Saturday, December 31, 2011

Trampling out the Vintage ? a review of a book on Cesar Chavez

Trampling Out the Vintage ?
A  dissident’s view of the rise and the fall of the United Farm Workers union.
By Duane Campbell
Frank Bardacke’s Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. (2011, Verso). is the view of a well- informed observer  who  worked in the lettuce fields near Salinas for six seasons,  then spent  another 25 years  teaching English to  farm workers  in the Watsonville, Cal.  area. His views on the growth and decline of the United Farm Workers union – some of which I do not share–  offer  important points of history and reflection  for unionists today, particularly those working with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Trampling Out the Vintage, provides several insights not previously developed in well informed books on the UFW  including  important  differences between grape workers and  workers in row crops such as lettuce; the length of time workers were in the UFW,  the more settled family nature of grape workers, the strength of each  type of ranch committees,  the leadership of ranch crews  ( and thus the potential differences in creating democratic accountability), and the differing histories of worker militancy in  different  crops.  The author correctly argues that each of these led to somewhat different organizing environment in building the  union. He also details problems of administrative mismanagement in the hiring halls in the grape areas and alleged  mismanagement of organizing within the union sponsored health care insurance and clinic systems .

Friday, December 30, 2011

Romney touts dismantling of Bilingual Education

by Leslie Maxell.

Romney Touts Role in Dismantling Bilingual Education in Mass.

The Iowa caucuses are just a few days away and Mitt Romney, at least as of this morning, appears to be the frontrunner in the first contest of the 2012 presidential nomination sweepstakes.
For those of you trying to make a decision about the GOP candidates based on their education policies and philosophy, you can get a lot of insight on Romney over at Politics K-12, where Alyson Klein details the candidate's thinking about schooling by parsing a chapter from his book "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness."
Two pages in that chapter get into Romney's view on bilingual education vs. English immersion, which is interesting but not terribly surprising.
While he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he kept hearing that students were graduating from high schools in his state without being fluent in English. Those anecdotes were coming to him in the months after Massachusetts voters had passed a ballot initiative to curtail bilingual education in the state.
Astonished by this, the then-governor set about examining the state's bilingual education programs and asking questions about their effectiveness. He said the data were "scant" on whether bilingual programs produced better outcomes for students than English immersion programs. He picked up the phone and "called principals in California," where bilingual education had mostly been replaced with English immersion. The principals he talked to told him English immersion was better for students learning the language.
His conclusion? That bilingual education in Massachusetts had become little more than an employment program for bilingual teachers, who, he asserts, could not speak English well themselves.
When Romney sought the GOP nomination four years ago, he was upfront about his opposition to bilingual education and his support for ending it in Massachusetts. But pages 204-205 in his book's chapter on education tell us even more perhaps about the provenance of his stance.
He writes that during a visit to a Boston elementary school, he was stunned to discover that nearly all of the children enrolled in bilingual courses were American-born, not foreign-born:
At a student- body assembly, I asked how many youngsters were born outside the United States. Only a few hands went up. Surprised, I asked my next question: "How many of you are in bilingual education classes?" This time, the great majority of hands shot skyward, and the truth became obvious. Kids who were born in America, who watched television in America and played video games in America--thoroughly American kids--were being assigned to bilingual classes only to allow bilingual teachers to keep their jobs. The result that these students would be less fluent in English didn't seem to bother anybody!
Romney also says that immigrant parents he met favored English immersion for their children and that school officials often ignored their preference.
I don't anticipate that bilingual education vs. English immersion will become a marquee issue in this election cycle. But as the number of English-language learners in the United States continues to grow, it could become a matter that the president, whoever he or she may be, needs to weigh in on. And the best thing that could happen is for the debate to be stripped of the politics that continue to hang over it so that policymakers and educators could figure out what's truly best for teaching the language.

Greece, Ireland, Italy, California -Keynes was Right

By Paul Krugman
“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.”  So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937. Slashing government spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy further; austerity should wait until a strong recovery is well under way.
Unfortunately, in late 2010 and early 2011, politicians and policy makers in much of the Western world believed that they knew better, that we should focus on deficits, not jobs, even though our economies had barely begun to recover from the slump that followed the financial crisis. And by acting on that anti-Keynesian belief, they ended up proving Keynes right all over again.
In declaring Keynesian economics vindicated I am, of course, at odds with conventional wisdom. In Washington, in particular, the failure of the Obama stimulus package to produce an employment boom is generally seen as having proved that government spending can’t create jobs. But those of us who did the math realized, right from the beginning, that the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (more than a third of which, by the way, took the relatively ineffective form of tax cuts) was much too small given the depth of the slump. And we also predicted the resulting political backlash.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Assault on Teachers' Unions

The Assault on Teachers’ Unions
By Richard D. Kahlenberg
Teachers’ unions are under unprecedented bipartisan attack. The drumbeat is relentless, from governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to the film directors of Waiting for “Superman” and The Lottery; from new lobbying groups
like Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and Wall Street’s Democrats for Education Reform to political columnists such as Jonathan Alter and George Will; from new books like political scientist Terry Moe’s Special Interest and entrepreneurial writer Steven Brill’s Class Warfare to even, at times, members of the Obama administration. The consistent message is that teachers’ unions are the  central impediment to educational progress in the United States. Part of the assault is unsurprising given its partisan origins. Republicans have long been critical, going back to at least 1996, when presidential candidate Bob Dole scolded teachers’ unions: “If education were a war, you would be losing it. If it were a business, you would be driving it into bankruptcy. If it were a patient, it would be dying.” If you’re a Republican who wants to win elections, going after teachers’ unions makes parochial sense.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Throw the bankers in jail !

A problem with the Country Wide the WaMU settlements.
We have to consider the externalities of the fraud.  While a $337 million dollar fine may be sufficient for the individuals defrauded by Country Wide, the cost to the nation and the state was much greater.  These could be called externalities or collateral damage.  And the costs are truly astronomic. See posts below.
Remember what caused this  crisis – it wasn’t the government. First came the housing bubble and the selling of near fraudulent home mortgages by corporations such as Country Wide and WaMU– thus the settlements.  To make a profit major banks and corporations looted the economy creating an international meltdown.  
 Now we have cuts in parks,  in universities, in nurses, libraries.  School children did not create this crisis. 
The major bankers, finance capitalists in the U.S. robbed the bank last year  – and the federal treasury.  They took hundreds of billions of dollars  – Goldman Sachs alone took $10 Billion.  For example,  Ken Lewis of Bank of America received an $ 81 million dollar pension.  They have not even been punished.  One thing we should do is arrest the top 100 executives and CEO’s of these companies, give them a fair trial, and throw them in jail.  Until we arrest some people there will be no real changes.

Note:  House Concurrent Resolution  85. Dec. 2011.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Country Wide settles fraud complaint for $335 million

Justice Department Reaches $335 Million Settlement to Resolve Allegations of Lending Discrimination by Countrywide Financial Corporation
More than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic Borrowers who Qualified for Loans were Charged Higher Fees or Placed into Subprime Loans
The Department of Justice today filed its largest residential fair lending settlement in history to resolve allegations that Countrywide Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers in their mortgage lending from 2004 through 2008.  

The settlement provides $335 million in compensation for victims of Countrywide’s discrimination during a period when Countrywide originated millions of residential mortgage loans as one of the nation’s largest single-family mortgage lenders.

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in conjunction with the department’s complaint which alleges that Countrywide discriminated by charging more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees and interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers in both its retail and wholesale lending.   The complaint alleges that these borrowers were charged higher fees and interest rates because of their race or national origin, and not because of the borrowers’ creditworthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wa Mu collapsed, no prosecution of bankers

Washington Mutual bank collapsed in 2008, the largest bank failure in U.S. history.  It was the beginning of the banking failures that created the economic crisis.
Last week the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission agree to a 64.7 Million settlement and no prosecution of Wa Mu executives.
WA Mu  finally came crashing down on September 25, 2008. After one hundred-plus years of stable steady growth and expansion, ten years of aggressive acquisitions and record profits and one tumultuous year of disaster, the US Office of Thrift Supervision seized Washington Mutual Bank from its holding company after banking hours and placed it into Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation receivership. With rumors of its potential demise spreading, depositors withdrew $16.7 billion in 9 days , crippling the company’s liquidity and ability to act as a going concern. JPMorgan subsequently purchased the bank’s assets and deposits for $1.9 billion, less than a third of what was offered earlier in the year (in stock) and turned down by WaMu’s board .
Washington Mutual’s collapse was the largest bank failure in U.S. history; when large banks fail many other stakeholders are affected, and many parties contributed to the problems that brought WaMu down. The class action complaint brought by Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP on behalf of investors offers a tremendous array of insider testimony and inside information about WaMu’s operations during the period 2005-2008; it is of such high quality, breadth and scope that it will be the primary source for this analysis. Defendants include top WaMu executives, directors, underwriters of securities offerings, and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a Big 4 accounting firm.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trigger cuts are budget cuts

Governor Brown, pulled the budget "trigger" Tuesday on a series of "Tier 1" and some "Tier 2" cuts, for a total of around $1 billion additional cuts for the year.
The CSU and the U.C.  will  each be cut by an additional $100 million after state revenue’s failed to reach projections included in the June budget deal. The Trigger  cuts will cost $248 million additional in state aid for public school transportation, but avoided  more severe cuts to k-12 education including reduction in days of schooling.  
The trigger cuts also include $100 million in services to the developmentally disabled, and $100 million to home care, and $15 million in Medi-Cal provider rates.
Brown and  the  Democrats in the Legislature had hoped for a $4 billion increase in tax revenue through the current fiscal year. The budget they passed last summer, was based on a combination of spending cuts, fee hikes and optimistic revenue projections.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Few, the Proud, the Very Rich | California Progress Report

The Few, the Proud, the Very Rich | California Progress Report

Further budget cuts are coming - Severe

Additional state budget cuts to higher education, k-12, and other services are predicted for this week.
They are called Trigger Cuts.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Current tests. Ludicrous, shallow thinking, dysfunctional

Parents. Would you let them do this to your kids?
Washington Post "The Answer Sheet" Blog -- December 5, 2011
By Marion Brady

A longtime friend on the school board of one of the largest school
systems in America did something that few public servants are willing to
do. He took versions of his state’s high-stakes standardized math and
reading tests for 10th graders, and said he’d make his scores public.

By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids
are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for
condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer
miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school
board responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good
relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness
to dialogue and willingness to listen.

He called me the morning he took the test to say he was sure he hadn’t
done well, but had to wait for the results. A couple of days ago,
realizing that local school board members don’t seem to be playing much
of a role in the current “reform” brouhaha, I asked him what he now
thought about the tests he’d taken.

“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote. “The math section had 60
questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten
out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system,
that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block
of reading instruction.

He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a
bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours
toward a doctorate.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Prosecute the bank CEOs and Wall Street

 Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” got tired of waiting for the Justice Department to prosecute the big banks that caused the financial crisis.   They asked the questions that the media has been avoiding.
This is a good start.  the next step is to prosecute the CEO's of the major banks.  Only 2 have been prosecuted for the fraud of  $14 Trillion.  Based upon the Savings and Loan fraud of the 1980's, at least 1,000 should be going to jail.  Ask the Obama Administration,  ask your Congressperson why no one is going to jail.

Robert Scheer. You can arrest an idea. On Truth Dig.

"For a confirmation of that point, I also intended to present the mayor with the transcript of U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff’s ruling this week rejecting the sweetheart deal between the SEC and Citigroup. The settlement, one of dozens like it offered to the banks, would have let Citigroup off the hook for a pittance in fines in return for closing cases involving immense corruption on the part of the bankers, who would not have to admit guilt for their crimes.

Why School Choice Fails

Op.Ed. New York Times
Natalie Hopkinson. 
IF you want to see the direction that education reform is taking the country, pay a visit to my leafy, majority-black neighborhood in Washington. While we have lived in the same house since our 11-year-old son was born, he’s been assigned to three different elementary schools as one after the other has been shuttered. Now it’s time for middle school, and there’s been no neighborhood option available.
Meanwhile, across Rock Creek Park in a wealthy, majority-white community, there is a sparkling new neighborhood middle school, with rugby, fencing, an international baccalaureate curriculum and all the other amenities that make people pay top dollar to live there.
Such inequities are the perverse result of a “reform” process intended to bring choice and accountability to the school system. Instead, it has destroyed community-based education for working-class families, even as it has funneled resources toward a few better-off, exclusive, institutions.

The Greatest Hoax in the History of Money: The Fed, the Banks, the Lies | California Progress Report

The Greatest Hoax in the History of Money: The Fed, the Banks, the Lies | California Progress Report

Major unions said to back Brown's conservative corporate friendly tax plan

California Progress Report
Unions seem to back Brown's tax plan rather than efforts to tax the rich.
See article by Randy Shaw 

Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University: Higher Education in the Service of Democracy | Truthout

Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University: Higher Education in the Service of Democracy | Truthout

Henry Giroux. this provides an important context for the decision by the College of Education at Sacramento State to dissolve the department of Bilingual/Multicultural Education.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The economic crisis continues

   As the video above illustrates, we continue to have an economic crisis in the nation.  While Wall Street has recovered and returned to profitability, working people continue to suffer  15 million unemployed with at least 10 million more under employed.   It is more than a crisis - the reality is that the financial class has looted the U.S. economy.  They took 13 trillion dollars  out of the economy and caused 4 million people to lose their homes and  another 4.5 million to fall into foreclosure.    Millions have lost their unemployment benefits and their health care. See the story below from Bloomberg news of how the banks borrowed 7.7 $ Trillion dollars .
            We should have recovered from the economic collapse by now, but Republicans block all efforts to stimulate the economy.  It is simply not true, not accurate, that we are broke.  California remains the richest state in the richest nation in the world.   We have a crisis because the richest 0.1 % are making enormous profits and they are not paying a fair share of taxes.  Many of the largest corporations and the richest people pay no taxes at all.  They are not paying taxes for schools, police, roads, bridges, fire protection and basic services. Responding to a recession by budget cuts is self defeating.  All you have to do is to look at Ireland, Greece, and Great Britain to see what follows. It is a cycle down.   We learned this during the Great Depression – its called Keynesianism.
            We should be investing in re building our crumbling infrastructure  and putting teachers, cops, and childrens protective workers back to work.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Richard Wolff: explains the U.S. and Euro zone crises

Massachusetts Sues 5 Major Banks Over Foreclosure Practices

Citing extensive abuses of troubled borrowers across Massachusetts, the state’s attorney general sued the nation’s five largest mortgage lenders on Thursday, seeking relief for consumers hurt by what she called unfair and deceptive business practices.
In addition to creating a new and significant legal headache for the banks named in the suit — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and GMAC Mortgage — the Massachusetts action diminishes the likelihood of a comprehensive settlement between the banks and federal and state officials to resolve foreclosure improprieties...
The attorney general, Martha Coakley, and her investigators contend that the banks improperly foreclosed on troubled borrowers by relying on fraudulent legal documentation or by failing to modify loans for homeowners after promising to do so. The suit also contends that the banks’ use of MERS “corrupted” the state’s public land recording system by not registering legal transfers properly.
“There is no question that the deceptive and unlawful conduct by Wall Street and the large banks played a central role in this crisis through predatory lending and securitization of those loans,” Ms. Coakley said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “The banks may think they are too big to fail or too big to care about the impact of their actions, but we believe they are not too big to have to obey the law.”
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