Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Random Chance Records single digital release now available

Find it on iTunes, emusic, amazon, rhapsody and other music download portals.

Big Profits in Not-for-Profit Charter Schools

Alan Singer
April 7, 2014
Huffington Post

Charter schools have a very definite purpose in America today. Profits. BIG PROFITS. Non-profit charter school administrators make some very heady profits. Operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. She earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, yet is opposed to teacher unions and paying rent to have her schools in public buildings

Charter schools have a very definite purpose in America today. Profits. BIG PROFITS., Reclaim Reform,

On Sunday, March 23, 2014 in a speech at Riverside Church in Manhattan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, faced with declining public opinion poll numbers, made nice to charter school companies and their wealthy backers. He told congregants that his administration and the charter movement have a common goal and share common ground. But de Blasio should not have made nice. They do not share common ground. Many charters, including those not-for-profits operating by leading de Blasio critics, are about making money for top executives. Educating children, when it actually happens, is at best a by-product.

De Blasio backed off in his criticism of charter school companies and their wealthy backers following a $3.6 million television advertising blitz that accused him of abandoning quality education for inner-city Black and Latino children. The campaign was orchestrated by Eva Moskowitz, founder and chief executive officer of the Success Academy Charter Schools, who has a number of wealthy and politically powerful backers. Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke at a pro-charter rally organized by Moskowitz and targeted extra funds for charters in the state budget. Moskowitz and Success Academy received financial support from 2007 to 2013 from among others the Robin Hood ($1 million), William Simon ($75,000), Tiger ($850,000), Walmart ($4.6 million), MRM ($400,000) and Broad ($11.4 million) Foundations, as well as donations from hedge fund and corporate managers Paul Singer (no relation to me), David Tepper, and Daniel Loeb.

The recent television campaign in support of charters was financed with money from the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart) and hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. Jones, less well known than Walmart, was the founder and chair of the Excellence Charter School. After initially being associated with progressive political activities, he drifted to the right and donated heavily to Republican Party presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

Moskowitz targeted de Blasio because he raised questions about the usefulness of the charter schools movement in during his election campaign and blocked her application for three new charter sites in public school buildings. Most of Eva Moskowitz's charges against de Blasio and claims for the superiority of her programs were refuted by Diane Ravitch in a Huffington Post column.

Currently, there are approximately 2.5 million students enrolled in publicly funded charter schools in the United States. These charter schools are operated by both profit-making companies and "not for profit" organizations. In New York City every charter school is operated by what is known as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In New York State, only 16 out of 209 charter schools are operated by for-profit companies. In other states, particularly Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, for-profit companies dominate the charter school movement. In Michigan, about 65% of the charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations

However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.

According to my calculations and The New York Times, other non-profit charter school administrators also make some very heady profits. The head of the Harlem Village Academies earns $499,000 to manage schools with 1,355 students or $369 per student. The head of the Bronx Preparatory School earns $338,000 to manage schools with 651 students or over $500 per student. The head of the Our World Charter earns $200,000 to manage schools with a total of 738 students or $271 per student. The local head of the KIPP Charter Network earns $235,000 to manage schools with 2,796 or $84 per student. By comparison, the chief educational officer of Texas is paid $214,999 to manage a system with almost 5 million public school students.

Charter school operators are not the only Not-for-Profit or social entrepreneurs making money off of public schools. Charles Best created DonorsChoose.org so that public school teachers can raise money to pay for class projects. Best and his non-profit organization have received support from Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Colbert, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has been a featured speaker at a Forbes magazine summit on philanthropy. A former public high school teacher in Bronx, New York, he would have been making about $85,000 a year if he remained as a teacher. As a not-for-profit entrepreneur, he makes about three times as much, almost $250,000 a year from Donorschoose.org plus whatever he earns from lucrative speaking engagements.

Jeremy Kittredge is Executive Director of Families for Excellent Schools, which is listed as a sponsor of television advertisements in the current New York Charter School advertising barrage. According to his Linkedin page, he graduated from Brown University in May 2008, became coordinator of Civic Participation at Democracy Prep in November 2008, Executive Director of Democracy Builders in May 2010, and went to work at Families in July 2011. According to the Families for Excellent Schools, Kittredge was also a public school teacher and union organizer but if his Linkedin site is accurate, he must have done those jobs as a teenager before he went to college. On the organizations 2011 tax forms, Kittredge is listed as earning under $40,000 in his half year of employment, but since then he has twice been listed by Forbes magazine as one of their promising 30 Under 30. I have been unable to find out his income since then but I suspect it is higher. The major funder of Families for Excellent Schools is not surprisingly the Walton Family which gave more than $700,000 from 2012 to 2014.

Robert Hughes and New Visions for Public Schools is another example. New Visions operates 4 charter schools, operates a school support network, and, claims to be the largest education reform organization working to improve New York City public schools. As president of New Visions, Robert Hughes earn[ed] $333,500 in 2012. The highest paid New York City teachers with 22 years of experience can earn $100,000. A New York City high school principal with 22 years of experience as a principal earns $154,000 a year.

I have one misgiving about publishing these figures. Once Eva Moskowitz sees what CEOs are earning at KIPP, Our World, Harlem Village, and Bronx Prep, she will probably be demanding even more money to run her non-profit charter schools.

[Alan Singer is a social studies educator in the Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York and the editor of Social Science Docket (a joint publication of the New York and New Jersey Councils for Social Studies). He taught at a number of secondary schools in New York City, including Franklin K. Lane High School and Edward R. Murrow High School. He is the author of Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach: A Handbook for Secondary School Teachers (LEA, 2003), Social Studies For Secondary Schools, 3nd Edition (Routledge, 2008), New York and Slavery, Time to Teach the Truth (SUNY, 2008), and Teaching Global History (Routledge, 2011).]

Earth Day Network dumps SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Mon, 04/21/2014 - 15:07

A previous version of the Earth Day Network website showed SodaStream logo.

The Earth Day Network, which promotes the annual Earth Day environmental consciousness initiative, has cut ties to a campaign launched by Israeli occupation profiteer SodaStream and endorsed by its spokesmodel Scarlett Johansson.

The screenshot above shows the SodaStream logo as it appeared previously on the Earth Day Network’s official sponsor page. On the current version of the page, the SodaStream logo is gone.

Here’s the press release from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:

Earth Day Network Cuts Ties with SodaStream After Palestinian Rights Groups Decry Greenwashing Campaign

21 April, Washington, DC – On the eve of Earth Day, groups working for Palestinian rights globally are celebrating Earth Day Network’s decision to end its partnership with SodaStream, whose main production factory is located in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Earlier this month, SodaStream, which markets its home carbonating devices as a green alternative to bottled beverages, announced the launch of an awareness-raising campaign centered around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
(US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

Several articles reported that this “Secret Continent” campaign was developed with Earth Day Network (EDN), which works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement.

Groups in the United States and abroad mobilized opposition to this partnership between EDN and SodaStream due to the company’s complicity in Israel’s military occupation, including the destruction that Israeli settlements have caused to the Palestinian environment.

In response, EDN’s logo has been removed from the Secret Continent website and EDN no longer lists SodaStream as a sponsor.

“This Secret Continent campaign is a clear example of SodaStream attempting to greenwash its complicity in Israel’s occupation through a public relations stunt. SodaStream appeals to customers by marketing itself as environmentally friendly, but a product manufactured in an illegal settlement on occupied land cannot be ‘green.’ We applaud Earth Day Network for listening to the thousands of concerned individuals who contacted them and sending the message that companies profiting from human rights abuses have no place in the global environmental movement,” said Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

PENGON, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network, added: “We are happy to see that Earth Day Network cut ties with the Israeli settlement manufacturer SodaStream. Israeli occupation and its settlement enterprise are not environmentally friendly. On the contrary, they are based on the pillage of our land and deplete and pollute our water resources. Over the last 40 years, Israeli occupation has cut hundreds of thousands of trees to make space for their colonization. We call on all environmental organizations and activists to stand with us against the Israeli occupation and its systematic large scale destruction of our land.”

This is the second major controversy this year involving SodaStream’s settlement factory. In January Oxfam International came under fire to drop Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson as a Global Ambassador after she became a Global Brand Ambassador for SodaStream. After an international campaign, Johansson resigned from her role with Oxfam.

“The Earth Day Network is rightfully following the path of Oxfam by disassociating itself from SodaStream, a company that produces its water carbonating devices in an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territory. Jewish Voice for Peace will continue campaigning against SodaStream in Seattle, New York, DC, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland ,and other cities across the U.S. to remind consumers that buying products manufactured in stolen land is neither ethical nor sustainable,” said Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Since the 2005 call from more than 170 Palestinian civil society groups for the international community to engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns targeting institutions and corporations complicit in Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestinians, activists across the globe have been organizing under the slogan “Occupation is Not Green” to convince stores and consumers to boycott SodaStream.

“We congratulate Earth Day Network on doing the right thing by ending its collaboration with SodaStream. After the media firestorm surrounding SodaStream, Scarlett Johansson, and Oxfam, and now this dissolved partnership with Earth Day Network, SodaStream is going to have difficulty finding reputable individuals and groups to help whitewash and greenwash its ugly occupation profiteering,” said Nancy Kricorian of CODEPINK: Women for Peace.

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign in the occupied West Bank, added: “We thank the Earth Day Network for having canceled its cooperation with SodaStream and are grateful to all those people around the world that continue mobilizing to ensure the truth about SodaStream is no secret anymore.”

“While the illegal Wall and the settlements rob Palestinians of their land and resources and lock them up into economically and socially unsustainable enclaves, companies such as SodaStream ensure profitability of the Israeli settlement enterprise by exploiting Palestinian workers who are left without workers’ rights and without any viable alternative to make a living.”

Following a recent visit to the occupied Palestinian territories, Friends of the Earth International chairperson Jagoda Munic condemned what she referred to as the “less visible forms of occupation,” which include toxic waste-dumping, the expropriation and diversion of fresh water sources, and the development of polluting industries close to Palestinian towns.

She called these Israeli governmental policies “truly shocking” and went on to say: “Palestine stands as an example of the link between environmental injustice and social and political injustice.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Matt Taibbi's new book "The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap"

Subject: Excerpt: Matt Taibbi on "The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap"

Over the course of the last twenty years or so, America has
been falling deeper and deeper into a bizarre statistical mystery.
Take in the following three pieces of information, and see if
you can make them fit together.
First, violent crime has been dropping precipitously for nearly
two decades. At its peak in 1991, according to FBI data, there
were 758 violent crimes per 100,000 people. By 2010 that
number had plunged to 425 crimes per 100,000, a drop of
more than 44 percent.
The decrease covered all varieties of serious crime, from
murder to assault to rape to armed robbery. The graphs
depicting the decline show a long, steady downswing, one that
doesn’t jump from year to year but consistently slumps from
year to year.
Second: although poverty rates largely declined during the
1990s, offering at least one possible explanation for the drop in
violent crime, poverty rates rose sharply during the 2000s. At
the start of that decade, poverty levels hovered just above
10 percent. By 2008 they were up to 13.2 percent. By 2009 the
number was 14.3 percent. By 2010, 15.3 percent.
All this squares with what most people who lived in Middle
America knew, and know, instinctively. Despite what we’re
being told about a post-2008 recovery, despite what the rising
stock market seems to indicate, the economy is mostly worse,
real incomes are mostly declining, and money is mostly
But throughout all this time, violent crime has gone down. It
continues to decline today. Counter intuitively, more poverty has not created more crime.
The third piece of information that makes no sense is that
during this same period of time, the prison population in
America has exploded. In 1991 there were about one million
Americans behind bars. By 2012 the number was over
2.2 million, a more than 100 percent increase.
Our prison population, in fact, is now the biggest in the
history of human civilization. There are more people in the
United States either on parole or in jail today (around 6 million total) than there ever were at any time in Stalin’s gulags. For what it’s worth, there are also more black men in jail right now than there were in slavery at its peak.
See if this syllogism works, then.
Poverty goes up;
Crime goes down;
Prison population doubles.
It doesn’t fit, unless some sort of alternative explanation comes
into play. Maybe all those new nonviolent prisoners fit into
some new national policy imperative. Maybe they all broke
some new set of unwritten societal rules. But what?
While on a visit to San Diego to do research for this book, I
heard a crazy story. The subject was the city’s P100 program, under which anyone who applied for welfare could have his or her home searched preemptively by the state. Ostensibly, authorities
were looking for evidence that the applicant had a secret job or
a boyfriend who could pay bills, or was just generally lying
about something in order to cheat the taxpayer out of that
miserable few hundred bucks a month.
One Vietnamese woman, a refugee and a rape victim who
had only recently come to America, applied for welfare in San
Diego. An inspector came to her door, barged in, and began
rifling through her belongings. At one point, he reached into her
underwear drawer and began sifting around. Sneering, he used
the tip of the pencil eraser to pull out a pair of sexy panties and
looked at her accusingly. If she didn’t have a boyfriend, what
did she need these for?
That image, of a welfare inspector sneeringly holding up
panties with a pencil end, expresses all sorts of things at once.
The main thing is contempt. The implication is that someone
broke enough to ask the taxpayer for a handout shouldn’t have
sex, much less sexy panties.
The other thing here is an idea that being that poor means
you should naturally give up any ideas you might have about
privacy or dignity. The welfare applicant is less of a person for
being financially dependent (and a generally unwelcome
immigrant from a poor country to boot), so she naturally has
fewer rights.
No matter how offensive the image is, it has a weird logic
that’s irresistible to many if not most Americans. Even if we
don’t agree with it, we all get it.
And that’s the interesting part, the part where we all get it.
More and more often, we all make silent calculations about who
is entitled to what rights, and who is not. It’s not as simple as
saying everyone is the same under the law anymore. We all
know there’s another layer to it now.
As a very young man, I studied the Russian language in
Leningrad, in the waning days of the Soviet empire. One of the
first things I noticed about that dysfunctional wreck of a lunatic
country was that it had two sets of laws, one written and one
unwritten. The written laws were meaningless, unless you
violated one of the unwritten laws, at which point they became
So, for instance, possessing dollars or any kind of hard
currency was technically forbidden, yet I never met a Soviet
citizen who didn’t have them. The state just happened to be
very selective about enforcing its anticommerce laws. So the
teenage farsovshik (black market trader) who sold rabbit hats in
exchange for blue jeans outside my dorm could be arrested for
having three dollars in his pocket, but a city official could openly
walk down Nevsky Avenue with a brand-new Savile Row suit
on his back, and nothing would happen.
Everyone understood this hypocrisy implicitly, almost at a
cellular level, far beneath thought. For a Russian in Soviet
times, navigating every moment of citizenship involved
countless silent calculations of this type. But the instant people
were permitted to think about all this and question the unwritten
rules out loud, it was like the whole country woke up from a
dream, and the system fell apart in a matter of months. That
happened before my eyes in 1990 and 1991, and I never forgot
Now I feel like I’m living that process in reverse, watching my
own country fall into a delusion in the same way the Soviets
once woke up from one. People are beginning to become
disturbingly comfortable with a kind of official hypocrisy.
Bizarrely, for instance, we’ve become numb to the idea that
rights aren’t absolute but are enjoyed on a kind of sliding scale.
CREDIT LINE: Excerpted from THE DIVIDE: American Injustice in
the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi. Copyright © 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Joint Statement on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day:


*Israel must heed international calls to respect human rights of
Palestinians held in Israeli prisons*

17 April 2014

Today, on 17 April 2014, Palestinians around the world commemorate
Prisoners’ Day in solidarity with thousands of Palestinian prisoners and
detainees held in Israeli prisons.

To mark this important day in Palestinian society, four human rights
organizations – Adalah, Al Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and
the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel – are issuing this joint
statement to call upon the international community to urge Israel to heed
growing international statements and recommendations to guarantee and
protect the human rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli

Since 1967, Israel has detained and imprisoned over 800,000 Palestinians as
a means of maintaining and consolidating Israel’s control of the Occupied
Palestinian Territory (OPT). Today, according to Addameer, more than 5,200
Palestinian prisoners and
detainees; –
including women and children, pre-Oslo Accords prisoners, and elected
Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council – are being held in prisons
located inside Israel, in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Israel’s violations of Palestinian prisoners’ basic human
the use of administrative detention without formal charge or trial; severe
restrictions on family visits, lack of access to healthcare and independent
doctors, and access to education; collective punishments such as solitary
confinement; forced strip searches; violent night-time raids on inmates;
and other practices that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment. In addition to these policies, Israel is proposing new laws,
such as the Anti-Terror Bill and the Force-feeding Bill, which threaten to
further infringe on the basic rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

Despite these continued practices, this year’s Prisoners’ Day comes at a
time of increasing international scrutiny and criticism towards Israel’s
treatment of Palestinians in Israeli prisons:

*European Parliament: *In March 2014, members of the European Parliament
conducted a Fact-Finding Mission to assess the conditions and polices
towards Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. The mission was held in
accordance with a European Parliament
on 14 March 2013, following the death of prisoner Arafat
Israeli custody. An investigation by a leading international forensic
pathologist found that Jaradat had suffered acts of
torture; during
custody and that this had led to his death, contradicting Israel's account
that Jaradat died of 'natural causes'.

*European Union: *The EU also issued its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP)
report ; on
Israel in March 2014, in which it highlighted continued complaints of the
use of torture by Israel and the lack of investigations into these
complaints. The EU further expressed concern of the continued excessive use
of administrative detention, and emphasized the need to implement the
recommendations of the Turkel Commission Report to ensure accountability of
Israel’s security services. The EU ENP report echoed many of the issues
highlighted in a joint NGO
by the four partners in October 2013 regarding the human rights of
prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons.

*United Nations:* In June 2013, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
(CRC) issued harsh concluding
Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children detainees and prisoners,
including harsh arrests and detentions of minors, night-time raids on
Palestinian homes, denial of family supervision or contact during custody,
solitary confinement against minors as punishment, and psychological and
physical violence by police and security forces that constitute forms of
torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

We call upon the international community to demand that Israel incorporate
these international recommendations in order to address the deteriorating
human rights conditions of Palestinian prisoners and to end its breaches of
international law. We demand that Israel end the practice of torture and
ill-treatment against Palestinian prisoners, end its use of administrative
detention, and end the severe tactics of arrest and detention of
Palestinian minors. We further demand that Israel ends all discriminatory
legislation that target the rights of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, and
that it ensures transparency and accountability of Israeli security and
prison authorities.

*Read more: **Joint report on the human rights of Palestinian prisoners and
detainees, October

*Signing organizations:*

Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I)

Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)

[image: Inline image 2]


Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It's Not a Democracy

Tom McKay's avatar image By Tom McKay April 16, 2014

Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It's Not a Democracy

The news: A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn't a democracy any more. And they've found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.

It's beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren't in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.

This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think, as mapped by these graphs from the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities:

Piketty and Saez also calculated that as of September 2013 the top 1% of earners had captured 95% of all income gains since the Great Recession ended. The other 99% saw a net 12% drop to their income. So not only is oligarchy making the rich richer, it's driving policy that's made everyone else poorer.

What kind of oligarchy? As Gawker's Hamilton Nolan explains, Gilens and Page's findings provide support for two theories of governance: economic elite domination and biased pluralism. The first is pretty straightforward and states that the ultra-wealthy wield all the power in a given system, though some argue that this system still allows elites in corporations and the government to become powerful as well. Here, power does not necessarily derive from wealth, but those in power almost invariably come from the upper class. Biased pluralism on the other hand argues that the entire system is a mess and interest groups ruled by elites are fighting for dominance of the political process. Also, because of their vast wealth of resources, interest groups of large business tend to dominate a lot of the discourse. America, the findings indicate, tends towards either of these much more than anything close to what we call "democracy."

In either case, the result is the same: Big corporations, the ultra-wealthy and special interests with a lot of money and power essentially make all of the decisions. Citizens wield little to no political power. America, the findings indicate, tends towards either of these much more than anything close to what we call "democracy" — systems such as majoritarian electoral democracy or majoritarian pluralism, under which the policy choices pursued by the government would reflect the opinions of the governed.

Nothing new: And no, this isn't a problem that's the result of any recent Supreme Court cases — at least certainly not the likes FEC v. Citizens United or FEC v. McCutcheon. The data is pretty clear that America has been sliding steadily into oligarchy for decades, mirrored in both the substantive effect on policy and in the distribution of wealth throughout the U.S. But cases like those might indicate the process is accelerating.

"Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does," Gilens and Page write. "Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support.

"But we tend to doubt it."