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Member since: Sun Jul 11, 2004, 07:58 PM
Number of posts: 39,405

Journal Archives

Matt Taibbi: can cities save homes by condemning them?

This sounds like it could work apart from the "cooked up by a bunch of businessmen and ex-venture capitalists," which is like saying a bunch of donut shop owners have come up with a cure for obesity.

This would also require local governments be immune to the bribes or threats to from the wealthy who would rather see the rest of us complete our slide into Third World abject poverty. So far, too few politicians at all levels have been immune to that temptation or coercion to make a difference.

Under the proposal, towns would essentially be seizing and condemning the man-made mess resulting from the housing bubble. Cooked up by a small group of businessmen and ex-venture capitalists, the audacious idea falls under the category of "That’s so crazy, it just might work!" One of the plan’s originators described it to me as a "four-bank pool shot."

Here’s how the New York Times described it in an article from earlier this week entitled, "California County Weighs Drastic Plan to Aid Homeowners":

Desperate for a way out of a housing collapse that has crippled the region, officials in San Bernardino County … are exploring a drastic option — using eminent domain to buy up mortgages for homes that are underwater.

Then, the idea goes, the county could cut the mortgages to the current value of the homes and resell the mortgages to a private investment firm, which would allow homeowners to lower their monthly payments and hang onto their property.


Like NAACP debacle, audience of Romney's Brit trip was domestic conservatives

At heart, conservatives fear and distrust ALL foreigners, and even Europeans they only like when the agree with American conservatives.

Otherwise, they are dirty socialists who use the godless metric system.

Baby Bush made any number of gaffes in Europe, including scolding an American reporter for speaking French in front of him, calling long time allies irrelevant, "Old Europe" when they wouldn't join him in the Iraq War, giving an unsolicited backrub to Angela Merkel, and probably farting on Queen Elizabeth.

None of which embarrassed righties in the least.

Mitt probably even gained grounds with righties with his Olympics criticism even if it was groundless since it was an America talking down to the foreigners. The Brits negative reaction probably enhanced that positive perception since to them it was like a bad dog yelping after you hit it with a rolled up newspaper.

When righties talk about Obama diminishing our stature in the world, they mean he is too polite to inferior peoples, which is everyone in their minds.

This will be less than a blip with swing voters but will polish Romney's apple with the extra chromosome set as GOP strategist Lee Atwater called them.

Next up: gay and Muslim bashing.

Count on it.

UK GUARDIAN: Romney's Anglo-Sax Appeal

Funny stuff, especially that Romney is forgetting the Norman (aka FRENCH) layer of Brit culture and that we are two nations separated by a common BMI.

The Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, is reported to want to restore "Anglo-Saxon" relations between Britain and the US as part of a concerted effort to lay down a set of foreign policies to counter accusations from Obama's supporters that he doesn't have enough experience on the world stage.

It's an intriguing idea, even if it is couched in rather lazy terms. What, for instance, happened to the past thousand years of culture bequeathed to us by the Normans, including the lineage of our monarchy (a blood line which has its fair share of German corpuscles)? If Romney wants to forge some kind of union with an anachronistic view of Britain, what are Anglo-Saxon values anyway? Here's a list to get him started …

Our language

"Two nations separated by a common language" – this quotation, often misattributed to Winston Churchill (whose bust Romney wants to return to the White House as part of his re-alignment with Britain) was actually uttered by either Oscar Wilde or George Bernard Shaw … but whatever the source, the language has its roots in Germanic dialects. Old English, as spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, has been continually modified over the years. After the Norman invasion and its French influence, it gradually changed over hundreds of years into Middle English and, from the 15th century, evolved into the language we are all familiar with today. Its greatest threat these days is probably the former Republican president's "Bushisms".

Alfred: not so Great at cookery

The king of Wessex was allegedly so preoccupied with ridding us of the Danes that he accidentally left cakes, entrusted to him by a peasant woman, to burn in the fire. This simple tale tells us all we need to know, not only about the otherworldliness of our betters, but also about our deep distrust of gastronomic excellence. It is why all true Anglo-Saxons – who have to hold down jobs, raise children, watch television and avoid taxes levied upon them by a militantly unjust crown – believe that the ready meal and the takeaway are the pinnacles of western culinary achievement. Our Anglo-Saxon transatlantic brethren, it is noted, invented the TV dinner, the hamburger "restaurant" and morbid obesity; we are but one nation separated by a common BMI...


Brits worry that Murdoch will import our corrupt education "reform"

Other countries seem to realize that our education "reform" simply reforms taxpayer dollars into the pockets of sharks like Rupert Murdoch.

If you don't recognize the names of the other players and companies mentioned toward the end, they are all involved in the forced privatization of our public schools.

If this continues, pretty soon "American innovation" will mean roughly the same thing as a Nigerian email telling you how much you need to send to collect the inheritance from your long lost uncle.

The curious episode at the center of the article is the description of a conference about creating charter schools in the U.K., encouraged by the Conservative government's Minister of Education Michael Gove:

To see where News Corp's interest might lie, we can look to a conference organised by Gove's department in January 2011. Gove had invited Gerald [Joel] Klein, who was then chancellor of the New York City Board of Education, to speak to people “interested in setting up free schools”. (So called “free schools” are a version of academies which both front benches favour.) Four days after Gove extended the invitation, Klein was appointed to the Board of News International. By the time Klein attended the conference he was a News Corp employee, although Gove says he did not know about the appointment.

Also attending the conference, and present at a dinner hosted by the Department for Education, were Mike Feinberg, co-Founder of KIPP Houston, Paul Castro, Head of High Schools KIPP Houston, Aaron Brenner, Head of Primary schools KIPP Houston, Jo Baker, Director of Washington Public Charter School Board, and Monique Miller, Performance Manager of Washington DC Public Charter School Board.

This goes a way towards explaining Murdoch's enthusiastic support for charter schools, and his ceaseless disparagement of public schools, in his many media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Fox News.


Secret Pentagon papers reveal pre-war plans to get Big Oil into Iraq

Courtesy of Greg Muttitt and his new book Fuel on the Fire.

One thing that is striking here is that whether to use Iraq's oil "to advance important US foreign policy objectives" is more of an after-thought than front and center.

That undermines the more grown up lie about why we invaded Iraq.

The childish one is of course looking for WMD's, fighting terrorism, and spreading democracy.

The more respectable lie was that we did it to secure access to that oil to run our economy. If that was really the case, we would simply coerce our oil companies to make contracts on terms favorable to Iraq so they would have no reason to ever cut us off.

By invading, and trying to force contracts favorable to our oil companies, we made it MORE not less likely that at some point they will cut our supply or jack up the price to weaken us and prevent future attacks.

DOCUMENT 17: a briefing to the Deputies Committee on November 6, 2002. The main topic of the meeting is how to spend the proceeds from Iraqi oil. See especially page 10, where weighing up whether to repair war-damaged Iraqi oil infrastructure, one of the cons is that it “could deter private sector involvement”... the EIPG planned to consider later that month “whether to use control of Iraqi oil to advance important U.S. foreign policy objectives”. DOD reports that it holds no record of such discussions. They are likely to involve not direct U.S. energy interests, but whether to tear up eg Russian and Chinese contracts in order to harm those countries.
(The briefing was stored by the DOD as landscape printed on portrait paper – hence the edges are cut off in the official archive too!).

DOCUMENT 18: a briefing to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on January 11, 2003, incorporating comments and decisions from earlier Deputies meetings. Here the option of leaving war damage unrepaired so as to make room for Big Oil has been rejected, in favor of appointing Halliburton subsidiary KBR to carry out repairs (page 5).


Strikingly, "pubic diplomacy" (page 4) means the message that would be given to the public, including saying that "we will act... so as not to prejudice Iraq's future decisions" - even though the opposite is proposed as substantive policy. In other words, the briefing recommends that the Bush administration mislead the public on how it would approach Iraqi oil.


No Accountability for Voucher Schools in Louisiana

If the voucher and charter schools are supposed to be better or at least as good as traditional public schools, why don't politicians want to hold them to the same standards?

What passes for education reform among Republicans and the corporate owned wing of the Democratic Party is straight up theft from the taxpayer by corrupted politicians. Ideology is simply the windowless van they throw their victim in to get away.

Most of the students taking public money with them are in kindergarten, first and second grades, where they are not tested. And there will be no consequences for the voucher schools if their students fail:

White’s plan requires voucher students in grades 3-11 to take standardized tests like public school students, including the LEAP exam taken by fourth- and eighth-graders take. [But not all the students in the school.]

However, unlike public school students voucher recipients will not be required to pass LEAP to move to the next grade.

Private schools will not get letter grades, which their public school counterparts do.


ROBERT GREENWALD: Which CEO made $5 million stealing your kid's lunch money?

60% NYC's Bloomberg schools did WORSE than regular schools

The mass firing and school closings have not only been a signature "reform" of Mayor Bloomberg, but of Arne Duncan's reign in Chicago.

A lot of us have been frustrated with Obama's compromises with the corporate agenda on other issues, but on K-12 education, apart from giving it more funding than Republicans would, there has been no compromise: Obama has been on the same page as the right from the get go. When conservatives praised his choice for Secretary of Education, it was clear our kids would be treated with all the loving care of a side of beef or pork bellies on a commodities exchange.

Charter schools have already been proven to be worse more often than better than traditional public schools, and now this transparently union-busting tactic has been shown to hurt kid's education.

Isn't it time for Obama to admit he was wrong and change course on K-12 education?

And shouldn't Democrats in Congress stop voting FOR this agenda and STOP taking the money of those pushing it?

It might be too late to primary incumbents this year, but how hard would it be to knock one out with a slogan like "I won't sell your kids eduction down the river"?

Ironically, the starting point for the sale of this education "reform" agenda was that our public schools were failing. Now by several objective measures, corporate based education reform has failed.

It's time to put a fork in it and go back to letting educators and educate our kids and let Wall Street go back to doing what it does best--picking grown ups' pockets.

Just leave the kids alone.

Copy and paste this to the White House and your Congress people. They might not do anything, but at least they can't claim ignorance.

The headline summarizes the story: "Bloomberg's New Schools Have Failed Thousands of City Students: Did More Poorly on State Reading Tests than Older Schools with Similar Poverty Rates."

...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.

FULL TEXT[/font]

RAVITCH: Vouchers for unaccountable special education charter schools?

This was especially disturbing to me given that my wife, a special ed teacher in a traditional public school, spends 90% of her non-classroom time on accountability paperwork rather than grading or lessons plans.

You know the game is rigged when politicians are doing everything possible to micromanage the curriculum, test real public schools to death, then use the results as an excuse for mass firings of teachers and to starve schools of funds, but do the exact opposite for for-profit charters.

I noticed this about the right a while ago, but unfortunately it applies to a lot of Democratic politicians too:

What they love they deregulate and shower with money. What they hate, they regulate to death and starve of money.

Politicians only love our kids when a big campaign donor is using them to make money.

While the state played the role of the blind sugar daddy, here is what went on at South Florida Prep, according to parents, students, teachers, and public records: Two hundred students were crammed into ever-changing school locations, including a dingy strip-mall space above a liquor store and down the hall from an Asian massage parlor. Eventually, fire marshals and sheriffs condemned the "campus" as unfit for habitation, pushing the student body into transience in church foyers and public parks.

The teachers were mostly in their early 20s. An afternoon for the high school students might consist of watching a VHS tape of a 1976Laurence Fishburne blaxploitation flick —Cornbread, Earl and Me — and then summarizing the plot. In one class session, a middle school teacher recommended putting "mother nature" — a woman's period — into spaghetti sauce to keep a husband under thumb. "We had no materials," says Nicolas Norris, who taught music despite the lack of a single instrument. "There were no teacher edition books. There was no curriculum."


Meanwhile, Brown openly used a form of corporal punishment that has been banned in Miami-Dade and Broward schools for three decades. Four former students and the music teacher Norris recall that the principal frequently paddled students for misbehaving. In a complaint filed with the DOE in April 2009, one parent rushed to the school to stop Brown from taking a paddle to her son's behind.

The reporter described the McKay Scholarship program as: "...a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash: Dole out millions to anybody calling himself an educator. Don't regulate curriculum or even visit campuses to see where the money is going. For optimal results, do this in Florida, America's fraud capital."


Bill Gates key education "reform" is toxic in his own company

It would be nice if politicians would listen to educators when it comes to education reform, but these days, expertise is determined solely by how big a campaign donation check you can write.

In this case, the victims of Washington's profound corruption isn't just good policy, but our kids and their teachers.

Until now, in this expose by Vanity Fair addressing the key practices at the foundation of Microsoft’s failures (“Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined”).


In effect, Gates’s plan to address teacher quality is shared among almost all education reformers, including the USDOE and Secretary Arne Duncan, and focuses on labeling,ranking, and sorting teachers—a practice eerily similar to the “Cannibalistic Culture” identified as central to the failures at Microsoft:

“Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as ‘stack ranking’—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. ‘Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,’ Eichenwald writes. ‘If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,’ says a former software developer. ‘It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.’”

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