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Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

Yeah, but where's the profit?!


Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point. The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation's education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn't clear that Sahlberg's message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.

Gotta make that money! Results be damned!

Rest is here:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lawrence O'Donnell vs. Ron Paul on the '64 Civil Rights Act

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A OWS Christmas message

Click here:

Friendlier format:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holy God, the Communists have a valid point

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bernie Sanders: Rich, pay your fair share

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

University of Kentucky to privatize student housing


"The University of Kentucky is getting out of the student-housing business and plans to turn over its dormitories to a private company that will upgrade and manage the aging properties.
The university said Monday it's negotiating with Education Realty Trust Inc. to transfer control of nearly 6,000 beds and apartments. The new owner will redevelop much of those rooms and build more than 2,500 beds in the next five to seven years.

While several colleges have entered into public-private partnerships in recent years to replace a portion of their student housing, the University of Kentucky would be among the first major institutions to turn over its entire student housing stock to a private real estate company." 

"Partnerships between colleges and private companies can be complicated. Such arrangements require close working relationships with the many entities that make up the campus community.

"It can be a difficult path to go down because no matter what, [companies] are beholding to their investors. So their end goal is different from an institution's end goal," said Michael Coakley, a student housing official at Arizona State University, which has worked with a private developer."


Gee...  I think of about a billion reasons why this is a really bad idea.  I'm going to follow up on this post as I dig for a few things I've seen/read.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh takes it to Target

According to the protests, Target promised fulltime jobs and didn't deliver: On the description: "Penn Circle Towers, a low-income housing high rise, was demolished in order to build this Target."

Friday, December 9, 2011

In an ultimate irony, #OWS occupies a fake #OWS TV set

Law and Order SUV made a fake Occupy site, #OWS occupied the TV occupation:

Fox fails yet again (Greece riots, not Russian)

Covering up for the fact there's unrest here or what Fox? Wrong country, Russia is to the "north", think Baltic Sea, not Mediterranean:

Support the Occupied Amendment!

People have been asking what this movement transitions into, well here you go:

"Jesus" responds to Rick Perry's ad

Here's Perry's disgusting ad:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bernie Sanders introduces constitutional amendment

Similar legislation introduced into the Republican House, where it immediately died of course:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rick Perry released incredible hateful anti-gay ad

Wow... As mad as I get with Obama, here's your alternative people:

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again. I'm Rick Perry and I approve this message."

Winter Occupation with OWS in full swing, looking back months before

HuffPost, Michael Moore:
And now it is winter. Wall Street rejoices, hoping that the change of seasons will mean a change in our spirit, our commitment to stop them.
They couldn't be more wrong. Have they not heard of Washington and the troops at Valley Forge? The Great Flint Sit-Down Strike in the winter of 1936-37? The Michigan Wolverines crushing Ohio State in the 1950 Blizzard Bowl? When it comes to winter, it is the time historically when the people persevere and the forces of evil make their retreat!
We are not even 12 weeks old, yet Occupy Wall Street has grown so fast, so big, none of us can keep up with the hundreds of towns who have joined the movement, or the thousands of actions -- some of them just simple ones in neighborhoods, schools and organizations -- that have happened. The national conversation has been irreversibly changed. Now everyone is talking about how the 1% are getting away with all the money while the 99% struggle to make ends meet. People are no longer paralyzed by despair or apathy. Most know that now is the time to reclaim our country from the bankers, the lobbyists -- and their gofers: the members of the United States Congress and the 50 state legislatures.
And they're crazy if they think that a little climate chaos (otherwise known as winter in the 21st century) that they've helped to bring about is going to stop us.
I would like to propose to my Occupying sisters and brothers that there are many ways to keep Occupy Wall Street going through the winter months. There is perhaps no better time to move the movement indoors for a few months -- and watch it grow even bigger! (For those who have the stamina to maintain the outdoor occupations, by all means, keep it up -- and the rest of us will do our best to help you and keep you warm!)

I posted this video back in March '11.

Oh how highly relevant it still is, especially with #OWS in full swing:

Go to 1:29:00

The winter gives us an amazing opportunity to expand our actions against the captains of capitalism who have occupied our homes with their fraudulent mortgage system which has tossed millions of families out onto the curb; a cruel health care system that has told 50 million Americans "if you can't afford a doctor, go F yourself"; a student loan system that sends 22-year-olds into an immediate "debtors' prison" of working lousy jobs for which they didn't go to school but now have to take because they're in hock for tens of thousands of dollars for the next two decades; and a jobs market that keeps 25 million Americans un- or under-employed -- and much of the rest of the workers forced to accept wage cuts, health care reductions and zero job security.
But we in the Occupy Movement reject this version of the "American Dream." Instead, I suggest we shift our focus for this winter to the following actions:

A proposal to the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street from Michael Moore

1. Occupy Our Homes. Sorry, banks, a roof over one's head is a human right, and you will no longer occupy our homes through foreclosure and eviction because well, you see, they are ourhomes, not yours. You may hold the mortgage; you don't hold the right to throw us or our neighbors out into the cold. With almost one in three home mortgages currently in foreclosure, nearing foreclosure or "underwater," the Occupy Movement must form local "Occupy Strike Forces" to create human shields when the banks come to throw people out of their homes. If the foreclosure has already happened, then we must help families move back into their foreclosed homes -- literally (see this clip from my last film to watch how a home re-occupation is accomplished). Beginning today, Take Back the Land, plus many other citizens' organizations nationwide, are kicking off Occupy Our Homes. Numerous actions throughout the day today havealready resulted in many families physically taking back their homes. This will continue every day until the banks are forced to stop their fraudulent practices, until homeowners are allowed to change their mortgage so that it reflects the true value of their homes, and until those who can no longer afford a mortgage are allowed to stay in their homes and pay rent. I beseech the news media to cover these actions -- they are happening everywhere. Evictions, though rarely covered (you need a Kardashian in your home as you're being evicted to qualify for news coverage) are not a new story (see this scene I filmed in 1988). Also, please remember the words of Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Toledo (in 'Capitalism: A Love Story'): Do not leave your homes if the bank forecloses on you! Let them take you to court and then YOU ask the judge to make them produce a copy of your mortgage. They can't. It was chopped up a hundred different ways, bundled with a hundred other mortgages, and sold off to the Chinese. If they can't produce the mortgage, they can't evict you.
2. Occupy Your College. In nearly every other democracy on the planet, students go to college for free or almost free. Why do those countries do that? Because they know that for their society to advance, they must have an educated population. Without that, productivity, innovation and an informed electorate is stunted and everyone suffers as a result. Here's how we do it in the U.S.A.: make education one of our lowest priorities, graduate students who know little about the world or their own government or the economy, and then force them into crushing debt before they even have their first job. That way has really worked well for us, hasn't it? It's made us the world leader in … in … well, ok, we're like 27th or 34th in everything now (except war). This has to end.Students should spend this winter doing what they are already doing on dozens of campuses -- holding sit-ins, occupying the student loan office, nonviolently disrupting the university regents meetings, and pitching their tents on the administration's lawn. Young people -- we, the '60s generation, promised to create a better world for you. We got halfway there -- now you have to complete the job. Do not stop until these wars are ended, the Pentagon budget is cut in half, and the rich are forced to pay their taxes. And demand that that money go to your education. We'll be there with you on all of this! And when we get this fixed and you graduate, instead of being $40,000 in debt, go see the friggin' world, or tinker around in your garage a la the two Steves, or start a band. Enjoy life, discover, explore, experiment, find your way. Anything but the assistant manager at Taco Bell.
3. Occupy Your Job. Let's spend the winter organizing workplaces into unions. OR, if you already have a union, demand that your leaders get off their ass and get aggressive like our grandparents did. For chrissakes, surely you know we would not have a middle class if it weren't for the strikes of the 1930s-1950s?! In three weeks we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the workers in my hometown of Flint, Michigan taking over and occupying the General Motors factories for 44 days in the dead of winter. Their actions ignited a labor movement that lifted tens of millions out of poverty and into the middle class. It's time to do it again. (According to the Census Bureau and the New York Times, 100 million Americans either live in or near poverty.Disgraceful. Greed has destroyed the core fabric of our communities. Enough!) Here are two good unions to get your fellow workers to sign up and join: UE and SEIU. The CWA are also good. Here's how to get a quick primer in organizing your place of employment (don't forget to be careful while you do this!). If your company is threatening to close down and move the jobs elsewhere, then it's time to occupy the workplace (again, you can get a lesson in how to successfully occupy your factory from my movie).
4. Occupy Your Bank. This is an easy one. Just leave them. Move your checking and your credit card to a nonprofit credit union. It's safe and the decisions made there aren't based on greed. And if a bank tries to evict your neighbor, Occupy the local branch with 20 other people and call the press. Post it on the internet.
5. Occupy the Insurance Man. It's time to not only stand up for the 50 million without health insurance but to also issue a single, simple demand: The elimination of for-profit, privately-controlled health insurance companies. It is nothing short of barbaric to allow businesses to make a profit off people when they get sick. We don't allow anyone to make a profit when we need the fire department or the police. Until recently we would never allow a company to make a profit by operating in a public school. The same should be true for when you need to see a doctor or stay in the hospital. So I say it's long overdue for us to go and Occupy Humana, United Health, Cigna and even the supposed "nonprofit" Blue Crosses. An action on their lawns, in their lobbies, or at the for-profit hospitals -- this is what is needed.
So -- there are my ideas for the five places we can Occupy this winter. Help the foreclosed-upon to Occupy their homes. Occupy your college campus, especially the student loan office and the regents meetings. Occupy your job by getting everyone to sign a union card -- or by refusing to let the CEO ship your job overseas. Occupy your Chase or Citi or Bank of America branch by closing your account and moving it to a credit union. And Occupy the insurance company offices, the pharmaceutical companies' headquarters and the for-profit hospitals until the White House and Congress pass the true single-payer universal health care bill they failed to pass in 2010.
My friends, the rich are running scared right now. You need no further proof of this than to readthis story from last week. The Republicans' top strategist met privately with them and told them that they had better change their tune or they were going to be crushed by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They didn't have to change their greedy actions, he assured them -- just the way they talk and PR the situation. He told them never to use the word "capitalism" -- it has now been made a dirty word by the Occupy movement, he said. Only say "economic freedom" from now on, he cautioned. And don't criticize the movement -- because the majority of Americans either agree with it or are feeling the same way. Just tell the Occupiers and the distressed Americans: "I get it." Seriously.
Yes, in just 12 short weeks we have killed their most sacred word -- Capitalism -- and we have them on the run, on the defensive. They should be. Millions are coming after them and our only goal is to remove them from power and replace them with a fair system that is controlled by the 99%. The 1% have been able to get both political parties to do their bidding. Why should only 1% of the population get to have two parties -- and the rest of us have none? That, too, is going to change. In my next post, I will suggest what we can do to Occupy the Electoral Process. But first we must start with those who pull the strings of the puppets in the Congress. That's why it's called Occupy Wall Street. Always better to deal with man in charge, don't you think?
Let's Occupy the Winter! An #OWS Winter will certainly lead to a very hopeful American Spring.

A great wrap up of the housing crisis and where we are today

This American Life:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The day fascism almost came to America (no seriously).

Keep a close watch on S. 1867, it's going to allow the indefinite detention of American citizens.

The Atlantic:

Is it lawful for the president to order any American held indefinitely as a terrorist, without formal charges, evidence presented in open court, a trial by jury, or a standard of "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt"? The U.S. Senate had a chance Wednesday to assert that no, a president does not possess that power -- that the United States Constitution guarantees due process. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urged her colleagues to seize the opportunity. "We as a Congress are being asked, for the first time certainly since I have been in this body, to affirmatively authorize that an American citizen can be picked up and held indefinitely without being charged or tried. That is a very big deal, because in 1971 we passed a law that said you cannot do this. This was after the internment of Japanese-American citizens in World War II," she said. "What we are talking about here is the right of our government, as specifically authorized in a law by Congress, to say that a citizen of the United States can be arrested and essentially held without trial forever."
The rest is here:

Those who were opposed to arresting U.S. Citizens indefinitely (who voted for stripping the nutjob anti-American  proposal, (shout out to Barack Obama and Rand Paul for opposing this lunacy): 

Those idiot war hawk, anti-civil liberty nutjobs who wanted to detain American citizens and put them through military commissions:

Take note of these morons, regardless of their party they should be made to pay during their respective primary.

 Rand Paul on the Senate floor:


UPDATE: Rand Paul vs. John McCain:

UPDATE 2 (As of 12/4/11):

Track the bill here:

Occurred: IntroducedNov 15, 2011
Occurred: Referred to CommitteeView Committee Assignments
Occurred: Reported by CommitteeNov 15, 2011
Occurred: Amendments (381 proposed)View Amendments
Occurred: Passed SenateDec 1, 2011
Not Yet Occurred: House Vote...
Not Yet Occurred: Signed by President...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Richard Becker and the political bug that bit him

The Recovering Politician:

 Richard Becker – How I Got Bit by the Political Bug

I first entered politics in 2004 at the age of 17, going door-to-door in my home county of Hamilton County, Indiana for Gov. Joe Kernan and the Kerry-Edwards campaign.  I can recall meeting with an organizer at a coffeeshop with a high school friend of mine and being handed a packet of names, a bundle of brochures, and a Joe Kernan for Governor lapel sticker.  Out we went, knocking on door after door in the neighborhoods of Noblesville, the county courthouse’s majestic clock tower looming in the background.  Having finally exhausted our packets after several hours, we returned to Democratic headquarters where we were greeted by a bevy of seasoned local Democratic activists (read: cute, earnest, little old ladies).

What ensued was a full twenty minutes of gushing and doting that centered on one theme: how preciousof you two to be volunteering for a political campaign when you can’t even vote yourselves!  They were enamored with us, and we with the compliments.  That was the day I decided that an activity that felt this good had to be something I pursued in some more substantive way moving forward, which brings us to the University of Kentucky.

In my first semester as a college freshman, I attended a campus event at which student organizations could promote themselves and happened upon the table for the UK College Democrats.  Intrigued, I got to talking to several of their members and agreed to attend their first meeting, which, like any well-planned first semester meeting featured free pizza and soda.  I became a regular at these meetings over the coming weeks and when a position opened up at the end of the semester for the chapter treasurer, I was nominated and unanimously elected to the position.  I served as the treasurer for some three months before our president announced she would not be running.  All heads in the room turned to me and I was once again nominated and unanimously elected president of the chapter, the youngest such president in chapter history.  While I was president of the UK chapter, we volunteered for John Yarmuth’s winning 2006 congressional campaign as well as for the campaign of Ken Lucas in northern Kentucky’s 4th district.  It was while working on the latter campaign that I first met a man who would come to play a pivotal role in my development as a professional political staffer.  
His name was Jon Wright, from Paducah, KY and he was a recent law school graduate.  I spoke with him on the phone several times leading up to the weekend when about two dozen of our UK members rode with me up to the 4th district to volunteer.  Seeing him in person, I realized that Jon was truly a ball of energy, bouncing from person to person, task to task, stopping only long enough to answer a phone or check a call script before resuming his frenzied pace.  We kept in touch over the years, which was a good thing, because it would be a call from him in June of 2008 that would change the path of my career forever.

Misdirected priorities, Marine Iraq Vet Scott Olsen on militarization of police


As cities around the country have swept Occupy Wall Street camps from their plazas and parks in recent weeks, a number of mayors and city officials have argued that by providing shelter to the homeless, the camps are endangering the public and even the homeless themselves.
Yet in many of those cities, services for the homeless are severely underfunded. The cities havespent millions of dollars to police and evict the protesters, but they've been shutting down shelters and enacting laws to prohibit homeless from sleeping overnight in public.
In Oakland, Atlanta, Denver and Portland, Ore., there are at least two homeless people for every open bed in the shelter system, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Salt Lake City, Utah, and Chapel Hill, N.C. -- two other cities that have evicted protesters from their encampments -- things are better but far from ideal. In Chapel Hill, according to the HUD study, there are 121 beds for 135 homeless people, and in Salt Lake City, 1,627 for 1,968.
Heather Maria Johnson, a civil rights attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said most cities in the U.S. lack adequate affordable housing, emergency or transitional housing, or other social services for people who are either homeless or are in danger of losing their homes. "This was true before the current economic crisis and remains true today, particularly in areas that have cut social services due to budget concerns," Johnson said.
According to HUD, job losses and foreclosures helped push more than 170,000 families into homeless shelters in 2009, up nearly 30 percent from 2007. Of course, those are some of the same problems that have inspired people to protest.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Establishment scared to death of #OWS, UN says U.S. not protecting civil rights

A quote then an article:

"I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death," said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation's foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."

Huffpost: U.N. Envoy: U.S. Isn't Protecting Occupy Protesters' Rights

Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. "special rapporteur" for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.
"I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order," he said Thursday. "But on the other hand I also believe that the state -- in this case the federal state -- has an obligation to protect and promote human rights."
"If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights," he continued.