Archive for October, 2014

Cuomo Channels Milton Friedman

October 28, 2014


There is no living politician I dislike and distrust more than Andrew Cuomo – even if Mike Bloomberg, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama come disturbingly close. That said, even as Clinton and Obama have pushed the Democratic Party further and further to the right, systemically eviscerating whatever paltry buffer America has ever allowed against the savagery of unregulated capital, neither ever drifted so right as to refer to a sacred trust such as public education as “ a public monopoly, “as did Andrew Cuomo to the editorial board of the New York Daily News.

We must listen very hard to this kind of language. And we must understand very clearly that this is not merely not the language of the traditional Democratic Party. It is not even the traditional language of the Republican Party. It is, in fact, the language of the Milton Friedman wing of the Republican Party which, until the advent of Ronald Reagan (blessed be his name!) and George W. Bush, was justifiably considered the party’s lunatic wing and rightly kept more or less under wraps. It is the language of the defunct John Birch Society. It is the language of union busting. It is the language of a quantum leap into outright corporate fascism.

See Chile under Pinochet to see where this road leads.

And yet here we have the Democratic governor of the state of New York proudly mouthing this vicious, suicidal madness concerning what is arguably the most important public institution in our history. Make no mistake about it: This should be read as nothing less than a declaration of war against the enfeebled remains of the social contract itself.

One would have to be out of one’s mind to vote for this monstrous, driven man who, with his reptilian eyes on the presidency, will do anything to anyone to endear himself to his oligarchic masters.

Addendum: I’m casting my vote for Hawkins/ Jones and urge you to do the same.

Addendum on a Fundraiser: Moskowitz and the Company She Keeps

October 23, 2014

Last April Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of the publically funded, privately run Success Academy Charter School would-be-empire, held a fundraiser that, thanks to the very, very rich and infamous, garnered over seven million dollars in one garish evening.

While there were far richer guests, it is safe to say that, even among a crowd consisting largely of hedge fund managers and politicians, there was no one there more infamous than Erik Prince, founder and CEO of the publically funded, private army called Blackwater, then Xe, then Academi.

Eric Prince

Eric Prince

Here is Prince described by Vanity Fair: ” Erik Prince, recently outed as a participant in a C.I.A. assassination program, has gained notoriety as head of the military-contracting juggernaut Blackwater, a company dogged by a grand-jury investigation, bribery accusations, and the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees, set for next month. “
The trial referred to by Vanity Fair concluded yesterday. While Prince himself remains rich and free, one of his former mercenaries was found guilty of murder, three others of voluntary manslaughter. All of these men worked under the command of Eva’s patron, all of them were paid large amounts of taxpayer money to do as they did. All of them are in jail while their boss remains free as a bee.

When I read about the verdict this morning I remembered Moskowitz’s fundraiser and as I did questions formed in my mind. What kind of person would invite or even permit the likes of Erik Prince to a fundraiser for kids’ schools? What kind of person would accept his blood money? What kind of ethical and spiritual degeneracy are we breathing in?

I know the answers to these questions, of course, but somehow it edifies to ask them.

Eva Moskowitz

Eva Moskowitz

As Bloomberg is Knighted in London, His Legacy Festers in New York

October 13, 2014


Last week brought many a happy puff piece in many a publication announcing the knighting of former mayor Michael Bloomberg in London. Meanwhile, back in the city in which he used his billions to obtain power and rule like a king for 12 excruciatingly long years — the rule of law and democracy be damned — came two less than happy stories dealing with the less majestic aspects of Bloomberg’s reign. It is a reign which, as will be seen, lingers on. Indeed, well into the mayoralty of Bill De Blasio, Bloomberg’s sordid rule remains deeply if insidiously entrenched.

One item, covered apparently only by Crain’s, dealt (kind of) with the legal aftermath of Bloomberg’s mass circumvention of hiring codes and state laws concerning civil servants. 37,000 of them, in fact. In direct violation of civil servant rules and state laws, Bloomberg did this by hiring the 37,000 as “provisional workers. “
“The state constitution dictates that governmental appointments be based on “merit and fitness,” and for many job classifications that is determined by scores on civil-service exams. In many cases, only the top three scorers are allowed to be interviewed for a position.”

Feeling “hamstrung” by the codes and laws, Bloomberg did what any self respecting CEO would do: he did exactly as he pleased.

“The mayor therefore had his agencies circumvent the system by hiring “provisional” employees. By 2007, nearly 37,000 were swelling the ranks of city government, occupying more than 19% of the “competitive” city job titles that were supposed to be filled based on exam scores.”
As “provisional employees”, the workers enjoyed exactly the kind of status Bloomberg and people who think like Bloomberg would like to impose on all workers everywhere: non union, “ at will” employees who could be fired at any time for any reason the Boss Man felt like using to fire them. As a bonus, such workers would be extremely unlikely to “call out managers’ misdeeds, including contracting abuses ” and the like. One has to admit, it is a brilliant system of political control.

This, of course, is precisely how the corporate world envisions all management/ labor relationships. That Bloomberg’s maneuver was a form of union busting – perhaps union preemption is a better way of describing it – is clear.
That it was an undermining of the meritocracy that America is supposed to be built on is also clear. That it is was transparently unfair is undeniable. What was the criteria for hiring these people ?
As working class New Yorkers know, the civil service has long been seen as an entry into the middle class.

But…Hard cheese old chap! Should have thought of that before you were born!

In complete concordance with the apotheosis of corporatism in American life, Crain’s reports Bloomberg’s maneuver, not as a scandal worthy of Boss Tweed and a dangerous throwback to an era of shameless patronage, but rather as a “brain drain “ for DeBlasio. In terms of contempt for the democratic process, the move is reminiscent of Bloomberg’s successful bribe of the City Council, which led to their overturning of not one but two referendums on term limits and the acquisition of his third term. Both are chilling examples of how deeply corporate values have eroded our remaining democratic institutions and sensibilities as well as our sense of simple fairness.

But never fear, Crain’s located a shill from the Manhattan Institute to explain that that fairness and merit are but antiquated 19th century will o the wisps, fit for garbage men perhaps, but far too unsophisticated for today’s world.

“The civil-service system was a progressive reform to ensure good government—but that was 100 years ago,” said Steve Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “Now there’s far more sophisticated technology and different types of positions. But you may still want this kind of test for someone working in the Sanitation Department. There are no easy answers to this.”

There are, of course, very easy answers to this and they have existed since the reforms of Teddy Roosevelt. The answers are to respect the laws outlawing patronage and to treat people fairly.

37,000 jobs is a whole lot of patronage, and it is not unreasonable to think a scandal of this proportion would have brought down the mayoralty of any other mayor who did not happen to be the richest man in the city he ruled.
How can we measure what this one man has done to our collective sense of democracy and law ?

The second item concerns the unconscionable month long suspension of a Department of Education occupational therapist named Debra Fisher for “ theft of services.” Her crime? Fisher helped run a Kick starter campaign for a 13 year old student with cerebral palsy and did so partly by sending emails from a DOE computer during school hours. That she did so with the knowledge of the principal made no difference.

Writes Jim Dwyer of the New York Times: “This is a story of an almost unfathomably mindless school bureaucracy at work: the crushing of an occupational therapist who had helped a young boy build a record of blazing success.”

Dwyer is right, of course, but he is omitting a key component, perhaps the key component in this particular mindless school bureaucracy. And that is the element of malice: malice that is the direct result of the orders of Michael R Bloomberg. Malice that remains, like Bloomberg’s “provisional workers “, long after Bloomberg has gone. Malice that employs the relentless power of the state to crush the state, the sooner to privatize everything in sight and unseen. Malice that is designed to utterly eviscerate any and all union — which is to say “human” — concerns and sensibilities.

While it is surely the nature of bureaucracies to find a rationale to perpetuate themselves, no one working in the department of education during Bloomberg’s reign could mistake the malevolence emanating from the Office of Special Investigations for bureaucratic inertia or a search for a reason to exist.

How many of Bloomberg’s “provisional workers” are OSI? Who knows ? All we know is that at least 4000 were employed in some capacity with the Dept. of Education.

At any rate, even if the average New Yorker remains oblivious or unconcerned with the wholesale corporatization of their city, hopefully the vicious idiocy behind the suspension of Debra Fisher will awaken Bill De Blasio and Carmen Farina to the fact that while Bloomberg may be gone, some of his most horrific policies remain firmly in place and will continue to do so until they are pulled out by the roots, an action that cannot come soon enough.

Why Does the NY Times Pay So Much Attention to An Accused Teacher and So Little to the Common Core ?

October 10, 2014

Over the past several years the New York Times, the paper of record and all that, has published article after article, editorial after editorial praising the wonders of the privately owned experiment on American children deceptively called the Common Core State Standards and painting all who opposed the instantly sacred writ as little more than right wing nut jobs. The paper has done all it can do to hide the fact that the Common Core exists solely because a private citizen, one Bill Gates, has decided that it is his right to undermine democratic process and dictate public policy even as our spineless politicians have helped him every step of the way. The information about the genesis and financing of the Common Core, though obscured and hidden, has been flushed out and is available to those who seek it. See especially the work of Mercedes Schneider. Apparently the New York Times does not seek it.

With this in mind, I read with astonishment the almost granular description and psychological profile of the life of one Sean Shaynak, a high school teacher arrested for multiple counts of sexual misconduct with his students.
The story is disturbing and disgusting and, yes, newsworthy but I have to ask myself: why does the horrific behavior of a single teacher merit such research and scrutiny while the imposition of a radical experiment, increasingly loathed by American parents, students and teachers, and created by an unelected, unaccountable monopolist given what results in a free pass by the paper of record?

Consider simply the level of research — research reminiscent of a NY Times profile of a presidential candidate — that went into the ridiculous citing of Shaynak’s favorite Pretenders song as he rode down the highway of life toward ignominy and worse. Try to find an a commensurate example of research in any NY Times article on the provenance of the Common Core or any of its principal creators and you will search in vain.

Consider that the admittedly sordid allegations against this one individual, horrible that they are, affected a tiny proportion of one school yet merited the front page of the most important paper in America while the stealth creation of a radical privately owned imposition that is currently upending almost every school in the country is scarcely worth a mention.

Something is wrong. Very, very wrong.
What is really going on here ?