Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Teachers, Now Federal Workers

Obama picks his enemies list pretty carefully.

Republicans and wingnuts he runs from (just ask Shirley Sherrod how the Obama administration treated her.)

But teachers and government workers - traditionally staunch allies of Democrats - those people Obama likes to go after.

Teachers have already noticed.

How could they not after Central Falls, Rhode Island and Race to the Top?

And more is coming once the NCLB re-authorization gets under way.

Yesterday, Obama served notice to federal workers that he is going to throw them under the boss in order to triangulate for his 2012 re-election campaign too.

The Daily News reports federal workers got the notice:

Irate federal workers in New York had a few choice words for President Obama's decision Monday to freeze their wages for the next two years.

"That's why Obama's ratings are below [ex-President George W.] Bush's, and that's hard to be unless you're Osama Bin Laden," said Rosemarie Clemmens of Manhattan.

Clemmens, who works for the Social Security Administration, said she voted for Obama but won't again. "I can't wait until I retire," the life-long government worker added.

Even the Secret Service and FBI, among other federal law enforcement agencies, are taking a hit thanks to Obama's decree.

"Federal law enforcement officers have been sacrificing for our country since the attacks on 9/11, and now we're being asked to bear the brunt of a failing economy," said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

"This is disheartening, but it won't dilute our honor for serving our country," he said, adding that a pay freeze should be a last resort, not the first.

Signaling a distinct shift toward austerity, Obama announced a two-year pay freeze for federal workers, saving up to $5 billion in two years, and $28 billion in five.

"The hard truth is getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government," Obama said.
Not everybody is being asked to share in the sacrifice.

The hedge fund managers, the Wall Street CEO's and traders, and the banksters aren't being asked to sacrifice at all.

Corporate America just enjoyed its most profitable quarter ever.

But teachers, cops, fire personnel, and government workers are being laid off or having their salaries frozen, their benefits cut and their pensions slashed - all so that the boys on Wall Street can continue to make more money than God.

Again, until the hedge fund criminals, the banskters, the Wall Street CEO's and traders who STEAL for a living are put into jail rather than given government bailouts and assurances of lower taxes, none of this is going to change.

Obama brought change all right - the kind of change Bush used to bring.


Been having problems with my Internets all evening, brought to me by the fine folks at Comcast - voted the Worst Company in America in 2010.

Congratulations, Comcast - you suck!!!

And believe me, I know from sucking cable companies - I've had accounts with Cablevision and Time Warner too.

UPDATE: Politico has an article tonight about how other people - some really powerful people in Washington - also think Comcast sucks.

Cathie Black Waiver Lawsuits

NYSED commissioner David "Loves The Classics" Steiner granted a waiver to Cathie Black to be NYC schools chancellor with the stipulation that her deputy, the chief academic officer, would have some independent power.

Yesterday, Bloomberg said the chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, will not have any power independent of Black.

Today Bloomberg and Black went a-visiting to a school without any sign of the chief academic officer, Polakow-Suransky.

So here's a question:

Does Bloomberg open himself and Black up to a lawsuit that alleges he has reneged on the deal to grant the cheif academic officer some independent power and therefore the waiver for Black should be retracted?


The banksters have already gotten bailouts in the United States, Greece and Ireland. It must be Christmas season, because there are more bailouts to come:

LONDON (MarketWatch) — The euro zone’s sovereign-debt crisis intensified Tuesday, with yields on Spanish, Italian and other peripheral government bonds soaring in the wake of a weekend meeting of European Union finance ministers that failed to soothe fears of the potential for future defaults.

The yield on 10-year Spanish government bonds jumped to around 5.63%, strategists said, a day after surging to 5.43%.

The move sent the yield premium demanded by investors to hold 10-year Spanish debt over comparable German bunds to more than three full percentage points.

Bond yields move in the opposite direction of bond prices.

“Ireland’s bailout did nothing to ease the euro-zone debt crisis: it might have even made it worse,” said Steven Barrow, currency and fixed-income strategist at Standard Bank. “For now the market sees a pattern emerging and the next piece of the bailout puzzle seems to be Portugal, with Spain to follow after that.”

How exciting! More free money for banskters, more pain for the populace.

Until we take the banskters and the hedge fund criminals and the others who continue to steal the money and pass along the pain into jail, this stuff will not stop.

Use Of Wiretaps In Insider Trading Investigation Of Hedge Funds Widens

This could get really, really good:

WASHINGTON — Secret, court-approved wiretaps put in place more than two years ago are now being used by prosecutors in a widening inquiry of securities fraud and insider trading involving hedge funds and consultants that provide industry research, according to court documents and interviews with people close to the investigations.

The wiretaps were originally part of an insider trading investigation of the New York hedge fund Galleon Group. Those wiretaps, which involved the phones of at least seven individuals, potentially provided prosecutors with a vast array of new evidence for use in the latest investigations. Only four of the seven wiretap targets have been identified in court papers that have been made public so far in the Galleon case.

The expanded use of the secret wiretaps in the new inquiries was revealed last week by the United States attorney in Manhattan when the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Don Ching Trang Chu, a consultant at Primary Global Research, on securities fraud and conspiracy charges.

Expert networking firms, like Primary Global, which seek to link corporate executives or industry insiders with investment managers, have grown rapidly in recent years as securities regulators have cracked down on the ways that company managers can tell Wall Street stock analysts about corporate developments.

The case involving Mr. Chu relied on information gathered in one of the seven wiretaps set up in the Galleon investigation, according to court documents. The Galleon case, which began after insider-trading charges were filed against its founder, Raj Rajaratnam, in October 2009, was the first insider trading case to rely on wiretaps. It has so far resulted in criminal charges against 23 people and more than a dozen guilty pleas.

A federal judge allowed the use of the wiretapped conversations in the Galleon prosecutions last week. As a result, the secret wiretaps are likely to be used to bring more cases related to the expert-network firms, say people close to the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was still unfolding. The trove of wiretap recordings include conversations involving at least 550 people.

Those wiretaps are in addition to recordings made by several targets of the Galleon insider trading investigations who agreed to cooperate with law enforcement by wearing recording devices after prosecutors confronted them with allegations of their participation in the insider trading schemes.

In the new investigation, three hedge funds were raided by the F.B.I. last week and several other money management companies received subpoenas or requests for information. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said last week that the investigation was continuing.

These hedge fund guys think they're untouchable - the new Al Capones.

It will be fantastic to see some of them go to jail for their crimes.

And if one or two of these wiretap investigations puts an ed deformer or two behind bars, so much the better.

Better look out, Geoffrey!

You're guy might be going down with those wiretaps.

Gates And Ravitch

Valerie Strauss has Diane Ravitch respond to an attack Bill Gates launched against her in a Newsweek column by Jonathan "Not To Torture Is So Pre-9/11" Alter.

Read the whole thing.

Here is a part where she responds to Gates' demonizing of teachers:

If we follow Bill Gates' demand to judge teachers by test scores, we will see stagnation, and he will blame it on teachers. We will see stagnation because a relentless focus on test scores in reading and math will inevitably narrow the curriculum only to what is tested. This is not good education.

"Last week, he said in a speech that teachers should not be paid more for experience and graduate degrees. I wonder why a man of his vast wealth spends so much time trying to figuring out how to cut teachers' pay. Does he truly believe that our nation's schools will get better if we have teachers with less education and less experience? Who does he listen to? He needs to get himself a smarter set of advisers.

"Of course, we need to make teaching a profession that attracts and retains wonderful teachers, but the current anti-teacher rhetoric emanating from him and his confreres demonizes and demoralizes even the best teachers. I have gotten letters from many teachers who tell me that they have had it, they have never felt such disrespect; and I have also met young people who tell me that the current poisonous atmosphere has persuaded them not to become teachers. Why doesn't he make speeches thanking the people who work so hard day after day, educating our nation's children, often in difficult working conditions, most of whom earn less than he pays his secretaries at Microsoft?"

I just had a discussion with another ELA teacher about the upcoming Regents exam.

We think that they are going to do to the ELA Regents exam scores what they did to the 4th-8th grade scores last year.

They have already said they're going to recalibrate them.

That means the rampant inflation of scores the state has seen the past few years is going to disappear.

Which means the scores will drop - a lot.

When the scores plummet, guess who they'll blame for the drop?

Uh, huh - teachers.

And of course as Accountable Talk has pointed out, you'll notice that they're doing all this recalibration of inflated test scores AFTER they have changed teacher evaluations and tied them to test scores.

No mistake there.

It's the fault of the teachers.

Let's fire those "bad teachers," especially the expensive vets, and replace them with those "great teachers," the cheap newbies.

And in a few years, when the newbies make a little more money, we'll call them "bad teachers" and fire them too.

And soon, if Gates and Klein and Bloomberg and other ed deformers get their way, most K-12 education will be done online anyway so it won't matter.

And that's really when you should fear for the future of the Republic.

A handful of billionaire oligarchs making all the policy calls - what do they call that again?

Is it democracy?

No, wait, it's on the tip of my tongue...oh, yeah - an oligarchy.

Or Bloombergville.

Whichever you want to call it, it's the same thing.

WikiLeaks To Expose U.S. Banks Next

This I like:

After spilling information on everything from the love life of a dictator to top state secrets, WikiLeaks has a new target: a major U.S. financial firm.

In an interview with Forbes published on Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the site would release tens of thousands of documents in early 2011 that he claimed would be comparable to the Enron trial.

"It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume," he promised.

Assange confirmed to Forbes that the upcoming leaks were about a U.S.-based financial institution, but refused to give any more detail about which bank it was.

While WikiLeaks made its name on publishing secret military and government documents, Assange says he has a huge amount of documents revealing private sector secrets too – in fact, he told Forbes, 50 percent of "whistleblower" submissions he has received are non-governmental documents.

The WikiLeaks founder warns that the next batch of documents he'll release will reveal flagrant violations, unethical practices and internal executive decision making structures.

"You could call it the ecosystem of corruption," he told Forbes.

In the near future, Assange said Wikileaks may be focusing its efforts on exposing secrets about finance and the private sector, including banks across the world and other major companies.

"We have a lot of finance related things," he said. "Of the commercial sectors we've covered, finance is the most significant."

Assange justified the future havoc he will wreak with his philosophy that leaking the information will mean good business for people who embrace ethical business practices and treat their employees well. After all, according to him, happy employees don't leak documents that will hurt their employer.

"Let's say you want to run a good company," he said. "It's nice to have an ethical workplace. Your employees are much less likely to screw you over if they're not screwing other people over."

No wonder the government wants to put him in jail and Peter King says WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization.

They're scared witless by this stuff.

Obama Triangulates Against Unions

After the way the midterms went, there is little surprise to this:

President Barack Obama’s embrace of the politically symbolic two-year freeze on federal government salaries aligns him with House Republican leaders and against unions, public workers and some leaders in his own party.

A winner of incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's YouCut online spending-cut poll in May, the proposal would require the House and Senate, at the last minute, to include the freeze in any long-term federal spending bill dealing with the slate of unfinished fiscal 2011 appropriations laws.

The president's adoption of a GOP proposal that goes straight to the ideological divide between the parties — the size, scope and value of government — could be an early sign of White House efforts to move toward the political center in advance of the 2012 election.

It infuriated union leaders, some rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers and even a handful of Republicans — few of whom saw it coming — and thus put the president squarely to the political right of liberals and other labor allies. The word "triangulation" — a reference to President Bill Clinton's practice of calibrating positions to distance him from both the political and left and the political right — floated through the corridors of Congress on Monday.

Listen, this guy despises union members and rank-and-file Dems.

Time and again - from the way the UAW got treated during the GM bailout to the way the Central Falls, Rhode Island teachers got treated as part of Obama's RttT policy to the way he has gone about the politics of this wage freeze announcement - it is quite clear that Obama thinks his future lies in selling out union members, rank-and-file Dems and other liberal constituencies.

I think we will see MUCH more of this in the coming months. I think we will hear MUCH more of this in the State of the Union in January.

And I think this bodes ill for the NCLB re-authorization after January.

You can bet teachers and union members will be sold down the river by Obama.

He seems to enjoy doing it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shael Polakow-Suransky Loves His Data

No surprise, but this guy is a data fetishist who relishes holding people "accountable."

If there's a takeaway here, it's that Polakow-Suransky is less a loyal Joel Klein flunky, as some critics have charged, than a thoughtful educator who has always been stirring up the same Kool-Aid as Klein and Bloomberg in terms of increased testing being the best way to ensure quality education. GothamSchools says that he's interested less in data itself than in how it can be used to change instruction; other education bloggers are less convinced.

The problem with the data fetishists - even ones like my man Shael here who claim they only want to use it to find the best way to ensure quality education - is that they privilege the data so much that any education decisions, lesson planning or curriculum decision that get made without data becomes naturally suspect.

The data becomes a means and an end.

Listen, I have no problem using a little data from ARIS or some other source to inform instruction or change some unit goals when I see from the data that things are going differently than expected.

But more often than not, I know this stuff already without the freaking data, and all the time I have to spend poring over that stuff takes time away from the actual lesson planning, grading, and other things I do as a teacher that make a good teacher.

Sometimes I leave these ARIS meetings after we've looked at three classes of results on the latest DOE multiple choice extravaganza wanting to tear my hair out.

I have said this before, I will say it again:

Teaching is more than data collection, collation and analysis.

Teaching is a craft, part performance, part inspirational, part educational.

There is soul to it.

The more data collection, collation and analysis I have to do, the less time, energy and spirit I have for the performance, the inspiration and the actual education.

I bet a man like Polakow-Suransky, seemingly more comfortable with numbers and stats than human beings, isn't going to understand that part of teaching.

But neither did Bloomberg or Klein, despite all the jive they talked over the years about "great teachers."

If they really wanted to ensure a quality education, they could start by fixing the hole in my classroom ceiling that has been spewing dust for over a year, they could get me a new set of August Wilson plays (Two Trains Running, please), they could fix the school heaters so they have a temperature gauge somewhere between 32 and 105, and they would lower my class size below 34.

But they're not interested in that stuff.

They're interested in "shocking the system," bashing teachers, busting the union, ending seniority rules so they can save a bunch of money on salary and pensions, and turning the system into one big KIPP/TFA thing where their education management organization and test prep companies can make bundles of yummy yummy education dollars.

Scary thing is, they're well on their way to hitting all their "benchmarks."

And Polakow-Suransky is part of that movement.

Here's Some Good News On The Bloomberg Front

Americans don't much like him - actually there are fewer people in politics they like less than Bloomberg:

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that just 19% of Americans have a favorable opinion of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg while 38% see him unfavorably.

In a hypothetical three way contest with President Obama and Mitt Romney, Bloomberg registers at only 11% with Obama getting 44% and Romney 38%.

I have theorized that Americans wouldn't much like the arrogant and imperious Mayor Moneybags, a "More Money Than God" guy who wants to take away their guns, cars, and transfats and supports both gay marriage and the Islamic center near the WTC.

Turns out I was right.

He is more unpopular than Obama, Romney, Huckabee and even Palin.

The only person in the poll that Americans disliked more than Mayor Moneybags was Newt Gingrich.

I am sure this news will break the hearts of all those Washington Villagers like David Broder who want Bloomberg to ride to the rescue of the country in his trusty SUV, er, on his trusty steed in 2012.

Oh, well.

Maybe Bloomberg will run anyway. He does like attention and has $300 million to drop on the race.

But as the PPP people point out, Meg Whitman dropped an awful lot of money in the California governor's race, but all that cash never did change the image people had of her - a rich, spoiled woman who was out-of-touch.

That sounds just like Bloomberg too.

No Experience Necessary

As expected, Bloomberg ed deform shill David "Loves The Classics" Steiner granted a waiver for Cathie Black to become the next schools chancellor in NYC despite zero experience in and knowledge of education.

Here's a comment at the Daily News that sums up the whole mess:

Tomorrow, I'm going to start applying to jobs that I have no experience or previous interest in and see how far that gets me.

Probably won't get that commenter too far, unless Bloomberg is backing him, of course.

Then the sky's the limit.

Tom Friedman

Valerie Strauss takes Tom Friedman to task for his recent education reform column:

The great New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote in a recent piece that if he were a cub reporter today, he’d want to be “covering the epicenter of national security -- but that would be the Education Department.”

Then he goes on to quote liberally from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, taking no account of what veteran teacher Anthony Cody, in a recent piece on his blog, described as a serious mismatch between the secretary's words and actions.

If Friedman the cub reporter had turned this piece in, a veteran education editor would have sent it back, asking him to back up his contentions with research. He’d have a hard time.


Friedman listed the three things young people need to be able to do to thrive in a knowledge economy: "the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate."

These are not the skills that are fostered when standardized tests become education's focus, When the scores are used for high-stakes decisions on students, teachers and schools, what becomes paramount is test preparation, and, as a result, curriculum narrows while kids spend time learning how to fill in bubbles on answer sheets. We saw this happen in the No Child Left Behind era, and while Duncan often says this is no way to run a school system, his policies are doing nothing to change it.

It matters when important columnists ignore research about subjects they are writing because they have followings and their readers expect that they have done their homework. It’s too bad Tom Friedman didn’t study a little harder for this.

Read the whole Strauss post - I agree with all of it except for that part about Friedman being a "great" columnist.

Given the kind of dreck Friedman regularly has churned out on the Iraq war, the Middle East, globalization, and environmentalism, there is nothing "great" about him.

I don't have the time to show all the Friedman dreck from the past in this post, but let me steer you toward something I did on Friedman earlier this month.

Also Matt Taibbi has done a great job of exposing the Muoustach of Understanding for the buffoon he is here.

Friedman is quite literally one of the dumbest and most hypocritical people working in journalism today.

Considering all the people working at the various Murdoch outlets and all the corporate crap reporting that gets done on cable and at the networks, that's saying something.

Yet, as Paul Harvey used to say, "It's true."

Lupica: Bloomberg Thinks He's The Chancellor Of Everything

Mike Lupica really takes it to Mayor Moneybags in today's Daily News:

If you have followed everything he has done for the past nine years, it has become abundantly clear that Bloomberg believes he is the real schools chancellor for the City of New York. And, by the way? If you don't like it, you're wrong.

In that way, he is a more polished and decent version of his predecessor, Rudolph (I, Me) Giuliani. Because sometimes, even with a less confrontational style, even as he has tried to make the city a more civil place, you think Bloomberg is almost as stubborn as Giuliani was, just with more money to help him get what he wants.

Bloomberg thinks he is the schools chancellor the way he thinks he is the chancellor of where you can smoke, and the chancellor of how much trans fat should be in your food, and where you can walk in Times Square. If he'd had his way, he would have been the chancellor of where the Jets play football.

A great, feisty New York City teacher I know put it this way yesterday:

"Mike Bloomberg thinks he is the mayor of anything and everything. But he is wrong about this. Whatever he says, this is a totally inappropriate choice for the largest school system in this country."


Bloomberg clearly thinks this teacher is wrong. Of course. He is Bloomberg, the chancellor of everything. He has bought into the flawed notion that a good manager really can manage anything, believes he can take a woman who ran Hearst Magazines and parachute her into the city's school system. Believes he's right on this the way he always does. The power he has accumulated in his time in his office, and the fortune behind that power, have begun to distort his idea about how he governs.

In the end, that is EXACTLY what this is all about - Bloomberg thinks his money gives him the right to run everything.

He thinks he knows better than everybody else about everything.

He is Rudy Giuliani, just smarter and more calculated and of course without the abrasive edges.

That is why he has been more successful than Saint Rudy of 9/11 at getting what he wants.

Except for the Jets stadium and congestion pricing, Bloomberg has gotten almost everything he wanted.

And despite doing things in a hardball way, his poll numbers remain very good for a politician who has been around for 9 years.

But as I have said before, third terms are a funky thing and people start to get sick of you when you're in the public eye for so long.

Especially when you had to circumvent the will of the people and change term limits to stick around.

This Cathie Black matter will leave a bad taste in people's mouths. It is an emblem of everything that IS Moneybags - insular decision making, arrogance, dismissal of other people's concerns, and the privileging of the corporate over anything else.

This can be the start of everything going wrong for Bloomberg, of his poll numbers falling and people publicly saying, "You know what? Enough with King Moneybags! Kill the King!"

We'll see.

He got his chancellor. But she begins the job bruised and weakened by the waiver process.

And Bloomberg ends this whole mess bruised and weakened from having his imperious governing style exposed to the light of day.

Now it's time to exploit those weaknesses, both with Black and with Bloomberg.

Spending Freeze

President Accountability, ever looking to hold the wrong people accountable for the problems in the country, is proposing a two year spending freeze on the salaries of civilian employees.

The administration acknowledges that the $28 billion in savings is a drop in the bucket of the $1.3 trillion deficit, but this is "a symbolic gesture" to make people feel the Obama administration is doing something to hold down spending.

Meanwhile Gregg Easterbrook details the profligate spending that the Pentagon is doing:

This year, the United States will spend at least $700 billion on defense and security. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than America has spent on defense in any year since World War II—more than during the Korean war, the Vietnam war, or the Reagan military buildup. Much of that enormous sum results from spending increases under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Since 2001, military and security expenditures have soared by 119 percent.

For most of that time, of course, the United States has been fighting two wars. Yet that’s not the cause of the defense-spending explosion. Even if the costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are subtracted, the defense budget has swelled by 68 percent since 2001. (All money figures in this article are stated in 2010 dollars.) The U.S. defense budget is now about the same as military spending in all other countries combined.

In a historically unusual twist, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican appointee and a former CIA director, has repeatedly acknowledged that military costs are untenable and decried the Pentagon’s “culture of endless money.” But despite Gates’s advocacy, and Obama’s backing, not much has changed. Congressional leaders nod in agreement at talk of reform—then demand that their pet projects be fully funded. A recent Gates proposal, received as if it heralded dramatic cuts, seeks merely to constrain Pentagon budget growth to 2 percent to 3 percent over inflation. At that pace, defense and security costs will hit a ruinous $1 trillion annually by 2030.

So Obama will get $28 billion in savings by freezing government employees salaries while the Pentagon continues to throw hundreds of billions at projects that do nothing to keep us safer but certainly manage to enrich the companies (and people) involved.

This disconnect between the actual causes of the current economic and fiscal crisis the U.S. is suffering from and the people who get blamed for it drives me batty.

It's just like when Obama blamed the 2008 credit crises and financial collapse on public schools.

Public schools had NOTHING to do with the problems brought to us by the housing bubble, securitization, or insolvent banks.

But politicians of both parties know it's fun and profitable to scapegoat government workers, unionized workers and/or public schools for all the problems that have been brought to us by income disparity, Wall Street greed, and corporate corruption.

Calling B.S. What It Is

More of this please:

"You keep asking these presentist questions Bob. As the immortal Marisa Tomei said in My Cousin Vinny, 'that's a bullshit question!' because you cannot pluck people out of the past and expect them to comment on what's happening today."

-- Colonel Roosevelt author Edmund Morris, in an interview on Face the Nation, when asked what he thought Theodore Roosevelt would make of today's politics.

Not enough people tell the morons in the press, and especially the morons on TV, that they're full of shit.

It is fantastic to see someone tell Bob Schieffer that to his face.

This would make for a great 2011 trend, wouldn't it?

Let me try it.

"Hey, you know, Mr. Lauer, that question is horseshit. Do you know anything about anything? Seriously, from the question you just asked, it sounds like you didn't even read the index card of notes the producers gave you, let alone anything substantive about the subject we're talking about. Are you sure you should be a reporter? You know, Oprah's retiring - maybe you can get a job as a talk show host. You look a little like Merv Griffin..."

Yeah, that would be great.

Education Reform I Can Support

This story is a few months old, but it remains relevant as long as the data fetishists and business bean counters are calling all the shots on education policy:

MADISON, Wis. — They say money can’t buy happiness — but it can finance the research.

When Richard Davidson, then a psychology doctoral student in the 1970s, told his advisers at Harvard that he planned to study the power of meditation, the scholars winced.

“They patted me on the knee,” recalled Dr. Davidson, now a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, “and said, ‘Richie, this is not a good way to start a scientific career.’ ”

Dr. Davidson would one day find a mentor with a different frame of mind: the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan spiritual leader recently announced plans to donate $50,000 to the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at Madison, a new research lab founded by Dr. Davidson, which is studying whether meditation can promote compassion and kindness.

The center has just started a project to teach meditation skills to fifth graders in Madison — focusing on charitable thoughts toward loved ones, strangers, even enemies. After the children enter middle school, researchers assess how their behavior compares with a control group, using a range of measures that will include reports from teachers.

“It’s about changing habits of the heart,” said Dr. Davidson, 58, a Brooklyn native with gray-flecked hair, a warm smile and, as might be expected, a kind manner that puts people at ease.

In the study on children, Dr. Davidson said he had chosen to measure the results in middle school largely because those years were when “a lot of bad stuff starts to happen,” like bullying and drug use.

Dr. Davidson, who has been training adults in “mindfulness” for about a decade, incorporates the study of brain imagery in his work on meditation. He said that research showed that meditation could change brain-wave patterns.

The center’s mission was inspired by a meeting between Dr. Davidson and the Dalai Lama in 1992 in the Himalayas. The Tibetan challenged Dr. Davidson to “use sophisticated tools” to “investigate things like kindness and compassion.”

Dr. Davidson promised the Dalai Lama that he would do everything he could “to put compassion on the scientific map.”

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this would not be the kind of reform that Obama, Duncan, Bloomberg, Klein, Black, Rhee, Gates, Broad et al. would support in any way.

And yet, I bet that teaching meditation, mindfulness, and emotional awareness would go a long way toward closing the achievement gap and raising levels of literacy in both math and reading.

Teaching children to single task, to focus on one thing for an extended period of time - this would not be something that would appeal to the computer mogul and noted ADHD head Bill Gates.

Teaching children to become emotionally aware of themselves, to really know themselves in the Socratic way of knowing themselves - this would not be something the corporate people like Gates, Broad, Bloomberg would want taught.

After all, emotionally confused children grow up to be emotionally confused adults who seek solace for their emotional hurts with all kinds of consumer goods that enrich corporate people like Gates, Broad, Bloomberg, et al.

But I guarantee you education reform of this sort WILL make a difference in the brains, personalities and lives of children.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Money For Empire, Schools For Free

I haven't dug into the Wikileaks story yet, but the Guardian is reporting it this way:

The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.

At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many designated "secret" – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN leadership.

These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches, which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowers' website, also reveal Washington's evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.

These include a shift in relations between China and North Korea, high-level concerns over Pakistan's growing instability, and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.

Sounds like fun Sunday night reading!

I have two comments here before signing off for the night:

A) If the Change We Can Believe In guy won, how come we still engage in cowboy shit all around the world?

B) We spend all this money on Empire, we spend little on important things here at home - you know, maybe Arne Duncan wouldn't have to cheerlead class sizes of 50 if we spent just a little less on our world empire (which is crumbling and only benefits Microsoft, Monsanto, Big Pharma, the financial industries and the war industries anyway.)

Just saying.

Remembering What Progressive Education Is About

I look forward to jeffbinnc's education posts at Open Left every Sunday.

If you aren't aware of his work at that blog, please check it out.

Today he recaps what he feels is essential to a progressive view of education.

It would be great if the people in charge of policy would actually examine their top-down, data-driven reforms and ask "Is this REALLY helping children?"

But that's difficult to do when all that yummy yummy corporate money is available just for the asking (after the selling of one's soul, of course.)

Just ask David "Loves The Classics" Steiner about that.

Harlem Village Academies

This Daily News article on the Harlem Village Academies, ostensibly examining Cathie Black's alleged connections to the school, is a devastating look at the school itself:

Whatever Black's role there, Harlem Village has little in common with the average public school.

Kenny, who oversees 450 students, is paid $442,000, including a $140,000 "bonus" and $27,780 in "other" expenses.

The schools chancellor gets $250,000 to oversee 1.1 million students.

Many charter schools have a parent representative on their board. Harlem Village does not.

Bloomberg has called the school a national "poster child" for school reform. Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch gave $5 million toward construction of the new high school.

The school has been lauded nationally for its high test scores, including for pushing 100% of its eighth-graders to pass state math tests.

A look at the overall scores tells a different tale. In the last round of tests, like schools across New York, numbers dropped precipitously after the state made the tests tougher.

Schoolwide English test scores fell from 81% passing to 41%, while math dropped from 91% to 71%. And by eighth grade, the number of students taking the tests is a small fraction of the earlier grades.

The eighth grade with the 100% passing rate in math had 19 students.

'Why do they keep kids back?'

An unusually high number of younger students either drop out or are held back. In school year 2003-04, the year the school opened, only 48 of 73 fifth-graders made it to sixth grade. In school year 2006-07, 46 of 68 moved on; in 2007-08, just 40 of 76 fifth-graders made it to sixth grade.

Several parents praised the school for improving test scores and enforcing discipline but questioned why so many students were held back repeatedly.

"The school is good in some ways, but I don't like how they keep making so many kids stay back," one parent said. "There's a lot of pressure. If the school is as good as they say, then why do they keep the kids back?"

Higher grades fared better, although only 31 of 43 of the seventh-graders in 2006-07 made it to eighth grade and only 24 of that class went on to ninth, records show.

Harlem Village officials called the drop in overall test scores "irrelevant" because the school takes in low-performing students whose scores rise the longer they're at the school.

They also said the academy's high school students outperformed their public school peers, with 97% passing all Regents exams compared with 66% in public schools. They did not mention that the high school serves 163 students in ninth and tenth-grades only.

The middle school teacher turnover rate at Harlem Village Academies is also high: more than 50% of the teachers left or were fired in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. In 2008-09, the turnover was 25%; in 2009-10, the rate was up to 39%.

School officials said the reasons teachers leave are "wide-ranging," including teachers who "move out of state or become full-time mothers."

The school also punishes students at an exceptionally high rate. Harlem Village suspended half its students in school year 2005-06, 44% in 2006-07 and 62% in 2007-08.

By comparison, nearby Public School/Intermediate School 210 reported suspension rates of less than 5% in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

School officials said 95% of the suspensions were for "nonviolent behavior," including "teasing, cheating or disrespect."

High rates of students left back or dropping out of the school, exceptionally high rates of suspension, high teacher turnover rate and low test scores.

Gee, it sounds like a fabulous school and one we should certainly use as a model for education reform.

And of course so many of the "celebrities" in the education reform world have stated it is just that - from Bill Cosby to John Legend to Bob Herbert to Tiki Barber to unfortunately the most powerful ed deform celebrity of all - Barack Obama.

But the reality that underlies the hype is that Harlem Village Academies is no miracle shop and the people running it are no miracle workers.

Rather, it is an education sweatshop that runs through its workforce quicker than you can say "exploitation" and treats its students to an education that is designed to create even more feudal serfs for the future ready, willing and able to do whatever their corporate masters want them to do for whatever their corporate masters want to pay them and then go away quietly and compliantly when their corporate masters no longer want them.

And of course the people running the school pay themselves handsomely to do all this.

Steve Nelson: Education Reform Is Nonsense

A stinging indictment of NCLB, RttT, and education reform:

Education reform is an unmitigated disaster. Years ago, before the advent of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), I observed that the rapidly spreading inclination toward standards and accountability in public education was like measuring Hansel and Gretel more often and expecting them to gain weight. Since then, American educational policy has wandered deeper and deeper into the forest.

The latest crumbs tossed at the problem come in the form of the so-called Race to the Top (as though learning is a race and everyone can stand together on the summit) which, like all sound bite reforms, is over-hyped and under-funded. The relatively meager funds don't even come close to compensating for the deterioration of state and local funding because of the ongoing recession. And the test-driven pedagogical practices demanded as conditions of this funding are nearly certain to further diminish the quality of the learning experience in American schools.

While it is disturbing and ironic that federal policy and funding are driving poor educational practice, there is a significantly larger elephant wandering through this thicket. If one takes a few steps back from the trees and looks at the forest, it is clear that the symptoms of educational decline in America have nothing to do with schools, teachers, pedagogy, standards or accountability. Decades of research indicate strongly that the decline in student achievement can be accounted for entirely by the dramatic increase in wealth disparity and the persistence of racism in America.

One such study, from the Institute for Research on Poverty, reported a nearly straight-line correlation between growth in the wealth "gap" and the increase in educational inequality. Countless other studies confirm this basic relationship. Whether in terms of college matriculation, test scores or drop out rates, the problems driving current misguided policies can be traced to an increasingly inequitable society.

But educational policy makers and social commentators, including the President and Education Secretary, blindly operate on the opposite cause and effect premise: that the increase in wealth disparity is somehow caused by the erosion of educational standards and if we only demand more of poor children, particularly children of color, social injustice will be cured. It is an educational version of the mean spirited "pull yourself up by your boot straps" attitudes that have inhibited social justice for many decades. As has always been the case, one can't pull up on boot straps when owning no shoes.

The best predictor of academic success has always been financial and social capital. This is true in looking at school success by district or SAT score by individual. Everyone knows this but no one wants to talk about it. People and communities with more resources enjoy advantages such as more home stability, more books and oral language at home, more pre-school opportunities, better air quality, better educated parents, less stress and perhaps most powerfully, more cause for optimism and a higher sense of self-worth.

Particularly in the wake of Herrnstein and Murray's offensive (and bad science) book The Bell Curve, the debilitating effects of race and class on "intelligence" and learning have been broadly acknowledged. Herrnstein and Murray were guilty of an intellectual version of the faulty cause and effect premise that fuels current educational policy. They observed racial differences in IQ scores of roughly 15 percent. While their theory (and the general field of psychometry) is complex, the most wrong-headed notion emerging from their work was that this IQ disparity explained social inequity.

While this debate has not been entirely settled, research showing the opposite cause and effect relationship has soundly rebutted their work. Historically disadvantaged groups perform less well on intelligence tests because of their diminished status. Over many decades lower castes in India and Japan have shown similar deficits in IQ testing, but it was not being less intelligent that relegated them to the lowest class -- it was being relegated to the lowest class that suppressed performance on intelligence measures.

One fascinating study tracked members of a low Japanese caste with many members who moved to California. Their supposed intelligence deficit of 15 percent disappeared when they moved from social oppression to a more equitable society. This has been similarly confirmed in studies of European Jews, who had tested significantly below average in the World War I era and then radically changed in a mere generation after emigrating to the United States.

All the hot rhetoric over educational achievement is nonsense. The problem in America is a dangerous class divide, not a crisis in teaching and learning. Until we address deepening poverty, demoralizing unemployment and insidious racism, too many American children will fulfill the sad prophesy they inherit.

The Change We Can Believe In people tell us poverty has nothing to do with problems in school, class sizes do not matter, a student's home life does not matter - all that matters is the teacher.

And of course the corporate moguls from Microsoft, Bloomberg LP and Walmart are driving the meme that all that matters is the teacher.

From the White House to the governor's mansion to City Hall, all we have in power are politicians who promote these harmful and wrongheaded policies.

Given the infusion of corporate dollars into elections (it takes an obscene amount of money to get elected to anything these days), I guess it makes sense that so many politicians have bought into the corporate reform model.

If they want to get elected, they have to meet in the backroom with the hedge fund managers/education reformers and swallow the corporate Kool Aid whole.

Then they can leave with a suitcase full of money and a better shot of getting elected.

And as Nelson writes, we get more and more education reforms and education gets worse and worse.

Barron To Seek Restraining Order Against Black

Boy, can you imagine what Moneybags will say if the judge grants this?

City Councilman Charles Barron yesterday said he will seek a temporary restraining order to halt confirmation of Cathie Black as schools chancellor if state Education Commissioner David Steiner grants her the waiver she needs for the job.

The Brooklyn Democrat said he may follow the order with a lawsuit challenging the media executive's nomination to lead the city schools -- which may delay the process until after Chancellor Joel Klein steps down at year's end.

Maybe Klein will stick around past year's end and do his public school privatization work from inside the NYCDOE, as he has done for the last eight years.

Can you work for Murdoch's for-profit online education division and the DOE at the same time?

Dunno, but if the Barron restraining order is followed by a lawsuit, we could find out.

Michael Daly: "Bloomberg Not King" - Except That He Is

Daily News columnist Michael Daly says today that Bloomberg's agreement to give new NYC schools chancellor Cathie Black a deputy for educational issues shows that "The king is dead!"

Daly, a big fan of Bloomberg, btw, was offended by the mayor's imperious handling of the Cathie Black matter. He says by agreeing to appoint a chief academic officer,

Bloomberg gave in. And even if the appointment of a No. 2 will make no material difference, Bloomberg did not get what he wanted just because he wanted it. That is good for him and for us.

He is not a king after all. He remains the best of mayors.

The king is dead!

Long live the mayor!

Gee - where do we start with this muddled-headed mush masquerading as journalism?

Okay, first: if you've been paying attention in even the slightest way, you know Mayor Bloomberg has been imperious pretty much since the start.

Even early on, when he would still listen to other people's opinions on issues, he had a stubborn streak that drew lines in the sand on the things.

Remember the whole controversy on where he goes during the weekends? Bloomberg refused to give any details, saying it was nobody's business. Can you imagine if President Obama disappeared on weekends to some undisclosed location and refused to tell anybody where he was? How would the press handle that?

Here in NYC, the press simply shrugged and let Bloomberg be.

Secondly, since that time, all we have seen from Bloomberg is royal policy-making. We have had his imperious rule of the NYC school system, his firing of two appointees of the PEP board because they didn't vote the way he wanted on a matter, his attempt to place a stadium that almost nobody wanted and the city couldn't afford over on the West Side because his real estate buddies thought it would be good for business, his attempt to ramrod congestion pricing through, and his banning of food with transfats in it even as he continues to eat food with transfats in it.

In all of these cases, Bloomberg has acted like king and savior, not some democratically-elected mayor ready, willing and able to listen to the will of the people.

Has Daly been paying attention AT ALL to the last nine years? The imperious nature of King Mikey the Moneybags did NOT start three weeks ago with the Cathie Black matter or a year and a half ago when he had his minions lay the groundwork to overturn term limits JUST FOR HIM.

It's been there the whole time.

The way he treated a reporter in a wheelchair who couldn't turn off his tape recorder when he accidentally dropped it symbolizes just what a arrogant autocrat Bloomberg has been.

With Bloomberg, it is ALWAYS about him and ONLY he matters.

Good God, sometimes I read stuff in the papers and think, "How the hell does this person have a job as a journalist? This garbage is worse than something Tom Friedman would write!"

Today's Daly column sure qualifies as Friedmanesque.

Challenge To Rahm's Residency Status Filed In Court

Now this would be change I can believe in:

A challenge filed Friday to invalidate Rahm Emanuel’s candidacy in the Chicago mayoral race, says Mr. Emanuel's campaign, is a political trick by forces looking to "hijack" the election in February.

Chicago area election lawyer Burt Odelson filed his challenge to the Chicago Board of Elections, saying that Emanuel does not meet a state law that requires all candidates to be residents of the municipality in which they seek office for at least one year. He filed on behalf of two Chicago residents; on Wednesday, five other challenges were filed separately. Tuesday is the last day objections can be filed to the election board.

Central to Mr. Odelson’s argument is that Emanuel was removed from voter rolls twice during his two-year tenure in Washington, when he served as White House chief of staff to President Obama. During that time, Emanuel rented out his home. His campaign says he maintained ties to the city by paying property taxes, maintaining a driver's license, and voting in the February primary.

The challenges are likely to complicate Emanuel's campaign, in that a cloud of uncertainty will loom over his candidacy and he will likely be forced to address the issue in public appearances.

Emanuel has been playing hardball in this campaign already, dropping a dime on Jesse Jackson Jr. and buying off a few other potential candidates.

He leads in a poll released this week by 27 points over his nearest opponent.

Boy, wouldn't justice be served if this corporate criminal was declared ineligible to run over residency status?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Value-Added World

Ruh-roh, don't tell Bloomberg, but we're no longer adding value to the population like we once were:

The planet’s population will hit a new milestone son: 7 billion people. But the rate of growth starting to slow.

Under the value-added model, you have to add more and more every year or you're declared a "failure" and replaced with something new and groovy.

Under this scenario, since the world is no longer adding population like it once did, Bloomberg, Black and Shael Polakow-Suransky will be closing the earth down, laying off half the employees and re-opening the world as a KIPP school.

How exciting!

Get ready for 70 hour work weeks, all year round school and a "work until you die" career trajectory where you make LESS at your job the older you get.

In other words, welcome to feudalism.

The Irish People Get Up Their Irish

Peaceful protest against the banksters and hedge fund managers:

DUBLIN — After a week that brought Ireland a pledge of a $114 billion international rescue package and the toughest austerity program of any country in Europe, thousands of demonstrators took to Dublin’s streets on Saturday to protest wide cuts in the country’s welfare programs and in public-sector jobs.

The protests centered on a milelong march along the banks of the River Liffey in central Dublin to the General Post Office building on O’Connell Street, site of the battle between Irish republican rebels and British troops in the Easter Uprising in 1916 — an iconic event that many in Ireland regard as the tipping point in Ireland’s long struggle for independence.

The choice of venue for the protests by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, coordinating the march through the city, reflected the mood of anger, dismay and recrimination in the wake of the economic shocks of the past 10 days. Those shocks have been the culmination of two years in which the Irish economy has shrunk by about 15 percent, faster than any other European economy.

Before that, Ireland enjoyed more than a decade of unprecedented prosperity, so the rescue package being worked out by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and the austerity program the Dublin government has been forced to adopt to secure the bailout loans have come as a deep jolt.

Among other things, the austerity package will involve the loss of about 25,000 public-sector jobs, equivalent to 10 percent of the government work force, as well as a four-year, $20 billion program of tax increases and spending cuts like sharp reductions in state pensions and the minimum wage. One Dublin newspaper, the Irish Independent, estimated that the cost of the measures for a typical middle-class family earning $67,000 a year would be about $5,800 a year.

Corporate shill John Burns in the NY Times writes that the protest was smaller than expected, so therefore not all that successful.

But for the people who are getting screwed by this deal so that the banksters can be bailed out and the corporate scum like Bill Gates and Microsoft can keep their 12.5% tax rate, it was very important to have their voices heard:

Organizers had called for a “family friendly” demonstration, and that appeared to be what they got. With a police helicopter hovering overhead, speeches at the post office building drew cheers and shouts of support, and the detonation of some fireworks, but there were no reports of arrests. Protesters waved banners that depicted the austerity measures as an attack on the country’s poor, and told reporters that they feared for their futures, and the country’s.

“Everything’s collapsing,” one woman said.

“We can’t afford it,” a father with a young child said of the spending cuts. “I don’t know how we’re ever going to come out of it.”

The anger of many speakers, and among the protesters, appeared to fall about equally on the Cowen government and on the international financial institutions working out the details of the rescue package. Officials in Brussels, where European finance ministers were meeting on Saturday to discuss the package, said it could be confirmed with an announcement on Sunday.

One of the O’Connell Street speakers, typical of others, urged the country “not to allow a government with no mandate, bowing to people in Europe who are not elected, to determine our future.”

Horrific, just horrific.

That the criminals who created this mess have gotten away largely unscathed makes me angry beyond belief.

The same goes for here in the U.S.

I have said it before, I will say it again: until the Masters of the Universe at Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions and the hedge fund criminals like Whitey Tilson are made to pay for treating the world's economies like one giant, rigged casino, they will continue to steal more and more money and blame it on working and middle class people, the unions, the public schools, government workers, pensions, Social Security and the like.

But the fact is, these criminals have gobbled up 80% of the wealth in the United States and they're coming for more.

They won't be happy until they have ALL of it.

Until they are made to fear their criminality and the people they're stealing from, they're going to keep doing this.

Arne Duncan And The Cathie Black Waiver Deal

What role did Arne Duncan play in getting NYSED commissioner Steiner to grant the waiver to Cathie Black?

The deal reached Friday capped a week of frantic talks between the city and the state. Mr. Bloomberg, who was given control of city schools in 2002, has said that transforming the school system will define his legacy as mayor.

Mr. Bloomberg viewed Dr. Steiner’s challenge as a critical test of his authority over the school system. The mayor told people involved in the negotiations that a rejection of Ms. Black would undermine the model of mayoral control and set a dangerous precedent.

At one point while the negotiations were under way, Mr. Bloomberg said publicly that the law requiring the schools chancellor to hold education credentials was obsolete and should be abolished.

Mr. Bloomberg had initially believed he could build enough public pressure to force Dr. Steiner to approve Ms. Black, according to the person with knowledge of the negotiations. Business executives, former mayors and celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg flooded Dr. Steiner’s offices with messages in support of Ms. Black.

But Dr. Steiner remained skeptical, and he said on Tuesday he would consider her appointment only if Mr. Bloomberg installed an educator at her side.

The talks with the mayor about that possibility grew more serious after an eight-member panel advising Dr. Steiner on Ms. Black’s qualifications on Tuesday mustered only two votes unconditionally in support of her, unexpectedly throwing the selection process into disarray.

Mr. Bloomberg typically loathes intrusions into his management of the city. But throughout the negotiations for the waiver, he showed an unusual willingness to compromise to preserve Ms. Black’s candidacy. To the surprise of his own associates, he held his tongue in public, refusing to challenge Dr. Steiner and the panel that rebuked his choice for chancellor.


Underscoring the high-stakes nature of Ms. Black’s fate, even the federal secretary of education, Arne Duncan, spoke to both Dr. Steiner and Mr. Bloomberg during the negotiations.

On Friday, Mr. Duncan praised the outcome. “Can anyone do this alone? Of course not,” he said. “This is a monumentally tough, complex organization.”

I'm not sure I believe the jive about Steiner holding out because he didn't think Black is qualified.

To be frank, I don't think Steiner cared about any of that.

Rather, I think he wanted political cover to grant the waiver.

He doesn't mind being a corporate Bloomberg LP shill, he just doesn't want to look like a corporate Bloomberg LP shill in public.

Bloomberg, however, didn't want to give him that cover.

Bloomberg likes negotiations to go 100% his way and any "compromise" makes him feel like a loser.

So in comes corporate whore Arne Duncan to convince Bloomberg that giving in to a "Chief Academic Officer" was a slight compromise that wouldn't mean much in reality.

I bet Duncan also reminded him how his mayoral control was under attack from the way he had handled this mess and if he didn't give in just a little, it would make maintaining autocratic mayoral control in the future much harder.

Remember, Arne Duncan is a big fan of mayoral control.

He knows, just as every other ed deform corporate whore knows, that democracy and education deform do not go well together.

This stuff can only be done in the dark of night and in the smoke-filled backrooms.

So Bloomberg compromised ever so slightly.

But not really.

And once again, the educrat put in place by the Change We Can Believe guy has done the business of the corporate interests over the people.

Daily News Tries To Humanize Shael Polakow-Suransky

The NY Daily News has a heart-tugging article about Cathie Black's new #2 man on the NYCDOE totem pole, Shael Polakow-Suransky.

His wife died of cancer last year.

The article details how devastated Polakow-Suransky was by her death and how he felt like a hole had been ripped in the world with her gone.

Very touching and sad.

It's manipulative too, of course.

Because it is an attempt to humanize a guy whose life's work has been to dehumanize the school system.

Polakow-Suransky is a numbers guy -he's all about the data, the test scores, the math.

You can bet Polakow-Suranksy wouldn't give a second thought to firing a teacher with a low value-added score two years running even if that teacher had been dealing with a loved one's devastating illness at home.

Don't get me wrong here - I am truly sorry to hear when a man of 37 loses his wife to cancer or any disease or tragic circumstance.

It is truly awful and my empathy goes out to him.

That said, let us not lose sight of who Polakow-Suranksy is - a Broad Foundation-trained data fetishist who makes it his job to take all of the humanity out of public education, to put in place systems that dehumanize teachers and children, to promote a public education philosophy that privileges data and only data as the sole reason for being.

He is an eduwanker through and through and no amount of horrible tragedy in his own life should make us lose sight of who he is and what he has been put into place to do - along with his boss, Cathie Black.

Arne Duncan Wins An Award

President Obama's favorite corporate education shill won a coveted award - the "Blathering Idiot of the Week" award at Open Left.

Duncan won for suggesting that class sizes in public schools are too small and should be enlarged.

I'd like to offer my sincere congratulations to Arne for winning this award.

Other than handing this to Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg or President Obama himself, I couldn't think of it going to a better person than Arne Duncan.

Daily News: Bloomberg Won

The news that Bloomberg had agreed to appoint a "Chief Academic Officer" was reported by the NY Times last night as a "major concession" by the mayor.

I didn't see how changing one word in the title of the "Chief Accountability Officer" at the NYCDOE and making him the "Chief Academic Officer" was a major concession and said so at the time.

Sure, there are a whole host of duties the new academic officer is supposed to have - but who really knows if he'll really have them?

Let's be honest, Bloomberg is very big on winning even when he has supposedly "lost."

Take congestion pricing.

Did you notice how all those pedestrian plazas showed up around the city in the year after Bloomberg lost that battle?

Did you notice how traffic got slower around the city now that cars cannot drive through Times Square, Herald Square and other places around the city?

The mayor may not have won the congestion pricing battle, but he sure made his point about traffic in the city - and then he made sure he put an exclamation point on it by making it even slower.

And who knows - perhaps congestion pricing comes around again and gets passed.

Certainly the mayor set the conditions for just that to happen.

I suspect we are seeing the same thing with this Black matter.

It looks like Bloomberg lost on the face of it, but really, who knows what power the #2 guy has?

Joshua Greenman in the Daily News says pretty much the same thing:

Few men who made their names as political moderates are as uncomfortable with compromise as Mayor Bloomberg, who's just not used to having to bend in a city where he's basically the only political game in town.

But that's exactly what he appeared to do Friday, in naming a chief academic officer to be at Cathie Black's right hand so state Education Commissioner David Steiner agrees to grant Black the waiver to serve as chancellor.

The question now, which will be answered in the coming months: Was it a real concession or a cosmetic one?


in the end, the crow may just taste like chicken. Because what kind of power Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief accountability officer promoted to be the new No. 2, will actually have remains to be seen.

For the school system to run efficiently, one person ultimately has to be in charge of making all major decisions. One person has to take marching orders from the mayor and take the heat from the public.

That will still be Black ... won't it?

Sure, Polakow-Suransky will presumably be in the room when big calls are made. He'll be able to give Black advice and insight on the often vexing issues. He'll be able to hold the map and be the navigator while she drives.

But Presidents use their vice presidents as they see fit. Same with governors and lieutenant governors. Mayors have first deputy mayors. Sometimes they listen; often they don't. There is no question, zero, where the buck stops.

Bloomberg laid out the new No. 2's responsibilities, and they are substantial. But he is still clearly under Black, and everyone knows that a job description on paper means nothing if a boss wants to use you differently.

So unless Polakow-Suransky has formal authority, Steiner might have just taken a stand to earn the illusion of a concession.

Then we'll come to learn that Bloomberg won this particular power struggle. And those dashed expectations may make some Bloomberg critics even angrier a few months from now than they are today.

So the Times can frame this as a major Bloomberg concession all it wants.

The fact is, Bloomberg got Black as chancellor.

Steiner gave her the waiver.

The #2 guy is just some Broad Foundation-trained eduwanker who specializes in testing, data and "accountability."

Black herself specializes in cost-cutting and layoffs.

Between the two of them, the New York City school system is going to get more of what it got from Klein.

And at the end of the day, Bloomberg got what he wanted.

Obama To Focus On Education More In Next Two Years

Ominous if you work in or send your kids to a public school:

President Barack Obama defends his legislative priorities in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters that airs Friday night, while hinting at a greater focus on education and research in the future.

“We have got a lot more work to do, but I am confident that if we make the investments we need to make sure our kids are getting the best education…if we are investing in our infrastructure…We have got a lot more work to do, but I am confident that if we are investing in research and development that continues to make us an innovation leader for the future, that we are gonna do great,” Mr. Obama says, according to excerpts released by ABC. “I am very, very confident that our best days are still ahead of us.”

Education has emerged as a possible focus of bipartisan compromise in Congress next year, as lawmakers look to reauthorize the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. That legislation itself was a product of bipartisan compromise between then-President George W. Bush and Democrats led by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

He's talking about bipartisan compromise on NCLB Jr. now, but we'll see.

I suspect Republicans aren't going to want to give him any legislative victories at all.

Plus they won't have much time to compromise with all those subpoenas they plan on sending his way.

With any luck, maybe Obama will spend the next two years playing more basketball...

Friday, November 26, 2010

How Much Power Does Black Deputy Have?

First, here's how the Times describes the division of power:

After several days of talks with state officials, Mr. Bloomberg agreed to create the position of chief academic officer to oversee curriculum and testing at the city’s Department of Education. Under the deal, that job would go to Shael Polakow-Suransky, a former principal of a Bronx high school who is a top official at the city’s Department of Education.

But exactly how much authority Mr. Polakow-Suransky, 38, will wield is unclear. A job description prepared by the city said he would have “the broadest scope for the exercise of independent initiative and judgment” and listed 25 duties, including many that would normally fall to the head of a school system. But Mr. Polakow-Suransky will still report to Ms. Black, who is accustomed to setting the agenda in the rough-and-tumble world of corporate culture.

Ms. Black and Mr. Polakow-Suransky have met several times over the past week to discuss how they will divide authority.

Polakow-Suransky will have the “the broadest scope for the exercise of independent initiative and judgment."

Gee, that makes it so clear.

Call me cynical, but I read this simply as: Steiner saves face by claiming an educator is sharing power with Black, but behind the scenes everybody involved knows Black will call all the shots.

Education Dialogue At The Daily News

Here are two comments from this story speculating on who might co-chancellor with Cathie Black. The first is from somebody named Bergdorf:

Go to any college and you will find the same types of people that are education majors. YOung women who want to get married and work for a few years before having a family of their own;homosexual men who want to indoctrinate children into thinking homosexuality is normal; children of teachers;Lazy students who want Summers off and a guaranteed pension


Bergdorf: If there were ever a poster child for post-term abortion, it would be you

I so love educational dialoguing...

Is Anybody Surprised By The Black Waiver Deal?

I hope not.

Wasn't it obvious Steiner would cave and give Bloomberg his Cathie with an "i" Black as chancellor?

Steiner is a toady and a stooge. You don't get to be in his position without being a toady and a stooge. The politicians in charge and the corporate money behind them want that, and in Steiner, that's what they got.

That's why this piece of puffery the Times published about him yesterday was laugh out loud funny.

It said Steiner was taking this waiver matter very seriously.

Of COURSE he was taking it seriously - if Steiner screwed it up and didn't give Bloomberg what he wanted, he knew he would never work in ed deform circles in NY State ever again.

We're talking about taking a considerable loss of income here.

But now that Steiner has caved, he and his family can breathe a sigh of relief - the ed deform largesse will continue to roll in for him via Bloomberg/Broad/Gates charities once he leaves the NYSED for good.

The toady will get his green toadstool.

As for Bloomberg, he got what he wanted too.

Sure he had to rename this deputy chancellor's title from "Chief Accountability Officer" to "Chief Academic Officer" - but so what?

You can bet it's all smoke and mirrors jive to give Steiner cover to grant the waiver.

And of course, it worked.

As of Monday, November 29, 2010, Cathie Black is the new NYC schools chancellor.

Let the cost-cutting and layoffs with a smile begin.

The Banksters Eat Ireland

Krugman's column:

The Irish story began with a genuine economic miracle. But eventually this gave way to a speculative frenzy driven by runaway banks and real estate developers, all in a cozy relationship with leading politicians. The frenzy was financed with huge borrowing on the part of Irish banks, largely from banks in other European nations.

Then the bubble burst, and those banks faced huge losses. You might have expected those who lent money to the banks to share in the losses. After all, they were consenting adults, and if they failed to understand the risks they were taking that was nobody’s fault but their own. But, no, the Irish government stepped in to guarantee the banks’ debt, turning private losses into public obligations.

Before the bank bust, Ireland had little public debt. But with taxpayers suddenly on the hook for gigantic bank losses, even as revenues plunged, the nation’s creditworthiness was put in doubt. So Ireland tried to reassure the markets with a harsh program of spending cuts.

Step back for a minute and think about that. These debts were incurred, not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit. Yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the burden of those debts.

Or to be more accurate, they’re bearing a burden much larger than the debt — because those spending cuts have caused a severe recession so that in addition to taking on the banks’ debts, the Irish are suffering from plunging incomes and high unemployment.

But there is no alternative, say the serious people: all of this is necessary to restore confidence.

Strange to say, however, confidence is not improving. On the contrary: investors have noticed that all those austerity measures are depressing the Irish economy — and are fleeing Irish debt because of that economic weakness.

Accountability is for the little people, not the banskters.

Pain is also for the little people, not the banksters.

Until we start imposing accountability and pain on the banksters themselves. they're going to keep doing this.

Bloomberg Agrees To Deputy For Black

So we will have Cathie Black to kick around:

The state’s education commissioner, David M. Steiner, and the Bloomberg administration have reached a deal that will allow Cathleen P. Black, a media executive, to become the next schools chief.

A top education official in the city’s schools system, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief accountability officer, will be named the chief academic officer to serve as the No. 2 to Ms. Black, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement between the state and the city.

In return, Dr. Steiner on Monday will grant Ms. Black a waiver from the state law requiring the chancellor to have certain education credentials that Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazine, lacks.

Mr. Steiner had expressed reservations about granting Ms. Black an exemption and had made the appointment of a chief academic officer a condition for considering her nomination.

The move is a major concession from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who typically resists any intrusion into his management of city agencies.

The Bloomberg administration did not dispute the details of the agreement, but refused to comment.

Great - the chief testing guy who was educated at the Broad Academy will be Cathie Black's #2.

His specialty is holding teachers accountable.

Here's the quote on his page at the Broad Superintendents Academy:

“Teachers and principals need to be accountable for student performance and empowered to make the critical decisions that impact their daily work to accelerate student learning.”

He's also logged some time helping to close large schools and open small schools and charter schools in their place.

Clearly it is not a mistake that of all the people Bloomberg could have picked at the DOE to back up Black, he chose the guy who is in charge of "accountability," testing and data and has some experience closing schools and opening charters.

Meet the new Klein, same as the old Klein.

Obama Gets Punched In Face

Well, sort of:

WASHINGTON - President Obama is known for his tough, trash-talking brand of basketball - and it got him a split lip and 12 stitches on Friday.

The White House confirmed that Obama was hammered by an errant elbow in a game with friends at Fort McNair in southwest Washington, D.C.

The historic Army post is a favorite basketball haunt when Obama is in town on the weekend.

"After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player's elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the President received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit," press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

"They were done in the doctor's office located on the ground floor of the White House," Gibbs added.

Medical aides who treated Obama used a smaller filament than typically used, which increases the number of stitches but makes a tighter stitch and results in a smaller scar.

Obama was given a local anesthetic while receiving the stitches.

The White House didn't release a list of the combatants, but his pals on the court often include personal aide Reggie Love and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Wouldn't it be ironic if Arne Duncan elbowed Obama in the face and cut his lip?

I bet Arne got the rebound and blew the dunk anyway.

Chicago Principals: Don't Do What Chicago Does

President Obama has used the education reforms of Chicago as a blueprint for national policy and elevated the Chicago schools CEO, Arne Duncan, to be Secretary of Education.

Now NYC is thinking about adding a Chicago-style reform to its school system by dividing the power between two school system leaders rather than investing total control in the chancellor.

Educators in Chicago say not so fast:

Chicago principals have a tip for New York: Pick one schools chancellor with education experience.

As state Education Commissioner David Steiner mulls whether to allow magazine executive Cathie Black to manage city schools with the help of a seasoned educator, Chicago principals who have a similar arrangement are advising against it.

"It's very difficult to have two people with such vastly different backgrounds and responsibilities [lead schools together]," Clarice Berry, president of Chicago's principals union, told the Daily News.

"We haven't had a superintendent in 10 years and we've found that it has been a mistake," Berry added.

"There's been no huge improvement in Chicago. It's not been the magic bullet people thought it would be," she said.

Chicago has an educator and manager share responsibility of the school system, a plan Steiner has suggested he favors for city schools. An advisory panel recommended this week that he not give Black a needed waiver to run schools, citing her lack of education credentials.

If there has been no huge improvement in Chicago then why, pray tell, are we using Chicago as the blueprint model for school reform?

And if there has been huge improvement in Chicago, why are we listening to the guy who ran Chicago schools and giving him the power to radically alter how the public education system works?

Just asking.

Bloomberg Funding "Grassroots" Centrist Party To Combat "Hyperpartisanship"

Mayor Moneybags is throwing his money around in preparation for 2012:

An alliance of centrist Republicans and Democrats is seeking to organize a grass-roots movement targeting the middle of American politics, a political sphere depopulated by the midterm elections and a vital tool for any potential third-party presidential candidate.

The group, called "No Labels," has drawn support from supporters and advisers of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the country's most powerful independent politician, raising questions about his national political ambitions. Mr. Bloomberg has been invited to attend the group's Dec. 13 launch.

Political analysts see a potential Bloomberg bid if Washington's divided government turns into gridlock, if the economy doesn't improve, and if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and President Obama are the likely nominees. Mr. Bloomberg said he wouldn't consider running in 2012. "I have the best job in the world," he said.

No Labels ( is led by Democratic fund-raiser Nancy Jacobson and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who were introduced to each other by Kevin Sheekey, Mr. Bloomberg's political adviser.

The group has raised more than $1 million to seed its effort against what it calls "hyper-partisanship." Backers include co-chairman of Loews Corp. Andrew Tisch, Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich and ex-Facebook executive Dave Morin. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as U.S. senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, will attend the New York launch.

The group's goal is to start a centrist equivalent to the tea-party movement on the right and MoveOn on the left. It sees an opportunity based on the defeat of liberal Republicans in recent years and the heavy losses taken by conservative Democrats in 2010.

No Labels founders say they have purposely not asked Bloomberg to donate to the party because they do not want the party to be too closely associated with him.

But that's just jive.

His fingerprints and moneyprints are all over this party.

The party founders - one Dem, one Repub - were introduced to each other by a Bloomberg aide.

Bloomberg knows he needs a ground operation of some kind to run an independent presidential bid. This is his attempt to create that operation while making it look like a "grassroots effort."

And of course getting political hacks like Lieberman and Villaraigosa on board provides some cover and allows him to make the party look like it is some organic sprout-up rather than some very well-organized, very well-funded create by a billionaire brat with money to burn and an ego the size of the Northeast that needs aggrandizing.

Conditions weren't right for Bloomberg to run in '08. He needed a Hillary/Rudy race to run. But he got McCain/Obama and it was hard to argue that the "Change We Can Believe In" guy and the Republican most liked by independents were going to be hyperpartisan.

But 2012 may be different. Nobody believes the "Change We Can Believe In" jive anymore and whoever wants to win the Republican party primaries has to run a really right-wing campaign.

And of course Bloomberg has $300 million to drop on the race.

That said, can a Jew from New York (even a secularized one) who has a record of taking away people's guns, cars and transfats win a national campaign for president?

Cathie Black Friday

Today is Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the Christmas shopping season.

Stores, shopping malls, and Internet retailers all across the country have been running Black Friday sales to entice shoppers to shop.

Some of these sales started as early as 3 AM.

Little known fact about Cathie Black concerning this day.

In the companies she has helped run, the day after Thanksgiving is known as Cathie Black Friday.

Cathie Black Friday is a day of cost-cutting and layoffs all across the company, with Ms. Black sending out "Personnel Meeting" emails to employees slated for downsizing as early as 2:30 AM.

"The last thing you want to see in your inbox on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving is an email from Cathie Black," said one former Oprah Magazine editor who had gotten a Cathie Black Friday layoff notice back in 2008. "She asks you to be at her office at a certain time, to be wearing all black, to have tissues, and to bring a box big enough to carry all your things in, family photos, company awards, whatever. That's when you know you're gone."

The former Oprah Magazine editor spoke under the condition of anonymity, fearing that Ms. Black might come to her new place of employment, the Huffington Post, and lay her off there.

Other Black employees said no one works harder than Cathie Black and Cathie Black herself never works harder than she does on Cathie Black Friday.

"She's like a whirlwind of downsizing, cost-cutting and sympathy. She always lays you off with a smile and says "'It's not you. It's us. So don't blame yourself. Now please follow security to the elevators. And don't touch anything on the way out.' She's always looks wistful as you get escorted out. Then she turns around and nobody else wants to make eye contact with her."

Cathie Black Friday has been a long tradition in the private sector companies Ms. Black her worked for, but Ms. Black is hoping to bring the tradition to public sector employees too. She is awaiting notice if the NYSED commissioner is going to provide her with the waiver she needs to become the NYC schools chancellor.

"Listen," said one Black confidant from Mayor Bloomberg's Upper East Side soirees who spoke under the condition of anonymity, "There are over 130,000 DOE employees and many of these lazy bastards are in need of downsizing. If she gets this job, you can bet there will be a Cathie Black Friday mass email blast every year. Frankly, she might have to add Cathie Black Tuesday and Wednesday to the tradition. Of course she won't be able to do all of these layoffs personally, as she has in the past. But she will try and do a few on her own. She likes to show a personal touch to her work, you know?"

Cathie Black herself could not be reached for a comment. A spokesperson for the NYCDOE refused comment, fearing she might be laid off if Ms. Black becomes chancellor.

NY Times Performs P.R. Task For Steiner

This piece of puffery about NYSED commissioner David Steiner should not be read on a full stomach.

It's pretty glucose-heavy.

The gist I get is that Steiner - lover of the classics, quoter of of Shakespeare - is agonizing over the Cathie Black waiver matter.

Oh, please.

Steiner may play an educator on TV for the public but behind closed doors he is a Bloomberg/ed deform shill through and through.

He has been bought and sold and had a Bloomberg LP stamp on his forehead.

Anybody working in official education circles in New York these days has to have that stamp of approval.

And you can see it from how Steiner conducts his official duties.

What lover of the classics agrees to reduce good teaching to test scores and ELA curriculum to multiple choice test prep?

The Times piece says Steiner likes to weave the works Plato, Dante, Homer and Shakespeare into his emails.

How fantastic!

But what I see him weave into his efforts as NYSED commissioner is the works of Bloomberg, Gates, Rhee, Klein, Duncan, Broad, et al.

As such, I am certain his hero Dante will have a special circle in hell for Steiner where he can try and engage hungry special education students, fresh from Obama's food stamp cuts, on test prep.

In order to get out that special circle in hell?

He's got to have all of them improve on their tests, year after year, for eternity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Just finished having a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat.

Now it's time for Arlo Guthrie.

Let's take back this land from the hedge fund managers: