Thursday, February 26, 2015

Explosive Guardian Report: Under Emanuel's Watch: Chicago Police's "Gestapo-like" "Black Site" Facility

(This sort of secret facility is precisely what Bertram Gross warned of in his prescient book, "Friendly Fascism.")
The Manchester Guardian reported of CIA- or Gestapo-like tactics at a "black site" operated by the Chicago Police Department at Homan Square.
*Activists report being 'strapped' in the Homan Square facility
*Activist of the experience: "You're a hostage. It's kidnapping."
*Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin: "We are calling for a Department of Justice investigation into these allegations"
*The Guardian's first investigation broke the story on Tuesday, Spencer Ackerman reporting, "The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site'", and it reported a shackling for 17 hours
*Activist arrested in a police raid during the city's hosting the 2012 NATO summit: "Nobody knows what happened to you"
--a summit which drew thousands of protesters
*Many detainees were held for 12 to 24 hours, denied federal right of speaking with an attorney; one such detainee was 15 years of age
*Two ex-senior U.S. Justice Department officials called the allegations of police power abuse "very disturbing" and raise constitutionality questions --Guardian story, February 25, 2015
*Official records were not kept; this prevented protesters' relatives and friends' knowing of their whereabouts or safety
*Rahm Emanuel's police department denied the charges on Wednesday
*Beyond the denial, the police department has denied requests for responses from other outlets, as reported by Ring of Fire Radio; this is parallel with Emanuel's refusal to cooperate with multiple requests for any official response re the black site detention center.
*Ironically, in January 2012 the City Council passed the nation's first city resolution banning torture

*As one Guardian commenting reader said, "I didn't know that Chicago was in North Korea"

Read the Guardian's latest report from today, "'Gestapo' tactics at US police 'black site' ring alarm from Chicago to Washington" and Tuesday's initial report: "The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site'"

Let's hope that rising star and Chicago Teachers Union-backed challenger for April's mayoral election, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia raises the issue of this site in the debate. Emanuel's response will be very interesting. He is a take-charge fellow; but if that is the case how could he put a "I didn't know about this face" on the issue of this Guantanamo on West Fillmore Street?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Rahm Emanuel's Set-Back to "Chuy" Garcia is Such a Big Deal

First, just from the political angle, this is a humiliation for Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor with mountainous hubris.

No Chicago mayoral candidate had to face a run-off since these rules were made in the 1980s. (The run-off rules were made in the context of Harold Washington and his victory in a three-way split of Washington, 37%, Jane Byrne, 33% and Richard M. Daley, 30% in the February 23, 1988 Democratic primary.)

Challenger Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia was able to dent Emanuel's momentum in yesterday's primary.
Emanuel: 45.4 %
Garcia: 33.9%

Emanuel and his business allies expected an easy victory. And the Emanuel campaign rolled in old friend and ally President Barack Obama to campaign for him. (Emanuel had been chief of staff in the early Obama White House.) Thursday, Obama made a speech at an ostensibly historical site (Pullman district) occasion, singling out Emanuel for special praise.

Emanuel developed a big war chest, $30 million, to maintain his spot as mayor.
But Emanuel had made many enemies among ordinary Chicagoans with his education and development policies. As this blog has noted, he closed dozens of schools, and created discord with his education department's sending students across gang lines. Some experts have attributed youth shootings to his school closure policies. 
He has been anti-democratic, displacing the democratic power of an elected school board with his cherry picked one, headed by his developer friend, Penny Pritzker.

Garcia's potent challenge to Emanuel is a delicious news for Chicago teachers and their allies. Garcia's showing can be credited in part to the work and endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union. Labor Notes cited the CTU role, and reported the story as "Chicago Teachers Force Rahm into a Runoff".

Moreover, this could be the beginning of the end of Emanuel's career, and the end of a banner Democrat for media enablers to point to when pushing the education privatization/"reform" agenda.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The New Iron Triangle of the Information Sector, Education Reform and the Democrats

This quintessential blogpost by Paul Horton, "Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education?," at Anthony Cody's Living in Dialog blog lays out with great precision the dynamic nature of the forces at play with the war on public education.

The corporate media, the metrics-focused ideologues, and the education reformers more acutely, are aligned against the teachers. In the Republican-Democratic battle for money in the Citizens United era, the media / information technology sector of business are aligned more closely with the Democrats. This has profound significance for the direction of our country's education and for our political options. [graphics added]

Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education?

By Paul Horton.
Why have those defending public education had such an uphill fight in crafting a compelling counter to the mainstream message that “public education is broken”? How can we break through this monotonous monopoly of thinking with an alternative message?
As Noam Chomsky points out, the mainstream political discourse in America is largely shaped by media outlets under complete corporate control.
Who are the players here? Over the past two decades, as the internet has transformed communication, a circle of Silicon Valley billionaires have achieved great influence. Their outlook tends to be Libertarian, and finds much in common with neoliberals when it comes to education policy. These nouveau tech billionaires have found common cause with hedge fund managers and banking industry insiders, who also hold tremendous power.
According to Robert McChesney,
…much of the wealth generated by the Internet has been funneled into a small number of hands….[T]he Internet has produced monopolistic titans like Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, e-Bay, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, and Qualcomm….In combination, these firms have almost unlimited power in Washington, and the only time they face any regulatory threat is when the giants find themselves on opposite sides of an issue….Academics trip over one another as they sing the praises of digital titans,
…but [T]he Internet brings one of the core contradictions of capitalism to the fore—what is good and rational for those who control the economy is bad and irrational for society as a whole. (Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century, 228-9)
The most important fact in American politics today is the Citizens United decision. With this, the hand of the Democratic Party was forced: in order to win major elections the party must accept major campaign funding from the Silicon Valley right libertarians, neoliberals and their financiers on Wall Street. For neoliberal Democrats who are forced to lick the Nikes of their major funders, the privatization of education has become the price they pay to get the dollars needed to win elections.
The Obama Administration’s education policies are the equivalent of doing dog tricks or “dancing” for someone who is holding a gun.
So what role does the media play in this dance?
Although things have improved slightly in the print media in 2014, almost all major print editorial pages are controlled by publishers who are whole hog on privatization and charters: NYT and Chicago Tribune and the Tribune network are leading the bandwagon and heavily influenced by Bloomberg, Broad, and Murdoch. The Chicago Sun-Times editorial page is completely compromised by the political pressure exerted by publishers friendly to governor-elect Bruce Rauner who supports privatization of education. The New Republic is dead, succumbing to Silicon Valley neoliberal libertarianism.
The Progressive, The Nation (the country’s oldest journal of political and cultural opinion), Salon, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post most often include stories and voices of teachers in print; while Politico, The Huffington Post, Alternet, Truthout, and Common Dreams are open to teacher voices that call attention to a counter narrative.
Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, Jon Pelto’s Education Blogger’s Network, Cynthia Liu’s K12 News Network,Tim Slekar’s Busted Pencils site, Dr. James Miller’s War Report, and the Network for Public Education, an organization formed to counter the neoliberal Democrats for Education Reform, have all worked to build online grassroots communities opposed to right libertarian and neoliberal public education disruption-destruction. Peter Greene has been relentlessly spot-on, taking Mr. Gates-Duncan-Petrilli on every day. The work of blogger-authors Mercedes Schneider and Jeff Bryant has been exemplary in reaching a broader audience at Huffington Post and Salon. Edushyster (Jennifer Berkshire) brings a deft humorous touch to her articles and interviews. Dozens of local bloggers around the country like Mike and Fred Klonsky in Chicago, The Jose Vilson in New York, and Julian Vasquez-Heilig’s Cloaking Inequity blog have been relentless, but don’t always get the attention they deserve.
Rethinking Schools is perhaps the longest standing alternative educational media outlet, and this organization has produced outstanding curriculum and analysis for more than twenty years.
Bill Moyers remained a stalwart presence on the air and online, and remains an inspiration to all of us who cherish his native Texas progressive populism that refuses to dismiss the moral dimensions of political economy in the face of an all out assault on public discourse maintained by the right libertarians of the Chicago School of economics who have come to dominate Obama Education policy. Democracy Now likewise produces news coverage that challenges the corporate narrative in education. The LA Progressivegives prominent space for teacher voices.  Travis Smiley is also worth noting, along with his sometime co-host, Dr. Cornel West, for their attention to the issues of poverty, and willingness to challenge the Obama administration’s policies.
MSNBC should be a progressive voice on education, and to an extent, Chris Hayes is open to teacher voices. Melissa Harris-Perry has sometimes also featured guests that question the reform narrative, such as Julian Vasquez-Heilig. However Rachel Maddow is reputed to be a friend of Eva Moskowitz and appears to supports the charter movement. Democrats are heavily influenced by NPR and PBS coverage that virtually excludes teacher voices except for a recent NPR series on the “Secret lives of teachers” that reifies the political, social, and economic contexts of educational issues. NPR and PBS both receive very generous support from the Gates and Walton foundations and Students First, which is heavily subsidized by many individuals and foundations hostile to public education. Among centrist Democrats heavily influenced by the Wall Street investors who support privatization of schools, NPR, PBS, and the New York Times remain the three most influential institutions that most directly shape mainstream public opinion on education issues.
These three major media outlets are in turn heavily influenced by studies coming from policy think tanks that receive generous contributions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, and The Bloomberg Fund. The Fordham Institute, AEI, the Joyce Foundation, and the Brookings Institute (turned neoliberal) and a spate of conservative think tanks have all produced non-peer reviewed papers to support the privatization of education. They have all received heavy subsidies from the above foundations, and education beat reporters and editorial pages routinely use talking points from these and other think tanks to write stories about education issues.
GMMB, a think-tank and PR firm located in Washington DC and heavily subsidized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also had a big impact on the shaping negative opinion of public schools and public school teachers. GMMB carefully prepared the media packets and campaign in support of the Common Core Standards and has worked very closely with the Fordham Institute to supply talking points and interviews to virtually every major media outlet. GMMB has hired media insiders who have worked in most major cable news and print media institutions, opening easy access to editorial boards and the country’s major education reporters. Mr. Duncan’s former PR officer, a former reporter for the LA Times, revolved into a GMMB job one year ago. It is not a stretch to say that there is virtually no institutional membrane existing between GMMB, the Fordham Institute, and the Department of Education under Secretary Duncan. Indeed, presidential appointments of top assistant secretaries that are closely connected with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are the norm within the Obama Department of Education. Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute was called by virtually every major print, cable, and digital reporter from 2012-14 for talking points in defense of the Common Core Curriculum which, like the Fordham Institute, is heavily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Department of Education, for its part, promotes the agenda of Mr. Gates at every turn. Like a general threatening to bomb a noncompliant subaltern population, Mr. Duncan routinely disparages the teaching profession and public schools. Ignoring the validity decades of NAEP assessments, Mr. Duncan has turned Pearson Education loose on all American educators, students, and teachers by publicallly funding his own version of Operation Phoenix: the PARCC assessments that will not only hold all students to a higher standard, but will rid the country of “bad teachers.” This campaign intentionally ignores mountains of peer reviewed studies that indicate that ineffective teachers make up no more than 3% of the current teaching force in virtually every state.
Perhaps the most telling fact of the success of the GMMB-Fordham Institute-DoEd manufactured consent for the disruption and destruction of public schools is the virtual absence from major national print, digital, and cable public discourse of any discussion of what can only be called the Corvair-Edsel of the Education Industry complex: Pearson Education. I know of no corporation that consistently produces such shoddy products as Pearson Education. The public, especially parents, are learning about the lack of quality of Pearson software and sample questions when they consult online sample questions. Teachers have known about the shoddy quality of Pearson test generators for some time. This educational equivalent of Halliburton, Pearson has benefitted from greasing the wheels of the Obama campaign, and has enjoyed a very cozy relationship with Mr. Duncan’s Education Department from day one.
Pearson has not only profited from developing PARCC at warp speed on the federal dime to please Mr. Gates-Duncan-Petrilli, it has also obtained no bid contracts in many states that were greased by free trips given to state education superintendents. The Pearson Foundation has since been disbanded and fined by the New York State’s Attorney for such shady quid pro quo-reeking interactions. The fact that Pearson has not been taken to court in many states attests to the lack of effective ethics codes in the states and a lack of DOJ and FTC oversight. Such oversight is sorely lacking within an administration that serves Wall Street and Silicon Valley when it comes to education policy.
Because Pearson and PARCC are the centerpieces of Mr. Duncan’s policy agenda, and Chicago School ideas about building unfettered and more “efficient” economies of scale championed by Henry C. Simons, Milton Friedman and their students Gary Becker, Judge Richard Posner, and Richard Epstein; have heavily influenced the Chicago “clique” surrounding the president (Valerie Jarrett, Martin Nesbitt, Penny Pritzker, the board of the Commercial Club of Chicago who were essential to funding Obama’s first campaign) and the antitrust enforcement in the form of requiring Pearson Education to write competitive impact statements when it gobbles up more and more market share like an educational version of the movie “The Blob” is entirely moot at DOJ.
This story is the biggest story of the last several years that has not been touched by education reporters, especially local reporters who are assigned and held to deadlines.
Our biggest challenge to date is this: How can classroom teachers penetrate the corporate media apparatus? Can we cultivate enough relationships with the few reporters who have the courage to find stories that are critical of the dominant disruption-destruction ideology that can see through non peer reviewed and corporate foundation supported “studies”-propaganda.
Another question to examine is: can grassroots media marshal enough support to build coalitions in support of public education among fellow progressive populists?
We need senators Brown, Sanders and Warren to be more vocal in their support of public education. We need them on CNN and NBC. We need more sympathetic talking heads to speak out more forcefully and more often.
We must energize the congressional progressive caucus to work for public education by blasting away at the Gates supported, astro-turf funded, propagation of “’education reform’ as the Civil Rights issue of out time.”
We need Matt Damon to produce a feature film about teachers that are at war with disrupters and who are doing brilliant work in the classroom.
Most of all, we need to come together and act politically and fight. We need to learn more from Ras Baraka and Karen Lewis and join together with as many allies as possible to take neoliberal lies head-on.
Finally, we need to take heart from the people of Latin America and Greece who have defeated or are struggling with the neoliberal cultural apparatus. According to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, “Lies destroyed Latin America. People lie too much, from the press, the politicians, and on the street….I think one of the main problems around the world is that there are private networks in the communication business, for profit business providing public information, which is important for society. It is a fundamental contradiction.” “I think there should be more public and community media, organizations that don’t have that conflict between profits and social communication.” (quoted in McChesney, Blowing the Roof Off, 218).
Public Education Bloggers are actively pushing forward to create what Myles Horton called “islands of decency” within a neoliberal hurricane that seeks to monetize every human relationship, that destroys human relationships and potential within a digitalized “Glass Cage” filled with punitive test scores and VAM calculations. The fight requires us to break through the “Glass Cage” and join hands in one big progressive populist union.
As Graham Nash is fond of singing, ”Won’t you please come to Chicago.
Paul Horton has taught for thirty years in virtually every kind of school. He began his teaching career in a recently integrated rural Texas middle school. He then taught for five years in a large urban high school in San Antonio’s West side where the majority of young people were ESL. He has been teaching at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the country’s most diverse independent school founded by John Dewey, for fourteen years.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cuomo Officials Exposed as Directing Loans to Donors at Center of Corruption Probe--Is Bharara Soft on Cuomo?

In a hugely significant news item: Aides to New York governor Andrew Cuomo have been reported as directing state loans to Cuomo donors involved in a corruption scandal. --Linked to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's troubles by a shared connection in real estate giant, Leonard Litwin. Cuomo protested shock [Rick "Casablanca" Blaine style], but was this just a nervous cover?

So, we must ask, just what is U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara waiting for? Why will he not indict Cuomo? One of Cuomo's key aides called for Moreland Commission investigators to back away from Litwin. Since then, Cuomo shut down the commission.
Cuomo's plain sight graft --open acceptance of hedge fund donor/charter school entrepreneur money-- and blatantly pro-charter school/anti-public school policies constitute a corruptive practice. So what is taking so long for Bharara to indict?
[Update: Cuomo's trying to dodge Silver connections, insinuating his hands are as clean as Obama during Weinergate.]
By David Sirota, from the International Business Times:
Andrew Cuomo, collector of honest graft from hedge-funders; on Silver: don't blame me.

Cuomo Officials Directed State Loan To Cuomo Donor At Center of Corruption Probe

[Key excerpts from Sirota's article follow.]
 . . .
But a careful review of state documents reveals that Cuomo and Silver are connected by a key figure in the scandal. Both lawmakers have a financial relationship with the same New York real estate mogul, Leonard Litwin, who has in turn relied upon them for preferential tax treatment and other government benefits.
Silver is alleged to have benefited personally from Litwin’s spending -- and there is no dispute that Cuomo has benefited politically from that same largesse.
Litwin contributed $1 million to Cuomo’s reelection campaign and another $500,000 to the New York Democratic Party, making him thelargest political donor in the state. His money flowed through 27subsidiaries of his firm, Glenwood Management. Those subsidiaries were also clients of the real estate law firm that paid referral fees to Silver. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has alleged that Silver "induce[d] real estate developers with business before the state" to employ the law firm, which in turn made payments to Silver.
Neither Cuomo's office nor Glenwood Management responded to International Business Times' request for comment about the governor's relationship with Litwin. But documents reviewed by IBTimes illustrate Cuomo’s role in the developer's state business.
The Cuomo-run New York State Housing Finance Agency, for instance, approved a $260 million state-supported low-interest loan in 2014 to finance Glenwood’s new luxury apartment building in midtown Manhattan. At the time the loan to Glenwood was approved, the NYHFA was headed by Cuomo appointee Bill Mulrow, an executive and registered lobbyist at Blackstone, a private equity and real estate firm. Mulrow was just appointed to be the governor’s chief of staff. According to NYHFA documents, Glenwood also has had other business with the agency.
Similarly, Cuomo in 2011 signed Silver-backed legislation reauthorizing a then-expired property tax abatement for real estate developers called the 421a program. Cuomo also signed an extension of that program in 2013. Litwin’s firm used the 421a program for its Midtown Manhattan project, according to the New York Times. Glenwood has also used the 421a tax break for some of its other properties in the city.
In 2014, Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel that was examining the relationship between lawmakers and the real estate industry. The governor’s top aide at time, Larry Schwartz, called commission members to stop them from subpoenaing the Real Estate Board of New York, of which Litwin is the lifetime “honorary chairman.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

NYS' Racially Segregated Schools - The Scourge the NY Times Can See, But Cuomo Cannot

New York State's schools are the most segregated in the nation, as reported by a University of California-Los Angeles study last year. New York City's are the third most segregated in the nation, after those in Chicago and Dallas, as discussed in 2012. See also, this article, from Al Jazeera, on the resegregation of United States schools, from last May, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Lost in the New York education news of the last few weeks was this January 9, 2015 editorial by the New York Times calling attention to the school segregation.
Still very disappointing: the article mentions "the Chancellor," but not Dr. Merryl Tisch by name. Likewise, Governor Andrew Cuomo is only mentioned in the last paragraph. For all their righteousness, why do not Tisch or Cuomo heed attention to this issue?

Racial Isolation in Public Schools

New York City and its Segregation
As many note, the key thing is to achieve neighborhood integration. New York, like some other core metropole cities such as Chicago or Atlanta, is segregated despite its diversity. And several cities from ex-Confederate states, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia, ironically, did better in city integration than New York City. NYC ranks 19th of the 45 cities over 400,000.

 How NYC Apartheid/Caste schooling impairs the education and health of students in the lower half of the city's high schoolers
As high school teachers in the lower Social Economic schools will tell you, large percentage of the students are not from the neighborhood. Their travel commutes span across one or two borough lines, and run for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in one direction. Pediatricians recommend that school starting times are too early for teens in general. However, those teens making long commutes must wake even earlier than the population that the pediatricians have in mind. Those not waking early enough for punctual arrival end up arriving to school late or missing school entirely. (This blog has previously written on the segregation of the NYC schools, and how the schools in the subaltern direction lack diversity in courses and other amenities.)

School closures (far) disproportionately impact students of color
See this report at National Opportunity to Learn Campaign. Keep in mind that this graphic comes from a page published, April, 2013. The number depicts just closures from 2013.

Cuomo and his allies are duplicitous in their adopting the civil rights mantle for their education policies. The pattern of the school closures is one that disproportionately impacts African-American and low income communities. Gone are the neighborhood schools and their institutional memory of richly varied curricula.

The New York Times was right to criticize Cuomo on segregation. The case needs to be made more broadly: with the segregation comes lower resources, such poor curricula choices, poorer technology, less access to libraries, fewer after-school activities.