Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kids were divided by race and sent to very different pep rallies at school

I'm sure their hearts were in the right place, but the people who planned these rallies didn't use their heads. Actually, I'm not sure their hearts were in the right place. I think they just wanted to manipulate kids into scoring higher on tests.

All the kids should have been together to enjoy jazz and other cool music from people of various races. It actually sounds like the white kids got the worst pep talk. They surely should have been given something more than test scores to strive for. The goal is to learn a lot in order to accomplish a lot in life, not just to score well on a test to make administrators happy.

Maybe what we need is basic thinking skills testing for administrators.

Cheers and Jeers
NEA Today
Sep 2007
by Simpson, Nadine

While one California principal turns to race-based pep rallies to make a difference in high-stakes testing, educators are finding better ways to make their voices heard about NCLB.

HERE'S JUST ANOTHER example of how pressure to meet demands of the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) has some administrators making unusual decisions: This past school year. Black students walking into a pep rally at Mount Diablo High School in Concord, California, were greeted with jazz and Martin Luther King Jr. posters, while their Asian and Hispanic peers were sent to separate pep rallies. And White students? One told a local paper that organizers opened her rally by calling the kids "White people," then flashed slides with recently released state standardized test scores, encouraging them to aim even higher in the future.

The segregated pep rallies suggest that no matter how hard educators work to help their students bridge the achievement gaps, it's not always enough for antsy administrators.

Mount Diablo High's principal doesn't see what the fuss over the pep rallies is all about-and there most certainly was one when news of the events became public. Beverly Hansen says the assemblies were meant to inspire students to do better while being honest about the differences in test scores among racial and ethnic groups. She says she doesn't know why parents are so upset; racial statistics have been reported for years and those categories were simply represented in the numbers that were given to the students at the events.

That doesn't wash with Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy. "It's segregation by race, whatever the motivation," he says, adding that the booster sessions show the pressure on educators to increase test scores at all costs. "Separate sessions of students, separated by race, is not a wise decision. One of the purposes of public education is to bring students together to form a common citizenry, and when students are separated by race, public schools are sending a different signal."

NEA is working to send lawmakers a strong signal as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as NCLB, comes up for reauthorization. For more on how NEA is lobbying for effective changes to the law-including using more than test scores to measure student learning and school performance-check out the Association's Positive Agenda for ESEA Reauthorization at


Some successful people rub others the wrong way

Paul Vallas, new superintendent of New Orleans Recovery School District

Paul Vallas and his district are described by Larry Abramson in these snippets from

"Last year was a rocky one for the New Orleans Recovery School District, which has run the city's schools since Hurricane Katrina. Hundreds of students were turned away because schools and teachers were in short supply. Test scores were at rock bottom. Buildings are still in terrible shape...

"Armando Almendarez has worked with Vallas in Chicago and Philadelphia, and he came out of retirement to help Vallas here.

""I don't think that there's another urban superintendent quite like Paul Vallas — he really looks at solutions out of the box," Almendarez says.

"Almendarez acknowledges that Vallas isn't the easiest person to work with. But, he says, "You can't find anyone with a greater passion, a greater vision.""

August 31, 2007

Sorry and Goodbye to Richard Jewell

Richard Jewell, the man who discovered and warned people away from a suspicious bag at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, has died at the age of 44. Jewell's life was turned upside-down when he was falsely accused of having planted the bag that exploded, killing one person.

The Washington Post reports:

"In 1997, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno expressed regret over the leak regarding Jewell. "I'm very sorry it happened," she told reporters. "I think we owe him an apology."

"Eventually, the bomber turned out to be anti-government extremist Eric Rudolph, who also planted three other bombs in the Atlanta area and in Birmingham, Ala. Those explosives killed a police officer, maimed a nurse and injured several other people.

"Rudolph was captured after spending five years hiding out in the mountains of western North Carolina. He pleaded guilty to all four bombings in 2005 and is serving life in prison.

"Jewell sued several media organizations, including NBC, CNN and the New York Post, and settled for undisclosed amounts. According to Wood, Jewell also settled a lawsuit against Piedmont College, a former employer. That amount was also confidential.

"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution never settled a lawsuit Jewell filed against it. Lin Wood, Jewell's longtime attorney, said Wednesday that the case is set for trial in January.

""I expect to pursue it for Richard and his estate," Wood said. "But that is a decision for a less sad day.""

[Shame on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Their behavior makes one doubt their committment to journalistic ethics. Why didn't they demonstrate remorse for their actions by compensating the man they had harmed?]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is there something about Congressman Bob Filner that makes people want to slap a pair of handcuffs on him?

Gerry Braun, columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune, asks and answers this question in an August 29, 2007 column.

Gerry's Exhibit A: Mississippi police arrested Filner for being a Freedom Rider when he was 18. Result: more rights for blacks.

Gerry's Exhibit B: Washington D.C. police arrested Filner 10 years ago when he tried to stop them from breaking up a demonstration over benefits for Filipino veterans of the US military. Result: a bill was signed into law granting the benefits.

Gerry's Exhibit C: Filner recently brushed aside the arm of an airport security guard, who turned around and filed a complaint for assault. Result: Filner says he’ll fight for more rights for air travelers.

My Exhibit D: A few years ago guards at a prison in San Diego were angered when Filner demanded to see an inmate. Result: Nothing. Prison guards may be the most powerful people in California. Even Arnold Schwarzeneggar doesn’t mess with them.

I’ve heard behind-the-scenes stories about several office-holders who are grumpy people. I believe bad tempers are counter-productive, but some people accomplish a lot in spite of having a bad temper. In fact, some accomplishments are directly related to having a bad temper.

A few years ago some researchers went to Europe to interview people who had sheltered Jews during the Holocaust. They expected to find individuals who were over-flowing with sweetness.

They found the opposite. It turns out that people who tend to go against commonly accepted behavior rules, people who ignore social pressures to conduct themselves in a "nice" manner, were the ones who were willing to go against the rules that forbade the sheltering of Jews. The sweet mommies who passed out cookies and kisses? Apparently, they weren't so sweet when social pressure didn't require them to be "nice."

Overall effectiveness is what matters. As Captain Peleg said to Ishmael, “It’s better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one.”

I think that a willingness to question authority is absolutely necessary to anyone who wants to make the world a better place.

Which makes me wonder why Filner is so docile and subservient when it comes to failing schools in our area. He smiles and nods and goes trotting around obediently at the beck and call of the California Teachers Association.

How about directing a little of that temper to an issue more important that airline baggage, Mr. Filner?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Locke High School: Charter Reversal To Be Reversed?

Update Aug. 31, 2007: The board decision discussed in the first paragraph below turned out to be 5-2 in favor of considering the Locke charter school petition at the September 11, 2007 meeting. This indicates that a majority of the board has a positive attitude toward the charter at this time, but there will probably be a lot of arm twisting before that vote. Howard Bloom of the Los Angeles Times wrote on Aug. 29, 2007, "Green Dot shocked district officials in May when it announced that a majority of Locke's tenured teachers had signed petitions in support of a takeover, clearing the major legal barrier to conversion. District officials countered with promises to teachers of increased authority and reforms if Locke remained within the district. Officials said 18 teachers rescinded their signatures. The tally of charter supporters dwindled to 24, well short of the 37 that would have equaled 50% of the tenured faculty, said Gregory McNair, who heads the district's charter-school division. "The sales pitch was whether I would like to see changes at Locke," said teacher Jessica Tang, who said she did not understand the petition's ramifications. Tang withdrew her signature."

Locke High School: Return of the Jedi?
August 27th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

Tuesday [August 28, 2007] is the day that the LAUSD board will decide whether or not it wants to jump into the drama that unfolded last spring around Locke High School. More specifically, the board will vote Tuesday morning on a resolution introduced last month by new board member Richard Vladovic, which would mandate an up-or-down vote by the board on the the Locke/Green Dot charter petition.

If that sounds overly complicated, let me refresh your memories: Last May, Green Dot and Locke’s activist teachers formally submitted a petition asking for the low scoring high school to be converted to a charter school, with Green Dot the administrative entity. The petition was signed by approximately 60 percent of Locke’s 73 tenured teachers. The Green Dot supporters only needed 51 percent, to legally trigger a charter conversion. So, bingo, the charter was all set to be mandated…..but…..
…. the Empire Struck Back. Furious union and district officials met with teachers, then bullied, hectored and scared the bejeezus out of them. The upshot was, seventeen of the teachers rescinded their signatures, thus dynamiting the charter majority. (Whether all this rescinding is legal or not, is up for debate, but in any case, there was now a cloud over the petition. )

While they were at it, district officials also fired Locke’s principal, Dr. Frank Wells, for supporting the charter move, and demoted Bruce Smith, the senior teacher who was a leader in the charter fight. (He told me that, last week when he got his paycheck, instead of getting around $40 an hour he got $31.86, another questionably legal move on the part of district apparatchiks.)

Many disgruntled district watchers (myself included) then called on the newly reconstituted LAUSD board to prove their would-be-reformist mettle and thus step in and settle the issue. Whether or not they choose to be….as Mr. Bush might say….the deciders, is what is up for a vote today.

The drama was upped a few notches last Wednesday, when in a surprising turn of events, LAUSD Superintendent, Admiral Brewer, came over to Locke and, in a meeting with the faculty, publically supported the charter conversion. Since that time, six teachers have rescinded their rescinding—with another half-dozen still on vacation rumored to be planning to do the same.

So….this brings us to this morning’s meeting. Eight union people will speak against the charter conversion, with four speaking for it. (Weirdly, there were only eight speaker spots and the union simply gobbled them all up. It was only after the Green Dot group launched a strong protest that four additional speakers spots were opened up. Gee. How debate friendly!)

(And, yes, that is Steve Barr in the photo.)

Fall guys charged in killing of Russian journalist

Suspects charged over murder of Russian journalist

Anna Politkovskaya was a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian prosecutors have formally charged at least four of 10 suspects detained over the murder of reporter Anna Politkovskaya, a defence lawyer says.

Russian prosecutor-general Yuri Chaika said on Monday 10 people had been detained and anti-Kremlin forces abroad had ordered the killing of Ms Politkovskaya to discredit President Vladimir Putin...

Ms Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in her block of flats on October 7 last year.

A senior editor at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper where Ms Politkovskaya worked, Sergei Sokolov, said he did not think the crime had been solved...

"The question of the person who ordered this killing has not been worked out in full - the interpretation of the prosecutor-general is more political than judicial."

Mr Chaika said on Monday said no political pressure had been exerted on prosecutors.

He said Ms Politkovskaya was killed by an organised crime group led by an ethnic Chechen and including at least five serving and former law enforcement officers.

- Reuters
August 28, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Worker Receives $600,000 Settlement

I found the following story on What's the real reason this person was fired?

"Worker Receives $600,000 Settlement"

"A former employee of the Tom’s River Township [New Jersey] has been awarded $600,000 in an out of court settlement according to reports. The lawsuit was settled with the former personnel director of the township after being filed in 2004 following the employee’s dismissal.

"The employee, Richard Vasil, claimed that his firing was carried out for ‘purely political reasons’ after being dismissed from his post by the mayor, Paul Brush. Officials claim that he was fired for refusing to wear a tie to work, locking his office door during lunch breaks, and failing to update documentation.

"Democrat mayoral candidate Tom Rodgers stated: "I'm concerned that [Democratic] Mayor Brush and his all-Republican Council HAVE NOT PROVIDED THE PUBLIC WITH THE DETAILS OF THE SUIT AS WELL AS THE AMOUNT OF TAXPAYERS' DOLLARS SPENT ON LEGAL FEES AND THE SETTLEMENT AMOUNT." [Emphasis added.]

"As part of the lawsuit the plaintiff argued that he had never even received any warnings with regards to the issues over which the mayor claims to have fired him. He further claims that his employment was terminated because he "was neither a Democrat nor independent, and did not support Brush in the November 2003 election.""

December 18th, 2006

If you like the graphic above, you can get a three-dimensional version at

Are developers playing rough in Greece?

I found this article in the Taipei Times:

"Greece charges seven with arson over forest fires"

"Greece battled raging forest fires for a fourth day yesterday and charged seven people with arson over blazes that have claimed more than 60 lives and threatened some of Europe's most historic sites...

"Firefighters were surrounding the site of Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, after succeeding on Sunday in preventing the flames from devastating one of Greece's most historic treasures...

"A spokesman for firefighters said seven people had been charged with starting fires and anti-terrorist prosecutor Dimitris Papagelopoulos said he was opening a preliminary investigation into the cause.

"Both announcements fueled mounting speculation that the fires were started by criminal gangs.

""The fact that so many fires have broken out in so many areas at once is perhaps not a coincidence," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said at the weekend...

"Construction is one of Greece's main industries, and some observers believe that developers are hoping to move in on the areas where forest has been destroyed.

"The government has insisted however that trees will be re-planted, partly to prevent illegal construction."
Aug 28, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Resigns

His underlings are long gone, and it was beginning to seem that he would never bow to pressure building against him, but Alberto Gonzales has finally resigned.

Apparently someone was able to talk Bush into sacrificing his old pal. I doubt that Gonzales realized that it is wrong to run the federal government like a partisan campaign committee.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

School pays $500,000 for teaching that there are four branches of government--among other interesting "facts"

Apparently Dick Cheney isn't the only one who thinks that there are four branches of the US government.

California Alternative High School (CAHS) will pay $500,000 to resolve a lawsuit that alleged it provided worthless diplomas.

While the school incorrectly taught that the U.S. government has four branches, it must be said that the school correctly named the three real branches (executive, legislative and judicial). The imaginary fourth branch was called "administrative." Apparently that's the one that consists of Dick Cheney.

According to a March 18, 2005 article on, the school "did not use textbooks, but instead gave consumers a 54-page workbook; the workbook contained numerous factual errors...students were taught the United States has 53 states, that the flag has not been updated to reflect the additional three states, and that Congress has one house for Democrats and a second for Republicans."

You might be surprised at how many schools engage in segregation today

Page school district agrees to $30,000 lawsuit settlement
March 07, 2007
by: McClatchy Tribune Business News
By Chelsea DeWeese -- The Arizona Daily Sun

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (MCT) - Page Unified School District is nearing resolution of a longstanding class-action lawsuit that alleges the district segregates its two elementary schools into ''white'' and ''Indian.''

PUSD's governing board agreed Feb. 6 to pay $30,000 worth of plaintiffs' attorney fees in the lawsuit, part of a two-pronged settlement agreement.

The second part involves addressing underlying community issues related to ethnic disparities at the two schools, which will be addressed at future board meetings, PUSD Superintendent James Walker said.

This school year, Desert View School is 89 percent American Indian and 8 percent white.

In contrast, Lake View School is 54 percent American Indian and 41 percent white.

Walker said the decision to pay plaintiffs' attorney fees - rather than fight a costly court battle - made good economic sense for the school district.

Walker said the board will explore community outreach, school climate, professional training, employee recruitment and retention, curriculum, communication and the PUSD Indian Education Committee's role at the two schools.

However, he emphasized that PUSD denies the allegations and admits no wrongdoing. Also, the district does not plan to use forced busing or ethnic enrollment quotas to reduce the ethnic disparity between the two schools.

''Basically, it's a business decision for us to avoid spending any more money than we already have on this issue,'' Walker said.

Walker said the school district could have been stuck paying its own attorney fees on top of plaintiffs' attorney fees if it had fought the lawsuit. Plaintiffs originally sought $200,000 in attorney fees, he said.

A civil rights lawsuit was filed in November 2005 on behalf of nine other individuals. Those individuals are parents of Desert View Elementary School students, according to court documents.

The lawsuit alleges the vast majority of students attending Desert View in 2004 - '05 were American Indian and that these students were denied access to the district's other primary school, Lake View Elementary School, which has a more equitable student makeup.

The lawsuit alleges the district's ''open enrollment'' policy allows the segregation to occur and that PUSD's ''Elementary Reconfiguration'' plan admits segregation at the two schools.

Walker said the ethnic disparity between the two schools is because of an incident nearly a decade ago in which a Desert View Elementary School principal broke off from Desert View and created a K - 5 charter school called Lake Powell Academy, which has since closed.

Walker said the principal took a number of teachers and non-Native students with her to Lake Powell Academy and that Desert View Elementary School has since remained mostly Navajo.

The board is scheduled to vote on a final settlement March 6.

Plaintiffs couldn't be reached for comment.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff, Ariz. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Education lawyers tried to shut down website critical of school

USA Today published the following story on 11/7/2005:

"Student gets $117,500 in website free speech case"

"OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey school district will pay $117,500 to a student who was punished for creating a website that included critical statements about his middle school.

"The settlement of the lawsuit brought nearly two years ago follows a decision by a federal judge ruling that Oceanport school administrators violated Ryan Dwyer's free speech rights.

"The settlement was announced Sunday by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

""While my parents and I are happy the case is resolved, most importantly, I'm hopeful this will help ensure that free speech rights of students aren't trampled on again in the future," said Dwyer, who is now in 11th grade.
Dwyer created the website containing criticism of Maple Place School in April 2003, on his own time from his home computer. Comments posted on the site's "guest book" section angered school officials, who suspended Dwyer for a week, benched him from playing on the baseball team for a month, and barred him from going on his class trip, among other discipline. The district's lawsuit said anti-Semitic remarks were posted on the site, which Dwyer denied writing.

""The school district has never — to this day — explained to us what rule or policy our son violated," said Kevin Dwyer, Ryan's father.

"The school district issued a prepared statement that said it solicited advice and guidance from legal advisers and law enforcement officers and acted "on its belief that it was protecting all of the children and the staff in the district."

""In the settlement agreement, the Board of Education expressed its regret for the entire incident that caused a great deal of concern to the Board of Education, its present and former members, as well as the Dwyers," the statement read.

"Grayson Barber, who handled the case on behalf of the ACLU, said the school presented no evidence that Dwyer's comments were threatening or disruptive of school activities.

""Our schools should encourage debate and political engagement rather than punishing students who provide a forum for free expression," Barber said."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Schools improve after lawsuit

Carla Rivera of the Los Angeles Times wrote on August 12, 2007 that improvements have been made since Williams v. California was settled:

"Three years after the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of California's poorest students, a new study has found that teaching and learning conditions in the state's lowest-performing schools have improved: More children are receiving textbooks, school facilities are in better repair and more teachers have proper credentials.

"The report, scheduled to be released Monday, is the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of Williams vs. California, which resulted in a package of laws requiring county superintendents to visit the lowest-achieving schools to monitor the availability of textbooks and the physical condition of buildings as well as to determine if teachers -- particularly those in classrooms with large numbers of English-learners -- are properly assigned.

"The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Public Advocates, which prepared the report and were co-counsel for the plaintiffs, found progress in all areas, although some counties and individual districts, such as Los Angeles Unified, still fell behind statewide averages.

"Some education groups that have been monitoring the settlement criticized the adequacy of complaint procedures and the depth of teacher training. They pointed to figures in the report, such as that 20,000 classes with substantial numbers of English-learners still did not have teachers with the proper training to provide instruction. They also noted that there is no evidence the settlement has helped to close the achievement gap between poor students and non-native English-speakers and their white counterparts.

"Still, during the study period from 2004 to 2006, students statewide received more than 88,000 new textbooks and instructional materials, nearly 3,000 emergency campus repairs were funded and the percentage of fully credentialed teachers increased from 90% to 92%..."

Ex-Klansman Is Sentenced to Life for Killings in 1964

Thomas Moore thanked Dunn Lampton, a United States attorney, for prosecuting James Seale, killer of his brother.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

It's been a painful forty-three years for the families of Charles Moore and Henry Dee, teenagers who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964, but I suspect killer James Seale never suffered from remorse. But it's nice to know that the truth seems to always come out in the end.

Below is the story from the New York Times by JERRY MITCHELL and BRENDA GOODMAN:

"JACKSON, Miss., Aug. 24 (2007) — Calling the crime “unspeakable because only monsters could inflict this,” a federal judge on Friday sentenced a former member of the Ku Klux Klan to three life terms in prison for his role in the 1964 kidnapping and murder of two black teenagers in Mississippi.

"The victims, Henry H. Dee and Charles E. Moore, both 19, were hitchhiking in Meadville, Miss., when a group of Klansmen, including James Seale, picked them up and took them to a wooded area, where they were beaten and their weighted bodies thrown into the Mississippi River. Both young men drowned.

"Their bodies were not recovered until later that year in a high-profile search for three civil rights activists whose deaths generated widespread revulsion against the racial violence in Mississippi..."

Have you checked your bank account lately?

From Speak Out California:

"Not surprisingly, if you checked your bank account balance
recently, the wage gap is widening in California with the rich
getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

"The highly respected California Budget Project released a new
report this week, "A Generation of Widening Inequality: The
State of Working California, 1979 to 2006." Its findings are not
surprising. The wealthiest continue to gain capital and the
poorest continue to lose purchasing power with wages that barely
keep pace with inflation. Interestingly, the gap between
low-wage and high-wage workers has widened more in California
than in the country as a whole. California's high wage workers
are doing better than most, but our low-wage workers are doing
worse than their US counterparts. And what is happening to the
middle class? It's simply disappearing. Of course, now is the
time to go out and buy that yacht and airplane, but then again,
only the wealthy can afford them---and don't have to pay into
the public treasury to boot! The good news for them is that
they're getting rich enough to be able to afford one of each,
while working Californians continue to struggle, with the bottom
pay range having dropped 7.2% and 43% of new jobs paying less
than $11 an hour.

"Sadly, but not surprisingly, the economic recovery of the past
decade has not provided the historic broad increase in the
standard of living for workers but instead has created
"skyrocketing corporate profits". So much for the right-wing's
much ballyhooed "trickle down" economics."

From the weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento for the week ending August 25, 2007.

Speak Out California is at

Is Arnold penny wise and pound foolish?

California finally has a budget 52 days late.

Here's one item that governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed.

This program for the mentally-ill homeless was saving tax dollars. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

From Speak Out California:

"The Governor blue-penciled, and thus completely
eliminated, an extremely important and successful program to
house the mentally ill.

"This program had been lauded by mental health experts as helping
break the cycle of homelessness that included hospitalization,
jails and life on the streets. Among the many ironies in
abolishing a program that actually saves the state millions of
dollars beyond its cost, this was the same measure the Gov. went
out of his way to praise only three years ago.

"Clearly, the ultra-conservatives who dominate the Republican
Party today think it's great to serve their wealthy masters at
our expense, so let's put a face on who will now suffer. One
Paul Culp, the LA Times reports, is a college graduate who
suffers from untreated bipolar disorder and was living on the
streets. Two years into this program, he was reunited with his
children and is now supporting himself. Now the program is gone.
Where will Paul Culp end up? And does anybody care---after all
we?ve saved more than enough to allow yacht owners to buy their
million dollar toys without having to pay the sales tax that you
and I must on our less indulgent purchases. Moral document

"Check out the excellent LA Times piece on this shameful
Schwarzenegger veto at:,1,2351487,print.story?coll=la-headlines-california.

"And the Mercury News article as well at"

From the weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento for the week ending August 25, 2007.
Speak Out California is at

Friday, August 24, 2007

What should San Diego do with the Pete Wilson statue?

What should San Diego do with the Pete Wilson statue?

I suggest that we look to the English for some guidance. They have centuries of experience with this sort of thing. For example, the one-armed English naval hero Lord Nelson was rewarded for winning the battle of Trafalgar by having his statue erected in cities all over the British Empire (see photo above).

Since fans of Pete Wilson are worried about possible vandalism of the statue, I suggest mounting Pete on a tall column, where he will be above the fray. Also, I like the English idea of putting the column in the center median of a busy street, protected by the traffic whizzing past both day and night.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


(The headline above is from the August 22, 2007 edition of the San Diego Union Tribune.)

I figure I don't need to say anything about this one. I'll just file it under "irony."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Recall effort at MiraCosta College

Gregory Post, Esq. and Charles Adams, Sr. worked with MiraCosta President Victoria Richart and Daniel Shinoff, Esq. to spend $3,000,000 tax dollars (so far) on investigation and follow-up regarding the loss of $305 worth of palm trees.

Here's a July 1, 2007 article by Dave Downy from the North County Times:

"A political action committee composed of current and former MiraCosta College employees, alumni and others announced Saturday that it plans to launch an attempt this week to recall the college board President Charles Adams and Trustee Gregory Post.

"Asserting that the two men "have repeatedly violated their legal and ethical duties as elected officials," a group that calls itself the Restore MiraCosta Committee put out a news release announcing the group will serve official notices of intent to recall Adams and Post this week, possibly as early as Monday...

"The development is the latest in a long string of turbulent events that have included an illegal sale of palm trees grown by the college's Horticulture Department, several lawsuits, accusations in board meetings, a vote of no confidence, the resignation of the college's former president, Victoria Munoz Richart, and a June 20 vote to pay Richart $1 million in severance.

"Adams said he could not say whether the move is a serious threat to the two men continuing on office.

""You never know about recalls," he said.

"Susan C. Herrmann, an English teacher at the college and member of the political group's steering committee, said the group has about 100 members and does not have a budget for the recall effort. But she said the group plans to dispatch teams of volunteers to a variety of coastal North County events over the summer to gather signatures in support of the recall.
The committee also maintained that Adams and Post failed to properly supervise Richart and restrain what it called a "contentious leadership style, allowing her to operate unchecked for years." The group said that as a result, Richart made decisions that "cost the college millions of dollars and gutted employee morale.""

Bernanke is so sweet, bailing out the folks who got rich with high fees

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and George Bush

A lot of people got rich arranging sub-prime loans. The borrowers, mostly poor and largely Mexican, paid enormous fees and penalties for those loans, particularly if they re-financed within a couple of years. Borrowers then lost property because they couldn't keep up the payments, since every last bit of financial cushion they once owned was now in the hands of the people who arranged the loans.

The Federal Reserve wanted to help. So a few days ago it bailed out the LENDERS by lowering the discount rate.

The poor earn the money, but it seems that those who already have plenty end up with it. No wonder we have a widening disparity between rich and poor. It appears that our goal is to become a society modeled on third-world countries.

I think the wealthy in America are penny wise and pound foolish. Don't they realize that they will live better when their fellow citizens are middle class rather than lower class? Desperate people do things like electing Huge Chavez, the current President of Venezuela. And people like Hugo Chavez aren't interested in democracy. But then, it seems Americans today care more about winning than in having a democracy. There was a time when Americans really believed in democracy, but that time seems to be past.

Perhaps our grandchildren will be going to China to find jobs.

This is what Market Watch had to say about the bailout:

Commentary: Where have you gone Paul Volcker?
By Irwin Yamamoto, The Yamamoto Forecast
Aug 22, 2007

"KAHULUI, Hawaii (YF) -- We warned investors of the subprime mess, the real estate bubble, the troubles with the hedge funds and the stock market sell-off before these international headlines became reality.

"Our next warning? Inflation. On Aug. 17, the Federal Reserve blinked when it lowered the discount rate.

"In the summer of 2007, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke encountered his first major crisis -- and he panicked. Basically, the financial community coerced and forced him to do something he was totally against -- give up the fight on inflation.

"In the past, whenever the Federal Reserve attempted to rescue the financial markets, something bad ensued. A price needs to be paid. Ramifications follow.

"Prior to the chaos in the global markets, the Fed clearly stated how inflation was its biggest worry.

"For months, Mr. Bernanke pointed out that inflation remained his number one concern.

"Furthermore, the inflation rate had been running over 2%. This pace hovered at the higher end of his target. Then a few weeks later, an orchestrated effort by international central banks to pump in billions in liquidity into the banking system took place. The plan was followed by the lowering of the discount rate by a half-percentage point from 6.25% to 5.75% in the U.S., an injection of funds to the tune of $120 billion..."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Presidential Advance Manual--Let's just say we're both wrong

Nicole and Jeff Rank

The following is from a August 20, 2007 article by Dahlia Lithwick regarding "tips for dealing with demonstrators from the Presidential Advance Manual."

"Late last week, the federal government settled a lawsuit with a pair of Texans who were arrested in 2004 for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts at a Fourth of July event in Charleston, W.Va. That's right, friends, $80,000 (of your taxpayer dollars) will be paid out to Jeff and Nicole Rank, whose suit against Gregory J. Jenkins—former deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Presidential Advance—has been dismissed.

"White House spokesman Blair Jones managed to turn lemons into lemonade with the statement last week that "the parties understand that this settlement is a compromise of disputed claims to avoid the expenses and risks of litigation and is not an admission of fault, liability, or wrongful conduct." This is, of course, vintage Bush, gloriously reminiscent of that Simpsons episode in which Homer arrives late to collect Bart in the pouring rain after soccer practice, then lectures: "I know you're mad at me right now, and I'm kinda mad, too. I mean, we could sit here and try to figure out who forgot to pick up who till the cows come home. But let's just say we're both wrong, and that'll be that."

"...Lest you believe that the Big Brother sheet represents the full extent of the speech suppression, however, the manual provides that, "As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event."

"The Advance Manual's finest moments come in its urgent, earnest drive to protect not just the television cameras but also the president himself from the ugliness of the dread "demonstrators." Certainly, "if it is determined that the media will not see or hear" demonstrators, event staff can ignore them. But event staff must involve themselves in "designating a protest area preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route." In other words, all this suppression of dissent isn't just to create a puppet show for the cameras. It's also about sock puppets for the president, who—if he could just be shielded from the mean T-shirts—might still believe his approval ratings soar into the mid-90s. The Ranks' peaceful protest at the West Virginia state capitol somehow became an act of "trespassing" only because the president was there.

"It's disturbing enough to learn from the Advance Manual that the White House has adopted an official policy of shouting down or covering up dissenting viewpoints with large sheets in order to deceive Americans at home into believing the president is universally adored. But that this official policy also exists to protect the tender sensitivities of the president himself is beyond belief..."

If you were a Hispanic teenager, would you want to go to Oscar de la Hoya High School?

If I were a Hispanic teenager, I think I'd get a kick out of going to Oscar de le Hoya High School. De la Hoya worked with Green Dot Public Schools and Taylor Fierce Architects to convert de la Hoya's gym in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, into a charter high school.

The architects describe their work:
"The charter school movement is generating schools that are smaller, more "urban" in design, and more closely linked with their neighborhoods. This particular project is the result of a collaboration between the boxer Oscar de la Hoya and Green Dot Public Schools. Located in Boyle Heights on the difficult 36,000 sf site of Oscar's original gym, the 45,000 sf program combines a charter high school with a boxing center open to the neighborhood, and has 40 parkling spaces on grade. Sun control for the Western facing classrooms was also a primary design issue."

Merit-based decision making

Site-based decision making doesn't work when it's controlled by school politics. When school staffs are willing to consider good ideas no matter who they come from, and to reject bad ideas no matter who they come from, they can begin responsible decision making.

The merit of the idea should be judged, not the social and political standing of the person who comes up with the idea.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More about principal Frank Wells

Locke High School, near Watts in Los Angles, California

Here's what Joanne Jacobs ( on May 4, 2007) had to say about Los Angeles principal Frank Wells before he was dismissed:

"Frank Wells, principal of a very bad Los Angeles high school, said he doesn’t need more money, reports the LA Times. (Repent of your sins! The end time is near!) On a visit to a Green Dot charter school, Frank Wells bitterly criticized the district bureaucracy for blocking real change at Locke High, near Watts. He called it “criminal to allow a school to continue on year after year, the way this one has.”

"“The more you fail, the more money they throw at you,” he said. “We’re filthy rich; I don’t want any more of your money. Send me quality teachers.”

"Wells was brought in to turn around Locke but says he’s run into a “brick wall.” "

[I agree with the following comment by Larry Strauss regarding Joanne Jacobs' post.]

"This is an example of where the ability of a principal to pay incentives to get quality teachers would probably have an impact.

"I don’t know too many teachers who would volunteer to transfer to Locke. My school is one of the alternatives to Locke — and Washington and Fremont — but our enrollment is only 360 (one reason our school has a graduation rate about 60% higher than Locke). One of our foreign language teachers began her career at Locke and has no desire to return there. Former Supt. Romer wanted to be able to force teachers to teach wherever he saw fit to assign them, which wouldn’t be terribly good for morale or retention….

"So Principal Wells has all this money… He can buy mountains of new text books but without enough “quality teachers” what good are those book? He can equip his classrooms with state of the art technology but without enough quality teachers the equipment is likely to go to waste.

"There isn’t a level playing field when it comes to hiring quality teachers. Geography, neighborhood safety, reputation, and challenging students make schools like Locke less desirable to most teachers. Offering incentive pay could level the playing field.

"One more thing: it is important to consider, when discussing a school such as Locke, that there are already quality teachers there. I know some myself. They might be in the minority which makes them even more outstanding. They put up with a lot of crap every day in their classrooms, in the hallways, and then they get dumped on along with the rest of the school by the press, the public, and the politicians…."

Union and District work to get rid of reform-minded principal

A. J. Duffy, President of United Teachers of Los Angeles

Green Dot Hero-Principal Frank Wells has been dismissed from Los Angeles Unified School District.

Steve Barr's Green Dot Public Schools were the subject of a New York Times article by Sam Dillon 07/24/2007:

"...Clint Bolick, a lawyer who has represented many charter schools, said: “If union bosses start patrolling their hallways, that’ll be the death knell of charters, as it has been for public schools. There has to be a genuine perestroika for Green Dot’s approach to work.”

"Tactics aside, the chain has had promising results. An early high school that Green Dot founded, Ànimo Inglewood, has raised the percent of students proficient in math by 40 points since 2003, and 79 percent of its students from the class of 2006 went on to college. Green Dot keeps enrollment in its high schools below 525. Incoming freshmen who need it remedial tutoring get it, and thereafter pursue a college-prep curriculum.

"Three years ago, Mr. Barr negotiated with district officials about overhauling Jefferson High School, a dropout factory in downtown Los Angeles. When the talks bogged down, Mr. Barr concluded he needed clout.

"Green Dot organized a parents union, and its members, buttonholing neighbors in supermarkets and churches, collected 10,000 signatures endorsing Jefferson’s division into several smaller charter schools.

Green Dot founder Steve Barr

"Mr. Barr marched from Jefferson High with nearly 1,000 parents to deliver the petition to district headquarters. The authorities refused to relinquish Jefferson, but the school board approved five new charters, which Green Dot inaugurated last fall, all near Jefferson and drawing students from it.

"Green Dot’s recent organizing suggests that many teachers are as frustrated as parents.

"Locke, designated a failing school for much of a decade, is awaiting its fourth principal in five years. This spring, Mr. Barr drew up a charter plan and began meeting with teachers to explain it. He envisioned using the Locke campus for smaller schools that emphasize college prep and give teachers more decision-making authority.

"He invited Frank Wells, Locke’s principal, to tour a Green Dot charter in May, a day on which Education Secretary Margaret Spellings would be visiting. Before parents, teachers and the secretary, Mr. Wells denounced the district as using Locke as a dumping ground for incompetent teachers.

"“I went to Locke thinking I could turn it around, but I ran into a brick wall,” Mr. Wells said.

"On May 7, teachers began circulating a petition endorsing Green Dot’s plan for Locke, and more than half of Locke’s 73-member tenured staff members signed. Bruce Smith, an English teacher who gathered signatures, said most young teachers were eager to sign; older teachers were reluctant.

"“Among the people who opposed us, nobody said, ‘The district is doing a great job here,’ ” Mr. Smith recalled. “It was mostly, ‘What about our job security?’ ”

"The district authorities accused Mr. Wells of fomenting the revolt, dispatched guards to escort him from the building, and dismissed him, Mr. Wells said. Binti Harvey, a district spokeswoman, declined to discuss Mr. Wells.

"A decision by Locke’s teachers to break with the district would be an embarrassment for the school district and the teachers union. Both began lobbying the teachers. Last month, the district rejected Green Dot’s petition, saying 17 teachers had withdrawn their endorsement, leaving it without the majority necessary to comply with a charter conversion law.

"But a newly elected board of education is to reconsider the petition in August."

Public contracting increasingly "pay to play"

New Jersy Common Cause's website notes:

"Absent of proper controls, public contracting is increasingly dominated by "pay-to-play" practices where large campaign contributions are traded for lucrative government contracts. In the process, taxpayers pay more for lower quality services and local campaigns become too costly for everyday Americans.

"Public contracting reform severs the link between campaign contributions and government contracts, ensuring that merit and cost effectiveness drive the contract process while leveling the playing field to run for political office."

Terrific idea: The teacher's union runs the school

UFT President Randi Weingarten (left)
with New York legislator Sheldon Silver

You can't have accountability unless you can figure out who is responsible. When administrators and teachers are pulling in different directions, either one of them can say, "If things had been done my way, we would have succeeded."

New York City schools have come up with a solution: let the teachers union run the school.

The UFT (The United Federation of Teachers)Elementary Charter School
is located at 300 Wyona Street in East New York, Brooklyn. For the 2006-2007 school year, the school will enroll 225 students in Kindergarten through 2nd grade.

Why doesn't every teachers union run a charter school? Union leaders would gain new insight into problems in education. They would have to change some of their attitudes, such as belief in rigid political hierarchies, in order to succeed. To succeed, schools need merit-based decision making.

The Broad Education Foundation, founded by Eli Broad of Los Angeles, writes:

The Broad Foundation supports the start-up of the United Federation of Teachers' (UFT) first union-run charter schools in New York City. The UFT Elementary Charter School opened its doors in the fall of 2005 with 150 students in kindergarten and first grade. The school will grow one grade per year until it serves students from kindergarten through fifth grade. The UFT opened the UFT Secondary Charter School in Fall 2006, serving 226 students.. The secondary school will add a grade each year until it serves students from grades 6 through 12.

Teachers Setting Bad Examples

After 30 years of observing teacher and student interactions, my guess is that the teacher in the following story was exceptionally harsh to students when they broke rules.

I found this story on Union Corruption Update

"Ex-Employee of Maine Union Sentenced for Embezzlement"

"Catherine Crosier didn’t set a good example to students. She got a stern reminder of that at her sentencing hearing in federal court. Crosier, a former employee of the 25,000-member Maine Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, was sentenced on May 7 to six months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Crosier, 46, a resident of Augusta, pled guilty last November to one count of embezzling more than $45,000 in union funds during June 2002-January 2004. She had made out about 180 union checks either to herself or petty cash.

"“What troubles me the most is the nature of the employer you stole from,” U.S. District Judge John Woodcock told the defendant. “It was as if you walked into a classroom, marched up to a teacher and grabbed the teacher’s pocket or pocketbook and took money out of it. Then, you went to the next classroom and the next classroom and did the same thing.” In addition to serving time, Crosier will have to pay restitution. The sentencing follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. (Associated Press, 5/8/07; OLMS, 5/30/07)."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Investigation shows CVESD is hiding information

Lowell Billings,
CVESD Superintendent

For years I've been trying to get Chula Vista Elementary School District to follow the law regarding release of public information.

At last I've got some help.

A non-profit law firm called Public Advocates examined twenty school districts in California and found that nineteen of them were ignoring the law. Public Advocates has threatened to sue CVESD and the seven other scofflaws who were most blatantlly out of compliance with the law.

Lowell Billings, Superintendent of CVESD, used the time-honored "I was unaware" excuse.

Right, Lowell. And you were unaware of my public records requests, too, I suppose.

"It's so blatantly out of compliance that it just drew our attention," said Guillermo Mayer, Public Advocates attorney.

But I still haven't found anyone to help find out how much CVESD has spent on lawyers.

Randolph Ward,
SDCOE Superintendent

San Diego County Office of Education Superintendent Randolph Ward has many good traits, but openness isn't one of them. Oakland Unified, the district he headed until he came to San Diego a year ago, has been sued by Public Advocates. Randy Ward has ignored the public records requests I have sent to SDCOE.

San Diego has one less developer on the payroll

The Sunroad Tower

I found the following in Voice of San Diego.
By Evan McLaughlin

Jim Waring, the recently resigned land-use chief for Mayor Jerry Sanders, sent along a note today to some of the department directors that worked for him.

In an e-mail, Waring lamented that he decided to try to sway Councilwoman Donna Frye that "there may be a better result for the city" than lowering the Sunroad building to the Federal Aviation Administration's 160-foot height limit. That meeting with Frye touched off allegations by City Attorney Mike Aguirre that Waring was trying to appease the company and defy the city's lawsuit...

He said he had wrestled with the idea of stepping down "for some time." While the Mayor's Office said today that the mayor had accepted Waring's resignation, he said in the e-mail that he was fired...

Tuesday, August 14

Developer Paul Nieto (partner of Mike Madigan) resigns from Airport Authority

Paul Nieto
Since Paul Nieto and his partner Mike Madigan were exposed for trickery regarding land being acquired for San Diego City College, Paul Nieto has been forced out of office. But Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox is still reflexively loyal to developers. She put a construction consultant in Nieto's place.

Mike Madigan
From Voice of San Diego, by Rob Davis: "Nieto Resigns Airport Post"

"Chula Vista developer Paul Nieto resigned this morning from his seat on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

"Nieto, a partner with TMG and the former president of the company that developed Chula Vista's EastLake, has been under scrutiny for profiting off a land deal that he'd claimed he was involved in on behalf of the San Diego Community College District.

"Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox appointed Jack Miller to the authority's board in Nieto's stead. Miller is employed at Gafcon, a San Diego construction consulting firm. The former Navy pilot spent three years managing operations for San Diego County's airport."

Jim Groth and Peggie Myers play yet another trick on Chula Vista teachers

Peggie Myers is the new president of Chula Vista Educators. Readers may remember Ms. Myers for her role in the Castle Park Elementary fiasco.

Teachers re-elected longtime president Jim Groth in 2007, but he had other plans. He moved on the the Board of Directors of California Teachers Association, where he can continue to work closely with lead attorney Beverly Tucker, who helped him and Ms. Myers cover up illegal activities at CVESD.

One wonders why Jim Groth didn't resign immediately as Chula Vista Educators president when he was chosen for the state board of directors.

My guess is that he wanted to make very sure that the person who followed him as leader of CVE was someone who knew and approved of the coverup that CVE and CTA had been conducting for several years. He--and Beverly Tucker--wanted someone in charge of CVE who wouldn't be too interested in following the law. The last thing they wanted was someone who would ask questions or demand reform. Apparently they feared that recent past vice-president Robyn Higginson might not be a whole-hearted supporter of Jim and Peggy's illegal actions against teachers. Jim Groth apparently threw his support to Peggie Myers, and the two of them succeeded in pushing Higginson out.

Apparently Peggie Myer's training went well, and after a few months, Jim Groth resigned and Peggie Myers, who had recently been chosen as vice president of CVE, became president of CVE.

It should be an easy job, Peggy. The board of directors rubber stamps whatever CTA lawyers and/or the CVE president tells them to. There doesn't seem to be a single person among them who would resign on principle because their association was violating laws willy-nilly.

Next, Chula Vista Elementary teachers will be asked to vote for a new vice-president. How about Robin Donlan, to keep the old gang together?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Betancourt shouldn't be going alone

Local school districts have many lawyers, officials and administrators who do their best to ignore the law. Usually the wrondoing gets covered up. But when it can't be covered up, the district suddenly develops a stance of intolerance toward illegal activity.

Betancourt is gone from San Diego Unified because he was in the papers. When will Mr. Cohn and the board start the real house cleaning? When will wrongdoing be a cause for concern even if it isn't in the papers?

It seems that school districts are perfect proving grounds for administrators who might want to go on to work in municipal government. These administrators can wrap themselves in the sacred flag of education while they learn to bamboozle the public. Jo Anne SawyerKnoll, who recently produced a whitewash of the relationship between San Diego city officials and the Sunroad company, came from San Diego Unified School District.

Here's a story about Betancourt's departure:

Betancourt's Replaced
by Vladimir Kogan
Voice of San Diego
August 13, 2007

School District CAO José Betancourt is being replaced, according to a one-line memo delivered to trustees.

A one-line memo delivered to the San Diego Unified School District trustees today announced that the school system's chief financial officer, Bill Kowba, has been named as the acting chief administrative officer, replacing embattled José Betancourt.

Betancourt has spent the last month negotiating with the school district over a severance package that would pave way for his resignation, following a guilty plea on federal conflict-of-interest charges for his work on a defense contract.

District spokesman Jack Brandais said he had not seen the memo, though he confirmed that Betancourt was not at the district this morning...

The heartless shall inherit the earth?

European penduline tit

From The Economist
Aug 9th 2007

Abandoning offspring in search of new sexual conquests works—at least, for tits...

Researchers...studied the behaviour of a small bird called the European penduline tit... These birds are noted for the elaborate covered nests—which hang like bags from the branches of trees—that the males build to attract females. Investment in establishing a family is thus shared between the males, who provide the accommodation, and females, who supply the eggs.

After eggs have been laid, it is usual for either the male or the female penduline tit to leave their partner to raise the chicks. Between 50% and 70% of the time, it is the female who nurtures and provides for the brood but the male assumes this role in between 5% and 20% of nests.

[Here's the harsh part:]

Curiously, though, in between 30% and 40% of cases both parents desert the clutch...

They found that, over the course of the breeding season, deserting the nest once eggs had been laid boosted the number of descendants produced by the bird that fled. Whether male or female, the more often a bird deserted its clutches, the more mates it had and the more eggs were laid...

[Assuming that this behavior is genetically determinied, the next generation might have even more adults who abandon their offspring!]

Maybe federal regulators are a little too business friendly?

We can land on the moon, but we can't drill a safe mine? What has happened to safety regulation?

Drillers May Have Missed Area Where Miners Are
By Sonya Geis
Washington Post
August 11, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 10 -- A first attempt to contact six miners trapped in a collapsed Utah mine failed, but rescuers and mine officials said Friday they still had hope the men are alive.

Rescuers lowered a microphone through a 2 1/2 -inch-wide hole late Thursday night, after drilling more than 1,800 feet to the depth where mine officials believe the miners are confined. But no noises could be heard.

Hundreds of rescuers battle falling rocks and debris to reach six coal miners trapped 1,500 feet below ground following a cave-in at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, Aug. 6, 2007.

The rescuers may have missed an air pocket where the miners are sitting, said Richard Stickler, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. The small drill bit could have veered away from its target as it bored through the earth...

Even Bush's speechwriter had ghost writers

This is the man who took credit for the "axis of evil" phrase.

I found this article in the Washington Post.

Bush's Muse Stands Accused
Speeches Weren't His, Colleague Says
By Peter Baker
August 11, 2007

He has been hailed as the best White House speechwriter since Kennedy's Theodore Sorensen, the muse behind President Bush's most famous phrases, the moral conscience of the West Wing. But now Michael J. Gerson is accused by a former colleague of taking credit for words he did not write.

According to Matthew Scully, who worked with him for five years, Gerson is not the bard of Bushworld but rather a "self-publicizing" glory hog guilty of "foolish vanity," "sheer pettiness" and "credit hounding." In Scully's account, Gerson did not come up with the language that made him famous. "Few lines of note were written by Mike," Scully says, "and none at all that come to mind from the post-9/11 addresses -- not even 'axis of evil.' "

Scully's blistering portrait of one of the president's most prominent former advisers in the new issue of the Atlantic touched off an intense pushback by the White House yesterday as top Bush aides jumped to defend Gerson as the victim of a jealous associate. But the internecine feuding may signal something broader than pride of authorship. Scully's 10-page indictment represents the sort of classic Washington tell-all once rare in an administration known for discipline and loyalty...

[And here's where the "Axis of Evil" came from:]

...Scully recounts the story of the "axis of evil" phrase, which Bush used in his 2002 State of the Union to describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Scully notes that colleague David Frum originally came up with "axis of hatred," as reported before. Scully says he suggested changing it to "evil." He does not cite any examples of Gerson explicitly claiming the phrase as his own, pointing instead to news accounts attributing it to him that have gone uncorrected...

Rove resigns--but it doesn't seem to matter anymore

George Bush's pals always wait too long before they resign; they wait so long that it doesn't seem to matter much.

Rumsfeld waited until after his party lost the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Karl Rove waited until it was clear that Bush didn't mean it when he said that anyone who committed a crime regarding the exposure of the identity of a CIA agent would be forced out of the White House.

I assume that talk of impeachment of Alberto Gonzalez, Cheney and Bush is what caused Bush to finally push Rove out. Bush wanted to throw out a sacrificial lamb--or sacrificial boar--to take the heat off himself and his AG and VP.

But I suspect it's too late to change the widespread perception that Bush feels little more than arrogance toward the American people.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Strong Developer Form of Government?

Jarvis Ross posted the following on San Diego Coastal Alliance blog:

Back on November 18, 2002 Diann Shipione prophetically stated before the city council…“What concerns me is that the benefit enhancements were conditioned upon the retirement board approving this agreement, and that is, in my opinion, ethically troubling.... I’ll be quite frank with you, it almost appears to be corrupt.

”There is another area of great and growing concern to the citizens of every part of the city. This past election the public was led to believe that they were getting a strong mayor form of government.

Apparently what they really bought into was a STRONGER DEVELOPER form of government. The recent re-hiring of the notorious Escobar-Eck as head of Development Services at a six figure salary heightens the anger of those who want that department remerged back under the Planning Department.

This would free up that salary to hire sorely needed police and by placing DSD’s salaries back in the general fund it would help avoid the public impression of public servants prostituting their work in return for large developer’s permit fees...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Critical thinking

I keep saying that many school professionals need further training in critical thinking. That might have helped in this case:

New York principal to be fired over school chicken blood ritual
The Associated Press
Published: August 7, 2007

NEW YORK: A New York City school principal accused of performing religious rituals with chicken blood, incense and candles in an attempt to cleanse the school of negative energy will be fired, the Department of Education said Tuesday.

Maritza Tamayo paid a woman to lead several Santeria rituals during midwinter break in 2006, when students were not at the Unity Center for Urban Technologies, according to Richard Condon, the special commissioner of investigation for city schools. Tamayo coerced staff members to participate in and help pay for the cost of the ceremonies, investigators said..

Strange bedfellows: Right and left wingers working together

When I notice strange bedfellows, I look for the unusual situation that has brought them together.

It could be that they are working together for the common good. Or it could be that they have cooked up a scheme to benefit themselves personally at the expense of the common good.

The latter seems to be the case with the courtship between San Diego City Employee spokespeople (such as Ann Smith and Jim Carter), and Republican office holders such as former Mayor Dick Murphy and City Council President Scott Peters.

This leaves the Democratic Party in San Diego in a fix. It seems to be every man for himself in the Democratic Party. I'm guessing that Ann Smith and MEA President Judie Italiano are Democrats, but they've taken a path that benefits themselves but has offended voters, taxpayers, and Democrats. Ann Smith and Judie Italiano have damaged the Democratic Party tremendously. No wonder all five County Supervisors are Republicans.

Vence Donlan Pleads Guilty; One of Robin Donlan's attorneys says she is innocent

See all Vence Donlan posts.


Did someone push Vence Donlan into committing stock options fraud?

How did so many people who were close to Robin Donlan become involved in criminal activities?

These individuals include Donlan's PTA friend, Kimberlee Simmons; Donlan's brother, Michael Carlson; her brother's boss, Commander Sam Gross of Santa Barbara Sheriff's department; and finally, and most distressingly, her husband, a former navy pilot and school teacher who is now serving an almost-4-year federal prison sentence.

Robin's husband Vence Donlan was never in trouble before he married Robin.

What caused him to begin to commit stock option theft a few months after he married Robin?

Could it have been pressure from his wife?

That was certainly the reason that Robin's union, California Teachers Association (CTA), teachers at her school (Castle Park Elementary), and administrators at her school district (Chula Vista Elementary) became involved in criminal activities. Robin Donlan put them in a position where they had to violate the law or push back against pressure. Sadly, they all decided to break the law.

I suspect that Robin was fearful in March 2002, when she learned that her school district and her fellow teachers had been sued, that her involvement in the wrongdoing would eventually be exposed.

Robin Doig Colls married Vence Donlan in early 2002, perhaps in part because she feared that her role in the wrongdoing would be exposed, and she wanted the support of a husband. Possibly she expressed fear to her husband that she would have to pay a lot of money in a lawsuit, and he felt the need to provide her with a lot of money.

One thing is for certain: Robin committed crimes, encouraged crimes, and covered up crimes. And a lot of people suffered the consequences.

It's time for Robin to come forward and tell the truth, and try to repair some of the damage she's done. The same is true of Chula Vista Elementary School District, California Teachers Association, and the San Diego County Office of Education-Joint Powers Authority.

How about a return to the rule of law, Robin and friends?


Chula Vista Elementary School District teacher Robin Donlan and her husband filed false tax returns. But she says she's an innocent bystander.

Here's the story from the San Diego Union Tribune:
By Kathryn Balint
July 4, 2007

Vencent Donlan, 44, a teacher, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion in connection with a scheme in which he fraudulently issued Wireless Facilities stock options and then cashed them in.

In a plea agreement, Donlan admitted to using his position as Wireless Facilities' stock options administrator to fraudulently issue 728,229 shares of the company's stock to a brokerage account he controlled and then selling them for a net gain of $6.3 million between November 2002 and November 2003.

He also admitted that he evaded paying $2.2 million in federal income taxes for 2002 and 2003 by failing to declare the income he received from the fraudulent stock sales.

“Mr. Donlan exploited his position as a stock option administrator and embezzled millions of dollars,” said Ronald Krajewski, acting special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service's San Diego office.

Donlan, a Del Cerro resident and former Navy pilot, most recently taught physics at the San Diego High Educational Complex School of Business. He was paid about $65,000 a year when he worked for Wireless Facilities from 2002 to 2004.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 17. Until then, Donlan is out on a $100,000 personal surety bond, said his attorney, Howard Frank.

Donlan's wife, Robin, has not been charged criminally. Donlan had used her Social Security number and maiden name, Robin Colls, on the brokerage account.

David Hiden, one of Robin Donlan's attorneys, previously has said that she was an “innocent bystander.”

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ann Smith regarding transparency

I don't think that Municipal Employees Association attorney Ann Smith is comfortable with the increased transparency in government that Donna Frye and others are trying to bring to San Diego.

The SD City Council doesn't want another $1 billion surprise regarding underfunded pensions, but Ann Smith doesn't seem to care much. She doesn't see it as her problem, or the MEA's problem.

So when the Committee on Government Efficiency and OPENNESS created a policy requiring mandatory discussion of unfunded accrued liability, and was set to send the new policy to the full council for a vote, Ann Smith spoke up and insisted that the council had to meet and confer with her (and other unions) before voting.

I can certainly understand that rules should be followed, Ann, but you didn't feel that way when the pension was underfunded in order to give benefits to union presidents and workers. How many jobs have been lost as a result of that underfunding? How much infrastructure goes unrepaired? How much city property will have to be sold to make sure that the fallout of the illegal underfunding deal falls on anybody but you? It doesn't seem to me that you care about anyone you aren't paid to care about, Ann.

You have no remorse for your role in the underfunding deal, do you, Ann Smith?

You smugly argue that the statute of limitations protects you from liability. If you can get away with it, it wasn't wrong? Is that what you think?

Here is a portion of the minutes of that meeting:
Committee on Government Efficiency and Openness
September 26, 2005
Updating Council Policy 300-06 to include a MANDATORY DISCUSSION OF UNFUNDED ACCRUED ACTUARIAL LIABILITY (UAAL) PRIOR TO MEET & CONFER SESSIONS. (See Councilmember Frye’s September 15, 2005, letters; Ann M. Smith’s September 9, 2005, letter; City Attorney’s August 31, 2005, memo)
PUBLIC COMMENT: Ann Smith, San Diego Municipal Employees Association (MEA): Stated that MEA supports the item as long as any change in the council policy is properly discussed in a meet and confer session with the recognized employee organizations before it is approved by the full City Council.
Motion by Chair Frye, second by Councilmember Maienschein to
recommend to the full City Council that the language contained in the CityAttorney’s memorandum be added to Council Policy 300-06 with the understanding that the existing policy requires that the City conduct a meet and confer session with the recognized labor organizations regarding the change.
2-0; Frye-yea, Young-not present, Maienschein-yea

Orange County agrees with Mike Aguirre

Both San Diego and Orange Counties are dealing with pension debts that they can't pay.

ANDREW DONOHUE of Voice of San Diego reports on August 1, 2007:

Orange County has begun to stake out a similar strategy to City Attorney Mike Aguirre in its attempts to manage a multibillion-dollar pension deficit.

The Los Angeles Times reported today on the "first-of-its-kind battle," in which Orange County supervisors took the first step toward rolling back hundreds of millions of dollars in retroactive pension benefits awarded in 2001.

But the approach isn't completely novel. Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, who is pushing the measure, is arguing that the benefits are unconstitutional because they violated a state law that forbids the creation of debt without providing for proper funding.

That's one of the key arguments employed by Aguirre in his pension suit. (Moorlach's been closely following our problems here in recent years.)

There are a few key differences between what's going on in San Diego and in Orange County. First, if the supervisors do go ahead with the move, which isn't yet final, it would be the actual legislative body attempting to take back the benefits. So far here, the attack has come from the City Attorney's Office. Second, Aguirre's challenge is much broader, using other laws in his attempt and going after a much wider array of employee benefits.

This was before Anthony Gonzales' impeachment was discussed

from Bill Moyers Journal

July 13, 2007

"A public opinion poll from the American Research Group recently reported that more than four in ten Americans — 45% — favor impeachment hearings for President Bush and more than half — 54% — favored impeachment for Vice President Cheney.

"Unhappiness about the war in Iraq isn't the only cause of the unsettled feelings of the electorate. Recent events like President Bush's pardoning of Scooter Libby, the refusal of Vice President Cheney's office to surrender emails under subpoena to Congress and the President's prohibition of testimony of former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers in front of the House Judiciary Committee have caused unease over claims of "executive privilege." In addition, many of the White House anti-terror initiatives and procedures — from the status of "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo to warrantless wiretapping — have come under legal scrutiny in Congress and the courts."