Archives for the month of: October, 2016

Outrage grows in Washington about FBI Director James Comey’s unusual announcement of a renewed investigation of emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer, says the Washington Post.

“On Monday, criticism of Comey continued to mount, notably from prominent former law enforcement officials. Democrats and Republicans alike on Capitol Hill amplified their demands that Comey and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch provide a more detailed account of the investigation into the emails, which were found on a computer belonging to former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) earlier this fall….

“Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Comey Monday saying that the disclosure provided to Congress last week “did not go far enough” and was unfair to Congress, the American people and Clinton.

“In the absence of additional, authoritative information from the FBI in the wake of your vague disclosure, Congress and the American people are left to sift through anonymous leaks from Justice Department officials to the press of varying levels of detail, reliability, and consistency,” Grassley wrote. “The American people deserve better than that.

The senator asked Comey to answer by Nov. 4 a series of questions about the discovery of the emails and what the FBI has learned about their contents.
Grassley’s request adds to the increasing pressure on Comey to release more details and clarify his letter to Congress. A bipartisan group of about 100 former federal prosecutors and senior Justice Department officials have also called on Comey to release more information.

“We do not question Director Comey’s motives,” wrote the group, which included President Obama’s former attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., and former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson, who served under President George W. Bush.

“However, the fact remains that the Director’s disclosure has invited considerable, uninformed public speculation about the significance of newly-discovered material just days before a national election,” the group wrote. “For this reason, we believe the American people deserve all the facts, and fairness dictates releasing information that provides a full and complete picture regarding the material at issue.”

Comey set off a firestorm Friday by telling the chairmen of eight congressional committees that the FBI would take “appropriate investigative steps” to determine whether newly discovered emails found in an unrelated investigation contain classified information and to assess whether they are relevant to the investigation involving Clinton’s private email server. The unrelated case was an investigation of Weiner, who is accused of having explicit exchanges with a 15-year-old girl. Weiner is the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Justice officials have said that before Comey notified Congress, they warned him that doing so would go against long-standing practices of the department not to comment on ongoing investigations and not to take steps that could be viewed as influencing an election.

“However, officials familiar with Comey’s decision said that he felt a sense of obligation to lawmakers to “supplement” his testimony under oath in July that the Clinton investigation was complete and there would be no charges. Comey was also concerned that word of the new email discovery would leak to the media and raise questions of a coverup, the officials said.

Comey’s disclosure about the Clinton probe is particularly striking, some U.S. officials said, because he had advised against the administration publicly accusing Russia of trying to meddle in the 2016 election because it would seem too political too close to Election Day. Comey eventually supported the administration’s Oct. 7 denunciation, which alluded to hacks of Democratic Party organizations, as long as it did not have the FBI’s name on it, officials said. His desire to keep the FBI out of the announcement stemmed from several concerns, including a wish not to appear biased as the bureau conducted a probe into Russian hacking, they said. Comey’s position was first reported by CNBC.”

Donald Trump announced on the campaign trail that the FBI re-opened the investigation because they knew the emails demonstrated that Clinton had engaged in very serious criminal activity. He added that Clinton was so corrupt that she could not possibly be a role model for the nation’s children.

Trump has dragged Clinton through the mud so often that he hopes some of the mud sticks. His comment about a “role model” reflects Trump’s love of calling his opponent whatever he is called. With his long record of lies, fraud, and boasting, as well as his bragging about sexually assaulting women, no one would call him a role model.

I heard this interview on the radio today.

It is even better to watch Jake Tapper interview Michael Moore.

It begins with a discussion of Trump tweeting a selection of a quote from Moore, that gave the false impression that Moore is a supporter.

It only takes about 3 minutes.

Kurt Eichenwald, writing in Newsweek, discovered that Donald Trump’s companies routinely destroyed emails that might prove incriminating, in defiance of court orders.

Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.This behavior is of particular import given Trump’s frequent condemnations of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, for having deleted more than 30,000 emails from a server she used during her time as secretary of state. While Clinton and her lawyers have said all of those emails were personal, Trump has suggested repeatedly on the campaign trail that they were government documents Clinton was trying to hide and that destroying them constituted a crime. The allegation—which the FBI concluded was not supported by any evidence—is a crowd-pleaser at Trump rallies, often greeted by supporters chanting, “Lock her up!”

TRUMP’S USE OF DECEPTION and untruthful affidavits, as well as the hiding or improper destruction of documents, dates back to at least 1973, when the Republican nominee, his father and their real estate company battled the federal government over civil charges that they refused to rent apartments to African-Americans. The Trump strategy was simple: deny, impede and delay, while destroying documents the court had ordered them to hand over.

Shortly after the government filed its case in October, Trump attacked: He falsely declared to reporters that the feds had no evidence he and his father discriminated against minorities, but instead were attempting to force them to lease to welfare recipients who couldn’t pay their rent.The family’s attempts to slow down the federal case were at times nonsensical. Trump submitted an affidavit contending that the government had engaged in some unspecified wrongdoing by releasing statements to the press on the day it brought the case without first having any “formal communications” with him; he contended that he’d learned of the complaint only while listening to his car radio that morning. But Trump’s sworn statement was a lie. Court records show that the government had filed its complaint at 10 a.m. and phoned him almost immediately afterward. The government later notified the media with a press release.Prosecutors responded to Trump’s affidavit by showing he had fudged his claim by using the term “formal communication”—an acknowledgment, they said, that he had received what only he would characterize as an informal notification—which they described as an intentional effort to mislead the court and the public. But the allegation slowed the case; it required government lawyers to appear in court to shoot down Trump’s false charge.

The Trumps had more delaying tactics. Trump announced in a press conference that his family and their company were bringing a $100 million countersuit against the government for libel; anonymous tenants and community leaders, he said, had been calling and writing letters expressing shock at the government’s “outrageous lies.” Once again, motions, replies and hearings followed. Once again, the court threw out the Trump allegations.For months, the Trumps ignored the government’s discovery demands, even though court procedure in a civil or criminal case requires each side to produce relevant documents in a timely manner. This allows for the plaintiffs or prosecutors to develop more evidence in support of their claims, as well as for the defense to gather proof to fight the case against them. When litigation is filed or even contemplated, scrupulous lawyers and corporations immediately impose document-retention programs or require that any shredding or disposing of records be halted. Courts have handed down severe sanctions or even criminal charges of obstruction of justice against executives and companies that destroyed records because they knew they were going to be sued.Yet when the government filed its standard discovery requests, the Trumps reacted as though seeking that information was outrageous. They argued in court that prosecutors had no case and wanted to riffle through corporate files on a fishing expedition. Once again, this led to more delays, more replies, more hearings…and another specious argument thrown out of court.

Six months after the original filing, the case was nowhere because the Trumps had repeatedly ignored the deadlines to produce records and answers to questions, known as interrogatories. When a government attorney finally telephoned a Trump lawyer to find out why, he was told the Trumps had not even begun preparing their answers and had no plans to do so. The Trumps also postponed and blocked depositions, refused to provide a description of their records, as required, and would not turn over any documents.

James Comey felt compelled to report to Congress and the nation that the FBI had found new emails that might or might not be significant.

However, when he was asked to sign a joint statement that the nation’s intelligence agencies had concluded that the Russian government was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails, he said he agreed with the conclusion but refused to sign.

CNBC reported:

“FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former bureau official tells CNBC.

“The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.

“In the end, the Department of Homeland Security and The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued the statement on Oct. 7, saying: “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. … These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process….

“According to the former official, Comey agreed with the conclusion the intelligence community came to: “A foreign power was trying to undermine the election. He believed it to be true, but was against putting it out before the election.” Comey’s position, this official said, was “if it is said, it shouldn’t come from the FBI, which as you’ll recall it did not.”

“Comey took a different approach toward releasing information about the discovery of emails on a laptop that was used by former congressman Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, the official said.”

Peter Greene wants to warn readers about a new study of Rocketship charter schools that he finds not credible. Maybe it is because the Rocketship corporation always relies on the same evaluators to do their studies, and he suspects they have become too interdependent over the years. Maybe it is because they measure what is not easily quantified. Maybe it’s because the study will soon appear as part of a sales pitch. Whatever. He finds it bizarre to speak of “months of learning gained,” a metric that is of dubious merit. From his perspective, this is just so much edubizness hype.

Reader Denis Ian wrote the following comment in relation to the ongoing strife about Common Core standards and testing:

Every new school year renews the resistance to the Common Core reform. And parents new to this experience find themselves slathered in information and fear. Once upon a time we were the tenderfoot class … now we should act as sweet sages.

Every day brings another avalanche of studies, statistics, findings, and stuff. More babble. More white noise. More jargon. More junk-speak. All on purpose.

The strategy is simple. Complicate the reform issue with fleshy gibberish and endless jabberwocky. Scare ordinary folks. Make the issues seem too, too deep and too, too heavy for folks busy enough with all that parenthood demands.

The greatest fear of the reform mob is parents.

Parents own infinite passion when it comes to their children. And if lots and lots of parents glue themselves together, well, this reform morphs into mighty. That’s not the sort of muscle educrats, politicians, and local board members want to confront. Remember that … they fear you.

And parents new to this resistance should remember this.

Don’t be seduced by every morsel of information that gets dressed in glitter-words. Don’t be intimidated by edu-blather or fat-words.

Stay simple and stay on the issues that matter: Resist federal control. Protect childhood. Refuse the testing trap. Reclaim your schools.

Remember: No children, no reform. Your cooperation is your trump-card. If you don’t play, the game ends.

A caveat to the old-timers in this resistance.

Embrace newcomers as you were once embraced. Soothe new and nervous parents with warm reassurances that they have saddled-up with a child-centric confederacy of warriors who protect children … theirs included. And then tutor them slowly … and warn them of nonsense-overload.

The reformists are deceivers. Their strategy is to dazzle us with nonsense-junk. To unbalance us and to blur the simple truths.

They want our schools. They want our children. They want to politicize and profitize education … and have you foot the bill … and have your children pay the price. No way.

Avoid the information over-load … and listen to your heart. That drum in your chest always speaks the truth. Follow that beat.

Denis Ian

The United Teachers of Los Angeles invited the powerful California Charter School Association to debate the issues surrounding the explosive growth of charter schools and their lack of accountability. The CCSA refused.

Here are the issues that CCSA doesn’t want to talk about:

Lack of financial accountability; lack of transparency; cream-skimming the students they want; bias against students with special needs and English language learners; the loss of funding for public schools that enroll all students; fraud, self-dealing, profiteering.

Why is CCSA afraid to debate?

The public schools of Katy, Texas, are overcrowded. The district needs a new elementary school, but it can’t afford to build one.

But the city officials know what really matters in Texas: they are spending $71 million for a new football stadium.

Please, let us not hear any rhetoric from Texas elected officials about how they love the children, how they want the state to attract new businesses by having great schools, how they are planning for the future. The legislature never fully restored the $5 billion in cuts to public schools that they extracted in 2011.

The only investment the politicians are willing to make is in charter schools–and if Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has his way–vouchers. That, of course, is not new money. Charters and vouchers take money from existing public schools and transfer it to entrepreneurs and home schoolers and those who prefer a religious education. There is no new money.

Texans are being scammed. There is no investment in children. There is no investment in public schools.

But there will be a super stadium in Katy.

The corporate reformers love standardized testing. They treat the scores as sacred truths. The scores are the measure of success or failure. We hear again and again that school choice will close the achievement gap. We hear it from rightwing think tanks and governor’s who never showed any interest in the well-being of poor children and children of color. As a matter of fact, the achievement gap will never close because it is a reflection of the measure. Standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. The bell curve never closes.

Steven Singer explains the problem with standardized tests. They measure privilege. Their standard is whiteness and advantage. They give honor to those who have the most.

He writes:

“We talk about standardized testing as if we don’t really understand what it is.

“We say we want No child left behind!

“And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures some students MUST be left behind.

“We say we want Every student to succeed!

“And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures every student will NOT succeed.

“It would be absurd if not for the millions of children being forced to endure the harsh reality behind our pretty words.

“It’s not these ideals that are the problem. It’s standardized testing.

“Researchers, statisticians, and academics of every stripe have called for an end to high stakes testing in education policy. Parents, students and teachers have written letters, testified before congressional committees, protested in the streets, even refused to take or give the tests. All to deaf ears.

“The federal government still requires all students in 3-8th grade and once in high school to take standardized tests.

“But these assessments are graded on a curve. A certain amount of students are at the bottom, a certain amount are at the top, and most are clustered in the middle. This would be true if you were testing all geniuses or all people with traumatic brain injuries.

“It doesn’t matter how smart your test takers are. There will always be this bell curve distribution. That’s how the tests are designed. So to talk about raising test scores is nonsensical. You can raise scores at school A or School B, but the total set of all test takers will always be the same. And some students will always fail.

“But that isn’t even the worst part.

“Standardization, itself, has certain consequences. We seem to have forgotten what the term even means. It’s defined as the act of evaluating someone or something by reference to a standard.”

It is no secret that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker wants to more privately managed charter schools in his state. He has been openly campaigning for Question 2, that would privatize a dozen schools every year for the indefinite future. As readers on this blog have often noted, once charter schools are part of the picture, they dominate all discussions about education. As we have seen in many other states, charter schools fight any accountability or transparency even though they receive public money. They operate in secret with taxpayer dollars, keep the students they want, push out the ones they don’t want.

Recently some emails became public that reveal an interesting part of the discussion. The advocates for charter schools in the governor’s office are advised to use their personal email accounts, so their efforts to promote privatization cannot be subject to FOIL (Freedom of Information Law). They are paid by the public, and acting against the public interest, and they don’t want voters to read about their conversations.

The emails can be seen here.