Saturday Cartoon Fun: Teabagging Edition

And my favorite:


Reich's Right Wing Crazy Debunker

Time for class.....
A Short Citizen's Guide to Kooks, Demagogues, and Right-Wingers On Tax Day

No one likes to pay taxes, so tax day typically attracts a range of right-wing Republicans, kooks, and demagogues, all of whom tell us how awful we have it. Herewith a short citizen's guide (that is, a citizen's guide that's short rather than a guide for short citizens) responding to the predictable charges:

1. "Americans pay too much in taxes." Wrong: The United States has the lowest taxes of all developed nations.

2. "The rich pay too much! The top ten percent of income earners pay over 72 percent of all income taxes!" Misleading: The main reason the rich pay such a large percent is they've become so much richer than the bottom 90 percent in recent years. If you look at what they pay as individuals -- the percent of their incomes over and above the highest rate below them -- you'll see a steady decline over the years. When Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president, the marginal rate on the highest earners was 91 percent (after deductions and tax credits, closer to 50 percent); by 1980 it was still up there, at 70 percent (an effective rate of closer to 45 percent); under Bill Clinton, it was 38 percent (an effective rate closer to 28 percent).

Look at the after-tax earnings of families and you'll see what's really going on. Between 1980 and 2000, the after-tax earnings of famlies at the top rose more than 150 percent, while the after-tax earnings of families in the middle rose about 10 percent. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 raised the after-tax incomes of most Americans by a bit over 1 percent -- but raised the after-tax incomes of millionaires by 4.4 percent.

3. "The bottom 60 percent pay only 3.3 percent of the taxes!" Misleading again. Most Americans are paying more in sales taxes than they ever have. Property taxes have also been rising at a steady clip. And Social Security taxes have also risen (thanks to the Greenspan Commission), while earnings over about $100,000 aren't subject to Social Security taxes. So-called "sin" taxes (mostly beer and cigarettes) have also skyrocketed. All of these taxes take a bigger bite out of the paychecks of people with lower incomes than they do people with higher incomes.

4. "Obama is raising your taxes!" Wrong. Obama is cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans, by about $400 per person a year -- not a whopping tax cut, to be sure, but not a tax increase by any stretch. Only the top 2 percent will have a tax increase, but even this tax increase is modest. Basically, they go back to the rates they were paying under Bill Clinton (their deductions will be limited to 28 percent, which is only fair). And they won't start paying this until 2011 anyway.

5. "The huge debts we're wracking up will cause your taxes to rise!" Wrong again. When it comes to the national debt, as I've said before, the relevant statistic is the ratio of debt to the gross domestic product. The only sure way to bring that debt down and make it manageable in future years is to get the economy growing again -- which requires that, in the short term, the government spend a lot of money (because consumers and businesses won't). In the long term, the biggest source of concern is rising health-care costs. And that's something Obama and Congress are aiming to tackle.

6. "We have a patriotic duty to stand up against Washington taxes!" Just the opposite. We have a patriotic duty to pay taxes. As multi-billionaire Warrent Buffett put it, "If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you'll find out how much this talent is going to product in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling thirty years later." President Teddy Roosevelt made the case in 1906 when he argued in favor of continuing the inheritance tax. "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."

An acquaintance from law school, now a partner in one of Washington's biggest and wealthiest law firms, explained to me one day over lunch how he and his partners use tax rules to create offsetting taxable gains and losses, and then allocate the gains to the firm's foreign partners who don't pay taxes in the United States. That way, they keep the losses here and shelter their income abroad. I noticed he had an American flag lapel pin. "You're supporting our troops," I said, referring to his pin. "Yup," he replied, entirely missing my point.

True patriotism isn't cheap. It's about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.

Obama: Example For Taliban

Johnathan Turley makes the connection between Obama policy and Taliban policy. In this case they are essentially the same thing!
Leading the World by Example: Obama Legal Position on War Crimes Adopted for Taliban in Pakistan

[Obama's] recent trip to the Middle East to reach out to Muslims appears to have born fruit. A Pakistan leader has adopted the position of the Obama Administration on war crimes. Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi chief Sufi Mohammad has announced that Taliban murderers who have been accused of such crimes as burning schools, throwing acid in the faces of school girls, and killings should not be prosecuted because “[w]e intend to bury the past. These things will be left behind and we will go for a new life in peace.” It is the very logic that our President has been trying to advance as an excuse for not allowing an investigation into the torture program. Obama has insisted that “no one is above the law” while immediately guaranteeing that Bush officials are above the law by stating “My orientation’s going to be to move forward . . . getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”


Sorry, This Presentation Will Suck. Enjoy!

When the presenters of a staff development session begin by apologizing for the uselessness of the activity, as well as its narrowness, bad timing, and lack of preparation, you know you are in for some mega-cognition!

At the close of today's faculty-district-wide-literacy-staff-development meeting, we were told we were presented with ideas; not true. They asked us how our teaching of reading was going--as if we had all just done it for the first time that day. We brought up some problems we were having with the scripted, but not scripted (? Its just that confusing) curricular materials because there seemed to be a lack of defined scope and sequence. After the presenter agreed with all the complaints, she went on as if the complaints were never made or acknowledged. Another in a long stream of insulting condescension from our "leaders". They may as well tell us to abandon all prior knowledge we have gained over the years, and just believe. I am really bad at that. Thank god!

All the teachers tried to explain that the district seems to have no idea where they are heading, yet they seem to think we can read their minds and know! We don't. Maybe the district, and all school districts for that matter, can get their administrations together and figure out, explicitly, what they want us teachers to do differently, besides teach better, as if that is the problem. I suggest school "leaders" define the problem, then look for a solution, as opposed to this willy-nilly, ask the teachers to fix whatever ails us. We don't know! But we admit it! (Its poverty. Poverty is the problem, with everything. In the whole world. I can tell you the truth because I am anonymous!))

Until and unless leaders figure out where they want to lead us, we teachers will continue to get blamed for not just not educating kids, but for not implementing new nonsense that has not even been thought through by those who call themselves leaders (administrators call themselves that, really!). Seriously, schools are becoming more like factories and prisons; make-work, follow rules just to prove you can, don't think--produce, don't resist, shut up, work. All work and no play.....

I am so sick of it. Anyone looking for a former teacher to employ? Please?


An Oaktown Teacher Esplains Everything

A well written, well researched answer to all who aren't sure what the hell is going on with public schools. Stolen from The Perimeter Primate...
Pimping for Privatization
By Steve Miller, a longtime Oakland public school teacher.

The privatization of public education has developed characteristics of both tragedy and farce. Suddenly Plainfield Asset Management, a hedge fund that has been trying to privatize New York City’s Off-Track Betting operations, is concerned about the achievement gap between African-American and Anglo-American students!

So they “donated” $500,000 to the Education Equality Project! Here’s the background:

“The Rev. Al Sharpton and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stunned the education world last June when they joined forces to reform the nation's public schools.

“They called their ambitious venture the Education Equality Project, and they vowed in a Washington press conference to lead a campaign to close the decades-old achievement gap between white and black students.

“What Klein and Sharpton never revealed is that the National Action Network, Sharpton's organization, immediately received a $500,000 donation for its involvement in the new effort.” (Juan Gonzalez, NY Daily News, April 1, 2009)

Such awesome generosity is typical of the corporations and their henchmen who are going all out to privatize the public schools of the United States! They have long experience is buying spokesmen to extol their corporations.

The Basic Premise

Now that these forces are out of the closet at last, we can examine their central premise, first articulated by that champion of civil rights and equality, right-wing economist, Milton Friedman.

Friedman demanded the total privatization of schools. He claimed that the so-called “free market” is the best guarantee of efficiency, quality education and equality (not to mention modernizing the system) because it introduces competition, which provides “choice” for parents.

This is in essence the corporate model for education. It is being sold across the country to parents, especially minority parents, who are quite clear that the public schools are more segregated than ever, and who are desperate for something different. Nationally, a gaggle of reactionary billionaires (the Walton family, of Wal-Mart, Eli Broad, of KB homes and AIG Retirement, and Donald Fisher of the Gap) have suddenly become champions of equality and are pushing charter schools as the solution.

So let’s examine how valid these assumptions really are.

People were shocked when the extreme right-winger, Grover Norquist made his famous call to shrink the government to the size where “we can drown it like a baby in the bathtub”. But this is exactly what has been happening for the last eight years. It is well known that the Bush Administration outsourced the war in Iraq to private contractors. He attempted to also privatize the Iraqi government.

The government’s pitiful and criminal response to Hurricane Katrina tells us a lot about privatization, because the relief effort was also privatized. Naomi Klein shows in her great book, The Shock Doctrine, how Bush privatized many of the federal governments functions by out-sourcing these to private corporations. Even the Bail Out is outsourced, with the law firm of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett winning the contract to oversee distributing billions to corporations that are its own clients!

The government is getting out of the business of governing. So it should be no surprise that privatization is being forced on school systems across the country. The United States really has two highly segregated school systems. Suburban schools are the best in the world; urban schools are among the worst. Privatization is being forced on urban school districts alone.

Since the upsurges of the ‘60s, government at all levels has been forced to address the public demand to provide an equal and quality education to all students, regardless of race, nationality or class. What happens, then, when the government no longer handles public education? It is then absolved of this essential responsibility.

The next step then is to make the responsibility for the quality of education a personal one. Just like health care, “you get what you pay for”. The big ideological push for a decade now is to make everything personal responsibility. Then it’s your fault if something goes wrong. Government no longer is even expected to provide equal access.

Is this really what we want? To terminate the social demand of decades that the government makes good on its promise, without discussion? Ask yourself – when exactly was it that this was taken off the table?

When was it that the problem started being described, as in the article above, as “the achievement gap” rather than the refusal of government to fulfill the historical demand for real equality? Why do we now just assume that corporations are somehow going to do this better for us and let governments off the hook? Where were these discussions held?

These questions have answers. When you ask the privatizers these questions directly, they simply talk about something else.

Enter the Odd Couple.

Joel Klein is Chancellor of the New York public school system, the country’s largest. He is famous for stating that every school in New York should become a charter. He is also on of the signees of the notorious report, Tough Choices in Tough Times, which calls for ending local community control of schools, ending high school in the 10th grade, and replacing all public schools with “contract schools”. These schools would have total authority to determine what is taught and how it is taught. This removes the power over public schools from parents through their elected school boards.

Al Sharpton is an erstwhile “civil rights leader” who has inserted himself as a champion for the equality that the United States has never provided African Americans.

Both are now proponents of the corporate model for providing equality. Can this really be done?

Here is Barney Frank’s take on the question. Frank is the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee that “supervises” the $ 9 trillion in Bail-Outs so far to Wall Street.

Frank, a self-described capitalist and liberal, stated in a House Financial Services meeting, on Wednesday, July 16, 2008, “No one expects equality, equality is not a good thing. You can’t have an economy that works if everything is equal.”

Frank has emphasized this before. In Business Week, February 2006, Frank wrote, “Inequality is not a bad thing in a free market economy; indeed, it’s essential if we’re to benefit from the incentives and efficiencies that make the market so effective a producer of wealth.”

Turning a public good, provided by the government, into a private service, provided by corporations for profit will do exactly what Frank describes. We are witnessing this with the Bail Outs, which are shrouded in secrecy and lack any public control or oversight. If we have trillions for banks, imagine how war a mere $100 billion would go to create a real system of equal, quality education, free for all.

If they are so sincere about addressing the history of inequality in this country, how would Klein, Sharpton and the privatizers address these issues?


The idea of school choice is another “get rich quick scheme” that sounds good until it is examined. What happened in America that should we even have to choose at all

In 1999, David Hughes and others wrote Trading in Futures. Why Markets in Education Don’t Work. In it they concluded, “in effect education markets trade off the opportunities of less privileged children to those already privileged.” (p 2).

Other books document the same effects: Michael Appel’s Educating the “Right” Way, Helen Ladd’s introduction in Choosing Choice, Joycelyn Berthelot’s Education for the World, Education for All. Alfie Kohn also provides abundant material.

Data from countries like Chile, Britain under Thatcher, New Zealand, Sweden and other countries all show the same result. Schools push out the students who take more time and resources to educate. Once privatized, schools compete for the “good” students. Middle-class parents, who have the time and know-how to work the system, get their kids into the “right” schools. Parents from poorer families generally lack these resources and usually wind up taking whatever they are given.

To paraphrase… the law, in all of its magnificence, allows poor parents, as well as rich, to drive their students across town twice a day in their Porsche SUVs to insure their kids are receiving a quality education. “Choice” benefits parents who have the resources to choose. It simply does not carry the same guarantees as a “right”.

New Orleans all but privatized its school system. What do we see there? Boutique schools for well-off families and poorly supported charters for the poor. How’s that for “efficiency, quality education and equality”?

The End of Equality?

The idea that the so-called “free market” can solve social problems is a scam and a fraud. For 40 years, the US has pushed the economics and politics of Neo-Liberalism on countries from South America to Asia and Africa every time there has been an economic crisis. Now that we are beginning to live through what clearly is the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, these policies are being forced on the American people.

Back in the ‘90s, Edward Luttwak, a champion of the “free market” described their agenda this way. He could be describing our current public school policy:

“At present, almost all the elite Americans, with corporate chiefs and fashionable economists in the lead are utterly convinced that they have discovered the winning formula for economic success – the only formula – good for every country, rich or poor, good for all individuals willing and able to heed the message, and of course, good for elite Americans: PRIVATIZATION + DEREGULATION + GLOBALIZATION = TURBO-CAPITALISM = PROSPERITY”. (Thomas Frank, One Market, Under God, 2000. p 17)

We are now living out the results of “Turbo Capitalism”. It ain’t prosperity that’s for sure. Markets have never solved social problems. They create them.

All we have to do is look around to find the answers. The “free market” Bailouts are creating social problems in all directions, not eliminating them. This is the inevitable result of turning the responsibility for public problems over to private forces. The privatizers are all about deregulating public schools by eliminating public control.

Markets are designed for profit making. Remember when Bill Clinton told us that corporations were the best institutions to tackle the national health care disaster? HMOs have made things much worse, producing the worst health care for the highest price in the industrial world – and – completely outside public control. Sharpton and Klein support the domination of EMOs (Educational Maintenance Organizations) and the elimination of the responsibility of government to address the concerns of society.

In a ironic fashion, the “free market” imposes an equality of sorts on all the peoples of the US. This is the equality of poverty and its misery. This is not the concept of equality that drove this country forward for the last 60 years to say the least. If not deregulation, privatization and the market, what is the alternative?

The only counter to privatizing and ending the control of the public is to de-privatize and extend the control of the public. Who says that everything we fought for 60 years is off the table? Why are we supposed to settle for this scam? It’s not time to let government off the hook. If a privatized government cannot guarantee a free, equal, and quality education for everybody, and maintain education as a public good, then the public must replace the government.

Steven Miller
April 9, 2009
Oakland, California

War Crimes Trials Ahead II?

Scott Horton reports that indictments of top Bush Administration officials could be handed down in Spain as early as today:
Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo, several reliable sources close to the investigation have told The Daily Beast. Their decision is expected to be announced on Tuesday before the Spanish central criminal court, the Audencia Nacional, in Madrid [...]

The six defendants—in addition to Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith—are accused of having given the green light to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held in U.S. detention in “the war on terror.” The case arises in the context of a pending proceeding before the court involving terrorism charges against five Spaniards formerly held at Guantánamo. A group of human-rights lawyers originally filed a criminal complaint asking the court to look at the possibility of charges against the six American lawyers. Baltasar Garzón Real, the investigating judge, accepted the complaint and referred it to Spanish prosecutors for a view as to whether they would accept the case and press it forward. “The evidence provided was more than sufficient to justify a more comprehensive investigation,” one of the lawyers associated with the prosecution stated.

...the Obama State Department has been in steady contact with the Spanish government about the case. Shortly after the case was filed on March 17, chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza was invited to the U.S. embassy in Madrid to brief members of the embassy staff about the matter. A person in attendance at the meeting described the process as “correct and formal.” The Spanish prosecutors briefed the American diplomats on the status of the case, how it arose, the nature of the allegations raised against the former U.S. government officials. The Americans “were basically there just to collect information,” the source stated. The Spanish prosecutors advised the Americans that they would suspend their investigation if at any point the United States were to undertake an investigation of its own into these matters. They pressed to know whether any such investigation was pending. These inquiries met with no answer from the U.S. side [...]

The Bush Six labored at length to create a legal black hole in which they could implement their policies safe from the scrutiny of American courts and the American media. Perhaps they achieved much of their objective, but the law of unintended consequences has kicked in. If U.S. courts and prosecutors will not address the matter because of a lack of jurisdiction, foreign courts appear only too happy to step in.
Which is, as Hilzoy says, to our eternal shame. The Bush Six violated our own laws as surely as they violated Spanish law. We are signatories to the same treaties to which Spain is a signatory. We have the duty, actually, the requirement under the Constitution and the Convention Against Torture, to prosecute those who broke these laws and treaty obligations. We shouldn't let Spain do our dirty work. History will not look kindly on it.
h/t dday

Diane Ravitch On Test Score Inflation And Other Nonsense

The School Reform Miracle That Wasn't

Dear Deborah,

We in New York City were treated to an amazing show in early April. A group that calls itself the "Education Equality Project" held a conference and attracted such stellar educators as Arne Duncan, Joe Biden, Newt Gingrich, Margaret Spellings, and Michelle Rhee. The conveners of the conference were New York City's Chancellor Joel Klein and the Reverend Al Sharpton. The purpose apparently was to talk about how important it is to close the achievement gap between whites/Asians and Blacks/Hispanics. On this count, no one disagrees. The problem, as ever, is how to accomplish this laudable goal.

Chancellor Klein and Reverend Sharpton (dubbed "the odd couple" by the New York City media) have the answer: more testing, merit pay, and charter schools. This combination and a willingness to knock down the teachers' unions, derided as "adult interests" whose agenda conflicts with "children's interests," are the key strategies that they believe will lift up the scores of poor and minority students and close the gap.

There was a bit of an embarrassment for the EEP a day or so after the conference concluded when columnist Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News published an article saying that a hedge fund in Connecticut that was interested in obtaining control of various gambling enterprises in New York State had generously contributed $500,000 to "encourage" Rev. Sharpton to get interested in improving education. It seems that the money was contributed to some group called Education Reform Now, which passed it on to Democrats for Education Reform (an advocacy group for charters, also headed by a hedge-fund zillionaire), which passed it on to the Education Equality Project or maybe directly to Reverend Sharpton's organization, the National Action Network. Being somewhat unsophisticated about how that kind of money gets passed from one hand to the next, I am not sure about the money trail, but Mr. Gonzalez nailed it.

What is the evidence for the formula offered by Klein and Sharpton? The great success of New York City under the reign of Mayor Bloomberg. This celebration made me think that it was time to publish a critique of the miracle of New York City. I sat down and wrote an article for The New York Times, debunking the Bloomberg-Klein claims and showing that the test scores and graduation rates have been artificially inflated. My article appeared on Friday, April 10.

Sad to say, Secretary Duncan—who likes to expostulate about the importance of data—swallowed the New York City claims without any verification. As I showed in the article, Secretary Duncan has been on a crusade to persuade the nation's urban mayors that they should follow Mayor Bloomberg's lead and they, too, can push through radical reforms without dissent. They, too, can close public schools and replace them with charter schools. They too will see great results.

The only missing piece of his argument is that New York City has not achieved great results. Instead of truly raising the graduation rates with better-prepared students, it has been gaming the system, practicing "credit recovery," whereby students get graduation credits for courses they failed or never even attended. The city further boosts the graduation rate by adding in GED students and not counting students who were discharged (many of whom were actually dropouts). As a result of all this gamesmanship, the graduation rate keeps climbing, yet 3/4 of the graduates who enter our local community colleges need to be remediated in basic skills. Remember that social promotion was eliminated? Not.

This is not improved education. It is statistical legerdemain.

Why do people swallow this swill? There are many reasons, but most of them come down to the supine media that is too lazy to check facts. And, of course, there is our complacent, compliant, and complicit State Education Department, which loves to claim victory, even when kids are learning nothing.

What a sad state of affairs.


Reich On Bailout: No More! Give Us Stimulus!

We Need More Stimulus, Not More Bailout

With only $110 billion remaining in the TARP bailout fund, all signs are that Tim Geithner is preparing to return to Congress seeking more bailout money. He’ll bring along the results of his bank “stress tests,” which will probably show many that big banks are still technically insolvent, along with bankruptcy scenarios for General Motors and Chrysler, and a couple of CEO scalps – he’s already got GM’s. Congress won’t be happy but in the end it will cough up another 300 to 500 billion.

Geithner believes the only way to rescue the economy is to get the big banks to lend money again. But he’s dead wrong.[emphasis mine] Most consumers cannot and do not want to borrow lots more money. They’re still carrying too much debt as it is. Even if they refinance their homes – courtesy of the Fed flooding the market with so much money mortgage rates are dropping – consumers are still not going to borrow more. And until there’s enough demand in the system, businesses aren’t going to borrow much more to invest in new plant or machinery, either.

That’s the big issue – the continued lack of enough demand in the economy. The current stimulus package is proving way too small relative to the shortfall between what consumers and businesses are buying and what the economy could produce at full capacity. (According to today's report from the Commerce Department, retail sales fell in March, as did prices paid to U.S. producers.)

Worse yet, the states are pulling in the opposite direction. States cannot run deficits, which means that as their revenues drop in this downturn they’re cutting vital services and raising taxes to the tune of $350 billion over this year and next. This fiscal drag is wiping out about half of the current federal stimulus.

If Geithner gets Congress to give him more bailout money, Congress won’t be in any mood to do what it really needs to do – which is to enlarge the stimulus package. Voters are already worried about too much government spending. At most, the administration is going to get only one more bite at the congressional apple. Make that more stimulus rather than more bailout.

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