Year: 2008

Obama’s “Way-to-Go, Brownie!” Moment?

Greg Palast 

by Greg PalastI will not pick a bad Secretary of Education
for the Huffington Post

Has Barack Obama forgotten, “Way-to-go, Brownie“? Michael Brown was that guy from the Arabian Horse Association appointed by George Bush to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brownie, not knowing the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain from the south end of a horse, let New Orleans drown. Bush’s response was to give his buddy Brownie a “way to go!” thumbs up.

We thought Obama would go a very different way. You’d think the studious Senator from Illinois would avoid repeating the Bush regime’s horror show of unqualified appointments, of picking politicos over professionals.

But here we go again. Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. If not Klein, then draft-choice number two is Arne Duncan, Obama’s backyard basketball buddy in Chicago.

Say it ain’t so, President O.

Let’s begin with Joel Klein. Klein is a top notch anti-trust lawyer. What he isn’t is an educator.

Klein is as qualified to run the Department of Education as Dick Cheney is to dance in Swan Lake. While I’ve never seen Cheney in a tutu, I have seen Klein fumble about the stage as Chancellor of the New York City school system.

Klein, who lacks even six minutes experience in the field, was handed management of New York’s schools by that political Jack-in-the-Box, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire mayor is one of those businessmen-turned-politicians who think lawyers and speculators can make school districts operate like businesses.

Klein has indeed run city schools like a business – if the business is General Motors. Klein has flopped. Half the city’s kids don’t graduate.

Klein is out of control. Not knowing a damn thing about education, rather than rely on those who actually work in the field (only two of his two dozen deputies have degrees in education), Klein pays high-priced consultants to tell him what to do. He’s blown a third of a billion dollars on consultant “accountability” projects plus $80 million for an IBM computer data storage system that doesn’t work.

What the heck was the $80 million junk computer software for? Testing. Klein is test crazy. He has swallowed hook, line and sinker George Bush’s idea that testing students can replace teaching them. The madly expensive testing program and consultant-fee spree are paid for by yanking teachers from the classroom.

Ironically, though not surprisingly, test scores under Klein have flat-lined. Scores would have fallen lower, notes Jane Hirschmann, head of watchdog group Time Out From Testing, but Klein “moved the cut score,” that is, lowered the level required to pass. In other words, Klein cheats on the tests.

Nevertheless, media poobahs have fallen in love with Klein, especially Republican pundits.The New York Times‘ David Brooks is championing Klein, hoping that media hype for Klein will push Obama to keep Bush schools policies in place, trumping the electorate’s choice for change.

Brooks and other Republicans (hey, didn’t those guys lose?) are pushing Klein as a way for Obama to prove he can reach across the aisle to Republicans like Bloomberg. (Oh yes, Bloomberg’s no longer in the GOP, having jumped from the party this year when the brand name went sour.)

Choosing Klein, says Brooks, would display Obama’s independence from the teacher’s union. But after years of Bush kicking teachers in the teeth, appointing a Bush acolyte like Klein would not indicate independence from teachers but their betrayal.

Hoops versus Hope

The anti-union establishment has a second stringer on the bench waiting in case Klein is nixed: Arne Duncan. Duncan, another lawyer playing at education, was appointed by Chicago’s Boss Daley to head that city’s train-wreck of a school system. Think of Duncan as “Klein Lite.”

What’s Duncan’s connection to the President-elect? Duncan was once captain of Harvard’s basketball team and still plays backyard round-ball with his Hyde Park neighbor Obama.

But Michelle has put a limit on their friendship: Obama was one of the only state senators from Chicago to refuse to send his children into Duncan’s public schools. My information is that the Obamas sent their daughters to the elite Laboratory School where Klein-Duncan teach-to-the-test pedagogy is dismissed as damaging and nutty.

Mr. Obama, if you can’t trust your kids to Arne Duncan, why hand him ours?

Lawyer Duncan is proud to have raised test scores by firing every teacher in low-scoring schools. Which schools? There’s Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto with children from homeless shelters and drug-poisoned ‘hoods. They don’t do well on tests. So Chicago fired all the teachers. They brought in new ones – then fired all of them too: the teachers’ reward for volunteering to work in a poor neighborhood.

It’s no coincidence that the nation’s worst school systems are run by non-experts like Klein and Duncan.

Obama certainly knows this. I know he knows because he’s chosen, as head of his Education Department transition team, one of the most highly respected educators in the United States: Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University.

So here we have the ludicrous scene of the President-elect asking this recognized authority, Dr. Darling-Hammond, to vet the qualifications of amateurs Klein and Duncan. It’s as if Obama were to ask Michael Jordan, “Say, you wouldn’t happen to know anyone who can play basketball, would you?”

Classroom Class War

It’s not just Klein’s and Duncan’s empty credentials which scare me: it’s the ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories they promote. “Teach-to-the-test” (which goes under such pre-packaged teaching brands as “Success for All”) forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create the future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and – voila! – millions trained on the cheap to function, not think. Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills will be left to the privileged at the Laboratory School and Phillips Andover Academy.

We hope for better from the daddy of Sasha and Malia.

Educationally, the world is swamping us. The economic and social levees are bursting. We cannot afford another Way-to-go Brownie in charge of rescuing our children.

****************

Greg Palast is the father of school-aged twins and the author of, “No Child’s Behind Left,” included in his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse. Palast is a Nation Institute Puffin Foundation Fellow for investigative reporting.

Get a signed copy of Armed Madhouse for the holidays for a tax-deductible contribution to the Palast Investigative Fund at www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org

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Please re-post this.

Bush under the mistletoe
A kiss-off suggestion

Greg Palast 

Is that George Bush under the mistletoe, waiting for your good-bye kiss?The Bush Goodbye

Well, give’m the kiss-off they won’t forget:

For the holidays, give the films that got us busted, censored, threatened. (Oh, what fun!) Make a donation to our investigative reporting foundation for as little as $40 and we’ll get you autographed copies of our DVDs made for BBC and Democracy Now!

Included our Kiss-Off Collection:

Bush Family Fortunes – The BBC film that started it all. What Michael Moore calls the “courageous reporting” behind his Fahrenheit 9/11. The real thing, with Greg Palast AND his fedora on a story that “upsets all the right people” (says Noam Chomsky). Music by Moby.   Donate at least $50, and we’ll add in the brand new, wickedly fun documentary, “Free For All,” by John Ennis, featuring Greg Palast.

We’ll send it out by Priority Mail within two work-days, in time for the holidays. ALL GIFTS SIGNED by Palast.

Big Easy to Big Empty” (DVD)
New Orleans was a Black and Blue (Democratic) city, but  3 years after the flood it’s just bruised and bloody (Republican). Find out the real story of why so many didn’t make it out of The City That Care Forgot. Bonus features include Amy Goodman reporting with Greg Palast. “The most important documentary of the year.” – Air America Radio

The Assassination of Hugo Chavez” (DVD)
Go Caracas with Palast who meets up with the singing-dancing South American Idol. Bonus films: Palast goes hunting in Ecuador’s Amazon – and bags secret World Bank documents. Includes: “Florida Con Salsa” – elections south of the border.

The Election Files” (DVD).   You think they won’t steal 2010 and 2012?  Palast’s series of reports for BBC and Democracy Now! on that weird sausage called American voting.

Or grab all three DVDs for $125 and we’ll send them out via Priority mail in time for the holidays. Plus, for the first 38 donors, the new Ennis/Palast film for free.

Signed copies of the hardbound book Armed Madhouse are available for a minimum donation of $80 – and we’ll add a copy of the DVD “Free for All.”

Check out www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org for more Palast autographed informational hand grenades.

It’s still a nasty little planet out there – and lots to investigate. Our schedule is full for 2009, but we need to buy the snooping equipment and airfare to keep track of these critters. Please make your tax-deductible donation and get a gift I’ll sign with gratitude.

From the whole team, Happy Holidays,

Greg Palast

www.GregPalast.com

Autographed Palast Books, DVDs

Greg Palast 

On September 12, 2001, George Bush asked Americans to go shopping.Complete Palast Pack

I’ve got a better idea: Don’t buy – DONATE – and I’ll send out your gifts. Give a tax deductible donation to support my investigations crew. Donate to the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund and I will sign and send, in gratitude, a gift to you – or your friends or family. I’ll sign each item.

Make your tax-deductible donations at www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org and get the following:

“Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans – Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild.” The bestselling book, signed. “Great fun,” says the New Yorker. $75 min donation. $100 Hardbound. “Palast’s stories bite … they threaten to alter history.* – Chicago Tribune

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Film on DVD: “The Assassination of Hugo Chavez” – A new documentary based on the investigations for BBC and Democracy Now – from Mexico, from Ecuador and, from, Venezuela, Palast with Chavez. $50 min. donation. Signed. Watch the trailer.

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And less: Make a donation to the Palast Investigative Fund in someone’s name – and we’ll send them a thank you card. You get a tax donation – and ‘just the facts, ma’am.’]

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The Pits: Georgia’s GOP Swipes the Peach State

Greg Palast 

The Pits: Georgia’s GOP Swipes the Peach State

by Greg Palast

for SuicideGirls.com – November 5, 2008

The evil little &*%$’s are doing it again.

Even as they drown in the anger of platoons of pissed-off voters, Republican operatives are swiping ballots with both hands.

Ground zero is Georgia.  It’s here where the sick little vulture named Saxby Chambliss won the US Senate seat six years ago by calling his Democratic opponent, a guy who’d lost three limbs in Vietnam, a friend of Osama bin Laden.

There’s no way in hell that Chambliss can slime his way back into the Senate in the face of over half a million newly registered voters (Black and young – 69% for Obama) without jacking them out of their votes.  That’s what the Republicans are up to.  Right now.  As we speak.

Over 50,000 the new voters in Georgia have been blocked from voting by using a nasty little new law, the Help America Vote Act signed by George Bush.  (Bush is helping us vote – look out!)

I just got this from Christina Rush in the Peach Pit state:

“They really have stolen my vote and I don’t know what to do about it at this late stage. I just found out 2 days ago that I do not exist on the voters rolls in Georgia. I have disappeared. After calling 866-OUR VOTE and the Secretary of State (for GA), it has been determined that the last vote I was accounted for was the 1996 General Election. That’s awfully strange to me, considering that I voted in the recent Primaries and that last two General Elections (2000 and 2004).”

“Everyone is ‘very sorry’ this is happening, but no one can tell what I can do to make my vote count for THIS election. The only advice I’ve been given is to fill out a new voters registration form and I’ll be eligible for any future elections, just not THIS one.”

“So, what can I do except tell anyone and everyone who will listen?”

And no one is going to listen to you or the other 50,000 dumped voters in Georgia.

But here’s the good news:  it won’t save them.  The GOP is toast. Paint the White House black and blue and Congress the same hue.

But the steal in Senate races may allow the GOP to savage, obstruct, …more