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Starry Messenger

Profile Information

Name: Decline to State
Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Home country: USA
Current location: Left Coast
Member since: Sat Apr 9, 2005, 08:01 PM
Number of posts: 25,720

About Me

Artist, high school teacher and "hard-liner" (yet to be defined).

Journal Archives

Building Hope$: Big charter, big money, big prizes, big hou$e$

You can tell charter $chools are for the children, look at the beautiful facilities!


Oh wait, that's the charter operator's house.

Who owns this lovely abode, you ask?

"Joe Bruno, a man who has become increasingly influential in the charter school industry. Originally an executive in the accounting and health care sectors, Bruno started his current organization, Building Hope, in 2004. Here's how the non-profit describes its mission:

Building Hope supports high quality public charter schools in Washington D.C., Florida and other U.S. cities and states by providing technical and financial assistance for educational facilities. A non-profit organization, Building Hope supports the expansion of academically successful schools with the capacity to grow their enrollments in order to catalyze change across their local public education systems. Building Hope promotes school-centered community revitalization, and believes that excellent charter school programs and facilities will help transform economically depressed neighborhoods into places where children will thrive.

All that may be true, but it's not the complete story. Because Building Hope is also using government grants and tax-exempt foundation funds to provide capital to the for-profit charter sector, allowing charter management organizations and charter school landowners, like the Zuluetas, to maximize their profits.

Thanks to Joe Bruno, Ferny Zulueta has been able to use capital, ultimately subsidized by taxpayers, to increase the capacity at his charter schools and collect more in both management fees and rent."


Must be nice. You can tell from how hard this civil rights hero works:

"We’ve had some great parties in this house while our daughters were growing up and with our friends from the charter school world and from the Italian American groups we belong to,” says Joe Bruno, a Ferrari-driving entrepreneur who since 2004 has served as president of Building Hope, a nonprofit that provides business, technical and financial assistance to public charter schools. “There’s a story behind every painting, every collection and every piece of furniture.”

It's a story that says: tax-payer funded luxury is awesome.

"“The murals of carnival scenes in Venice on the walls of the powder room were painted for Beverly Hills clients of mine who decided they didn’t want them, and when I realized the Brunos’ home was the perfect place for them we had them peeled off and shipped to Potomac,” says Herchik.

Along the hallway are portraits of some of Joe Bruno’s heroes, including Dante, Leonardo, Verdi and Garibaldi. Nearby are a bust of Dante and maps of Italy from the 1700s.

“One of my favorite places to sit is in the library, especially in the winter when I can have a fire going,” Joe Bruno says. “I’m surrounded by paintings of Italy.”

The library walls, originally plain white, have been faux-painted to resemble wood paneling. Often, when Joe Bruno relaxes in his library, his thoughts are focused on resolving problems faced by charter schools in the city and elsewhere with their finances or finding a school facility, but sometimes he’s thinking about enjoying a brisk game of basketball or driving one of his two Ferraris."

Well, to be fair, that's pretty much how my day goes too. Except without the Ferraris, the house, or relaxing in the library.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon May 4, 2015, 10:14 PM (2 replies)

Lots of concern around about Greece possibly abandoning austerity

The victory of Syriza seems to have caused latter-day austerions to emerge from the woodwork again.

I am by no means an economist, but someone who reads. Last year there were a series of strong articles on the falsity of austerity as a way to recover a nation's economic health. I'll post some links here for anyone who needs them handy.



Herndon, who did his undergraduate study at Evergreen State College, first started looking into Reinhart and Rogoff's work as part of an assignment for an econometrics course that involved replicating the data work behind a well-known study. Herndon chose Reinhart and Rogoff's 2010 paper, "Growth in a Time of Debt," in part, because it has been one of the most politically influential economic papers of the last decade. It claims, among other things, that countries whose debt exceeds 90 percent of their annual GDP experience slower growth than countries with lower debt loads — a figure that has been cited by people like Paul Ryan and Tim Geithner to justify slashing government spending and implementing other austerity measures on struggling economies.


Herndon pulled up an Excel spreadsheet containing Reinhart's data and quickly spotted something that looked odd.

"I clicked on cell L51, and saw that they had only averaged rows 30 through 44, instead of rows 30 through 49."

What Herndon had discovered was that by making a sloppy computing error, Reinhart and Rogoff had forgotten to include a critical piece of data about countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios that would have affected their overall calculations. They had also excluded data from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia — all countries that experienced solid growth during periods of high debt and would thus undercut their thesis that high debt forestalls growth.


After consulting his professors, Herndon signed two of them — Pollin and department chair Michael Ash — on as co-authors, and the three of them quickly put together a paper outlining their findings. The paper cut to the core of a debate that has been dividing economists and politicians for decades. Fans of austerity believe that governments should cut spending in order to grow their economies, while anti-austerians believe that government spending in times of economic duress can create growth and reduce unemployment, even if it increases debt in the short term. What Herndon et al. were claiming, in essence, was that the pro-austerity movement was relying on bogus information.




Additionally, Herndon also uncovered a transcription error with Spain’s average GDP growth. In one of Reinhart and Rogoff’s tables, Spain’s average GDP growth was entered at 2.8% instead of 2.2%. Two other samples showed five countries–Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and Canada–were removed, adding to the amount of computational errors in the Harvard report.

Herndon concluded, “Contrary to RR, average GDP growth at public debt/GDP ratios over 90 percent is not dramatically different than when debt/GDP ratios are lower.”

An addendum to Herndon’s paper also defines a stronger causal relationship between economic and public debt. A contribution by his professor Arin Dube provides evidence that the causality runs the other way around – from slow growth to high debt.


Herndon, along with the economics department at UMass-Amherst, have undercut the austerity argument that there is no definitive threshold for the debt/GDP ratio relationship and that public debt holds a pivotal role in overcoming a financial recession–a topic that has been on the mind of every American.



In a post at Quartz, University of Michigan economics professor Miles Kimball and University of Michigan undergraduate student Yichuan Wang write that they have crunched Reinhart and Rogoff's data and found "not even a shred of evidence" that high debt levels lead to slower economic growth.

And a new paper by University of Massachusetts professor Arindrajit Dube finds evidence that Reinhart and Rogoff had the relationship between growth and debt backwards: Slow growth appears to cause higher debt, if anything.

As you can see from the chart from Dube's paper below, growth tends to be slower in the five years before countries have high debt levels. In the five years after they have high debt levels, there is no noticeable difference in growth at all, certainly not at the 90 percent debt-to-GDP level that Reinhart and Rogoff's 2010 paper made infamous. Kimball and Wang present similar findings in their Quartz piece. (Story continues below chart.)


This contradicts the conclusion of Reinhart and Rogoff's 2010 paper, "Growth in a Time of Debt," which has been used to justify austerity programs around the world. In that paper, and in many other papers, op-ed pieces and congressional testimony over the years, Reinhart And Rogoff have warned that high debt slows down growth, making it a huge problem to be dealt with immediately. The human costs of this error have been enormous.




(Reinhart and Rogoff noted in their Tuesday statement that they have been careful not to claim that high debt causes slow growth, but rather that it has an "association" with slow growth.)

Beyond that, Baker notes, there were lots of other reasons to question Reinhart and Rogoff, including the fact that their gloomy conclusions about debt relied heavily on slow U.S. economic growth immediately after World War II. At the time, the U.S. was deep in war debt and dismantling its war machine. That relatively brief state of affairs was quickly followed by arguably the greatest economic boom in history.

Despite these questions, Reinhart and Rogoff's 90-percent threshold has been discussed ad nauseum in the press and used frequently to justify austerity measures in the U.S. and Europe, as detailed by Quartz's Tim Fernholz. The 2012 version of the pro-austerity budget plan of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) cites Reinhart and Rogoff by name, and specifically refers to the 90-percent threshold.

Washington's constant state of panic over government debt and budget deficits has contributed to severe cutbacks in government spending that have slowed economic growth and helped keep unemployment high. The situation has been even worse in Europe, particularly in troubled nations like Greece, where austerity has been enforced as a bailout condition, only to result in slower growth and higher debt burdens.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Tue Jan 27, 2015, 05:05 PM (11 replies)

Is Biology Woman’s Destiny?

Evelyn Reed wrote some of the best anthropological studies on women in prehistory and how family relationships evolved over time. I recommend her book, Woman’s Evolution: From Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family, which is meticulously researched and blows evo psych out of the water. She's a Marxist scientist, but even if that isn't your cup of tea, you will get a lot out of this book.

Anyway, here is a selection from from another of her works, Is Biology Women's Destiny? since Evo Psych has reared its head again on DU.



There are a number of primitive communities scattered around the world where old matriarchal practices and customs survive to a greater or lesser extent. These are usually called “matrilineal” communities because the line of kinship and descent is still traced through the mothers alone. But the matter goes deeper than this. In such regions the father-family is still poorly developed. A man may be recognized as the husband of the mother and yet not be recognized as the father of her children or, if recognized, has only an extremely tenuous connection with them. As this is usually expressed, the children belong to the mother and her kin.

This means that the children belong not only to the mothers but also to the brothers of such a matrilineal community. In other words, the mothers’ brothers, or maternal uncles, still perform the functions of fatherhood for their clan sisters’ children that in patriarchal societies have been taken over by the father for his wife’s children. For this reason such a community is sometimes called “the avunculate.” The term “avunculate” refers to the mother’s brother as the term “patriarch” refers to the father.

These matrilineal communities are survivals from the matriarchal epoch and, however much they have been altered since the patriarchal takeover, testify to the priority of the earlier social system. In fact, by the time anthropology began in the last century, most primitive clans had already become altered in their composition to a certain degree. Pairing couples, or what Morgan called “pairing families,” had made their appearance in communities that had formerly been composed solely of clan mothers and brothers (or sisters and brothers).

But the pairing family, which was still a part of the collectivism maternal clan system, was a totally different kind of family than the patriarchal family which came in with class society. A new man from outside the clan was added to the maternal group-the husband of the woman who became his wife. However, while the husbands participated in providing for their wives and children, so long as the clan system prevailed the husbands remained subordinate and even incidental to the mothers’ brothers. The mothers’ brothers remained the basic economic partners of their clan sisters and guardians of their sisters’ children.


This concept of woman having a biological imperative for mating with a provider for her children is bunk. That's not how families were structured, and this is observed in contemporary tribal cultures.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat Sep 27, 2014, 08:06 PM (11 replies)

When S.F. waterfront was scene of bloody riots


No place in San Francisco has changed more than the Embarcadero, which is now mostly a grand promenade. It wasn't always so peaceful. Saturday is the 80th anniversary of a day of riots and deadly violence, a reminder of the bloody history of the city's waterfront.

On July 5, 1934, striking workers and police clashed in a series of riots that swept the waterfront from Rincon Hill to the Ferry Building. Two men were killed by police and more than 100 were injured.


The 1934 strike is "a basic part of the history of San Francisco and a seminal event in labor history in general," said Catherine Powell, director of the Labor Archives Project at San Francisco State University.

Labor strife may seem a distant and irrelevant memory to people strolling on the Embarcadero these days, but the events of that summer 80 years ago established union power in the Bay Area, and turned the International Longshore and Warehouse Union into a major player on the Pacific Coast.


The Harry Bridges Club in Tacoma made this great tribute photo for the occasion:

For more on the seminal waterfront strike, check out The Big Strike, by Mike Quin. https://archive.org/details/bigstrike00quinrich

If you're ever in San Francisco, you can check out Harry Bridges Plaza and tour the waterfront where there are historical markers that show the history of the labor struggles of the area.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Sun Jul 6, 2014, 11:10 AM (8 replies)

California judge rules teacher tenure unconstitutional

My article on Vergara. Please circulate on your other networks, I don't usually ask, but this is a critical case, as the organization has plans to strip tenure using this model in many other states. All support needed and welcomed.



Vergara v. California is the latest in a series of court struggles stemming from teacher layoffs that resulted from the $10 billion cuts to education in 2009 demanded by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Reduction in force" cuts resulted in the loss of more than 2,000 teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools, with some schools, like Markham Middle School, seeing up to a 72% reduction in teaching staff.

The first round of court cases centered around Reed v. California, a class action lawsuit which argued that these layoffs adversely and disproportionately affected schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The lawsuit claimed that because of the teachers union's "last in, first out" layoff policy, teachers who wished to stay at these schools were being displaced by older staff with greater seniority rights. In 2011, a judge ruled that student rights to a quality education were affected by this policy, and an exemption was granted to 45 low-performing schools.

However, in 2012, the California Second District Court of Appeal overturned this exemption, stating that the teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, was not given an opportunity to present its side of the case, and that special exemptions violated state education law. The union at this time also stated that there was no evidence that less-experienced staff were the key to improving at-risk schools, and proposed its own reforms to stop layoffs, which included addressing the root issues of high teacher turnover and hurdles to student success.

Little mention at the time was made of the fact that several of the schools, including Markham, which had seen draconian layoffs due to budget cuts, were also part of an earlier education reform project, under the umbrella of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, spearheaded by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Under the partnership, in 2008, 11 LAUSD public schools were placed in a "turnaround" system, where all existing veteran school staff were fired and told to reapply for their jobs.

That late-year turnaround resulted in a younger staff (generally also lower paid) with little experience being brought in to staff the schools, who, in turn, were then let go when the wave of layoffs hit. A revolving door of substitute teachers protected from seniority-based layoffs were then cycled through the schools to teach classes, heightening the instability for students. The narrative that younger, more competent teachers were being let go in favor of older and less competent teaching staff entered the media reports on Reed, with blame going to the tenure system.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Jun 18, 2014, 12:54 PM (10 replies)

Communist Party USA gathers in Chicago


(If you look quickly, my hat makes a brief cameo in the video at the .33-37 second mark. )


Tim Taylor, a firefighter in Columbus, Ohio, joined the Communist Party a year ago "because the governor of the state came after the firefighters union," trying to take away public employees' bargaining rights in the name of budget balancing.

So for Taylor, the Haymarket story was a case of deja vu. He was pre-radicalized by folk music, especially the songs of the Weavers, Pete Seeger's group. Now he hopes those records can inspire a younger generation.

"I'm marinating my kids in the Weavers," he said.

And for Hank Millstein, there's a wonderful irony in how Marx predicted society dividing into what we now call the 1 percent and everybody else. In palmier days his forecast was rejected. Now even mainstream politicians have to acknowledge the problem of runaway inequality.

"Just when Marxism was supposed to be dead," Millstein said, "it turns out that he was right."

Posted by Starry Messenger | Tue Jun 17, 2014, 01:44 AM (10 replies)

Chris Hayes: Isla Vista Shooter and the ‘Men’s Rights Movement’


"Chris Hayes talks to his panel about the online world of harassment, misogyny and violence that women encounter daily."

Panel includes Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com and Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action.

Excellent video piece.
Posted by Starry Messenger | Thu May 29, 2014, 10:48 AM (57 replies)

IMF chief says banks haven't changed since financial crisis

*Big surprise*


The head of the International Monetary Fund has warned that a persistent violation of ethics among bankers and rising inequality pose a major threat to growth and financial stability.

Christine Lagarde told an audience in London that six years on from the deep financial crisis that engulfed the global economy, banks were resisting reform and still too focused on excessive risk taking to secure their bonuses at the expense of public trust.

She said: "The behaviour of the financial sector has not changed fundamentally in a number of dimensions since the crisis. While some changes in behaviour are taking place, these are not deep or broad enough. The industry still prizes short-term profit over long-term prudence, today's bonus over tomorrow's relationship.

"Some prominent firms have even been mired in scandals that violate the most basic ethical norms - Libor and foreign exchange rigging, money laundering, illegal foreclosure."

Lagarde warned the too-big-to-fail problem among some of the world's largest financial institutions was still unresolved and remained a major source of systematic risk, with implicit subsidies of $70bn (£42bn) in the US, and up to $300bn in the eurozone.


Bonus: irony alert

Posted by Starry Messenger | Tue May 27, 2014, 11:37 AM (3 replies)

A dozen problems with charter schools



1. Most are not helping kids. Rep. Roebuck’s new report shows that for the 2012-23 academic year, “the average SPP score for traditional public schools was 77.1,” but for charter schools it was 66.4, and cyber-charter schools came in at a low 46.8. What’s more, “none of the 14 cyber charter schools had SPP scores over 70, considered the minimal level of academic success and 8 cyber charter schools had SPP scores below 50.” The latest national research found that charter students in Pennsylvania cover 29 fewer days of reading material on average, and 50 fewer days of math than traditional public schools. That puts us in the bottom three states in the country. If we’re going to have charter schools, shouldn’t they be helping students?

2. Some are actually hurting kids. In a new report out last week, Gordon Lafer, a political economist at the University of Oregon, reviewed the growing low-budget-charter sector in Milwaukee, which has the oldest charter system in the country, and found startling results with national implications. Cost-cutting charters such as the Rocketship chain offer a narrow curriculum focused on little more than reading and math test prep, inexperienced teachers with high turnover, and “blended learning” products designed to enrich charter school board members’ investment portfolios. Lafer “questions why an educational model deemed substandard for more privileged suburban children is being so vigorously promoted—perhaps even forced—on poor children…” Others have pointed out significant problems with zero-tolerance, strict discipline charters made famous by the “no excuses” KIPP chain of schools.

3. Far too many are cash cows. When Pennsylvania is seen by hedge fund managers as prime ground for “investment opportunities” in charter schools, you know something is terribly wrong. And when four of the top political campaign donors in the entire state are connected to charter schools, you have to start asking why. Publicly funded schools should not be serving to line the pockets of private companies and individuals.

4. The industry is rife with fraud and corruption. Who can forget the scheme by PA Cyber Charter founder Nicholas Trombetta, right here in Beaver County, to steal $1 million in public dollars? Federal investigators filed 11 fraud and tax conspiracy charges against him and indicted others in the case. And then there is the Urban Pathways Charter School in downtown Pittsburgh under FBI scrutiny for trying to spend Pennsylvania taxpayer money to build a school in Ohio. A related investigation by the state auditor general revealed a history of expensive restaurant meals, a posh staff retreat at Nemacolin Woodlands resort, and payments for mobile phones belonging to the spouses of board members. Not to be left out, Philadelphia just had its eighth charter school official plead guilty to federal fraud charges.

5. Lack of transparency and accountability. Charter schools are publicly funded, but often act like private entities. Here in Pennsylvania, the largest charter school operator has been fighting a right-to-know request for years in the courts so that he doesn’t have to reveal his publicly funded salary (data that is publicly available for traditional public schools). In 2012, Gov. Corbett and the Republican controlled legislature tried to introduce a bill that would have exempted all charters from the state’s sunshine laws. In California, charter school operators have even argued in court that they are a private entity and should not be treated as a public institution. We desperately need charter reform legislation that emphasizes accountability and transparency, just as we demand from traditional public schools.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Tue May 20, 2014, 10:24 PM (2 replies)

Petitioning Lawrence & Wishart: No Copyright for Marx Engels Collected Works


It is immensely ironic that a private publishIng company is claiming the copyright of the collected works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the philosophers who wrote against the monopoly of capitalism and its origin, private property, all their lives.

Marxists Internet Archieve is an international, public archieve which gives free access to a wide range of academic and historical writings about Marxism in multiple langauges. Lawrence & Wishart is a private publishing house in Britain which claims to hold the copyright of Marx Engels Collected Works. During the last several years, the Marx Engels Collected Works have been read by the millions of people on the Marxists Internet Archeive (MIA). However, now the private publishing company, Lawrence & Wishart - which loves to position itself as a 'radical company', claiming historical links with the Britain's Communist Party - has directed MIA to delete all texts originating from Marx Engels Collected Works (MECW).

If this happens, MECW would not be accessible on the internet for free, from 30th April, 2014, and that would be a huge loss for the students and political activists who continue to utilize this free academic source.

You cannot privatize their writings -- they are the collective property of the people they wrote for. Privatization of Marx and Engels' writings is like getting a trademark for the words 'socialism' or 'communism'.

Say NO to the copyright law for the founders of scientific socialism. Let's protest against Lawrence & Wishart for this ironic monopoly.

Sign and share! L&W are demanding that the material be pulled down by April 30th, so try to spread the word.
Posted by Starry Messenger | Thu Apr 24, 2014, 09:38 PM (0 replies)
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