Sunday, October 30, 2011

Andrew Cuomo on his lonely battle to protect rights of oppressed millionaires to have their taxes lowered

Profile in courage: Andrew Cuomo on his lonely battle to protect rights of oppressed millionaires to have their taxes lowered; he actually compares his opposition to millionaire tax to his dad's opposition to death penalty. -- Leonie Haimson

Cuomo Compares Sticking Up For Rich People To Battling The Death Penalty

Posted on October 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm by New York Observer in
Share 10 share E-mail
Governor Andrew Cuomo (Getty)
For New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, standing up for his richest constituents is a matter of life and death.
Governor Cuomo revealed how he feels about the so-called “millionaire’s tax” when he compared his opposition to the popular tax to his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, battling the death penalty at a press conference in Albany this afternoon.
Surveys show 72% of New Yorkers support tax increases for people who make more than $1 million each year, but Governor Cuomo said he doesn’t want a state millionaire tax. Capitol Tonight reports Governor Cuomo referenced his father’s longtime fight against the death penalty when explaining his position on the tax:
“My father was governor of this state. He was against the death penalty. Everyone in the state wanted the death penalty — everyone. It was near 80 percent. And he was the governor of the state and he said he wasn’t going to sign it. Every year — go back and talk to some of the people who know the history — every year we had to scramble and make sure there wasn’t an override of the veto. … The point is, we don’t elect — the governor isn’t a big poll taking machine … so the fact that everyone wants it, that doesn’t mean all that much. I respect the people, their opinion matters, but I’m not going to go back and forth with the political winds.”
Governor Cuomo tried to have his millionaire’s tax and eat it too, clarifying his position by saying he’d support the tax at the federal level though he doesn’t want to see it in New York State.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lance Hill on New Oreans Model for Privatization

New Orleans: Beachhead for Corporate Takeover of Public Schools Friday, Oct 28 2011 
Charter Schools and Education Reform edutalknola 9:34 am
New Orleans
The national media consensus is that New Orleans has discovered the miracle cure for urban education.  Their conclusion is largely drawn from data provided by the Louisiana Department of Education, which obviously has a vested interest in emphasizing the good and ignoring the bad in the post-Katrina education changes.  New Orleans is important in the national education debate, but not for the reasons we commonly hear; it is important because it is the beachhead for a national movement to remove schools from local democratic control and accountability.  The privatization trade-off is that the public sacrifices control of schools for a privatized system that delivers better education for the same tax dollar.  While the citizens of New Orleans certainly lost control of their schools, it cannot be said that they have received a better education, if that also means an equitable education, nor can it be said that it came at the same cost.
The corporate education forces that advocate a free-market business model have developed a “beachhead” strategy in New Orleans.  Taking advantage of the evacuation of 90% of the population after Katrina, they set in motion educational changes that bypassed the elected school board and destroyed virtually all local democracy and accountability.  They hoped to use New Orleans as a showcase for a model school system they could imposed throughout the nation; one based on privatizing public schools into charter schools and shifting dependence from veteran teachers to temporary and inexperienced Teach For America (TFA) recruits.
At the heart of the beachhead strategy was a quiet policy of subsidizing select charter schools to provide them with additional instructional resources and incentives to ensure increases in high-stakes test scores.  But the flaw in the subsidy system was that the showcase model “successful schools” could not possibly be replicated on existing revenues throughout the district let alone throughout the nation.  The corporations and foundations had only enough funds to bankroll a display system in one city—not in 50,000 schools nationwide.
From the outside, it appeared that the charters and TFA have “done more with less” when in fact—if they did more at all—it was through massive subsidies from the state, corporations, and foundations, all largely concealed from the public.
The funds to prop up test scores at all the state-controlled schools and charters rolled in by the millions after the state takeover of most of New Orleans schools.  In a state that never spent much on public education, suddenly the takeover superintendent was given a blank check; he promptly doubled the expenditure per student.  Teacher salaries were increased 50% in three years; the Broad foundation gave one KIPP school $150,000 to pay students up to $50 a week to behave (it worked: Angelina Jolie toured the school and remarked on how well behaved the students were).  One charter school spent twice per pupil as the state funding formula by using corporate and foundation subsides.  In-kind subsidies flowed into the charters: AmeriCorps volunteers were used as teachers although they were classified as tutors; Konica-Minolta annually handed out $180,000 in private high school scholarships at one KIPP school ensuring that it would attract hundreds of applicants to cherry-pick from; Bill Gates made a $3 million grant to plan charters and train charter CEOs and the U.S. Department of Education recently awarded $33.6 million to develop more charter schools in Louisiana
The outcome was a handful of showcase charter schools that the corporate reform advocates market as the norm.  It was crucial for the corporate education reformers that New Orleans school privatization appear to succeed at all costs.  Still, a dual school system emerged of privileged charters for a few and the vast majority of students in struggling schools. The new education system was like a Ponzi scheme: great profits were returned to a few at first, but in the end, the architects of the system could not sustain the flow of benefits to the majority.  This month the state released a new grading system that gave a “D” or “F” to 83% of the state-controlled schools in New Orleans.
Why would Gates and Broad and Duncan promote a deeply flawed and unequal subsidized system as a national model?  Because privatizing education is primarily about shifting education from the public to the private sector, and especially removing control of public education from urban Black governance.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that, John White, the new Superintendent of the state-takeover schools, “declared the old model of elected school board in urban districts to be a failed idea.”  Urban, is this case, means minority-controlled.
One of the lessons of New Orleans is that once the schools are privatized, they are never returned to local public control.  The worse, chronically failing charters have simply been given to another charter operator.  Although the state legislature in 2005 promised to return the seized schools once they were brought up to standard, that promise was broken in 2008 when the law was quietly changed to allow the state superintendent to put conditions on the return of the schools.  Those conditions in effect guaranteed that schools would not be returned.  New Orleans is a case study in the misuse of the original concept of charter schools which were intended to provide autonomy to create replicable innovations at the same cost to tax payers; the charter movement was hijacked by the free-marketers who simply wanted control of education and the profits that come with that.  Instead of serving the students with the greatest needs, showcase charters boost test scores by discriminating against special needs students and recruiting high-skills students and using special disciplinary policies to force out low-performing students.
The public can’t be blamed for the skewed view of the New Orleans education changes.   The first year that post-Katrina promotional test scores were published by the local Times-Picayune, the paper published only the top charter school scores. They did not publish the scores of the “dumping schools” within these charter networks where, in one case, 93% of the students failed the 4th grade LEAP promotional test.
New Orleans is at the center of the national debate on education because it was forced to trade democratic control of education for the illusory benefits of increased efficiency and lower costs—the promise that privatization always makes.  The danger is that rest of the nation will forsake its local control of schools in exchange for the same illusion.  In the end, the charter and on-line schools will make billions and leave the public with schools that perform at the same level but cost more as foundation and corporate subsidies disappear.   It’s a classic bait-and-switch game played on a financially stressed nation searching for low-cost solutions to high-cost problems.
New Orleans is not, as charter advocates would have us believe and Louisiana charter law mandates, an ”experiment,” in which methods are scientifically tested and bad ideas are discarded:  to the contrary, it is a carefully planned, ideologically-driven corporate takeover of public education that ignores its failures and emphasizes marketing over evidence-based science. The free market has no problem selling products that don’t work as long as they turn a profit.
Hurricane Katrina was the perfect storm for the corporate education movement: No democracy, no unions, and a goal of 100% privatization of all public schools.   It is no mystery why they chose New Orleans as their beachhead.
Guest Blog by:
Lance Hill, Ph.D.
Southern Institute for Education and Research

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Analysis of Black Secondary Student Attrition from KIPP, Other Private Charters, and Urban Districts

Is Choice a Panacea? An Analysis of Black Secondary Student Attrition

from KIPP, Other Private Charters, and Urban


*Julian **Vasquez Heilig**, Amy* *Williams, **Linda McSpadde*n

*McNeil*, *Christopher* *Lee*

Public concern about pervasive inequalities in traditional public

schools, combined with growing political, parental, and corporate

support, has created the expectation that charter schools are the

solution for educating minorities, particularly Black youth. There is

a paucity of research on the educational attainment of Black youth in

privately operated charters, particularly on the issue of attrition.

This paper finds that on average peer urban districts in Texas show

lower incidence of Black student dropouts and leavers relative to

charters. The data also show that despite the claims that 88-90% of

the children attending KIPP charters go on to college, their attrition

rate for Black secondary students surpasses that of their peer urban

districts. And this is in spite of KIPP spending 30–60% more per pupil

than comparable urban districts. The analyses also show that the vast

majority of privately operated charter districts in Texas serve very

few Black students. 

Dan Goldstein Reviews Brill Book in The Nation

Can Teachers Alone Overcome Poverty? Steven Brill Thinks So

Dana Goldstein | August 10, 2011
Steven Brill, the journalist and media entrepreneur, has come a long way since he helicoptered onto the education beat in 2009.

That’s when The New Yorker published Brill’s expos√© of the New York City “rubber rooms,” where the Department of Education parked the one-twentieth of 1 percent of the city’s 80,000 public school teachers—about forty people—who had been accused of gross negligence and removed from the classroom. As they awaited the due process hearings guaranteed in their union contracts, rubber room teachers received full pay and benefits, sometimes for up to three years.

The article sparked outrage among readers, who were appalled that millions of tax dollars were spent annually paying the salaries and arbitrating the cases of teachers who came to work inebriated or practiced corporal punishment. Despite the fact that the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers shared responsibility for creating the clumsy and cumbersome arbitration process, Brill laid the blame solely at the union’s doorstep.

He followed up with his hyperbolically titled May 2010 New York Times Magazine feature “The Teachers’ Unions Last Stand,” which admired the Obama administration’s attempt to pressure states to tie teacher evaluation and pay to students’ standardized test scores. The article lavishly praised nonunionized charter schools while entirely blaming teachers unions for the achievement gap between poor and middle-class students.

Together, the two pieces had the kind of impact most journalists can only dream of. Rubber room teachers were reassigned to desk jobs, and their arbitrations were sped up. More significant, Brill’s framing of the education debate, borrowed from reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee—teachers unions vs. poor kids—infiltrated the popular consciousness more deeply than it had before, presaging the September 2010 release of the pro–charter school, anti–teachers union documentary Waiting for Superman. Brill began to appear on panels with key figures in the education debate, including American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten and Harlem Children’s Zone President and CEO Geoffrey Canada. And he embarked on an ambitious book project: a comprehensive history and analysis of the standards-and-accountability school reform movement called Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools.

Not surprisingly, given Brill’s history of interest in only the most controversial school reform issues, the book is filled with misleading discussions of complex education research, most notably a total elision of the fact that “nonschool” factors—family income, nutrition, health, English-language proficiency and the like—affect children’s academic performance, no matter how great their teachers are. (More on this later.) Class Warfare is also studded with easy-to-check errors, such as the claim that Newark schools spend more per student than New York City schools because of a more cumbersome teachers’ contract. In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that the state must provide supplemental per-pupil funding to all high-poverty school districts, including Newark. As a result, New Jersey is considered a national leader in early childhood education, and Newark graduates more African-American boys from high school—75 percent—than any other major city.

But here’s the thing: by the closing chapters of his breezy, 478-page tome, Brill sounds far less like an uncritical fan of charter school expansion, Teach for America (TFA) and unionbusting and far more like, well, a guy who has spent several years immersed in one of the thorniest policy conversations in America, thinking about a problem—educational inequality—that defies finger-pointing and simple solutions.

Welcome to the beat, Brill!

One of Class Warfare’s stars, a charter school assistant principal named Jessica Reid, unexpectedly quits her job at Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy in the middle of the school year; the charter chain’s rigorous demands pushed the 28-year-old Reid, a dedicated and charismatic educator, to the brink of a nervous breakdown and divorce. “This wasn’t a sustainable life, in terms of my health and my marriage,” she tells Brill, who concludes that he agrees (at least in part) with education historian and charter school critic Diane Ravitch. You can’t staff a national public school system of 3.2 million teachers, Ravitch tells Brill, with Ivy Leaguers willing to run themselves ragged for two years. Most of these folks won’t move on to jobs at traditional public schools, as the uncommonly committed Jessica Reid did, but will simply leave the classroom altogether and head to politics, business or law, where they’ll be paid more to do prestigious work, often with shorter, less pressure-filled hours.

That’s the model of Teach for America, of course, another school reform organization with which Brill is somewhat frustrated by the end of his book. He comes to grasp the fundamental problem with TFA’s conception of the teacher pipeline: Let’s say the lowest-performing 10 percent of career teachers—320,000 people—are fired. How will we replace them? TFA will contribute only about 9,300 corps members to the nation’s schools in the coming school year; even if every graduate of a selective college entered teaching—and some would surely be terrible teachers—we’d still have a shortage. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was “actually making an important point,” Brill concedes, when he said, “You can’t fire your way to the top.”

Faced with these complexities, Brill comes up with a strange conclusion: Maybe New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg should give Randi Weingarten control of the city schools in a “Nixon goes to China” move. If she were responsible for student achievement instead of teacher job security, Brill suggests, the labor leader would be forced to push union members harder to prioritize instructional excellence and embrace tenure reform.

But in fact, the sea change in union attitudes that Brill believes can only be achieved by this unlikely move has already taken place. The AFT and, more recently, the National Education Association have accepted the fundamental premise of tying teacher evaluation to student performance. The details need to be worked out in statehouses and school districts across the country—the most controversial issue, and rightly so, is the role that data from standardized tests will play. Nevertheless, the unions’ evolution into more student-achievement-focused organizations is, at this point, foreordained. In Colorado last year, the local AFT affiliate even supported legislation that requires student achievement data to account for 51 percent of a teachers’ evaluation score. Colorado teachers who receive a bad evaluation two years in a row will now lose their tenure protections.

* * *

All that said, it is truly ignorant to reduce school reform to a labor-management question. States with teacher collective bargaining routinely outperform right-to-work states academically, and teachers are unionized in most of the nations—such as Finland, Canada and France—whose kids kick our kids’ butts on international assessments.

School reform is just as much about the three Cs: curriculum (what knowledge and skills students actually learn); counseling (how we prepare young people, professionally and socially, for adult life); and civics (whether we teach students how to participate in American democracy).

Brill never mentions any of this. Class Warfare is built around the idea of children, particularly poor children, as test-score-producing machines, with little to no attention paid to other aspects of their personalities or lives. The book’s heroes are philanthropists, school administrators, policy wonks and politicians. We meet few students or parents.

Most pernicious is Brill’s repeated claim that the effects of poverty can be not only mitigated but completely beaten back by good teachers. “A snowballing network of education reformers across the country…were producing data about how teaching counted more than anything else,” Brill writes in the book’s opening pages. Later, he devotes a chapter to economists Thomas Kane and Douglas Staiger, whose work on value-added teacher evaluation has powerfully influenced Bill Gates’s education philanthropy. “It wasn’t that poverty or other factors didn’t affect student performance,” Brill summarizes. “Rather, it was that teacher effectiveness could overcome those disadvantages” (emphasis added).

In fact, the work of the many researchers Brill approvingly cites—including Kane, Staiger and Stanford’s Eric Hanushek—shows that while teaching is the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement, family and neighborhood characteristics matter more. The research consensus has been clear and unchanging for more than a decade: at most, teaching accounts for about 15 percent of student achievement outcomes, while socioeconomic factors account for about 60 percent.

It is tiring to make this point over and over again. The usual rebuttal is that determining exactly how much teachers matter is irrelevant, because they are one of the only levers in a poor child’s life over which school systems exert some control. This is true, and it’s a fine argument for focusing education policy efforts on sustainable teacher quality reforms, such as recruiting more academically talented young people into the profession, requiring new teachers to undergo significant apprenticeship periods working alongside master educators, and creating career ladders that reward excellent teachers who agree to stay in the classroom long-term and mentor their peers. This is what such high-performing nations as China and Finland do; they don’t, √† la Teach for America, encourage 21-year-olds with five weeks of summer training to swoop into the classroom and swoop out again.

But because we know, without a doubt, that family poverty exerts a crushing influence over children’s lives, it is no small thing when standards-and-accountability education reformers repeat, ad nauseam, that poverty can be totally “overcome” by dedicated teachers. Of course, we all know people who grew up poor and went on to lead successful, financially remunerative lives. Many of them feel grateful to educators who eased their paths. But the fact remains that in the United States in 2011, beating the odds of poverty has become far less likely than ever, and teacher quality has less to do with it than does economic inequality—a dearth of good jobs, affordable housing, healthcare, childcare and higher education.

Advances in cognitive science have made it possible to pinpoint how these disadvantages hinder children academically. One-fifth of the middle schoolers in Providence, Rhode Island, for example, entered kindergarten in 2003 suffering from some level of lead poisoning, which disproportionately affects the poor and is associated with intellectual delays and behavioral problems such as ADHD. “It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body,” writes education researcher David Berliner, “and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ.”

Food insecurity is similarly correlated with cognitive delays, and rising in incidence across the country—more than 17 million American children consistently lack access to healthy, nutritious meals. Here’s how a team of Harvard School of Public Health researchers describe the relationship between hunger and student achievement:

When children attend school inadequately nourished, their bodies conserve the limited food energy that is available. Energy is first reserved for critical organ functions. If sufficient energy remains, it then is allocated for growth. The last priority is for social activity and learning. As a result, undernourished children become more apathetic and have impaired cognitive capacity. Letting schoolchildren go hungry means that the nation’s investments in public education are jeopardized by childhood malnutrition.

Acknowledging connections between the economy, poverty, health and brain function is not an attempt to “excuse” failing school bureaucracies and classroom teachers; rather, it is a necessary prerequisite for authentic school reform, which must be based on a realistic assessment of the whole child—not just a child’s test scores. Successful education reform efforts—such as the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides “wraparound” social and health services alongside charter schools, or California’s Linked Learning schools, which connect teenagers to meaningful on-the-job training—are built on this more holistic understanding of the forces that shape a child’s life and determine her future.

Brill and the accountability crowd are correct to note that high-performing teachers are consistently able to raise the test scores of even the poorest children. Research shows that an improvement of one standard deviation in teacher quality leads to approximately two to four points of gain for a student on a 100-point test in reading or math. Five years of great teachers in a row, therefore, could raise a student’s test scores by ten to twenty points.

Whether this potential growth is incidental or transformative depends on where a student starts out: if he began at the twentieth percentile in reading, he’d still be failing; a jump from the seventieth percentile to the ninetieth could make him a candidate for selective colleges. Unfortunately, as Paul Tough demonstrated in a recent New York Times Magazine piece, at far too many “miracle” inner-city schools, the vast majority of students—despite impressive test-score growth—continue to score below proficiency in reading and math. These students may graduate from high school, but they are unprepared for college or work beyond the service sector.

Honest reformers are all too aware of this problem. As KIPP charter school co-founder Dave Levin tells Brill, “I’m still failing.” Indeed, only one-third of the KIPP network’s high school graduates are able to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. This is a remarkable achievement in a country where only 30 percent of all young adults—regardless of family background—hold a college degree. It’s also a reminder of how very difficult it is to make huge leaps and bounds in closing the achievement gap. After all, a full 75 percent of the highest-income high school graduates are able to earn that BA by age 24.

* * *

Although Brill, by the end of Class Warfare, comes to recognize the limits of the education reform movement he so admires, he somehow maintains his commitment to the idea that teachers can completely overcome poverty. There’s a reason, I think, why this ideology is so attractive to many of the wealthy charter school founders and donors Brill profiles, from hedge funder Whitney Tilson to investment manager and banking heir Boykin Curry. If the United States could somehow guarantee poor people a fair shot at the American dream through shifting education policies alone, then perhaps we wouldn’t have to feel so damn bad about inequality—about low tax rates and loopholes that benefit the superrich and prevent us from expanding access to childcare and food stamps; about private primary and secondary schools that cost as much annually as an Ivy League college, and provide similar benefits; about moving to a different neighborhood, or to the suburbs, to avoid sending our children to school with kids who are not like them.

The fact of the matter, though, is that inequality does matter. Our society’s decision to deny the poor essential social services reaches children not only in their day-to-day lives but in their brains. In the face of this reality, educators put up a valiant fight, and some succeed. The deck is stacked against them.

Source URL:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Noah Gotbaum

Fighting for Upper West Side Schools

By Dan Rosenblum
Even though Noah Gotbaum came from a family of teachers, labor leaders and political figures, he never thought he’d be fighting so hard.

But Gotbaum, 52, is part of a rising cadre of parents objecting to mayoral control of the school system and what he calls top-down leadership by the Department of Education. Gotbaum has mobilized many parents who oppose funding cuts, overcrowded classrooms and the opening of an Upper West Side charter school.
“Did I foresee this?” he said. “No. But when I found out that parents and teachers in schools have no say, that just fires me. That outrages me.”
Noah Gotbaum, a widowed father of three, was until recently the president of the District 3 Community Education Council. andrew schwartz
Noah Gotbaum, a widowed father of three, was until recently the president of the District 3 Community Education Council. andrew schwartz
His father, Victor Gotbaum, now retired, was the well-known leader of  the District Council 37 union and his mother, aunt and grandmother were teachers. Former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum is his stepmother.
“She’s an amazing person to talk to about these issues,” he said.
Growing up, Gotbaum went to public schools in Westchester County and spent time in the neighborhood. In the 1980s, Gotbaum helped found New York Cares, a citywide volunteer organization.
He then worked in real estate and moved into international finance. After graduate school, he worked in the U.K. and Germany, helping to integrate Eastern European economies. In 2003, he moved back to the United States. Now back on the Upper West Side, Gotbaum is firmly entrenched.
“I love this district,” he said. “I love this area. The Upper West Side is a phenomenally vibrant and engaged place.”
Four years ago, his wife died in police custody in a well-publicized incident in a Phoenix airport. After that, work took a backseat for Gotbaum and he began to spend much of his time with his three children.
“When my wife passed away, this community just enveloped me and my kids,” he said.
He brings his kids to rallies, just as his father did with him.
“We’ve had enormous benefits, and it’s important for us to give back and shout out when things aren’t right,” he said.
He said that, with his family background, it was only logical he would get involved in the education system. In 2009, Gotbaum ran for the District 3 Community Education Council and became its president. While hs is no longer president, he is the chair of a committee in charge of school overcrowding.
Wearing a yellow-and-black pin that reads, “We are the 99 percent,” Gotbaum said he sees parallels between the parent-led battles and the Occupy Wall Street protests downtown.
“Even though I spent the better part of 25 years working in business and finance, I know that without a strong healthy investment in our public schools, in our infrastructure, in our housing and our working class communities, we are not going anywhere,” he said.
Gotbaum sees some options for the future. Within the next few months, he’s hoping to launch a nonprofit to give parents resources to organize and learn about things like school budget literacy.
He’s also considering running for public office, and many think he will run for City Council.
“I’m an only parent with three kids,” he said. “I’m going to stay close to home, whatever I do.”
Even that, too, will change. Gotbaum was recently engaged to Lindsay Marx, who has two children. When they get married this spring, his family will expand from four to seven.
“She’s an Upper West Sider, too,” he said

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Ugly the Bad and the Ugly of Corporate Reform

W. enters my wife’s schoolboard race

Our family gets a close-up look of how big money has taken over politics -- even at the local level

Left: George W. Bush. Right: The author's wife holds their son as she mails her ballot for the election.
Left: George W. Bush. Right: The author's wife holds their son as she mails her ballot for the election.  (Credit: AP/Courtesy of the author)
Before it happens, it’s hard to know how you’ll feel when you see a slickly produced, oil-CEO-financed flier implicitly attacking your 11-month-old baby for not being old enough to attend school and explicitly criticizing your family for not being able to afford a home.
It sounds like a takeoff of “SNL’s” hilarious “bat problem” campaign ads — something so over-the-top it couldn’t possibly be real. But, in our case, it wasn’t a parody — such a mailer now fills up thousands of mailboxes throughout my town. And unfortunately, I now know how badly I feel in the face of such a barrage. I’m not overwhelmed by anger or vengefulness. Instead, I’m experiencing a far more numbing set of emotions: a mix of sadness and helplessness.
Six months ago, when my wife, Emily, decided to run for a school board seat here in Southeast Denver, I was (perhaps naively) expecting what we used to get from the most local of local races for such part-time, unpaid positions: lots of door knocking, a few yard signs, maybe a barbecue or two — all the wholesome activities that were once staples of local political Americana.
David Sirota
David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at  More David Sirota

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Charter Resistance in Bill Gates' Own Back yard

WA has so far managed to resist the charter school push, despite the free-spending ways of the Gates foundation headquartered in the state, and now Gates is also helping to fund the Washington PTA, which is supporting a new bill that would establish charters for the first time in the state.

I'll be speaking in Seattle on November 17 to teachers and public; on November 18 to leaders of Washington Education Assn; and on November 19 to Washington School Directors Assn (the state school boards). They will get an earful.

Diane Ravitch

New post on Seattle Education

From a teacher’s perspective: The PTA needs to do their homework on Democracy. Go to an Occupation

Written by Dan Trocolli, a  Seattle Teacher and  member of Social Equality Educators

I started my Saturday morning going to the Washington State Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Legislative Assembly to assist parents in Parents Across America-Seattle, an activist group of parents, in opposing charter school legislation in the state of Washington.  It wasn’t easy waking up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday, but I knew it was important that people know the negative effect that charter schools can have on our public schools.
As a teacher, one would think that parents in the PTA would be very interested in hearing from teachers about significant changes to Washington laws on delivering public education to their children, particularly given the fact that teachers are underrepresented in PTA’s around the country.  Imagine my shock when approaching a group of parents in the hotel lobby with flyers,  one woman tore the flyers  out of my hand  in a hysterical rage then went up to my colleague, another teacher, and ripped the flyers from her hands as well and then threw them in the trashcan!
I wanted to let delegates in the PTA know how charters have a higher teacher turnover, unfairly exclude under-performing students and siphon money from other public schools.  However, we were unable to continue handing out flyers and talking to parents about a teachers’ perspective on charter schools.  The president, vice president and executive director of the state PTA all tried to assure us that they would consider approving the flyer for distribution.  Never mind that the debate and vote was set to occur in mere minutes.
Turns out the PTA voted to support legislation in Washington for the creation of charter schools passed by a mere 9 votes, despite the PTA’s own survey of members that found a majority opposed to bringing charters to our state.  In fact, the influence of corporate, pro-charter forces, such as Stand For Children, on the top echelons of the Washington State PTA caused them to not provide delegates any information critical of charters, at all.
The outcome was difficult to face given the attacks on public education these days.  However, my disappointment was short-lived as I made my way to Occupy Seattle.  There was an immediate contrast of the undemocratic repression I experienced at the PTA convention with the people’s democracy of the occupation’s rally and march.
The rally at Westlake Plaza, part of an international day of action in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, was already in the thousands when I got there.  Teachers in the Social Equality Educators (SEE), a rank and file group of educators in Seattle, gathered in a contingent.  We had a table with a sign-up for union members and labor supporters of the occupation.  We displayed our banner, “Bail out Schools, Not the Banks!” and answered questions of protestors visiting our table.
There were people discussing all sorts of political questions all over the square, including, among other things, charter schools.  Various groups had tables where they distributed all sorts of propaganda on issues like corporate greed, the war in Afghanistan and socialism.  And individual protestors had many myriad homemade signs raising many social issues as well.
But this was just the beginning.  On the march protestors stopped and occupied for some moments the Pike Place Market intersection.  When an ambulance neared unable to get through, protestors needed no instructions and immediately parted to let them through chanting, “This is what Democracy looks like.”
When the march neared the plaza, SEE members organized an impromptu sit-in in front of the CHASE bank across the street.  Thousands sat in the street, the sidewalks and the plaza listening as teachers and community members sounded off on corporate greed and what it will take to curtail it.
Later protestors re-occupied Westlake Plaza with over a hundred tents.  The sense that it is possible to make the change we want to see in the world was palpable and that solidarity with one another is key in making that change happen.  Most people coming to the occupation had a healthy rejection of free market, corporate driven solutions to public ills such as charter schools.
Like the Occupiers, most teachers recognize the undue influence of the uber-wealthy 1% on school reforms such as charter schools and merit pay.  It’s these changing winds that might be frustrating the angry woman of the PTA.
The PTA leadership should take a lesson and hold their Legislative Assembly down at Westlake Plaza.  They may learn a thing or two from the other 99% about democracy and what’s needed to improve public education.

Tribute to Dennis Ritchie from Small Dog Electronics

RIP Dennis Ritchie By Liam Flynn  
  The outpouring of praise and tributes for Steve Jobs this past week was really something to see and was well deserved. He was a true innovator and bold entrepreneur who had a huge influence on the development of our modern digital world and how we interact with it. However, all the focus on Steve Jobs made it easy to miss the news that another incredible genius passed this week, one who arguably had a bigger influence on the world than Steve Jobs did.
In the early 1970s a man named Dennis Ritchie invented a programming language he called C, and it is possibly the most important thing ever invented in the computing world besides the computer itself. C is a programming language first developed for the Unix operating system (which Ritchie helped develop), and now C and Unix form the basis of almost everything we do with computers. The Internet basically runs on Web servers and routers using Unix written in C (or Java or C++, which are based on C).
Mac OS X is a Unix-based operating system, a direct descendant of the operating system and programming language Dennis Ritchie brought to life, as is iOS, the mobile Apple OS that runs the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone. Even Windows was written in C at one point. Steve Jobs and any number of other developers stand on the shoulders of this quiet man who worked behind the scenes yet was one of, if not the most influential person in computing. It’s not an exaggeration to say the world as we know it today would not exist without Dennis Ritchie’s work. He passed away this week at the age of 70 after a long illness.
Ritchie worked at Bell Telephone Labs like his father before him. Bell Labs of the 20th century was one of the most creative technological research and development facilities anywhere ever, and its inventions and personnel have shaped the world we live in. Among a long list of Bell Labs’ accomplishments in pure research and practical applications is the development of the transistor by three Bell researchers, probably the most important invention to ever come out of Bell.
The transistor changed the world. It let us move away from vacuum tubes as components in electronic devices and let us start making things smaller, cooler, more portable and more powerful. It made modern electronics possible. One of those employees who developed the transistor left Bell and in 1956 formed his own company in a little town that would become known as Silicon Valley. Employees who split off from his company formed some of the most successful tech companies of all time, including Fairchild, AMD and Intel. The phone company may not seem too exciting, but Bell cultivated a culture of research and innovation that let brilliant minds have their way and produced brilliant results.
It is in this culture of not only innovation, inventiveness and technology but also practicality where Ritchie worked on developing operating systems in the computer sciences division of Bell Labs. He and several colleagues developed Unix in the late ’60s. Like most operating systems of the time, it was written in assembly language. Assembly language is a low-level programming language. It is actually the abstraction level just above programming in machine code, which is programming by directly addressing what happens to single bits of data in memory or call stacks, or in what order these single operations are to happen. In assembly language, something that might take dozens of lines of machine code can be expressed in a few lines, and so on up through abstraction levels. The higher the level of programming, the more powerful and involved the commands can be and the more abstracted from the machine code they are.
Of course higher-level programming is the standard today; if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t, for instance, be people designing apps for the App Store. Creating even the simplest apps we use today would involve monumental amounts of design and labor if each were created at the assembly-language level. In the era during which Ritchie worked, most engineers felt that low-level programming was the way to go. It provided an extreme level of control over the machines of the time. Higher-level programming languages tended to not use resources efficiently, and that was a huge driving paradigm then. To put this in context, you have to remember what that time was like. No iMacs or PCs in people’s homes because they didn’t exist. No Internet. No i-Anything. No slick user interfaces. Computers were mostly huge things guys in white coats with advanced degrees worked with.
After working for a couple of years with the Unix he had developed, Ritchie found he needed a better way to program different builds of it. One of the drawbacks of low-level programming is that it gets more platform-specific as you get closer to machine language. At that lowest level the programming is written for the specific processors and memory architecture used in the machine. The result is that, at low levels, if you want to move an OS to a different machine and be able to program it, then that OS needs to be completely rewritten to interface with that machine’s hardware—a complex and time-consuming task to say the least. Ritchie decided to develop a higher-level language that would overcome this hurdle and make Unix a portable operating system. Over the next few years he developed C and the rest is history. Unix and C could be ported to almost any hardware with ease, and C was the software that made it happen and then let people start really programming.
The other part of the equation that made C spread so quickly was that AT&T at the time was not allowed to sell computer products including software due to antitrust agreements, and they were required to license anything they developed in the field to anyone who asked. So in a very short time this powerful portable language was in the hands of thousands of people in universities and companies, all exploring its capabilities and developing software with it. And here we are forty years later and C or one of its variants powers our digital world. C and its variants run everything from the smallest handheld devices and system hardware like routers right up to supercomputers, and everything in between. Steve Jobs gave us ways to interact with the digital world that are elegant and visionary. Dennis Ritchie’s C built that world in the first place.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Putting Bloomberg on Trial

Educating for Democracy: The People's Trial of Mayor Bloomberg

Shortly after Mayor Michael Bloomberg assumed control of the New York City school system, he presented his programs as a national leader in "educational reform." But there has been evidence in the New York public schools in the recent past of cheating on standardized tests by teachers and supervisors.
Moreover, the much publicized "success" of the mayor's program has been in part based on inflated test scores and the "dumbing down" of the tests themselves. Yet under the mayor's "leadership" Bloomberg continues to close down "failing" schools and replace them with charter schools causing wide-spread disruption to students, parents and veteran teachers. As a result of these closings, some of the most valuable and experienced teachers lose their positions and end up in "ATR" (Absent Teacher Reserve) where they are misused as substitute teachers with no permanent position since the principals are reluctant to hire high-salary veterans and prefer to employ cheaper, inexperienced teachers to meet their "bottom line." This is the business model of education that the Bloomberg Administration has imposed.
At a "trial" held at DC 37 of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sponsored by the Coalition for Public Education and hosted by Sam Anderson, a noted educational leader dedicated to wresting the school system out of mayoral control, testimony was given by dozens of parents, teachers and concerned educators describing the negative effect the mayor's "educational reform" has produced in what seems to be a part of a nationwide attempt to privatize the public schools, deskill teachers, strip them of their union rights, and firmly establish a two-tier educational system: one for the privileged and one for everyone else.

The all-day trial was adjudicated by such well-known legal authorities as Thomas Mariadson, of the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund, Esmeralda Simmons, of the Center for Law and Social Justice, Damon Hewitt of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and attended by City Councilman Charles Barron. Angel Gonzalez, a member of GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) described in detail the destructive effect of school closings in which a disproportionate number of Black and Latino students are pushed out of their neighborhood schools to accommodate charter schools. This process not only results in damage to the students but a disproportionate number of Black and Latino teachers end up as ATR's further diminishing the ethnic diversity of the system. Among other results of the co-location of charter schools in district schools is that they-the charters- cut back on needed programs in bi-lingual and special needs education.

Another aspect of the damage the Bloomberg administration has done to the NYC public schools was revealed by a teacher-parent whose daughter goes to Bronx Regional High School, the school attended by Nicole Suriel, the girl who was tragically drowned on a class beach visit last summer. The parent testified that he had repeatedly warned the school administration and Department of Education of neglect and indifference to student well-being at the school and blames the Administration for fostering this negligent attitude that resulted in the girl's death.

The teacher also reported the conditions at the GED Plus school where he teaches which is located at Bronx Regional High School. The school is intended to offer a chance for high school dropouts ages 17-21, to get their General Education diplomas. However, according to the teacher's testimony, the school has no library, no arts programs, no gym, no special literacy program, no ELL for students whose first language is not English, and 35 in a class.

There were many other charges of mismanagement of the public schools by the Bloomberg administration. These included the dismissal of a twelve-year special ed veteran when the DOE discovered she hadn't taken a foreign language course in college; the excessive number of summonses and arrests of students of color where not only security personnel but also regular police with firearms patrol the former Brandeis High School. It had once been one of the best high schools in the City but was closed down so that a charter school can be "co-located" at the facility on the Upper West Side where the workers and teachers will be non-unionized. The testimony throughout the time I attended presented a consistent pattern of inadequate attention to and neglect of schools that desperately need more support.

And while these schools are "failing," Councilman Barron reported that during the period of the Bloomberg administration's control of the schools the DOE budget has increased from $11 billion to $24 billion while only 23% of the students graduating from the public schools are prepared for college. With a great many of the services for the city schools now "contracted out," Barron wonders where so much of this money is going with so little effect on improving public education.

At the same time, as pointed out by Leonie Haimson, a nationally known parent-advocate and Executive Director of Class Size Matters, a clearinghouse for information on class size, the actual number of students in classrooms K-12 has increased under the Bloomberg administration, despite the fact that $650 million each year for the past three were specifically appropriated by the State legislature under the Contracts for Excellence law to reduce class size. Moreover, Haimson pointed out that several programs that have no research to support them are being vigorously expanded under the Mayor's watch: paying students for improving test scores and increasing the use of on-line (computer-based) instruction.

An alternative to such destructive practices was offered at the hearing in an ICOPE (Independent Commission on Public Education) video created by a group of high school students who actually asked other students what they felt would improve their schools. The video, based on a study called YRNES (Youth Researchers for a New Education System)
found that in addition to wanting to be treated with greater respect by teachers and other staff, about 80% of those students questioned expressed an interest in participating in leadership roles in their school. Perhaps if other school administrators, besides the Mayor, heeded the students' request, there might be some marked improvement in their performance in learning.

If the "Trial of Mayor Bloomberg" showed anything, it was that his programs were more expensive, more destructive, and more demoralizing with no significant improvement in learning outcome than prior to his administration. The sentence for what he's done is that he should be dismissed from his position as head school administrator so that more positive outcomes can be produced for our City's young learners: student, parent and teacher-based, not business-based education.

UFT Support with Space Donation

Occupy Wall Street Raises $300,000 [LATEST UPDATES]

Occupy Wall Street Fundraising
AP/The Huffington Post   VERENA DOBNIK First Posted: 10/16/11 11:33 PM ET Updated: 10/17/11 10:31 PM ET
By VERENA DOBNIK, The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Occupy Wall Street movement has close to $300,000, as well as storage space loaded with donated supplies in lower Manhattan. It stared down city officials to hang on to its makeshift headquarters, showed its muscle Saturday with a big Times Square demonstration and found legions of activists demonstrating in solidarity across the country and around the world.
Could this be the peak for loosely organized protesters, united less by a common cause than by revulsion to what they consider unbridled corporate greed? Or are they just getting started?
There are signs of confidence, but also signs of tension among the demonstrators at Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the movement that began a month ago Monday. They have trouble agreeing on things like whether someone can bring in a sleeping bag, and show little sign of uniting on any policy issues. Some protesters eventually want the movement to rally around a goal, while others insist that isn't the point.
"We're moving fast, without a hierarchical structure and lots of gears turning," said Justin Strekal, a college student and political organizer who traveled from Cleveland to New York to help. "... Egos are clashing, but this is participatory democracy in a little park."
Even if the protesters were barred from camping in Zuccotti Park, as the property owner and the city briefly threatened to do last week, the movement would continue, Strekal said. He said activists were working with legal experts to identify alternate sites where the risk of getting kicked out would be relatively low.
Wall Street protesters are intent on hanging on to the momentum they gained from Saturday's worldwide demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands of people, mostly in the U.S. and Europe. They're filling a cavernous space on Broadway a block from Wall Street with donated goods to help sustain their nearly month-long occupation of the private park nearby.
They've amassed mounds of blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, cans of food, medical and hygienic supplies - even oddities like a box of knitting wool and 20 pairs of swimming goggles (to shield protesters from pepper-spray attacks). Supporters are shipping about 300 boxes a day, Strekal said.
The space was donated by the United Federation of Teachers, which has offices in the building.
Close to $300,000 in cash also has been donated, through the movement's website and by people who give money in person at the park, said Bill Dobbs, a press liaison for Occupy Wall Street. The movement has an account at Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as "the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States."
Strekal said the donated goods are being stored "for a long-term occupation."
"We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!" Kara Segal and other volunteers chanted in the building lobby as they arrived to help unpack and sort items, preparing them to be rolled out to the park.
While on the streets, moments of madness occasionally erupt in the protest crowd - accompanied by whiffs of marijuana, grungy clothing and disarray - order prevails at the storage site.
It doubles as a sort of Occupy Wall Street central command post, with strategic meetings that are separate from the "general assembly" free-for-alls in the park. One subject Sunday was data entry: protesters are working to get the names and addresses of donors into a databank, to thank them for their gifts.
The movement has become an issue in the Republican presidential primary race and beyond, with politicians from both parties under pressure to weigh in.
President Barack Obama referred to the protests at Sunday's dedication of a monument for Martin Luther King Jr., saying the civil rights leader "would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there."
Many of the largest of Saturday's protests were in Europe, where those involved in long-running demonstrations against austerity measures declared common cause with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Rome, hundreds of rioters infiltrated a march by tens of thousands of demonstrators, causing what the mayor estimated was at least euro1 million ($1.4 million) in damage to city property.
U.S. cities large and small were "occupied" over the weekend: Washington, D.C., Fairbanks, Alaska, Burlington, Vt., Rapid City, S.D., and Cheyenne, Wyo. were just a few. In Cincinnati, protesters moved their demonstration out of a park after hearing that a couple was getting their wedding photos taken there - but the bride and groom ended up seeking them out for pictures.
More than 70 New York protesters were arrested Saturday, more than 40 of them in Times Square. About 175 people were arrested in Chicago after they refused to leave a park where they were camped late Saturday, and there were about 100 arrests in Arizona - 53 in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix - after protesters refused police orders to disperse. About two dozen people were arrested in Denver, and in Sacramento, Calif., anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was among about 20 people arrested after failing to follow police orders to disperse.
Activists around the country said they felt that Saturday's protests energized their movement.
"It's an upward trajectory," said John St. Lawrence, a Florida real estate lawyer who took part in Saturday's Occupy Orlando protest, which drew more than 1,500 people. "It's catching people's imagination and also, knock on wood, nothing sort of negative or discrediting has happened."
St. Lawrence is among those unconcerned that the movement has not rallied around any particular proposal, saying "policy is for leaders to come up with."
"I don't think the underlying theme is a mystery," he said. "We saw what the banks and financial institutions did to the economy. We bailed them out. And then they went about evicting people from their homes," he said. He added that although he is not in debt and owns his own home, other people in his neighborhood are suffering and "everyone's interests are interconnected."
In Richmond, Va., about 75 people gathered Sunday for one of the "general assembly" meetings that are a key part of the movement's consensus-building process. Protester Whitney Whiting, a video editor, said the process has helped "gather voices" about Americans discontent, and that she expects it will eventually take the movement a step further.
"In regards to a singular issue or a singular focus, I think that will come eventually. But right now we have to set up a space for that to happen," Whiting said.
Some U.S. protesters, like those in Europe, have their own causes. Unions that have joined forces with the movement have demands of their own, and on Sunday members of the newly formed Occupy Pittsburgh group demanded that Bank of New York Mellon Corp. pay back money they allege it overcharged public pension funds around the country.
New York's attorney general and New York City sued BNY Mellon this month, accusing it of defrauding clients in foreign currency exchange transactions that generated nearly $2 billion over 10 years. The company has vowed to fight the lawsuit and had no comment about the protesters' allegation about pensions.
Lisa Deaton, a tea party leader from southern Indiana, said she sees some similarities between how the tea party movement and the Wall Street protests began: "We got up and we wanted to vent."
But the critical step, she said, was taking that emotion and focusing it toward changing government.
The first rally she organized drew more than 2,500 people, but afterward, "it was like, `What do we do?'" she said. "You can't have a concert every weekend."
The Wall Street protesters' lack of leadership and focus on consensus-building has help bring together people with different perspectives, but it's also created some tension.
"Issues are arising - like who is bringing in sleeping bags without permission," said Laurie Dobson, who's been helping a self-governed "working group" called "SIS" - for Shipping, Inventory and Supplies.
Sleeping bags were among items cited by Zuccotti Park's owner, Brookfield Properties, as not allowed on the premises - along with tents, tarps and other essentials for the encampment. By Sunday, all those items were back.
Strekal didn't see that as a problem. Protesters could do it, he said, "because we're winning the PR war."
Around his neck hangs a tiny silver Liberty Bell - a symbol of American independence given to him by a fellow activist.

Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD

By Adrian Chen

Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for a month. And it seems the FBI and NYPD have had help tracking protesters' moves thanks to a conservative computer security expert who gained access to one of the group's internal mailing lists, and then handed over information on the group's plans to authorities and corporations targeted by protesters.
Since the Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17, New York security consultant Thomas Ryan has been waging a campaign to infiltrate and discredit the movement. Ryan says he's done contract work for the U.S. Army and he brags on his blog that he leads "a team called Black Cell, a team of the most-highly trained and capable physical, threat and cyber security professionals in the world." But over the past few weeks, he and his computer security buddies have been spending time covertly attending Occupy Wall Street meetings, monitoring organizers' social media accounts, and hanging out with protesters in Lower Manhattan.
Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPDAs part of their intelligence-gathering operation, the group gained access to a listserv used by Occupy Wall Street organizers called September17discuss. On September17discuss, organizers hash out tactics and plan events, conduct post-mortems of media appearances, and trade the latest protest gossip. On Friday, Ryan leaked thousands of September17discuss emails to conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who is now using them to try to smear Occupy Wall Street as an anarchist conspiracy to disrupt global markets.
What may much more alarming to Occupy Wall Street organizers is that while Ryan was monitoring September17discuss, he was forwarding interesting email threads to contacts at the NYPD and FBI, including special agent Jordan T. Loyd, a member of the FBI's New York-based cyber security team.
Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPDOn September 18th, the day after the protest's start, Ryan forwarded an email exchange between Occupy Wall Street organizers to Loyd. The email exchange is harmless: Organizers discuss how they need to increase union participation in the protest. "We need more outreach to workers. The best way to do that is by showing solidarity with them," writes organizer Jackie DiSalvo in the thread. She then lists a group of potential unions to work with.
Another organizer named Conor responds: "+1,000,000 to Jackie's proposal on working people/union struggles outreach and solidarity. Also, why not invite people to protest Troy Davis's execution date at Liberty Plaza this Monday?"
Five minutes after Conor sent his email, Ryan forwarded the thread—with no additional comment—to Loyd's FBI email address. "Thanks!" Loyd responded. He cc'd his colleague named Ilhwan Yum, a fellow cybersecurity expert at the agency, on the reply.
Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPDOn September 26th, Ryan forwarded another email thread to Agent Loyd. But this time he clued in the NYPD as well, sending the email to Dennis Dragos, a detective with the NYPD Computer Crimes Squad.
The NYPD might have been very grateful he did so, since it involved a proposed demonstration outside NYPD headquarters at 1 Police Plaza. In the thread, organizers debated whether to crash an upcoming press conference planned by marijuana advocates to celebrate NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly ordering officers to halt arrests over possession of small amounts of marijuana.
"Should we bring some folks from Liberty Plaza to chant "SHAME" for the NYPD's recent brutalities on Thursday night for the Troy Davis and Saturday for the Occupy Wall Street march?" asked one person in the email thread. (That past Saturday, the video of NYPD officer Anthony Bologna pepper-spraying a protester had gone viral.) Ryan promptly forwarded the email thread to Loyd at the FBI and Dragos at the NYPD.
Interestingly, it was Ryan who revealed himself as a snitch. We learned of these emails from the archive Ryan leaked yesterday in the hopes of undermining the Occupy Wall Street movement. In assembling the archive of September17discuss emails, it appears he accidentally included some of his own forwarded emails indicating he was ratting out organizers.
"I don't know, I just put everything I had into one big package," Ryan said when asked how the emails ended up in the file posted to Andrew Breitbart's blog. Some security expert.
Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPDBut Ryan didn't just tip off the authorities. He was also giving information to companies as well. When protesters discussed demonstrating in front of morning shows like Today and Good Morning America, Ryan quickly forwarded the thread to Mark Farrell, the chief security officer at Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal.
Ryan wrote:
Since you are the CSO, I am not sure of your role in NBC since COMCAST owns them.
There is a huge protest in New York call "Occupy Wall Street". Here is an email of stunts that they will try to pull on the TODAY show.
We have been heavily monitoring Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous.
"Thanks Tom," Farrell responded. "I'll pass this to my counterpart at NBCU."
Did the FBI and/or NYPD ask him to monitor Occupy Wall Street? Was he just forwarding the emails on out of the goodness of his heart? In a phone interview with us, Ryan denied being an informant. "I do not work with the FBI," he said.
Ryan said he knows Loyd through their mutual involvement in the Open Web Application Security Project, a non-profit computer security group of which Ryan is a board member. Ryan said he sent the emails to Loyd unsolicited simply because "everyone's curious" about Occupy Wall Street, and he had a ground-eye view. "Jordan never asked me for anything."
Was he sending every email he got to the authorities? Ryan said he couldn't remember how many he'd passed on to the FBI or NYPD, or other third parties. Later he said that he only forwarded the two emails we noticed, detailed above.
But even if he'd been sending them on regularly, they were probably of limited use to the authorities. Most of the real organizing at Occupy Wall Street happens face-to-face, according to David Graeber, who was one of the earliest organizers. "We did some practical work on [the email list] at first—I think that's where I first proposed the "we are the 99%" motto—but mainly it's just an expressive forum," he wrote in an email. "No one would seriously discuss a plan to do something covert or dangerous on such a list." But regardless of how many emails Ryan sent—or whether Loyd ever asked Ryan to spy on Occupy Wall Street—Loyd was almost certainly interested in the emails he received. Loyd has helped hunt down members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous, and he and his colleagues in the FBI's cyber security squad have been monitoring their involvement in Occupy Wall Street.
Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPDAt a New York cyber security conference one day before the protest began, Loyd cited Occupy Wall Street as an example of a "newly emerging threat to U.S. information systems." (In the lead-up to Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous had issued threats against the New York Stock Exchange.) He told the assembled crowd the FBI has been "monitoring the event on cyberspace and are preparing to meet it with physical security," according to a New York Institute of Technology press release.
We contacted Loyd to ask about his relationship with Ryan and if any of the information Ryan passed along was of any use to the agency. He declined to answer questions and referred us to the FBI's press office. We'll post an update if we hear back from them.
We asked Ryan again this morning about how closely he was working with the authorities. Again, he claimed it was only these two emails, which is unlikely given he forwarded them to the FBI and NYPD without providing any context or explaining where he'd gotten them.
And he detailed his rationale for assisting the NYPD:
My respect for FDNY & NYPD stems from them risking their lives to save mine when my house was on fire in sunset park when I was 8 yrs old. Also, for them risking their lives and saving many family and friends during 9/11.
Don't you find it Ironic that out of all the NYPD involved with the protest, [protesters] have only targeted the ones with Black Ribbons, given to them for their bravery during 9/11?
I am sorry if we see things differently, I try to look at everything as a whole and in patterns. Everything we do in life and happens in life, there is a pattern behind it.