30 December 2010

The Myth of Charter Schools and Waiting for Superman

I found this on Daily Kos:

Waiting For SuperFraud 
By Michael T. Martin

Public schools have to fail. There is no alternative. So give up trying to argue otherwise with facts and logic.
The mockumentary Waiting For Superman made this clear. Funded by millionaires, the movie told the story of some privatized schools in Harlem portrayed as saviors of children otherwise condemned to public schools. Privatized schools mostly funded by hedge fund millionaires on Wall Street. They spent two million dollars to promote the film nationally. Another major film titled "The Lottery" told a similar tale: children in Harlem desperate to escape public schools. Funded by more millionaires.
State Senator Bill Perkins, who represents the people of Harlem, tried to put profit restrictions on these privatized schools. So the millionaires spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to run an opponent against him in the November, 2010, election. The people of Harlem voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Perkins.
One of the supposed heroes in the mockumentary was Michele Rhee, the caustic head of Washington, D.C., schools. She subsequently was the focus of the November, 2010, mayor’s election in D.C., campaigning for the existing mayor who appointed her, promising to resign if he lost. The people of D.C. voted him and her out.
The little people in Harlem and D.C. who see the truth on the ground voted against the millionaires. But the big money people still rate Rhee as a hero and keep pouring money and propaganda into charter schools. Ever wonder why? Brooklyn city councilman Charles Barron laments the situation in New York City: "Our public schools need to be in the control of parents and the community, as opposed to businessmen who see the $23 billion budget as a means to giving no-bid contracts to their cronies."
In April, 1999, the Wall Street financiers at Merrill Lynch published a 193 page "In-depth Report" titled "The Book of Knowledge, Investing in the Growing Education and Training Industry." Early in the report they noted: "The K-12 market is the largest segment of the education industry with approximately $360 billion spent annually or over $6,500 per year per child. Despite the size, the K-12 market is the most problematic to invest in today. Entrenched bureaucracies and personal and political interests contribute to the challenges facing this sector."
Public schools HAVE to fail in order to crack open this egg and give these financiers access to the $360 billion they are after (estimates are that it is around $700 billion today). No matter what logic you use to explain the problems or successes of public education, it will be of no avail: public schools HAVE to fail. Whatever it takes. In a 2007 appellate court decision ruling that Merrill Lynch could not be sued by Enron stockholders for facilitating the fraud of Enron, the dissenting third member of the judicial panel wrote: "The majority immunizes a broad array of undeniably fraudulent conduct from civil liability."
Big money wants the public schools to fail and they are quite willing to engage in "undeniably fraudulent conduct" to ensure it. One prescient book titled "The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, And The Attack On America’s Public Schools" told the tale back in 1996 but logic and facts won’t stop big money.
Back about the time NCLB was promulgated, Ron Susskind, a New York Times reporter, related a conversation with a senior aide to President George W. Bush in the summer of 2002: "The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore.’"
Big money is "the way the world really works anymore." Enough money to buy political influence. A lesson well taken from the experience of the tobacco industry in fighting the truth of lung cancer. A lesson perhaps best exemplified by the Tobacco Institute’s "Powell Memorandum" that exhorted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to establish a conspiracy to counter the environmentalism and consumerism of the public schools. The author of which was soon afterward appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The current leadership of the Republican Congress in the House and Senate both have long established economic ties to the tobacco industry. House speaker Boehner was criticized several years ago for handing out tobacco lobby checks on the floor of the House during a crucial vote on tobacco regulation. People whose self interest depends on addicting children to a poisonous product now claim to have the best interests of children in mind.
The overarching thrust of the mockumentary Waiting For Superman is that teachers’ unions are responsible for the faux failure of public schools. That teachers have their own self interest rather than that of children in mind. The teachers’ unions that have been major supporters of the Democratic Party since the Civil Rights era. So the Republican Party will stop at nothing to undermine public education.
After President Clinton was elected in the early 1990s, Reed Hundt, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (1993-97), asked H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Education Bill Bennett to support legislation that would pay for internet access in all classrooms and libraries in the country. "I asked him to support the bill in the crucial stage when we needed Republican allies. He told me he would not help, because he did not want public schools to obtain new funding, new capability, new tools for success. He wanted them, he said, to fail so that they could be replaced with vouchers, charter schools, religious schools, and other forms of private education."
Grover Norquist, a major political leader in the Republican conservative movement, was asked by writer Ben Adler of The New Republic "How evolution should be taught in public schools." Norquist responded "The real problem here is that you shouldn’t have government-run schools." Norquist is better known for his patriotic comment that he wants to shrink the federal government to where he can drown it in a bathtub. His words; somewhat evocative of drowning a child.
So there are powerful forces who will ensure that public schools fail. There is no sense arguing to the contrary, there is over $700 billion to believe otherwise. The same greed by the same people that left the U.S. economy in ruins, with millions of ordinary people unemployed and in bankruptcy, will ensure that the U.S. education system is soon in the same condition. Public education has to fail, because that is "the way the world really works anymore."

28 December 2010

Jindal and the Destruction of Louisiana

Here is a piece in the Advocate that helps explain the the new Census results. LA has the lowest population growth of the South. This is directly due to Jindal's selfish ambitions. I know he wants to get on the National stage, but, like most Republicans, he is hopelessly deluded. The Neo Cons don't like Gays or Latinos, and they are not big on women (except for scandals), and they hate the poor and the working class.
His book is not doing as well as Palin's second work of fiction--perhaps the title?--and he is allegedly gearing up to run for re-election next Novembre.

But the roof is about to fall in on him: cutting taxes on the wealthy to foment a budget crisis is not a good economic plan. When his house of cards falls, will he still be able to tout his tax cutting strategy to the Conservative faithful?  I think not, he is BROWN, lest you forget, and those tea partiers seem partial to white folks. Happy New Year!

25 December 2010

Christmas Dinner

I had a nice Christmas dinner last night, roasted game hens, dirty rice, roasted sweet potatoes, very good.

24 December 2010

Susan Cowsill

I didn't watch much TV as a kid, Marine sergeants make for strict parents, so I did not know much about the Cowsills, but I was so happy when Susan moved here in the late 70's. She is ever a delight to hear.

I include this because Jimmy Robinson is so fabulous

23 December 2010

Jim Crow through rose-colored specs

Some folks in South Carolina celebrated the 20th as the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Secession  with a ball (they danced the Virginia Reel, choreography courtesy of Gone With the Wind). On the same day, Gov. Halely Barbour gave an interview with The Weekly Standard, wherein he dissembled about segregated life in Yahoo City, MS, his attending integrated schools, and downright lied about the White Citizens Council fighting for civil rights.

The Neo-Con (or Neo-Confed) script on this is that the War of Northern Aggression was a States Rights issue--NOT SLAVERY.  But 7 of the 13 states cited Slavery as the reason in their Acts of Secession, the other 6 cited Lincoln's being an illiterate incompetent as the reason. While it is true that the majority Southern Whites were not slave owners, the secession was the act of wealthy landowners--planters who owned slaves.

My Father's Mother's Grandfather, he was Scotch-Irish with a big estate near Winchester, Tennessee, he owned slaves. I have no idea of how many or their names or what became of them. My Grandmother told me stories about him and his children, seldom about the slaves. They rarely entered the narrative and when they did, only in humorous episodes. I might have asked about them, but I never thought of it. I had been raised not to think about slavery--that was long gone and now Negros were all happy and contented.

Haley was born in 1947, 7 years before me. He "experienced" desegregation in his senior year at the University of Mississippi; I attended 8th grade at S. J. Peters Middle School, which was fully desegregated. Of course, New Orleans is much larger than Yahoo City, and it was much harder for Blacks in his time to get into college, so that may not be relevant.
       Here is the thing, we were both taught history through a Southern prism, and that is why I did not ask my paternal Grandmother about the slaves in her stories: I had been ham-strung by my education.

The real story is the culture that produced both Halely and me. The entire White South believed that the Civil War was about preserving our great heritage, that Blacks had been happy as slaves--no farmer would abuse his animals, why would a slave-owner abuse his slaves? The hated Yankees wanted to destroy States Rights!

That argument doesn't hold water. Yankees had States, so why would they choose to destroy States Rights? Why do we hear now and then of farmers convicted of animal abuse (just think of those factory chicken farms, factory hog farms and cattle feed lots)? The majority of White Southerners didn't own slaves, so how could they be hijacked by the 2% who owned slaves and controlled the political power? Why did Congress just pass an extension of an obscenely huge tax for the wealthiest 2% of our time?

It was strictly about keeping the right to own humans as chattel. Not slavery.

20 December 2010

Lunar Eclipse and Winter Soltice

The Druids must be going bananas, the moon is full tonight and there will be a total lunar eclipse at 7:40 GMT (1:40 New Orleans time) on the 21st, which is the winter solstice. I'll bet there is a huge crowd at Stonehenge, and they are having a dreadful snow storm.

19 December 2010

Gay Olde Army

I forgot to mention, I am over the top about the Senate passing the repeal of DADT. Screw you, McCain! And those whinny NeoCons who rail about emasculating the military? Tell that to the Spartans, or have you forgotten about their military prowess and their homosexuality? One baby step towards a better society.
This has been a hard month. When the weather is this unseasonably cold, I take solace in the knowledge that the oysters will be so delicious. Alas, not this year. No oyster dressing for Thanksgiving, and when I lunched at Iris (fabulous!!!), they had Maine and Seattle oysters--no substitute in my book.Give me Bluepoints from Bayou La Loutre! There is a ray of hope, a new oyster cultivation method from down under. Come on, people, we need our oyster folk to adopt this system--they will make a lot more money and we will have our beloved oysters!

17 December 2010

Jindal hates Louisiana

Sorry, I don't where I got this, but it is not mine:

Bobby Jindal used his widely panned response to Barack Obama's first State of the Union to infamously decry $160m of "wasted" government spending on Volcano Monitors, used by scientists to predict volcanic eruptions. Only months later, the scorned monitors detected a volcano eruption in Alaska.
One year later, he demanded $300m of sand berms to "protect the coast" from BP oil, despite wide and deep scientific testimony opposing the plan. The sand berms were recently declared an utter failure.
Bobby Jindal is a fraud and he hates science.

I have been saying this for a long time, Jindal hates Louisiana.

16 December 2010

Louisiana, They're Trying to Wash Us Away

Now the Feds have waded in on Jindal sand castles:

BP allotted $390 million for Bobby's little toy berms, and he has spent nearly $200 million so far. No one, excepting the home-schooled Jindal posse, think the berms will have any positive effect on the wetlands. Most are expected to disappear because of wave action. But why spend $200 million on castles in the sand when it could have been spent on rebuilding the wetlands--you know, filling in canals and planting oyster grass and cypress trees?
The answer is simple. Jindal wants to show the country that he is an effective leader: he slashed the LA budget (never mind that he cut mental health services and public clinics or that he devastated public education and screwed public transportation -- the light rail train from N.O. to Red Stick -- and he saved the wetlands from the black curse of BP's oil spill by building useless berms.
And guess where that sand for the berms came from: it was dredged up from the coastal waterways, which killed massive numbers of bottom-dwelling creatures and altered water flows and currents. Bravo!
Did I mention that money could be better spent restoring the wetlands? But there is no photo opts in doing the right thing.

15 December 2010

Bulldozing LSU

I was too dismayed by the foul give away going on in D.C. to write about this Tuesday story in the TiPsy. Mary Landrieu's support of Bernie Sanders 8 1/2 speech this past Friday baffled me because she said she would have a hard time deciding which way to vote, because, you know, a family making $500,000 can be very middle class. I have many well-off friends but I don't know anyone making that much money. Billy Goldring, maybe.
I made my calls and sent my emails and had no impact on my elected officials, so I can move on.

I was dismayed by the Tuesday article because it only presents the pro side of the plan to give LSU autonomy. Jan Moller is a good reporter, so I assume his piece was heavily edited to sell us the idea.
But let me point out a few details of the downside of this odious plan. The plan would eliminate 115 administrative jobs. Does this sound like a good idea with our unemployment already so high? This plan, despite their rosy prediction of saving $85 million over the next 5 years, will likely raise tuition $750 a semester.
The interesting thing about the Louisiana Flagship Coalition (LFC) is that it presents itself as a group working to preserve and improve LSU, but they are really Jindal supporters moving his anti public school agenda through the back door.
This plan would have a domino effect on jobs in Louisiana far exceeding the puny dreams of its creators. Taking LSU out of the State University system and raising tuition would effective limit the options of our high school grads. at this time, any LA High School grad can attend a state university if they can afford it. If LSU opts out of the system, that won't be the case.
The LFC believes that one of LSU's problem is its low graduate percentage, but I firmly assert that a kid getting 1 or 2 or 3 years of university is better off than a kid with only a HS diploma. The LFC would end that by raising admittance standards. That would have a rippling effect though out the LA university system because all the grads denied admittance to LSU would have to go to other schools in the system, placing huge pressure on those schools.
I envision Louisiana sliding downwards into the maelstrom of higher unemployment and lower business investment, both due to the poorly educated youth.
And, education is only one part of the equation of destruction. Jindal wants to kill public health,too. Did you read this? Free clinics in poor neighborhoods do not have a place in Bobby's heart.
Oh, Jindal is going on a fund-raising tour of Texas today--and you thought he was back to rule judiciously.

13 December 2010

Dwain the bathtub, I'm Dwowning!

Here is a very thoughtful piece by a man who gets us, to a point:

My only complaint is that the good Rev, like so many people around the US, thinks that New Orleans is below sea level. He goes so far as to say that some parts are 20 feet below sea level. This is rubbish and, oh, it vexes me.

The esteemed Richard Campanella, of Tulane and Xavier, compleated (not a typo, check Mark Twain or Ben Jonson) a study in 2007 which gives the lie to this belief. levees.org has gone on about this since its inception,pointing out that many of our major cities are partially below sea level and 37% of the US and 55% of the population are protected by levees.

07 December 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire

After years of incompetence by RTA, we turned the Streetcars (and transit system) over to a French Company, Veolia Transportation, oh, the irony! Where is Walker Percy? And they want to expand the Streetcar routes! Imagine that. The City Council backed down from a recent challenge, but where did that challenge come from? I wonder.

06 December 2010

Catfood Simpson Update

Here's a little grassrooty action I can sink my teeth in.
From the good people at American United for Change:

We're going to send cans of cat food to GOP transition offices to make sure they know what will happen if they cut off relief for the unemployed.

Will you sign a can of cat food to let Congressional Republicans know what they are doing to everyday Americans?

05 December 2010

War on Louisiana: Jindal's Agenda, Part 2

I heard this, La. Drops Use Of Christmas Trees To Save Coast, on TV yesterday, but combined with the news about LSU, it was too much bad stuff to write about.

Now I can.

The meager program costs $175,000 and has the added benefit of recycling Xmas trees and so reduces garbage costs. It started in 1991 and has helped to rebuild and slow the loss of vital wetlands. Jindal tossed this cheap program, thereby putting more pressure on local budgets, yet he thought redesigning the State flag was a priority.
The story about LSU ran on the front page of the T-P yesterday. The upshot is that LA Flagship Coalition, a non-profit formed by Sean Reilly of Lamar Advertising and Lane Grigsby of Cajun Contractors to take LSU out of the University system, would free LSU to run its own affairs and opt out of Civil Service rules. It would hire non-union workers to reduce costs. LSU was ranked as one of the best universities in the US the last 2 years, based on 2007 and 08, and before the draconian budget cuts by Lil Bobby in 08. Reilly speculates that the LSU System would benefit by sharing the money that LSU would have gotten from the state. But Jindal is certain to cut the budget by that amount so he can continue to toot his horn about his "fiscal responsibility".

03 December 2010

War on Louisiana: Jindal's Agenda, Part 1

This week liberal outrage has been focused on Arizona's Brewercare that is effectively killing it's citizens by denying Healthcare-provided organ transplants. Keith Olbermann interviewed 2 men last week who had been prepped to get transplants but, at the last minute, were told they were no longer eligible because of Gov Jan Brewer's Healthcare cuts. He followed up on the story this week and he encouraged viewers to donate money to help with the vital transplants. 
The NY Times ran this story yesterday: Arizona Cuts Financing for Transplant Patients.

This is horrible stuff and Gov Brewer is showing a callous lack of humanity. But consider Gov Jindal.
True, he is not actively killing people by denying services, but he is closing down public clinics and cutting financing to public schools. This has 2 effects, fewer people get adequate healthcare and education, and more people are out of work, so this damages the LA economy. And eventually, denying mental services to poor people will result in deaths, either by suicide or murder.

I got another email from Jindal's publisher today, another invite to join Jindal in Red Stick for a book signing. I responded that I would rather eat a bug and a better title for his book would be : Bobby Jindal--Leadership to Crisis.

"Catfood" Simpson

Harry Shearer, a new character for you!

From the Wyoming Capital Journal:        

CHEYENNE--During Al Simpson's nearly 50 years in government, he hasn't been afraid to take on critics and naysayers of his work in the U.S. Senate or on a variety of high-profile commissions and committees.
But as the co-chair of President Obama's debt commission, the Wyoming Republican said he's been taking an unprecedented amount of flak for the commission's draft proposals to help erase the nation's $13.8 trillion debt.

"I've never had any nastier mail or [been in a] more difficult position in my life," said the 79-year-old Simpson. "Just vicious. People I've known, relatives [saying], "'You son of a bitch. How could you do this?'"
 Not surprisingly, many of the debt commission's draft proposals to cut the debt by nearly $4 trillion by 2020 -- from raising the retirement age to 69 by 2075 to bringing in $1 trillion more in tax revenue -- have won strong opposition from liberals and conservatives alike.
But Simpson said that while every interest group that testified before his committee agreed that the mounting federal debt is a national tragedy, they would then talk about why government funding to their area of interest shouldn't be touched.
"We had the greatest generation -- I think this is the greediest generation," he said.

All this hubbub isn't a surprise to Simpson, given how politically polarized the country is these days.
"You don't want to listen to the right and the left -- the extremes," he said. "You don't want to listen to Keith Olbermann and Rush Babe [Limbaugh] and Rachel Minnow [sic] or whatever that is, and Glenn Beck. They're entertainers. They couldn't govern their way out of a paper sack -- from the right or the left. But they get paid a lot of money from you and advertisers -- thirty, fifty million a year -- to work you over and get you juiced up with emotion, fear, guilt, and racism. Emotion, fear, guilt, and racism.
A few points:
Raising the retirement age will not cut the debt. Social Security is fully funded through 2039--ask the CBO: http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=11580 -- and is paid for by payroll taxes (currently12.5%, matched by the employer, and capped at the first $75,000 of earned income). The Federal debt caused by S.S. is the money invested in T-Bills (which is how China "lends" us money). The trillion bucks raised by the increase in retirement age will keep S.S. in the black but will not reduce Federal debt.
       Here is the real kicker:
"Catfood" wants to raise retirement age because we are living longer, but that is only true in the average life span. In other words, the Rich and their children are living longer--the poor die sooner, making them less likely to collect the S.S. they paid into, more so if they have to work until 69 and, later, 75. And the Poor and Middle Class work harder for their money than do the rich.
A much better way of funding S.S. is to remove the income cap so that all earned income is taxed. That would allow full retirement at 60 years and no chance of depleting the fund. Republicans don't like that because it means the Rich would pay more than they would ever get back. But how do the Rich get rich? By selling oil, credit and insurance to the Middle Class and Poor, so why shouldn't they pay more? Problem solved.

       Okay, "Catfood's" stupid comment about Olbermann and Maddow:
They are not entertainers, they are journalists. Beck and Limbaugh are not either, they are demagogues who make money scaring people who dwell in ignorance (I saw that first hand when, fleeing before the Federal Flood, I wound up with relatives in Lake Charles. These were good, Catholic people with decent educations, but they watched only Fox "news" and so had a very skewed view of the world. When Auntie S, reading the morning paper, asked "Why does the ACLU hate America?" -- because O'Reilly and Limbaugh said so -- I countered with a mild explanation of how the ACLU defends the Constitution and pulled out my card. She didn't speak to me for 3 days).