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Ash Wednesday blues

A butcher friend of mine on Ninth Street said hello today, and I couldn’t help notice the thin black cross on his forehead. I realized this was the first day of Lent and the cross was ash rubbed into his skin by a priest. More here.

Chicago turnaround

We can’t really acknowledge anything that contradicts the corporate-driven conventional wisdom about privatizing schools, though:

One day before Chicago School Board members vote on whether to “turn around” a record number of flagging schools, a new study emerged Tuesday that dumped on the results of the city’s major turnaround vendor.

About 33 neighborhood schools with at least 95 percent low-income students not only outscored equally poor schools cleared out of all staff and “turned around’’ by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, but even beat the city test score average, the study by Designs for Change indicated.

And the neighborhood schools did so without the average $7 million per school in funds and facility improvements over five years given the typical AUSL school — and with far less teacher turnover, the study said.

Don Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, said CPS should try to duplicate the formula of success at its own high-scoring, high-poverty neighborhood schools before it pays AUSL to turn around more schools.

“If you look down this list of [33 high-poverty neighborhood schools], most people have never heard of them but the turnaround people get all the publicity and they have not done as well,’’ Moore said.

Often, the study found, neighborhood schools outperformed equally-poor AUSL turnaround schools located only a few miles away. For example, in the South Shore neighborhood, Powell came in No. 14, while AUSL’s Bradwell was No. 194.

Serfin’ USA (the new feudalism)

Barring some act of God, or social upheaval that results in something akin to revolution, the numbers indicate that the 99 percent are screwed. More here.

What Santorum really meant

Thoughtful essay from Chauncy DeVega at We Are Respectable Negroes, in which he calls Rick Santorum a race baiter.

I don’t see how any reasonable person can argue with that. In fact, it’s true of all Republican presidential candidates (and their Senate caucus) whether they speak in code or not. They’ve salted the language so thoroughly with their racial dog whistles, it’s almost impossible for one of them to give a speech without one.

I’ve known a lot of people who work on the Hill, and they tell me that most of these Republicans are not racist, but simply politicians who cynically use divide-and-conquer tactics anyway. I say, it doesn’t matter. By picking up the tools of racism and using them for their own benefit, what difference does it make?

Gas prices in UK

Through the roof after Iran oil ban:

Following

I’d say this isn’t America anymore, but let’s face it – all that’s changed is that we’re finding out:

NEWARK, N.J. — Americans living and working in New Jersey’s largest city were subjected to surveillance as part of the New York Police Department’s effort to build databases of where Muslims work, shop and pray. The operation in Newark was so secretive even the city’s mayor says he was kept in the dark.

For months in mid-2007, plainclothes officers from the NYPD’s Demographics Units fanned out across Newark, taking pictures and eavesdropping on conversations inside businesses owned or frequented by Muslims.

The result was a 60-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, containing brief summaries of businesses and their clientele. Police also photographed and mapped 16 mosques, listing them as “Islamic Religious Institutions.”

The report cited no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior. It was a guide to Newark’s Muslims.

According to the report, the operation was carried out in collaboration with the Newark Police Department, which at the time was run by a former high-ranking NYPD official. But Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker, said he never authorized the spying and was never told about it.

“Wow,” he said as the AP laid out the details of the report. “This raises a number of concerns. It’s just very, very sobering.”

Police conducted similar operations outside their jurisdiction in New York’s Suffolk and Nassau counties on suburban Long Island, according to police records.

John O’Brien was the register of deeds in South Essex County, Massachusetts, and he was one of two who audited mortgage fraud in their jurisdiction. Yves Smith has this from him today on the proposed mortgage settlement:

It is my opinion that this deal has been crafted for the banks and by the banks. It is not in the best interest of the consumer, the homeowner, or the taxpayer. Simply put, I do not trust these lenders who have flooded my registry with over 32,000 fraudulent documents to do the right thing. Those homeowners who now have a corrupted title are looking for answers. This deal gives them none. The illegal activity by the banks is nothing shy of a criminal enterprise, where they crossed state lines using the United States Postal Service to deliver the instruments that were fraudulent and contained forgeries.

I know – why don’t you tell the feds they were also selling medical marijuana? Problem solved!

I will continue to pursue my request for Federal and State grand juries to be impaneled to hold the CEOs of these banks liable for the crimes that have been committed under their watch. The only thing missing in this illegal scheme that MERS and the big banks came up with was a gun and a mask. I will continue to expose this fraud and work everyday to make sure that the taxpayers are fully reimbursed for the over $44 million dollars in lost recording fees in my district alone by institutions who still believe fees are “for thee but not for me.” A message needs to be sent to these banks that they may think that you are too big to fail but they are not too big to go to jail.

We need a common sense approach in order to get this economy running again. I strongly believe that the hardworking homeowners who have struggled to stay current on their mortgages should be able to refinance their homes quickly at a fixed rate of 3%. A true national program with these terms would lower payments and infuse millions into our economy immediately.

Let’s not forget that foreclosures benefit no one. When a bank auctions off a home for less than is owed, that becomes the “comp” for the neighborhood. Simply put, your home and those of your neighbors are worth less. It makes far better sense to work with struggling homeowners and to take whatever action is needed to keep people in their homes.

Unless we face the facts and approach this with common sense we will be talking about the same issues a year from now and I am not sure we can wait that long.

Around the hood

One of the things about living in a part of the city that’s being art-ified and gentrified is that I get to see a lot of interesting new architecture going up. Like these:

Hero

Now that I’ve seen what my niece actually did, I can’t quite believe it. She jumped up?

Click here for the video.

Oops

Mitt Romney slipped yesterday and said something sensible. Don’t worry, his campaign did a little repair work later:

Mitt Romney said Tuesday that cutting spending slows growth in the economy — a rhetorical slip more akin to an argument a Democrat might make than a Republican.

Speaking in Shelby Township, MI, the former Massachusetts governor took a question about the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission empaneled by President Obama to address the nation’s deficit and debt issues. In his response, he said that addressing taxes and spending issues are essential.

“If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy,” he said in part of his response. “So you have to, at the same time, create pro-growth tax policies.”

That sort of comment was sure to raise the eyebrows of fiscal conservatives in the GOP, who have long preached a message of fiscal restraint as a path to economic growth.

“It’s hogwash. It confirms yet again that Romney is not a limited government conservative,” said Andy Roth, the vice president for government affairs at the fiscally conservative Club for Growth. “The idea that balancing the budget would not help the economy is crazy. If we balanced the budget tomorrow on spending cuts alone, it would be fantastic for the economy.”

[…] **UPDATE*** Romney spokesman Ryan Williams commented on the comments:

The governor’s point was that simply slashing the budget, with no affirmative pro-growth policies, is insufficient to get the economy turned around. However, he believes that budget cuts – especially in the context of President Obama’s unprecedented spending explosion – are a step in the right direction. As he made clear in his economic plan, he believes that spending cuts that reduce the size of government and balance the budget are crucial to economic growth and job creation.

Whew! A grateful nation heaves a sigh of relief.

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