Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Bill Gates and the Medal of Freedom: Obama Officially Recognizes the Right of the Rich to Impose Public Policy

November 19, 2016

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As if to officially acknowledge the insidious and tacit transformation of the remnants of democracy to not so subtle oligarchy, the Obama administration has announced that Bill Gates is to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a sense, as the Obama administration has done more to undermine public education than any in American history, it is right and fitting that Gates, the person who has bankrolled and forged that effort more than any individual in American history, be so duly honored.
For the past 15 years, Gates, a private citizen with zero educational experience and knowledge, has been allowed to use his virtually limitless fortune to impose his will on the public school system as he has pleased, an effort he has pursued with the same ruthlessness that he once used to obtain the intellectual property rights that have led to his immense fortune.

Gates’ efforts have led directly to the expansion of publically funded, privately managed charter schools, the creation and imposition of idiotic and grossly unfair teacher evaluations, mass financing propaganda like Waiting For Superman, and the purchase and acquiescence of long standing education organizations such as the national Parent Teacher Association. In addition, Gates has funded the creation of a seemingly endless amount of freshly minted “grass roots” advocacy organizations (Educators for Excellence, for example) the sole purpose of which is to deceive an unknowing public into believing that a campaign to privatize the school system by the richest people on earth is rising from the streets. (The usurpation of the language and iconography of the Civil Rights Movement has been both beyond shameless and disturbingly successful. ) It has also led to the immiseration of teachers from coast to coast as well as the weakening of the power of teacher unions – who foolishly tried to dance with this monopolist — across the nation. Gates’ crowning achievement thus far is the imposition of the secretly written, deceptively named, disastrously received Common Core State Standards which, as they were written with standardized tests in mind, in turn have led to a reduction of education to test prep.

His success at” reform” has led education historian Diane Ravitch to sardonically dub Gates “ the superintendent of American schools. “
That this unelected, unaccountable and largely hidden figure has been allowed to forge his will on an American institution as vital as the public school system should fill every American who actually believes in participatory democracy with abject horror.
Instead, Gates is being awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. And so it goes. Allow an individual man to accumulate the wealth of a state and it is only a matter of time before that individual begins to act like the state and a short time after that the state recognizes said individual as proxy for the state.
May the kind of freedom President Obama is awarding here be clearly recognized and seen for what it is. It is the freedom of the private citizen to make public policy for millions providing that private citizen is super rich.
The rest of us be damned.

What a sad, sad time in which we live.

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Obama Administration Appears To Change Tune On Endless Testing

October 24, 2015

So after seven years of reckless and ignorant force feeding tests to millions of American school children at the cost of billons to American taxpayers;
seven years of increasingly emaciated education, stressed out students, outraged parents, and the systemic degradation of teaching and teachers from coast to coast, the Obama administration arrive at the same conclusion that sane and sensitive people instinctively knew must occur the moment they grasped the intentions behind Race to the Top: this is a mistake.

That is to put it very diplomatically.

Yet even as I am happy to read that the Obama administration seems to be beginning to come to grips with reality in terms of its radical neo-liberal education policy, I cannot help but take a serious wait and see attitude toward today’s surprise announcement. The historical disconnect between what Obama has said he would do and what Obama has done is too consistent to give the man’s words any credence. Even assuming the Obama administration means what it says — an assumption, I, for one am not prepared to make — the potential billions to be made by testing companies will insure that their servants in Congress and state houses across the country will fight to keep this gravy train going as long as they possibly can.

That said, I must hope that this marks the beginning of the end for this sorrowful and sick period in American education which has produced almost nothing for students but suffering and a cheap facsimile of an education at the same time it has demonized teachers, exculpated a predatory economic system and provided endless distraction from a political system in an advanced stage of complete moral and intellectual degeneracy.

Of course, given this state of degeneracy, this announcement could also be nothing more than a ruse intending to deceive a battered public while allowing those who forced this madness on this nation to appear responsive and reasonable as they plan their next move in the privatization of the public school system.

King To Replace Duncan in DC Insuring that the Campaign to Privatize Public Schools Will Continue Unabated

October 2, 2015

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Today it was announced that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he who has used the awesome power of the federal Government to wreak layered and relentless havoc on the entire public school system, will resign in December.

Duncan said he was resigning to spend more time with his family and stated, in what appeared to be complete seriousness, that he expected to find work “expanding opportunity for children.”

Duncan was the longest serving education secretary in U.S. history and easily the most appalling.

Even as candidate Obama campaigned with Linda Darling-Hammond, in a bait and switch maneuver that can now be seen as characteristic of his presidency,
President–elect Obama named non-educator Duncan Secretary of Education. The appointment, made at the insistence of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a group made up almost entirely of hedge fund managers, signaled that under Duncan the Department of Education would serve in essence as a conduit to the whims and wishes of private foundations, most prominently and disastrously, the Gates Foundation. These private interests,it must be said, Duncan has served with complete fidelity.

Tragically, Duncan will be replaced by former New York State Commissioner John King, whose obsequiousness in the face of wealth and power is equal to Duncan’s, likewise their shocking arrogance if not outright disdain for the public they nominally serve. Having taught three years in a classroom, two in a charter school, King has infinitely more teaching experience than Duncan who has zero. Not that this will make an iota of difference.

In essence, in terms of policy, Duncan will be replaced by Duncan or perhaps Duncan on steroids.

King was last seen on tour in New York condescending or dissembling to parents on stages in Poughkeepsie and New York City in a failed attempt to sell them the miserable and increasingly loathed Common Core. I caught his act in Manhattan where even shills from Students First and Educators For Excellence could not rescue King from his well-earned pathos.

Soon thereafter King resigned as Commissioner in New York only to emerge as an extremely well paid something-or-other in Duncan’s Department of Education where he has hung out ever since.
King’s appointment insures that the Obama administration’s signature education policies of high stakes testing linked to insane and immoral teacher evaluations, mandated charter schools, union busting and ultimate privatization of the public school system will continue until Obama leaves office. And that,in turn, insures not merely massive teacher shortages as teachers flee the profession, but student misery and parental outrage; above all it means billions of dollars in public money to testing companies and millions more to a multitude of other “education reform” parasites. Lastly, it also insures Barack Obama’s standing as the worst education president in the history of the public school system, far more effective in the destruction of public schools than Reagan, Clinton, and both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush combined.

Nicholas Kristof ‘s Grand Epiphany: Unions (At least in the Private Sector) Should Not Be Eviscerated

February 20, 2015

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I suppose in a political climate as demented and one dimensional as ours, one in which the Democrat president of the United States has been insidiously union busting since the day he entered office, one in which the Democrat governor of New York is actively union busting and talking about the public schools system as a monopoly, one in which
Governors’ Scott Walker of Wisconsin and billionaire Bruce Rainer of Illinois are succeeding in bringing their states back to the glorious 19th century, one should be grateful for any public utterance that does not portray unions as a collection of thugs and cigarette-smoking child molesters or parasites. I suppose my gratitude should be that much greater when such an utterance appears as a kind of mea culpa in as influential a publication as the New York Times. Furthermore, I suppose one should applaud that much the more any one who has the courage to publically admit they there were wrong as has the Time’s Nicholas Kristof in admitting his ignorance in regards to an issue as enormous and far-reaching as the presence of unions. This, even if in his admittance Kristof continues to reference deceptive mercenary blowhards like Stephen Brill, a man who has written so damningly of phantom public school teachers , and continues to point to demagogues like New York’s Police Benevolence Association (PBA) Patrick Lynch as representative of union leadership across the board.

That he would resort to lowlife’s like Brill as a source and Lynch as a model billboards Nicholas Kristof’s appalling ignorance of and distance from the subject of unions. Such ignorance and distance does, however, help explain Kristof’s decade long cheer-leading of union busting vehicles such as charters schools even as he fails to mention the protections he enjoys as a member of the Writer’s Guild, as do all writers employed by the New York Times. Such ignorance of and distance from the realities of unionism also explains Kristof’s paltry reasons for his qualified change of heart.

Kristof begins,” Like many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions.” Kristof’s wariness is the natural result of over three decades of ceaseless anti-union pro-corporate, fact free propaganda of exactly the same kind Kristof himself has, up to now, repeatedly and self righteously spewed. But Kristof still misses the much larger point. Like all Americans – every single one of us – Kristof has benefited from the mere presence of labors unions, regardless of his personal membership or lack there of.
It is a fact that the presence of unions forces the fruits of labor to be more fairly distributed and labor rights not merely to be created but to be recognized and respected. Kristof makes a reference to this later in his article when he writes: “Or look at American history. The peak years for unions were the 1940s and ’50s, which were also some of the fastest-growing years for the United States ever — and with broadly shared prosperity. Historically, the periods when union membership were highest were those when inequality was least.”
And again: They “unions” are pushing for a higher national minimum wage, even though that would directly benefit mostly nonunionized workers.”

These are, of course, facts that are well known to any one who has ever taken a course Labor History 101 or read a decent history of the United States. If we had an education system run by educators, these facts would also be known to every high school student in the nation. While new to the likes of Nicholas Kristof, the cumulative effects of unions have been known to and hated by industrialists and corporatists since the first union was formed, a truth of which that neo-liberals and millionaires wishing to be billionaires dare not speak. It is also a truth that 99% of Americans, many of those who would benefit the greatest from the presence of unions, either don’t know or, for suicidal ideological reasons, reject. And in this rejection lay their complete and utter immiseration,
a reality that their contemptuous masters — think of the relationship between the Tea and the Koch brothers — have long ago set in motion.

Remarkably, (or maybe not ) Nicholas Kristof also fails to even mention what has inexorably risen in the void created by the systematic destruction of unions: namely oligarchy. Indeed, an oligarchy that makes a daily and demoralizing mock of our pretense to democracy.
“To understand the rising inequality, you have to understand the devastation in the labor movement,” says Jake Rosenfeld, a labor expert at the University of Washington and the author of “What Unions No Longer Do.”
“All the focus on labor’s flaws can distract us from the bigger picture,” Rosenfeld writes. “For generations now the labor movement has stood as the most prominent and effective voice for economic justice.”

Instead, Nicholas Kristof puts forth the preposterous claim that “Union bosses” (note: not union “leaders” ) and the 1% are on equal ground in terms of power and the ability to destroy with absolute impunity.
“One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses — and of corporate tycoons”.

Let me be clear here: Unions, like all human institutions, are inherently imperfect and, yes, at times corrupt and in need of reform. Still to compare union corruption and its effects to what has been wrought by corporations or politicians in Washington D.C. or Wall Street is obscene. Unions are not responsible for depleting the earth of its resources bringing about an ecological catastrophe we may not be able to stop, let alone reverse. Unions are not responsible for invading countries under false pretenses and murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Unions are not guilty of the pilfering of trillions of dollars from pension funds and implementing a myriad of sleazy schemes designed to rip off the trusting and that brought the world economy to the brink of catastrophe in 2008.
No. The people responsible for these atroctites or who cheer leaded these atroctites are the very same who are doing all they can to destroy the remnants of unionism here and around the world.

And they are doing so, of course, in the name of fairness and freedom.

Finally, in words that reek of self-congratulation, Kristof comes to understand what enlightened people as far back as the 19th century understood was their only road to dignity, social justice and a decent wage.
“This isn’t something you often hear a columnist say, but I’ll say it again: I was wrong. At least in the private sector, we should strengthen unions, not try to eviscerate them. “

How nice of Nicholas Kristof to arrive at that conclusion that unions should not be “eviscerated.” But note well, my fellow public school teachers, Kristof’s stipulating that the non-evisceration be limited “to the private sector ” which, in the all out war against all public institutions, should strikes us as particularly weasel-like and ominous.

Such words, in an article that ostensibly defends unions, could only bring comfort to the likes of Obama, Cuomo, Walker, Rainer and all their patrons who know that the first step to a “Right To Work” or union free nation is the evisceration of public unions.

Nicholas Kristof is not our friend.

The Manchurian President Shills For Union Busting Ralm Emanuel

January 24, 2015

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So Obama makes a radio ad for the re-election of Ralm Emanuel, he who did his best to destroy the Chicago Teachers Union and, when he failed to achieve that lofty goal, then retaliated against teachers and communities by massive school closings. Obama’s ad centers on Emanuel’s education policies which, in turn, center on school closings, charter schools, mass layoffs, union busting and privatization. Such polices are among the most oligarchically beloved and promoted in the nation.

No surprise here at this point. Only profound sadness. In fact, I’m reminded of Obama’s tacit endorsement of Michael Bloomberg’s illegal third term when he refused to even be photographed with Bloomberg’s opponent, Bill Thompson, even though Thompson was a Democrat and even though Obama’s support might well have seen Thompson elected. That was, after all, at the height of Obama Mania and, despite Bloomberg spending $100 million, Thompson lost by a margin of less than 5%.
Instead, four more eternal years of rule by the richest man in town.
Then there is the matter of race.
Thompson, of course, is African American, as are two of the Chicago mayoral candidates. None of the three are neo-liberals.
Such is life in “post-racial “ America.
Obama’s weasly betrayal of Thompson took place at the very beginning of Obama’s presidency, so the man is nothing if not consistent.
Obama’s ad does serve as a stark reminder, however, of how politically orphaned and degraded 99.9 percent of Americans now are and how we will remain so until a great change, as yet unimagined, is forged.

We have, at this point, no choice but to imagine it.