California State Senator Ron Calderon Should Resign

By Dean Preston

Tenants Together

Assemblymember Christina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) deserves credit for being the first state legislator to call on Senator Ron Calderon (D – Montebello) to resign following the release last week of evidence that Calderon accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from an FBI agent as part of an undercover operation. Senator Calderon would be well advised to heed the call or face an escalating campaign from constituents, activists and colleagues who have lost faith in his ability to govern with any credibility.

'Clean' Version of the Delta Plan Isn't Fooling Anybody

Dan BacherBy Dan Bacher

The Delta Stewardship Council on Wednesday August 28 released what it described as a "clean" version of the Final Delta Plan, a controversial document now being contested in seven lawsuits by diverse parties ranging from the Winnemem Wintu Tribe to the Westlands Water District.

"A clean version of the Final Delta Plan, including an Executive Summary, easy to read text, informative graphics, and decorative photographs, is available for review and downloading by clicking [here]," the Council proclaimed.

So does that mean that the previous version of the plan was "dirty," as in obscene, corrupt, poorly written, ill-conceived and driven by dirty corporate money?

Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother

Norman SolomanBy Norman Soloman

A terrible formula has taken hold:
warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

"National security" agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. "Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors," the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

Can Elites Convince Victims of Top-Down Policies to Blame Themselves?

Randy ShawBy Randy Shaw

In The Unwinding, New Yorker political writer George Packer argues that elite-driven economic policies have negatively "unwound" the lives of millions of Americans. This view is hardly uncommon, yet the June 9, 2013 Sunday New York Times Book Review found a reviewer - Republican and Times columnist David Brooks - to deny that the nation's elite have "failed." Brooks claims the elite "comes from the finest universities" and is the most "diverse" and "equal opportunity" elite in history - a defense of elite rule and polices that could come from a Jon Stewart parody.

The Hollowing Out of Government

Robert ReichBy Robert Reich

The West Texas chemical and fertilizer plant where at least 15 were killed and more than 200 injured a few weeks ago hadn't been fully inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. (A partial inspection in 2011 had resulted in $5,250 in fines.)

OSHA and its state partners have a total of 2,200 inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of more than 8 million workplaces employing 130 million workers. That comes to about one inspector for every 59,000 American workers.

There's no way it can do its job with so few resources, but OSHA has been systematically hollowed out for the years under Republican administrations and congresses that have despised the agency since its inception.

Michelle Rhee, Once More, Fast and Loose with the Truth

By Joshua Pechthalt

"When will the Teflon wear off?" is a question many have asked about Michelle Rhee, self-proclaimed public school advocate, but in practice, tip of the spear for the school privatization industry.

According to the L.A. Times last month, Rhee's claim that her children attend public school proved "misleading" at best. This is consistent with her challenged relationship with telling the truth in general. Overseeing a staff of 120 on a lavish budget funded by anti-public education billionaires and their foundations, Rhee talks like a progressive but walks like a disciple of Ayn Rand and free market competition.

Rhee's Credibility Questioned as High-Stakes Testing is Exposed Again

By Lisa Schiff

Last week, high-stakes testing queen Michelle Rhee, was exposed. Thanks to the impressive investigative work of reporter John Merrow, the final dots have been connected making it clear that when Rhee was superintendent of Washington D.C.'s public schools, serious levels of cheating were occurring spurred on by the unrealistic pressure she put on principals and that she was fully aware of what was happening. This news comes on the heels of the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal in which the principals and teachers acted together to change students' test answers in order to improve standardized test scores under the pressure of threats by that district's superintendent, Beverly Hall.

Reshaping Education: New Opportunities for Teachers Unions

By Lisa Schiff

In the midst of a protracted assault on public education, teachers unions have in front of them a tremendous opportunity. The need for strong leadership asserting child-centric approaches to education has never been greater - teachers and their unions can seize this moment to break the mold of the traditional union and expand that organization's legitimate sphere of action to formally include the very structure and quality of students' learning experiences.

The historic purpose of a union to protect and advocate for its members is no less relevant today than it was in years past, but within the world of public education that mission alone is insufficiently ambitious, both for teachers and their students. The conditions of work are critical, but the nature of that work is equally so.

The Crumbling of Corporate School "Reform"

By Randy Shaw

In the past month, 1. Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly rejected a billionaire-backed school board candidate seeking to shift control of the district to anti-union forces; 2. Thirty-five Atlanta educators, including a close ally of prominent "reformer" Michelle Rhee, were indicted for altering students' test scores; 3. Rhee, head of "Students First," was herself caught lying about being a "public school parent" after it was reported that one of her daughters attends an exclusive private school in Tennessee; and 4. Chicago parents came out in force against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan for massive school closures.

Whom Do You Trust?

By Steve Hochstadt

Whom do you trust? Many Americans might say, "Nobody." What they mean is that they don't trust any "official" sources of information. They listen attentively, however, to the crackpots of alarm. The ironic result, in an age of overwhelming access to information, is that many Americans are not only ignorant, but they believe in fairy tales.

Last week I wrote about how the belief of some Americans that their biggest enemy is their own government has increased gun sales. Many other writers have picked up this theme recently, as more and more right-wingers compare the US government to Nazis and Communists, claiming they need assault weapons for protection from tyranny at home.