Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bloomberg Will Seek a Third Term

So says The New York Times:

The move represents an about-face for Mr. Bloomberg, who has repeatedly said he supports term limits and once called an effort to revise the law “disgusting.” He will apparently try to do so through legislation in the City Council, rather than the ballot box

So much for the will of the people. So much for Mr. Bloomberg's word. And so much for UFT President Randi Weingarten's much ballyhooed promise that we'd "negotiated" our last contract with Bloomberg and Klein.

Mr. Bloomberg has much in common with President GW Bush, pictured at left, including utterly ineffectual education policies, the adoring approval of Maverick Johny McCain, open hostility toward unions and a willingness to welcome torturers like Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, also pictured at left (Mr. Karimov, incidentally, appears to share Mr. Bloomberg's disdain for term limits).

Unlike President Bush, however, Mayor Bloomberg got into office via acquiring more votes than his opponent, and is widely acknowledged to have bought the office he now holds fair and square.

Update (Thanks to 14 More Years): Act to maintain term limits.

Why I'm Dubious

The last eight years we have been fed a load of b.s from the White House, the political establishment and the media over a host of issues from the Iraq war to the economy that has many people skeptical about the true nature of the current financial crisis or what CNBC's Erin Burnett called "Economic Armageddon" yesterday.

Cunning Realist, himself an investment professional, captures that dubiousness here:

Part of the public's skepticism is a natural reaction to the now-transparent language of deception and hysteria. When you've trafficked in mushroom clouds and Persian Hitlers for eight years, "imminent financial Armageddon" loses a bit of its edge. Hearing the administration and its media flacks suddenly and in concert (almost as if a memo went out, eh?) warn of a latter-day Great Depression and push this as "it's not a bailout, it's a buy-in" sets off alarm bells for anyone who's been sentient in recent years. Orwell's revenge, maybe...

That's it exactly - it feels like the White House, coordinating with the RNC, Drudge, Murdoch's FOX News/Wall Street Journal, and their shills in the rest of the media, are sending out a load of jive about potential Economic Armageddon to scare America into supporting a huge bail-out of Wall Street firms and banks that took huge risks and now want a safety net for them.

Notice that these same folks crying for $700 billion dollars to buy up bad debts and mortgages were the same folks telling us that the odious bankruptcy bill of a few years had to passed into law so that individual bankruptcies would be harder to come by for Americans, even those in financial trouble due to medical bills.

They were also the same people telling us the "Bush Boom" was the best story never told while only the top 5% of the country made any economic gains throughout the past eight years.

It's funny how that works - the big guys who scored big-time the last eight years get the bail-outs while the little guys, the ones who didn't score big-time the last eight years, get the shaft - even if their debts came from enormous medical bills, lack of medical insurance, etc.

In the meantime, the guys who created this mess, the smarmy financial CEO's and crooked hedge fund managers, all seem to be getting out with golden parachutes, as the cliche goes:

the seizure and the deal with JPMorgan came as a shock to Washington Mutual’s board, which was kept completely in the dark: the company’s new chief executive, Alan H. Fishman, was in midair, flying from New York to Seattle at the time the deal was finally brokered, according to people briefed on the situation. Mr. Fishman, who has been on the job for less than three weeks, is eligible for $11.6 million in cash severance and will get to keep his $7.5 million signing bonus, according to an analysis by James F. Reda and Associates. WaMu was not immediately available for comment.

No wonder congressmen and congresswomen were receiving calls 100-1 against this bail out bill. People are pissed off that at the same time all the usual hysterics are declaring mushroom clouds over Wall Street and Economic Armageddon if taxpayers don't write a $700 trillion check to them, the WaMu CEO is jumping from his sinking ship with almost $20 million for a couple of weeks work.

And yet, some people who are not part of the Bush/Greenspan/Murdoch team of hysterics, are saying we really do need this bail-out bill to pass or the consequences will be dire:

Everywhere you turn, focus is fixated on the financial crisis and the merits of proposed solutions. We discussed the shifting structure numerous times—Martial Law for the Markets, Back in the U.S.S.A.!, Shock & Awe—and offered time and price are the only true solutions for what ails us.

The caveat in allowing that natural process to take place resides in the DNA of the disease. As a card-carrying free market guy—someone who built several careers on the backbone of capitalism—I would like nothing better than to see the markets self-correct.

As a derivatives trader of 17 years however—someone who earned his stripes at Mother Morgan (MS), ran a multi-billion dollar derivative portfolio and was president of a $400 million hedge fund—I understand the profound consequences of letting them do so.

We live in a finance-based economy, one that is tied together with upwards of $500 trillion notional derivatives. Allowing institutions to fail—in many cases, deservedly so—would set off a chain reaction like dominoes laced with dynamite that would suck any corporation with finance-based operations into a cataclysmic abyss.

That list could conceivably include the likes of General Motors (GM), General Electric (GE), Target (TGT), Ford (F) and yes, JP Morgan (JPM), Bank America and Citigroup (C).

In other words, it would be game over, freeze and seize, complete chaos.

Scary stuff - but words like these lose their meaning after so many other "crises" these past few years where we were told we had to act within 48 hours or the world would end. The fact that the Dow is up over 200 points as of 10:10 AM and world markets didn't collapse overnight also leads me to be skeptical of the need for a bail-out.

It seems to me the boys on Wall Street and in the corporate board rooms want to have taxpayers take their bad debts off the books for them so that they can start with a clean slate and DO THE WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN.

To paraphrase Atrios, the Wall Street boys are sad the party is over and they want the punch bowl back so that can restart the party.

Stories like the $20 million severance packages to the WaMu CEO for a few weeks' work surely don't dispel this feeling do they?

In the end, the Congress will probably pass a bail out bill by the end of the week, the markets will be back up on the news, the boys on CNBC and elsewhere will be saying we've finally hit bottom in this (how many times have we heard that from the supposed "experts") and then in a few more weeks the credit market will seize up again and we'll be told we need to write another $___ billion dollar check or the world will end.

And in the meantime, what is all this printing of money at the Fed going to do to price stability in the future? So far we have fought a war in Afghanistan and a war in Iraq, financed the Bush tax cuts and spent $1.3 trillion dollars on bailouts of Bear Sterns, Fannie & Freddie, AIG and perhaps the bail out bill and put it all on the nation's credit card.

Isn't that kind of debting the behavior that set this financial crisis into motion in the first place?

Crawling from the Wreckage

Bob Herbert speculates on what happens when the inmates take over the asylum:

George H.W. Bush warned us about “voodoo economics” in 1980, but the ideologues clamped a gag on him and put him on the Gipper’s ticket. For much of the time since then, the madmen of the right have carried the day. They were freed of their remaining few restraints with the ascendance of George W. Bush in 2000.

These were the reckless clowns who led us into the foolish multitrillion-dollar debacle in Iraq and who crafted tax policies that enormously benefited millionaires and billionaires while at the same time ran up staggering amounts of government debt. This is the crowd that contributed mightily to the greatest disparities in wealth in the U.S. since the gilded age.

This was the crowd that cut the cords of corporate and financial regulations and in myriad other ways gleefully hacked away at the best interests of the United States.

Now we’re looking into the abyss.

When President Bush went on television last week to drum up support for the bailout package, he looked almost dazed, like someone who’d just climbed out of an auto wreck.

“Our entire economy is in danger,” he said.

He should have said that he, along with his irresponsible Republican colleagues and their running buddies in the corporate and financial sectors, put the entire economy in danger. John McCain and his economic main man, Phil (“this is a mental recession”) Gramm, were right there running with them.

And over at electoral-vote.com, they're commenting on Maverick Johny's unique take on leadership:

John McCain blamed the failure of the House bill on the Democrats, even though 60% of the Democrats voted for the bill and only 33% of the Republican did so. The old Maverick McCain would have said: "Government interference in the markets is a bad thing, something Republicans understand and Democrats don't, so we defeated this evil bill." But Candidate McCain knew that would not sell so well, so he didn't say it. McCain clearly realizes that his suspending his campaign and zipping off to Washington to provide leadership doesn't look so great now that the bill went down to defeat not because the Democrats opposed it, but because 2/3 of the House Republicans opposed it. Who is the real leader now that Nancy Pelosi got of majority of her people behind the bill but McCain was unable to rally more than 1/3 of his troops and all eight members of the Arizona congressional delegation--four Republicans and four Democrats--voted against it?

Monday, September 29, 2008


Erin Burnett on MSNBC just moments ago (I'm paraphrasing): "People on Wall Street are saying if the banks and financial institutions do not get some bailout money soon, it will be economic armageddon."

Uh, huh.

Let's be frank here. A bunch of banks and financial institutions lent out a bunch of money to people they shouldn't have lent money to, then leveraged themselves 40 to 1 and now that so many of these loans and mortgages have gone bad and the chips are being called in, nobody's got the money that's owed.

It's not a liquidity problem Wall Street is suffering from. It's an insolvency problem. Many banks and financial institutions are insolvent, many Americans themselves are insolvent, and the federal government printing $1.3 trillion dollars to buy up these bad mortgages and bail out these insolvent institutions is nuts. All that is going to do is a) create a huge inflation problem down the road while b) creating a moral hazard problem where these crooked hedge fund managers and greedy traders are going to say "Hey, as long as you're as big as WaMu and AIG you can do whatever you want because you're too big to fail and the government will always be there to bail you out."

Let the bad debts and bad loans run through the system. Let some banks go belly up. Let people start losing their money, their homes, their retirements.

And then maybe, just maybe, Americans will finally wake up to the fact that you cannot live for so long so far above your means before the bill comes due.

It's unfortunate that it has come to this and innocent people, prudent people (including your humble blogger), are going to be hurt in the process. But this problem was self-created.

Remember when Preznut Bush told us after 9/11 that our patriotic duty was to go shopping and buy stuff? Remember how Uncle Alan Greenspan told Americans they should trade in their old 30 year fixed rate mortgages for 2/28 ARMs and use the money to build an extension on the house, buy a car or go on vacation? Remember how salaries for the overwhelming majority of Americans has fallen over the last 8 years, adjusted for inflation, even as the consumption of those same Americans has increased? Remember how the total debt level of Americans at an individual, and municipal, state, and federal level is 250% of GDP? Remember how Americans' net savings rate the past few years is negative? Remember how we financed our "housing boom" (Ha - how's that boom look now?) with money from the Chinese while the prices of both residential and commercial real estate zoomed way above historic (and sustainable) norms?

All these talking heads on the Tee Vee and the politicians and the Wall Street crooks and even Mom and Pop American ought to stop whining about this mess, take a look in the mirror and say "What was my responsibility for this? How did I contribute to it? And what can I do to fix the problem?"

Here's a start - pay your freaking bills, stop buying what you can't afford, save some money and make any of these politicians who tell you consumption is the American way and regulation of the financial markets is communist pay at the ballot box and send 'em back to the Texas desert. Next, create a financial system that is transparent and understandable rather than opaque and labyrthine. So many of these problems started because 20-something and 30-something smarties on Wall Street created these "innovative" financial products that were so complex that even they didn't understand all the ins and outs of them (or what the consequences would be once problems started) while they paid themselves huge money for creating wealth from nothing. That's a start for fixing the problem.

Finally, hold on tight. Because no matter where you have your money now (indeed if you have any), it's worth less and less each day. And that problem is only going to get worse .

BTW, the bail out bill that went down to defeat today in the House probably wasn't going to fix the problems anyway, so forget what Erin Burnett and Jim Cramer and these other shills are saying. The problem IS the system, they're just apologists for it.

Make no mistake, these are scary times, and the people who claim to know what the solution is have been wrong about every other solution they have tried so far.

Oh, and don't forget to duck, cover and roll when you go to the bank tomorrow to get your money.

The Reign of Terror

The lunch bandit lurked among us for years. And he didn't just steal your lunch--that would be too prosaic. He would steal the cheese from your sandwich and leave the rest. Or he'd stick his hand in your salad and leave an imprint just to let you know he'd been there. We all chipped in and bought a new refrigerator for the men's lounge, and bought keys for everyone who paid.

But one day after we locked it, the lunch bandit broke it. It was frustrating. We speculated it must be that crazy sub who was always screaming about politics. Or maybe it was the other one, the one who never stopped talking about who knows what. But the lunch bandit struck on days they weren't in the building, and one by one, we ruled them out.

Then one day, Mr. Quiet told me he saw the bandit, and wouldn't tell me who it was, only that his tie had gotten caught in the fridge when he saw him. But there were only two of us who actually wore ties, and since it wasn't me, I knew who it was. I had long stopped leaving my lunch there anyway.

About a year later, after Mr. Quiet was victimized 7 or 8 times over a three week period, Dr. Normal received a note in his mailbox. It said, "We know who you are. Stop doing this."

Dr. Normal approached me. "Why did you leave me this note?" he asked. But I hadn't left it, and I told him so.

Dr. Normal never set foot in the men's lounge again, no one's lunch was touched again, and Dr. Normal retired at the end of the year. Everyone was surprised, because Dr. Normal was so blatantly ordinary.

But still waters run insane.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Head of Skate

Private Donors Running Short

In Mayor Bloomberg's New York, this means experimental ineffectual crappy "reform" programs could be in serious jeopardy. Fortunately, none of these funds are frittered away on things like class size reduction or relieving the rampant overcrowding that has typified Mayor Mike's tenure.

New Yorkers can still count on the highest class sizes in the state, and city kids will continue to study in trailers, closets, bathrooms, hallways, and whatever space that isn't needed for sports stadiums.

How Arbitrary Are School Ratings?

Extremely, says the New York Times. How else do you explain a system that offers merit pay to schools it's closing?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blog of the Week

Here's a real DC teacher dealing with the union-busting, teacher-bashing, no accomplishments, no proof of ever having been an effective teacher herself Michelle Rhee.

Socialism (for the Needy)

I commented on this the other day, but I'm still amazed that this gets no play whatsoever in MSM. Whatever you may feel about socialism, in other countries it provides health care, college education, and care for senior citizens (while working Americans mortgage their homes to send their kids to college and go bankrupt due to catastrophic medical emergencies).

Here, socialism is used to bail out companies who gamble with other people's money. I get the feeling our country is of the corporation, for the corporation, and by the corporation.

It's unconscionable.

The process of privatizing profits and socializing losses is simply insane. Even if Canada's health care is as bad as its opponents say (which I don't believe), we could provide something much better than the nothing we now offer our citizens if we'd stop spending billions on pointless war and bailing out those who deserve nothing more than the failure they've so richly worked for.

Last night's debate was impressive in that it was not simply the dueling soundbites we've come to expect from presidential debates. Most notable was Mr. McCain railing against earmarks, which he said constituted up to 18 billion. Mr. McCain condemned Obama for accepting almost a billion in earmarks for his state before renouncing them a year ago.

When Obama said Mr. McCain's tax plan called for 300 billion in tax cuts for those who need them least, Maverick Johny pointedly ignored him (In fact, he wouldn't even look at him). Clearly the policy of enriching the rich and providing nothing whatsoever for the disappearing middle class (let alone the poor) would continue under a McCain administration.

It's time for a change, and that certainly doesn't entail a GOP executive plainly touting more of the same.

The Carnival Is in Town...

...as close as this.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sinking Fast

Last night Washington Mutual became the largest bank failure in United States history.

Wachovia looks like it will be the next bank to go belly-up.

And Institutional Risk Analytics, using FDIC data, lists Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup and HSBC as additional big banks at risk for failure.

Helluva Bush economy we got here, eh?

Well, I suppose Helicopter Ben Bernanke can just shower trillions more on Wall Street and the rest of the country via the Federal Reserve printing press and permanently low, low, low interest rates if and when those babies go belly-up too.

That should solve the problems...

Or maybe not.

All of Them?

It's sometimes frustrating to be an English teacher. I mean, there are ways to write, and they aren't actually optional. Today, as I was making a list of unforgivable errors, like these:

She going to fix the problem.
I am enjoy swimming.
He shop at Target.

...a kid's hand shot up.

"Ms. Braindead says grammar doesn't count on the Regents exam."

"Well, that's true. But don't you want to be able to write well?" I asked

"No, I don't," the kid said, decisively.

"Do you want to pass my class?"

"You can't fail me for that. I'll complain. Can I have the pass?"

"No, you can't have the pass. But feel free to tell the principal your English teacher is making you learn grammar. Maybe I'll get merit pay."

"What's merit pay?"

"Forget it. Let me see your paper."

I looked at the kid's paper, and there wasn't a capital letter on it. This freaked me out a little, since I know for a fact they use them in his native language.

"Didn't your first-grade teacher tell you to use big letters when you start sentences?" I asked, pointing to the first letter of the first paragraph, a plainly lower-case "t."

"Yes, but I forget."

"Well, remember," I said.

15 minutes later I went back, and the kid had corrected only that first letter.

"You want me to do all of them?" he asked.

"Of course," I told him.

He resigned himself to the miserable task. When I came back, he had capitalized the first letter of every line, without regard to where the sentences had begun.

He probably didn't anticipate my being cruel enough to make him rewrite the whole thing. But goshdarn it, it's all part of the learning process.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Someone Put Something In His Metamucil

John McCain said last week that the fundamentals of the American economy are sound.

Today he says we are facing economic Armageddon and he is suspending his presidential campaign in order to deal with the mess.

In addition, he called upon Barack Obama to join with him and postpone Friday's presidential debate until the "Wall Street Bailout Bill" can be passed by Congress.

Weird, huh?

Last week everything was fine, now suddenly McCain's hair is on fire over this.

What happened between then and now?

Did McCain suddenly get interested in economics over the last week, study the problem and come to the conclusion that something must be done to stop another Great Depression?

Or did he see a Fox poll out today showing a 9 point turn around for Obama and a Washington Post/ABC News poll showing Obama with a 10 point lead in the race and decide that the time is ripe for a desperate Hail Mary pass/crazy stunt to try and change the dynamic of the race and save his campaign?

I'm betting the latter.

Call it another "Palin".

At any rate, Obama turned McCain down, saying the next president has to be able to do more than one thing at a time and Americans need to hear how the next president is going to deal with the mess.

A snap Survey USA poll
shows a majority of Americans backing up Obama on this - they either see this as a stunt or just a bad idea.

David Letterman saw it the same way:

David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, "Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?"

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."

"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?"

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"

Indeed we do. Indeed we do.

Darndest and Darndester

Billy is in my morning class. He doesn't care much for doing the work, but he usually has a good time discussing the issues of the day with his friends. The other day he got caught by a security guard sneaking into the trailers 35 minutes after class had begun. I vouched for him, and out of the kindness of her heart, she let him enter my class without walking around to the front of the building.

Billy was upset later on. The school had called his house, reporting he was cutting. Would I please set them straight? I wasn't inclined to do so.

The next day, in the first few minutes of class, he opened the door to the adjacent trailer class, being covered by a sub, and called out to his friends. I asked him what he thought he was doing, and he said he was going to the bathroom. I told him that was the wrong direction, and sent him back to his seat.

After class, I told him he was going to have to start showing up on time and doing his homework. I also told him someone who spoke his language was going to talk to his parents later on.

"I live alone," he said.

"No parent or guardian?"

"Well, I have a guardian, but I don't know his name," he told me.

"Sorry, Billy, but I don't believe that."

"Well, I'm 18, and I don't need a guardian anyway."

Now that's an interesting dilemma. What do you do with kids who are legally adults, who don't take responsibility for their own actions, and have no one else responsible for them? And the more pertinent question--why was he upset that someone had called his house if no one of authority could hear the message?

Pondering those myseries, I let Billy go. Exiting the trailer, he turned and called me a "stupid fag" in front of several adult witnesses. I was surprised, but I also knew that remark would make it easier for me to show him the folly of his ways. Minutes later, I learned that Billy was not 18 after all. His guardian will be coming in this week for a meeting.

I have a feeling his behavior in my class will improve. We'll see. But I'm still wondering about that hypothetical 18-year-old who tells me no one is responsible for his behavior. That could be a real problem, and I feel pretty lucky I haven't had it yet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bailout Nation

Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson wants $700 billion dollars of taxpayer money so that the federal government can buy garbage mortgage-backed securities from banks and financial institutions and bail them out of their own self-created financial catastrophe.

The White House says there can be no changes to the Paulson plan ($700 billion with "unlimited discretion" how to use the money and immunity from any review) and the plan must be passed by Friday or there will be "severe consequences."

Apparently the financial system meltdown that will result from not passing the Paulson Plan with no strings attached on Bush's timetable will come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

Gene Robinson of the Washington Post argues giving Treasury $700 billion of bailout money without getting some measure of equity and accountability is crazy:

Let's be clear about why we're facing a crisis that could pull down the global financial system. The irresponsibility of individuals who bought houses they couldn't quite afford pales in comparison with the irresponsibility of the financial wizards who built on those shaky mortgages a towering edifice of irrational faith. Someone in the government should have looked at all those trillions of dollars' worth of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps and demanded that Wall Street prove that all, or even most, of this purported money was real. But we're in the eighth year of the Bush administration; adult supervision left the building long ago.

Now that the whole highly leveraged structure is threatening to fall, some kind of government bailout is necessary and inevitable. But Congress shouldn't approve Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion rescue plan without insisting on some measure of equity and accountability.

See, neglecting such details as equity -- in both senses of the word -- and accountability is what got us here in the first place.

Last Thursday and Friday when Wall Street thought they were getting the bailout without the strings, the markets went up, up, up. Yesterday, when it became apparent that clearer heads may prevail and some measures of accountability will be added to the bailout dough, the markets plummeted.

Looks like the masters of the universe and the hedge fund managers on the Street don't want any accountability.

I guess accountability is only for teachers and other poor schlubs like that.

5 Years Old?

No excuses in Mayor Bloomberg's New York. Time to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. To help you out, we're dumping you in the middle of the Bronx. Good luck finding your home.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Party Like It's 1972

Download Led Zeppelin IV for $1.99.

This Does Not Compute

A recent post by Leo Casey in Edwize criticizes the School Progress Reports that the DoE issues (you know, the ones that give "A"s to schools the state classifies as "persistently dangerous"). I agree, of course, that there is fluctuation from year to year, and that the variation from one year to the next is not all that significant.

What, in particular, did Mr. Casey find troubling about these reports?

One small problem: they are not reliable.

He'll get no argument from me. Here, though, is what strikes me as odd--when I read this article in NY Teacher about UFT merit pay (you know, the merit pay system that absolutely is not a merit pay system, like the sixth class you teach Monday to Thursday that is absolutely not a sixth class), I can't help but notice the following:

The criteria for awarding bonus money to a school will be aligned with the Department of Education’s new School Progress Reports and entail various benchmarks, more than just standardized test.

Now this is where I really get confused. Since the School Progress Reports are not valid, why would Ms. Weingarten and Mr. Casey base the not-merit pay system on them? I mean, I've been reading Edwize and NY Teacher for years, and the one thing I've learned is that the UFT patronage mill never makes mistakes about anything, no matter what.

Now since they never, ever make mistakes, why on earth would they agree to align their not-merit pay plan with a system as flawed as this? It just boggles the mind. And I'm glad Malfunctioning Eddie, pictured above, isn't close by.

This is just the sort of thing that makes his head explode.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tweedie Birds and Math

According to today's Daily News, budget cuts notwithstanding, the city hired 5400 new teachers this year. They did so even as 1400 veteran teachers sat in the Absent Teacher Reserve. In fact, 229 of the new teachers have not even been placed yet. They were "such good candidates" that the city could not risk losing them.

The 1400 ATR teachers, most there because of school closings, apparently have none of the qualities that make the inexperienced newbies so necessary. The facts that their salaries are higher, and that they make such convenient scapegoats does not even enter into the equation.

UFT President Randi Weingarten and her crack negotiating team never foresaw this. You may recall that she and her patronage mill signed onto reorganization three, which stipulated that principals had to pay teachers out of their own budgets. They are shocked (shocked!) that principals seem to prefer 40,000 dollar teachers to 100,000 dollar teachers. Fortunately, UFT patronage employees are all still going to conventions and gala lunches, and receiving double pensions, so this only affects working teachers, and who cares about them anyway?

Meanwhile, the New Teacher Project, which receives millions from Tweed, is outraged that 100 of these 1400 teachers have not yet wasted their time applying for new positions. They've been oddly silent about the 229 newbies sitting around doing nothing.

But why bite the hand that feeds them?

Thanks to Pogue

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blog of the Week

Fidgety, offering an in-depth look at life in the rubber room.

Check it out, if you dare.

We Try Harder...

...but we've still reached only number two on the list of the country's most stressful cities. Clearly Chicago has something to teach us. They've had mayoral control for some time now, which certainly helps, but I understand all they eat over there is deep-dish pizza and hot dogs covered with jalapeno peppers and pickles.

Maybe if Mayor Mike manages to overturn term limits we could give them a real run for their money. I don't think even real pizza would get in our way if he got a third term.

Update: We're also lagging behind in methamphetamine use, apparently.

It's Your Birthday

Go to Disney World for free.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Feeling Nostalgic? Bring Back Merit Pay

A colleague I teach college with told me he had a job, for a brief time, teaching Russian immigrants how to speak English. This was back in the eighties, I believe. The program was somehow funded by taxpayers, and he worked there just a few months.

He found his students did not take the work very seriously at all. This happens from time to time, and he found it frustrating that he was unable to persuade them otherwise. His biggest frustration, though, came during his first test. His students got up and began looking at each other's papers. They offered one another suggestions on how they could improve their answers.

My friend was shocked. "You can't do this," he said, but they ignored him. When he protested more strongly, a woman said, "What you gonna do to me, teacher? I lived through Stalin."

My friend was speechless. He asked what teachers did in their country when they acted like this.

"Nothing," they assured him. "If we get high scores, teachers get paid more."

A great system isn't it? Is it any wonder that principals, who receive significant merit pay, urge us to pass everyone no matter what?

Isn't this an inevitable consequence of a merit pay system?

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I mistakenly attributed this post to UFT VP Leo Casey. It was actually written by Edwize staff. I apologize to Mr. Casey for my error, and I have corrected my post.

The House That Mike Built

The CFE lawsuit, which I long hoped might bring some help to city kids in the form of reasonably sized classes has been diced, sliced, and absorbed by Tweed. They took the money and failed to deliver.

Meanwhile, the important Yankee Stadium project, which was not under Tweed's nickel and dime dictatorship, appears to be costing taxpayers a pretty penny indeed. Some upstarts are beginning to wonder out loud whether or not it's a good idea, in these times, to subsidize wealthy teamowners. Mayor Bloomberg, however, thinks it's "a great project."

Here are a few of the charges:

_The city manipulated the assessed value of the stadium to meet requirements for an IRS tax exemption. That included using comparable land values in Manhattan rather than the Bronx to come up with the value for the new property.

_City officials didn't disclose their purchase of a luxury box and extra game tickets and apparently there is no city policy on their use.

_The $366 million in additional funding sought by the Yankees to complete the stadium would be for a large video screen, not structural costs.

Children First? Give me a break. For them we have trailers and closets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The High Price of Crap

When I first started teaching, I tended not to ever buy the school lunch. Sometimes they'd have grilled cheese, or even double-decker grilled cheese, and temptation got the better of me. I mean, for two bucks, who could complain? You got a veggie or two, and unappealing though they were, they sort of got you through the day.

Then the price went up to three bucks. Then it went to four, and you got one veggie, or a plate over dry overcooked fries that weren't actually fried, depending on your preference. By then, of course, there was no more grilled cheese. There were chicken patties cooked until they bore a resemblance to hockey pucks, and then breaded to perfection by the culinary experts at Tweed. Sometimes, they were covered with melted cheese food product, and there you have it--hockey puck parmesan.

Now, in all fairness, our cafeteria is not as bad as others I've seen, and the people who work there are very nice. Unlike the last school I was in, I've never actually seen a roach crawling across a lunch tray. Still, I can't help but notice when the cafeteria employees eat, they make themselves things that don't appear to be for sale behind the counter.

Today, I showed a student teacher where the cafeteria was, and the woman behind the counter told me that hockey puck parmesan was now a deluxe meal, and that they'd be charging five bucks for this particular offering (along with one overcooked vegetable and a fresh (?) cup of the worst coffee in creation. I felt very relieved I'd brought yogurt.

I honestly wonder why anyone would buy this stuff when there's real food available at the Chinese takeout for the same price. Or you could buy a real sandwich at the deli for five bucks. You could bring something (anything?) better from home.

A lot of kids don't seem to mind eating this stuff. I can certainly understand it looks good if you're not getting fed at home. And kids pay somewhere between nothing and $1.50, so it's not that bad of a deal. My kid will not touch a school lunch unless it's something she really, really wants. I don't think she's asked me for lunch money in two years.

Now Mayor Bloomberg, to his credit, introduced whole wheat break in place of empty-calorie white bread. In my view that's one of the very best "reforms" he's introduced. Still, can't they do better than this?

Worst Since World War II

The government bailed out A.I.G. for $85 billion this morning but that still didn't stop the U.S. markets from plummeting again.

The Dow fell almost 450, losing 300 points in the last hour. The Nasdaq lost almost 109 while the S&P fell 57. Markets around the world also fell sharply.

The Financial Times described the day like this:

The panic in world credit markets reached historic intensity on Wednesday, prompting a flight to safety of the kind not seen since the second world war.

Barometers of financial stress hit record peaks across the world. Yields on short-term US Treasuries hit their lowest level since the London Blitz. Lending between banks in effect halted and investors scrambled to pull their funding from any institution or sector whose future had been called into doubt.

The Fed has spent more than $600 billion to bail out Bear Sterns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and now A.I.G., but the problems in the financial system are just getting worse.

Washington Mutual is about to go belly-up and the government is trying to arrange for a buyer. So far nobody is biting because "No one knows what's in their books..."

Gee, that seems like a good reason to not buy WaMu.

In addition, the two remaining investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, have not been able to convince investors about their stability to weather the crisis. Goldman dropped 19% today and Morgan Stanley dropped 31%. Rumors swirl Morgan and Goldman will both be bought up soon.

And if you think your money is safe in a bank because it is backed by the FDIC, think again:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., whose insurance fund has slipped below the minimum target level set by Congress, could be forced to tap tax dollars through a Treasury Department loan if Washington Mutual Inc., the nation's largest thrift, or another struggling rival fails, economists and industry analysts said Tuesday.


Additional failures of large banks or savings and loans companies seem likely, and that could overwhelm the FDIC's insurance fund, said Brian Bethune, U.S. economist at consulting firm Global Insight.

"We've got a ... retail bank run forming in this country," said Christopher Whalen, senior vice president and managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics.

The financial system is facing the worst crisis since World War II, but at least Preznut McCain will put together a 9/11-type commission to study the problem.

That should fix things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Millions for Class Size Reductions...

...which they take, and miraculously make class sizes grow.

International Teachers March on Washington October 18th

Sponsored by these folks. I've never heard of them before. Anyone have any info about them?

Thanks to Aixa

Gore Invented the Internet...

...and McCain invented the Blackberry.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Leo and Me (Corrected)

A recent post on Edwize proclaimed the joy and wonder of a new Green Dot school in New York City. A video of Steve Barr with Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein shows the great happiness they all share in their new endeavor. I posted a question:

I've heard some interesting things about the NYC Green Dot contract. Could you please tell us whether the contract is available online? If it is not, could you please post it?

Now when I first posted this, I mistakenly attributed this post to Leo Casey. Mr. Casey is my representative in the UFT, and he has very important work to do, so I apologize sincerely for my error.

And naturally I'm honored he put up a post today responding to my error. Unless I'm very mistaken, though, Mr. Casey subscribes to the UFT argument that the Green Dot "just cause" provision is better than tenure because there is no probationary period attached.

I myself have serious doubts, since the Green Dot website proudly declares its teachers have neither tenure nor seniority rights. It fails to mention its teachers have something better than tenure. Call me cynical, but that, along with bragging about no tenure suggests you clearly disapprove of it.

And call me worse, but when union muckety-mucks start pooh-poohing tenure, it does not bode well for teachers. And while Mr. Casey's patronage mill has seriously weakened seniority rights, they haven't yet managed to scrap them altogether. So what about that contract? I spoke to a reputable source who not only claimed to have seen it, but that it contained some very odd, and not very teacher-friendly clauses. Here's what Edwize has to say:

As for the Green Dot New York Charter School’s teachers’ contract, the blogosphere will have to wait. Despite popular perception, we believe that the school’s teachers should be central participants in the bargaining process. As they were only hired in June and signed union recognition cards this summer, we’re now able to start negotiations.

So perhaps there is no contract, and perhaps this person was simply making things up. I can't imagine what motivation this person had, but who knows what evils lurk in the hearts of sources? I posted this follow-up:

Thank you for answering my question. Could you please tell us how many times this "just cause" provision has been tested by Green Dot Schools? Also, are you saying the contract has not been written or are you simply refusing to allow UFT members to see it?

It would appear Mr. Casey is correct that there is no contract. As for my question about the "just cause" in Green Dot, he has pointedly chosen to ignore it. Instead, he accuses me of having a "rich fantasy life."

Nonetheless, if Mr. Casey has any data whatsoever to show this process actually works, that it's actually been utilized, or that it has protected Green Dot teachers, I'm open.

Meanwhile, I must categorize Edwize's contention that Green Dot's "just cause" is superior to tenure as utter nonsense. However, it's certainly charming that Leo Casey prefers to libel a working UFT teacher (namely me) rather than utter a disparaging word about role-model Steve Barr.

It's nice that Mr. Barr gets support from the UFT. It would be nicer, though, if they'd focus their energy more on supporting working teachers. After all, that is their job.

Isn't it?

Quote of the Day

"I could walk from here to Lansing, and I wouldn't run into a single person who thought our economy was doing well, unless I ran into John McCain."

-Joe Biden

McCain: Fundamentals Are Sound

The Dow Jones fell more than 500 points today after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America and A.I.G., the largest insurer in America, lost 61% of its value over concerns that it wouldn't be able to raise $75 billion in capital and might itself go belly-up

As I noted in this post last night, the year has already seen the selling of Bear Sterns to Chase and a government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In addition, Washington Mutual may go under before the week is out (it's stock is now trading below $2 and has been cut to junk) and Wachovia is having problems as well.

The markets today had their worse day since 9/11 and it may get worse before the end of the week if A.I.G. can't sort out its problems because every major bank has exposure to the insurer.

The Fed has injected $70 billion of reserves into the banking system, the most since 9/11, to ease the crisis.

Still, you can hear the jitters from Wall Street to Main Street tonight.

Bad news, right?

Not if your John McCain:

On the campaign trail in Jacksonville, Florida, the Senator declared this morning that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," despite what he described as "tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street."

The fundamentals are strong?

Many companies are completely overleveraged, the credit market is paralyzed, the American consumer is in debt up to his/her eyeballs, the federal government is running the largest budget deficit ever, unemployment is at 6.1% (and you can bet unemployed Merrill Lynch and Lehman employees, along with the announced cuts by HP today, will make the number grow next month), and oil still remains at $95 a barrel, which only seems cheap because it was near $150 just a while ago - and McCain says the "fundamentals are strong"?

Sheesh - McCain was right when he said that he doesn't know anything about the economy or Wall Street.

What Do You Do When the School Is Full?

In Mayor Bloomberg's New York, you just send the kids in anyway. 150%? 200% 250? Too hot? Too cold? Too crowded? No biggie, say the Tweedies.

After all, their offices are just right.

This Child Was Left Behind

In Mr. Bloomberg's New York, the motto is "Children First." So naturally, when cuts are to be made, they're the first ones to feel them. Now if you're going to make cuts to services for children, the easiest way to do it is with those whose parents are least likely to complain.

That's why, for example, students of English as a Second Language are often taught in closets, hallways and even bathrooms (I know a woman who taught in a bathroom for years, and who was pictured doing so in the New York Times).

But in fairness, ESL students are not the only ones on the receiving end of New York City's educational "reforms." Special education students are having buses cut, and very few of them have SUV's waiting outside their doors to drive them to convenient subway stops (like Mayor Bloomberg does--you didn't think he really took the train all the way to work, did you?).

After all, with the city training principals at near 6-figure salaries, spending tens of millions on computers that don't work, and hiring accountability officers like Jim Liebman who literally run away from concerned parents, you don't think they're about to toss away money sending special education kids to school, do you?

Of course not, And now that there are fewer buses, there'll be even less chance of anyone catching up with Mr. Liebman.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Night Financial Crisis

You know it's a bad day on Wall Street when CNBC goes live on a Sunday night at 10 PM to cover the imminent demise of Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America.

Former deputy Secretary of Treasury Roger Altman just said on CNBC this is the worst financial crisis he has seen in 39 years.

Of the 5 investment banks that existed at the beginning of the year (Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley), as of tomorrow only Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will exist.

In addition, mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now essentially owned by the government after last week's bailout.

Rumors swirl that Washington Mutual and AIG will be the next to go belly-up.

And there have also been rumors about Citigroup and Wachovia for awhile now.

13 months into this credit crisis, stemming from all the bad home mortgages handed out by financial institutions, chopped up and then sold to investors, we keep hearing that the worst is over, the worst is over.

But the worst hasn't been over - not by a long shot.

And it still may not be over yet.

Altman said on CNBC it isn't.

Former Fed chair Uncle Alan Greenspan said the same thing today on ABC News - he called this a "once in a lifetime crisis."

And Uncle Alan should know - he helped run the deregulated environment that created this mess in the first place.

Should be an interesting day on Wall Street tomorrow.

TheTruth about Taxes

Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin have been saying that Obama Barack wants to raise taxes for average Americans. It appears they're lying again. The Washington Post ran this graphic (click to enlarge) showing what would happen under each candidate's plan.

Note that substantial tax increases do not kick in under Obama's plan until you get into the 600K range, which shouldn't affect a large number of schoolteachers (unless those charters are really paying better than I thought).

Note that Mr. McCain's largest tax breaks are for those who least need them, while Obama's are targeted toward those who need them most. Mr. McCain, who voted 19 times against minimum wage increases, does not seem to think people living hand to mouth need his help at all.

This is a good thing, because Mr. McCain is highly unlikely to help working people in any way whatsoever. It looks like Obama may offer us a little break, and it's high time we got one.

Which plan looks better to you?

Update: If you make over 200K, don't rejoice over McCain's plan just yet--he wants to tax your health benefits.

When They Say Ms. Palin Went to Iraq...

...what they mean is Ms. Palin did not go to Iraq.

Unraveling The Myth Of The "Straight Talk Express"

MSNBC's First Read notes the flurry of news coverage over the past few days detailing John McCain's lies and distortions.

The NY Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Bloomberg News and the Politico all issued stories yesterday exploring the McCain campaign's emphasis on "truthiness" over "straight talk" these past two months.

The Politico sums it up this way:

McCain’s tactics are drawing the scorn of many in the media and organizations tasked with fact-checking the truthfulness of campaigns. In recent weeks, Team McCain has been described as dishonorable, disingenuous and downright cynical.

A series of ads — including accusations that Barack Obama backed teaching sex education to Illinois kindergartners and charges that Obama called Sarah Palin a lipstick-wearing pig — have provoked a cascade of criticism of McCain’s tactics.

The furor presents a breathtaking contrast to McCain’s image as a kind of anti-politician who plays fair, disdains politics as usual and has never forgotten how his 2000 presidential campaign was incinerated by a series of loathsome dirty tricks in the South Carolina primary.


McCain seems to have made a choice that many politicians succumb to but that he had always promised to avoid — he appears ready to do whatever it takes to win, even it if soils his reputation.

“We recognize it’s not going to be 2000 again,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, alluding to the media’s swooning coverage of McCain’s ill-fated crusade against then-Gov. George W. Bush and the GOP establishment. “But he lost then. We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

They're running a campaign to win, they're willing to do and say anything to get there and they don't care what anybody thinks about it.

Great - just what you want in a president and his team - a lack of principle but a ton of cynical expediency.

Quote of the Day

"I’ve been in Alaska only a week, but I’m already feeling ever so much smarter about Russia."

-Maureen Dowd

Mr. McCain Lies Again

Planned Parenthood is running an ad to counter McCain's lie about a bill Obama supported. Even people who believe our wives, our sisters and daughters should be forced by the government to endure pregnancies caused by rape or incest might think young children ought to be able to protect themselves from abuse. This might even entail telling them what to watch out for.

Perhaps Mr. McCain didn''t lie. Maybe child abuse doesn't worry him. Perhaps he thinks we ought to simply ignore the problem and hope for the best. Maybe he doesn't actually know what's going on, and blindly accepts whatever his Rovian staff coughs up. None of these scenarios, however, argue for his fitness as President of the United States.

And whatever the explanation, Mr. McCain personally approved the lie in his ad.

Here's its counter, by the way:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pathological (Continued)

The lies continue unabated from the McCain/Palin campaign. Here's the latest rundown:

John McCain stated yesterday on The View that Governor Sarah Palin, his choice for vice president, has never accepted any federal funds earmarked for pork projects for either her city or state.

Here is a list of the earmark funds
Governor Palin has sought and received so far for fiscal year 2008 alone - $155 million dollars. For fiscal year 2009 Palin has requested funds for 52 earmarks that add up to $256 million.

Even when hit with the evidence to show she has actively sought and received earmark funds for pork barrel projects for her state, Palin herself continues to insist that she has not. According to USA Today, she also continues to rail against

"the abuse of earmarks," saying it is "un-American" and "undemocratic" and vowing the practice will stop under a McCain-Palin administration.

In addition to her continued lying about earmarks, Governor Palin was found to have lied about her claim that she visited Iraq :

WASILLA, Alaska -- Aides to Gov. Sarah Palin are scrambling to explain details of her only trip outside North America -- which, according to a new report, did not include Iraq, as the McCain-Palin campaign had initially claimed.

Palin made an official visit to see Alaskan troops in Kuwait in July of 2007. There, she made a stop at a border crossing with Iraq, but did not actually visit the country, according to a new report in the Boston Globe.

Earlier, McCain aides had said that Palin visited Iraq, and expressed indignation at questions about her slim foreign travel.

The campaign also said she had been to Ireland; that turned out to have been a refueling stop.

In other lying news, Bloomberg reports that the McCain campaign has been lying about crowd estimates at campaign stops and McClatchy News reports that the McCain campaign has released a deceptive ad for Spanish TV that claims Senator Obama killed immigration reform when both McCain and Obama voted the same side on the issue.

The Obama campaign has responded to the Palin/McCain pattern of lies with the following statement:

"The McCain campaign said Governor Palin opposed the Bridge to Nowhere, but now we know she supported it. They said she didn't seek earmarks, but now we know she hired a lobbyist to get millions in pork for her town and her state. They said she visited Iraq, but today we learned that she only stopped at the border. Americans are starting to wonder, is there anything the McCain campaign isn't lying about?"

Andrew Sullivan focuses on the lie John McCain himself issued on The View yesterday about Governor Palin and earmarks and writes:

It has now been a day since McCain lied this explicitly in public. And he hasn't yet retracted his lie. This AP piece is dated as of this afternoon. Why not?

Because if he has to retract this lie, he will have to retract his multiple other lies? While the media demands that Obama respond to things he never said and never meant, McCain is not even asked to retract a bald-faced, massive, obvious, refutable lie.

In the last month, McCain has become the biggest liar in the modern history of presidential politics. He makes Bill Clinton look like George Washington.


John McCain and Sarah Palin - pathological liars who just can't help themselves.

Maybe it's time for the press to stop being so polite and just call them what they are?

When John McCain and Sarah Palin make s&*t up, they're not engaging in "distortions," MSMers - they're telling "lies."

And the people telling 'em are, all together now - "liars."

UPDATE: The NY Times has an article in tomorrow's edition that describes Sarah Palin's governing style this way:

An examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.


Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that it would cost $468,784 to process his request.

When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.

Just what we need after eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney - an incompetent, vindictive evangelical with a penchant for secrecy, cronyism and placing loyalty above merit when making appointments.

Wanna elect the woman who hired her high school pal for a position at the top of the State Division of Agriculture because she had a "childhood love of cows"?

Then vote McCain/Palin.

Mr. McCain's First Change

A lot of people, naturally, are skeptical of John McCain's newfound mantra that he'll change the way things are done in Washington. After all, while it's true he once opposed Bush's tax cuts for those who least need them, he now wants to make them permanent. And while he publicly distances himself from GW, he endorses his ruinous foreign and economic policies.

Certainly there's no denying his campaign consists of the same smears, lies, and distortions that helped bring us eight years of Bush/ Cheney (even if Mr. McCain's lies are more easily disproved).

Still, this cycle will be different, particularly in respect to the traditional rigging of the votes. I mean, you can't just wait around for elderly Jewish women to vote for Pat Buchanan, and he's not even on the ballot this year. Worse, Ohio now seems to have a Democratic governor, and it's going to be tougher to make those Democrats stand 10 hours in the rain. In fact, even though fundamentalists prayed it would rain on Obama's nomination, not even that worked out this year.

But Mr. McCain has a plan. He's printed voter registration forms with an unnecessary extra box to fill out stating the applicant is a qualified voter. And guess what? If that box is not checked, as was the case on one-third of the forms, the applicants are declared ineligible to vote.

It appears that Ohio may have to notify those who've been disqualified, but I gotta wonder--since they applied for absentee ballots, doesn't that mean there's a good chance they won't be home? In any case, there are certainly new and innovative changes coming from Senator McCain, and I suppose we'll have to give credit where credit is due.

Update: The GOP in Michigan knows that people who lose homes are probably not fans of this economy. So they're making sure newly homeless Americans can't vote.

UN Too Dangerous for Schoolchildren

But not for diplomats, apparently. Fortunately, massive overcrowding, the highest class sizes in the state, dilapidated trailers and vermin-infested cafeterias and buildings are still no prob in Mayor Bloomberg's New York.

You Say You Need to Buy the NY Mets Dugout?

Here's your chance.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.

-John McCain


Via Andrew Sullivan, here is a montage of the lies McCain and his campaign apparatus have spewed against Senator Obama:

But McCain isn't just lying about Senator Obama - he's also lying about his VP pick, Sarah Palin. Today on The View, for instance:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Friday running mate Sarah Palin has never asked for money for lawmakers' pet projects as Alaska governor when in fact she has sought nearly $200 million in earmarks this year.

The Arizona senator said the GOP vice presidential nominee would be good for the country because she would reform government, and specifically cited curbing federal spending for earmarks.

When pressed about Palin's record of requesting and accepting such money for Alaska, McCain ignored the record and said: "Not as governor she didn't."

Jake Tapper of ABC News lists the $200 million in earmarks she has sought and writes the following:

Will you please stop telling the American people that she never asked for or received any pork barrel projects?

Andrew Sullivan wonders if McCain is deliberately and knowingly lying or hasn't been briefed by his staff and is repeating what he thinks is truth.

But today on The View, Joy Behar and Barbara Walters confronted McCain with some of the lies he and his minions have spewed in the past few weeks (the lipstick on a pig lie and the Obama wants to teach sex ed to kids lie) and McCain didn't blink as he said that his accusations are not lies and regardless this is a tough campaign so, you know, what can you do...

Watch the tape of this. You can see it in his eyes as he defends himself - he knows he's full of s&*t but he doesn't care. He just wants to win, truth and honor be damned.

What a disgusting, dishonest, dishonorable piece of pathology Senator McCain is. Whatever it takes to win, that's all he is about. McCain First/Party Second - Country Last. That's Senator's McCain's campaign theme.

It is time for the mainstream media to tell the truth about McCain - he is a pathological liar and his campaign is the most dishonest in history.

And given the Bush/Cheney 2000 and 2004 campaigns, that's saying something.

Dishonest and Dishonorable

John Harwood of the NY Times on CNBC a few moments ago: Some of the charges McCain has thrown against Obama in this campaign have been "shockingly dishonest."

Jake Tapper of ABC News about charges McCain has made against Obama: "Not fair and not accurate."

Andrew Sullivan on John McCain: "Dishonest and dishonorable."

With his inability to tell the truth and his willingness to say and do almost anything to win the White House, Senator McCain's going to make one heckuva preznut.

His slogan ought to be: McCain First/Party Second - Country Last.

The Power of Books

We're covering an English Regents Exam from 2006 in my class. It's a listening passage from an author named Gary Paulsen, who maintains that books saved his life. The students must compose an essay on the power of books, supposedly to deliver as an address to their local library.

One of my students opened his essay with the immortal line, "Books can be very powerful, even though they are boring."

I looked at the kid's Iron Maiden t-shirt, and asked him what he thought would happen to me if I went to one of their concerts, got up on stage and called the band boring. Did he think people who went to libraries might feel the same way about books?

That didn't work. Then I asked him if he wanted to write an essay showing how books saved Paulsen's life even though they were boring. I told him that would be a pretty tough argument to make, but I'd read it if he wanted to write it. I'm pretty sure he erased the line after that, but I won't find out for sure until I see him again.

Several other of my students took exception to Paulsen's account--that he walked out on his job and family to pursue a writing career.

"He's retarded," declared a young lady in the corner.

This proved a popular sentiment, and much discussion was devoted to the apparent deficiencies in Mr. Paulsen's judgment. I suggested that smart people did not always do smart or nice things, but the kids were having none of it.

"How could he do that?" asked another kid.

The consensus was that he was wrong to do that. I tried again to convince the kids that even if he did the wrong thing, it didn't mean he was retarded. Whether or not I was successful, no one left that classroom thinking he was much of a role model.

On the other hand, the story may have been edited so full of holes that it barely resembled the original. After all, it was presented by the same government that thinks kids who've had little or no time to learn English need to pass this writing test.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

McCain Blanks Pigs

Back during the 2000 primary season, then Texas governor George W. Bush ran one of the sleaziest political campaigns ever against his GOP opponent, Senator John McCain.

Bush, employing venomous scum like Karl Rove, Tucker Eschew and Dan Bartlett, threw everything but child molestation charges at McCain after the Arizona senator won the New Hampshire primary by a whopping 19 points and put George W's GOP nomination/coronation in jeopardy.

During the lead-up to the next primary in South Carolina, Bush surrogates spread rumors that McCain, a Vietnam War POW who had spent 5 and 1/2 years in a prison camp, was a "Manchurian Candidate" who had been brainwashed by the North Vietnamese Communists and would betray the country once elected. They spread other rumors through push-pollers that McCain's adopted Bangladeshi born daughter was his "illegitimate black child." They called McCain the "fag candidate." When McCain fought back and accused George W. Bush of smearing and "twisting the truth like Clinton," the Bush people retaliated by saying that McCain had "gone negative" and couldn't be trusted to be president.

The smears and rumors worked - McCain lost, Bush went on to win the GOP nomination, steal the White House away from Al Gore and run the country into two (unfinished and unpaid for) wars and near bankruptcy all the while ignoring warnings about domestic terrorist attacks upon the nation (see August 6th Presidential Daily Briefing) and environmental crises like Hurricane Katrina.

After McCain lost the bitter 2000 race to Bush, he declared there was a "special place in hell" for the Bush people who ran smear campaign. When he began running for president in 2008, he said he would run a "respectful campaign" and wouldn't engage in negative campaigning or smears against his opponents.

But then he fell behind in the polls and he decided to hire many of the very same Bush/Cheney 2000 people who ran the smear campaign against him to run one against his opponent, Senator Barack Obama.

Since then all we have gotten out of the McCain campaign is smears, distortions, and out and out lies about Senator Obama.

McCain has declared that Senator Obama would rather "lose a war than lose a campaign," has run ads comparing Obama to empty-headed celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, has claimed Obama called McCain's VP running mate Sarah Palin "a pig," and started running another ad claiming Senator Obama wants to teach 5 years old about sex before they can read.

Heckuva way to run a "respectful campaign," eh?

Senator Obama has so far tried to take the high road and continue to campaign on issues. Unfortunately the smears and negative attacks by the McCain campaign and its various surrogates and evil minions has worked - Obama, once leading by as much as 5 points in the national polls, now trails by as much as 5 points in those same polls.

That's as much as a 10 point turnaround - no wonder Senator McCain and his Bushies are smirking so much these days. In a year when unemployment stands at 6.1%, the federal government is bailing out Bear Sterns, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and perhaps Lehman Brothers all the while hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their homes to foreclosure, inflation has driven oil and gas to all-time highs, food and other commodities continue to soar, and personal bankruptcies climb, the incumbent Grand Old Party is ahead in the race for the White House.

That's a heckuva job by these guys in the Republican Party. They can't govern, they can't win wars, they can't handle hurricane relief or figure out how to regulate the financial markets so that taxpayers don't have to bail out crony capitalists to the tune of a trillion dollars, but they sure can lie, cheat, smear and steal elections.

I fear Senator Obama, an honorable man as much as John McCain is a dishonorable one, will not fight back properly and fight fire with fire.

So let me start for him:

I just read over at %^&*#@.blogspot.com that Senator McCain blanks pigs.

You heard that right - McCain's a pigblanker, he likes to take those pigs into the mud and get down and dirty with 'em.

In fact, there's nothing like the sight of a naked pig to get the 72 year old's ancient motor revving. He may be decrepit, he may have one foot in the grave, but he sure still likes blanking pigs. Sometimes twice a night.

You don't believe me? Just look at the company he keeps.

I know, I know - calling McCain a pigblanker is silly right?

Yet, it's smears as silly and as stupid as the one I just wrote above that the McCain people have been spreading about Obama and the news media have been helping to disperse.

Somehow the Jim Lehrers and Gwen Ifills of the world just don't think it's their job to tell you when a campaign is engaging in a coordinating campaign of lies and smears.

So they report the lies like they're "news" and people start believing them.

And the liars win.

McCain wins.

The rest of us, those who want to see a campaign of substantive issues and intelligent discourse, lose.

Given the ease with which these pigblankers sleaze things up every four years and win, I am starting to think that maybe democracy as a viable form of government has run its course.

Maybe it's time to time to let the pigs run everything.

As we know from Orwell, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

But when it comes to out and out sleaze, dirt and venom, nobody is equal to the Bush/Rove/McCain people.