Tuesday, June 30, 2009

CSU and the budget

California State University (CSU) is facing a $583.8 million dollar budget cut for the 2009-10 fiscal year. CSU faculty are being asked to take 10% less pay by accepting two days of furloughs per month for 2009-10. Justification for this request is to protect 3,700 full time equivalent lecturer positions (9000 Instructors) from lay-off. CSU Faculty, like state workers, are being asked to bail out the state by accepting less pay because of massive budget deficits. State worker unions and the California Faculty Association must stand firm against the CSU administration and State government officials. Giving concessions undermines the wages for working people across the board. It also means protecting the incomes of the rich, and most powerful corporations in California.

The budget crisis in California has been artificially created by cutting taxes on the wealthiest people and corporations. The current “crisis” is a shock and awe process designed to undermine wages and unions in the state and force labor concessions to protect corporate profits.

According to the California Budget Project, tax cuts enacted in California since 1993 cost the state $11.3 billion dollars annually. Had the state continued taxing corporations and the wealthy at rates equal to those fifteen years ago we would not have a budget crisis today. Even though a budget crisis was evident last year, California income tax laws were changed in February of this year to provide corporations with even greater tax savings—equal to over $2 billion per year.

Half of all state revenue comes from personal income taxes paid by working people, and another third comes from sales and use taxes. The result is that as a percent of income, taxes hit the lower paid workers the hardest. Corporations only pay for about 1/10th of the state budget. The rest of us are bailing out the rich by accepting massive budget cuts at a time when less spending will only exacerbate the economic situation.

Unions and working people need to say no to massive state budget cuts, and fight for every service and job possible. We must say no to voluntary furloughs and push for new taxes on the wealthy and largest corporations. CSU Professors should be the leaders for working people in the State. We must stand firm on no concessions, no furloughs, and no cuts in classes for our students.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University.

California State Budget Crisis Not Caused by the Recession

The budget crisis in California has been artificially created by cutting taxes on the wealthiest people and corporations. The current “crisis” is a shock and awe process designed to undermine wages and unions in the state and force labor concessions to protect corporate profits.

According to the California Budget Project, tax cuts enacted in California since 1993 cost the state $11.3 billion dollars annually. Had the state continued taxing corporations and the wealthy at rates equal to those fifteen years ago we would not have a budget crisis today.

Half of all state revenue comes from personal income taxes paid by working people, and another third comes from sales and use taxes. The result is that as a percent of income, taxes hit the lower paid workers the hardest. Corporations only pay for about 1/10th of the state budget. The rest of us are bailing out the rich by accepting massive budget cuts at a time when less spending will only exacerbate the economic situation.

Unions and working people need to say no to massive state budget cuts, and fight for every service and job possible.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Legislature passes budget

At 7:30 PM.
Today the California Legislature passed a budget which would resolve the immediate crisis. Governor Schwarzenegger will veto the bill.

The basic problem is the national and international economic crisis. Over 40 states are in trouble. California is in particular trouble because of the 2/3 rule.

Republicans incessantly demand more school budget cuts.

So, now I have 120 fewer Sheriffs to protect the neighborhood.

250 fewer teaches to assist school children. Cuts in higher education that will hurt the economy for decades.

The Republicans want to create a society like Mississippi. They can win elections there.

Equalizing Opportunity

Equalizing Opportunity
Dramatic Differences in Children’s Home Life and
Health Mean That Schools Can’t Do It Alone

By Richard Rothstein

Public discourse about education pays great attention
to the stubborn persistence of an achievement gap
between poor and minority students and their wealth-
ier white peers—and public schools come under great
criticism for their apparent inability to close that gap. Some of
this criticism may be justified. But there is more to the story than
school reform. No society can realistically expect schools alone
to abolish inequality. If students come to school in unequal
school with unequal skills and abilities, in both cognitive and
noncognitive domains. This is not a reason for educators to
throw up their hands. Rather, in addition to efforts to improve
school practices, educators, along with community partners,
should exercise their own rights and responsibilities as citizens
to participate in redressing the inequalities with which children
come to school.
Income is more unequal and lower-class* families have less
access to medical care in the United States than in any other
industrial nation.
Read the entire article at American Educator. Vo.33. No. 2.

A budget vote, and a veto?

Assembly Passes Majority Vote Budget Bills

By Marty D. Omoto
California Disability Community Action Network

The Assembly passed a package of 11 bills, including two bills that would increase revenues – one by over $2 billion, and another bill containing over $12 billion in spending cuts, by simple majority votes in a procedural move that avoided the need for any Republican votes. The package of bills head to the State Senate for action on Monday morning (June 29), where Senate Democrats will approve the bills over the objections of Senate Republicans.

But the procedure used by Assembly Democrats – similar to the one used by Democrats in December, left Assembly Republicans angry, dissolving some of the debate Sunday evening on the tax increases into a bitter and angry exchange.

The bills will head to what many expect will be certain vetoes by the Governor, who previously last week said he would do so because he was strongly opposed to new tax increases. If the Governor vetoes the bills, the Legislative Democrats will have to essentially start over and somehow find an agreement with the Governor and possibly Legislative Republicans before the State’s financial situation grows worse.

Earlier Sunday evening Assembly Democrats passed by a vote of 44 to 30, a bill, AB 39x3 (the “x3” stands for “third extraordinary session”) that called for $2 billion in revenues, in a procedure that by-passed the need for any Republican votes – a move that Republicans say, especially in raising taxes, is “unconstitutional”. Right after that vote, the Assembly approved by a vote of 46 to 27, SB 16x3 that includes over $12 billion spending cuts over objections of Assembly Republicans

State Senate Democrats will likely approve those two measures – and the other 9 bills by Monday morning.
From: California Progress Report.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Constitutional Convention ?

The Forum Section of the Sacramento Bee for June 28,2009, includes extensive discussions of two of the major proposals for constitutional reform. It is positive that the press is sharing this important information.
It is inaccurate to present these two alternatives as the available options. This is framing the issues.
We- the citizen press- should make certain that we are not restricted by this framing.
For example, the proposed Constitutional convention advocates would exclude re consideration of the 2/3 rule to pass a budget and to raise taxes. And, they propose to select, not elect delegates to the convention.
By Malcolm Maclachlan | 06/25/09 12:00 AM PST
Capitol Weekly
Citing political pressures, the business group pushing the idea of a constitutional convention for the state has begun efforts to hand off that effort to an independent committee.

The Bay Area Council has been championing the idea since last August. More recently, they have found themselves embroiled in a contentious debate over whether a convention should be allowed to consider the property tax limits in 1978’s Proposition 13. This question culminated in an early June conference call with anti-tax groups who threatened to derail the effort.

“We don’t want to get electrocuted on one of third rails of California politics,” said John Grubb, a spokesman for the Council. “We want a neutral process to determine what will be in the constitutional convention.”
See the entire article on Capitol Weekly.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Global Recession : Stiglitz

A Global Recovery for a Global Recession


This article appeared in the July 13, 2009 edition of
The Nation.
June 24, 2009
See the entire article at The Nation

This is not only the worst global economic downturn of
the post-World War II era; it is the first serious
global downturn of the modern era of globalization.
America's financial markets failed to do what they
should have done--manage risk and allocate capital
well--and these failures have had a major impact all
over the world. Globalization, too, did not work the
way it was supposed to. It helped spread the
consequences of the failures of US financial markets
around the world. September 11, 2001, taught us that
with globalization not only do good things travel more
easily across borders; bad things do too. September 15,
2008, has reinforced that lesson.

A global downturn requires a global response. But so
far our responses--to stimulate and regulate the global
economy--have largely been framed at the national level
and often take insufficient account of the effect on
others. The result is that there is less coordination
than there should be, as well as a smaller and less
well-designed stimulus than is optimal. A poorly
designed and insufficient stimulus means that the
downturn will last longer, the recovery will be slower
and there will be more innocent victims. Among these
victims are the many developing countries--including
those that have had far better regulatory and
macroeconomic policies than the United States and some
European countries. In the United States a financial
crisis transformed itself into an economic crisis; in
many developing countries the economic downturn is
creating a financial crisis.
The world has two choices: either we move to a better
global regulatory system, or we lose some of the
important benefits that have resulted from
globalization. But continuing the status quo management
of globalization is no longer tenable; too many
countries have had to pay too high a price. The G-20's
response to the global economic crisis, crafted at
meetings in November in Washington and in April in
London, was a beginning--but just a beginning. It did
not do enough to address the short-term problems nor
did it put in place the long-term restructuring
necessary to prevent another crisis.

A United Nations meeting in late June hopes to continue
the global discussion begun at earlier G-20 meetings
and to extend this discussion to what went wrong in the
first place so that we can do a better job of
preventing another crisis. The global politics of this
meeting are complexEighth, unless regulation is comprehensive there can be
a "race to the bottom," with countries with lax
regulation competing to attract financial services.
Ninth, if that race happens, countries will have to
take action to protect their economies--they cannot
allow bad practices elsewhere to harm their citizens.
And tenth, regulation has to be comprehensive across
financial institutions. As we have seen, if we regulate
the banking system but not the shadow banking system,
business will migrate to where it is less well
regulated and less transparent.

Despite this broad consensus, the G-20 said little or
nothing about some key issues: what to do with banks
that have grown not only too big to fail but (according
to the Obama administration) too big to be financially
restructured? The G-20 failed to ask the hard
questions: if these big banks' shareholders and
bondholders are insulated from the risk of default, how
can there be market discipline? What will replace that
discipline? The G-20 has talked about the rapid return
of "private capital," but what does this bode if
private capital returns without market discipline?
There was also talk of continuing to allow over-the-
counter derivatives-trading with no transparency. But
without transparency of each trade--to assess the
nature of the counterparty risk--how can there be
market discipline?

From the perspective of the developing countries,
though, not enough was done about bank secrecy in
offshore as well as onshore centers. Developing nations
are often criticized for corruption, but secret bank
accounts wherever they may be facilitate corruption,
providing safe haven for stolen funds. Developing
countries want this money returned and want access to
information that will allow them to detect secret

Financial and capital market liberalization--as well as
banking deregulation--contributed to the crisis and to
the spread of the crisis from the United States to
developing countries. Advanced industrial nations are
reluctant to admit that these policies, which they
pushed so hard on developing countries, are part of the
problem. No wonder, then, that the G-20 did not argue
for a reconsideration of these longstanding policies.

The global economic crisis highlights the deficiencies
of existing international institutions. As developed countries struggle to ensure a quick
recovery, they need to think of the effects of their
actions on developing countries. It is time to begin
the restructuring of our global economic and financial
system in ways that ensure that the fruits of
prosperity are more widely shared and that the system
is more stable. This task will not be accomplished
overnight. But it is a task that must be begun, now.

About Joseph E.Stiglitz
Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia
University. He received the Nobel Prize in Economics in
2001 for research on the economics of information. Most
recently, he is the co-author, with Linda Bilmes, of
The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the
Iraq Conflict.

Nativo Lopez charged

Veteran Latino-rights advocate charged with voter fraud
7:09 AM | June 25, 2009
Felony charges have been filed and an arrest warrant issued for a well-known Orange County political activist suspected of committing election and voter registration fraud, the California secretary of State's office announced Wednesday.

Investigators in the agency's election-fraud unit said Nativo V. Lopez, 57, of Santa Ana leased office space in Boyle Heights and registered to vote using that address although he lived with his family in Orange County. They also say Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Assn., cast an illegal ballot in L.A. in the 2008 presidential primary.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which is working with the secretary of State, charged Lopez with four felonies: fraudulent voter registration, fraudulent document filing, perjury and fraudulent voting. A warrant was issued for his arrest and bail was set at $10,000. The offenses carry penalties of up to three years in prison.

Lopez is a longtime Latino political-rights advocate in Orange County who served on the Santa Ana school board. Lopez has been a vocal advocate for Latino voting rights and supported immigrant amnesty and allowing undocumented workers to have driver's licenses. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

In 1997, the Orange County district attorney opened a criminal investigation into allegations that a group in which Lopez was a leader registered some clients to vote before they took the oath of citizenship. No criminal charges were brought, and Lopez demanded an apology from critics.

-- Dan Weikel and Shelby Grad
Nativo is President of the Mexican American Political Association and a friend.

Fund California Schools

California's voters – both those who voted and especially those who did not – made their voices heard in the May 19 special election on Propositions 1A-1F.
Jack O'Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction

But many politicians in Sacramento mistakenly seem convinced that the election results were a clear call from the people to focus solely on cuts to close our state's gaping budget hole. That would inflict a barrage of deep cuts in vital public services – especially education – upon which millions of Californians heavily depend.

Politicians in Sacramento missed the point.

Propositions 1A-1F contained a number of complex policy issues that failed to offer a clear policy direction to voters, leading many to be supportive of one or more parts of the package but not the entire package.

For example, while the package did include a provision to raise revenues for essential public services, it also included a spending cap that would have locked California into the position of 47th in per-pupil spending out of the 50 states – if not worse.

Californians also signaled their opposition to a cuts-only budget by soundly rejecting Propositions 1D and 1E. Californians value early childhood education programs and want to continue services to help those with mental illness. The "no" votes on 1D and 1E were, in fact, a "yes" for our children and the mentally ill.

Californians want to invest more in education, not less, and we need not look any further than the ongoing strong support for investing in public education at the local level.

The record number of Californians voting last November helped pass 91 percent of all local school bonds, 81 percent of all parcel taxes and 90 percent of all Mello-Roos districts on ballots across the state. Californians value the services they receive locally, and they know full well that education is the key to the future and a major component in our efforts to recover from this economic downturn.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger clearly opted for a different path. He proposed $1.4 billion in cuts to education in June and an additional $4.2 billion in the next school year – cuts the Legislature has taken steps to approve. These cuts would be added on top of the $11.6 billion in cuts in school funding included in the budget passed last February.

The impact of this draconian plan already is being seen. The Los Angeles Unified and Sacramento City Unified school districts were forced to shut down summer school programs. The Mount Diablo Board of Education just voted to eliminate 413 teaching positions, and at Kermit McKenzie Junior High in the Guadalupe Union School District, where I recently visited, class sizes are planned to increase from 30 to 44 students.

These are just a few examples of the burdens our teachers and other school personnel will have to overcome as they help California's 6.3 million students meet our high expectations.

While state officials mark these cuts in the budget-balancing ledger, district school boards and administrators are left no choice but to slash or eliminate vital local education programs.

The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a study that found 58 percent of residents said that kindergarten through 12th-grade education is the area they most want to protect from spending cuts.
Since 2003, when the PPIC first asked this question, respondents have consistently expressed the same sentiment. The same study also found that 54 percent of residents would support a parcel tax to raise money for their schools.

The point is clear: During these turbulent economic times, Californians trust their local efforts to directly support schools.

Legislative leaders and the governor both said just a few months ago they believe the responsible way to deal with this crisis is through cuts and revenue enhancements.

As the budget negotiations shift to deal-making between the governor and the two legislative leaders from both houses, I urge the "Big 5" not to deal students out of the equation. Pass a responsible budget that protects students and empowers Californians to directly support their local schools. Our children deserve no less.

Friday, June 26, 2009


ESEA is reauthorized next year. If Congressman Grijalva's bill requiring that bilingual education be offered as an option in any state having high numbers of language minority students from any one particular language background, then we will bring the madness to an end.
A proposal for NCLB.

In Support of the Iranian Demonstrators

HURSDAY, JUNE 25, 2009
Open letter of support to the demonstrators in Iran!

This morning Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded an end to the massive and forceful demonstrations protesting the controversial result of last week's election. He argued that to make concessions to popular demands and 'illegal' pressure would amount to a form of 'dictatorship', and he warned the protestors that they, rather than the police, would be held responsible for any further violence.
Khamenei's argument sounds familiar to anyone interested in the politics of collective action, since it appears to draw on the logic used by state authorities to oppose most of the great popular mobilisations of modern times, from 1789 in France to 1979 in Iran itself. These mobilisations took shape through a struggle to assert the principle that sovereignty rests with the people themselves, rather than with the state or its representatives. 'No government can justly claim authority', as South Africa's ANC militants put it in their Freedom Charter of 1955, 'unless it is based on the will of all the people.'
Needless to say it is up to the people of Iran to determine their own political course. Foreign observers inspired by the courage of those demonstrating in Iran this past week are nevertheless entitled to point out that a government which claims to represent the will of its people can only do so if it respects the most basic preconditions for the determination of such a will: the freedom of the people to assemble, unhindered, as an inclusive collective force; the capacity of the people, without restrictions on debate or access to information, to deliberate, decide and implement a shared course of action.
Years of foreign-sponsored 'democracy promotion' in various parts of the world have helped to spread a well-founded scepticism about civic movements which claim some sort of direct democratic legitimacy. But the principle itself remains as clear as ever: only the people themselves can determine the value of such claims. We the undersigned call on the government of Iran to take no action that might discourage such determination.
Peter Hallward
Middlesex University, UK.
Alberto Toscano
Goldsmiths College, UK.
This letter is also signed by:
Alenka Zupancic, Institute of Philosophy of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Alexander Garcia Duttmann, Goldsmiths College
Etienne Balibar, Paris X, Nanterre, and University of California, Irvine
Eyal Weizman, Director, Centre for Research Architecture, Dept. of Visual Cultures
Goldsmiths, University of London
Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (retired), MIT, Cambridge MA USA
Philip Pettit, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University
Rada Ivekovic, Prof., Collège international de philosophie, Paris.
Slavoj Žižek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and the European Graduate School
Duane Campbell, Calif. State University -Sacramento
and hundreds more

And, the International Federation of Trade Unions

Iran Day of Worker Solidarity Action
Will Be Organized As Repression Continues


The ITUC, EI, ITF and IUF today expressed their
solidarity with the many Iranian workers who have
joined the demonstrations in the streets to call for
respect for their fundamental democratic rights.
Protests for democracy in Iran, organized by trade
unions, will be held in countries around the world

"The violence against those demonstrating for democracy
has left many people dead and several hundred injured.
This heavy repression of peaceful demonstrations and
lack of respect for human rights is completely
unacceptable," said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.
Trade unions across the world have been appalled at the
Iranian authorities' targeting of independent trade
union action in recent years, with workers attacked and
arrested for demonstrating peacefully for workers'
rights, most recently on 1 May as they attempted to
hold a peaceful May Day rally at Laleh Park in Tehran.
Repression of fundamental rights has now intensified
and widened, with particularly violent reaction by
security forces to the many demonstrations in the wake
of the election, and the arrest of hundreds of people."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

California Constitutional Convention?

A group of CEO's and Bay Area business leaders are directing and funding an effort to call a California Constitutional Convention to write a new constitution.

If you want the details they are here:


They have an agenda. For example, they would exclude the consideration of repeal of the 2/3 rules for passing budgets and taxes and they would "select" the delegates, not elect the delegates, to get "average" citizens.

From the Bee Capitol Alert: Dan Walters
The council's draft language for a 2010 ballot measure to call a constitutional convention specifically says it cannot mess with Proposition 13 but that, Capitol Weekly said, has not mollified those on the right.

Today, the council's chief spokesman, John Grubb, said the article implied that it had stopped work on the convention and "This is absolutely not true and we have requested an immediate correction."

The article doesn't say that the council has halted work on the convention, but Grubb apparently is concerned about its effect on organizational work.

"The Bay Area Council is in the process of creating an open, transparent process to determine what goes into the convention," Grubb said in an email to journalists. "This will involve gathering between 50 and 100 of the state's top political and academic experts to help determine what questions the delegates should answer in a limited constitutional convention. Somehow gathering these experts (rather than the Bay Area Council itself determining what should or shouldn't be in the convention) was interpreted to mean that we were trying to "offload" the whole effort. Wrong

Lobbyists Win on Health Care, Banking

Remember all that change Americans voted for in November? Well, there's been a change in the plans for change.

The detour has come courtesy of a familiar nemesis: DC lobbyists who, this year alone, have watered-down, gutted, or out-and-out killed ambitious plans for reforming Wall Street, energy, and health care.

The media like to pretend that something's at stake when a big bill is being debated on the House or Senate floor, but the truth is that by then the game is typically already over. The real fight happens long before. And the lobbyists usually win.

They're used to administrations and newly elected Congresses that come in with big plans for the future. But, as Obama and Congressional reformers are finding out, the future doesn't have a well-funded lobby. The past, on the other hand, is extremely well represented.

Look at the auto industry. For decades, Detroit and its lobbyists fought tooth and nail against efforts to improve mileage efficiency standards or to close tax loopholes favorable to gas-guzzling SUVs. They were very successful at holding off the future. Until they went bankrupt.

"While I'm not spoiling for a fight, I'm ready for one," Obama said in his radio address last weekend, referring to his push for a new consumer finance regulatory agency. Let's hope he is, because getting a reform bill that still includes actual reforms through both houses of Congress is easier said than done.

The president has already seen what the lobbyists can do. In May, he signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, and celebrated it as an example of doing "what we were actually sent here to do -- and that is to stand up to the special interests, and stand up for the American people."

But, in fact, those special interests had stood up to him and helped eliminate the most important legislative initiative affecting homeowners -- the cramdown provision in the bankruptcy bill.

It shows just how powerful the lobbyists are: even those representing the banks that helped bring about the financial meltdown still hold sway over our elected officials.

The same goes for the lobbyists representing the credit rating agencies which, despite having played a key role in causing the economic crisis, escaped with barely a wrist slap in the Treasury's big new reform plan. Here's how the Wall Street Journal put it:

If world-class lobbying could win a Stanley Cup, the credit-ratings caucus would be skating a victory lap this week. The Obama plan for financial re-regulation leaves unscathed this favored class of businesses whose fingerprints are all over the credit meltdown.
That's the thing about lobbyists: they serve no ideological master. It's not about right vs left or Democrats vs Republicans. It's only about the bottom line -- ie pushing their special interests, no matter how much it undermines the public interest. No wonder they are as likely to incur the wrath of the Wall Street Journal as Mother Jones.

Last year, 15,000 registered lobbyists spent more than $3.25 billion trying to sway Congress. This year has brought even more of the same. Oil and gas companies spent $44.5 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies in the first quarter of 2009 -- more than a third of the $129 million they spent in all of 2008, which in itself was a 73 percent increase from two years before. Medical insurers and drug companies are also digging deep: 20 of the biggest health insurance and drug companies spent nearly a combined $35 million in Q1 -- a 41 percent increase from the same quarter last year.
Adriana Huffington. the Huffington Post

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Medicare for All

Nurses, Progressive Dems Seek Stepped Up Action for
Real, "Robust" Healthcare Reform

Single-Payer, Medicare for All, as Best Solution to Crisis

WASHINGTON - June 24 - With action heating up in
Washington for enactment of comprehensive healthcare
reform, the nation's largest RN union and professional
association joined with progressive Democratic Party
activists today in calling for the most "robust" reform
of all to repair the nation's healthcare crisis, by
enacting a single-payer system in the form of an
expanded and updated Medicare for all.

In a joint statement, the National Nurses Organizing
Committee/California Nurses Association and Progressive
Democrats of America announced they are stepping up
calls and other lobbying efforts to urge Congressional
leaders to include discussion of the single-payer
option in upcoming deliberations on the healthcare
reform legislation now advancing in Congress.

As President Obama holds several public healthcare
events, major committees in Congress unveil
legislation, and some liberal constituency groups set
to rally in Washington Thursday, NNOC/CNA and PDA said
that a single-payer/Medicare-for-all approach is "the
best way to achieve goals of universality, effective
cost controls, and improving the quality of care for
all Americans."

All other proposals, the groups said, suffer the same
limitations. They:

* Leave the insurance industry, with its emphasis
on generating profits and revenues rather than
providing care, in control of our health. * Fail to
assure financial security of American families by
not cracking down on insurance pricing practices. *
Avoid the strongest cost controls that are achieved
in a single-payer system with one shared risk pool
that covers everyone, elimination of the
administrative waste associated with private
insurers, and use of the power of the public entity
to negotiate lower costs. * Does not protect choice
of doctor, hospital, and other providers, as occurs
in a single-payer system, because insurers can
still limit choice to their own approved network of
doctors and providers.

Even the public option favored by the President and
leading Democrats would not achieve these goals, said
NNOC/CNA and PDA. Private insurers would still be able
to cherry pick healthier patients through their
aggressive marketing techniques, with sicker patients
likely being dumped into the public plan. The result is
the public plan would face higher costs and the
likelihood of having to cut or ration services to stay
financially afloat.

PDA and NNOC/CNA are asking people to continue to call
Congress and the White House to insist that single-
payer, and the single-payer bills in Congress, HR 676
in the House and S 703 in the Senate, be given equal
consideration in the legislative review process this

The two organizations have worked together since early
last year on a variety of healthcare projects,
including pressing the Democratic National Party to go
on record in "support of guaranteed healthcare for all"
at the national convention in Denver, campaigns on
behalf of single-payer candidates across the country in
the fall, and rallies and forums in cities throughout
the U.S.

"The time is ripe for real reform. For our personal
well-being and for the sake of our great nation, now is
the time to institute a real healthcare system instead
of tweaking the patchwork of corporate non-care that
now envelopes us," said NNOC/CNA Co-President Geri
Jenkins, RN.

Jenkins will be attending the ABC White House Town Hall
meeting with President Obama on healthcare reform
tonight, along with Patty Eakin, RN, President of the
Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied
Professionals and an NNOC/CNA board member.

"As long as a profit-motive is the centerpiece of our
system, as it is and will be with healthcare
corporations calling the shots, we entertain no notion
that a public option will be the fix that so many
Americans desperately need and want," Jenkins said.
"Medicare for all is the only solution to what ails

"Regardless of the claims that the majority of people
want a 'public option,' what most people really want is
a system of healthcare that covers everybody, and they
believe the government can do a better job of it than
the healthcare corporations can. It's time for
Congress to stop nibbling around the edges of reform
and provide real leadership toward enacting healthcare
reform for the people, instead of yet another windfall
for wealthy corporations," said Tim Carpenter, national
director of PDA.

The Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign presses forward
with a "Week of Action for Medicare-for-All - H.R.
676." Participating organizations will make calls to
Congress asking representatives to provide leadership
in the healthcare debate. On July 30, the 44th
anniversary of Medicare will be celebrated with a rally
and lobby day in Washington, D.C. ### The California
Nurses Association, and its national arm, the National
Nurses Organizing Committee, is one of the nation's
premiere nurses' organizations and health care unions.
One of the fastest growing health care organizations in
the U.S., CNA/NNOC presently has 80,000 members in 50
states, representing nurses at scores of hospitals,
clinics, and home health agencies.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This depression

14 states now have double-digit unemployment

New data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that five more states -- Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee -- had crossed into double-digit unemployment, while Michigan's unemployment rate rose from 12.9% to 14.1% in a single month. With 14 U.S. states now in double-digit unemployment and many continuing to see large increases month to month, EPI convened experts from three of the hardest-hit states -- Michigan, Ohio, and Oregon -- who discussed what these staggering job losses had meant for their local economies and shared their concerns that the pain could last long after the recession ends. Michigan's job situation, for instance, has gone from bad to worse with the recent bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, while in Oregon, May unemployment of 12.4% represents a 33-year high.
Economic Policy Institute

Blaming the victims

The current California budget crisis was created by the collapse of the U.S. economy. The economic collapse was caused by the greed of bankers, financiers, and those in the government who enabled these corporate robber barons.
Letter writers and talk show screamers blame school children, teachers, police, firemen, the sick and the elderly.
This is a classic case of scapegoating.

Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracies, Demonization &
by Chip Berlet
Political Research Associates
June, 2009
Executive summary:

the full text of the report may be
found here:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rants from the Right

Rants from the Right ! Right wing lunacy.
In California we are again experiencing a budget crisis. The basic problem is that our constitution requires a 2/3 vote to increase taxes. Without this limit, our budget problem would go away.
Since we are in a “crisis”, the newspapers are filled with stories on the budget problems and issues. Newspapers now have response pages, e mail lists to respond to articles. Each time there is an article, whether it is a proposal for taxes, to fund the schools, or a cut in services, the newspaper response section will have 200-300 responses. 90% plus will be Right Wing cranks. They repeat anti immigrant or no taxes cant. Often they are not even in response to the article. It is just a chance to blow off.
Has anyone done an analysis of this? What is the effect of this ranting?
You can find the same thing on mainstream blogs or even Huffington Post and TPM whenever the budget is mentioned. The rants from the right outnumber the center and the left at least 20 – 1.
Recall in the 1990’s when the Right gained control of the talk radio, and the left had domination of the internet. At least in the news blogs, this seems no longer the case.
These rants pass for feedback. In a few occasions I have noted specific changes in coverage and concern based upon the numbers of the feedback- even without legitimacy. This stuff passes for feedback, but it is not representative.
For example, in California the anti immigrant stuff is always there. However, now they have begun to complain not only about the cost of immigrants, but the cost of educating the children of immigrants ( U.S. citizens). They seem to have made this an issue by keeping their echo chamber letters flying. Of course Lou Dobbs and others help this.

Should we be concerned? Or should we ignore this stuff?

Should we try to respond to provide some balance?
For an analysis of some of the problems of scapegoating, see this.

Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracies, Demonization &
by Chip Berlet
Political Research Associates
June, 2009
Executive summary:

the full text of the report may be
found here:

Friday, June 19, 2009

An open letter to Arne Duncan

Rethinking Schools, Summer 2009

From Herbert Kohl

Dear Arne Duncan,

In a recent interview with NEA Today you said of my book 36 Children, "I read [it] in high school … [and] … wrote about his book in one of my college essays, and I talked about the tremendous hope that I feel [and] the challenges that teachers in tough communities face. The book had a big impact on me."

When I wrote 36 Children in 1965 it was commonly believed that African American students, with a few exceptions, simply could not function on a high academic level. The book was motivated by my desire to provide a counter-example, one I had created in my classroom, to this cynical and racist view, and to let the students' creativity and intelligence speak for itself. It was also intended to show how important it was to provide interesting and complex curriculum that integrated the arts and sciences, and utilized the students' own culture and experiences to inspire learning. I discovered then, in my early teaching career, that learning is best driven by ideas, challenges, experiences, and activities that engage students. My experience over the past 45 years has confirmed this.

We have come far from that time in the '60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, "We are learning how to do good on the tests." They did not say they were learning to read.

It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content of learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test. In the panic over teaching students to perform well on reading tests, educators seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading is a tool, an instrument that is used for pleasure and for the acquisition of knowledge and information about the way the world works. The mastery of complex reading skills develops as students grapple with ideas, learn to understand plot and character, and develop and articulate opinions on literature. They also develop through learning history, science, and technology.

Reading is not a series of isolated skills acquired in a sanitized rote-learning environment utilizing "teacher-proof" materials. It develops through interaction with a knowledgeable, active teacher—through dialogue, and critical analysis. It also develops through imaginative writing and research.

It is no wonder that the struggle to coerce all students into mastering high-stakes testing is hardest at the upper grades. The impoverishment of learning taking place in the early grades naturally leads to boredom and alienation from school-based learning. This disengagement is often stigmatized as "attention deficit disorder." The very capacities that No Child Left Behind is trying to achieve are undermined by the way in which the law is implemented.

This impoverishment of learning is reinforced by cutting programs in the arts. The free play of the imagination, which is so crucial for problem-solving and even for entrepreneurship, is discouraged in a basics curriculum lacking in substantial artistic and human content.

Add to this the elimination of physical education in order to clear more time to torture students with mechanical drilling and shallow questioning and it is no wonder that many American students are lethargic when it comes to ideas and actions. I'm sure that NCLB has, in many cases, a direct hand in the development of childhood obesity.

It is possible to maintain high standards for all children, to help students learn how to speak thoughtfully, think through problems, and create imaginative representations of the world as it is and as it could be, without forcing them through a regime of high-stakes testing. Attention has to be paid to the richness of the curriculum itself and time has to be allocated to thoughtful exploration and experimentation. It is easy to ignore content when the sole focus is on test scores.

Your administration has the opportunity, when NCLB comes up for reauthorization, to set the tone, aspirations, and philosophical and moral grounds for reform that develops the intelligence, creativity, and social and personal sensitivity of students. I still hold to the hope you mentioned you took away from 36 Children but I sometimes despair about how we are wasting the current opportunity to create truly effective schools where students welcome the wonderful learning that we as adults should feel privileged to provide them.

I would welcome any opportunity to discuss these and other educational issues with you.

Sincerely, Herbert Kohl

The costs of higher education in California

Investing In California Higher Education Benefits All Californians

By Alberto Torrico
Assembly Majority Leader

Republicans just don’t get it. The rest of us understand that the worst national recession in our lifetime demands a shared sacrifice. But the right wing Republicans continue to fight for big corporations enjoying record profits.

Take archconservative George Runner. He actually suggested on the conservative blog Flash Report that asking oil companies to pay for tapping a California resource would empower Hugo Chavez. That’s ridiculous, but it’s typical of the GOP’s blind allegiance to big business.

It’s time to move beyond such meaningless rhetoric. That’s why I’ve introduced AB 656 to raise much-needed funds for the UC, CSU and California Community College systems through an oil severance tax. We are the only oil-producing state in the nation not to levy this tax. Conservative strongholds like Texas, Alaska and Louisiana, plus 18 other states generate revenue for vital services to their residents. In California, we put the burden on working families.

California’s Republican Governor thinks it is a good idea to close down our state’s oldest public law school, turn away over 20,000 high school seniors from our college campuses, and to eliminate Cal Grants, the funds that allowed me, and countless other Californians, to become the first in our families to attend college.

That’s after 7 years of fee increases, including this year’s that will force University of California undergraduates to shell out an additional $662 and California State University students $306. California’s long-time promise of an affordable higher education is jeopardized by declining state support. are raising concerns that access to affordable higher education is in jeopardy because of declining state support.

AB 656 will empower hundreds of thousands of students by keeping college affordable and making sure they have timely access to courses they need to graduate. Instead of working two jobs and taking years to get their degrees because of reduced course offerings, students would join the workforce more quickly.

AB 656 will reinvigorate our economy by ensuring that a steady stream of well-trained and educated workers keeps flowing into our key industries, our classrooms and our health-care facilities. A recent Public Policy Institute of California study found that if current trends continue, California will face a shortfall of one million college graduates by 2025. That would devastate our economy and the thousands of companies that rely on these institutions to supply skilled workers.
Posted from the California Progress Report.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Testing and the California budget crisis

Lets cancel the High School Exit Exam, lay off teachers, release prisoners early, cut medi cal payments, keep children from health insurance, increase class size, end care for Alzheimer patients, but keep $ 16 million for a sweetheart contract for a very few tenured professors.

In 2006 the legislature and CTC imposed an expensive, redundant accountability system (test) TPA/PACT on teacher preparation – one the state cannot afford in its current budget crisis. I am confident that only a few legislators were even aware that they were creating this accountability fraud. It is a gross injustice to add funding for performance assessment of future teachers into the budget when our schools are having to increase class sizes, lay off teachers, reduce career technical education, cancel transportation, and delay long needed school reforms.
There is no evidence that TPA/PACT are valid measures of good teaching. To the contrary, our experience tells us that one-time all-or-nothing tests like the TPA/PACT are among the poorest possible ways to predict the likelihood that a test-taker will be an excellent California teacher.

Significant evidence of the test has yet to be gathered. For details see the linked article. But, I was able to observe two out of the available 5 local sites.
In each case about 30 students made twenty minute videos to measure (calibrated) to see if they were “good teachers”. In the two cases I observed, about 3 students – total of 6- did not pass on the first administration. Notably, these 6 students were also student teaching and observed by professionals who found their teaching very professional. In the same cohorts, about 6 student teachers were “excellent” in their calibration of their video. Notably, these 6 student teachers were not found to be excellent nor superior in their student teaching as measured by professionals. That is, the test did not eliminate the weak and it did not identify the strong. That is what the state is paying $16 million each year ; $10 million to the CSU and an estimated $6 million to the U.C. U.C. prepares fewer teachers than the CSU. BTW. In future years, the cost of the test (calibration) will be transferred as a fee to the students teachers.
The implementation of TPA assessment was initially contingent upon state funding. But SB 1209 in 2006 removed the funding requirement and required implementation of the TPA throughout the CSU effective July 1, 2008, imposing a new low quality accountability system on teacher preparation programs in addition to the performance assessments currently in place, without providing the funding needed to pay for the new program. The solution is obvious. Rescind this provision of SB 1209.
In times of crisis we should fund important things. This $ 16 million should be cut from the CSU and U.C. budgets and used for other vital, impacted interests.
For a detailed description of the problems of PACT and TPA see here ; http://sites.google.com/site/assessingpact/
Why are so many people disillusioned with the legislature and the legislative leadership? In part because these kinds of boondoggles exist. And, pure personal contacts, the privileges of the elite, keep them funded while the governor proposes that we close parks and reduce the number of fire fighters available. Legislators and the LAO have been consistently advised of this foolish spending. This is a failure of leadership.

Duane Campbell,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paying for School Reform

The Selling Of School Reform

Dana Goldstein
The Nation
June 15, 2009

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: Al
Sharpton, Newt Gingrich and Mike Bloomberg--all failed
presidential hopefuls--arrive at the White House for a
joint meeting with President Barack Obama. Upon leaving
the Oval Office, they convene a press conference on the
White House lawn.

But far from tearing one another to bits or sniping at
the man whose job they coveted, these unlikely
comrades--a self-appointed civil rights spokesman, a
former Republican Speaker of the House and a
billionaire New York City mayor--were in total
agreement. The topic of the meeting? Schools.

"You have to hold people accountable, and those that
perform should be the ones that teach our kids, and
those that don't, unfortunately our children are just
too important," Bloomberg said, referring to his
support for teacher merit pay.

Sharpton intoned, "The nation's future is at stake, our
children [are] at stake."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan was there to lend the
administration's support. "There's a real sense of
economic imperative," he said. "We have to educate our
way [to] a better economy."

Though the media portrayed the meeting as one among
"strange bedfellows," in fact Sharpton, Gingrich and
Bloomberg are all on the same side of the education
policy debate roiling the Democratic Party. The three
are spokesmen for the Education Equality Project (EEP),
an advocacy group that has attracted widespread media
attention since its June 2008 launch, in large part
because of its bipartisan call for policies like merit
pay and the expansion of the charter school sector.
With the support of rising star Democrats like Newark,
New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker and Washington, DC, Mayor
Adrian Fenty, the EEP and such allied groups as the
political action committee Democrats for Education
Reform--have openly pushed back against the influence
of teachers unions, community groups and teachers
colleges over national education policy. Proclaiming
themselves "reformers," they often borrow their
strategies from the private sector, and they believe
urban public schools must be subjected to more free-
market competition.

On the other side of the divide is a group of
progressive policy experts and educators who published
a manifesto during campaign season called A Broader,
Bolder Approach to Education. They believe teachers and
schools will not be able to eradicate the achievement
gap between middle-class white children and everyone
else until a wide array of social services are
available to poor families. They envision schools as
community centers, offering families healthcare, meals
and counseling.

Theoretically, there is no reason all these people
can't work together. Some charter schools, after all,
have had extraordinary success in raising the
achievement of low-income students--even, in some
cases, with the cooperation of teachers unions. Many
younger teachers appear enthusiastic about performance-
based pay, although there is no evidence from the
cities that have tried it, like Denver, that it
improves student achievement. Yet the single-
mindedness--some would say obsessiveness--of the
reformers' focus on these specific policy levers puts
off more traditional Democratic education experts and
unionists. As they see it, with the vast majority of
poor children educated in traditional public schools,
education reform must focus on improving the management
of the public system and the quality of its services--
not just on supporting charter schools. What's more,
social science has long been clear on the fact that
poverty and segregation influence students' academic
outcomes at least as much as do teachers and schools.

Obama's decision to invite representatives of only one
side of this divide to the Oval Office confirmed what
many suspected: the new administration--despite
internal sympathy for the "broader, bolder approach"--
is eager to affiliate itself with the bipartisan flash
and pizazz around the new education reformers. The risk
is that in doing so the administration will alienate
supporters with a more nuanced view of education
policy. What's more, critics contend that free-market
education reform is a top-down movement that is
struggling to build relationships with parents and
community activists, the folks who typically support
local schools and mobilize neighbors on their behalf.

So keenly aware of this deficit are education reformers
that a number of influential players were involved in
the payment of $500,000 to Sharpton's nearly broke
nonprofit, the National Action Network, in order to
procure Sharpton as a national spokesman for the EEP.
And Sharpton's presence has unquestionably benefited
the EEP coalition, ensuring media attention and
grassroots African-American crowds at events like the
one held during Obama's inauguration festivities, at
Cardozo High School in Washington.

Read the entire piece:

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Troubled Democrats

The Trouble With Democrats
Reclaiming the Economy for the People

By William Greider
The Nation
June 5, 2009


The governing party faced an awkward dilemma. People
were hurting and furious at the government's generous
bailouts for banks. But how could the Democrats do
something for the folks without upsetting their friends
and patrons in the banking industry? Democrats think
they found a way. They are enacting a series of
measures described as "breakthrough" reform and
"unprecedented" defeat for the bankers. Only these
achievements are more accurately understood as "reform
lite." The house is on fire and Democrats brought a
garden hose.

The Democratic Party is changing in some promising
ways, but what's impressive is how much it has not
changed. Does that sound harsh? I am relying on private
judgments from Washington players regarded as the
"white hats" on this subject--consumer lobbyists and
other public-interest reformers, who for years have
labored in frustration to enact laws that would restore
equity and honest relationships to the out-of-control
financial system. These organizations mostly endorse
the Democrats' efforts and celebrate their "victories."
But a few minutes of private conversation reveals their
doubt and disappointment. "It's a good bill," they will
say, then after enumerating the shortcomings add, "It's
better than nothing."

"This has to be on background, OK?" one of the
reformers said. "This crisis brought down the world
economy and yet Congress still hasn't passed a bill
making sure it doesn't happen again."

Julia Gordon, a lawyer with the Center for Responsible
Lending, did not seek anonymity. "We have reached the
moment to ask ourselves Rabbi Hillel's question: if not
now, when?" Gordon said. "I fear we are letting this
crucial moment pass without putting forward-looking
rules in place to fundamentally change how mortgages
are made and prevent predatory lending. Plus, when we
look back at the foreclosure tsunami that devastated so
many families, we're going to be ashamed that we did
not fix the bankruptcy code to permit mortgage
modification. That move alone could have prevented more
than a million foreclosures, and while I predict we
will revisit the issue in the future, it will be like
closing the barn door after the horse has died."

If not now, when? That question ought to haunt the
Democratic Party and President Obama, who has been
missing in action himself on key issues. Congressional
Democrats are responding to this epic conflagration
with the same risk-avoidance tactics they learned
during many years in minority status. In those days,
they could always blame right-wing Republicans for
blocking their good intentions. But whom do the Dems
blame now that they have the White House and fifty-nine
votes in the Senate and a seventy-eight-seat majority
in the House? Their standard explanation for not doing
more is, "We didn't have the votes." So when might we
expect Democrats to achieve more? When they have eighty
votes in the Senate?

The party's ideological intentions are being defined
with greater clarity in these new circumstances, and so
are the President's. It's still early, but the
implications are ominous for other issues. If Democrats
are reluctant to disturb the power of other major
interests, it seems improbable that fundamental change
will occur on healthcare, energy conversion or the
restoration of work and wages. The problem now is the
Democrats, not the Republicans. The party aids and
protects its free-roaming entrepreneurial politicians
and does not punish those who undermine the party's
larger promises. When Republicans were in charge, they
enforced party loyalty with Stalinist discipline.
Democrats are the party of safe incumbents, weak

The much-celebrated "Credit Cardholders' Bill of
Rights" is a fresh example of how the Democratic Party
tries to have it both ways--avoiding the tough votes
while mollifying the folks. The credit card reform
measure imposes new rules on the industry and does away
with many of the most outrageous gimmicks bankers use
to extract more money from debtors. Banks cannot raise
interest rates retroactively on old credit card
balances or pile on hidden fees or fail to give advance
notice for rate increases. These and other changes are

The achievement seems less courageous if you know that
Congress was largely ratifying the regulatory rules
already adopted by the Federal Reserve last year. Or
that the legislation gives the industry another nine
months to gouge their customers before the new rules go
into effect. Or that Visa and MasterCard, Citigroup and
JPMorgan Chase are free to raise future interest rates
to the sky--without limit. That is the industry's
intention, as bank lobbyists reported after the bill
was passed.

American Usury

One of the fundamental issues that party managers
wished to avoid was the scandal of American usury.
Usury is the ancient sin of charging inflated interest
rates sure to ruin the borrowers. It is considered
immoral by Judaism, Christianity and Islam because
usury involves the powerful using their wealth to
ensnare weak and defenseless borrowers. The classic
usurer offers an impossible choice that debtors cannot
easily refuse. If they reject the terms of the loan,
they will not be able to pay the rent or buy
necessities. If they accept the usurious interest
rates, their debts will accumulate until they are
bankrupted (at which point the creditors claim their
property). No civilized society can endure in such

Usury used to be illegal in the United States but it
was "decriminalized" in 1980--the dawn of financial
deregulation. A Democratic president and Congress
repealed all interest-rate controls and the federal law
prohibiting usury. Thirty years later, American society
is permeated with usurious practices--credit cards
charging 30 percent and higher, subprime mortgages and
other forms of predatory lending, the notorious
"payday" loans that charge desperate working people an
effective interest rate of 500 percent or more.
Businesses, especially smaller firms, are also prey to
usury in less direct ways.

Needing credit to survive, they submit to the
creditor's demands and are often weakened as a result,
shedding workers and services that shrink customers and

The straightforward way to stop usury is to enact a
hard legal limit on the interest rates creditors can
charge borrowers. In the House, several legislators
introduced interest-rate caps, but party leaders would
not let the issue get a roll call vote. Rep. Maurice
Hinchey of New York and co-sponsors proposed an
interest-rate cap of 18 percent, the same ceiling
enacted years ago for credit unions. "Offering the
amendment raised a lot of anxiety on the part of a lot
of people," Hinchey said.

"It was withdrawn because it had no possibility of
success and it would have put a number of people in a
tough situation. We had to back off."

A roll call on usury would have compelled legislators
to choose between their constituents and their bankers.
Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland proposed a tougher
ceiling on interest rates, but the House rules
committee rejected her amendment. "Our constituents are
so angry with the banks," she observed, "siding with
credit-card companies would not be helpful to me, and I
expect that's true in other districts." Bankers are
contributors, so this is what members call "a money
vote." A consumer lobbyist explained. "Let's face it,"
he said. "The main reason lots of members get on the
House Financial Services Committee is because they want
to raise money from the financial industry."

In the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, the majority
whip who rounds up votes for the party, introduced his
own usury bill--a cap of 36 percent including the non-
interest fees and charges. Durbin's bill also empowered
state governments to set lower limits. The Consumer
Federation of America endorsed it, but the consumer
lobbyists asked Durbin not to have a roll call on his
measure because it might reveal their weakness.

Nevertheless, the redoubtable Bernie Sanders of Vermont
demanded a vote on his bill--an interest-rate cap of 15

"When banks are charging 30 percent interest rates,
they are not making credit available," Sanders said.
"They are engaged in loan sharking." Sanders lost, 33
to 60. Twenty-one Democrats voted with the sharks.
Senators Carper, Cantwell, Byrd, Bingaman, Bayh,
Baucus, Akaka, Warner, Tester, Stabenow, Specter,
Shaheen, Pryor, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Murray,
Lincoln, Landrieu, Kaufman, Johnson, Hagan.

The scandal of "payday" lending is being confronted by
numerous state legislatures, but the issue stalled out
in Congress. The industry pursued a race-based lobbying
strategy that targeted black and Hispanic
representatives with this pitch--poor people need these
loans; don't mess with them. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of
Illinois proposed a bill that usurers found
acceptable--an interest rate cap of 390 percent.

Standing With the Sharks

Perhaps the most revealing moment for Democratic
timidity was the Senate roll call to authorize
bankruptcy judges to intervene on home foreclosures and
reduce the burden for failing homeowners. If the
bankers refused to make a deal, the debtors could take
them into bankruptcy court and hope for better terms.
This single reform would shift the balance of power
modestly from creditors to debtors and save at least
1.5 million families from foreclosure, reformers
estimated. The measure passed easily in the House, but
was defeated by the Senate.

Bankruptcy reform lost because twelve Democrats joined
the Republicans to vote for bankers and against
embattled families. Senators Baucus, Bennet, Byrd,
Carper, Dorgan, Johnson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Ben Nelson,
Pryor, Specter, Tester.

Dick Durbin could not conceal the bitter aftertaste. He
told a hometown radio interviewer: "Hard to believe in
a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of
the banks created--they are still the most powerful
lobby on Capitol Hill. And frankly, they own the

Durbin's disappointment may have included the former
Illinois senator whom he had championed for president.
Barack Obama took a walk on reform. Last year as a
candidate, Obama declined to support the bankruptcy
provision for the financial-bailout legislation, but he
promised reform groups he would support it if elected.
The White House wouldn't let reformers include it in
the stimulus package or in Obama's first budget. The
White House suggested the issue could proceed as a
stand-alone measure (guaranteed to fail). On this
important reform, the president stands with the sharks.

The Democratic Party ignores its left-liberal-
progressive base with some regularity because it knows
it can. Politicians understand they will suffer no
consequences afterward. The galaxy of mediating
organizations, including organized labor, that
surrounds and supports the party may stomp and holler,
but they do not attempt any retribution that might
alter their relationship with power. Reform
organizations will not withdraw their support, either
money or rank-and-file voters. Nor will they seek to
punish any of the wayward Democrats who regularly vote
against them with opposition at the next election. The
"white hat" reformers are Washington insiders
themselves, with a seat at the table and influence on
the substance of the party's agenda. They do not want
to put their status at risk. Politicians know this from
long experience. So do the reformers.

The warped dynamics of the Democratic Party may have
sufficed when the GOP was ascendant and the goal was
restoring a Democratic majority. But now the majority
party resembles a dysfunctional family, badly in need
of outside intervention. I say this with sympathy,
having known and admired many of the reform activists
for many years. Some of them are suffering from a
political version of the Stockholm syndrome. Their good
intentions are brutally compromised by identifying with
the limited imagination and nerve of the Democratic

In some ways, the politicians are prisoners too--
captives of the money politics and the expensive mass-
marketing that requires them to raise so much money and
thus rely on the moneyed interests. Representatives and
senators know how the system works and what they need
to do to survive. Now and then, they may try to win one
for the folks, but mostly they are resigned to the
confinements of the status quo. So long as activist
groups will make no attempt to break out of this
pattern or penalize incumbents for disloyalty, the
party will continue to stiff the faithful.

Moral Awakening

Given all the adversities facing the country, I
conclude that meaningful "intervention" is plausible
only if it originates with people at large who are more
distant from power. I envision the intrusion coming
from many "independent formations" free to ignore
Washington's insider routines and mobilized by citizens
on behalf of their own convictions, their common-sense
ideas of what needs to be accomplished. This
alternative path is a central theme of my new book,
Come Home, America. I describe (somewhat wishfully) how
self-directed organizations might develop the power to
break through regular politics and overcome the usual

These groups could function, not as a third party nor
as standard "issue" advocates, but as a mixture of
these capabilities. They could act like free-roaming
guerillas who educate and agitate; like a political
party that selectively destabilizes safe-seat
incumbents by entering party primaries or running
independent challengers; like a representative
organization that can demand political relations
through direct confrontations or even civil
disobedience. This development sounds implausible, I
know, especially in Washington. But our crisis demands
a more aggressive response from citizens--something
that threatens the power of both parties and makes them

As it happens, a rough facsimile of what I envisioned
is arising now in the politics of financial reform. A
network of fourteen community organizations, based in
cities from Boston to Washington, DC, and across North
America, has come together in alliance and intends to
force a moral awakening on the narrow thinking of the
status quo. These citizens are developing a political-
action agenda around one theme--usury--as the efficient
expression of the abuses and injustices associated with
banking and finance. These are interfaith organizations
affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation and
composed of citizens who are white and black, affluent
and working poor, whose local organizations are based
in churches and synagogues, Catholic, Protestant,
Jewish, Muslim and others.

Usually, their political action is local and succeeds
regularly in building relations with public officials
that produce real change in communities. This time,
given the crisis, these IAF groups are attempting
something they have not done before--building the voice
and influence to join the national debate and change
its terms. I sat in on one of their organizing meetings
near Baltimore and was asked to contribute my views on
the shape of the problem.

"Are you ready to be born again? And again? And again?
Do you have the imagination? Do you believe it?" The
call was from the Rev. Hurmon Hamilton of the Roxbury
Presbyterian Church in Boston, and he inspired the 100
or so community leaders. "Faith is the substance of
things hoped for," Hamilton declared, "the evidence of
things unseen."

Outlawing Usury

The Rev. David Brawley of East Brooklyn Baptist
described a preliminary statement of basic principles.
"Reasonable interest rates," he said. "In this
financial culture, the nation will return to a time-
honored, indeed ancient, practice: the law against
usury. Financial institutions and mechanisms that
participate in this culture will agree to a maximum of
9 percent interest or so. This was the usual state-
mandated rate before the repeal."

Brawley described other principles with radical
implications. "The lender holds the loan," he
explained. "The financial institution that makes a loan
holds the loan for its duration. The borrower and
lender enter into a long-term relationship that ends
when the loan is fully repaid. This is the fundamental
starting point for any return to accountability." That
statement of principle challenges the market
securitization of mortgages that falsely claimed to
reduce risk by dispersing it among many investors. The
process instead left no one responsible for sound
lending and thus multiplied the costs of failure.

Brawley's final principle was perhaps most threatening
to the existing order. "The federal government insists
on these core characteristics as the criteria for all
further bailout funding. Banks that wish to borrow from
the government must accept these simple standards [and]
provide consumers with an alternative to the current
monopoly of financial transactions dominated and still
dictated by the same fifty financial institutions that
caused the crisis."

In other words, the social standard of usurious
practices should define which banks and financial firms
are eligible to participate in all forms of government
aid and protection. Why should taxpayers finance the
usurers who are injuring the society? The government's
undiscriminating approach to aiding banks implicates
everyone in supporting the usury. So do the banks and
brokerages that collect people's savings and channel
the money into usurious practices that produce greater
returns by ruining more borrowers. The moral standard
poses difficult questions for everyone, not just
bankers and politicians.

Arnold Graf, national organizer for the IAF, argues
that the moral question can lead people to confront a
deeper debate about the future. "What is the kind of
society we want to have?" Graf asked. "That's really
what we want to talk about--transforming the society.
We're not going to get transformation form the
president and Congress. It can only come from the
people themselves."

These IAF organizations expect to try different tactics
to spread the message and engage the people with power
who make decisions. That means directly confronting
elected representatives but also the banking
institutions with famous names. The alliance hopes the
moral principles will mobilize people of faith but also
students and workers and investors. Following the
example of the civil rights movement, people of
conscience have to find ways to turn up the heat on the
established order and discomfort the silent citizens
who are passive and indifferent. This effort, Graf
assumes, will probably take years, not months. Leaders
of the community organizations are aware of the risks.
They are attempting a leap into the unknown and they
might fail. No one listens, nothing changes. They
accept the risk because they too have asked Hillel's
question. If not now, when?


National affairs correspondent William Greider has been
a political journalist for more than thirty-five years.
A former Rolling Stone and Washington Post editor, he
is the author of the national bestsellers One World,
Ready or Not, Secrets of the Temple, Who Will Tell The
People, The Soul of Capitalism (Simon & Schuster) and,
most recently, Come Home, America


Friday, June 05, 2009

California can cut school budgets $6 Billion

June 3, 2009
Obama officials say California can cut $6 billion from schools
California can cut $6 billion from education through June 2010 without jeopardizing federal funds after the Obama administration on Wednesday approved the state's revised application for stimulus money.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's finance officials said last month that they mistakenly assigned $2 billion to California's education spending in 2005-06 when the money was actually spent in 2006-07. The error played a big factor in California's current budget discussion because the state cannot spend less on education now than it did in 2005-06 as a condition of receiving stimulus money.
Under the state's initial application, California could only have cut about $2 billion from the state's education budget through June 2010. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month proposed cutting $6 billion from K-14 schools to shrink a $24.3 billion budget gap, alarming education advocates.
Schwarzenegger aides said that they mistakenly assigned $2 billion from 2006-07 to 2005-06 because technically the money was meant to "settle up" reduced education payments in 2005-06.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said Tuesday that they had no position on whether the state's new application should have been approved. But Steinberg said Democrats were not willing to cut $6 billion from schools.
School groups lobbied the Obama administration and questioned the convenient timing of Schwarzenegger officials discovering they had made an error favorable to more budget cuts right as they needed to make additional school reductions.
The Department of Education on Wednesday said that it concluded California's application revisions "are consistent with the manner by which state appropriations for 'settle up payments' are treated for accounting purposes."
Bob Wells, Association of California School Administrators executive director, said, "It's just a shame. I think it pretty much gives the green light to the state to continue cutting schools."
Wells said $6 billion in cuts would result in more teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. Schwarzenegger proposed giving school districts the flexibility to reduce the school year by up to seven and a half days in order to save money.
"The governor is fighting for California's fair share of Recovery Act dollars and is pleased that the administration approved our application," said Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear.
Categories: State budget
Capitol Alert. Sac Bee

School accountability and the language of public relations

Accountability and the Slippery Language of Public Relations
An Essay Review by Susan Ohanian

“Certainly language is a good place to
start reform. We could start by admitting that
the claims made for transparency are at best
laughable and hypocritical and at worst
deliberately deceptive.” Susan Ohanian.

Talk about the eye of the beholder! The authors view this scenario as something
to be desired. I am appalled by the casual assumptions presented in this positivist,
technocratic view of teacher decision-making. Such “planning” assumes:
• state standards cause learning
• achievement tests test those standards
• student scores on achievement test reveal something important about what
a student knows
• students learn what teachers teach

Accountability and the Slippery Language of Public Relations:
An Essay Review

Susan Ohanian

Kowalski, Theodore J. & Lasley II, Thomas J. (Ed.) (2008)
Handbook of Data-Based Decision Making in Education. NY:

Pp. vii + 494 ISBN 0-415-96504-7
$90 (papercover) $198 (hardcover) $72 (Kindle)

Citation: Ohanian, Susan. (2009, June 5). Accountability and the slippery
language of public relations: An essay review. Education Review, 12(7).
Retrieved [date] from http://edrev.asu.edu/essays/v12n7index.html

Accountability and the Slippery Language of Public Relations
An Essay Review by Susan Ohanian


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Progressives Challenging Obama

Representative Donna Edwards provides a look into the Congressional Progressive Caucus and urges progressives to speak up and challenge the Obama presidency to deliver innovative and powerful legislation. Edwards discussed the state of the presidency at the "Obama @ 100: A Progress Report from The Nation" forum April 22 in Washington, DC
For more video of the discussion please watch Obama@100 .
--Gabriela Resto-Montero

Technology: Hang your head in shame

California's elected officials, both the Governor and the Legislature, should hang their heads in shame.
This is an indication of failure to provide resources for education.

California falls behind in Internet access
California appears to be falling behind the curve on many indicators of socioeconomic wellbeing these days, and the Census Bureau has added another -- access to the Internet, which is no small irony in a state that has spawned so much communications technology.
Although California is slightly above the national average in its residents living in homes with Internet access at 69 percent, according to a new data report, it's well below the national average in individual access to the Internet.
The Census Bureau found that in 2007, just 60.9 percent of the state's residents accessed the Internet from any location, the 16th lowest rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The highest level of such access was found in Alaska, 76.1 percent, while the lowest was 51.5 percent in Mississippi.
The full report, which analyzes Internet access by various demographic and economic factors, as well as geographic ones, is available here.
Source: Capitol Alert, Sacramento Bee

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Budget cuts to schools

Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Issues
Statement on Newly Proposed Education Cuts
ANAHEIM — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today issued the following comment in response to Governor Schwarzenegger's proposal to add an additional $680 million in cuts to public education:
'With his proposal to reduce spending for public education by another $680 million in the 2009-2010 budget year, the Governor is now asking schools to make more than $1.4 billion in cuts during the last few weeks of the school year, and close to $4 billion in the next. If these proposals become a reality, we will see the dismantling of vital education programs up and down our state. Already, the Los Angeles Unified School District has eliminated summer school. Classroom teachers are being let go. Class sizes are swelling. Regular school maintenance will become a distant memory.

"'While I know that teachers, administrators, school staff, school board members, and parents will make valiant efforts to continue to focus on improving student achievement and closing the achievement gap, these devastating cuts would make their job exponentially harder, and jeopardize the progress we have seen over the past decade.

"I recognize that California's budget shortfall continues to grow deeper. However, it is critical that we focus on ways to protect and preserve Californians' top priority — public education. We protect our collective economic viability by educating students to their full potential and preparing them to compete in the global economy. Failing to do so is not worthy of our great state."

Note: The economic crisis was caused by banking and finance capital being irresponsible. It was not caused by California students, teachers, police and public service workers.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Will the legislature listen?

My Assembly person is Allyson Huber. This is her first term. She won a very narrow victory. On her web site she says that she wants to hear from her constituents. I have sent her a prior copy of this and have not received a response. So, I am going public.
BTW. My Senator is Darrell Stienberg. I have tried to get his attention to this $10 million for over two years. It is interesting how friendly candidates are during campaigns and how distant they are after winning.
But, another election is on the way.

Assemblywoman Allyson Huber,
California Assembly June 1,2009

The budget reform proposals failed and the legislature has the lowest approval ratings in modern history. Perhaps it is time to listen.
Here is $10 million which I previously pointed out was available.
In 2006 the legislature and CTC imposed an expensive, redundant accountability system TPA/PACT on teacher preparation – one the state cannot afford in its current budget crisis. I am confident that only a few legislators were even aware that they were creating this accountability fraud. It is a gross injustice to add funding for performance assessment of future teachers into the budget when our schools are having to increase class sizes, lay off teachers, reduce career technical education, cancel transportation, and delay long needed school reforms.
The CTC has a session on these accountability programs on Friday and they do not recognize that any problems exists.
The legislature will be faced with ending health insurance for the young, increasing class sizes in k-12, laying off teachers, and violate contracts rather than examine this sweetheart deal for the self promotion of a few tenured profs.
There is no evidence that TPA/PACT are valid measures of good teaching. To the contrary, our experience tells us that one-time all-or-nothing tests like the TPA/PACT are among the poorest possible ways to predict the likelihood that a test-taker will be an excellent California teacher. The implementation of TPA assessment was initially contingent upon state funding. But SB 1209 in 2006 removed the funding requirement and required implementation of the TPA throughout the CSU effective July 1, 2008, imposing a new low quality accountability system on teacher preparation programs in addition to the performance assessments currently in place, without providing the funding needed to pay for the new program. The solution is obvious. Rescind this provision of SB 1209.
In times of crisis we should fund important things. This $10 million should be cut from the CSU budget and used for other vital, impacted interests. A similar amount is in the U.C. budget.

For a detailed description of the problems of PACT and TPA see; http://sites.google.com/site/assessingpact/

I remain available to discuss the misguided financing of PACT and TPA with your office. I encourage you to use your elected position to act responsibly in this budget crisis.

Dr. Duane E. Campbell
Professor of Education (Emeritus)
Sacramento, Ca.

Are we all socialists now?

Business Week
News Analysis May 22, 2009, 3:20PM

Socialism? Hardly, Say Socialists
Under Obama, socialism chatter has permeated the media in 2009. But beyond
sound bites, what is socialism?

By Moira Herbst

The first months of the Obama Administration have given rise to abundant
talk about a U.S. drift into socialism. "We Are All Socialists Now," a
Newsweek cover declared in February. On May 20 the Republican National
Committee approved a resolution calling on Democrats to "stop pushing our
country toward socialism." The resolution was predicated on the idea that,
under Obama, Democrats are following the path of Western European
countries in advocating expansive social safety nets and deeper government
involvement in the economy.

Some conservative commentators have even likened Obama's economic stimulus
and regulatory initiatives to a Soviet-style takeover of the country. In
February, syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of waging war
on capitalism. "That's his objective. He wants to destroy capitalism,"
Limbaugh told a caller. "He wants to establish a very powerful socialist
government, authoritarian. He wants control of the economy."

But real Socialists would vigorously disagree. They say if the Obama
Administration were establishing a true socialist state, we'd have at
least a $15-an-hour minimum wage (instead of the current $6.55 federal
minimum) and 30-hour workweeks. Every American would be guaranteed
employment and health-care coverage. Oh, and homeless people would be
occupying vacant office buildings in cities and vacant McMansions in the

In fact, many Americans appear to be confused about what socialism
actually is. In a poll of 1,000 adults conducted Apr. 6-7, Rasmussen
Reports found that 53% of Americans said they prefer capitalism to
socialism, while 20% said they prefer socialism. More than one-quarter,
27%, said they're not sure which system is better. Another poll conducted
this month by ConservativeHQ.com found that 70% of self-identified
conservatives consider Obama's political philosophy "Socialist" or
"Marxist," with 11% calling it "Communist."

Socialists say the policies Obama has pursued are hallmarks of "democratic
capitalist" states, not socialist ones. "None of the societies of Western
Europe are socialist, but the political influence of their strong Labor,
Social Democratic, and Socialist parties make their form of capitalism
much more humane than our own," says Frank Llewellyn, national director of
the New York-based Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest
U.S. Socialist party.

Obama: Saving Capitalism from Itself?

As with every political ideology, there's no discrete, tidy explanation of
what socialism means. "There have been diverse socialist movements that
have pursued different programs," says Frances Fox Piven, a professor of
political science at City University of New York (CUNY) and an honorary
chair of the DSA. "What they have shared is an effort to overcome the
historical problem with democracies that separate political governance
from the economy, often with a rigid wall. Socialists have tried to breach
that wall in the interest of democracy, or expanding the idea that the
people shall rule."

Karl Marx called socialism the "revolutionary dictatorship of the
proletariat," the working class seizing power and replacing a political,
economic, and social system controlled by the bourgeoisie, or the
propertied class. Such a reordering denotes "an association where the
development of each is the basis of the free development of all," Marx
wrote in 1848 in The Communist Manifesto.

Socialists say that far from creating a state in which workers rule, the
Obama team is instead scrambling to rescue and preserve capitalism. Sherry
Wolf, an activist with the Chicago-based U.S. branch of the International
Socialist Organization (ISO), scoffs at the idea that the U.S. is at the
dawn of a socialist era. "What Marxists mean by socialism is different
from what Rush Limbaugh means," she says. "We believe the class that
produces the wealth should own and control that wealth. That's a far cry
from what's happening now. The state is propping up banks, mortgage, and
insurance companies, while the lives of working people are torn apart by
foreclosures, evictions, and unemployment. It's an effort to save global
capitalism from its own excesses."

Wolf's group sees itself as "revolutionary," meaning it advocates not
incremental changes but rather a "total transformation of society and
political economy." By definition then, actions by a U.S. President like
Obama—tighter regulations, tax law revisions, and additional emergency
unemployment assistance—are not paving a path toward socialism. "Whoever
runs U.S. Inc. is in no position to advocate for the interests of the
class of people who produce the wealth," Wolf says. "There is really no
way for the President to deliver socialism to the people; it has to be
fought [for] and won by the workers themselves."

"A Hedge Fund Democrat"

Another group, called the Socialist Party USA, based in New York, refuses
to endorse any Democrat or Republican politician. The party, founded in
1973 when the Socialist Party of America split, wants a wholesale
reorientation of the economy so that the focus is on production "for need,
not profit." Billy Wharton, editor of the Socialist magazine for the
1,500-member party, wrote in a March Washington Post column that his group
considers Obama "a hedge-fund Democrat—one of a generation of neo-liberal
politicians firmly committed to free-market policies." "You see [Obama]
operating as a hedge fund Democrat on health care now," Wharton says. "He
blocked advocates of a single-payer system from presenting their case to
the Senate Finance Committee."

Not all Socialists denounce mainstream parties wholesale. Unlike the ISO
and the Socialist Party USA, the DSA, with about 7,000 members, is willing
to work within existing social and political structures toward incremental
change. The DSA is critical of Democrats, calling them the "second most
capitalistic party." Says Llewellyn, the DSA's national director: "We have
a long-term view of protecting people from the devastating power that
capitalism is capable of inflicting. We think the role of government and
civil society is to curtail and eventually eliminate the power of
capitalism to inflict that destruction." At the same time, Llewellyn says,
"we recognize that capitalism is capable of producing tremendous growth,"
which the DSA doesn't oppose.

But even to the more inclusive DSA, Obama is no socialist. "The discussion
of socialism that has appeared in the media is surreal," says Llewellyn.
"Nobody in their right mind would think Obama is a socialist if they knew
anything about the meaning of the word. Obama is acting as Roosevelt did,
trying to save capitalism from itself."

If the U.S. is not operating under a socialist regime, what would it look
like if it were? The DSA's Llewellyn says that for one, health care would
be universal and guaranteed, unlike the less comprehensive, market-based
plans the Obama Administration is floating. The Socialist Party USA takes
its platform a step further, calling for a full employment policy with a
$15 minimum wage, 30-hour workweeks, and six weeks' annual paid vacation
for all workers. The ISO would immediately end foreclosures and allow
homeless people to occupy vacant homes and buildings.

Recovering from Lax Regulation

On Mar. 6 a New York Times reporter asked Obama whether his domestic
policies indicated the President is a socialist. Obama laughed, replying
"the answer would be no." In a later telephone call to the paper, Obama
said enormous taxpayer sums had been injected into the financial system
before his election. "The fact that we've had to take these extraordinary
measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference,
but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant
risk-taking has precipitated a crisis," Obama told the newspaper.

Even if the description of "socialist" isn't accurate for the current
state of U.S. affairs, look for the term to reemerge in coming months as
the battle over health-care reform quickens. Earlier this month, for
example, U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said Democrats are
on a "march toward socialized medicine." Meanwhile, Socialists consider
Obama a stalwart capitalist. Says Wolf at the ISO: "We haven't seen
Comrade Obama at a meeting."

Herbst is a reporter for BusinessWeek in New York.
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