Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cuomo Bullied Witnesses, Is Now Covering Up How He Handled Trooper Case

The NY Times this morning:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, leading a high-profile investigation into the State Police when he was attorney general, angered top officials at the agency by discouraging them from obtaining legal representation during the inquiry, according to interviews with former officials and claims made in documents recently obtained by The New York Times.

Pedro Perez, who was briefly acting superintendent of the State Police in 2008, when the inquiry was undertaken, said Mr. Cuomo told him at the time that seeking legal counsel would suggest that the officials were guilty of some wrongdoing.

“Essentially what he told me was that as law enforcement officials we understood that if someone comes with an attorney, there is a presumption that they have something to hide,” Mr. Perez said in an interview. “And I said that is not, in fact, the case. In our system, having an attorney present does not create a sense of guilt. There’s a right to an attorney. I was taken aback.”

The reputed conversation became well known among the State Police officials; The Times learned of it after obtaining the sworn testimony of Glenn Valle, the former State Police counsel, taken in late 2008 as part of the State Police investigation.

Mr. Cuomo’s office strongly denied the claim.

“No one in the attorney general’s office ever discouraged troopers from being represented by counsel, in conversations with Perez or otherwise,” Richard Bamberger, the governor’s communication director, said in a statement on Monday. “The suggestion that the attorney general’s office resisted representation by counsel is belied by the fact that virtually all members of the State Police had union or private counsel during their testimony.”


The dispute emerged as Mr. Cuomo faced scrutiny for his handling of a separate State Police inquiry in 2007. His aides recently shielded documents related to that investigation from public view in the state archives, after reporters sought to examine them.

It also brought attention to what is certain to be a closely scrutinized chapter in Mr. Cuomo’s biography as his national reputation grows: his tenure as attorney general, when he took on politically sensitive inquiries that at times involved his political rivals.

The issue came to light in the last week when reporters for The Times and The Times Union of Albany obtained copies of sworn testimony by Mr. Valle, who served for two decades as the chief counsel of the State Police.

Mr. Valle testified that Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, had discouraged agency officials from bringing lawyers to the investigation, and then repeated the claim in a memorandum to the office of David A. Paterson, who was then the governor. Neither Ms. McCarthy nor Governor Paterson’s office followed up on the claim.

Details of the testimony, which was given on Dec. 30, 2008, also raise questions about the investigation itself, which was meant to examine political interference at the State Police, and whether Mr. Cuomo’s office produced a thorough report of its findings.

Seemingly relevant information appears to have been left out of Mr. Cuomo’s final report — specifically details of a reputed effort by the Paterson administration to remove at least 10 white troopers who were members of the governor’s security detail and replace them with black or Latino troopers, leading to an extraordinary standoff with State Police officials, who viewed doing that as illegal and inviting a discrimination lawsuit.

In addition, when Mr. Valle was interviewed by investigators, he was never asked about the more than five years he spent as chief police counsel during the administration of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father.

Mr. Valle, known as an aggressive defender of the often-embattled State Police force, has been one of the few public officials who is regularly critical of Mr. Cuomo.

“In 33 years of practice as a prosecutor, assistant attorney general and chief counsel to the State Police, I never heard of a prosecutor threatening that if witnesses retained a lawyer, it would be held against them,” Mr. Valle said.

The TImes says the matter amounts to, at worst, a breach of legal ethics, and Cuomo likely wouldn't face any penalty for threatening witnesses to leave legal counsel at home.

Nonetheless it is a glimpse into who this man is, how he operated as attorney general, and why he may be hiding his attorney general papers.

Cuomo likes to operate in the dark, away from scrutiny.

There is a reason for that.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pearson's Standardized Tests Are Flawed And Useless

Bombshell report in the NY Times on standardized testing:

In 2006, a math pilot program for middle school students in a Dallas-area district returned surprising results.

The students’ improved grasp of mathematical concepts stunned Walter Stroup, the University of Texas at Austin professor behind the program. But at the end of the year, students’ scores had increased only marginally on state standardized TAKS tests, unlike what Mr. Stroup had seen in the classroom.

A similar dynamic showed up in a comparison of the students’ scores on midyear benchmark tests and what they received on their end-of-year exams. Standardized test scores the previous year were better predictors of their scores the next year than the benchmark test they had taken a few months earlier.

Now, in studies that threaten to shake the foundation of high-stakes test-based accountability, Mr. Stroup and two other researchers said they believe they have found the reason: a glitch embedded in the DNA of the state exams that, as a result of a statistical method used to assemble them, suggests they are virtually useless at measuring the effects of classroom instruction.

Pearson, which has a five-year, $468 million contract to create the state’s tests through 2015, uses “item response theory” to devise standardized exams, as other testing companies do. Using I.R.T., developers select questions based on a model that correlates students’ ability with the probability that they will get a question right.

That produces a test that Mr. Stroup said is more sensitive to how it ranks students than to measuring what they have learned. That design flaw also explains why Richardson students’ scores on the previous year’s TAKS test were a better predictor of performance on the next year’s TAKS test than the benchmark exams were, he said. The benchmark exams were developed by the district, the TAKS by the testing company.

Mr. Stroup, who is preparing to submit the findings to multiple research journals, presented them in June at a meeting of the Texas House Public Education Committee. He said he was aware of their implications for a widely used and accepted method of developing tests, and for how the state evaluates public schools.

“I’ve thought about being wrong,” Mr. Stroup said. “I’d love if everyone could say, ‘You are wrong, everything’s fine,’ ” he said. “But these are hundreds and hundreds of numbers that we’ve run now.”


Mr. Stroup’s research comes as opposition to high-stakes standardized testing in Texas is creating an alliance between parents, educators and school leaders who wonder how the tests affect classroom instruction and small-government conservatives who question the expense and bureaucracy they impose.


State Representative Scott Hochberg, Democrat of Houston, led the charge against the measure and has since proposed legislation aimed at reforming the role of standardized testing because of data showing that a student’s test score on the first year highly predicted it for the next.

“I have for a long time said that the accountability system doesn’t give us all the information that the numbers are used to generate,” Mr. Hochberg said, adding that basing accountability “more on the kid’s history than the specifics of what happened in the classroom that year may make us feel good but it doesn’t give us any true information.”
Great - the tests are flawed, but they're using them to make high stakes decisions on students, teachers and schools in states all over the nation, thanks to the Obama administration and the corporate education reform movement, led by the Gates Foundation.


And how much money will Pearson and all the vendors who provide testing materials and test prep make off these flawed measurements and tests?

Somewhere between $20 billion and $50 billion.

This isn't just a travesty - it's criminal.

And yet, here in NY State Governor Cuomo and his education brain trust have decided that standardized tests are the only measure of teacher performance in the classroom and plan to add dozens of standardized tests a year not to measure student performance but rather to measure teacher performance.

Again, fantastic!

One wonders just how much money Pearson is throwing around to get these deals with the states for all this testing.

We know they bribed the former NYSED Commissioner David Steiner.

We know too that Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch has family in the test prep business, so she stands to benefit from all this testing too (We also know the parent company of her brother-in-law's test prep company is being investigated for securities fraud.)

As for current NYSED Commissioner John King, hard to know if he's taken any bribes from Pearson, but we do know that he has navigated quite a career from teacher to charter school leader to NYSED bureaucrat to youngest NYSED commissioner ever.

It doesn't hurt John King's career trajectory that he is such a promoter of standardized testing. In fact, one might think that's exactly how he's risen so fast in education leadership circles - he's happy to shill a corporate education reform agenda, including a heavy emphasis on test-based accountability systems.

I suspect that this study won't change anything here in NY State because the standardized testing train has already left the station and is barreling down the track at too fast a speed to be stopped.

We will spend a few years closing more schools, firing more teachers and leaving more kids back based on these flawed tests and measurements, all the while feeding Pearson scarce resources to do the crappy job they do with these things.

Too bad the AFT didn't jump off the standardized testing train years before, when we could have stopped these plans from being implemented (though it's nice to have them on record now acknowledging the harms that high stakes testing does.)

Unfortunately, I think it is now too late.

We will just have to pick up the pieces after it becomes apparent to the public the harm that is being done by the high stakes accountability system.

If it becomes apparent.

There is a lot of money to be made by the testing companies, the tech companies, the politicians, the education "consultants," and the rest of the education infrastructure with the Common Core Federal Standards, the new federal tests that will be rolled out as part of the CCFS, and the state and district tests that have been mandated as part of new teacher evaluation systems in many states.

You can bet these stakeholders will try and keep the high stakes standardized testing gravy train going for as long as they can - and they'll get lots of help from the corporate media, many of whom are stakeholders themselves.

Remember, the Washington Post owns Kaplan and News Corporation is in the for profit education game as well.

As I like to write all the time when talking about the financial markets, it's all rigged.

It's all rigged.

And there's so much money involved in this game that the boys and girls making it aren't going to want to unrig it any time soon.

Must Be The Fault Of Their Teachers

This story from the NY Post brings back memories of old time New York:

A wolf pack of drunken young women “acting stupid” on the downtown No. 6 train after an all-night party stabbed a 63-year-old man yesterday — for having had the nerve to ask them to pipe down, police said.

The man was on his way to work as a vendor near the World Trade Center at about 6:15 a.m., a law-enforcement source told The Post.

“The eight females were acting stupid. He just told them, ‘Relax. Calm down,’ ” the source said.

Instead, one stabbed the man, Ralph Carnegary, in the shoulder. He was in stable condition at Bellevue.

The women were busted on the street near at the 23rd Street station.

A city bus driver who witnessed the arrests said the women, beers in hand, were screaming, “We didn’t do anything.’’

Seven of them, ages 17 to 20, were charged with gang assault, disorderly conduct, rioting, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing and felony assault.

Cops added that they recovered a knife.

The suspects later shouted and cursed at reporters and photographers as they were led to a police van.

Just another example of how "failed" schools and "bad" teachers are bringing about the demise of civil society.

You see, if only these girls had received better schooling from better teachers, they would have been home readying for a productive day at work rather than riding the 6 train with beers in hand at 6:15 AM.

You can trace every problem in society back to "failed" schools and "bad" teachers.

Well, at least the corporate reformers, corporate media and corporate politicians can.

Bloomberg Wants To Privatize Parking Meters And Lose Money On The Deal

Parking meter privatization has been a disaster in Chicago (ever notice how so many disastrous ideas come out of Chicago? Neo-liberalism, mayoral control of schools, parking meter privatization, deep dish pizza - all from Chicago.)

So of course the Mayor of Money wants to bring that disaster here to NYC.

But John Liu writes in today's Daily News that that's a bad idea:

Despite City Hall’s disastrous track record with outsourcing contracts to large corporations, like CityTime to SAIC and the 911 emergency-call system to HP, Mayor Bloomberg apparently continues to believe in the myth that private companies always do a better job than the public workers already on the payroll.

Perhaps in an attempt to repair his bad record of farming out multibillion-dollar technology projects, the mayor is aggressively moving forward with what may prove to be the largest such project in New York’s history: privatizing the operations and maintenance of the city’s nearly 90,000 total parking spaces. If his plan proceeds, a private company would soon be servicing our Muni-Meters and collecting the money.

Preliminary proposals are due tomorrow, Tuesday, so New Yorkers need to know the facts today.


Over time, our parking system has consistently proven to be a hugely profitable business for the city. For this fiscal year, its operating revenues are projected to be $192 million — a 22% jump over the previous year — while operating expenses are projected to grow only 6%, to $67 million. The $125 million in net revenue the system earns for the city represents a profit of more than 65% — a profit margin that would make the CEO of any major company, even Bloomberg LP, envious.

What’s more, the 466 folks who the city has reported as operating and maintaining our parking system are good at their jobs. For this fiscal year, the average revenue generated per employee is projected to be a whopping $412,000. By comparison, in 2011, each JPMorgan Chase employee generated only $345,000 in revenue. So the city’s parking-system operation is hardly inefficient or bloated, at least compared to one of the world’s largest banks.

So why in the world does Bloomberg want to allow this tremendous public asset to be privately managed and operated? What is the evidence a corporation can squeeze more profitability out of the system? Perhaps the plan is to hike rates or shed employees. Perhaps it’s to look for a quick, one-shot cash infusion to close the $2.5 billion budget hole looming next year.

Either motive would be dangerous for taxpayers.

Maybe Bloomberg believes we need to bring more advanced technology to bear on our parking spaces. But the city hasn’t had any problem modernizing its parking system. Our Muni-Meters are state of the art and reliable, with more than 98% reported operability. We’re even exploring parking-rate innovations like using mobile phones to make it easier for drivers to feed the meter and find empty spots.

The mayor’s office says it is seeking to guarantee a minimum of $100 million in total annual parking revenue. But the parking system already generates $125 million of net revenues annually for the city. Why would we hand over our parking system to a private company in exchange for a $100 million guarantee and then let it share in the revenues above that? It doesn’t make any financial sense, not for the city or for taxpayers.

Bloomberg would know much of this if he just called Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, whose predecessor orchestrated one of the worst parking-meter privatization deals in municipal history. Chicago, home to the nation’s third-largest parking system, is now grappling with a contract that gave that city relatively small change up front, $1.15 billion, in exchange for a 75-year deal that has made for skyrocketing parking costs for residents.

Estimates are that the vendor will make almost 10 times what Chicago got for the contract. Meanwhile, the vendor is sticking Chicago taxpayers with a truckload of hidden costs, charging the city fees, for example, when meters are put out of service to accommodate parades, street fairs, construction or handicapped-parking placards.

A horrendous deal, indeed.

I hope Liu can stop Bloomberg.

But Liu has already been destroyed by Bloomberg's friends in the media and the federal government with campaign finance fraud allegations.

Bloomberg, who himself admitted he laundered $1.1 million to the Independence Party outside of the legal route, somehow remains in office with full powers while Liu, accused but never charged with finance fraud, is neutered by the press.

No wonder the corporate media and Bloomberg's friends in power went after him.

He tells the truth about corporate cronyism, corruption and privatization - like with this parking meter privatization deal Bloomberg wants to saddle the city with.

Extrapolate These Findings To For Profit Charters And On Line Schools

The Senate released a report on for profit colleges tonight that found the following:

As of 2009, the report said, three-quarters of students in for-profit colleges attended institutions owned either by publicly traded companies or private equity firms. It said the schools excelled at recruiting students, but not necessarily at retaining them: More than half of students at for-profit schools who enrolled in the 2008-09 academic year left without a degree, the report found. Half of all non-finishers ended their studies within four months.


Investigators studied operations at 30 for-profit higher-
education companies, including industry leaders Apollo Group, Education Management, DeVry and Kaplan. Kaplan is owned by The Washington Post Co.

“We uncovered two very big problems in for-profit higher education,” Harkin said in a statement. “One, billions of taxpayer dollars are being squandered. And two, many for-profit schools are doing real, lasting harm to the students they enroll.

It's so interesting that even as Harkin's committee is finding that for-profit schools in higher education harm students, put shareholders before stakeholders, and steal billions in tax dollars, they're promoting education reforms that will help bring for profit charters and online schools to K-12 school districts all across the country.

If the hedge fundies and private equity funds calling the shots at for profit colleges are stealing billions and putting themselves above anything and anybody else, what makes the boys and girls at the Obama USDOE or in Harkin's committee so certain that promoting charters (including for profits) and online schools (all of which are for profit) isn't going to bring the same results - harmed students and bilked taxpayers?

Philadelphia is already seeing some of the raping and pillaging the charter operators are capable of - especially when they lack oversight (see here and here.)

It looks an awful lot like what some of those for profit college companies are doing.

And yet, instead of proceeding with caution, the administration and education reformers in both the House and the Senate (including some in Harkin's committee) are pushing for more for profit charters and for profit online schools.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What Do You Mean You're Not Going To Work Right Up Until The Birth?

How many women do you see work almost up until the day they are ready to give birth to a child?

This year, I have seen three women do this - one of whom worked literally right up until the birth. Her water broke at work.

A new study says this is as harmful for the baby as cigarette exposure:

Working after eight months of pregnancy is as harmful for babies as smoking, according to a new study.

Women who worked after they were eight months pregnant had babies on average around 230g (0.5lb) lighter than those who stopped work between six and eight months.

The University of Essex research – which drew on data from three major studies, two in the UK and one in the US – found the effect of continuing to work during the late stages of pregnancy was equal to that of smoking while pregnant. Babies whose mothers worked or smoked throughout pregnancy grew more slowly in the womb.

Past research has shown babies with low birth weights are at higher risk of poor health and slow development, and may suffer from a variety of problems later in life.

Of course there's a class angle to this.

If you're the new-crowned CEO at Yahoo and you work right up until the birth, the damage does not seem to be as great:

Stopping work early in pregnancy was particularly beneficial for women with lower levels of education, the study found – suggesting that the effect of working during
effect of working during pregnancy was possibly more marked for those doing physically demanding work.

Our culture aggrandizes people who sacrifice sleep, personal health and time with the family for time spent at work.

Work, work, work!

Sacrifice your health, sacrifice the health of your baby, sacrifice your soul!

Work, work, work!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Wheat's Growing Thin

Was the summer of 1979 - but it could be the summer of 2012:

The ice age is coming,
the sun's zooming in

Meltdown expected,
the wheat is growing thin

Engines stop running
but I have no fear

'Cause London is burning
and I live by the river

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Boy, The Clash Never Go Out Of Style

A comment in a previous thread got me to thinking how The Clash never lose their relevance.

Over the next few days, I'd like to highlight some lyrics that apply as much today to the time period they were recorded in.

Today, Wrong 'Em, Boyo:

Why do you try to cheat?
And trample people under your feet
Don't you know it is wrong?
To cheat the trying man
So you better stop, it is the wrong 'em boyo

You lie, steal, cheat and deceit
In such a small, small game
Don't you know it is wrong

Just In Time For The Jubilee: Sex Pistols Announce Bollocks 35th Anniversary Box Set

Belsen was a gas:

Sex Pistols announce details of 35th Anniversary 'Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols' super deluxe box set to be released September 24th through Universal Music UK

As one of the most iconic and influential albums in music history 'Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols' still sounds as powerful and unique as ever, 35 years since the original release. As such an important musical and cultural force the album changed the landscape for records and the music industry. The Sex Pistols defined a generation and captured a feeling within the nation that simply no one else could of. The band created a truly distinctive sound and 'Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols' impact and influence still strongly resonates with musicians, artists and people to this day. To celebrate its 35th anniversary, Universal Music UK has assembled a super-deluxe box set release that really does this legendary album justice.

While many fans will undoubtedly be of the opinion that there can be very little left in the Sex Pistols vaults that hasn't already been seen and heard, followers of the band will be thrilled by the treasure trove of music, footage, interviews, pictures and artifacts confirmed to be included.

The original master tapes from the 'Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols' recording sessions in 1977 were thought to be lost for many years. Now thankfully rediscovered during the recent move from Virgin Records to Universal Music Catalogue in January 2012 the tapes have been remastered, for the very first time, by Tim Young under direction from original producer Chris Thomas. Some real treats have also been found along the way. The find that will perhaps excite fans the most is the lost 1977 demo studio recording of 'Belsen Was A Gas', the only original Sex Pistols composition of the era thought not to be recorded.

Other treats include the inclusion of six demos first included on the infamous 'Spunk' bootleg album, released for the very first time in their original, untouched form following the very recent discovery of their original master tapes. These, combined with a selection of unreleased Chris Thomas demo's and outtakes from the recording of the album - including tracks with Sid Vicious on bass- plus a wealth of live audio and visual material all from 1977 make up a box set that will truly satisfy fans of the band.

No future for you - this ought to be the soundtrack to the education reform era.

How The Murdoch Family Treats The Help

Must read piece in Gawker last week about how Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi treated a former staffer and tutor of their children:

A former household staffer and tutor for Rupert Mudoch and Wendi Deng's children is speaking out for the first time about the relentless nightmare that is working for the Murdochs: Screaming tantrums, nannies discarded by the side of the road on a whim, no benefits, unpaid overtime, young girls body-shamed by their mother—and near abandonment for workers injured on the job.

Ying-Shu Hsu spent more than year as a full-time Chinese tutor and nanny to Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng's daughters, Chloe and Grace. Six years ago, while holding then 2-year-old Chloe in her arms, she tripped over a tricycle in the Murdochs' Beverly Hills home and fractured her knee, causing permanent damage. Unable to work and cut off from workers' compensation benefits owing to the Murdochs' shoddy paperwork, Hsu was sent packing with a severance payment and told never to contact the family again. She sued the Murdochs unsuccessfully for damages in 2007 (the lawsuit has never been previously reported), and has never been able to work since. She lives off Social Security now.

Read the whole piece. It's horrifying. Wendi Deng comes off much worse than Rupert in the piece, but remember, he's the one paying the staff like this:

Deng, Hsu says, was notorious among her household staff for being cheap, despite her husband's fortune. Food in the refrigerator, Hsu said, was strictly labelled for Rupert and the kids and was hands off for the staff. Hsu's hours were supposed to be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but Deng frequently asked her to work later, especially when the family was travelling, and never paid her overtime. Her job included no benefits, paid vacation, or sick leave—perks that are routinely afforded to nannies in New York (and are now mandatory under a recently passed Domestic Workers Bill of Rights). When the Murdochs were away and Hsu wasn't travelling with them, she didn't get paid. Though Hsu's nominal salary at $3,000 per month totaled $36,000 per year, with unpaid vacations and time off when the Murdochs travelled without her, she ended up earning just $26,200 in 2005. For perspective, according to a 2011 survey of nanny employment practices in Brooklyn conducted by Park Slope Parents, 8 in 10 families reported continuing to pay their nanny for regular hours while they were away. And the average Brooklyn nanny received more than 11 paid days off per year.

What's more, the Murdochs' household corporation, KRM Services (as in Keith Rupert Murdoch), classified Hsu as a self-employed independent contractor despite the fact that she was clearly a household employee. According to tax documents disclosed in Hsu's lawsuit against the Murdochs, KRM Services treated Hsu as a 1099 employee and didn't withhold any taxes or pay the employer's share of her Social Security taxes in 2005. IRS guidelines make it abundantly clear that if "you can control not only what work is done" by an employee "but how it is done," then that staffer qualifies as a household employee for whom employment taxes must be paid. There is no question based on Hsu's description of her job that Deng had total control over what she did and how she did it. Indeed, during the course of Hsu's litigation, Deng filed a sworn declaration with the court affirming that she controlled the "time, manner, and place of where Ying-Shu Hsu performed her work [sic].

Here's how Ms. Hsu was injured while in the Murdoch's employ:

In January 2006, while travelling with the Murdochs to their Beverly Hills estate, Hsu was working late caring for Chloe and Grace. At 5:30 p.m., Chloe demanded a certain kind of yogurt that the Murdochs had run out of. Chloe didn't believe Hsu when she told her there wasn't anymore, so Hsu carried Chloe in her arms to the refrigerator to prove it to her. Along the way, she tripped over a tricycle in the kitchen. Since she was carrying a two-year-old, Hsu couldn't maneuver her body to protect herself as she fell. She broke her kneecap.

"My bone was sticking out," she says. A housekeeper rushed her to the hospital, where doctors told her she needed surgery. But the surgeon's schedule was booked, so Hsu spent four days in excruciating pain at the Murdochs' in Beverly Hills, wearing a temporary cast and taking painkillers. "Wendi told me it was no big deal," she said. "Rupert broke his leg skiing once and he was fine."

After her surgery, Hsu recuperated at the Murdochs' for another two weeks before she was well enough to travel home on January 27. When she left, she says, Wendi promised she could come back to work as soon as she was feeling up to it. "She verbally told me, 'After you get better, you can come back,'" Hsu said. Not long after, Deng's secretary sent her a personal check from Deng for $5,000, or just under two months' salary. After that, nothing.

"She never contacted me or followed up," Hsu said. "I tried to contact her in June—I hadn't worked in almost six months. But I could only leave messages, and she never called back. In July, her secretary sent me a check for $3,000 and said, 'You're on your own. Don't bother us any more.'" At that time, Hsu was still on crutches, with two steel pins in her knee. She wasn't in much of a position to seek new employment, but felt that—despite the job's unpleasant aspects—she could have continued on with the Murdochs as Deng, she says, had promised.


Through it all, Hsu got nothing aside from a total of $8,000—roughly two-and-a-half months salary—in severance from Deng. Five years after the accident, she walks with a limp. Throughout her long rehabilitation, during which she was severely impaired and in pain, she got none of the workers' compensation benefits to which she as entitled. By the time evidence of her coverage emerged four years later, she had recovered to the point where a doctor no longer found her to be impaired enough for benefits. She moved to Las Vegas, gave up on pursuing anything from workers' compensation, and lives off her Social Security benefits. She feels embittered at both the Murdochs and her own lawyer, James Napoli, whom she feels abandoned her after the Murdochs' belated discovery. And she suspects—without evidence—that Napoli folded in the face of a powerful adversary. Napoli did not return a phone message.

Hsu never spoke to Deng again after the accident. Today, she has a simple message for her: "Treat people fairly and nicely. That's how you keep people. She's mean."

Treating the staff like serfs, cheating on employee taxes and Social Security, trying to cheat an insurance company, dropping an employee injured in his employ like a broken children's toy, and letting his wife terrorize staff like she's Catherine the Great - that's Rupert Murdoch for you.

No wonder he has such disdain for teachers.

He sees us as extensions of the household staff - to be treated the way he and his wife treated Ms. Hsu.

Le Freak

Fun opening night with Nile Rogers and Chic at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors:

Can't wait to see William Penn, Otis Clay and Dan Penn later this summer at Lincoln Center.

And Bettye LaVette at Madison Square Park.

And Marshall Crenshaw at City Winery.

And Lyle Lovett at Celebrate Brooklyn.

Already seen the Beach Boys, Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family, Parliament-Funkadelic, Sam Moore, and some July 4th bluegrass.

Have to miss Joe Hurley at Sunday's Irish Festival.

Just not enough days to see and hear live music...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Also, Just Because

Drive By Truckers:

Saw The Truckers at Brooklyn Bowl that tour.

Almost got hit by a microphone stand when a sweaty, drunken, naked to the waist, enormously beer-bellied Patterson Hood began swinging it around at the end of the show.

Note to self - do not stand by the stage when the Drive By Truckers are on.

Just Because

Eddie Hinton:

NYU, Fordham Report: NYPD Out Of Control, Above Law In Occupy Protests

No surprise here:

The first systematic look at the New York police department's response to Occupy Wall Street protests paints a damning picture of an out-of-control and aggressive organization that routinely acted beyond its powers.

In a report that followed an eight-month study (pdf), researchers at the law schools of NYU and Fordham accuse the NYPD of deploying unnecessarily aggressive force, routinely obstructing press freedoms and making arbitrary and baseless arrests.

The study, published on Tuesday, found evidence that police made violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments, obstructed independent legal monitors and was opaque about its policies.

The NYPD report is the first of a series to look at how police authorities in five US cities, including Oakland and Boston, have treated the Occupy movement since it began in September 2011. The research concludes that there now is a systematic effort by authorities to suppress protests, even when these are lawful and pose no threat to the public.

Sarah Knuckey, a professor of law at NYU, said: "All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking".

The report says the NYPD was by far the worst offender of all the police departments involved in suppressing Occupy protests:

The NYPD appears to be the worst offender, in large part because it has made little attempt – unlike Oakland, for example – to reassess its practices or open itself up to dialogue or review. The NYPD practices documented in the report include:

• Aggressive, unnecessary and excessive police force against peaceful protesters, bystanders, legal observers, and journalists. This included the use of batons, pepper spray, metal barricades, scooters, and horses.

• Obstruction of press freedoms and independent legal monitoring, including arrests of at least 10 journalists, and multiple cases of preventing journalists from reporting on protests or barring and evicting them from specific sites.

• Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity.

• Violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments.

• Unjustified closure of public spaces, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and trapping of protesters.

• Arbitrary and selective rule enforcement and baseless arrests.

• Failures to ensure transparency about government policies.

• Failures to ensure accountability for those allegedly responsible for abuses.

The report argues that the lack of transparency and accountability is especially troubling because the public does not know whether police actions are guided by specific written policies, or whether they are random or ad hoc.

The NYPD turned down multiple requests to meet the researchers, who say they were keen include the police's point of view in the report. The other four police departments examined for the project all sent representatives to meet researchers. The NYPD did not provide a comment to the Guardian by the time of publication of this article.

As I wrote earlier - this Bloomberg's city.

You're lucky he lets you live.

Not "live in it."


Good For The CTU And Chicago Teachers

That was a really great job getting concessions from Rahmbo on work hours, new hires and recalls.

But as CTU President Karen Lewis said:

"This is movement in the right direction, but let me make this very clear, this does not settle the outstanding and mandatory issues in the contract,” said Lewis. “In order to get us where we are today it took a march of nearly 10,000 educators, a strike authorization vote and a fact-finder’s report to get CPS to move on this issue. This is yet another example of the CTU’s determination and dedication to fighting for solutions that will strengthen our schools.”

Kudos to her and the CTU leadership for knowing that victories in small skirmishes do not mean the war is over.

Note to UFT: Turnaround school battle is NOT over.

Bloomberg, Walcott and the DOE are going to do everything in their power to destroy those schools before Bloomberg goes.

That means you guys have to stand up for those schools and make sure they are given the resources and support to survive and thrive.

BREAKING NEWS: Bloomberg, City Council Agree To Change Name Of NYC To NYU

It was really only a matter of time.

In other news, the 2013 NYC mayoral election has been canceled by Dear Leader Bloomberg.

Great Leader Quinn will assume power when Dear Leader Bloomberg steps down on December 31, 2013.

If Dear Leader Bloomberg steps down.

Remember, he's got his own army, and that army has missiles, so don't try and fuck with him.

It's Bloomberg's world.

He let's you live in it - for now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hacking Scandal Will Cost News Corporation $1 Billion Dollars

Take a look at this doozy from the John Burns piece in the NY Times tonight about the fall-out from the arrests of eight former Murdoch employees in the hacking scandal today and tell me it isn't going to give Klein and Murdoch problems as they pursue their for-profit education company fantasies:

The indictments did not surprise executives at News Corporation, the New York media conglomerate that owns the British papers, who are readying the split of the company’s newspapers from its more lucrative entertainment assets. The charges, in part, played into the timing of Mr. Murdoch’s finally agreeing to the split, which his top lieutenants had proposed for years, a person familiar with the thinking at the company said.

“You don’t get an indictment like this without a lot of preliminary discussions,” said this person, who could not comment on the record about private discussions. “They knew exactly, exactly what was coming and how bad it would look.”


Besides shaking Mr. Murdoch’s global empire to its core, the British scandal has forced News Corporation to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in legal costs, out-of-court settlements and payoffs to employees who have been laid off, Mr. Murdoch testified this year at a judicial inquiry into the scandal.

And that price, analysts say, is likely to exceed a billion dollars as lawsuits and settlements proliferate. Alison Levitt, chief legal adviser at the Crown Prosecution Service, the government department, traced the scope of what lies ahead when she gave a broad account on Tuesday of the number of people — more than 600, by the prosecutors’ count — who are confirmed victims of the phone hacking.

Sue Akers, the senior Scotland Yard officer overseeing the police investigations, told the Leveson inquiry on Monday that the police had notified 2,615 people that they may have been targets of the voice-mail interceptions. So far, only about 40 of those known to have been victims of the practice have settled their lawsuits against the Murdoch papers, with at least one of the settlements exceeding $1-million.

Joel Klein's new for-profit education division has been partnered with the old News Corporation newspapers while the much more profitable entertainment division will be split off on its own.

That means the costs of the lawsuits, the legal fees, the out-of-court settlements, and the fines will all come from the publishing/education division, not the entertainment division.

Since many of the Murdoch papers lose money (with the Big Three - the Times of London, the NY Post, and the Wall Street Journal reported to lose $250 million a year alone) and since the one paper that was profitable has been closed (The News of the World), the new publishing/education division is starting out behind the eight ball.

Couple that with the continued financial fall-out from the hacking scandal and you are looking at a very challenging task for our former chancellor to handle.

Can he make the education division lucrative enough so that it can survive even as the unprofitable newspapers and hacking scandal costs threaten to sink it?

Will any district or state buy education products from a company still dealing with the aftermath of scandal where its employees hacked into a dead teen's phone?

Will Klein and Company make anything anybody will want to buy in the first place?

It's going to be a competitive market, that's for sure.

And then there are all those other problems the division will face.

Klein will start by cutting costs at the newspapers, which means either selling papers or closing them outright.

"The Daily," the online news app that was supposed to "revolutionize" news on Apple platforms, is already on life support and probably won't survive the year.

Expect the Times of London to go up for sale soon after.

They'll try and sell the Post, which reportedly loses $110 million a year, but if they can't find any takers, they might have to close it.

And they'll circle the wagons around the Journal, partner that with the education products, and try and expand the business that way.

All of that is arguably do-able, except for one unknown - the cost of the financial fall-out from the hacking scandal and the bribery and corruption investigations.

While eight former Murdoch employees were arrested today, including the entire brain trust of Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World, some of these same people face bribery and corruption charges in a related criminal investigation.

So do at least 20 employees at another Murdoch paper, The Sun.

This scandal is far from over and it still has the chance to leap the ocean to these shores as well.

The lawyer who brought the civil suits against News Corporation in the U.K. over the hacking is bringing at least four lawsuits here against News Corporation for allegedly hacking people on U.S. soil.

Those suits threaten the firewall Murdoch and his American News Corp. brain trust have counted on to keep them from facing criminal investigations here (as well as from having to pay hefty fines for breaking the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.)

Klein will have to deal with all of this as he maneuvers to make his education division successful.

But even if successfully navigates all of that, if the hacking costs total $1 billion, that could sink the division no matter what.

I do not underestimate Rupert Murdoch or Joel Klein in successfully pulling this off.

But they've got their work cut out for them.

It is challenging enough to take on Apple, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, et al. in selling education products to districts and states.

It is even more challenging when you also have to deal with criminal investigations, court cases, civil trials, out-of-court settlements and potential fines from the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act.

Good For The UFT

They've won the turnaround battle with the mayor.

Now they have to defend these schools next year, as the DOE will take special aim at them in order to close them before Bloomberg leaves office.

And they have to do this without selling the rest of us out in the evaluation system fight.

Good luck with that.

I have no illusions that there won't be some sell-out on the evaluations and I've already seen how the UFT can win lawsuits over school closures, then sit on their hands while the DOE starves those schools the next year and closes them anyway.

But as always, hoping to be proven wrong by the happy conventioneers at the UFT.

So far, however, I've learned you'll never go broke expecting the UFT leadership to sell you down the river and call it a victory.

Or, as Edwize poet "Redhog" once put it about the infamous '05 sell-out contract "This scrapes the skies!"

What's Cuomo Hiding? (Continued)

Another day, another story about Cuomo hiding something from the past:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration, already drawing attention for its focus on secrecy, has now begun editing his record as New York attorney general, sending aides to the state archives to remove key documents from public view.

The aides have declared off limits all of Mr. Cuomo’s files related to a 2007 inquiry into the use of the State Police for political purposes, which was one of the most prominent public corruption investigations he oversaw as attorney general. And, in a change of practice, the administration is also pre-emptively reviewing all documents sent by the governor to the archives and removing anything it deems sensitive from public view.

The review of the archived material comes at a time when Mr. Cuomo is being much discussed as a 2016 presidential candidate. Many public figures with national ambitions have been concerned about being tripped up by old documents; when Mitt Romney left the governorship in Massachusetts, his administration wiped all e-mail from the government server and allowed his top aides to buy their work hard drives, so no electronic record remained.

Mr. Cuomo’s office defended its conduct, saying that the archives mistakenly made public documents that should have been private, and that it has simply been correcting those errors. It said that the documents related to the police inquiry — known as Troopergate — were exempt from public disclosure because they were “work product,” or protected by attorney-client privilege, and that researchers could find some of the documents through the files of other agencies, like the Albany district attorney.

And then we get what sounds an awful lot like Cuomo's people specifically trying to cover something up:

The Cuomo administration’s actions to restrict access to the archives of his attorney general files became public when reporters for The Times Union of Albany began visiting the archives to review the records from his tenure as attorney general. The reporters noticed that, after they photocopied documents in the files, the documents disappeared; they later determined that Mr. Cuomo’s special assistant, Linda Lacewell, and spokesman, Josh Vlasto, had visited and removed the papers from the public files.

State guidelines require attorneys general to turn over their records to the archives. In the past, archivists have typically determined case by case whether to allow researchers access to files, in consultation with the current attorney general, and sometimes in consultation with the lawyers who handled the cases. Mr. Cuomo’s office said that, in an effort to streamline the process, it had chosen to review all documents now, rather than waiting for researchers to seek access and then allowing archivists to begin the time-consuming process of reviewing them.

The state archives, which is a division of the State Education Department and is not controlled by the governor, has provided inaccurate information about the contents of its holdings. In late June, the archives told The New York Times, in writing, that it had no documents from Mr. Cuomo related to the inquiry. The document was a response to a Freedom of Information Law request; the archives and the governor’s office now acknowledge that the response was incorrect, but say it was issued in error.

In the course of defending its handling of archived documents, the administration has criticized The Times Union. In a letter to the paper, Mr. Cuomo’s communications director, Richard Bamberger, said The Times Union was working on a “manufactured story” and was trying to “create controversy.” Mr. Bamberger accused the paper of trying to atone for its role in the history of the trooper inquiry; in 2007, an article published in the paper set off the controversy, and some suggested that the paper had been used by Mr. Spitzer for political purposes.

“We are aware of your efforts to generate doubt about the validity of the Troopergate report, which was embarrassing to The Times Union,” Mr. Bamberger’s letter said, adding, “But it would be shameful for you to compound your prior errors by making use of your news pages to try to rehabilitate your own image by manufacturing doubt about professional work done by career prosecutors in the public interest.”

The Cuomo administration has seemed particularly concerned about a memorandum written by Ms. Lacewell, summarizing the investigation after it was over. The Times Union obtained a copy of the memorandum before Mr. Cuomo’s aides removed it from public view; the administration said it was a protected document because it was a “work product,” and The Times Union has not published it.

Rex Smith, the editor of The Times Union, said, “Our goal first was to do a story about what we thought was a significant departure from traditional practice in terms of access to documents in the archives.” He said the paper was still weighing whether to do an article about the memo.

On Monday, state officials struggled to explain why The Times was misled by the archives about the presence of records on the inquiry. Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the archives, said officials at first thought they did not have any records related to the matter, because no records were labeled as such.

The Cuomo administration, however, informed the archives that its response to The Times’s Freedom of Information request had been in error two weeks ago. Neither the governor’s office nor the archives corrected the error.

“I guess our people were in the process of working up a further response to you, but in light of all the phone calls, they decided to hold off,” Mr. Tompkins said.

The dispute over the archives is the latest example of the Cuomo administration’s efforts to manage information. Officials communicate with untraceable BlackBerry messages, and Freedom of Information requests often face long delays.

So far, he's getting away with this.

We'll see how long he gets away with it.

Cuomo's Nixonian paranoia has worked to keep his poll numbers very high and his enemies at bay.

But you can see from his need to hide so much of his past that Cuomo's got something hidden back there.

That stuff will eventually out.

And then the enemies - and Cuomo has a lot of them - will pounce.

Rupert's Former News International Braintrust To Stand Trial

The Independent analyzes the news that eight former Murdoch employees are to face charges in the hacking scandal:

The day of reckoning over phone hacking is almost upon us and almost the entire former hierarchy of News International will be standing in the dock. No wonder Rupert Murdoch quietly dropped his directorship of the company at the weekend.

Rebekah Brooks, the former NI chief executive, has been charged along with her great friend Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World. How damaging it will be for David Cameron to watch the trial of a man he appointed as his Director of Communications.

Brooks and Coulson formed an alliance that one bestrode British popular journalism. They edited the biggest-selling tabloid newspapers in the land.

But the 19 charges read out by the Crown Prosecution Service this morning did not stop with those two big names. Stuart Kuttner, the veteran managing editor of the News of the World, who oversaw the paper’s finances, is charged too. It’s unclear whether the Wapping veteran will be fit enough to stand trial.

Also charged are Greg Miskiw, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, the core team that oversaw the news operation at the Sunday tabloid which Mr Murdoch closed in July last year.

The eighth person charged was the private investigator and former footballer Glenn Mulcaire, who was on a contract with the News of the World.


When this matter first came before the criminal courts it was presented as a case involving a lone News of the World journalist, the Royal Editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed for four months in January 2007. That case centred on the hacking of members of the Royal household and referred to a handful of other victims.

More than five years later, the CPS yesterday made reference in the charge sheets to a string of other high profile alleged hacking victims, including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Sienna Miller, Sir Paul McCartney, former Home Secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, Wayne Rooney and Delia Smith.

For years, the prosecuting authorities have been accused of failing to acknowledge the scale of criminality behind the hacking scandal while Mr Murdoch’s News Corp has repeatedly represented the affair as a conspiracy by political and commercial rivals to exaggerate what went on.

Now all of the big guns who controlled the news operation that went so badly awry at the News of the World are to stand trial. Finally, we shall see.
Indeed we shall.

So shall Rupert - and Joel Klein, if he's tapped to run the new education/newspaper division after the News Corporation split.

Peter Jukes looks at how another investigation - the one into illegal payments by News International employees - is going:

Meanwhile, a related investigation, Operation Elveden, has arrested over a dozen journalists at the now-defunct News of the World's daily sister tabloid, The Sun, on suspicion of illegal payments to police and other public employees. This has attracted the attention of the Department of Justice in the U.S., which has launched its own investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which could see News Corp. liable under U.S. law for corruption of public officials. Both the SEC and the FBI have been cooperating with British investigators.

As I wrote earlier today, there is a lot more fall-out to come from the scandal.

Klein and Murdoch announced a vaunted new education venture yesterday.

But that news is far overshadowed by what the new education venture is saddled with - the crimes and misdeeds of it's older newspaper sibling.

The money for the court cases and legal fees and potential fines will all have to come from the new education/newspaper division.

Heckuva way to start out in life, isn't it?

A Slew Of Charges Against Ex-Murdoch Employees

A day after Murdoch and Klein announce their joint new education/journalism venture, the Brits announce criminal charges against eight ex-Murdoch employees from the newspapers:

LONDON — British authorities on Tuesday charged an ex-aide to the British prime minister, a former protege of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and six others in the ever-widening phone hacking scandal, accusing them of key roles in a lengthy campaign of illegal espionage that victimized hundreds including top celebrities Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

The announcement was a major development in a saga that has transfixed and at times horrified Britons and one that shows no signs of ending. A senior police official said earlier this week that her force was investigating more than 100 claims including computer hacking and illegal access to medical records stemming from the scandal.

The Crown Prosecution Service’s Alison Levitt told journalists that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, both former editors of Murdoch’s now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, are among those being charged with conspiring to intercept the communications of more than 600 people between Oct. 3, 2000, and Aug. 9, 2006.

After his time at the tabloid, Coulson found work as British Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief. Brooks became the chief executive of Murdoch’s London-based News International and one of the country’s most prominent news executives. Others being charged are senior tabloid journalists Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup and Ian Edmondson.

If the News Corporation split goes forward, the entertainment division - the most lucrative part of the company - will no longer have to deal with the hacking stuff.

The new education/journalism division announced yesterday by Murdoch and Klein will.

And as you can see from today's arrests plus comments made by police this week that they are investigating computer and medical hacking claims as well, the fall-out from the hacking scandal is far from done.

More civil suits are to come in Britain and at least four suits will be filed here in the U.S. against News Corporation for hacking on U.S. soil.

Those suits could trigger larger revelations about hacking here in the U.S. by News Corporation employees.

In addition, News Corporation still faces fines under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for their bribing of police and governmental officials in the U.K.

Joel Klein's new education division has been joined at the hip with the dying newspaper division, so that means Klein has to deal with all of these problems as he tries to make the education division lucrative.

And let's not forget that with the News of the World now shuttered, Murdoch's newspaper division actually loses money - a lot of it.

It is estimated that the Big Three in the Murdoch stable - the Times of London, the NY Post and the Wall Street Journal - lose $250 million a year.

It's possible Chancellor Joel can work miracles here and keep the whole thing afloat, but he sure has his work cut out for him.

It's not an accident that the hacking charges were announced a day after Klein and Murdoch announced the new education business model.

The corruption has been so endemic in this company that no matter how they try and move beyond it with future plans, the past keeps coming back to haunt them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cuomo Restricts Access To Records From His Time As Attorney General

Looking to see why Governor Andrew Cuomo didn't take on any of the architects of the '08 financial collapse or the LIBOR rate fixing when he was attorney general?

Good luck at that:

ALBANY — For those seeking the history of Andrew Cuomo's tenure as attorney general through the State Archives, be advised: Members of the governor's staff may go over the material before you arrive, review it after you leave and remove what they don't think should be seen.

A limited number of documents relating to Cuomo's single term as attorney general are stored at the Archives, a branch of the State Education Department, after being transferred from the jurisdiction of the Office of Attorney General. But in a break with past procedure, a Freedom of Information Law request by the Times Union for attorney general records from 2007 to 2010 prompted top Cuomo aide Linda Lacewell to screen documents before their release.

Dozens of folders in the Archives' custody were pulled by Lacewell, a special counsel to the governor, who spent nearly eight hours in the public records room, according to sign-in sheets released by the archives.

Months after the paper made the request, officials made available 30 boxes of material in addition to documents from a closed lawsuit. Most of the material was routine, including news releases announcing drug busts and reports on cybercrime and inmate recidivism.

Of course, politicians often exaggerate in their public utterances, but governmental records usually provide a more unvarnished narrative. Cuomo, like many politicians, has worked to tightly control the flow of information, managing access to senior officials and reducing the volume of records that are created.

While the governor took office vowing to run an administration that is "the most transparent and accountable in history," he and his team are noted for their meticulous management of information.

This tendency appears to extend to the Archives. Lacewell, a top deputy to Cuomo at the attorney general's office, removed several documents from the case files after reporters had seen them. She extracted the daily calendars and notebooks of Ellen Biben, who managed the attorney general's Public Integrity Bureau for Cuomo before becoming the state's top ethics watchdog this year, even though many of the items in the schedules appeared to be mundane. Lacewell even pulled a presentation on how to improve traffic on the office's website.

The governor's press secretary, Josh Vlasto, joined Lacewell at the Archives when he and Lacewell were contacted after reporters photocopied some documents that had been authorized for public viewing after Lacewell's initial screening.

State Archivist Christine Ward told the Times Union that she learned that materials had been made public in error, and that she was responsible for the second round of extractions.


The Times Union reported in March that Cuomo's aides had sent 30 boxes of attorney general records to the Archives, a process that began while he was still in that office. Eliot Spitzer, who like Cuomo served as attorney general before he was elected governor, waited until assuming the higher office to send over old records. So far, Spitzer has sent 1,022 boxes.

Cuomo's schedule records, which had been sought by the Times Union under the Freedom of Information Law, were not sent to the Archives. Instead, they were discarded.

Bamberger's statement said that while Spitzer's aides did not pre-review his materials, Cuomo's aides will handle that task for the current governor. They are now combing through 400 boxes of Cuomo's correspondence as attorney general and "other records will be identified and produced to the Archives as appropriate."

This process of pre-review is "very concerning," said Lawrence J. Hackman, the New York archivist from 1981 to 1995 and a nationally recognized expert on archives policies.

"I don't remember anything like this ever happening," said Hackman, who left Albany to become director of the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Mo. "I don't remember an instance of that kind of direct intervention and then removal of records that were accessible after the fact. It's certainly very concerning, and it drives me toward the conclusion that ... if you don't have a statute to hold up to them in regard to gubernatorial records, you don't have a chance."

Ah yes - the most transparent administration ever.

That's Little Andy for you.

What's he hiding?


NYCDOE Introduces "Virtual" Instructors Into Summer School

As in virtually non-existent:

Students are getting ripped off at public summer schools that cut corners to save money — including one program that ended Friday after just 10 days of classes, The Post has learned.

And a second high school stuck English students in front of computers and essentially assigned a baby sitter — who didn’t have a teaching license — rather than a certified instructor to keep an eye on them.


At Women’s Academy of Excellence in The Bronx, students said the English class has no instructor and no one to answer their questions when they need help with an educational computer program that is teaching them.

Instead, the school assigned a $30,000-a-year “community associate” — a noneducator who is paid to be a liaison between the school and the surrounding area — to monitor the classroom.

“Honestly, I don’t learn much from [the computer]. It tells me stuff, but it doesn’t show me what I’m learning,” said 17-year-old junior Monica Morgan.

“I was so confused . . . I’d get more out of a textbook.”

Despite confirmation from a dozen students and staffers about the lack of a certified teacher, Principal Arnette Crocker denied the charge through the DOE.

She did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

A DOE spokeswoman said the certified instructor was a “virtual” teacher whom the students could ask questions of by e-mail — but the kids said that was news to them.

“I never got offered that,” said soon-to-be sophomore Emani Brown, 15.

DOE officials insisted that the “virtual” teacher was allowable under state regulations.

Those regulations require that online courses be taught or supervised by a certified teacher in the same school district.

Ah yes - students being taught by "an educational computer program."

The future of education is here.

No need for a licensed, certified teacher.

Just a low-paid "community associate," an "educational computer program," some computers and the students.

And of course the use of an "educational computer program" and a "virtual teacher" is "allowable" under state law.

Hell, not only is it "allowable," it soon will be the norm in many urban districts.

This is just one of the reasons the powers that be want to break the unions - so that they can fire the "bad" teachers and replace them with computer programs and "virtual" teachers who are virtually non-existent.

Poof goes to the money - right to Pearson, Wireless Generation and all the other education vulture companies.

Poof goes the future - for the kids stuck in this system.

Obama Or Romney, It Matters Little

Chris Hedges' latest::

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot’s “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men.” “Shape without form, shade without colour,” the poet wrote. “Paralysed force, gesture without motion.”


These armies of bureaucrats serve a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected as Mengele. They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. They assure themselves of their own goodness through their private acts as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They sit on school boards. They go to Rotary. They attend church. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They make the lethal goals of ExxonMobil or Goldman Sachs or Raytheon or insurance companies possible. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic and turn workingmen and -women into impoverished serfs. They feel nothing. Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not Adding Value: Obama Edition

From the Associated Press:

The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.

Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections.

The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965.

Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.

"I grew up going to Hawaii every summer. Now I'm here, applying for assistance because it's hard to make ends meet. It's very hard to adjust," said Laura Fritz, 27, of Wheat Ridge, Colo., describing her slide from rich to poor as she filled out aid forms at a county center. Since 2000, large swaths of Jefferson County just outside Denver have seen poverty nearly double.

Fritz says she grew up wealthy in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, but fortunes turned after her parents lost a significant amount of money in the housing bust. Stuck in a half-million dollar house, her parents began living off food stamps and Fritz's college money evaporated. She tried joining the Army but was injured during basic training.

Now she's living on disability, with an infant daughter and a boyfriend, Garrett Goudeseune, 25, who can't find work as a landscaper. They are struggling to pay their $650 rent on his unemployment checks and don't know how they would get by without the extra help as they hope for the job market to improve.

In an election year dominated by discussion of the middle class, Fritz's case highlights a dim reality for the growing group in poverty. Millions could fall through the cracks as government aid from unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps diminishes.

"The issues aren't just with public benefits. We have some deep problems in the economy," said Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy.

Not a pretty picture.

But as usual with our elite overlords, President Obama refuses to be held accountable by the data.

You see, it's Bush's fault.


Obama wasted all that stimulus money on jive like Race to the Top.

There should have been national programs rebuilding the infrastructure of this country - the roads, the bridges, the rail, the electric grid.

We could have put Americans back to work and rebuilt the Third World infrastructure we suffer with.

Instead we got teacher evaluations tied to test scores.

Heckuva job, Barack "Hoover" Obama.

We need to add one more man to the unemployment ranks - Barack "Hoover" Obama.

Not Adding Value(Continued): Daily News Finds Bloomberg's Small Schools Initiative To Be Miserable Failure

The Mayor of Money lives in an alternate reality where up is down, war is peace and closing big schools to open small schools all make sense.

Except the Daily News finds the Bloomberg "Small Schools" initiative doesn't make sense at all - unless the intent is to simply close down schools - because the small schools actually perform worse than older schools serving similar populations:

The signature Bloomberg administration reform of shutting down failing schools and replacing them with new schools has — itself — failed thousands of city students, a Daily News analysis finds.

The new schools opened under the mayor were supposed to have better teachers, better principals, and, ultimately, better test scores than the dysfunctional failure mills they were replacing.

But when The News examined 2012 state reading test scores for 154 public elementary and middle schools that have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took office, nearly 60% had passing rates that were lower than older schools with similar poverty rates.

The new schools also showed poor results in the city’s letter-grade rating system, which uses a complicated formula to compare schools with those that have similar demographics.

Of 133 new elementary and middle schools that got letter grades last year, 15% received D’s and F’s — far more than the city average, where just 10% of schools got the rock-bottom grades.


The News conducted its analysis by grouping 154 new schools into one of five poverty categories based on how many kids in the school were eligible last year to receive a free lunch. It then compared the percent of students who passed the state reading test in each school to the average passing rate for older schools in the same poverty group.

Of the 154 schools, 90 had lower passing rates than the average school in their group.

That translates to massive failure: Just 38% of students at elementary and middle schools created by the Bloomberg administration passed the reading exams, compared with 47% of students citywide.


“This is additional evidence that these (new) schools are not performing better than their peer schools,” said NYU Prof. Robert Tobias, who led the city’s testing program before Bloomberg took office.


“(The administration has) been focused on expanding school choice by creating small schools as the solution to school failure when they’re setting these schools up for failure,” said Coalition for Educational Justice parent leader Zakiyah Ansari.

But of course we still live in Bloomberg's alternate reality where his small schools program is a rousing success and if, by chance, it actually isn't, well, that isn't his fault.

It's the fault of the teachers and the union.

Because it's always the fault of the teachers and the union.

So just let Bloomberg shut down all the large schools in the city and open hundreds of new smaller schools and all will be well.

Except it won't.

Just another example of how Bloomberg, the ultimate value-added taskmaster, continues to subtract value from New York City and the New York City school system through his policies.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Not Adding Value: NYC's Unemployment Rate Rises To 10%

Mayor Bloomberg likes to make the people who live and work in his fiefdom live and die by the data.

Well, here's some data that ought to disturb him - the unemployment rate in NYC is the highest it's been since the worst of the recession:

New York City’s unemployment rate climbed to 10 percent in June, equaling the highest level it reached during the recession, even as employers continued hiring at a healthy pace, the State Labor Department reported on Thursday.

Though city officials make almost daily pronouncements about how impressively the city’s economy has rebounded from the long recession, the unemployment rate has returned to the peak it held for six months, from fall 2009 until February 2010. The last time it was higher was 19 years ago, when it was 10.1 percent, said James P. Brown, principal economist for the department.

The June rate was up from 9.7 percent in May, and it translated to more than 397,000 unemployed city residents, according to state data. That total was within 2,000 of the highest number of jobless city residents at any time in 37 years of record keeping, the numbers showed.

The unemployment rate worsened again despite a gain of 11,500 jobs last month, Mr. Brown said. That increase was modest compared with the strong gains of recent months but was about average for the last 10 Junes, he said.


Labor union officials have said the bigger problem is that most of the new jobs are in industries that pay low wages, like retailing and janitorial work. They have been pushing for several months in Albany for an increase in the state’s minimum wage, which has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

I know what will fix this problem.

Let's close schools and fire teachers.

Of course the unemployment increase is not Bloomberg's fault.

Nothing is his fault.

So it must be the fault of unions and public schools.

We Need To Add Social And Emotional Learning To The Curriculum

In an education system that only privileges high test scores and "academic achievement", there were no warning signs that James Holmes needed some kind of help.

Until his test scores went down, of course.

Here is how the Washington Post describes his academic track record:

Before he allegedly walked into the Batman movie early Friday in Aurora, Colo., dressed head to foot in black body armor and carrying a handgun, a shotgun and an assault rifle, James Holmes was a graduate student in neuroscience — a PhD candidate who sat in classes with titles such as “Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders.”

He was known as a very quiet young man, introverted but pleasant. Holmes, 24, had shown scholarly promise in the recent past. He’d earned a merit scholarship out of high school in a sunny San Diego suburb. He had graduated from college with honors. From there, he’d gone to graduate school at the University of Colorado at Denver.

And then something changed. By this spring, Holmes had begun to struggle with poor test scores. He eventually decided to quit school.

The next step, the alleged descent into horrific violence, remains mysterious.


Holmes went to Westview High School in the upscale San Diego neighborhood of Torrey Highlands, where his parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, moved in 2005. Westview classmate Breanna Hath, who now works as a nurse, said she remembers Holmes as extremely quiet and “really sweet, shy. He didn’t have any creepy vibe about him at all.”

Hath said Holmes lacked self-confidence.

“There were no real girls he was involved with. . . . It seemed he was really into a video game group that hung out together.”

Another classmate, John Kabaci, said, “There was nothing negative or weird about him — he just stuck to himself.”

The theme was repeated by Darryl Guiang, another high school classmate: “He seemed like a really shy kid.”

Holmes earned his undergraduate degree in neuroscience at the University of California at Riverside, graduating with honors in 2010. “He had the capability to do anything he wanted academically,” Timothy White, chancellor of UC-Riverside, said at a news conference Friday.

Holmes appears to have never had a scrape with the law, other than a speeding ticket last year. UC-Riverside said he never got into trouble as an undergraduate.

The photograph of Holmes released by the graduate program in Colorado shows a clean-shaven, boyish young man with a cheerful expression on his face.

A spokeswoman for the San Diego Police Department handed out a statement on behalf of the Holmes family and asked the media to respect its privacy, along with that of neighbors.

“The Holmes family is very upset about all of this. It is a tragic event, and it has taken everyone by surprise,” the police spokeswoman said, adding that the family is “fully cooperating” with investigators. “As you can see from their statement, their hearts go out to the friends and family of those that were involved.”

Holmes kept a low profile while living in an apartment building near the medical campus. Neighbors said they didn’t know him.

On the dating site Adult Friend Finder, a post bore a photo of a man with dyed orange hair who appears to be Holmes. The FBI was investigating Friday night but had not confirmed its authenticity. In the post, the man, “classicjimbo,” describes himself as “looking for a fling or casual sex gal. Am a nice guy. Well, as nice enough of a guy who does these sort of shenanigans.” In another part of the page, he asks: “Will you visit me in prison?”

A neuroscience faculty member at the University of Colorado at Denver, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns, described Holmes as “very quiet, strangely quiet in class” and said he seemed “socially off.” Although Holmes got weak scores on the comprehensive exams last semester, the educator said, the school’s staff wasn’t going to toss him out. Instead, they planned to give him remedial instruction and perhaps put him on academic probation.

You never ever hear the USDOE or education reformers talk about social and emotional learning as an important component of K-12 education.

Oh, sure, they'll talk some about bullying and the importance of preventive education around that, but even then, they mostly use that as an excuse to blame teachers for not catching the bullying when it is happening in schools.

But the USDOE and the education reform movement are much too obsessed with testing and test scores to care much about helping students with social and emotional learning.

Here is how Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is defined:

"a process for learning life skills, including how to deal with oneself, others and relationships, and work in an effective manner. In dealing with oneself, SEL helps in recognizing our emotions and learning how to manage those feelings. In dealing with others, SEL helps with developing sympathy and empathy for others, and maintaining positive relationships. SEL also focuses on dealing with a variety of situations in a constructive and ethical manner."

Boy, it sure sounds like that is something that not only James Holmes could have used, but also something everybody in our society could use, from the oligarchs on top like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg who run roughshod over everybody else because they think they're more important than the rest of humanity to the rest of us in the 99% who are left to fight it out in our competitive, free market-based society that privileges only the survival of the fittest.

I took a week of professional development that focused on Social and Emotional Learning earlier this summer, and I must tell you that I am more than ever convinced that this is the way forward not only for the education system but for the culture as well.

Let's face it, scientific advances and innovations come pretty easy to our society.

Learning how to identify personal feelings and work through them in a safe, constructive manner does not.

Given how much we have poisoned the earth and the atmosphere with our scientific advances and innovations, maybe it is time to move away from a societal emphasis on wealth and material accumulation as a sign of success and more to spiritual, emotional and personal development as a sign of evolution.

In education that means getting away from emphasizing testing and test scores.

Now I know that Bloomberg, Gates, Obama, Bush, Duncan, Spellings, Rhee, Klein, Murdoch, Tisch, King, et al. are not going to allow that in the current environment.

Indeed, we are heading toward all-year testing on the state and local level as the new evaluation systems come on line in New York State.

But make no mistake, continuing to emphasize only "academic learning" in the education system will lead us down the road to many more problems - from the kinds of things happening on Wall Street and in business culture to this horror that happened in Aurora early Friday morning.

We need to educate to the whole person - mind, heart, spirit - not just to the mind.

Because James Holmes was doing fine on his test scores throughout most of his academic life, no one ever said "Hey, he looks like he is having trouble relating to others. And he looks like he is hurting over this. Let's see if we can help him to heal this."

I understand that's hard work to do. It requires education officials and teachers willing to heal their own emotional and psychic pains in order to help heal those of their students.

But I believe that is the kind of education that will make the world a better place.

Clearly what we are doing now isn't working.

Just look from Wall Street to the City of London to Aurora to see the evidence of that.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Matter Of Context


AURORA, Colo. — A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver at a midnight opening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said.

Moviegoers didn’t know what was happening and some thought the attack was part of the show. Then they saw a silhouette of a person in the smoke at the front of the theater near the screen, pointing a gun at the crowd.

“I told my friend ‘we’ve got to get out of here,’ but then he shot people trying to go out the exits,” Jennifer Seeger told NBC’s “Today.” She said the shooter made his way up the aisle, firing as he went, saying nothing.

Some of those injured are children, including a 3-month-old infant who was shot.


Victims are being treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. The shooter, a man in his 20s, was arrested shortly after the attack at 12:30 a.m. MDT at the multiplex theater at a mall in Aurora.

FBI spokesman Jason Pack said there’s no indication so far of any connection to terror groups.

It was the worst mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton, about 15 miles west of Aurora, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school’s library.

Just like a video game or Batman movie.

Or life in any number of countries we're "freeing" from terrorism - like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somali, Yemen, etc.

Barack Obama says he is "shocked" by this horror.


Every week he kills as many or even more innocent people as this 24 year old Denver murderer did last night.

Isn't dropping death from the skies onto innocent people from a remote location as horrific and evil as what happened in the Aurora theater?

Isn't targeting people for assassination who have never been charged with crimes, let alone convicted of them, and carrying those assassinations out in secret as horrific and evil as what happened in the Aurora theater?

Might there even be a connection between a country whose foreign policy involves slaughtering innocents in the name of "freedom" and a domestic homeland where an overarmed populace fed on a steady diet of media and government lies, force-fed fear and anger by the corporate state in order to increase sales, and fighting it out for an ever-diminishing pool of jobs and resources gets horrifically violent?

I bet there is.

But the good news is, if this murderer were to just join the American armed forces and head to a foreign country armed and ready to kill in the name of "freedom", his murderous instincts could be put to good use.

You see, if this 24 year had simply killed 12 alleged "terrorists" overseas or dropped a drone bomb on a Pakistani wedding party from some remote Colorado location, they'd have given him a medal.

He'd have been cheered on Morning Joe.

It's all a matter of context.

And therein lies the core rot in modern America.

The evil and horrors that we perpetrate as a nation every day in our foreign policy in the non-ending War on Terrorism only become horrific and evil to us when we see them perpetrated on innocents here at home.