Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enrollment in gifted program drops 50% and minority admissions skid


Wednesday, October 29th 2008, 8:00 PM

A new policy aimed at making the city's coveted gifted programs more diverse has backfired - causing a 50% plunge in enrollment and a decline in minority admissions.

The Bloomberg administration replaced the patchwork of entrance criteria with a unified testing system in 2007, but did not mandate a cutoff score.

Thousands more children took the exam last year, but too few qualified to fill the slots, forcing the Education Department to drop the passing score from 95% to 90%.

"Im not surprised by the outcome," said Kim Sweet, executive director at Advocates For Children.

"I think when you shift toward admission criteria that relies so heavily on standardized tests, it seems that you're bound to import some of the bias that comes with those tests."

Of kindergartners accepted into the city's gifted and talented programs this year, more than half were white.

That's in sharp contrast to the general population, where only 18% are white. And, while 41% of this year's kindergartners are Latino, just 9% of kids in gifted and talented programs are.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the process.

"We have taken critical steps to expand gifted and talented - including extensive outreach that has led to many, many more students being tested. But, we won't compromise standards and thereby dilute our programs," he said.

Part of the problem was that children who qualified didn't live in the neighborhoods where the programs were offered.

Teresa Mahr's daughter Brianna was admitted, but she would have had to bus her child - at her own expense - to Manhattan from Whitestone, Queens.

"It was inequitable," she said. "It's the wealthiest people in Manhattan whose kids could go to those programs."

Klein said the DOE was planning to add citywide programs in Queens and Brooklyn next year.

With Elizabeth Lazarowitz

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Parent On NCLB

With this year's election hype focused on the economy and health
care, it seems the impact of No Child Left Behind on working-class
families has been overshadowed by other issues. Not for me.

Reauthorization of NCLB was expected to go to a congressional vote
but has been postponed until after the presidential election. As the
mother of three children in public schools, I would like to see this
bungled attempt at education reform left behind.

Somehow our public education system has interpreted this law to mean
that today's young children will write like accomplished authors,
conduct experiments according to strict scientific methodology and
zip through algebra and geometry without learning basic math. All at
the same tender age when their not-so-distant forebears were trapping
bugs in jars, writing fanciful stories, and savoring the aroma of
teacher-prepared mimeograph practice sheets for plain old ordinary

In the 1980s, a national report on U.S. education sounded the alarm
that "Johnny can't read," echoing a report from three decades
earlier. I was as appalled as anyone.

But make no mistake. NCLB goes far beyond requiring the schools to
teach reading (which they still don't do very well). My youngest
child was required to read "fluently" — with no pauses to decipher
unfamiliar words — in his first nine weeks of first grade. His
reading material included discussions of the political and social
structure of a Hawaiian township, complete with multisyllabic words
and Hawaiian names. His teacher recommended retention. I fought it,
and he got summer school instead (along with hordes of other
disillusioned young scholars).

The irony of NCLB is that those kids who can't keep up — whose
parents can't afford expensive tutors or give up their jobs to
provide oodles of one-on-one assistance — are in more danger than
ever of getting left behind as educators insist they must do away
with so-called "social promotion."

Since that disastrous first-grade year, I have been called to at
least one conference annually letting me know that my child is
failing to be more than he can be. Educators deliver this news with
straight faces, despite the fact that they have failed to teach
phonics, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, or
cursive writing. (Such lessons may seem simple, but they help develop
essential concentration and memory skills.)

My youngest studies as instructed, makes steady progress and rarely
misses class. Yet he scores poorly in the never-ending stream of
assessments. The school system's answer? A notation of "below grade
level" on the report card and the threat of retention. My son would
be entitled to a government-subsidized tutor, I was told, only after
he fails a grade.

I can trace the madness to my oldest child's fourth-grade year, 2000-
01, when NCLB was on the road to approval. Requirements for promotion
included her ability to fill out a job application. She was 9.
Ridiculous, yes, but relatively harmless.

My second child entered kindergarten that year. Homework consisted of
cut-and-paste exercises and measuring household items. Using scissors
would help my child develop fine motor skills for writing, I was
told, and measuring things would foster an appreciation for real-life
math applications. My pleas for the child to bring home writing
practice and simple math worksheets fell on deaf ears. To this day,
her handwriting is illegible, and she doesn't like math any better
because she knows how to measure a doorknob.

Since then, it has been one fad or alleged silver bullet after
another, as educators experiment with shortcuts and ways to get
parents "involved," which is code for making them pseudo-teachers.
Never mind that parents work long hours and have no spare time to do
the government's job.

In Hillsborough County, since 2003-04, parents of children as young
as 8 have been coerced into coaching strictly structured science
experiments that belong in the higher grades. At my child's
elementary school, participation is mandatory by third grade. Weary
parents joke wryly about staying up until midnight working on display
boards and graphs, trying to wrestle their offspring's childish
curiosity into something that resembles an MIT-caliber experiment.

The government's Web site claims the act holds
schools accountable. All I see is the pressure that has fallen on
children and their parents. Without the recognition that there are no
one-size-fits-all teaching methods and the funding for a true
education fix, NCLB is detrimental to my family. It undermines
childhood pleasures and threatens to destroy my son's self-esteem. I
want it to go away.

Susan Green lives in Hillsborough County.

A Brooklyn Tech Librarian Is Fined for Promoting His Daughter’s Book
Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

Robert Grandt, a librarian at Brooklyn Technical High School, put his daughter’s book on display and mentioned it in a newsletter.


Published: October 21, 2008

For 39 years as an educator, Robert Grandt has been promoting other people’s books. So this year, when his daughter helped create a graphic novel of “Macbeth,” Mr. Grandt could not resist bragging a little in the newsletter he distributes as a librarian at Brooklyn Technical High School.

Mr. Grandt’sdaughter, Eve Grandt, co-illustrated a version of “Macbeth.” He said he was taken aback by conflict-of-interest charges. "I was just so proud of my daughter for writing it," he said.

“Best New Book: Grandt, Eve, ‘Shakespeare’s Macbeth — The Manga Edition,’ ” he wrote under the heading “Grandt’s Picks.”

He also placed a few copies of the book at a library display table, and posted a sign: “Best Book Ever Written.” If someone were interested, they got a book free.

But one person’s parental pride is another panel’s ethical transgression.

On Monday, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board announced it had settled a case it had brought against Mr. Grandt for promoting his daughter’s work. He agreed to pay a $500 fine and admit in a three-page stipulation that he had violated the city ethics code.

Mr. Grandt, who said he was an unwitting villain, was disappointed the board did not see things his way.

“There are so many things going on they could investigate,” he said in an interview, “and they had nothing better to do than allege that my daughter would have gotten 20 cents in royalties if someone bought the book. But nobody did. I gave out free copies. I was just so proud of my daughter for writing it.”

The New York City Charter warns public servants about taking actions in their official roles that benefit them personally, and the conflicts board is empowered to interpret the code and bring cases. Last week, for example, the conflicts board ruled that City Council members would not violate the charter if they were to vote to extend or abolish the term limits now scheduled to remove them from office.

Mr. Grandt, on the other hand. ...

“It’s unbelievable,” the 61-year-old former social studies teacher said.

Officials of the conflicts board declined to comment on their reasoning.

Mr. Grandt, one of three librarians at Brooklyn Tech, said he had donated many books to the library, including a copy of the book by his 28-year-old daughter, her first as an illustrator. The book, published in February by Wiley Publishing, is a drawn version of the Shakespeare text, an approach that, among other things, might entice young readers’ interest in the classics. Adam Sexton is listed as author and Candice Chow as co-illustrator.

A reviewer on Amazon wrote that the book was “far superior to Cliff Notes or the old Classic Comics” as a primer on the play.

Mr. Grandt said his daughter was paid a few thousand dollars for her drawings. “There are so many good ones,” Mr. Grandt said, flipping through the illustrations, some rather gory. “I like these full-page ones. They have a Gothic air to them.”

Mr. Grandt said he did not envision that putting a few copies of his daughter’s book on a table or promoting it in the newsletter last spring would cross the line.

“I’m supposed to, as part of my job, display new books and encourage the kids to read new books,” he said. “So here, I displayed my daughter’s book and encouraged the kids to read it and am told that I had done something illegal.”

Trouble first surfaced in June, he said, when he was summoned to an assistant principal’s office. Representatives from the city’s Department of Investigation were there to ask about the book.

In August, the conflicts board sent him a letter telling him he could lose his job and be stripped of his teaching license. He recalled the board wanted to impose a $1,000 fine. Mr. Grandt could not find a lawyer to represent him for less than that amount, but he and his wife, a legal secretary, were ultimately able to negotiate a lower fine.

The biggest punishment, though, according to Mr. Grandt, was feeling he had no choice but to remove the book from the school’s library.

“I decided not only would I take the table down, but I’d better remove the book from the catalog and take it permanently off the shelves,” he said, figuring “that would be the best course of action.”


COIB CASE NO. 2008-609

OCTOBER 17, 2008

SUMMARY: The Board fined a Librarian for the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) $500 for using his position to promote a recently-published book illustrated by his daughter. The Librarian acknowledged that in the April/May 2008 edition of his school’s Library Newsletter, which newsletter it was among his job duties to prepare, he included a section on “Best New Book” featuring the name of his daughter and her recently-published book. The Librarian also acknowledged that, around the same time, he set up a table in the school’s library with copies of his daughter’s book and a sign stating “The Best Book Ever Written” with the name of his daughter and her book. The Librarian admitted that his conduct violated the City of New York’s conflicts of interest law, which prohibits a public servant from using or attempting to use his or her position as a public servant to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant, which would include the public servant’s child. COIB v. Grandt, COIB Case No. 2008-609 (2008).


WHEREAS, the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (the “Board”) and Respondent Robert Grandt wish to resolve this matter on the following terms,

Respondent Robert Grandt states the following:

1. From June 2, 1969, to the present, I have been employed by the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”), most recently as the Librarian assigned to Brooklyn Technical High School.

2. During that time, I have been public servant within the meaning of Chapter 68 of the City Charter (“Chapter 68”).

3. Among my duties as Librarian at the Brooklyn Technical High School, I prepare a bimonthly Library Newsletter. In the April/May 2008 edition of the Library Newsletter, I included a section on “Best New Book” that listed in large bold typeface the name of my daughter and of a recently-published book that she illustrated.

4. In or around the time of the distribution of the April/May 2008 edition of the Library Newsletter, I set up a table in the school’s library with a sign stating “The Best Book Ever Written” and the name of my daughter and of her book. The table included a display of a few copies of my daughter’s book.

5. I represent to the Board that at the time I took these actions, I did not realize that they represented a conflict of interest. I took these actions out of pride for my daughter. 2

6. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that by using my City position as a Librarian to promote a book illustrated by my daughter, I violated Chapter 68, specifically City Charter § 2604(b)(3). City Charter § 2604(b)(3) states: “No public servant shall use or attempt to use his or her position as a public servant to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.” Pursuant to City Charter § 2601(5), a person “associated” with the public servant includes a child.

7. In recognition of the foregoing, I agree to pay a fine of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) to the Board upon signature of this Disposition, by money order or by cashier, bank, or certified check, made payable to the “New York City Conflicts of Interest Board.” 8. I agree that this Disposition is a public and final resolution of the charges against me. 9. I knowingly waive on my behalf and on behalf of my successors and assigns any rights to commence any judicial or administrative proceeding or appeal before any court of competent jurisdiction, administrative tribunal, political subdivision, or office of the City or the State of New York or the United States, and to contest the lawfulness, authority, jurisdiction, or power of the Board in imposing the penalty which is embodied in this Disposition, and I waive any right to make any legal or equitable claims or to initiate legal proceedings of any kind against the Board or any members or employees thereof relating to or arising out of this Disposition or the matters recited therein. 10. I confirm that I have entered into this Disposition freely, knowingly, and intentionally, without coercion or duress, and after having had the opportunity to be represented by an attorney of my choice and having declined that opportunity; that I accept all terms and conditions contained herein without reliance on any other promises or offers previously made or tendered by any past or present representative of the Board; and that I fully understand all the terms of this Disposition. 11. Any material misstatement of the facts of this matter, including of the Disposition, by me or by my attorney or agent shall, at the discretion of the Board, be deemed a waiver of confidentiality of this matter. 12. The Board accepts this Disposition and the terms contained herein as a final disposition of the above-captioned matter only, and affirmatively states that other than as recited herein, no further action will be taken by the Board against Respondent based upon the facts and circumstances set forth herein, except that the Board shall be entitled to take any and all actions necessary to enforce the terms of this Disposition. 3

13. This Disposition shall not be effective until all parties have affixed their signatures below.

Dated: September 25, 2008 /s/

Robert Grandt Respondent

Dated: October 17, 2008 /s/ Steven B. Rosenfeld Chair NYC Conflicts of Interest Board

Monday, October 27, 2008

Teachers' Survey Finds that Policing and Excessive Suspensions Undermine Learning, and Teachers Support Human Rights Approaches to Discipline

Support Human Rights Approaches to Discipline

For Immediate Release - New Report
Teachers' Survey Finds that Policing and Excessive Suspensions Undermine Learning, and Teachers Support Human Rights Approaches to Discipline

Report available at -

Contact: Elizabeth Sullivan, NESRI, Ph: 646-342-0541, Fax: 212.385.6124,,

Sally Lee, Teachers Unite, Ph: 212-675-4790, sally@teachersunitesall,

NEW YORK - October 22, 2008. Teachers in New York City public schools say that punitive approaches toward children, such as aggressive policing,
suspensions and other reactive strategies, undermine the human right to
education by failing to address the causes of conflict and criminalizing the
school environment, according to a report by Teachers Unite and the National
Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI).

In the report, "Teachers Talk: School Culture, Safety and Human Rights,"
teachers call for preventive and constructive approaches to discipline that
create positive school cultures, teach behavior skills and use conflict
resolution. Among the largest threats to safety in schools, teachers cited
overcrowding, lack of quality training for teachers, inadequate numbers of
guidance counselors and social workers, and the lack of opportunities for
teachers, students and parents to influence discipline policies.

Sally Lee, Executive Director of Teachers Unite said, "the observations
shared by these teachers are powerful arguments for a new vision of safety
in the schools where they work, and powerful indictments of the city's
approach to education in general. Youth of color in particular, who make up
over 85% of the student population in New York City, are criminalized in
schools and denied their right to education by the lack of resources."

Based on surveys of more than 300 middle and high school teachers in over
136 public schools across the city, as well as focus groups with more than a
dozen teachers, the report finds that:

* Less than 45% of teachers said that exclusionary punishments, like
suspensions, are effective. By contrast, over 80% of teachers said that
conflict resolution, guidance counseling and mediation are effective for
improving discipline and safety in school.

* Over 59% of teachers said that School Safety Agents (SSAs) only
sometimes treat students with respect, and 13% said they never or rarely
treat students with respect.

* Over 18% of teachers said they have intervened on behalf of students
in incidents involving the police or SSAs. 42% of those teachers intervened
because of harassment or disrespectful behavior on the part of police
personnel towards students, or because they felt SSAs or police were
instigating or escalating a conflict.

* In schools with permanent metal detectors, 67% of teachers said that
students are always (23%) or sometimes (44%) late to first period class
because of metal detectors.

"Teachers Talk" proposes a human rights framework as an approach to
reforming discipline and improving school climate. The Convention on the
Rights of the Child, an important human rights treaty that is widely adopted
throughout the world, recognizes discipline as part of an educational
process to develop the social skills of students, encourage learning,
increase school attendance, and protect the dignity and safety of the child.

In surveys and focus groups, New York City teachers call for policies and
practices that protect these basic human rights standards and reflect a
holistic approach to improving safety. Teachers call for smaller classes,
more engaging curriculum, more access to guidance counselors and social
workers, classroom management and conflict resolution training, mediation
programs and restorative practices.

The report highlights positive models being used in three New York City
public schools - Eastside Community High School in Manhattan, Banana Kelly
High School in the Bronx and the James Baldwin School in Manhattan. At
Eastside Community High School, for example, the 100% RESPECT Campaign
involves students and staff in a process to discuss and define what respect
means in their community. Six months after the campaign was implemented in
the middle school grades, suspensions dropped by 45%.

Eastside Community High School was in the news a year ago when an incident
between a student and a School Safety Agent escalated, resulting in the
arrests of both the student and the principal who tried to prevent police
from taking the student out the front door in handcuffs. In many schools in
New York City that are working to create positive climates, the aggressive
presence of police is undermining their efforts.

"The Department of Education needs to support every school in New York City
in developing their own positive approach to discipline. New York City has
fallen behind other major school districts, like Chicago and Los Angeles,
which have embraced proactive citywide frameworks for discipline, like
restorative justice and Positive Behavior Supports, that guarantee students'
human right to education and dignity in school," says Elizabeth Sullivan,
Human Right to Education Program Director at the National Economic and
Social Rights Initiative (NESRI).

The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative is a non-profit
organization that works with organizers, policy advocates and legal
organizations to promote human rights in the United States. Teachers Unite
is a non-profit organization building a movement of public school teachers
who play a critical role in working for social justice. Both organizations
are funded by private foundations and individual donors.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Long Battle Expected on Plan to Fire Teachers

D.C. Union Being Aided By National Organization

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 25, 2008; B01

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and the Washington Teachers' Union -- aided by its national parent organization -- are digging in for what could be a protracted struggle over Rhee's plan to fire instructors deemed to be ineffective.

School officials have posted job openings for an unspecified number of "helping teachers" to counsel instructors who have received notice to improve or face termination. Principals have been asked to identify teachers who can be placed on the so-called 90-day plan, which gives teachers 90 school days -- or about five months -- to upgrade their performance. The helping teachers will also document all assistance given to instructors and report to central office administrators, according to the job description posted on the D.C. schools Web site.

The teachers union is gearing up to respond. In a letter to members earlier this month, WTU President George Parker said the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) will join the Washington local to "provide support and strategies" to instructors designated for the 90-day plan. Parker said this will probably come in the form of help from AFT and local union staff members who will work with targeted teachers to avoid dismissal.

"Our role for any teacher in the 90-day plan is to make sure they get the necessary support," Parker said.

School officials have declined to say how many of the city's 4,000 teachers they would like to replace. The 90-day provision has been on the books for years but has been difficult for school principals to administer. Paperwork, numerous binding deadlines for conferences with teachers and a series of required classroom observations are a major commitment of time. The helping teachers have also been a part of the evaluation system but are nearly always in short supply.

Rhee wants to reshape the city's teacher corps with instructors willing to tie job security to improved student achievement. Her proposal to boost salaries into the six figures, in exchange for a weakening of tenure protections, technically remains on the bargaining table as negotiations for a labor contract continue.

But union opposition to the plan, which requires teachers seeking top pay levels to go on probation for a year and risk dismissal if they do not meet performance standards, has significantly dimmed its prospects.

As a result, both sides are beginning to move the fight from the conference room into the schools.

In an August interview, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the national union was "not involved" in the Washington contract. But it has actually played a significant behind-the-scenes role, driven by the potential national impact of Rhee's salary plan -- especially its targeting of teacher tenure. An AFT national representative, George Bordenave, has been detailed to the Washington Teachers' Union offices for the past several months. The AFT also paid for a membership poll this summer that revealed opposition to Rhee's plan by a 3-to-1 margin. In large public gatherings of teachers, however, sentiment seems more evenly split.

Parker said in his letter that the local union is "working closely" with the AFT to formulate a response to Rhee's salary package. It is expected that the response will call for a larger District investment in developing the skills of teachers and less emphasis on their possible dismissal.

In an Oct. 8 letter to the New York Times, Weingarten called Rhee's salary plan one she "intends to impose upon teachers, not one she hopes to develop with teachers. And it is one that will, in effect, create a temporary work force of highly paid, transitory teachers who will spend much of their time looking over their shoulders at one another -- not at the children in front of them."

There is a history of tension between Rhee and Weingarten, who also serves as head of the New York City teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers. The New Teacher Project, the nonprofit organization founded by Rhee, wrote a report critical of a 2005 labor contract negotiated by Weingarten that eventually resulted in New York City paying $81 million in salary and benefits to teachers unable to find positions at other city schools after their jobs were eliminated.

George Jackson, an AFT spokesman, said Weingarten was not available yesterday for an interview. Rhee, asked whether she regarded the AFT's involvement as unwarranted or inappropriate, called it "disingenuous."

"The national union's claims that they have no involvement in local negotiations have been patently false," she said in a statement. "If the national [union] wants to insert themselves in this negotiation then they should be at least honest about their involvement."

Rhee is also developing a new teacher evaluation system, to be fully implemented next fall, based on test scores and other achievement benchmarks yet to be announced.

Parker told teachers in his letter that administrators have a right to set evaluation methods. But he also said that the union can contest the details if they will be harmful to teachers. Such a challenge would come in the filing of a complaint with the District's Public Employee Relations Board.

"The WTU will legally challenge any such process that is unfair to our members," Parker wrote.

Rhee said earlier this month that she had hoped to secure the changes she wanted and pay teachers well. But the $200 million in foundation money for the first five years of the program was contingent on a labor deal that broke new ground, she said.

When talks stalled, she announced a "Plan B" to bypass the negotiating table and use the 90-day provision and a new evaluation process to eliminate weak teachers.

Michael Bloomberg's Velvet Coup

Is Mayor Mugabe an outrageous comparison?

By Tom Robbins
Village Voice
published: October 22, 2008


Mugabe? OK, it's an outrageous comparison. Forgive me. Mike Bloomberg would never shut down newspapers or use brutal thugs against dissenters in order to hold onto power. He doesn't have to. He buys them.

Mugabe is for the likes of Charles Barron, the radical councilman who embarrassed the city a few years ago by hosting the Zimbabwean tyrant at City Hall. Funny thing, there was Barron at last week's council hearings demanding to be heard on the mayor's bill to gut term limits—a reform confirmed in two separate voter referendums—in order to give himself four more years in office. There was Barron offering the simplest route to continued democracy: Do nothing.

"Why do we have to change anything?" he asked after Mario Cuomo's lead-off testimony supporting Bloomberg's bid. "The people have spoken twice already. Why not just leave things as they are?"

Barron's simple questions were matched only by The New York Times's fearless editorial page. Alone of the city's dailies, the Times refused to bend its principles. By changing the rules at this late date, the Times warned, the mayor "will tarnish his legacy and further weaken the systems of checks and balances that are essential to . . . democracy."

Uh, wait. Sorry, wrong day. That was the Times in August lecturing President Álvaro Uribe of Columbia "lest he become just another strongman" by grabbing a third term in violation of his country's constitution.

Let's see. Here it is. How could I miss it? It's got that tough, right-to-the-point headline: "The Mayor's Dangerous Idea." The mayor "wants to extend his current term of office," the editorial forthrightly states. "This is a terrible idea. . . . The very concept goes against the most basic of American convictions, that we live in a nation governed by rule of law." Bless the good old Times. Others may cut and run in the face of tyranny. It forever stands tall.

Wait! How did that sneak in here? That was the Old Gray Lady taking Rudy Giuliani to the ethical cleaners back in September 2001—that month of true fear and fiscal panic—when he sought a mere three more months to remain in office.

I know it's here somewhere. Oh, right, that one: "It makes a lot of people uncomfortable to legislatively rewrite a law that voters have twice approved at the ballot box. . . . It makes us uncomfortable too. . . . But we have concluded now that changing the law legislatively does not make us nearly as uncomfortable as keeping it." Hmmm. Well, never mind.

Welcome to Bloomville, where up is down and down up, where it's Charles Barron hoisting democracy's flag, while the Times connives with the Post and the News to provide cover for the coup. Where tycoons of business and real estate call the shots while the once-mighty unions fall meekly into line or merely whisper their opposition for fear of offending the once and future mayatollah. Where a cabal of thieves calling themselves council members leap aboard Bloomberg's ship as eagerly as Somalian pirates lurking for booty in the Indian Ocean.

Yes, Bloomville. We may as well give him naming rights, too. He's bought and paid for everything else. We are inside Jimmy Stewart's unwonderful world where muddled old Bedford Falls has come under one-man rule and morphed into an antiseptic version of anything-goes Pottersville.

Could Columbia's Uribe—or any dreaded Latin American strongman—have done any better at mustering proxies to defend his putsch? Consider the elder Cuomo: The ex-governor was as charming as ever, offering a rambling denunciation of term limits and a sterling endorsement of a continued Bloomberg mayoralty. "He is spectacularly well-suited to the task," said Cuomo.

Once the champion of the poor and the forgotten, Cuomo now carries the business card of the city's elite, a group passionately committed to keeping one of its very own in City Hall. Cuomo is of counsel to Willkie Farr & Gallagher, the law firm that serves as the Washington lobbyist for Bloomberg L.P., the mayor's $22 billion corporation. The firm is also defending the company in a discrimination lawsuit brought by 58 female Bloomberg employees. Last summer, it handled the $4.4 billion buyout of Bloomberg's longtime partner, Merrill Lynch.

The ties stem from close friendship: Top Willkie partner Richard DeScherer handles the Bloomberg family foundation and is an executor of the mayor's estate. He serves on Bloomberg L.P.'s executive committee and, oh yes, on the city's sports foundation. How better to help a friend than to send forth the firm's most famous envoy to do battle for one more mayoral term?

The taint of Bloomberg's multibillion-dollar reach—as mayor, businessman, and philanthropist—fell on many of the true believers who testified in favor of the mayor's end run around the 15-year-old term-limits law.

Here was Geoffrey Canada, celebrated Harlem anti-poverty fighter, whose reasoning for giving the council and Bloomberg an added term conveniently mirrored the mayor's own: "The city is facing its worst crisis in memory," he said. Was that the great Geoff Canada talking? Or was it the director of an organization that depends on $18 million in city contracts and the mayor's "anonymous" private donations?

Echoing Canada was George McDonald, president of the Doe Fund. The homeless-assistance group also benefits from the mayor's private giving and holds $25 million in city contracts. McDonald didn't wait for the hearings. On Columbus Day, he dispatched a crew of Doe Funders to the parade to cheer the mayor with signs proclaiming "Now More Than Ever." Newsday's Dan Janison watched these antics. "Must have been an impromptu decision to volunteer for this on a holiday," he noted.

Outside the council chambers, McDonald began sputtering when Henry Stern, former parks commissioner and foe of the mayor's bill, asked him if his city contracts had influenced his thinking. "You're saying I'm corrupt!" McDonald shouted. "We get $10 million from the city, and we do good work!"

Actually, fear was the most corrupting factor in City Hall last week: fear of angering a mayor who may well rule until 2013. Fear paralyzed the city's most powerful unions—the only possible political counterweight. The teachers' union quietly passed a resolution calling for term limits to be submitted for a new referendum—the thrust of a bill proposed by leading council dissenters Bill de Blasio and Tish James. The union never even issued a press release on it. The battlefield was left to the Working Families Party, of which the teachers are influential members. The WFP mounted a valiant campaign with a tiny budget. It had $50,000 for a TV ad buy opposing the mayor. Last year, the teachers' union spent $2.1 million on its Albany lobbying alone.

Labor's loudest voices at the hearings were in mayoral lockstep. Leaders of the building trades talked about how good Bloomberg has been for construction jobs. The uniformed municipal union leaders repeated in tandem the mayor's mantra that regular elections are the real term limits. Unmentioned were recent generous contracts or the ones now pending. AWOL from the scene was the biggest municipal workers' group, District Council 37. The union's city contract is currently being negotiated.

Only plucky Arthur Cheliotes, leader of Local 1180's city administrative workers, stepped forward to defend labor's honor. Cheliotes looked lonely as he waited hours to speak. "The mayor has cleverly gamed the system by not letting term limits get on the ballot this November," he said when he finally testified.

By the way, did you know that dissident labor leaders keep getting killed in Uribe's Columbia?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chronic Absence - 90,000 a month or more

NY Times on the issue.

Leonie Haimson reports:

The Milano school report on the problem of chronic absenteeism in elementary schools is posted here:


The center’s analysis of Department of Education (DOE) data found that more than 20 percent of the city’s elementary school pupils were chronically absent during the 2007–08 school year—that is, they missed at least 20 days of the 185-day school year. In districts serving poor neighborhoods, the numbers are even higher. In the south and central Bronx, in central Harlem, and in several neighborhoods in central Brooklyn, 30 percent or more of the pupils were chronically absent, according to the analysis. In contrast, only 5.2 percent of pupils were chronically absent in District 26, which serves the middle class neighborhood of Bayside, Queens… Of the 725 public schools serving elementary grades (excluding charter schools and schools serving severely disabled children), 165 have chronic absentee rates of 30 percent or more…

There are bureaucratic reasons as well. For example, when the building housing P.S. 2 in the
Morrisania section of the Bronx was redesigned to serve high school students, the younger children were reassigned to a school building nearly half a mile away. A large number of pupils simply don’t make it to the new location every day. At P.S. 2, an astonishing 42 percent of the students had more than 20 absences in the 2007–08 school year, according to the analysis of DOE data by the Center.

New York City parents have also long complained of erratic and unpredictable school bus service. Children who take school buses tend to have lower rates of attendance than those who walk to school, because a child who misses a bus may have no other way to get to school, according to school officials. Special education students can be inexplicably assigned to schools on the other end of their borough, reports one Bronx family worker.




Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott will speak at a forum addressing the impact of chronic absenteeism in New York City public schools, following the release of a report from The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, Strengthening Schools by Strengthening Families. Deputy Mayor Walcott will talk about the importance of creating in all schools a culture that recognizes that failure for our students, regardless of their family or life circumstances, is not an option. He will also reinforce the Department of Education’s efforts to hold schools accountable for students’ academic achievement, and highlight efforts to combat chronic absenteeism and the role of community collaboration and partnerships in that work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama and the Derivatives Merchants

Obama and the Derivatives Merchants
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Barack Obama's star shines brighter than ever (whose wouldn't, in comparison to John McCain?) despite his intimate association with "the very same individuals who brought about the current catastrophe." Former Clinton Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, now top advisors to Obama, "labored successfully to safeguard ‘derivatives,' the exotic ‘ticking time bomb' financial instruments, from federal regulation" nearly a decade ago. "Be assured that this crew will deliver another catastrophe from their positions of influence, if Obama is elected."

Obama and the Derivatives Merchants
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

" many respects, working with [Barack Obama] will be very much like working with President Clinton.... I think he will be just fine." - Top Obama adviser Robert Rubin, former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs chair, currently an executive with Citigroup, August 28, 2008.

The "progressive" Barack Obama that many supporters imagine is itching to break free once his corporate host's body is securely in the White House, remains dormant. Not even the groans of finance capital's collapse can waken him - a strong indication that no such progressive inner Obama exists.

Certainly the progressive Obama was nowhere to be found when the candidate endorsed the $700-plus billion "cash for trash" Wall Street bailout. So eager was Obama to "save" the bankers, he forgot which party he was supposed to belong to and offered to allow Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to keep his job in an Obama administration. Although the offer was coached in terms of facilitating a smooth "transition" from one regime to another, it is yet another telling indication that, in January, the baton will essentially be passed from one finance capital team wearing red shorts to another finance capital team in blue.

"Obama performed the bailout functions expected of him by his biggest financial backers: Wall Street."

Goldman Sachs doesn't much care which of the big business parties wins, so long as the rich remain in power. Paulson is a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, as is Obama's top economic advisor, Robert Rubin, who served as Bill Clinton's Secretary of Treasury. Corporate politics is nothing if not incestuous. When Rubin says that working with a President Obama "will be very much like working with President Clinton," he means that the elected players are eminently replaceable, while corporate guys are permanent. Obama "will be just fine" as a front for finance capital's continued rule.

When the crunch came in September, Obama performed the bailout functions expected of him by his biggest financial backers: Wall Street. After the first attempted heist was thwarted when an outraged citizenry laid electronic siege to the U.S. Capitol, Obama smothered the holdouts with promises to make things right once in the Oval Office. All but eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) sent up the white flag. This was not unexpected, since the CBC as a body had ceased to play a progressive role years ago - neutered by corporate influence. It is sadly poetic that the final collapse of the Black Caucus occurred under the ministrations of history's most successful Black corporate politician, Barack Obama - a player so masterful he was able to enlist, silence or co-opt virtually all of Black "leadership" before one primary vote was cast.

Now Obama picks up an imaginary sword to fight a phony battle on behalf of the victims of his investment banker friends' crimes. With his lead widening in the polls, Obama offers a 90-day reprieve on foreclosures to those homeowners who were working with lenders that are part of the bailout deal. Homeowners would also have to show that they were making an effort to pay their mortgages. But at the end of the 90 days the family would still be out of luck if there was no agreement on terms with the lender.

"Obama still can't venture any farther left than his corporate leash allows."

Earlier this year, Obama rejected moratoriums on foreclosures and a freeze on rates, measures supported by his primary opponents John Edwards and Hillary Clinton (Obama called Clinton's rate freeze "disastrous"). Nearly two million foreclosures and evictions later, after facilitating a trillion-dollar corporate raid on the public treasury, and caught in a bidding war with McCain on spending what remains, Obama still can't venture any farther left than his corporate leash allows. Obama derides McCain's proposal to spend up to $300 billion buying up homeowners' mortgages at face value and repackaging them at terms consistent with current home values, calling it too expensive and a boon to lenders (the latter part is certainly true). But he championed the original $700 billion "cash for trash" scheme that was designed as a pure bailout for speculators - his investment banker friends - and would save not a single family from losing its home.

How bizarre it is to observe Obama playing the people's crusader in the morning and colluding with his top economic advisers, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, in the afternoon. In February 1999, Rubin and Summers flanked Fed Chief Alan Greenspan on the cover of Time magazine, heralded as, "The Committee to Save the World." Summers was then Secretary of the Treasury for Bill Clinton, having succeeded his mentor, Rubin, in that office. Together with Greenspan, the trio had in the previous year labored successfully to safeguard "derivatives," the exotic "ticking time bomb" financial instruments, from federal regulation. Less than a decade later, unregulated derivatives would expand - like the Mother of All Bubbles - to notional values 10 to 15 times greater than the world's total economic output. The global order would be brought to its knees, in a financial conflagration that has just begun to show its full dimensions and destructive potential. (See New York Times, October 9
, "Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy,")

So you might want to thank Obama's main men on the economy, Rubin and Summers, for the current crisis. Be assured that this crew will deliver another catastrophe from their positions of influence, if Obama is elected.

"Thank Obama's main men on the economy, Rubin and Summers, for the current crisis."

The November 4 election will change nothing in the configurations of power in the United States. It is Barack Obama's mission to ensure that the political transition effects no substantive alteration of power relationships, but rather, provides a new (Black) face for the old, fast-failing system. To the extent that self-identified progressives attempt to ignore or obscure the facts of Obama's very public allegiance to finance capital, they objectively weaken the people's ability to resist - or even recognize - the overarching menace of continued corporate rule.

It is absurd to claim that a progressive "movement" with a potential for profound social change can coalesce behind a candidate who repeatedly and reflexively aligns with the worst corporate malefactors on the planet, the very same individuals who brought about the current catastrophe. The great damage that has been done to African American political coherence, may never be repaired. At this crucial juncture in human history, the Black Sampson plants himself firmly among the wobbly pillars of the rich man's crumbling edifice - to prop it up!

Obama can no more succeed than John McCain in resolving the contradictions of capital by feeding the beast the last remnants of the national wealth. But his "progressive" apologists, by papering over the "real" Obama in favor of the wishful one that only exists in their fantasies, politically disarm the people, and make the inevitable task of organizing against an Obama presidency vastly more difficult.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

FMPR - Puerto Rico Teacher Union Election Update

The elections that were suspended at 12 o’clock last Wednesday were reschedule for Monday, October 20, 2008 from 2:30 to 4pm, 1,058 teachers were not able to able to vote last Wednesday. The voting will take place at the same schools of the last time.

Tuesday October 21 will be the last date of voting. The final route will include Vieques, Culebras, Bayamón and Naranjito. La Junta de Relaciones de Trabajo also indicated today that the counting of the votes will be held on Thursday October 23, from 8:30 am until the count is finished. Personnel of La Junta will do the counting with the presence of SPM and the Department of Education as observers. They will also permit a limited quantity of outside observers to be in the room (limited seats).

Up to now the percent of teacher participation is around 85% the numbers of teachers who are permanent or in probation is around 36,000. This means that around 31,000 teachers will vote. To win you must have at least 50% + 1(around 16,000) of all the votes. We believe that we are winning 65% to 35%. It is not difficult to win because we have around 12,000 hard core members of FMPR (that are paying voluntary dues to our union as a Bonafide organization), there are also thousands of teachers who are PNP (rival of PPD) who are voting NO for ideological reasons and there are thousands of teachers who do not want any type of union in the school system. So if SPM wins it will be due to a massive fraud of the government in combination with key members of La Junta de Relaciones del Trabajo. They have the keys to vault where the votes are being sent to. Also the ballots are simple papers that didn’t have signatures of the functionaries that were present in the voting sites. So his is a possibility that we have to consider.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Judge Says No to Teachers’ Campaign Buttons, but Yes to Certain Politicking


Published: October 17, 2008

A federal judge on Friday upheld New York City’s policy prohibiting public school teachers from wearing political buttons in the classroom, but said the teachers could place campaign material into colleagues’ mailboxes and hang posters on bulletin boards maintained by their union, as long as they were in areas off-limits to students.

The split decision came after the union, the United Federation of Teachers, sued over a city rule that requires teachers to remain neutral about politics while on duty to avoid any sense of pressure among students to echo their views. The union, which has endorsed Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, argued that the longstanding regulation had never been enforced and that it curtailed teachers’ right of free speech.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan said that it should be up to individual school districts to determine whether buttons in the classroom interfered with learning. He cautioned, however, that “school officials may not take a sledgehammer to freedom of expression and then avoid all scrutiny by invoking alleged professional judgment.”

The judge said that while a majority of students would probably understand that a button represented a teacher’s personal view, there would be “inevitable misperceptions on the part of a minority.”

Ann Forte, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said, “We won on the issue that was most paramount to us,” and she called the mailbox and bulletin board rulings “secondary issues.”

Norman Siegel, the civil liberties lawyer representing the teachers’ union, said that the union was pleased about Judge Kaplan’s recognition of some First Amendment rights for teachers and that it would continue to push for the right to wear buttons.

There have been conflicting court rulings over how far the government can go in regulating what teachers say in the classroom ever since the Supreme Court’s Tinker case, four decades ago, which proclaimed that neither teachers nor students “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Schoolchildren have historically been recognized as a distinctly vulnerable group, and schools have enjoyed such paternalistic powers as requiring school uniforms. Courts generally see teachers as role models given extraordinary trust and holding a special influence over their students.

The government, like any business, has the authority to tell its employees what to do so that it can continue to operate effectively. A teacher cannot spend each English period talking about baseball, or each physics class teaching false scientific theories.

The city argued that when a teacher wears a political button in the classroom, it creates an environment of intimidation and hostility toward students who do not share that view. The union, by contrast, argued that students would be able to distinguish between personal and institutional views.

Samuel Issacharoff, a professor of law at New York University, said: “The line we seek to draw is that individuals who are public employees retain the rights of full citizenship in society and do not lose them as a result of being state employees. On the other hand, they can’t use their state employment to accentuate the power of their political views. That’s the tension.”

That tension has been the subject of court cases in several states. The University of Illinois recently came under fire for urging its employees to refrain from attending political rallies and from displaying campaign bumper stickers on campus.

Part of the trouble in arriving at clear legal conclusions is the inevitable gray area that emerges when considering teachers’ roles as instructor and individual. Should teachers be allowed to write letters to the editor? Should they be able to wear buttons while walking from their classroom to the car?

Last week, the unresolved nuances were on display at Middle School 61 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where an oversize portrait of Mr. Obama that had been hanging near the entrance of the school was taken down under pressure from the Department of Education. The banner showed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other black luminaries framed by a blue sky and looking down on the man who could become the nation’s first black president.

“It only gave images of hope,” said Asher Rison, a teacher at the school. “It wasn’t about politics.”

The Department of Education disagreed, saying that whatever the intent, the banner amounted to political favoritism prohibited under the department’s rules.

At schools across the city this week, the fuzzy free-speech questions were reflected in conversations with students, parents and teachers.

At Community School 134 in the Bronx, Ken Chanko, a teacher of writing who wore a small Obama button on his jacket as he left school on Thursday, said that such miniature adornments seemed acceptable, but that large posters should not be permitted.

“I think there is a fine line,” Mr. Chanko said. “I think you can overreact from either perspective.”

Keyshawn Baker, 11, who graduated from the school last year, said that a teacher’s views displayed on clothing would not affect him. “I have my personal opinion about who I should support,” he said.

But Anita Faucette, whose son is in fourth grade at Public School 16 in the Bronx, said she would prefer that teachers keep their political preferences to themselves. “The children are impressionable and young,” she said. “They mimic what they see or they hear.”

At Middle School 61, where the Obama banner was hung, David Rampersad, a Verizon field technician whose 11-year-old daughter attends the school, said that students “should be exposed to politics” but that “they might feel pressure to swing a certain way.”

“They’re too young for this pressure,” he added. “They need to be focused on whatever they are learning in school.”

Ann Farmer and Jason Grant contributed reporting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canarsie HS Teacher to NYC City Council

A copy of the letter Ms. Liebowitz sent to the City Council as written testimony. Doug

---------- Forwarded Message ----------
My name is Adele Leibowitz. I have been teaching for almost 31 years. I started my career at Tilden High School in 1973 , then Lafayette High School and now have been teaching at Canarsie High School since 1984. I started the Nurse Assistant Program at Canarsie High School in 1989. I feel that Mayor Bloomberg should not run for a third term and should not have total control of the NYC School System.

Mayoral control of the New York City School system has not allowed any teacher or parent input into the school system. This total control demonstrates that the teachers educational training and experience has no value or importance.As a teacher for so many years I find this unacceptable. The veteran teacher now is not respected by the school system. This manner of running the school system must be changed. There are no checks and balances to counter act any decisions made by the DOE.

I am teaching at Canarsie High School which has been directed by the DOE to phase out and close by 2011. Due to the mismanagement of the DOE the school has been under the leadership of many Principals sent to us by the DOE. Presently we have just been assigned a ninth principal. We the teachers have no say who will be the principal of the school. We have also been sent students who are ill prepared to enter because they are below level in reading , writing and mathematics. Yet the teachers are blamed for the poor regents grades and low graduation rates. We the teachers are also blamed for the poor school environment which is out of our control since we have no say in security agents assigned and the discipline code that is set up by the DOE.

I see a double edged sword that we the teachers have been given to deal with. The DOE takes no responsibility for students and principals sent to the school. Yet the teachers are blamed for all. The faculty of the school has no way to address these problems regarding how the school is run or receiving low level students. The principals we are sent just follow the directives of TWEED because they know if they do not to they will be removed form running the school.

There is no way the teachers can go through a chain of command through the DOE because since mayoral control there is no CHAIN OF COMMAND. What ever is deemed by Joel Klein that is what is expected to be done by principals and teachers. Superintendents today have not power any more. Superintendents cannot make any changes regarding student placement or staff. Even the parents have no one to go and complain if they are not satisfied with what is going on in a school when they feel the principal cannot resolve an issue at hand.

Joel Klein was chosen by the mayor to run this vast educational system in New York City. Joel Klein does not have the educational credentials/certification in education. He really does not have any classroom teaching experience yet he was given the job.It is as if an intern was sent in to perform brain surgery without any training or experience.

Joel Klein under the approval of the mayor has hired many high salaried consultants from other countries to evaluate our school. These consultants come in and spend a few days to determine if we the teachers are doing our jobs. They make decisions without even talking to the faculty or parents of the students. They do not understand the type of students that enter by evaluating their past academic performance before entering high school and how they progressed since attending high school. They do not evaluate the many problems the students have while attending high school. We have many students who do not live with their parents but relatives , or they live in group home or shelters.The quality review teams are not interested in what the faculty feels is needed to improve student performance. Instead of trying to help improve the school they are there to help dismantle the school.

The way the school is evaluated by a Report Card is vague at most. It stated in the Report Card that the following were used to grade the school: parents(who are these parents?), Learning Support Organizations( teachers never met any of the members or spoke to them in the school so how can they evaluate us?)and student parent questionnaire( few parents answered the questionnaire ) Yet under the leadership of Joel Klein and condoned by Mayor Bloomberg the school is given a Report Card grade. If this method was used to evaluate city hall I think they would fail also.

Yet all the money spent by the DOE and approved by Mayor Bloomberg continues and no one is allowed to say anything against the way the DOE is administered. To me this does not demonstrate accountability of one person, it displays tyrannical control by one person. One is not allowed to question orders in fear of retaliation or removal.

Now that Canarsie High School is phasing out many teachers have put into ATR status. These teachers have been excessed from their positions at Canarsie High School. Many of the teachers and guidance counselors who are in ATR status(Absent Teacher in Reserve) have not been able to find jobs in the open market hiring systems due to the fact that they are veteran teachers. Budgets issued principals cannot afford to hire a veteran teacher/guidance counselor. Now many of these teachers/guidance counselors with satisfactory records are now deemed unfit by Joel Klein. He feels if they are not hired no one wants to hire them. This is a set up by the DOE to force out veteran teachers/guidance counselors. The DOE prefers to hire new teachers who cost the city so much less on the salary scale. How does this leadership by the mayor help our students?

We at Canarsie High School have already experienced the unfairness of the mini schools versus the phasing out school. The mini schools at the Canarsie High School Campus have been given more money to set up their schools than Canarsie High School has seen in the last 15 years. The disparity of this has made not only the faculty upset but the students upset at Canarsie High School. We the students and teachers have no one to complain to, since the DOE has made its decision.

I will be in ATR status once Canarsie High School Closes. I am NYS Certified to Teach Nurse Assistant and have a NYC License to teach Nursing. I have been teaching and coordinating the Nurse Assistant Program at Canarsie High School since 1989. Due to the phasing out of schools the only schools that have a Nurse Assistant Program in Brooklyn are Clara Barton High School , Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn. None of the mini schools now in NYC have a current active Nurse Assistant Program. The mini schools are theme schools and do not follow the CTE(Career and Technical Education Curriculum set by the NYS/SED. Now will I be considered to be an unfit teacher by Joel Klein if the principals of those schools with Nurse Assistant Programs cannot afford to hire a veteran teacher such as myself? I have an excellent record as a teacher and NYS Registered Professional Nurse that I am proud of.

Term limits was put into place to prevent one person from obtaining to much power. I am a citizen of NYC and feel that two terms are more than enough time for a person to be in office. Let the democratic process work and give other well qualified individuals a chance to campaign and be elected by the citizens of NYC. One person should not be continuously in power because then a democracy is replaced by tyranny and anarchy. Michael Bloomberg has had his time in the spot light, give others a chance to lead with fresher and better ideas.

Adele Leibowitz RN
Nurse Assistant Teacher
Canarsie High School

Monday, October 13, 2008

$2 Million Broad Prize for Urban Education to be Awarded;

$2 Million Broad Prize for Urban Education to be Awarded;
Nation's Most Improved Urban School District to be Announced

Aldine, Broward, Brownsville, Long Beach and Miami-Dade
Vie for Country's Largest Education Prize

For Immediate Release

Contact: Erica Lepping,

Monday, Oct. 13, 2008

C: 310-594-6880


Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley
New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein
Philanthropist Eli Broad
Approximately 350 leading education policy-makers and practitioners


Announce the winner of the $2 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, the largest education prize in the country


Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

9 to 10:45 a.m. ET: Panel discussion among superintendents contending for The Broad Prize, moderated by Claudio Sanchez, national education correspondent for National Public Radio

11 a.m. to noon ET: Announcement of winner, including remarks by Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City Department of Education, the 2007 Broad Prize winner

Noon ET: Celebratory lunch with keynote speaker Tom Brokaw, special correspondent, NBC News


Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
New York City, N.Y. 10019
Enter through the 53rd Street entrance and check in at media table.


Please RSVP to to reserve a seat.

Following the Oct. 14 announcement, remote media may access:

* An electronic press kit at noon ET at (in English and Spanish)
* Photos of the event by 4 p.m. ET on the AP wire

The $2 million Broad (rhymes with "road") Prize for Urban Education annually honors urban school districts that demonstrates the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students.

The five finalists for the 2008 Broad Prize are:

* Aldine Independent School District, Texas
* Broward County Public Schools, Fla.
* Brownsville Independent School District, Texas
* Long Beach Unified School District, Calif.
* Miami-Dade County Public Schools

The winning district will receive $1 million in college scholarships for graduating high school seniors, and the four finalists will each receive $250,000 in scholarships. For more information, please visit:

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is a national venture philanthropy established by entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts. The Broad Foundation's education work is focused on dramatically improving urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition. The Broad Foundation's Internet address is


The Broad Foundation 10900 Wilshire Boulevard, 12th Floor, Los Angeles, California 90024 310.954.5050

Some in Australia Prepare "Big Welcome" for Joel Klein Visit

According to the Australian paper the Age, looks like the Australian teachers union and education advocates are not buying the unreliable NYC school grading system that Joel Klein is pitching to them down under. To be forewarned is to be forearmed!

The federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the Australian Government should not be importing "flawed" approaches from the US, a nation that was consistently outperformed by countries such as Finland which did not publicly rank schools.

Canberra-based public education advocacy group Save Our Schools last week called on Ms Gillard to release the details of her performance reporting plan to ensure it did not reproduce the problems of the New York system, which it said had led to league tables and dissimilar schools being compared with each other.

A New York state of mind

October 13, 2008

Julia Gillard tells Dan Harrison of her plan to introduce report cards on schools.

EDUCATION Minister Julia Gillard has sought to allay fears of a wholesale adoption of the controversial "New York model" of schooling as its creator prepares to visit Australia next month.

The chancellor of the New York City department of education, Joel Klein, is due to discuss his radical methods, which include grading schools from A to F, closing schools that consistently fail to meet performance criteria and rating individual teachers based on the performance of their students in standardised tests.

Ms Gillard met Mr Klein in New York in July and was impressed by his transformation of the city's school system, which is credited with lifting graduation rates and levels of student achievement in maths and reading.

But the effectiveness of his changes is contested. A survey commissioned by Newsweek magazine in May found that no New York high school was in the nation's top 200.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd angered teachers' unions in August when he flagged the adoption of many of Mr Klein's ideas in a speech to the National Press Club. He also said the information to be collected and published on schools would go beyond "simplistic league tables".

The federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the Australian Government should not be importing "flawed" approaches from the US, a nation that was consistently outperformed by countries such as Finland which did not publicly rank schools.

"Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd have said repeatedly that they don't want to reduce school accountability to simplistic league tables," Mr Gavrielatos said. "The question for the Deputy Prime Minister is, how will she stop it?"

In an interview with The Age, Ms Gillard said her system would compare like-with-like schools.

"What they do in New York goes beyond that," she said. "We've made it clear that we're not talking about importing any one model, whether it be the New York model or any other. We are interested in designing the model that would work best for this country but I think, at its core, it does need to have that comparison of similar schools." She would not provide details of her system, citing negotiations. She said Mr Klein's visit was intended to enrich the public discussion on the issue.

"I heard from him directly and came to a range of conclusions about things we would want to do here and things we wouldn't want to do here.

"But I think it's great to have him so that people can access him directly and I think that will help people sharpen their thinking and sharpen the community discussion around this whole question of school transparency and what can be achieved from it."

Canberra-based public education advocacy group Save Our Schools last week called on Ms Gillard to release the details of her performance reporting plan to ensure it did not reproduce the problems of the New York system, which it said had led to league tables and dissimilar schools being compared with each other.

"Let us have an informed debate while Klein is here and not just a one-sided presentation to bolster Gillard's secret negotiations with state and territory governments," SOS spokesman Trevor Cobbold said. "It seems it is all being decided behind closed doors with the axe of Commonwealth funding held over the heads of state and territory governments to ensure compliance."

Attempt by SEIU in partnership with the PR govt. to replace the militant FMPR


Please be advised -- the FMPR(Federation of Puerto Rico Teachers) Support Committee -- NY will be demonstrating in front of SEIU's NYC office buildings this Tuesday, October 14 at 5PM. We will denounce the actions of SEIU's leadership in Puerto Rico, including their betrayal of 42,000 striking teachers earlier this year and their subsequent raid against the teachers' bargaining representative, the Federacion de Maestros.

Now they have successfully excluded FMPR from competing in the ongoing elections for representation. Teachers have a choice to vote yes or NO to representation by SEIU -- we say vote NO! An election with only one slate is a SHAM!

Andy Stern, Dennis Rivera, and the other "chupacuotas=dues suckers" have shamelessly broken solidarity and turned viciously on a sister union. Shame on Stern! Shame on Rivera!

Please join us this Tuesday, October 14 at SEIU's NYC offices on 42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues at 5PM as we denounce the anti-worker and imperialist actions of SEIU's leadership and reaffirm our solidarity with the fighting Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico!

Protest the Election Sham and the Complicity of SEIU's Leadership

Oct. 14, Tuesday
5pm to 7pm
at SEIU Offices - New York
42nd Street and 8th Avenue

Denounce the Fraudulent Teacher Elections and The SEIU Leadership's Complicity & Raiding in Puerto Rico!

We demand objective observers!

Support the "NO" Vote!

WHERE: SEIU NYC Offices - 330 W42nd (8th and 9th Av).

WHEN: Tuesday, October 14 at 5PM

En solidaridad,
Angel Gonzalez
FMPR Support Committee - NYC

Saturday, October 11, 2008

UFT Press Release On Educators Wearing Political Campaign Pins in Schools

From: Davene Stern []
Sent: Friday, October 10, 2008 2:49 PM
To: UFT Press
Cc: UFT Press
Subject: UFT Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Department of Education Ban On Educators Wearing Political Campaign Pins in Schools

Ron Davis (212) 598-9201 October 10, 2008

(917) 796-1301

UFT Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Department of Education Ban

On Educators Wearing Political Campaign Pins in Schools

With only weeks to go before the November 4 elections, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) today filed a federal court lawsuit claiming that a New York City Department of Education policy banning educators from wearing campaign pins in schools violates their constitutional rights to free speech and political expression.

The union representing New York City’s public school educators filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking a temporary restraining order against the policy, which city schools Chancellor Joel Klein urged principals to enforce in an October 1 e-mail message to administrators in the city’s 1,500 public schools – even though it has not been followed for decades.

The plaintiffs are UFT President Randi Weingarten; Miriam DelMoor, a technology teacher at the George F. Bristow School, CS 134, in the Bronx; Anthony Thompson, a physical education and health teacher at the Wakefield School, PS 16, in the Bronx; Frank Soriente, a common branches teacher at PS 121 in Queens; and David Pecoraro, a social studies teacher at Beach Channel High School in Queens. The named defendants are the New York City Board of Education and Chancellor Klein.

Weingarten outlined the union’s case for reporters during a press conference before she and attorney Norman Siegel and attorneys from the law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP filed the papers at the Southern District courthouse at 500 Pearl Street. She noted that the union has operated in the same way with respect to political speech in schools over two decades, carefully balancing teachers’ responsibilities as professionals and as citizens.

The UFT sent an email message to its union representatives – known as chapter leaders – in city public schools on September 23 regarding the wearing of political buttons during school hours, the hanging of posters and the distribution of other political materials along with regular union distributions. That email message is virtually identical to that which was sent to chapter leaders in 2000 and 2004.

About two days later, the chancellor’s office contacted the UFT to say that the wearing of campaign buttons and the distribution of political materials is prohibited by Chancellor’s Regulation D-130, which requires all Department of Education staff to “maintain a posture of complete neutrality with respect to all candidates” while on duty or in contact with students. It also prohibits the use of school facilities and supplies, including school mailboxes and even bulletin boards designated for UFT use, to express support for any political candidate except “as an integral part of regularly published staff newspapers or newsletters.” That was followed by the chancellor’s October 1 Principal’s Weekly e-mail notice to administrators.

“The ban on members wearing lapel pins is bad enough,” Weingarten told reporters. “Now the Department of Education wants to restrict the communications between the UFT and its members through the regular channels utilized for such communications such as union bulletin boards and employee mailboxes, both of which are out of students’ view.

“The ‘what if’ scenarios the Chancellor has raised have not happened in two decades,” Weingarten continued. “Why would they create shibboleths now simply to deny educators freedom of expression?”

“It doesn’t matter whether you support Democratic Senator Barack Obama or Republican Senator John McCain,” Weingarten said. “As voters, we all should have the right to express our views. By suppressing political expression, the Department of Education is sending the wrong message to our students. We are just weeks away from a landmark presidential election that is being discussed in classrooms and at dinner tables across the nation. Students can only benefit from being exposed to and engaged in a dialogue about current events, civic responsibilities and the political process.”

On a Third Term for Bloomberg

JW posted to ICE-mail:

LeRoy Barr's chapter leader's weekly said an email address has been set up for giving your opinions on NO THIRD TERM :

Not that I believe for one minute that Weingarten and Co. care a fig about what the membership thinks, the whole thing is so disingenuous.

But since I recently had to answer my son's serious question about 3rd term (he's a freelancer, not a unionist), I had already researched and written up an answer for him, so sent more or less the same thing in to the MyViewssite.

Since I hate throwing research away, I'll post it here as well.


PS: I seemed to have convinced him off his original position. Yeah!


My son asked me:

"Can you give me some reasons to not have Bloomberg in there again? You must have a litany of educational woes, but for the most part I've been happy with him...and now in the midst of this financial crisis he seems like an good person to have in there. I welcome the opportunity to be convinced, but at this point I don't have much of a problem with Bloomberg."

And I wrote back this answer:

1. The people voted 3-term limits out TWICE before, in two different referendums in the 1990s. He has been AGAINST extending til now:

In April 2008, quoted in the Daily News: "The mayor believes in term limits, and is going to leave office at the end of this term,"spokesman Stu Loeser said emphatically Sunday.
It has been reported that Bloomberg himself called extending term limits "disgusting."
According to Room Eight: "The present two-term limit law could be permanently abolished off the law books and constituents will have no say in this matter. "

2. Billionaires can buy segments of the public, and mostly these are voters. They have the hard cash to skew popularity, accountability, and data to make it "seem" as if they are doing good work. They hire firms to create this image, they can use hidden gifts even from their own pockets that we'll never know about it.

According to Room Eight: Ron Lauder, cosmetics mogul and billionaire is "a stark proponent for term limits in 1993 and founder of New Yorkers for Term Limits. He led his support to keep term limits in place but now he wants an exception for his fellow billionaire boys club member, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Lauder feels the mayor has done an extraordinary job as mayor, so he wants to support a one-time extension that will keep the mayor at the helm of his City Hall seat."

And from an article in the Times:
"There was a palpable sense of resentment over the way Mr. Bloomberg negotiated his decision to run for a third term and the strategy he would employ to change the term limits law, which was twice affirmed by voters, in 1993 and 1996. Over the past few months, the mayor worked in private, reaching out to fellow billionaires and shoring up support for his bid among the publishers of the city's three largest newspapers, all of which ran editorials endorsing his decision.
"'The media and business elite in New York seem to not be willing to hear the voices of regular people,'" Mr. Cantor [Working Parties] said, accusing the publishers — Mortimer B. Zuckerman, of The DailyNews; Rupert Murdoch, of the New York Post; and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., of The New York Times – of trying to create "a 21st century Tammany Hall."
"Today we are saying no and encouraging all New Yorkers who believe that democracy belongs to them to log, to stand up and to be counted," Mr. Cantor said.

4. Many people think that Bloomberg has not been able to push through his entire corporate agenda yet, more than just education. They are asking for a one-time term limit extension: They want Bloomberg to have this chance to re-stack govt, then close the door so no one else can do the same thing after him.

5. THEY LIE. He doesn't have to do this through the City Council. "He has said voters should have the final say but that it is too late for a referendum this year. But it's not too late for other measures, as critics have pointed out, including a special election solely on this issue, which could be held early next year. .. . under the city's term limits law — which he had previously strongly defended — he is limited to two terms. He told reporters that handling the financial crisis facing the country and the city, while strengthening essential services, is "a challenge I want to take on for the people of New York."

IMPORTANTLY: " it should be noted that two-thirds of the ponderers [of the City Council who will vote on this] — 34 of the 51 total — will also be forced out next year under the existing law. Bloomberg's ambition to guide the city through another term puts them in an awkward situation: They too will stand to benefit, along with the mayor, from taking this momentous decision out of voters' hands."

From Working Families:
When asked what political party he would align himself with — upon the unveiling of his master plan to install himself for a third term — Bloomberg stated,"This is not about politics." Right. (It's very much about the politics of the Mayor's ego and believing he can operate outside the so-called rules. Don't ya think?)

Good quote from Dan Cantor, head of WFP: "This is not necessarily about where you stand on term limits or whether or not you think that Mike Bloomberg has been a good mayor. This about the rules of the game. And you don't get to change them at the end of the fourth quarter just because your team wants to keep playing."

I added this a few minutes later :

You have to look at this as a major effort in social engineering and "disaster capitalism".

Naomi Klein: SHOCK DOCTRINE. The neo-corporate agenda is to wait til major crisis (Katrina, Iraq War for the Iraqis, this financial crisis),then use large amounts of scare tactics -- real as well as fabricated and enhanced -- and go GREAT GUNS INTO it and scoop up whatever you can in the aftermath: real estate, banks, credit agencies. And change laws, change the way government does things.

So, the financial markets CRASH, and now this billionaire changes his long-standing position supporting 2-term limits. He's making a power grab and a financial grab. No bones about it. For himself and for his cronies and his whole class of rich people.

My son wrote back that what convinced him was the line:
"This is about the rules of the game. And you don't get to change them at the end of the fourth quarter just because your team wants to keep playing."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Doug Henwood on Klein's "Shock Doctrine" - Awe, shocks!

The following article appeared in Left Business Observer #117, March 2008. Copyright 2008, Left Business Observer.

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Metropolitan Books, 558 pp., $28.

Naomi Klein made herself deservedly famous with No Logo, whose official U.S. publication date of January 15, 2000, was just weeks after the popular hijacking of the WTO summit in Seattle. Not only was it well-timed, it was notable for moving beyond the usual critiques of consumption that had been staples of what was then called the antiglobalization movement and into the neglected world of production. It was a comprehensive look at the economic world of the time that helped energize a movement and deepen its understanding of the world.

Seven years later comes The Shock Doctrine, an even more ambitious book that aims to provide, in blurber Arundhati Roy's words, "nothing less than the secret history of what we call the 'free market.'" Although one should never look to jacket blurbs for measured evaluations, there's really little that's secret about this history, and Klein's organizing "shock" metaphor explains nowhere near as much of the world we live in as she thinks it does.

Crushing cousins

The Shock Doctrine is organized around a conceit: "shock" and its cousin "disaster" explain the political economy of the last several decades. One ur-figure is Dr. Ewen Cameron, a ghoulish psychiatrist who worked under contract with the CIA during the 1950s, devising methods to extract information and remake personalities through the use of drugs and torture. His information-extraction techniques became the templates for Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, and the personality renovation became the psycho-political template for the neoliberal restructuring of much of the globe. And the other ur-figure is Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist who wrote the playbook for the policy innovations themselves. The two came together in Chile, via Gen. Augusto Pinochet, when a whole society was remade, in no small part through literal torture techniques, in accordance with the Chicago School's radical free-market dogma. Modern capitalism, says Klein, was born in the Southern Cone, and Pinochet was its midwife.

From there, the model spread around the world, though the exact nature of the shock and disaster varies. Bolivia experienced an early episode of shock therapy, under the guidance of Jeffrey Sachs, in the mid-1980s. That episode relied more on tight money than torture cells. The same can be said of Sachs's work in Poland and Russia in the late 1980s and early 1990s: the idea was to turn these formerly socialist countries into capitalist ones nearly overnight. In the U.S., there was the shock of 9/11, and the regional disaster of Hurricane Katrina. The invasion of Iraq provided an opportunity for a great economic experiment in that unfortunate country. In Sri Lanka, a tsunami provided the impetus for an economic restructuring.

Clearly, there's some truth here, but the list of instances is so varied that they don't always merit a single theory. Even if you limit the theory to the idea that there's nothing "free" about the free market, it's strange to see that notion presented as the revelation of a secret history. What is called the "free market" has always been inseparable from state coercion; there was never anything spontaneous about it at all. This has been true at least since the enclosure movement in England privatized previously common lands starting in the sixteenth century, give or take a century or two. In more modern times, the role of U.S. imperial power in promoting the so-called free market has long been a central theme of Noam Chomsky, a writer who doesn't lack for readers.

Starting the clock

For a book this long, there's little history from before 1970. Klein cites Stephen Kinzer's history of U.S. interventions-often based on tight government links to corporate interests-going back to 1893, but she quickly returns to the rapidly fading present of Bush and Cheney. There's little doubt that there's something different about this gang-a little more primitive in thought and style-but there's one prominent missing case: Lyndon Johnson, who engineered the killing of something like a million Indochinese.

Poor LBJ is woefully underrepresented in the book; he doesn't even merit an index entry. Klein writes at length about Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), which from 1998 to 2007 was a subsidiary of Cheney's notorious plaything Halliburton. KBR's predecessor, Brown & Root (B&R), was practically created by federal contracts steered its way by Johnson, from his days in Congress to his days in the White House. B&R returned the favor by financing LBJ's campaigns for higher office. B&R got fat contracts to build the war infrastructure in Vietnam, complete with scandalous overcharges. (GIs in Vietnam called the company "Burn & Loot.") B&R built the infamous tiger cages used to torture Vietcong prisoners. It was the first time the U.S. military had contracted out for services formerly performed by soldiers. In other words, George Bush has many predecessors-some of them Democrats even.

The effect of setting the starting clock on history so recently is to make the present seem far more extraordinary than it is. Compounding that problem is the central role that "shock" and "disaster" play in the narrative. By so emphasizing "shock"-and so much of that shock being extreme repression and torture-Klein skirts the difficult question of how the right developed enough popular consent and legitimation to win election and re-election, sometimes in landslides. The Morning in America election of 1984 was about an exhilarating boom. Though the boom was uneven and crazy, and came after a deep recession, it was real enough to be believed by enough people to keep the story going.

The shock of 9/11 had little effect on U.S. economic policy; sure, military contractors have made a bundle of Bush's buildup, but that's a story at least as old as Eisenhower's military-industrial complex speech, and it's hardly become the driving force of the U.S. economy. She cites contracts of $150 billion handed out over five years, but at $30 billion a year that's the equivalent of three or four days worth of retail sales.

The voters speak

Klein explains Thatcher's re-election in 1983 as a result of a nationalist mania after the Falklands War, but that was only a small part of the reason. As Stuart Hall wrote during the early days of Thatcherism, she was able to tap into genuine popular resentment of union "excesses" and gain support for a huge anti-working class offensive. (If you doubt that a critique of the intrusiveness and tedium of the welfare state had popular resonance in Britain, listen to some Kinks songs from the 1970s.) Ditto talk about crime, standards, national prestige, discipline, family values-many of them irrelevant or even antithetical to her radical market agenda-the standard fare of what Hall called "authoritarian populism."

Neoliberalism, a word that Klein uses a lot, has consistently gained electoral victories in the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India. Not all the practitioners belonged to right-wing parties: names like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Paul Keating, and Roger Douglas come to mind. Clinton and Blair barely appear in the book, and Keating and Douglas not at all.

Both Keating and Douglas enginered the neoliberal restructuring of their countries while serving as finance ministers during the 1980s-Keating in Australia and Douglas in New Zeland-as members of Labor Parties. New Zealand's transformation is widely regarded as one of the most radical in the world. Douglas travelled the world advising anyone who'd listen on the necessity of creating a "crisis" to promote the free-marketeers' agenda. But this is an ancient principle of statecraft; one of Klein's chapter epigraphs is a 500-year-old gem from Machiavelli: "For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less."


As do many partisans of the global justice movement, Klein exhibits a nostalgia for the Keyensian welfare state model that prevailed in many rich countries in the decades following World War II. That model had a counterpart, roughly over the same period, in Latin America in the import-substitution model, in which tariffs and other import restrictions were used to protect local industries in the hope they'd develop.

Import substitution had its successes, for sure, but they were fairly limited. The regimes that practiced it were often corrupt and repressive, with deep ties between protected industrialists and their political patrons, and the products of these coddled industries were often shoddy and expensive. There's no doubt that successful development requires some kinds of "protection," but it's hard to do it deftly.

And the victims of Pinochet and Argentine junta were rebels against that very model of capitalism. At first, the military dictatorships of Latin America weren't trying to impose neoliberalism-they were trying to defend the system of private property against a variety of populists, socialists, and communists.

Using words like "Friedmanite" and "neoliberalism" is a way to avoid talking about capitalism in any systemic fashion. When Klein does address systemic issues, she professes that she's not anticapitalist, but prefers a form of managed or welfare capitalism. It would be sectarian to say that managed or welfare capitalism isn't better than what we've got now; it most certainly would be, especially in the U.S., where a single-payer healthcare system seems almost like a revolutionary impossibility. But it would be naive to think that we could get there without a political upsurge demanding an even more radical renovation, and evasive to deny that exploitation wouldn't still exist under a regulated capitalism.

Pinochet, meet Procrustes

As is often the case with arguments organized around a conceit, Klein works hard to squeeze events into her model's form. There's the problem mentioned above-that Cameron and Pinochet cannot explain Ronald Reagan's 59-41 victory over Walter Mondale in 1984. But there are also problems with many of Klein's case studies.

In her chapter on post-apartheid South Africa, Klein notes how the hope generated by the ANC's taking power was dashed by the orthodox economic policy the party pursued once in power. She explains that the country was "outnegotiated" by the World Bank and IMF. That is not how many on the South African left see the problem. Their analysis is that the ANC was never anti-capitalist, and was quite eager to join the world system and get its own piece of the action. As no less than Mandela himself put it: "The ANC has never...advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it...ever condemned capitalist society."

She also asserts that Israel is in the midst of a Chinese-style boom, which has been occurring because, not in spite of, the country's constant state of war. The boom, she asserts, is being driven by the production and export of military and surveillance equipment. But in fact Israel's economy isn't booming, the military share of GDP is way down from its 1970s peaks and has been flat in recent years, and arms represent only a fraction of Israeli exports. Israel's per capita GDP has been growing at about a quarter of the Chinese rate over the last couple of years; over the last seven years, it's more like a tenth the Chinese rate. Electronics, including military-surveillance goods, have been declining as a share of Israeli exports, while that of drugs and chemicals has been rising. Israel's share of the world's arms trade is just over 1%, behind Sweden's.

For Klein, the invasion of Iraq wasn't a geopolitical adventure so much as an economically rational attempt to complete the Chicago-school counterrevolution that began in Chile in 1973: to bring the "Friedmanite" model to the Middle East. "The 'fiasco' of Iraq is one created by a careful and faithful application of unrestrained Chicago School ideology." It was, in a phrase she likes, "Friedmanite to the core." Among the problems with this reading are that things haven't worked out as planned-Iraq barely has an economy to impose any policy on, though privatization decrees were certainly issued-and that Friedman himself opposed the invasion of Iraq. He told the Wall Street Journal's Tunku Varadarajan in July 2006: "What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression."


Klein's use of a one-dimensional caricature of Friedman as an all-purpose whipping boy may play to the choir, but he deserves more serious attention than this. His economics was in many ways wrong and vile, but over the course of a fifty-year career, he helped reshape not only his discipline, but the way politicians and regular people think and talk about the economy. He was an extremely effective popular writer; if only the left could have produced a book as persuasive as Capitalism and Freedom, the world might be a better place. (Yes, yes, his argument was nicely aligned with the needs of capital in the 1970s, but on the other hand, capital also needed some degree of popular assent, which Friedman helped produce-and, on the third hand, polemic doesn't count for nothing, and material interest isn't everything.)

One reason that Friedman became popular both within his own profession and in the larger world was that there were real economic problems in the 1970s. In the richer countries, Keynesian/welfare-state capitalism was in crisis because of stagflation. According to the economic consensus of the time, weak growth was supposed to mean low inflation-but weak growth coexisted with persistently high inflation throughout the 1970s. Friedman offered an explanation for that: monetary stimulus beyond a certain point results in inflation, not additional growth. Growth was being held back by unions and regulations, which were interfering with the magic self-adjusting powers of the market. The solution was tight money and deregulation. It worked, at least for a while, on its own terms, though at great human cost.

But there's a radical way of expressing the insights of Friedman and the others who came to power and influence in the late 1970s. Capitalism simply cannot live with low unemployment rates. Workers gain confidence, resist the direction of the boss, and wages are forced up. Add to that a welfare state, which cushions workers against the risk of job loss, and things are even worse from the bosses' point of view. Their plight was evident in the depressed profit rates of the leisure-suit decade.

Sure enough, the application of the Friedman agenda raised profit rates and ended the great inflation-though it put the working class into a semipermanent state of anxiety, which was part of the point. That does suggest a permanent shock strategy is part of the system's normal operating procedure, not an extraordinary event.

Limits and beyond

An honest evaluation of this history would have to recognize that the Keynesian model in the northern hemisphere had reached an impasse in the 1970s. Either things had to break in the Friedmanite direction or a more anticapitalist direction. And in the southern hemisphere, import substitution was running into similar problems: rising inflation and low levels of productivity. Many governments borrowed heavily abroad in an attempt to keep things going, laying the groundwork for the debt crisis of the 1980s. Obviously Friedman, Pinochet, and Reagan do not represent the full range of possibilities, but something had to give, and the left worldwide was too weak to win the battle.

Though the analysis may be problematic, Klein's closing chapter does inspire hope even in a skeptical reader. Shocks wear off, and some of the most inspiring agitation is coming from the region that suffered some of the worst abuses of the 1970s and 1980s, Latin America. The word "socialism" is even being dusted off in Venezuela and Bolivia. But the emphasis on shock as the organizing principle of the book even constrains the inspiration. Those recovering from shock, whether in the Southern Cone or in New Orleans, see themselves as "repair people, taking what's there and fixing it, reinforcing it, making it better and more equal. Most of all, they are building in resistance-for when the next shock hits." These are the concluding words of the book. Is this really all we can do? Tinker while the weather's fair, and get ready to duck and cover on a moment's notice?