Monthly Archives: July, 2012

Not Just a Figurehead

If President Obama took the huge gamble of raiding Osama bin Laden in his hideout for the sake of justice, it would be hard to argue against it. The question was asked whether this was a mostly symbolic act, or a response to a still-active threat.

Maybe taking out a leader and planner has made the world a little safer…

The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year, down from 11,641 in 2010 and the lowest since 2005, the State Department reported today.

What’s made the difference? The State Department cites the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members killed last year including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al-Awlaki, who was the head of Yemen’s Al Qaeda affiliate and had ties to the underwear bomber plot in 2010.

“The loss of bin Laden and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse,” the report stated.

It only takes one, and everything could change tomorrow. The real answer is to build alliances and discredit the gangs who turn mother’s sons into suicide bombers. You can’t kill an idea, but killing a man who devoted his life to making war can buy time for better ideas to replace an ideology of despair.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Isn’t technology amazing?

I spoke at the AFT national convention at 2:30 pm Saturday, and within a few hours, it was posted on YouTube.

Here it is. Enjoy!

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What’s Left for Nuclear?

War is one driver of innovation. After WWII scientists who developed nuclear weapons hoped to redeem the technology in peacetime by bringing us electricity too cheap to meter. That never quite materialized, and now the real cost is becoming impossible to deny.

From the Financial Times via CNN–

(Financial Times) — Nuclear power is so expensive compared with other forms of energy that it has become “really hard” to justify, according to the chief executive of General Electric, one of the world’s largest suppliers of atomic equipment.

“It’s really a gas and wind world today,” said Jeff Immelt, referring to two sources of electricity he said most countries are shifting towards as natural gas becomes “permanently cheap”.

“When I talk to the guys who run the oil companies they say look, they’re finding more gas all the time. It’s just hard to justify nuclear, really hard. Gas is so cheap and at some point, really, economics rule,” Mr Immelt told the Financial Times in an interview in London at the weekend. “So I think some combination of gas, and either wind or solar … that’s where we see most countries around the world going.”

This would have developed faster if we had not had huge economic and political investment in nuclear power– artificially protecting and subsidizing a technological dead end. Diversification and smart technology are obvious answers that are becoming harder to ignore.

It was in the 70′s that I sat in a circle of Clamshell Alliance activists while a kid from Brown read us an industry financial report– in his translation of the technical terms, “the economics really suck too.”

Nearly forty years later, despite the power of a massive industry and the politicians it owns, the arguments against nuclear power are being made on the highest levels.

Natural gas will not solve the problem of carbon emissions, and mining it is a dirty process. Moving away from centralized energy and an economy based on endlessly expanding demand for more things is inevitable one way or another. We are already leaving a nuclear waste hazard for future generations. It will be good if we don’t create more.

Kiersten Marek:

Comments on Diane Ravitch’s blog result in a letter from the Anti-Defamation League…the teacher who made the comments speaks again.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

I mentioned in a post this morning that I had received a letter form the Anti-Defamation League warning that comments on my blog displayed “insensitivity” and that I should take this opportunity to warn readers about the dangers of “hurtful analogies,” especially in referring to Hitler and the Holocaust.

A reader wonders if he was the one who wrote the comment that was reported as offensive to the Anti-Defamation League:

I think that the comment referred to was mine. I am a teacher in one of the 24 “closed” NYC schools. I went back to look for what I actually wrote but could not find it but I definitely remember reading the comments after that post and being surprised at the reaction.First, let me say that I am also Jewish. Whichever members of my family remained in Poland at the start of the war, were totally wiped out in…

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Redcoats Insult Utah

In a brilliant diplomatic move, presidential candidate Mitt Romney got British Prime Minister David Cameron to admit how he really feels about one of our United States…

In a move that astonished Downing Street, hours before it laid on a special reception for Romney at No 10, he told NBC there were “disconcerting” signs about the preparations for the Games. One senior Whitehall source said: “What a total shocker. We are speechless.”

David Cameron wasted no time in rebuking Romney hours after his remarks were broadcast. On a visit to the Olympic Park, the prime minister said: “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”

Cameron’s remarks were intended to be a light-hearted jibe at Romney, who used his famous management skills honed at Bain Capital to rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

‘Middle of nowhere???’ Romney skillfully maneuvered Cameron into revealing his simmering resentment at our historic anti-colonialism. Romney could have just used this trip to advance his campaign, but instead he is taking the lead in ferreting out potential enemies among those we thought were friends. Imagine what he would do as president. David Cameron owes Utah a public apology. And even though Utah is far away from Rhode Island, they don’t call us ‘United’ for nothing. I’m calling for a boycott of English muffins. Let’s hit them where it hurts.

Originally posted on Crossing the Border:

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire TomalinJoyce Carol Oates reviews Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin in the New York Review of Books:

Is Dickens the greatest of English novelists? Few would contest that he is the most English of great English novelists, and that his most accomplished novels—Bleak HouseGreat ExpectationsLittle DorritDombey and SonOur Mutual Friend, and David Copperfield—are works of surpassing genius, thrumming with energy, imagination, and something resembling white-hot inspiration; his gift for portraiture is arguably as great as Shakespeare’s, and his versatility as a prose stylist is dazzling …

Dickens is so brilliant a stylist, his vision of the world so idiosyncratic and yet so telling, that one might say that his subject is his unique rendering of his subject, in an echo of Mark Rothko’s statement, “The subject of the painting is the painting”—except of course, Dickens’s great subject was…

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Kiersten Marek:

Diane Ravitch, via Jonathan Pelto, provides an excellent tutorial on the education reform politics going on in Connecticut

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

A reader reminded me of a post by blogger Jonathan Pelto about Hartford, Connecticut, that shows how districts can “game the system” to meet testing target.

And that reminded me that Jon Pelto is someone you should know about. Subscribe to his blog if you want an insider’s view of education reform in Connecticut.

Pelto was a legislator for several years and cares passionately about public education. He knows how to follow the money and watches for conflict of interest and hidden lobbyists.

He has written many posts in opposition to Governor Dannel Malloy’s alliance with the hedge fund managers’ group called ConnCAN (now operating in other states as 50CAN). Pelto has called out all the players in the corporate camp, including the other Wall Street group called Democrats for Education Reform, the charter chain Achievement First, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and Teach for America, all of which took a…

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Anglo-Saxon Spoken Here

Arrghh!!! That’s Anglo-Saxon for ‘I’d better get off this laptop and be at work on time if I want to stay employed.’

I love being surrounded by history. My church, First Unitarian, has a bell forged by Paul Revere and Sons.

We all remember the famous poem about Paul Revere’s midnight ride. He bravely raced to warn the Redcoats that anti-colonialist insurgents were massing in the towns planning to overturn the legitimate Anglo-Saxon reign of, God bless him, King George.

Sadly, the loyalists failed, and instead of just being chill, like Canada, we had an American Revolution. This is a deep national embarrassment, and we never finish apologizing for it when one of our candidates goes to solicit the English vote.

What? They can’t vote here? Even the Anglo-Saxons? Well, they can send some of those British pounds to the campaign. That counts more than votes anyway. And lots of their people have dual citizenship, like that really big person, Newscorp.

There’s lots of history nerds in Britain, and The Guardian gets all technical about the successive invasions that hit their isles through history.

Speaking of invasions, I’m not sure I can really get into the Anglo Saxon thing– my ancestors having emmigrated to escape starvation during the Irish Famine. But I’m not holding a grudge. Don’t push it, though. And the Saxons? Weren’t a lot of them Germans? The US has strong connections to Germany, so maybe that country is next on the campaign trail.

What confuses me is why brilliant thinkers like Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich and that guy on the Romney campaign talk like anti-colonialism is a bad thing. And like we never had issues with the British.

Next summer should we have a pageant where the Redcoats rescue the Gaspee from burning and throw the insurgents in Guantanamo? It’s not like history hasn’t been re-written before.

America, Whose Country Are You? 26 Billionaires Who Are Buying the 2012 Election

Here’s an eye-opener from Vermont’s Bernie Sanders: a report on the 26 men who have spent $61 Billion dollars in this year’s election.

Here is a list of the billionaires:

1. Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Casino, is worth nearly $25 billion, making him the 14th wealthiest person in the world and the 7th richest person in America.

While median family income plummeted by nearly 40% from 2007-2010, Mr. Adelson has experienced a nearly eightfold increase in his wealth over the past three years (from $3.4 billion to $24.9 billion).

Forbes recently reported that Adelson is willing to spend a “limitless” amount of money or more than $100 million to help defeat President Obama in November.

While $100 million sounds like a lot, it equals the same percentage of Adelson’s wealth that $300 to $400 does for the typical middle class family (with a net worth of about $77,000).

Sheldon Adelson owns more wealth than the bottom 40.2% of American households or 47.2 million American families.

2. The Kochs (David, Charles, and William) are worth a combined $103 billion, according to Forbes. They have pledged to spend about $400 million during the 2012 election season.

The Kochs own more wealth than the bottom 41.7 percent of American households or more than 49 million Americans.

3. Jim Walton is worth $23.7 billion. He has donated $300,000 to super PACs in 2012.
4. Harold Simmons is worth $9 billion. He has donated $15.2 million to super PACs this year.
5. Peter Thiel is worth $1.5 billion. He has donated $6.7 million to Super PACs this year.
6. Jerrold Perenchio is worth $2.3 billion. He has donated $2.6 million to super PACs this year.
7. Kenneth Griffin is worth $3 billion and he has given $2.08 million to super PACs in 2012.
8. James Simons is worth $10.7 billion and he has given $1.5 million to super Pacs this year.
9. Julian Robertson is worth $2.5 billion and he has given $1.25 million to super PACs this year.
10. Robert Rowling is worth $4.8 billion and he has given $1.1 million to super PACs.
11. John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made his fortune betting that the sub-prime mortgage market would collapse, is worth $12.5 billion. He has donated $1 million to super PACs.
12. Richard and J.W. Marriott are worth a combined $3.1 billion and they have donated $2 million to super PACs this year.
13. James Davis is worth $1.9 billion and he has given $1 million to super PACs this year.
14. Harold Hamm is worth $11 billion and he has given $985,000 to super PACs this year.
15. Kenny Trout is worth more than $1.2 billion and he has given $900,000 to super PACs this year.
16. Louis Bacon is worth $1.4 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.
17. Bruce Kovner is worth $4.5 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.
18. Warren Stephens is worth $2.7 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.
19. David Tepper is worth $5.1 billion and he has given $375,000 to super PACs this year.
20. Samuel Zell is worth $4.9 billion and he has given $270,000 to super PACs this year.
21. Leslie Wexner is worth $4.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.
22. Charles Schwab is worth $3.5 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.
23. Kelcy Warren is worth $2.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.

Full report here.

Kiersten Marek:

Big news for schools in NY as judge rules 24 NYC schools cannot be closed, since it violates the contract.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

The city and the teachers’ union went to court to battle over the city’s plan to “turnaround” 24 schools by firing thousands of teachers.

The judge listened to the arguments, retired to her chambers, and returned seven minutes later to say that she was sustaining the arbitrator’s decision. The city may not lay off the teachers. It violates their contract.

This battle involves more than 3,000 teachers and 30,000 students. No one is sure how the schools will be staffed when schools opens in a few weeks. No one knows which teachers have found other jobs and which will return.

The schools, having been labeled as “failures,” have suffered enormous blows to their reputation in the community. If past experience is any guide, parents will be reluctant to enroll their children in a school that has been targeted for closure and that is now on life support for another year.

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