know a primary challenge seems unlikely now, but if the war in Afghanistan continues to get worse (and July 2010 was the month with the highest U.S. casualties for any month during the entire war) and the economy continues to tank and unemployment remains between 9% and 10%, you bet your ass there will be a few people on the left thinking about a challenge.

As a teacher who is sick of being lectured by Obama about accountability and vilified as some ignorant child in need of adult supervision, I would welcome a challenge from the left.

I am done with voting for corporate whore Dems.

As Eugene Debs said, "I would rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don't want and get it."

In Obama, I voted for an education policy, an Afghan war policy, a financial bailout policy, a Social Security privatization policy, and a corporate health care policy that I didn't want, and I got them.

Never again.

Unemployment To Get Worse, GDP Revised Downward, But Obama Says RttT Is The Most Important Thing He Can Do

President Accountability seems to live in a Bush-like bubble these days:

President Obama gave a speech to the Urban League convention in which he joked about the Jersey Shore’s Snooki and also said the following: “Now, over the past 18 months ... I think the single most important thing we’ve done is to launch an initiative called Race to the Top.”

Have you got that?

The single most important initiative the Obama administration has been involved in has been to dangle a one time cash payment to cash-starved states that forces them to fire teachers, close schools, tie teacher pay and evaluations to test scores and add new standardized tests to every subject at every grade level.

This initiative was so important, in fact, that if Congress took just $500,000 million from the $4.3 billion and used it to keep teachers employed across the country, he would veto any bill that contained that provision.

That's how important RttT is to President Accountability.

Meanwhile in the real world not inhabited by Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mayor Moneybags, Whitney Tilson, Rahm Emanuel or President Accountability, thousands of teachers are being let go by states out of cash and tying teacher jobs to test scores is NOT the most important thing ever.

In the real world, the economy has slowed considerably and unemployment is expected to ratchet back up to close to 10%.

I mean, things are BAD.

At least for those of us who don't lunch with the beautiful people at $30,000 a plate fundraisers, things are bad.

Unfortunately Obama doesn't seem to get out too much beyond his chosen circle of advisers and basketball buddies like Arne Ducan, so it's clear he really doesn't know what's going on.

I wonder what would help wake him up?

Perhaps a look at the news?

There is no more disputing it: the economic recovery in the United States has indeed slowed.

The nation’s economy has been growing for a year, with few new jobs to show for it. Now, with growth at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter, and federal stimulus measures fading, the jobs outlook appears even more discouraging.

“Given how weak the labor market is, how long we’ve been without real growth, the rest of this year is probably still going to feel like a recession,” said Prajakta Bhide, a research analyst for the United States economy at Roubini Global Economics. “It’s still positive growth — rather than contraction — but it’s going to be very, very protracted.”

A Commerce Department report on Friday showed that the economy had grown at a faster pace earlier in the recovery, expanding at an annual rate of 5 percent at the end of 2009 and 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Consumer spending, however, was weaker than initially believed.

Many economists are forecasting a further slowdown in the second half of the year, perhaps around an annual rate of 1.5 percent. That is largely because businesses have refilled the stockroom shelves that they had whittled down during the financial crisis, meaning there will not be much need for additional inventory orders.

Fiscal stimulus policies are also expiring, which may further drag on growth. And individual stimulus programs like expanded unemployment benefits have faced huge political battles each time they have come up for extension in Congress.

The approaching mid-term elections may further entrench the political stalemate after Congress returns from its August recess. As a result, pressure will probably increase on the Federal Reserve to use its tools to prevent a double-dip. Recent reports from Fed officials suggest the central bank has become increasingly worried about where the economy is headed.

People are losing their jobs, the long-term unemployed cannot get work, people are losing their homes despite (or perhaps because of) the Obama administration's HAMP program, Obamavilles are starting to sprout up across the country, and President Accountability tells us at a speech he gave in between an appearance on The View and two $30,000 a plate fundraisers that RttT is going to make sure more teachers are fired and schools are closed, so all is well.

Simply amazing.

More and more, I see Obama's resemblance to Bush.

Stubborn, arrogant, not terribly informed about much, refuses to change course once he has decided on something, only listens to the cronies around him, and is taking the country down the road to ruin.

Judging by his poll numbers, which are now nearing Bush territory, others are seeing the resemblance too.

And even while Obama publicly mocks polls, he has been spending much more money on them that Bush did.

Clearly he is worried.

The only problem is, he doesn't seem to be too worried about the economy, the job situation, the foreclosure crisis, the state of the war in Afghanistan or all those teachers he's getting fired.

Nope, the only thing that seems to worry him is that he might end up a one term president.

I do have to say, a one term Obama presidency WOULD be change I could believe in.

Still Waiting To See The NY Papers/Media Criticize Bloomberg/Klein For The Test Score Fiasco

Mayor Bloomberg has hailed the state test scores as proof positive his education reform agenda has worked.

So have the New York editorial boards.

So has President Obama.

But it turns out those scores were inflated and phony.

Now that we know what the real proficiency levels of New York students are, how is it that schools, principals and teachers are being told they are at fault for this mess, but Bloomberg and Klein aren't?

Seriously, let's say a mayor who was perceived as friendly to the teachers union were in power when these scores were revised sharply downward.

Let's say that mayor suddenly had a Clinton moment with the word "proficiency," and said something like "Well, how proficient students are depends on what the meaning of profiency is."

Do you think the papers and the politicians would let that person avoid blame for the mess?

Or criticism for the self-serving jive excuses?

Uh, uh. Not on your life.

Especially not if that mayor had been using those bullshit scores to hail himself as the greatest thing since the printing press in education reform.

Yet somehow Mayor Moneybags has managed to avoid criticism and blame for the mess.

So has Klein.

It's as if they were just innocent bystanders in the grade inflation.

Even though they graded schools and teachers using the bullshit scores.

Even though they handed out merit pay and bonuses for those bullshit scores.

Even though they stand by those evaluations and those bonuses even now.

It's an amazing thing just which figures get a pass in the papers and the media.

If you're an anti-union/pro-deform politician or business leader, it seems you can do no wrong on the op-ed pages of the Daily News, the Post, and the Times or in the commentary on MSNBC or FOX NEWS.

But if you're a unionized teacher who wants to maintain job protections like tenure and seniority or worse, speaks out against the pro-testing education deform movement, you're vilified as "anti-children."

Or just the anti-Christ.


UPDATE: Juan Gonzalez does criticize Bloomberg and Klein in today's Daily News, but Gonzalez has long been critic of both the mayor and the chancellor, so while it is wonderful to see him take aim at them today, it isn't the type of criticism I am looking for.

I want to see the op-ed writers who wrote so glowingly about the Bloomberg/Klein reforms and test scores in the past come out and say, "Oh, we were wrong."

As the Dana Carvey/George Bush character on SNL used to say back in the day "Not gonna happen..."

It's Like He's Cheney Or Something

Gee, I don't remember President Accountability mentioning he was going to expand the Bush/Cheney domestic spying apparatus.

And yet, he is:

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau's authority. "It'll be faster and easier to get the data," said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. "And for some Internet providers, it'll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL."


To critics, the move is another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security. The proposal is "incredibly bold, given the amount of electronic data the government is already getting," said Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel.

The critics say its effect would be to greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order. "You're bringing a big category of data -- records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information -- outside of judicial review," said Michael Sussmann, a Justice Department lawyer under President Bill Clinton who now represents Internet and other firms.

That doesn't sound hopey/changey, does it?

Not to me it doesn't.

Just another move to the right by President Accountability and the merry band of public school privatizers, war profiteers, and hedge fundies/corporate whores he has inhabiting his administration as part of his "meritocracy."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where's The Accountability At HUD?

President Accountability proudly told the National Urban League that he will personally hold every single teacher across this land accountable for the test scores of their students.

He said it's the least he can do as a citizen, a president and a parent.

Of course his kids attend swanky private schools, so what his parenthood has to do with public education or public school teachers is beyond me.

Nonetheless the buzz word for the Obama education policy is ACCOUNTABILITY.

But many political observers have been calling for some accountability for the Obama administration's piss-poor housing policy that has done little to alleviate the foreclosure crisis and lots to make it worse.

So some House Democrats have decided to make their displeasure with the president's policies known:

The House will vote Thursday on a measure to strip the travel budget of President Obama’s housing secretary.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who weeks ago called for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan’s resignation over what he and other California members believe has been the administration’s subpar response to the housing and foreclosure crisis that has crippled the state’s housing market.

Cardoza’s California district is one of the hardest hit in the country by the housing crisis.

If the measure passes, it would be a shot across the bow against the Obama administration’s handling of the foreclosure crisis.

Donovan will meet Thursday morning with Cardoza and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, where he was expected to receive a verbal berating by Democrats representing districts with disproportionately high home foreclosure rates.

And why are people pissed off at the HUD secretary and President Obama over the housing crisis?

Take a look here:

WASHINGTON — More than three years into the housing crisis that helped trigger a worldwide recession, the torrid pace of home foreclosures continues to tear at the core of the American dream.


In the first half of 2010, more than 1.6 million U.S. properties were hit with foreclosure filings, which include bank repossessions, default notices and auction sale notices. That's up 8 percent from the first six months of 2009 and puts the U.S. on pace to top 3 million filings this year. That includes more than a million bank repossessions, and while sub-prime borrowers and bad loans led the surge in foreclosures in 2008 and 2009, this year's wave comes from homeowners who've lost their jobs.

The numbers reflect the widespread and continued fragility of local housing markets amid what's largely a jobless recovery. They also raise questions about the effectiveness of programs designed to fight foreclosures, such as the Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program.


From the Bush administration's HOPE for Homeowners program to the TARP-funded HAMP program, community groups, consumer advocates and homeowners themselves say anti-foreclosure programs have been largely ineffective because banks don't have a strong incentive or mandate to modify loans that favor them financially.

Government officials envisioned the Home Affordable Modification Program helping 3 to 4 million homeowners avoid foreclosure by 2012. Borrowers who receive permanent modifications of their home loans under HAMP save a median of 36 percent — about $510 per month — off their original mortgage payments.

However, of more than 3.1 million eligible delinquent loans, only 389,000 have been modified permanently, according to the most recent government figures. Another 364,000 loans are in trial, or temporary, modification plans that could become permanent, but critics say that seldom occurs. More than 520,000 of these plans ended up being cancelled.

In a recent survey of 53 California mortgage counselors with caseloads of more than 14,000 homeowners, 60 percent said they had clients who lost their homes to foreclosure while they were working with a loan servicer to enroll in the HAMP program.

People try and navigate a bureaucratic mess to get into the program and get their mortgages modified.

The banks get a few more months of payments while people are trying to get into the program.

But then the banks foreclose upon them before they are approved and they lose their homes anyway.

How's that for change we can believe?

How's that for competence?

It sucks.

Totally sucks.

And instead of fixing the HAMP program and firing the people who created it, the administration tries to hide the data and run jive ass public relations briefings for housing reporters to get them to stop criticizing the program.

Now is that the kind of accountability we want to see from President Accountability and his administration?


Certainly that's not the type of accountability he bragged about using on teachers today.

I've said for a long while now, if the Obama administration were a high school in Rhode Island, it would have been put on the SURR list and set up for "turnaround" as part of the Race to the Top program.

Obama: Firing Teachers, Closing Schools "Shouldn't Be Controversial"

Apparently bipartisanship and discussion among disagreeing parties doesn't count when it comes to RttT. President Accountability leveled a direct attack on teachers and any critics of his education policies today:

President Barack Obama offered a forceful defense today of his signature education initiative, the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, which rewards states for making progress on raising standards, improving teacher quality, establishing data systems, and turning around low-performing schools.

The program—and Mr. Obama's prescription for turning around those low-performing schools—has come under sharp criticism lately from civil rights groups, who say distributing funds through competitive grants hinders poor and minority students, whose schools may not have the resources to compete for the dollars. His speech to the National Urban League this morning offered a rebuttal to such criticism and echoed much of what U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan said to the same group yesterday.

Mr. Obama argued that the steps that Race to the Top encourages states to take, including lifting the cap on charter schools and using student data to inform teacher evaluation, are the right ones.

"None of this should be controversial. There should be a fuss if we weren't doing these things," Mr. Obama said.

And he touted the program's other aims, including encouraging states to work together to adopt higher, more uniform academic standards. That's a departure from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which he said inadvertently rewarded states for lowering standards. And he said Race to the Top would help states develop richer assessments that do a better job of gauging what students know so that teachers can improve instruction, instead of "teaching to the test."

Uh, what?

Obama's policies are forcing states to add tests to every subject in every grade twice a year so that they can measure the "added value" teachers are giving students.

His policies are also tying teacher pay, evaluations and ultimately jobs to those scores.

How can he say that his policies are helping teachers to improve instruction instead of "teaching to the test" when everything about education under the Obama policies - from whether the school stays open to whether the principal gets fired to whether the staff gets dismissed to how long the school day/year is to how much teachers will be paid - is TIED TO THE TESTS.

Either he is willfully ignorant of the "change" his policies are bringing or he's lying about it.

It's one or the other because the relationship between the Obama policies and testing is just that obvious.

As for the controversy question, how could the changes his policies are bringing - from closing schools and firing teachers to turning over public education to for-profit EMO's to tying teacher pay, evaluations and jobs to test scores - NOT be controversial?

They are a radical re-ordering (some might say a creative destruction) of what already exists with unproven or disproven reforms.

And they are DIRECTLY leading to the firing of thousands of teachers all across the country, most of whom are being scapegoated for conditions and situations beyond their control.

Some are being fired after being evaluated by a flawed accountability system. As Valerie Strauss noted in today's Kaplan Test Prep Post about the firing of 241 D.C teachers:

According to the new report by Mathematica Policy Research:

If three years of data is used there is about a 25 percent change that a teacher who is “average” would be identified as significantly worse than average, and, under new evaluation systems, perhaps fired.

*If one year of data is used, there is a 35 percent chance of the same misidentification.

Considering that teachers are now being fired based partly on test scores -- D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee just let go dozens of teachers based on such evaluations -- this error rate matters in a big way.

Uh, yeah. Yeah, a 25%-35% chance of error matters.

It matters a lot.

The Obama policies are the Bush policies on steroids - ill-thought out, counterproductive, ultra-punitive and heavy on testing and scapegoating teachers.

It bothers me that the "journalists" covering the president's speech and Arne's education pronouncements do not seem capable of pointing out that the Obama policies are EXACTLY like the Bush policies - only more so.

When Obama says his policies are moving education away from "teaching to the test," he is as WRONG as he was when he said off shore oil drilling platforms do not spill anymore just two weeks before the BP platform in the Gulf exploded.

When he says his policies are moving public education education away from the more punitive measures of NCLB, he is as WRONG as he was for firing Shirley Sherrod before he investigated the false charges of racism against her.

It is that freaking blatant.

Not that hard to point that out, folks.

Seriously, not that hard.

With NY Scores Shown To Be A Sham, Obama Doubles Down On Testing And Blaming Teachers

President Accountability likes to hold people accountable.

Well, okay, only some people.

Certainly not treasury secretaries who hand out 100 cents to the dollar for crap on AIG's books that is actually worth about 10 cents or people who create the HAMP mortgage program that was supposed to help people in danger of foreclosure but has actually bilked hundreds of thousands of people out of a six months of additional payments before allowing the banks to foreclose on them anyway.

Yeah, those people he's not so big on holding accountable.

But a USDA employee falsely accused of racism by wingnut Internets people?

That woman he has fired without even a rudimentary investigation into the charges.

And all the teachers at a Central Falls, Rhode Island school who educate students in a town with the highest rates of unemployment, poverty, addiction, alcoholism and teen pregnancy in the state?

Yeah, those folks he likes holding accountable too.

When they didn't agree to additional hours and days of work without commensurate pay, Obama cheered their firings.

And now that Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein, long pointed to by education deformers and editorial writers as Education Miracle Workers with a proven reform system that should be taken nation-wide, have been exposed as frauds and shams, they're vaunted test scores actually inflated, President Obama isn't backing down from backing them or the reforms they tout.

Nope, instead he's going on the road to defend those policies instead.

And guess who he's blaming for all the problems?

You got it - TEACHERS:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is defending his administration's education policies, responding to criticism that so far they have not substantially helped minority students.

The president blames some of the criticism of his plan on teachers and others resistant to change.

Obama was to speak Thursday at the centennial convention of the National Urban League, one of eight civil rights organizations that released a report this week calling the president's $4.35 billion education initiative an ineffective approach for failing schools.

In excerpts released ahead of the president's speech, Obama says his program's goal is to spur innovate education reform in states and turn around failing schools, many in minority communities, not just label them as troubled and then walk away.

"It's about investing in that school's future, recruiting the whole community to help turn it around, and identifying some viable options for how to move forward," Obama says.

The National Urban League report, written in conjunction with seven other civil rights groups, says federal data shows that just 3 percent of the nation's black students and less than 1 percent of Latino students are affected by the first round of the administration's "Race to the Top" competition.

The program earlier this year awarded about $600 million to Tennessee and Delaware to undertake reforms.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were named finalists Tuesday for the second round of the funding.

Obama's education reforms have also drawn criticism from education advocates, including prominent teachers' unions like the American Federation of Teachers.

Obama will tell the civil rights group's convention that some of the criticism of the program comes from those resistant to change and a "comfort with the status quo." The goal of the initiative, he says, isn't to fire or admonish teachers, but to hold them accountable and help "create a better environment for teachers and students alike."

The president will call for schools to provide teachers higher pay and a fulfilling, supportive workplace.

"Instead of a culture where we're always idolizing sports stars or celebrities, I want us to build a culture where we idolize the people who shape our children's future," he will tell the group.

Oh, sure - and how do we get to such a world by holding teachers accountable with falsified scores and other unfair and/or fraudulent measures of achievement?

Well, if you're in Washington D.C. where Obama lives, you fire 6% of the teaching staff and put another 17% on notice that they will be fired.

Even though the test score system used to hold these teachers accountable is so complex and nontransparent that most people don't understand it.

Even when A USDOE report released in June 2010 shows that using "value-added" test score rates to evaluate schools and students is imprecise up to 25%.

That means a whole swath of teachers who aren't "bad" will be identified as bad and fired under these methods of accountability.

Now does President Accountability care about the imprecise methods of accountability measurement being used to evaluate teachers or that those methods might be used to fire good teachers?

Uh, uh. Not at all. He says they're fine.

Does he care that the vaunted Bloomberg/Klein Education Miracle in New York City has been exposed as a fraudulent sham?

Uh, uh. Not at all. He says the reforms (which are his reforms too) are working fine.

Instead he attacks teachers for trying to protect themselves from these fraudulent measures of accountability.

I think it's time for the media to hold the Bloombergs and the Obamas of the world accountable.

Of course as NYC Educator pointed out today
, the Daily News editorial writers managed to write an editorial admonishing teachers and cheering on the Race to the Top reforms as the road to go even though they have just been exposed as fraudulent and harmful to children and the public education system.

After all, Race to the Top is just the Bloombergian reforms written large.

If they're not working here in New York, why would they work across the country?

And if they're not working here in New York, why aren't the people who put them in place and have had nine years to improve the system been held accountable for their failings?

Dunno, but they haven't. It seems the only people to blame in Obama's view, or the view of the editorial writers, are teachers.

But as my friend Michael Fiorillo often says in comments:

Silly reality-based educator...accountability is only for peons, not the politicians who put the failing policies in place.


That is Obama's message today and the message of the Times/Post/News editorial writers every day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oh, The Editorials They Wrote!

It's fun to go back and look at some of the editorials the mayor's shills have written the past few years regarding the Bloomberg/Klein Education Miracle (which of course turned out to be as phony as the Rod Paige Texas Education Miracle was.)

I already noted what the Post and the Daily News wrote in their endorsements of Bloomberg for an illegal third term in this post here.

But I want to put them up separately too because they're so much fun to read now, kinda like the We Must Invade Because Saddam Has WMD editorials from days gone by.

First, the Post from October 23, 2009:

Fact is, Bloomberg has put together a remarkable record.

* On education: Mike Bloomberg will be remembered as the mayor who brought accountability to the system. Supervisors, principals, teachers, students -- all are now expected to show results.

And they have, often spectacularly.

Now the Daily News on October 25, 2009:

New York is far better off for having had Michael Bloomberg as mayor and will be far better off for granting him a third term in City Hall.

By every significant measure - from plummeting crime and rising school achievement to more and better parks and cleaner streets - Bloomberg has led the city decisively in the right direction over the last eight years.


It is the time to call for more of the dynamism that took on the long, hard fight to banish a culture of failure from the nation's largest school system - and has made substantial gains in this most crucial of wars.

Bloomberg pledged to be the education mayor, and skirmishing over his policies has been intense. While dramatically boosting school spending, he overcame opposition to take control, raise standards, boost principals' authority and demand teacher accountability.

The benefits have begun to show - big time.

Fully 82% of the children in third through eighth grades passed this year's math exam, with the success rate for fourth graders rising from 52% in 2002 to 85% in 2009, and for eighth graders from 30% to 71%. Those same kids upped passing rates on reading tests by 20 percentage points. And the high school graduation rate has climbed by 21%.

Only sustained mayoral attention can produce and build on improvements such as those, whether in the schools or in any other area of city endeavor. That inescapable fact weakens rival Bill Thompson's claim to City Hall.

But the improvements were false.

The scores were crap.

It was all smoke and mirrors.

Just like the garbage these editorial writers spew.

And there are some that are quite recent too.

Here's a Daily News editorial from May 21, 2010 that ridicules critics of Bloomberg's vaunted test scores, using the NAEP scores to do it:

Hooey to the chorus that insists New York's public schools are lagging. And hearty congratulations to the kids who racked up stunning scores on the exam that's considered the gold standard in measuring achievement.


This round of scores should chasten the naysaying chorus that has risen into full cry with every jump in performance on state exams: The results aren't real. The tests are dumbed down. Teachers are gaming exams. The numbers are phony. And, just wait until NAEP comes out - that'll tell the real story.

It did.

Ah, yes - but the state test results WEREN'T real. The state tests WERE dumbed down. The state numbers WERE phony.

This year's results SHOW that.

Isn't this fun to go back and use the words of the teacher bashers/Bloomberg shills against them?

How about taking a look at how Bloomberg's campaign used the phony test scores to win an illegal third term for the Little Dictator:

Despite what aides say is a comfortable lead in the polls, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has unleashed a harsh television advertisement that seeks to undercut his rival’s record on public school education, an issue at the core of the mayor’s bid for a third term.

The commercial compares the performance of New York City schools under Mr. Bloomberg and under Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., the Democratic nominee for mayor, who served as president of the now-defunct Board of Education from 1996 to 2001.

It highlights a familiar theme in Mr. Bloomberg’s re-election bid, portraying Mr. Thompson as a vestige of an old, broken system and suggesting that the mayor has capitalized on his political independence to institute positive reforms. (Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign slogan: “Progress, not politics.”)

“When you compare apples to apples,” the ad’s narrator says, “Thompson offers politics as usual. Mike Bloomberg offers progress.”


The ad claims that under the mayor, graduation rates and test scores have improved, while violence in schools is down. It says that under Mr. Thompson’s watch, at the Board of Education, dropout rates increased and schools promoted students to the next grade, “even if they didn’t learn.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign strategists said the ad was a response to weeks of criticism from Mr. Thompson, who has assailed the mayor’s management of the city’s schools.

In 2002, a year after Mr. Thompson stepped down from the Board of Education, Mr. Bloomberg disbanded the body and took control of the schools, saying voters should hold him accountable for the results.

Mr. Bloomberg has pointed to rising test scores and graduation rates since then as proof that mayoral control works — and that he deserves a third term.

Mr. Thompson has called the mayor’s authority a “corporate model” that fails students and parents, cutting them out of the process.

And he has accused the mayor’s office of using inaccurate graduation and dropout rates, turning New York City into “the Enron of public education.”

Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign, said Mr. Thompson “has been very vocal in attacking the mayor’s education record, and we felt the need to respond.”

The Bloomberg campaign responded all right - with lies, distortions, and phony statistics.

If Bloomberg's rationale for a third term was heavily based upon his record as the "Education Mayor" and that record is shown to be full of lies and distortions and phony stats, isn't the rationale for his third term called into question?

I'd have to say yes, dear reader, it certainly is.

Of course Bloomberg would have known that today when he spoke at a press conference at Tweed and said these scores show just how much progress city students have made.

Not kidding, that's what he said.

Even though many more students failed the test this year and even though raw scores from the year before for both the city and state were stagnant.

Still, Bloomberg says this is progress.

Ahh, yes, I am sure that will be the argument we will hear from the same editorial writers at the Post and Daily News who wrote all the jive I quoted above about how wonderful Bloomberg and his education policies are.

When all else fails and you are exposed as lying sack of education deform bullshit, just look directly in the camera and lie, lie, lie.

Hell, it worked for Bush and Cheney all those years.

It's worked for Bloomberg and Klein for three freaking terms.

It'll keep working, right?

NY Post Writes Up Inflated Test Scores Story Without Mentioning Bloomberg

As of 3:03 PM, here is the NY Post story:

City test scores for reading and math released today show student proficiency nose-dived after state education officials made the statewide exams harder.

Only 42 percent of third-through-eighth graders passed this year’s reading exams compared to 69 percent the previous year – a 39 percent decline.

In math, the decline in students passing was even greater with just 54 percent of students passing this year’s test compared to last year, a 51 percent drop.

The dramatic decline comes after the state Board of Regents last week opted to overhaul the way the state defines academic proficiency for public-school students. This was in response to a disturbing study that found even though more students are passing state exams than in years past, many are still unprepared for high school and college.

The decision to revise the testing system has all but erased significant gains in scores made by city students in the past few years.

"We are doing a disservice when we say a child is proficient when a child is not," said state Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

Statewide, 53 percent of students passed in reading and 61 percent in math. By contrast, in 2009, 77 passed the reading tests and 86 percent did so in math.

Notice what's not in that story?

Any mention of Klein or Bloomberg.

It's as if the inflated scores just HAPPENED.

Nobody inflated them.

Nobody took credit for them.

Nobody used them as a pivotal part of their election campaigns.

Nobody extolled those scores in editorials calling for an illegal third term for Mayor Moneybags.

Nope, those scores just occurred naturally, like morning dew on grass.

And notice what else isn't in the story?

They don't mention how the charter school scores plummeted too.

You can bet they would mention how much better charters are if those scores had been better.

But they're not.

They were shit too.

It's amazing how traditional public schools and unionized teachers take all the blame when things are bad, Bloomberg and Klein and charters take all the credit when things are good.

That's the reality of the NY Post (and often the Daily News and Times too.)

Unfortunately that is also the reality of Barack Obama.

Now That The State Calls Bullshit On The Scoring, NY City Test Scores Plummet

Spill, baby, spill:

City tests scores released Wednesday plummeted after officials made the year's statewide exams more difficult.

On the math exams, only 54% of third- through eighth-graders passed, compared with 82% the year before, a shocking decline of 28 percentage points.

Reading scores also dropped a whopping 27 percentage points, from 69 % during the 2008-2009 school year to only 42 %.

The disturbing decline comes in the wake of a study commissioned by the state and released last week that found the high-stakes exams had become easier to pass over the last four years.

The state significantly raised the bar in response, essentially erasing recent gains made by city kids.


The nose dive brings tests scores even lower than they were four years ago, when the state revamped the exams. In 2006, 51% of city students passed the reading exam and 57% passed math.

The study performed by a team led by Harvard professor Daniel Koretz found that the tests became easier to pass, easier to predict and tested a narrow set of skills, suggesting that skyrocketing scores did not mean students were learning more.

This year, the state raised the passing score, made it less predictable and added more material. Next year, the exams will get even tougher.

City students' declines was matched by other big cities in the state.

Charter schools statewide also saw massive declines, dropping to 60% passing math from 89% last year and 43% passing English, down from 76% in 2009.

I can hear the spin from Klein and Bloomberg already.

These scores are the fault of teachers.

More teachers need to be fired.

More schools need to be closed.

Seniority protections need to be eradicated.

Tenure is what caused this.

And of course the op-ed people at the Post, Daily News, and Times will go along with Kleinberg.

So will the wankers at the Washington/Kaplan Test Prep Post and Newsweek.

Fire more teachers. Close more schools. More Gates Foundation reforms are needed.

Never mind that it is clear the Gates/Bloomberg reforms have NOT worked.

Not even by the measurement the Gates/Bloomberg people set up to evaluate the schools.

The test scores are shit.

Children CANNOT read at grade level; they CANNOT add, subtract, or divide.

And that's AFTER closing two hundred schools and putting even more on the city and state list (via RttT) for closure.

At what point will the newspaper people look at the mess created by Bloomberg and Klein and say, "Oh, we were wrong. The reforms have NOT worked. Bloomberg and Klein do NOT know what the fuck they are doing with the school system. And since the Obama/Duncan plan is the Bloomberg/Klein plan on steroids, the RttT/Obama NCLB Jr. plan will NOT work either"?

I know, I know - silly reality-based educator.

Why blame the people who run the school system and made all the policy changes (how many curriculum changes and DOE re-organizations have we had since Kleinberg ate the school system whole?) when you can blame teachers who have been forced to carry out the boss's orders instead.

Well, at least we now have definitive proof that the Gates/Bloomberg reforms are horseshit.

Now the fight becomes getting the right people blamed for this mess.

Hint to Jonathan Alter, Bob Herbert, Nicholas Kristof, Evan Thomas, David Brooks, Michael Goodwin, Jay Matthews, Richard Cohen, et al.

It ain't the teachers' fault.

You can fire as many as you want.

You can cheer the firings in Washington D.C.

When the people running things do NOT know what the fuck they are doing (or worse, don't really care), the system will get worse, not better.

Here in NYC, the scores have gone down over the last four years.

Shame that info couldn't have been released BEFORE the Education Mayor coronated himself with a third illegal term.

Oh, and btw ed deformers, the charter school scoring PLUMMETED too.

So much for the charter school panacea, eh?

UPDATE: The Times article on the test score inflation does aim some ammo at Bloomberg and even Obama:

New York State education officials, admitting that the state’s annual tests were not properly measuring student proficiency, released results Wednesday showing that more than half of New York City students were failing to meet state standards in reading, at a time when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg boasted that more that more than two-thirds of city’s students were reading at grade level.


New York City officials said that if the passing rates since 2006 were adjusted to match the new scoring standards, the city had shown substantial progress over all. But that explanation is likely to offer little consolation to teachers and parents who must now face the reality that just more than half of city students in the third through eighth grades are proficient in math, not four out of every five, as they were led to believe last year.

The numbers suggest that thousands more city students should have been held back or required to attend summer school last year. The Bloomberg administration requires every student who scores a Level 1, the lowest possible level on the state exam, to attend summer school and later pass the test or repeat the grade the following year.

But perhaps even more significant is that the state’s readjustment of the scores exposes the score inflation and could raise new questions about the imprecision of educational testing, even as policy makers across the country, including President Obama, are relying on such measurements to determine teacher pay and whether or not a school should be shut down. In New York City, the scores on the state tests have been used to assign A through F grades to each school, as well as thousands of dollars in principal and teacher bonuses.

Wanna take back the bonus money paid for the bullshit scores?

Fair enough.

But you gotta take back the illegal third Bloomberg term partially based on the Bloomberg/Klein Education Miracle.

Remember the op-ed endorsements back in '09:

Here's part of the Post endorsement:

Fact is, Bloomberg has put together a remarkable record.

* On education: Mike Bloomberg will be remembered as the mayor who brought accountability to the system. Supervisors, principals, teachers, students -- all are now expected to show results.

And they have, often spectacularly.

Uh, except that the results were inflated horseshit.

And the Daily News:

New York is far better off for having had Michael Bloomberg as mayor and will be far better off for granting him a third term in City Hall.

By every significant measure - from plummeting crime and rising school achievement to more and better parks and cleaner streets - Bloomberg has led the city decisively in the right direction over the last eight years.


It is the time to call for more of the dynamism that took on the long, hard fight to banish a culture of failure from the nation's largest school system - and has made substantial gains in this most crucial of wars.

Bloomberg pledged to be the education mayor, and skirmishing over his policies has been intense. While dramatically boosting school spending, he overcame opposition to take control, raise standards, boost principals' authority and demand teacher accountability.

The benefits have begun to show - big time.

Fully 82% of the children in third through eighth grades passed this year's math exam, with the success rate for fourth graders rising from 52% in 2002 to 85% in 2009, and for eighth graders from 30% to 71%. Those same kids upped passing rates on reading tests by 20 percentage points. And the high school graduation rate has climbed by 21%.

Only sustained mayoral attention can produce and build on improvements such as those, whether in the schools or in any other area of city endeavor. That inescapable fact weakens rival Bill Thompson's claim to City Hall.

Uh, except that the results were inflated horseshit.

Given the mayor's boasting about these scores for the past four years, knowing at best they were inflated and at worst were total horseshit, we must question his honesty about other stats too.

Is crime REALLY down or is that a statistical miracle aided by Klein-matic too?

How about fire fatalities?

What else does the mayor lie about?

I know that the mayor and the chancellor will say these scores show why they must be able to fire teachers at will just like Michelle Rhee can in D.C.

But that's not what these test scores show.

What they show is why Bloomberg and Klein should BOTH be fired and the assholes who own the Post/News/Times and shill for Bloomberg and Klein ought to hear the words SHUT UP every time they have their minions write another editorial bashing teachers and extolling Bloomberg and Klein school system prowess.

Oh, and the scores also show why the Obama education reforms have disaster written all over them and will take the NYC education "miracle' and spread it nationwide.

Like swine flu.

Or BP oil.

Fighting Obama/Duncan Is The Civil Rights Issue Of Our Time

Fred Klonsky has got this EXACTLY right:

One of the stock phrases that Arne Duncan uses in his speeches is the that “there is not a day that he doesn’t think about Martin Luther King.”

Duncan will say that his agenda of competitive school funding, school closings, charter schools, the undermining of teacher union contracts and the punitive use of standardized test results (it is becoming harder and harder to come up with a single term to describe his expansive plans for destroying public education) is the “civil rights movement of today”

According to the Civil Rights Movement and organizations of today, apparently not.

In fact, you could say that stopping the Duncan/Obama education agenda is the civil rights movement of today.

Ironic that the MLK, who was in Memphis to support the right of workers to strike, has been co-opted by corporate whores like Duncan, Klein, et al. to corporatize public education, bust teachers unions and socialize children to expect to work longer and harder to make subsistence wages.

Ironic too that the education reformers who claim to be so concerned about civil rights have created a two-tiered, segregated system just like the one MLK and other civil rights leaders of the 50's/60's fought to integrate.

Lastly, ironic that the first black man elected president of the United States is so frightened by criticism of white bigots that he would rather fire a government worker wrongly accused of racism against whites than actually investigate the charges and back her up when it becomes clear they are false.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bloomberg Refuses To Honor 9/11 Hero

Wow. Just wow:

Mayor Bloomberg said the city won't back down from its refusal to put a retired fire captain's name on a memorial to firefighters who died on 9/11.

A judge had ordered the city to include Capt. James Corrigan's name on the kust of the fallen at the Ground Zero memorial that is under construction.

But Tuesday, Bloomberg said no.

"We'll fight this in court," he said. "The fire department has a reasonable decision they made a long time ago. You had to have been an on-duty fireman, an active firefighter or officer to be included."

"If you want to delay the memorial for a couple of years, you start opening it up and revisit everybody. You're never going to make everybody happy ...I just dread the thought if we've got to reopen every single issue down with the 9/11 memorial.

It'll never get done."

Corrigan, 60, retired from the FDNY in 1994 and was working as a life safety coordinator for the World Trade Center when the planes hit. He died in the south tower, aiding fellow firefighters in the evacuation.

The city says Corrigan's name doesn't belong among active duty firefighters because he was retired.

Corrigan's widow, Marie, sued to get her late husband's name listed on a wall of firefighting heroes planned by the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum.

She had told The News she hoped the issue was resolved.

"I wish it had never come to this, but I hope this is the end," she said. "This is such a no-brainer. It just shouldn't have happened."

According to this account in the NY Daily News
, Corrigan was working side-by-side firefighters to save people when the south tower collapsed and killed him.

The FDNY has already treated him as one of the 9/11 fallen by giving his family death benefits reserved for firefighters killed in the line of duty and by reading his name aloud at a 2002 memorial service.

Yet they decided his name will not go on the Ground Zero memorial and Moneybags, ever the sensitive, caring, understanding individual that he is, has decided the FDNY is right.

And he's going to spend tens of thousands (and perhaps hundreds of thousands) of taxpayer money to make sure Corrigan's name does NOT appear on the memorial.


Simply amazing.

This is what happens when you give a little DICKtator with billions of dollars unbridled power.

Court orders? Fuck the court - I am Moneybags, owner of New York City. I DO WHATEVER I WANT!

The next time the fire department has to respond to something involving Moneybags, the individual firefighters might want to remember how he has treated James Corrigan and Corrigan's family before they rush over to put out the fire or administer CPR.

How Come Bloomberg Doesn't Have To Take Back His Education Claims?

Now that the state has revealed standardized test scores have been "phony" and critics are demanding that merit pay handed out to teachers and administrators for those "phony" results be returned, I am wondering why it is that Mayor Bloomberg's claims about being the Education Mayor who has vastly improved the public school system aren't being criticized.

After all, aren't those grandiose claims also based on "phony" scores?

Or am I being silly here? Perhaps I should know already that journalists give all the blame to schools, teachers and principals, all the acclaim to the mayor and the chancellor.

When something is "good" in the system, it's because Klein and Bloomberg are doing a good job.

When something is "bad" in the system, it is because teachers are "bad" and need to be fired, as the NY Post and the NY Daily News both put it yesterday.

Perhaps that's why critics are demanding the merit pay based on the phony scores be returned but aren't demanding Bloomberg take back all his horseshit claims about improving the school system.

Obama, Duncan To Defend RttT

Get ready for a week of ed deform jive:

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will deliver major speeches this week on their $4.35 billion Race to the Top school reform program, pushing back against complaints that it promotes unproven methods and ignores long-standing inequities in public education.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Duncan is expected to name a list of state finalists for the controversial grant program’s second round of funding and to explain why Race to the Top — the crown jewel of the administration’s education agenda — must continue. And on Thursday, Obama will talk about education at the annual gathering of the National Urban League, one of seven civil rights organizations that blasted Race to the Top in a report made public Monday.

The highly competitive initiatives “distribute resources by competition in the midst of a severe recession,” effectively reducing standard, formula-based federal education funding, according to the report. “Such an approach reinstates the antiquated and highly politicized frame for distributing federal support to states that civil rights organizations fought to remove in 1965.”

According to his prepared remarks, Duncan will argue that highly competitive grants such as Race to the Top have demonstrated that, in difficult budget times, nothing produces change as quickly as the opportunity to get more federal funding.

“Let’s not get sidetracked in a false choice between competitive and formula funding — because we need both,” Duncan will say, addressing criticism that Race to the Top comes at the expense of federal allocations for schools. “Even with increases in competitive funds under our proposed 2011 budget, 80 percent of our K-12 programs are formula programs. We want to recognize and reward high-achieving and high-growth schools — offering them carrots and incentives that we know drive reform and progress.”

As I have noted again and again, neither Duncan nor Obama are interested in hearing varying viewpoints on education policy.

They think the solutions entail more testing, teacher pay and evaluations tied to testing, firing teachers and principals, closing schools, and promoting charters.

That's all they want to hear. If you have an alternative view, as Diane Ravitch has or the members of the civil rights groups who released a critical report on RttT and the Obama ed policies yesterday have, they don't want to hear it.

They are feeling political pressure these days, so both Obama and Duncan will be more political about this stuff than they have in the past.

43% approval ratings will do that to a president.

But they still don't give a shit what anybody else thinks. The only answers they want to hear about education are more testing, teacher pay and evaluations tied to testing, firing teachers and principals, closing schools, and promoting charters.

That's what we're getting with RttT and that's what we will get when they do Obama's No Child Left Behind Jr. re-authorization after the November midterms.

Remember when Obama said he would take the punitive parts of NCLB out of education policy.

What a joke - he has quintupled them and is destroying public education in the process.

Monday, July 26, 2010

War In Afghanistan - Obama Assassination Squad Edition

President Obama has doubled down on the war in Afghanistan, saying in December of 2009 that

"Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards," the president said. "There is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe-havens along the border....In short: the status quo is not sustainable."

(SIDENOTE: If you substitute "public schools" for Afghanistan and "teachers unions" for "Taliban" and "Al Qaeda", the ed deform rhetoric he uses is interchangeable boilerplate from the war rhetoric.)

Obama hasn't been as unrealistic in his public assessments of the conditions in Afghanistan as Bush was in his public assessments of the war in Iraq, but we learned last night from leaked documents published in the NY Times, the Guardian, and Der Speigal that both the Bush and the Obama administrations have been involved in some major deceptions about the war.

To wit:

A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.

The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.

The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.


The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

Over all, the documents do not contradict official accounts of the war. But in some cases the documents show that the American military made misleading public statements — attributing the downing of a helicopter to conventional weapons instead of heat-seeking missiles or giving Afghans credit for missions carried out by Special Operations commandos.

Wow - there's some change we can believe in here in these documents.

Obama has stepped up assassination squads that target insurgent leaders but, oops, sometimes kill the wrong (i.e., innocent) people.

Oh, well, it's all for the good.

What's a couple of hundreds innocent murders a week when we're talking about being all big and manly and strutting and showing how tough we are in the conduct of this war.

Except that of course none of this shit is working.

None of it.

And we will leave this country just the way the Russians left it before - with billions spent, hundreds of thousands of innocents dead, thousands of soldiers injured, maimed or dead, and the place still a mess.

I hate to keep coming back to the Obama education policy, but the comparison is apt.

President Accountability hits on a strategy and will brook no dissent from his viewpoint.

He's like that with education.

Only firing teachers, firing principals, closing schools and reopening them as for-profit charters will fix the ills of the system.

To adapt an LBJ/Nixon era saying to the current situation, we must destroy the public education system in order to save it.

And Obama has the same stubborn strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

He thinks the war is winnable, so it's winnable.

Who cares how long it takes or what it costs or how many people die...

But it's clear from these documents - and the group that leaked them, WikiLeaks, says more are coming soon - that the war is NOT going well, that to WIN this war (whatever win means) will take another ten years and lots more cash and lives.

And to what end? The Taliban and Al Qaeda operate with impunity in Pakistan, so if Obama is doing this because he's going after Bin Laden ("Dead or Alive," Barack?) or he thinks he can permanently diminish the power of the Taliban, try moving the fucking war to Pakistan.

Nope, I don't think he's got such rational reasons for the way he has doubled down on the war with very Bush-like actions (i.e., assassination squads, lying about the actions of "our Afghanis," etc.)

No, I think this war comes down to another example of the BIGGER DICK FOREIGN POLICY in action, as elucidated by George Carlin:

That video of Carlin is old, but it remains as important and accurate an assessment of Obama's foreign policy today as it was of Daddy Bush's conduct of the Persian Gulf war in the 90's, Clinton's various little wars, and Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Change we can believe in?

Nope - just more lying bullshit from an asshole president/war criminal who conducts assassination squads in secret, covers up the real state of the war (and the war crimes the U.S. is engaging in to "win" it) and pursues an unwinnable war for his own egomaniacal ends.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obama To Tout 50% Cut In Wages For Auto Workers

This is the future for all of us (except for the banksters, hedge fundies and other corporate criminals/financial predators who move paper around on Wall Street trading desks, of course):

DETROIT -- Among workers building the Jeep Grand Cherokee here, there are few obvious distinctions. Clutching lunch sacks and mini-coolers, they trudge together through the turnstiles at the plant's main gate each day to tinker with the same vehicles, along the same assembly line, performing the same tasks.

Yet they fall into distinctly unequal classes: About half make $28 an hour or more, while the rest, the recently hired, make $14.

This oddity, which could become the norm in much of the domestic U.S. auto industry, arises from the jury-rigged labor agreement that the United Auto Workers, U.S. automakers and the federal government reached during the industry's near-death experience last year.

Now the revival of the U.S. industry depends on a compromise that some on all sides quietly acknowledge is divisive, among other things, and probably cannot last.

"How would you feel if you were on the line humpin' and bumpin' all day and the guy next to you gets twice the pay? How would you feel toward that person?" asked Dale Hunt, a veteran tradesman at the plant and former president of the union local. "Of course there is going to be animosity."

What factory workers should earn became a central part of Washington's prolonged debate over the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, pitting the advocates of the free market against those for a "fair wage." Although cutting labor costs was viewed by many as essential to the companies' recovery, the issue was never fully resolved.

Under pressure from the federal government and the companies to reduce compensation, the United Auto Workers refused to lower the wage rate for its then-current members. But it allowed all new hires to be paid the reduced rate, along with lesser health and retirement benefits.

At this Chrysler plant in a blighted section of Detroit -- which President Obama is scheduled to visit this week-- the company is handling demand for its Jeep Grand Cherokee by hiring its largest single contingent of "second-tier" workers, the first time such hiring has unfolded in the industry on this scale. Other companies said they will make similar workforce expansions, and two-tier factories are expected to become more common as they do.

After an eight-hour shift attaching oxygen sensors, Jay Johnson, a new hire and a 33-year-old father of three, winced when asked about the pay gap.

"It's all mental," he said after a long pause. "If you think about how much the other guys are making, well, it's not going to work for you. I don't think the $28 an hour will ever come back. But growing up around here, I just know I'm blessed to have a job."

And that is EXACTLY the message Obama and his corporate owners want you thinking about over and over as you watch your wages get cut, as you watch people around you get fired or laid off or downsized, as you watch the unemployment rate hover between 9%-10% for the next few years and worry about what you'll do if you lose your job.

The message Obama and the corporate owners of this country are sending to you is: Sure, all this sucks, but buck up - at least you have a job.

For now.

Obama - at the behest of the Big Money interests who paid for his election and OWN him - has built a bridge back to the 19th century.

If you are lucky to have a job, you will be working longer and harder to take home much less money.

You will lose you employer-provided health care and be forced to buy shittier health care as part of Obama's new mandated health care "reform" law.

Banks and the financial industry will get government bailouts with your tax money that enables them to continue to use Wall Street as one big rigged casino while they and the companies they lend to will continue to outsource jobs to cheaper places abroad and lay off people here at home.

If you're a teacher, you will be treated like a McDonald's employee at the frialator - keep churning out those fries during the rush or they'll find some other minimum wage McEmployee/McTeacher to replace you.

And with 9%-10% unemployment the new norm (and Obama says ain't that grand!), there will be plenty to replace you - literally a thousand people for every job opening.


At least when Bush was running things, I had this hope that Dems would take power and change things. Maybe even put in place some policies to help working and middle class folks.

Obama HAS NOT done this.

He talks jive, sucks up to the left wing and netroots when he needs them (i.e., right around election time), then privatizes the school system, doubles down on the Afghan war, mandates 31 million new customers for the health insurance industry, charges employees with employer-provided health insurance a 40% excise tax so that they'll lose their health care and be forced to buy their own insurance from the reform plans, and bails out banks for billions while he cuts auto worker pay in half and encourages the firing of thousands of teachers all across this nation.


From the comments at this blog and other select blogs around the net, I can see many of you are too.

I wrote Tom DeFrank of the Daily News this morning to let him know the next time he writes a "Why Is Obama Tanking In The Polls?" story for the Daily News that he needs to realize there are a whole bunch of working and middle class folks who feel completely DISENFRANCHISED and EXPLOITED by the political parties and the corporate crooks and hedge fundies that own them.

They especially feel "betrayed" by President Hopey/Changey (as one commenter put it in another post.)

I have no answers for these problems, unfortunately, but I do know that I will not be fooled again by Dems.

My message to Dems is this: Either start supporting working and middle class people with policy that saves their jobs, increases their compensation, and protects their retirement or you lose my vote and lots of others.

POSTSCRIPT: Just in case I didn't provide enough evidence from the article to show the role Obama played in cutting the auto workers' wages by 50%, here is a little more:

Once one of the nation's most powerful unions, the United Auto Workers is credited by historians with lifting working conditions for all Americans and clearing a path for factory workers into the middle class. Union officials talk about "a fair wage," echoing ideals of justice and morality.

But in negotiations before and during the bailout debate, the auto manufacturers, seconded by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), emphasized the virtues of market forces, and a wage that would allow the U.S. companies to remain competitive with foreign rivals, particularly those building "transplant" factories in the United States.

Those transplant factories pay as much as $25 an hour, with bonuses but more limited retirement and health benefits.

Before pumping billions into GM and Chrysler, the Bush and Obama administrations leaned decisively toward the market view on wages.

During negotiations with Chrysler, the Obama administration called for "maintaining all-in hourly labor costs comparable to its U.S. competitors, including the transplants," according to an April memo describing the Treasury proposal.

The administration proposal also called for all new production employees to be paid the $14 rate, expanding a 2007 labor agreement that set up the lower rate, though only for some "non-core" jobs. In doing so, the administration went well beyond the pay cuts the automakers had envisioned, sources said.

"From the manufacturer's perspective, the line workers were always going to be getting $28 an hour," said a source familiar with the negotiations and the auto manufacturers' thinking. The person, who lacked authorization to discuss the issue, declined to be named. "Those jobs are difficult. But there are other jobs in the plant, and those are not nearly as stressful. Those were going to be the $14."

"The government didn't say $28 an hour was overpaying people," the source said. "But they saw the $14 rate as a way to lower overall labor costs to be competitive."

Obama's change we can believe - longer hours, 50% cuts in pay, 9% unemployment in perpetuity, and shittier (though more expensive) health care.