Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

August 31, 2011

At least 25 top United States companies paid more to their CEO’s in 2010 than they did to the federal government in taxes

Filed under: Economy,Tax Evasion,Wealth — millerlf @ 1:41 pm
Where Pay for Chiefs Outstrips U.S. Taxes
By Published: August 31, 2011

Verizon’s chief, Ivan Seidenberg, earned $18.1 million in 2010; the company got a tax refund.

John Donahoe, eBay’s chief, collected a compensation package over $12 million, while eBay got a $113 million federal refund.

The companies — which include household names like eBay, Boeing, General Electric and Verizon — averaged $1.9 billion each in profits, according to the study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal-leaning research group. But a variety of shelters, loopholes and tax reduction strategies allowed the companies to average $304 million each in tax benefits — which can be taken as a refund or used as write-off against earnings in future years.

The chief executives of those companies were paid an average of more than $16 million a year, the study found, a figure substantially higher than the $10.8 million average for all companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

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August 22, 2011

Was Michelle Rhee’s Data Success at D.C. Schools the Result of Cheating?

Filed under: Data driven education reform,Michelle Rhee — millerlf @ 9:59 am

Eager for Spotlight, but Not if It Is on a Testing Scandal

By Published: August 21, 2011 nyTIMES

WASHINGTON — Why won’t Michelle Rhee talk to USA Today?

Michelle Rhee has refused to talk to USA Today reporters about a schools scandal.

Ms. Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington public schools from 2007 to 2010, is the national symbol of the data-driven, take-no-prisoners education reform movement.

It’s hard to find a media outlet, big or small, that she hasn’t talked to. She’s been interviewed by Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey. She’s been featured on a Time magazine cover holding a broom (to sweep away bad teachers). She was one of the stars of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.”

These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions.

Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.

At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.

She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”

And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.

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California Representative Maxine Waters Makes Demands on President Obama

Filed under: Economy,Jobs — millerlf @ 8:19 am

President Obama: Please Come Out Swinging, Call Congress Back and Start with a Plan to Rebuild Our Infrastructure

The American people are suffering and are asking for leadership . The present strategy toward  Congress just isn’t working. If Republicans won’t cooperate or compromise then isolate them for all to see.  Last week Rep. Maxine Waters set the tone demanding action now.

On Sunday David Axelrod, President Obama’s political advisor speaking on ABC, muddled through a defense of the President’s present lack of action. Axelrod was embarrassingly without vision or a plan.  We need a jobs plan that the American people can wrap their arms around. If Republicans won’t support it, take the fight to the American people.

Following is a video of Rep. Maxine Waters calling on  President Obama to take action.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP44ngv9hZI

Rep. Maxine Waters says “Tea Party can go straight to hell”

Filed under: Tea Party — millerlf @ 8:16 am
August 22, 2011 8:57 AM by Corbett B.Daly

Rep. Maxine Waters, the liberal lawmaker from southern California, continued to press for Democrats and President Obama to adopt a more combative style with Republicans ahead of next year’s elections.

“This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned — the Tea Party can go straight to hell,” Waters told an Inglewood, California audience at a “Kitchen Table Summit” Saturday night, according to Los Angeles television station KABC.

Waters made waves last week when she openly criticized Mr. Obama’s style and called on him to get tough with Republicans in order to help disadvantaged Americans, including African Americans.

“The president is going to have to fight and he is going to have to fight hard,” she said at a job fair in Atlanta on Thursday.

Waters said there was a growing sense of unhappiness among African Americans with the the first black president.

She said liberals lost the recent fight over cutting government spending that Republicans tied to deadline for the U.S. to raise the nation’s legal borrowing limit.

“We were basically held up in raising the debt ceiling, until they got all of those budget cuts they demanded,” Waters said in Atlanta. “We didn’t raise any revenue and they didn’t close any tax loopholes. I believe the Democratic Party and the president of the United States should not have backed down. We should have made them walk the plank.”

“I’m not afraid of anybody,” Waters said Saturday.

August 21, 2011

Can Teachers Alone Overcome Poverty? Steven Brill Thinks So

Filed under: Education Policy,Poverty — millerlf @ 8:20 pm

By Dana Goldstein | The Nation – Wed, Aug 10, 2011

Steven Brill, the journalist and media entrepreneur, has come a long way since he helicoptered onto the education beat in 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the beat, Brill!

(more…)

New Del. law toughens scrutiny of charter schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 8:12 pm
August 19, 2011 AP

DOVER, Del.—Board members at Delaware’s charter schools will have to undergo criminal background and child abuse registry checks under a bill being signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell. The bill Markell is signing Friday also prohibits individuals who have felony convictions or convictions for a crime against a child from serving on a charter school board.
Charter school board members also will be required to disclose any financial interest they may have in the charter school.Lawmakers passed the bill after The News Journal of Wilmington reported that the founder of Reach Academy, the first all-girls charter school in Delaware, had a criminal record, several aliases and had declared bankruptcy several times.

August 12, 2011

What Do the Senate Recall Results Mean for Recalling Walker?

Filed under: Recall — millerlf @ 9:07 am

Conclusion: Onward to Recall Walker!

The Wisconsin  recalls of Republican senators were held in 5 Republican dominated districts and 1 district evenly split between parties.

There was a 7% swing from Republican support to Democrat support in those districts.

200,000 signatures were collected in those 6 districts alone. 540,206 signatures are needed to recall Walker.

At this time one of the groups leading the recall effort, United Wisconsin, has 193,713 pledges from citizens to work for the recall. (Visit their website at http://www.unitedwisconsin.com/united-wisconsin-frequently-asked-questions )

A recall referendum in which the whole state would vote could have a completely different outcome.

Milwaukee, Madison and LaCrosse, if mobilized, could be the difference in removing Walker.

If the Democrats offer a viable candidate like Russ Feingold, victory is within our grasp.

Following is an article from Politico.com.

Walker recall expected to proceed

By DAVID CATANESE | 8/10/11 Politico

MADISON, Wis. — Democrats are forging ahead with efforts to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker next year, one day after losing four of six recall elections to oust GOP state senators.

The Tuesday night losses left Democrats a single seat short of overturning GOP control of the state’s upper chamber, though Democratic officials and operatives on the ground insisted Wednesday that their two wins in Republican-leaning areas exposed Walker’s weaknesses.

“If we can do all of this against entrenched Republicans on their own turf, imagine our success … when all of Wisconsin can have its voice heard on Gov. Walker’s extreme, divisive agenda,” Wisconsin state party chairman Mike Tate wrote in a memo to reporters Wednesday.

“The historic gains made tonight to restore balance and accountability to our state, and restore Wisconsin values, will continue when the entire state weighs in on the November 2012 elections – and with the recall of Scott Walker himself,” Tate said.

Standing before a cheering crowd of partisans on the Majestic Theatre stage late Tuesday — when it was still uncertain whether Democrats would flip control of the Senate — an animated Tate was even more defiant: “We will not stop, we will not rest, until we recall Scott Walker from the state of Wisconsin.”

Both of the districts in which Democrats prevailed Tuesday Walker carried in 2010 — though in Senate District 32, where Democrat Jennifer Shilling easily unseated incumbent Dan Kapanke, Walker’s margin was a single point.

In the remaining four races, the first-term Republican governor notched between 54 and 58 percent. GOP incumbents matched or bested Walker’s performance in three of the four districts they defended.

Despite the Democratic losses, Madison-based Democratic pollster Nathan Henry calculates that the party achieved a 7 percent swing in its direction.

“For the most part, these are districts where Walker and other Republicans need to run up huge margins to win statewide, and what we saw last night was a pretty dramatic shift toward Democrats. I think most folks see what happened yesterday as simply the first shots in a much longer battle,” Henry said.

The best example of a Democrat exceeding traditional performance was in Senate District 14, a mostly rural district where Rep. Fred Clark came within 4 points of 16-year GOP incumbent Luther Olsen.

In 2010, Walker won the sprawling area — which stretches from Baraboo northeast toward the Green Bay suburbs — with 57 percent. Last night, Olsen escaped with just 52 percent.

Forcing Walker to run in a presidential year and to defend his record in more urban, liberal areas like Milwaukee, Madison and La Crosse would change the calculus, Democrats argue.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/61029.html#ixzz1Ue0vMmQ6

To read Craig Gilberts summary of the election in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel go to:

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/127456963.html

Rick Perry, Latest Republican Presidential Candidate, Believes God Has Anointed Him to Run

Filed under: Presidential Elections — millerlf @ 8:29 am

Rick Perry’s Army of God

A little-known movement of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets and apostles wants to infiltrate government, and Rick Perry might be their man.

by Forrest WilderPublished on: Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Rick Perry's Army of God illustration by Mario Zucca

Listen to Forrest Wilder speak with KUT’s Jennifer Stayton about this story.

On September 28, 2009, at 1:40 p.m., God’s messengers visited Rick Perry.

On this day, the Lord’s messengers arrived in the form of two Texas pastors, Tom Schlueter of Arlington and Bob Long of San Marcos, who called on Perry in the governor’s office inside the state Capitol. Schlueter and Long both oversee small congregations, but they are more than just pastors. They consider themselves modern-day apostles and prophets, blessed with the same gifts as Old Testament prophets or New Testament apostles.

The pastors told Perry of God’s grand plan for Texas. A chain of powerful prophecies had proclaimed that Texas was “The Prophet State,” anointed by God to lead the United States into revival and Godly government. And the governor would have a special role.

(more…)

August 11, 2011

Anarchy in the UK

Filed under: Economy — millerlf @ 2:57 pm

London

Maria Margaronis August 9, 2011 from the Notion, a blog of the Nation magazine

Perhaps the whole point of a riot is to defy explanation: it’s an eruption of the irrational, a shattering of glass and boundaries, a testosterone-fueled roar that briefly flips anger and emptiness into something like ecstasy. What’s in the minds of the young men (and women, too) in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool who’ve sent great sheets of flame rising into the August night, devouring local businesses that it took years to build; who’ve turned plate glass to spiderwebs with one crack of a brick; who’ve gone home with their backpacks stuffed with cell phones, Nike trainers, X-boxes and Wiis? Well, wouldn’t we like to know, we middle-class types with access to a blog and an analysis, a “network” and a future?

Today Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson returned reluctantly from their  vacations to confront the arson and looting that have spread through Britain’s cities over the last three nights, like a pair of Eton prefects summoned to contain the fifth form. Parliament has been recalled for the second time this summer (the first was over phone hacking by Murdoch’s News International); 450 people have already been arrested; Cameron has promised 6,000 more police on London’s streets this evening. But will it be enough?

Missy, who works at a small shop selling jeans and sneakers down the road from where I live, shrugs when I ask her what she’s going to do tonight. The metal grille was down and properly locked yesterday; “they” trashed the place anyway. “They know the shop,” she says. “They went straight upstairs where we keep the expensive stuff, the £300 jeans.” A few blocks on, outside a smashed-up cycle shop where twisted bikes lie like skeletons on the pavement, a forensic expert carefully dusts glass with fingerprint powder. Does she think she’ll find anything? Another shrug. In Dalston, next to Hackney which saw some of the worst rioting, the Turkish Kurdish community have taken charge themselves, standing guard outside their shops, some of them with baseball bats.

The blue touchpaper that lit the conflagration was the killing of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black father of four, by armed police in Tottenham, one of London’s poorest boroughs, as he rode in a minicab; he had a handgun but there’s been no claim that he made a move to fire it. A small crowd of local residents gathered at the police station to demand explanations; though the protesters were peaceful, the police were not forthcoming. By nightfall, against the wishes of Duggan’s relatives, rioting had broken out in Tottenham and elsewhere. Police cars and a double decker bus were set on fire and shop windows were smashed, mostly by teenage boys.

What began as an outburst of anger against police violence soon morphed into an orgy of nocturnal “shopping” as kids broke into sports and electronics shops, cellphone stores and supermarkets. A brave woman in Hackney gave a streetcorner sermon amid heaps of litter, excoriating the rioters for turning grief to greed: “This is about a fucking man who got shot in Tottenham. This isn’t about having fun on a riot and busting up the place. Get real, black people, get real. If we’re fighting for a cause let’s fight for a fucking cause.” But in the deprived neighbourhoods of Britain’s crumbling cities, consumerism is a more accessible dream than commitment or community.

And so it has gone on, night after night since then, frightening, unpredictable and uncontainable. The police are overwhelmed; the politicians nervously continue to plough their furrows. “Sheer criminality,” says Home Secretary Teresa May, as if any attempt to understand what’s at the root of all this rage would imply condoning it. Labour politicians flirt with the temptation to blame government spending cuts, as if such fury could build up in a matter of mere months. Of course the cuts don’t help: they are the final straw, the irrefutable evidence that the poor are now dispensable, outside society. Nor does the larger sense that nobody’s in charge, that the economy’s in freefall, that bankers have been looting the public purse for years, and that our leaders have no idea what to do about any of it. There is a doomsday feeling on the streets of London: time to grab what you can, burn it down and live for now, because who knows what’s coming for us all tomorrow.

But it’s taken years to brew the toxic mix of hopelessness, frustration and disenfranchisement, envy, anger and boredom, greed and selfishness, humiliation and recklessness that’s erupted in Britain this week–years in which the gap between rich and poor grew wider, racism was allowed to fester, consumerism and celebrity culture replaced community. While we in the middle classes got on with our oh-so-busy lives, averting our eyes from the poverty just a few blocks away, sending our kids to schools where there are other “motivated parents,” talking politics, we allowed the rifts in our own neighbourhoods to deepen until they became almost unbridgeable.

This morning, down the road, people stared at the broken shops, shaking their heads in disbelief. “It’s mad,” they said. “Just mad.” Small groups of women set out with brooms and dustpans to sweep up the broken glass. There is a kind of solidarity taking shape, a wish to protect what we have, now that it’s under threat. People are talking to each other, asking if everything’s all right. The challenge, when all this dies down, will be to stay awake, to keep on doing that, until solidarity spreads.

 

Present Economic Crisis and Subprime Mortgages

Filed under: Economy — millerlf @ 2:53 pm

Subprime Contagion

Christopher Hayes August 10, 2011 Nation magazine

I moved to Washington in July 2007, at a time when what was then quaintly referred to as the “subprime crisis” was starting to cause some consternation on Wall Street and Capitol Hill. With housing prices falling, banks found themselves holding on to packages of subprime loans that were hemorrhaging value. Every day, it seemed, another bank announced it was writing down a bunch of these loans, which were just starting to be called toxic assets, and the total of such write-downs was, by July, already tens of billions of dollars.

One of the first stories I wrote for The Nation from DC was a dispatch from a Joint Economic Committee hearing, at which Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke sought to calm the nerves of lawmakers made anxious by the cascade of worrying headlines. Bernanke acknowledged that some of the trends in the subprime market were worrying, but he said that the problems were, at least for the moment, contained. There was, he told the committee, “scant evidence of spillovers from housing to other components of final demand.” In other words: yes, there are some clouds on the horizon, but no, the sky isn’t falling.

But Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, whose Baltimore district was facing as many as 12,000 foreclosures a month, found Bernanke’s tone just a bit too calm for his liking: “As I sat here and I listened to you, it seems like you have painted a very rosy picture…but if you came and walked through my district, Mr. Chairman, I think people would be surprised that you seem so calm.”

Bernanke was defensive: “Congressman, first, I don’t know how you got the impression that I was unconcerned about foreclosures.”

“I didn’t say you were not concerned,” Cummings shot back. “I just said you seem to be pretty calm about it.”

We now know Cummings was right: Bernanke and everyone else at the helm in Washington and Wall Street should have been a lot more panicked. But our governing and financial elites’ removal from the on-the-ground ravages of the subprime market meant they were very slow to recognize the magnitude of the unfolding disaster. The ship sprang a leak in the lower decks, flooding the servants’ quarters, and no one up top much cared. The cocktails continued to flow, the band continued to play and the party rollicked on Wall Street throughout the housing bubble, even as working-class homeowners in Baltimore drowned, as their lives and wealth and equities and homes were destroyed. But the water kept coming in, rising deck by deck, until eventually the music stopped, the party ended and, even if only briefly in retrospect, it looked like the entire thing might go down.

Given what a close call it was for those on that top deck, you would think the most important lesson they would take away from the near miss is this: you ignore the fate of those on the bottom deck at your peril. An economy divided into “subprime” and “prime” is dangerously precarious. The predations tolerated in the former will, sooner or later, come to wreak havoc on those who inhabit the latter.

And yet, astonishingly, four years later this lesson has gone almost entirely unheeded. Our governing institutions responded with nearly unprecedented swiftness and force to save, and then revive, the pillars of the prime economy—the banks and corporate America. Yet they are leaving the subprime economy to fend for itself, to suffer through the worst privation in seventy years. “If your personal wealth is predominantly in capital markets,” says Damon Silvers, a lawyer at the AFL-CIO who served on the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, “well, then, you had a hell of a scare, but you’re 70 percent of the way back to where you were in 2007. If your personal wealth is predominantly in your home, you’re fucked. And approximately 80 percent of people in the US, their only asset is in their home.”

The bet that those who run the prime economy are making is the same one they made during the years that preceded the crash: that they can continue to profit enormously even as the broader economy fails to deliver for the majority of its participants. The last time around, this produced a housing and credit bubble that ended in ruin and almost took the financial elite with it. It’s very difficult to imagine this latest iteration producing a better result.

In fact, it was precisely this ominous thought that largely drove the panicked August selling on Wall Street. Even financial markets and the investor class are waking up to the fact that there’s only so much that corporate profits can grow if American consumers don’t have jobs or assets and are still neck deep in debt. Much as they may wish to finally and definitively detach the prime economy from the subprime one, the two remain stubbornly tethered.

The market panic was the first inkling of what, for our elites, is a long-overdue realization, one they’ve done everything in their considerable power to avoid in the post-crisis age: that extreme inequality isn’t just bad for those on the bottom; in the long run, it’s ruinous for those on the top as well.

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