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Undernews For November 24, 2008

Undernews For November 24, 2008

The news while there's still time to do something about it

611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

23 November 2008PAGE ONE MUST


Al Jazeera Bolivia's president has suspended the work of agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, accusing them of spying inside Bolivia. Speaking in the coca-producing region of Chimore in central Chapare province on Saturday, Evo Morales said the US agency had supported the opposition and encouraged political violence that left 19 people dead. Morales said, "There were DEA agents that were doing political espionage ... financing criminal groups so that they could act against authorities, even the president."

He also directly accused DEA officials of disrupting government activities during the unrest in five of the country's nine departments in September by "funding civic leaders with the aim of sabotaging airports in eastern Bolivia ... to prevent visits from officials."

Relations with the United States have been tense since La Paz expelled the US ambassador in September after accusing him of encouraging divisions by offering support to opposition figures.

Bolivia is the world's third-largest cocaine producer after Colombia and Peru. The coca plant, from which cocaine is derived, has many uses in traditional Andean culture.

Morales was the leader of the Bolivian coca-growers union before becoming the country's first indigenous president. Bolivian police, working with DEA agents, have dramatically increased their cocaine seizures under Morales.


Progressive Review - DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee is getting rave reviews everywhere except in real DC, where our egocentric, bullying, my-way-or-the-highway approach is making new enemies every day. This is no longer just a local concern, however, as there are reports that Obama plans to appoint her to a high position in his administration, encouraged by uninformed articles like one in Newsweek that claimed, "The chancellor of the D.C. system, Michelle Rhee, has proposed an innovative teachers' contract that could allow her to reward the best teachers and dismiss the bad ones. Educators everywhere are watching to see what Obama says and does. If he backs Rhee's proposal, he will send a powerful signal to struggling inner-city schools that reform is possible. If he fudges or says nothing, it will be a signal that little will change for the poor and mostly black children in the capital's nearly dysfunctional apparatus.

"Rhee has made no secret of her determination to break the union. With the support of Mayor Adrian Fenty and the promise of funds from private foundations, she wants to offer teachers a choice of two contracts. Under the first, teachers can make up to $130,000 in merit pay-but they must forgo tenure. Or they can choose to keep tenure, but accept a much more modest pay raise (the average teacher's salary in Washington is $65,902)."

What Newsweek and other media don't tell you is that the increase in salary is being funded by donations from private foundations with absolutely no guarantee the money will still be there a few years down the pike. It short, it amounts to a first class con being perpetrated with the aid of third rate media.

Following are some other things about Rhee you may not know:

Washington Post Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee told the D.C. Council that the District needs to completely rethink its approach to preventing school violence, with a better trained security force but also by teaching students to manage conflicts before they spiral out of control. Rhee spoke to the council a day after fights among rival groups at Anacostia High School left five students injured, including three with stab wounds. . . D.C. State Board of Education member William Lockridge, who represents wards 7 and 8, said the Anacostia situation was triggered by tensions about the enrollment of students from Eastern High School, which is being reorganized under the No Child Left Behind law, and M.M. Washington Career High School, which was closed because of low enrollment.
"I think it was a bad idea from the beginning," Lockridge said. "The community forewarned the administration that this was going to happen, and it's happened. They're not listening." Rhee said the transfers played no role in the disorder.

Washington Post - At Hart [school], where the level of violence and disorder - including assaults on at least three teachers - prompted Rhee to intervene this month with a team of administrators and to dismiss Principal Kisha Webster, about 200 parents and faculty packed the school auditorium to air complaints. . . D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said much of the violence at Hart could have been averted if the school system had planned more carefully for its consolidation with P.R. Harris, another Southeast middle school that was closed in June. Barry said administrators did nothing beforehand to ease the potential for neighborhood tensions and school rivalries that have played out under Hart's roof. "They sent sixth , seventh and eighth-graders to Hart from P.R. Harris without any preparation for the neighborhood beefs," Barry said.

Washington Post - About a third of D.C.'s school principal corps has turned over on Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's 17-month watch, through firings, resignations and retirements. She's replaced at least three since the beginning of the school year, and has put out the word that she is not done.

The writer of the following is a former D.C. Public Schools teacher and was superintendent of schools in Arlington, VA from 1974 to 1981:

Larry Cuban, Washington Post In her second year as the District's schools chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee looks like a sprinter. In less than two years, with the full support of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, she has already cut central office administrators, fired principals, closed schools and challenged the teachers union on seniority transfer rights and tenure.

By comparison, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly L. Hall and Austin schools chief Pat Forgione each served a decade and showed strong gains in students' academic achievement. They were long-distance runners. Fixing urban school districts takes marathoners, not sprinters.

Look at Alan Bersin, who ran out of gas as San Diego's superintendent in 2005. Determined to lift student learning rather than preserve school officials' status quo, he reorganized the system and fired administrators. He went after collective bargaining rules that protected seniority rights and incompetent teachers. Union leaders fought him by seeking national and state allies and turning to parents. He exited well before fulfilling his reform agenda.

My point is not that union leaders block reform. In some cities they work closely with superintendents. Nor should superintendents play nice with unions to avoid conflict.

But sprinter superintendents err in jumping on unions too early in their long-distance race for better student achievement. They suffer from ideological myopia. They believe low test scores and achievement gaps between whites and minorities result in large part from knuckle-dragging union leaders defending seniority and tenure rights that protect lousy teachers. Such beliefs reflect a serious misreading of why urban students fail to reach proficiency levels and graduate from high school. . .

This error in thinking has occurred often in districts where impatient superintendents have demonized unions, only to discover that they have stumbled into a war as a result. Once union leaders were convinced that they were fighting for their survival, they converted the battle into an "us vs. them" struggle. When that happens, kiss reform goodbye.

Rhee's ideological push against unions comes much too early in her tenure to improve teaching and learning. Such initiatives fail because they can turn the entire D.C. teaching corps -- including first-rate veteran and mid-career teachers -- against any classroom change. Rhee may deceive herself into believing that teacher whispers about forming another union will split a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers that was founded in 1925. It won't.

"Us vs. them" is not predestined. Boston's Tom Payzant and Carl A. Cohn in Long Beach, Calif., served more than a decade in their districts and received national awards for raising student performance. Neither saw teacher unions as foes to be squashed. They convinced union leaders that it was in teachers' best interests to work with them. Trying to destroy the union will not throw 4,000 teachers behind the mayor and chancellor.

Were the untimely face-off with the D.C. teachers union to spiral into an ugly scrum, angry union leaders and teachers would reach out to allies on the D.C. Council and elsewhere to join against a mayor and chancellor viewed as determined to destroy their organization, much like President Ronald Reagan was with the air traffic controllers union in 1981. Such conflict could possibly end in the mayor dumping his talented chancellor. Another round of high hopes for the D.C. schools would be dashed.

Guy Brandenburg, Concerned 4 DCPS - I know that the major media are totally enamored of Michelle Rhee. But those of us who live and work right under her are much less in love with her.

Closing schools? Other school chiefs in DC have been doing that for at least a decade.

Firing lots of DCPS central office workers? Just about every single one of our last 7 or 8 superintendents started out by doing that. Fat lot of good that's done.

Increased test scores? Many of us point out that that's the result of a new curriculum brought about under the former school chief, Clifford Janey, and the public schools wildly outperformed the charter schools. Yes, you read that correctly: the traditional public schools did much, much better on the [test] than all those supposedly wonderful charter schools Rhee has been promoting.

Her three main actual accomplishments to date, it seems to me are:

- bringing about the largest single-year percentage drop in student enrollment in DCPS;

- making union-busting seem like a progressive idea in education; and

- promoting the myth that it doesn't take any experience or training to be a wonderful teacher.

It is an outright lie to say that the reason that the contract that Rhee proposed has not been brought to a vote of the membership is because of a 'meltdown' in the Washington Teachers' Union leadership, and that the WTU leadership is preventing an eager union membership from voting for the contract. . .

When teachers heard some of the details of the outline of the contract that Rhee [and the head of the teacher's union] had been working on - in total isolation from the rest of the bargaining committee - the vast majority of the rank-and-file teachers thought that the central ideas were no good and that our leaders needed to go back to the negotiating table and start over.

Teachers overwhelmingly are rejecting the idea of doubling, tripling, or quadrupling their own salaries. Can you imagine the CEOs of any corporation doing that? In my opinion, teachers are rejecting that idea because they don't trust the leadership of our school system, pretty much at any level.

Most teachers know quite a bit about favoritism, nepotism, and politics, and are quite happy to have unions representing them so that there will be due process when complaints or problems come up. We have seen our often-clueless administrators leave incompetent teachers in classrooms because the administrators didn't care, while harassing teachers they felt to be troublemakers.

Teachers also know how extremely difficult it is to work in what is euphemistically called "inner-city" schools, and how much easier it is for your students to achieve at a high level if they already come with an excellent background. Just about every method I have seen proposed for judging teachers and by student achievement levels will not account for that, and will deem as "successful" the schools where lots of parents have PhDs, LLDs, and MDs, and will give the "failing" label to schools where lots of the parents have jail records, high unemployment, little education, and so on.

Quite a few of my fellow-teachers don't even believe that Rhee actually has the money to pay those huge salaries.

The St Hope connection:

Saint Hope News Release, July 2007 - St. HOPE Public Schools announced that Michelle Rhee has been confirmed as the new Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schools. . . Rhee, who has served on the St. HOPE Public Schools Board of Directors for one year, played an instrumental role in the hiring of new staff and professional development. . . Both Rhee and McGoldrick will continue serving on the SHPS Board of Directors

Sacramento Bee, September 2008 - The federal government released findings of its investigation into management of the nonprofit St. HOPE volunteer program founded by Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson, citing violations that include having youthful participants run personal errands and wash his car.

The findings from the federal probe followed by a day the government's announcement it was barring Johnson, St. HOPE Academy and a former official from access to federal grants and contracts for up to a year. .

The federal funding suspension was triggered by a months-long investigation into Hood Corps' use of AmeriCorps funds. The program received $807,000 between 2004 and 2007. Federal funding for the program was not renewed last year. In a notice of suspension sent to Johnson, an official from the AmeriCorps agency said evidence indicates that Johnson, as president and chief executive of St. HOPE Academy, improperly diverted grant money.

Sacramento Bee - While under the management of Sacramento Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson, St. HOPE Public Schools fell more than $1 million behind on required payments to the Sacramento City Unified School District. St. HOPE started paying the money back in October, and the Sacramento City school board Thursday night voted 5-2 in favor of an agreement that would require it to pay off the remaining $729,742 debt with interest by June 30, 2010.

Washington Post - Rhee appeared at a news conference in Sacramento as part of the transition team of Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star who will take office Nov. 25, replacing two-term incumbent Heather Fargo. According to The Sacramento Bee, she was presented by Johnson as one of the leaders of a transition team that could eventually total as many as 100 people. Rhee is a long-time friend of Johnson's and served as a member of the board of directors of St. Hope Public Schools, the system of charter schools Johnson founded in Sacramento.

Roger Newell notes: Remember, this is the same person who said that she was too busy to appear before the City Council to answer questions from elected officials on how she is spending our tax money and educating our city's future.

Bll Turque, Washington Post - A new group has organized around the proposition that fixing D.C.'s schools will require nurturing and developing teachers -- not just threatening them with dismissal for failing to raise student test scores. Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform was co-founded by a core of activists who agree with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee that DCPS is in need of dramatic change. But they say that school reform requires a broader conversation than the one taking place between Rhee and the Washington Teachers Union over a new labor contract.

DC Examiner - The prevailing attitude in elite education circles these days seems to be: "We've tried everything else and that didn't work, so let's try bribing students to learn." So starting October 3rd, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will begin doling out up to $100 per month to 3,000 middle school students for doing what other children around the nation are expected to do for free - show up for class, behave, do their homework. . . New York University Professor Pedro Noguera questioned the value of financial incentives after the percentage of New York high school students who earned Advance Placement credits decreased from 35 percent in 2007, when no cash incentives were offered, to 32 percent this year, when students received cash bonuses of as much as $1,000.

DC Wire, Washington Post - She's said it before, but Michelle Rhee keeps hammering away at the Democratic Party for being weak on education accountability and reform. Last night, Rhee appeared before the Ward 4 Democrats at Emery Recreation Center and explained that she appeared on an education panel discussion in Denver during the Democratic National Convention to "make a statement to the Democratic Party" about why it needs to get tougher on unions and other "political interests." Rhee stressed that she has been a lifelong Democrat, but then she lit into the party. "Republicans are much better at education policy than Democrats," she said. "Democrats are soft on accountability and they're anti-NCLB [No Child Left Behind], they don't want to test anyone. This attitude in my mind does nothing for the neediest students who need help the most." To Rhee, Democratic leaders pander to unions and other interest groups who are "driving the agenda on school reform. Everyone thinks Republicans are for the rich, white oil guys to whom they give tax breaks and Democrats are for kids and the underclass. I don't think the Democratic Party operates that way. So we were there [in Denver] speaking out and pushing the Party to move in a different direction."

Progressive Review - The school system's brutalist boss, Michelle Rhee, not only feels free to trash the city's teachers but the DC city council as well. In an article in the business mag Fast Company, Jeff Chu writes that she "refuses to play the traditional, subservient role of a D.C. agency chief with the city council, which, despite its limited authority over DCPS, has repeatedly questioned her decision making and management." When Rhee catches a council hearing on late night TV she sees "her own version of a horror movie. . . 'There's this crazy dynamic where every agency head is kowtowing. They sit there and get beat down. . . I'm not going to sit on public TV and take a beating I don't deserve. I don't take that crap.'" Sounds like someone should introduce her to DC law as well as to common sense.

Gary Imhoff, DC Watch - At Wilson High School, we have just had a graphic example of how insecure a teaching job can be under the whims of Rhee's administrators, even for a teacher as admired and beloved as Dr. Arthur Siebens . . . Why on earth should teachers give up whatever protection tenure can give them against arbitrary and capricious decisions that they 'fit in with the new' order? What have Rhee and [Mayor] Fenty done to earn the trust of teachers? Why should teachers believe that they won't be treated just as shabbily at Siebens, that they won't be scorned and swept out by young, arrogant, and inexperienced school officials who are convinced that they know it all and that anyone who was in the Washington school system before they took over should be 'excessed' and disposed of?

Progressive Review - We have in the past recommended a saner approach to bureaucratic reform, such as coming up with a plan of where you want to be a few years from now, including the specific jobs that will be available after the reorganization. This not only would allow the public to know what was actually being proposed - something Rhee hasn't let us in on - and would let staff know whether their job would be there or not. If not, the employees would have time to look for another job or apply for one of the jobs under the new plan. Using such an approach is far less disruptive than the slash and burn approach of Rhee.


Independent, UK - Before Hillary Clinton has been formally offered the job as Secretary of State, a purge of Barack Obama's top foreign policy team has begun. The advisers who helped trash the former First Lady's foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail are being brutally shunted aside, as the price of her accepting the job of being the public face of America to the world. In negotiations with Mr Obama this week before agreeing to take the job, she demanded and received assurances that she alone should appoint staff to the State Department. She also got assurances that she will have direct access to the President and will not have to go through his foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council, which is where many of her critics in the Obama team are expected to end up.

The first victims of Mrs Clinton's anticipated appointment will be those who defended Mr Obama's flanks on the campaign trail. By mocking Mrs Clinton's claims to have landed under sniper fire in Bosnia or pouring scorn on her much-ballyhooed claim to have visited 80 countries as First Lady they successfully deflected the damaging charge that he is a lightweight on international issues.

Foremost among the victims of the purges is her old Yale Law School buddy Greg Craig, a man who more than anyone led the rescue of his presidency starting the very night Kenneth Starr's lurid report into the squalid details of the former president's sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky were published on the internet in 1998. Despite his long and loyal friendship with the Clintons, Mr Craig threw his lot in with Mr Obama at an early stage in the presidential election campaign. As if that betrayal to the cause of the Clinton restoration was not enough, Mr Craig did more to undermine Mrs Clinton's claims to be a foreign policy expert than anyone else in the some of the ugliest exchanges of the battle for the Democratic nomination.

Until this week he was poised to be the eminence grise of the State Department, organizing as total revamp of America's troubled foreign policies on Mr Obama's behalf. . . [Clinton] wanted guarantees of direct access to the president - without having to go through his national security adviser. Above all she did not want to end up like Colin Powell who was completely out-maneuvered by the hawkish Vice President Dick Cheney who imposed neo-conservative friends like John Bolton on the State Department and steered the US towards a policy of using torture to achieve its aims.

Mr Craig's crime was not so much that he enthusiastically backed Mr Obama for President and helped run his foreign policy advisory panel, it was his lacerating attacks on the putative Secretary of State's claims that she passed the "Commander-in-Chief test" as a foreign policy expert in the Clinton Administration. In a devastating memo of 11 March last, which he addressed "to interested parties," Mr Craig said: There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff."

"She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis."

The memo went on to say that Mrs Clinton "never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue - not at 3 AM or at any other time of day." Earlier this week Mr Craig was tapped to become White House counsel, a totally anonymous position, and shunted him out of the line of fire from the Secretary of State.

A question remains about the fate of Susan Rice, the public face of Mr Obama's foreign policy throughout the campaign. She too had been expected to take a prominent position at the State department, but in a conference call with reporters during the campaign she ridiculed Mr Clinton's claims to foreign Policy experience.

She may now end up as Deputy national Security adviser to the president, in the expectation that she would be frozen out by Mrs Clinton at the State Department, a situation that does not augur well for the future. .


NY Times - President-elect Barack Obama is expected to name Lawrence H. Summers as his pick to head the National Economic Council, an aide to Mr. Obama said.

Mark Ames, Nation - From the start, [Lawrence] Summers has been on the wrong side of Obama's supporters. In 1982, while still a graduate student at Harvard, Summers was brought to Washington by his dissertation advisor Martin Feldstein, the supply-side economist, to serve on Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors. Those first years in the Reagan administration were crucial in the right-wing war against New Deal regulation of the banking system and financial markets -- a war that Reagan's team won, and that we're all paying for today. Although Summers eventually identified himself with the Democratic Party -- albeit the right wing of that party -- nevertheless, as the New York Times's Peter T. Kilborn wrote in 1988:

He worked for 10 months as a top analyst in President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers when his mentor, Martin S. Feldstein, was running it, and his colleagues don't recall him venting anti-Reagan heresies then. "One of the ironies of this business is that Summers's economics are quite close to Feldstein's," said William A. Niskanen, who was a member of the Feldstein council. . .

Some fifteen years after Summers's stint in the Reaganomics war room, he reappears as one of the key villains fighting to suppress the regulatory efforts of a top official, Brooksley Born, who was trying to call attention to the dangers of the unregulated derivatives, such as credit swap defaults, which today are considered the key to the current economic crisis. . .

Progressive Review - In 1991, Larry Summers signed a memo when he was vice president and chief economist of the World Bank concerning the handling of pollution in less wealthy lands. When an excerpt of the memo was leaked, more than a few people became upset. Summers initially took responsibility for the memo but claimed it was satirical. Later, blame for writing the memo was taken by aide Lant Pritchett. Pritichett went on to lecture at the Harvard Kennedy School and Summers went on to be president of Harvard.

If the memo was in fact intended to be humorous, whoever wrote it didn't understand that humor used again the poor and defenseless is not satire but ridicule and bigotry. The fact that Summers thought it funny should disqualify him from any government position.

The excerpt:

|||| 'Dirty' Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.

2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is is 200 per thousand. Also, much of the concern over industrial atmosphere discharge is about visibility impairing particulates. These discharges may have very little direct health impact. Clearly trade in goods that embody aesthetic pollution concerns could be welfare enhancing. While production is mobile the consumption of pretty air is a non-tradable.

The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization. ||||

While Summers and Pritchett survived the memo incident, the Brazilian secretary of the environment was not as fortunate. He was fired after writing to Summers:

"Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane. . . Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional 'economists' concerning the nature of the world we live in. . . If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility."

Composer John Halle has memorialized this seedy memo and the Brazilian official's reply with a musical number performed by the Sequitur Ensemble, Kristin Nordeval and Dora Ohrenstein, sopranos.

Heidi Przybyla, Bloomberg - Summers, a Harvard economist who worked under Rubin in the Treasury before replacing him as secretary, joined his boss in defeating an effort to rein in over- the-counter derivatives in 1998.

Brooksley Born, then commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, wanted to examine regulating the derivatives, including credit-default swaps, saying they posed "grave dangers'' to the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Rubin issued a rebuke, saying in a statement that they seriously questioned the scope of the CFTC's jurisdiction in this area.

Summers called Born and said he was with bank representatives in his office and they believed that the regulation would lead to an economic crisis, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked to remain anonymous. Summers declined to be interviewed for this article.

Summers and Rubin also helped secure passage of the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, aimed at spurring competition in banking. The law repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which had prohibited commercial banks from offering investment and insurance services. Summers, 54, helped craft the legislation, and Rubin urged Congress to pass it and Clinton to sign it. . .


According to David Savage in the LA Times:

- As governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano last year signed into law the nation's harshest penalty for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, a measure that would take away their business licenses for a second violation.

- She signed a law that would take away the business license for the second violation of a company hiring illegal immigrants, what she called the "business death penalty." The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce went to court to block the measure. It has been approved by a federal judge but is under appeal.

- She opposed punishment against immigrants who are already here.

- She vetoed a bill that would have prevent illegal immigrants from getting state tuition assistance.

- She vetoes a bill that would have require the police to arrest illegal immigrants.

- She has an approval rating over 70%

- John Trazvina, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund: "Arizona has become one of the worst states for immigrants in this country."

- She did not support a border fence. Her reaction: "You show me a 50-foot wall, and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder," she has said.

- She favors a "temporary worker program with no amnesty."


Sam Smith - One of the enjoyable side benefits of my life has been to contribute from time to time to a journal of exceptional visual style, verbal substance and voracious thought: Designer/Builder.

Designer/Builder was the creation of Kingsley and Jerilou Hammett who presented more good ideas about buildings and cities in one issue than your average city planner has in a decade. And because it was a journal of the "human environment" of which structures are only a part, they also included other pieces including, in the current issue, a defense of melancholy and my article on the curse of corporate culture.

I sometimes tell people that I only am a writer because I'm not good enough to be a cartoonist or a photographer and so, before I even get to the words, I love to check out the photographs in Designer/Builder including, in this issue a cover shot of a man sitting in a rocking chair on a Manhattan sidewalk, his face obscured by the issue of Rolling Stone he is reading.

J, Baldwin, editor of Whole Earth magazine once said, "The editors consider architecture and building as an integral part of real, live culture - everyone's culture, whether you're cool, rich, workin' stiff, or on the dole."

So it was with shock and sadness that I received Jerilou's call to report Kingsley unexpected death while hiking on the Dale Ball Trails east of downtown Santa Fe where they lived and which they loved. According to a local newspaper, "Hammett, who wrote two highly acclaimed books about Santa Fe, knew as much about the city as any historian, said longtime friend Gloria Mendoza. 'That's how passionate he was,' she said. 'You don't find that usually in people who are not native born.'"

It'll be tough but I'm hoping Jerilou continues the journal despite it all, because it is both beautiful and badly needed. You can get a sample copy by sending $6 to Designer/Builder, 2405 Maclovia Lane, Santa Fe, NM 87505. The website.


Kingsley Hammett, Designer/Building, Jan-Feb 2007 - All over the country, long-ignored minority neighborhoods are being threatened by the forces of gentrification and displacement. Rising property values are shifting the racial demographics, driving out original residents, and destroying the cultural and social context of well-established communities.

In most of these low-income neighborhoods, the street pulsates with a rich social life where the local population, be it African American or Latino, gathers on favorite corners and in front of stores to sit, visit, talk, trade news, and play cards. But what is valuable to local residents can be offensive and frightening to middle and upper-class gentrifiers, who believe the proper place to gather is in homes or back yards and see people on the street as a sign of low-class activity and trouble.

The challenge for those trying to preserve the integrity of these newly desirable neighborhoods is to institute improvements that appeal to residents but repel developers. It is a challenge that motivates the work of California landscape architect Steve Rasmussen-Cancian, who has come up with an answer that is cheap, socially engaging, and effective: build sidewalk living rooms furnished with permanent benches, sitting boxes, and planters so neighbors can claim their right to public space while at the same time discouraging those who would like to see them gone altogether.

For nearly thirteen years after graduating from college, Rasmussen-Cancian worked as a political and community organizer on behalf of such progressive candidates as Jesse Jackson and in support of Los Angeles public housing residents. After helping tenants develop low-income coops, he became interested in the field of design. He then moved north to Berkeley to get a graduate degree in landscape architecture, believing that would provide him with new opportunities to get involved in participatory community projects.

"Realistically, after a couple of community meetings, people can't go out and build a building," he says. "But with one or two community discussions people have all the tools they need to go and build street furniture and create the shared space of community living rooms."

While back home in Los Angeles on a school break he broached the idea to some of his old organizing buddies to launch a major tree-planting and sidewalk improvement project in some of the neighborhoods he'd worked in earlier.

"Let's make the most of the urban landscape," he told them. "Their response was, 'If we do that, aren't we just rolling out the carpet for gentrification?' They knew on a gut level they'd just be improving the curb appeal of those properties."

He took that question back to Berkeley and tried to solve the core dilemma of gentrification: Low-income inner-city communities have a great need for improved environments. But improving the environment sets people up for displacement. How could they achieve one without the other?

Rasmussen-Cancian found less support than he expected within the Berkeley design community. Even those with good politics often were locked into conventional thinking. They felt that gentrification was a problem beyond their scope and power to resolve and told him, "Steve, you're right to worry about it. But you can't do anything about it. You're in design school."

"Designers have self-edited themselves out of many roles. They mainly serve governments and people who can afford to pay," he says. "But if designers accept that they do have a social role and do have some control over the impact of their work, then they have to look at the work they're doing. A lot of their work would not be defensible if you asked, 'Is this serving any social good?' So figuring out how to learn to be a designer, to still be socially responsible, and to make a better neighborhood for the same neighbors is challenging."

Rasmussen-Cancian was struck by the fact that nearby West Oakland, a community of beautiful old Victorians, had not been gentrified long ago. It offers gentrifiers the last BART station before a twelve-minute subway ride to San Francisco's financial center along with great weather, ocean breezes, and views of downtown Oakland. But it was the birthplace of the Black Panthers and the Pullman Car Workers Union and remains a proud African-American neighborhood. He concluded that what had saved it from gentrification was the racism of gentrifiers. If there is no one on the streets, the area, with a convenient subway stop, might look like a great site for potential development. But when the streets are filled with black people in a society where it has been statistically proven that a majority of white Americans won't move into an area they perceive to be 30 percent African American or 50 percent Latino, gentrifiers tend to keep on driving.

"Gentrifiers and the diverse longtime residents they displace have very different ideas about what makes an inviting, attractive neighborhood," Rasmussen-Cancian says. "Experience and studies show that working-class urban residents view the street as the center of the neighborhood, the place to hang out, to socialize, and to watch the passing scene. In contrast, most middle- and upper-class gentrifiers are looking for a quiet street as a gateway to their homes."


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"Their tactics include putting secret cameras in tin cans, on lamp posts and even in the homes of 'friendly' residents. The local authorities admitted that one of their main aims was to catch householders who put their bins out early."

Sound familiar? Community courts won't develop into just another level of snooping self-important bureaucracy will it?


Ken Olsen at Digital Equipment Corporation also decided that the "team of rivals" idea sounded nifty. He implemented it at Digital, and the resulting turf wars killed the company.

Division heads focused on keeping their division in business instead of keeping the corporation in business. So risks were avoided, process became more important than product, engineering focused on never slipping a schedule rather than on innovation, sales focused on the installed base rather than new share, and in staff meetings everyone took every chance to make a competitor look bad. The corporation expired of congestive heart failure.


So don't call them prisoners of war. Call them what they are: criminals. Then, treat them like all criminals are treated under US law. That is how civilized people behave. I hope the new administration turns out to contain a few

I see a lot of criminals, but not one of them is living in a dog run at Gitmo. Matter of fact they all have nice office jobs in DC and wear suits. Lets prosecute the real criminals: Bush and his toadies. I would be quite happy if Bush and his toadies spent the rest of their lives living in dog runs in Gitmo.

How is it people are criminals when there's no evidence of lawbreaking? How is it people can't see law enforcement violating the constitution is criminal and without the constitution you might be the next victim of the current inquisition?
A Republican-appointed judge has reviewed his first six Gitmo cases, and found that in five of the six, the government not only didn't have sufficient evidence to continue to hold the detainees, he ordered their release forthwith, and urged the government not to appeal his ruling. That's a pretty resounding repudiation.


These are the guys who stonewalled alternate technology, deferred production of smaller more fuel efficient vehicles and sued California to block cleaner emission standards. They are incapable of change. In three months they'll be back at the goverment teat for more. Time to wean the corporados.


Weed is good for the soul. Fuck other drugs that are legal that kill people everyday. Those are the drugs that should be illegal. People are just ignorant if they think people would get high every day before their work and other activities. You don't see everyone getting drunk before everything they do.

There would be a lot less crime if weed was legalized so people didn't have to buy it off other people anymore. i mean what makes someone a bad person just because they want to smoke? - Rob


I must protest. I am a moderate Christian, a Presbyterian who supports gay and civil rights and helping the poor. I do not think nationalism has any place in the church. I disagree very much with the idea religion harms society. Religious extremism certainly does as does any extremism. Even capitalism is bad for a society when taken to the extreme.
Bundled with nationalism, religion becomes a beast. I say take the model of the Quakers my dear friends. This piece is way too general. Even the isolated tribes of New Guinea have religion and it helps them cope and gives meaning to their lives. - Gimmer

Ironically amusing to realize that religious belief may very well contribute towards creating the very moral and social delinquencies that it seeks to punish with such severity.
Amusing, but I'd have to say not really at all surprising.


"And we could do it with government printed money - and not more debt - because it will be public works that creates wealth and employment rather than inflation."

The reason government printed money does not create inflation is because it does not have to have a compounding interest payment attached to it.

Say my local council borrows say $10 million from a bank over 30 years to build a new swimming pool. We will end up paying back $30 million depending upon the interest rate. We end up paying for it three times and we only have one pool. If government created money was used the local council could just pay the federal government back the $10 million interest free and then could take the money out of existence. We only pay $10 million once and don't encumber future taxpayers with a debt for a worn out pool in 20 years time.

The interest bearing, debt based money creation system we have now is best equated as a debt spiral. The money supply has to ever keep increasing to enable all the indebted people to pay off their old debts. The problem is the bankers create the credit but do not create the interest payments. The only way to prop up the system is to keep creating more debts to keep money flowing in the system. It is bit like having to keep filling the bucket that has a hole in it. This is best demonstrated in an example:

We are all trying to pull more money out of the economy than is already there. How do we keep the system afloat? Create more debt. What is "growth" but the pretext to create more debt? The money supply has to keep growing so we can all continue pay off our doubling and tripling debts. That it, until our debts get too big for our ability to pay. Our incomes and growth rates are not compounding. Eventually, the interest bearing debt based money system must collapse and reset itself.

Three things become apparent. One, interest makes everything expensive. Two, the doubling or tripling of all the debts in an economy over time is what inflation is. Your dollar today buys so much less today because there is so much more money in the economy than 30 years ago. The debt spiral is inflation.

Three, the banks create the debt from nothing and then charge you a private tax called compounding interest on top. This money creation is a fraud and the interest charged makes it a spectacular rip off. A bank is like no other business like it in our society. Create money out of nothing and charge a private tax on it. The returns are phenomenal. No wonder the bankers want to keep hold of the money creating power. It is absolute power.

So, until we have real money creation reform and put it back in the hands of the population we will be at the mercy of a handful of men who create and issue our money. The bankers have created the world financial crises we are in. We are the one who will pay the price. We should not allow them to do it all again. - Flavian, Adelaide, Australia


Although I have been very disappointed by some of Obama's first
appointments, I'm not yet ready to join the chorus of those from the left
who have already sprung to the attack. It's just too early to do that.
And it would, in any case, be politically futile to do so for he has such
an enormous stock of good will from those still rejoicing in his election.
I think we have to give the man a little time and regardless of his
appointments thus far, I think there is some reason [how much we won't
know till at least his First Hundred Days] to believe that he has the
makings of a good, maybe even very good president. FDR did not take
office intending to change America as he did but when confronted by the
challenges in front of him, he and his advisors, decided he had to take
drastic action. That could very well happen with Obama who was, after
all, a community organizer. I think there's no doubt his goal is to
become a great president. I don't think he could become one by becoming
another Bill Clinton. I sure as hell hope not. So I agree with giving
the man some time, enough time. Exactly how long that is remains to be
seen. And evidently, according to this CBS report, many on the left feel
the same way. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be putting pressure on
him from the left. We should but not go on the attack yet. Let's give
the guy a chance. - Richard.

Ouch. You're probably right but give the guy at least 100 days. After all he did pull off the most unlikely presidential campaign in American history. Maybe the Clintonistas will be better behaved this time and not be so presumptuous. I'll keep my fingers crossed but you have to admit he's large step up from Bush and McCain. They all ultimately break our hearts but let's give the brutha a chance for now.


A national ID card could help solve this voter registration problem, no? No thanks.


I don't at all disagree with your assessment of the leadership -- of whatever political persuasion -- and its inability to understand, let alone fix, our economic problems.

And I really like your idea of an industrial audit for the Big Three auto makers. It might be helpful to run this under GAO leadership (and responsibility for structure and deadlines), with, as you suggested, experienced people from the auto industry, US and international, providing task force and consulting expertise. It might also help to bring on a few people from CPA firms with experience in performance and management audits. I believe that with the proper motivation and setup the whole thing could be done in 6-8 weeks. And the results, whatever they are, would probably induce enough public confidence to support a decision about any government action.

Regarding the labor content of automobiles, though, it is worthwhile to remember that irrespective of the cost, Detroit cars have for decades been considerably higher in terms of embodied labor hours. At one time, if my now-treacherous memory serves, GM cars were taking twice as many labor hours to produce as Toyotas -- a ratio that has been reduced substantially, but not erased, in recent years.

The other aspect we should consider is that the auto industry in the Southeast is doing fine -- or at least as fine as any income-sensitive industry will do in an economic downturn. They are not on the brink of bankruptcy. And since labor contracts, and their financial drogue anchors, are dominant in Detroit and non-existent in the Southeast, we cannot ignore this factor and still be good stewards of either taxpayer money or our overall economy. - Jim



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