Year: 2008

Obama’s “Way-to-Go, Brownie!” Moment?

Greg Palast 

I will not pick a bad Secretary of EducationFor the Huffington Post

Has Barack Obama forgotten, “Way-to-go, Brownie“? Michael Brown was that guy from the Arabian Horse Association appointed by George Bush to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brownie, not knowing the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain from the south end of a horse, let New Orleans drown. Bush’s response was to give his buddy Brownie a “way to go!” thumbs up.

We thought Obama would go a very different way. You’d think the studious Senator from Illinois would avoid repeating the Bush regime’s horror show of unqualified appointments, of picking politicos over professionals.

But here we go again. Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. If not Klein, then draft-choice number two is Arne Duncan, Obama’s backyard basketball buddy in Chicago.

Say it ain’t so, President O.

Let’s begin with Joel Klein. Klein is a top notch anti-trust lawyer. What he isn’t is an educator.

Klein is as qualified to run the Department of Education as Dick Cheney is to dance in Swan Lake. While I’ve never seen Cheney in a tutu, I have seen Klein fumble about the stage as Chancellor of the New York City school system.

Klein, who lacks even six minutes experience in the field, was handed management of New York’s schools by that political Jack-in-the-Box, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire mayor is one of those businessmen-turned-politicians who think lawyers and speculators can make school districts operate like businesses.

Klein has indeed run city schools like a business – if the business is General Motors. Klein has flopped. Half the city’s kids don’t graduate.

Klein is out of control. Not knowing a damn thing about education, rather than rely on those who actually work in the field (only two of his two dozen deputies have degrees in education), Klein pays high-priced consultants to tell him what to do. He’s blown a third of a billion dollars on consultant “accountability” projects plus $80 million for an IBM computer data storage system that doesn’t work.

What the heck was the $80 million junk computer software for? Testing. Klein is test crazy. He has swallowed hook, line and sinker George Bush’s idea that testing students can replace teaching them. The madly expensive testing program and consultant-fee spree are paid for by yanking teachers from the classroom.

Ironically, though not surprisingly, test scores under Klein have flat-lined. Scores would have fallen lower, notes Jane Hirschmann, head of watchdog group Time Out From Testing, but Klein “moved the cut score,” that is, lowered the level required to pass. In other words, Klein cheats on the tests.

Nevertheless, media poobahs have fallen in love with Klein, especially Republican pundits.The New York Times‘ David Brooks is championing Klein, hoping that media hype for Klein will push Obama to keep Bush schools policies in place, trumping the electorate’s choice for change.

Brooks and other Republicans (hey, didn’t those guys lose?) are pushing Klein as a way for Obama to prove he can reach across the aisle to Republicans like Bloomberg. (Oh yes, Bloomberg’s no longer in the GOP, having jumped from the party this year when the brand name went sour.)

Choosing Klein, says Brooks, would display Obama’s independence from the teacher’s union. But after years of Bush kicking teachers in the teeth, appointing a Bush acolyte like Klein would not indicate independence from teachers but their betrayal.

Hoops versus Hope

The anti-union establishment has a second stringer on the bench waiting in case Klein is nixed: Arne Duncan. Duncan, another lawyer playing at education, was appointed by Chicago’s Boss Daley to head that city’s train-wreck of a school system. Think of Duncan as “Klein Lite.”

What’s Duncan’s connection to the President-elect? Duncan was once captain of Harvard’s basketball team and still plays backyard round-ball with his Hyde Park neighbor Obama.

But Michelle has put a limit on their friendship: Obama was one of the only state senators from Chicago to refuse to send his children into Duncan’s public schools. My information is that the Obamas sent their daughters to the elite Laboratory School where Klein-Duncan teach-to-the-test pedagogy is dismissed as damaging and nutty.

Mr. Obama, if you can’t trust your kids to Arne Duncan, why hand him ours?

Lawyer Duncan is proud to have raised test scores by firing every teacher in low-scoring schools. Which schools? There’s Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto with children from homeless shelters and drug-poisoned ‘hoods. They don’t do well on tests. So Chicago fired all the teachers. They brought in new ones – then fired all of them too: the teachers’ reward for volunteering to work in a poor neighborhood.

It’s no coincidence that the nation’s worst school systems are run by non-experts like Klein and Duncan.

Obama certainly knows this. I know he knows because he’s chosen, as head of his Education Department transition team, one of the most highly respected educators in the United States: Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University.

So here we have the ludicrous scene of the President-elect asking this recognized authority, Dr. Darling-Hammond, to vet the qualifications of amateurs Klein and Duncan. It’s as if Obama were to ask Michael Jordan, “Say, you wouldn’t happen to know anyone who can play basketball, would you?”

Classroom Class War

It’s not just Klein’s and Duncan’s empty credentials which scare me: it’s the ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories they promote. “Teach-to-the-test” (which goes under such pre-packaged teaching brands as “Success for All”) forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create the future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and – voila! – millions trained on the cheap to function, not think. Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills will be left to the privileged at the Laboratory School and Phillips Andover Academy.

We hope for better from the daddy of Sasha and Malia.

Educationally, the world is swamping us. The economic and social levees are bursting. We cannot afford another Way-to-go Brownie in charge of rescuing our children.

****************

Greg Palast is the father of school-aged twins and the author of, “No Child’s Behind Left,” included in his New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse. Palast is a Nation Institute Puffin Foundation Fellow for investigative reporting.

Get a signed copy of Armed Madhouse for the holidays for a tax-deductible contribution to the Palast Investigative Fund at www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org

Subscribe to Palast’s reports at www.GregPalast.com

Please re-post this.

Bush under the Mistletoe
A kiss-off suggestion

Greg Palast 

Is that George Bush under the mistletoe, waiting for your good-bye kiss?The Bush Goodbye

Well, give'm the kiss-off they won't forget:

For the holidays, give the films that got us busted, censored, threatened. (Oh, what fun!) Make a donation to our investigative reporting foundation ...more

Autographed Palast Books, DVDs

Greg Palast 

On September 12, 2001, George Bush asked Americans to go shopping.Complete Palast Pack

I’ve got a better idea: Don’t buy – DONATE – and I’ll send out your gifts. Give a tax deductible donation to support my investigations crew. Donate to the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund and I will sign and send, in gratitude, a gift to you – or your friends or family. I’ll sign each item.

Make your tax-deductible donations at www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org and get the following:

“Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans – Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild.” The bestselling book, signed. “Great fun,” says the New Yorker. $75 min donation. $100 Hardbound. “Palast’s stories bite … they threaten to alter history.* – Chicago Tribune

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My best wishes to you and your family,

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…more

The Pits: Georgia’s GOP Swipes the Peach State

Greg Palast 

The Pits: Georgia’s GOP Swipes the Peach State

for SuicideGirls.com – November 5, 2008

The evil little &*%$’s are doing it again.

Even as they drown in the anger of platoons of pissed-off voters, Republican operatives are swiping ballots with both hands.

Ground zero is Georgia.  It’s here where the sick little vulture named Saxby Chambliss won the US Senate seat six years ago by calling his Democratic opponent, a guy who’d lost three limbs in Vietnam, a friend of Osama bin Laden.

There’s no way in hell that Chambliss can slime his way back into the Senate in the face of over half a million newly registered voters (Black and young – 69% for Obama) without jacking them out of their votes.  That’s what the Republicans are up to.  Right now.  As we speak.

Over 50,000 the new voters in Georgia have been blocked from voting by using a nasty little new law, the Help America Vote Act signed by George Bush.  (Bush is helping us vote – look out!)

I just got this from Christina Rush in the Peach Pit state:

“They really have stolen my vote and I don’t know what to do about it at this late stage. I just found out 2 days ago that I do not exist on the voters rolls in Georgia. I have disappeared. After calling 866-OUR VOTE and the Secretary of State (for GA), it has been determined that the last vote I was accounted for was the 1996 General Election. That’s awfully strange to me, considering that I voted in the recent Primaries and that last two General Elections (2000 and 2004).”

“Everyone is ‘very sorry’ this is happening, but no one can tell what I can do to make my vote count for THIS election. The only advice I’ve been given is to fill out a new voters registration form and I’ll be eligible for any future elections, just not THIS one.”

“So, what can I do except tell anyone and everyone who will listen?”

And no one is going to listen to you or the other 50,000 dumped voters in Georgia.

But here’s the good news:  it won’t save them.  The GOP is toast. Paint the White House black and blue and Congress the same hue.

But the steal in Senate races may allow the GOP to savage, obstruct, …more

SuicideGirls Steal Back Your Vote

Greg Palast 

Do you think your vote’s going to count this year? Think again. Unless you take action now, your vote may already be lost. Award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast, who uncovered exactly how the election was “won” in 2000, teamed up with activist, attorney, broadcaster and writer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to find out if democracy was in a better state …more

7 Easy Steps To Steal Back Your Vote

Greg Palast 

From Greg Palast’s and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s investigative comic Steal Back Your Vote!

Copy it, print it out, spread it everywhere – and download the complete 24-page comic for free at www.StealBackYourVote.org. Hope isn’t enough.  Rove-proof your ballot.

And get a stack of print copies before we run out. Hand’m out on the voting line – non-partisan, so it’s OK. We’ll send them out via priority mail in time for the election. (Donate $100 and get a free copy of The Election Files DVD)

1. Don’t don’t don’t Mail In Your Ballot—unless…

For those of you who mailed in your ballot, please tell me, what happened to it?  You don’t know, do you?  I can tell you that officially, three-fourths of a million absentee ballots were never counted last time, on the weakest of technical excuses. And you won’t even know it. Furthermore, tens of thousands of ballots are not mailed out to voters in time to return them – in which case you’re out of luck.  Most states won’t let you vote in-precinct once you’ve applied to vote absentee. Every time I hear of a voter going “absentee” to avoid computer screens, I want to “go postal” myself.

But for gosh sakes—don’t throw out  your ballot if you have a mail-in. Either mail it in, making sure to include ID if required (you first-time voters) or, better, WALK it into your county clerk’s office. …more

Drinking the Kool-Aid
How Cries of Voter Fraud Cover Up GOP Elections Theft

Greg Palast 

Fired US Prosecutor levels new charges against GOP operatives.

Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for Huffington Post

Virtually the entire mainstream electronic media drank ACORN Kool-Aid this month brewed up by the Republican National Committee. Almost no one seriously challenged John McCain’s comical assertions that ACORN, a grassroots voter registration group, “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

While the Republicans had the distracted media searching for links between Obama and ACORN, RNC operatives were busily completing one of the most massive voter suppression and purging efforts in American history, stealing hundreds of thousands of Democratic votes across the embattled swing states and striving to arrange chaos and endless lines at the voting booths next week.

First the facts about ACORN. Months ago, we obtained, as part of our investigation for Rolling Stone magazine, the Republican’s list the GOP alleged were the very worst cases of vote and registration fraud by ACORN and similar groups. We went through the names the GOP asserted were “obviously, undeniably and clearly fraudulent” voter registrations.

First, there was Melissa Tais, a dubious ACORN registrant. Her two voter registration forms show, admittedly, suspiciously different signatures. Republicans suggested Melissa was part of a massive fraud to allow Democrats to vote twice.

They were wrong. Ms. Tais, a Cerrillos, New Mexico, waitress, told us she had signed one form on a table and one form holding the paper in her hand. Hence, a second, wobbly signature.

Then there was Patricia White, who Republicans claimed was a fictitious voter. When we filmed her at home in Albuquerque, she seemed real enough.

And so on, through the entire GOP list — not one fraud. And these were their best cases out of the five million “illegal voters” who Republican leaders claim have infiltrated America’s voting rolls.

The overblown histrionics about ACORN do not surprise those of us who have been watching the RNC’s election manipulation antics. For eight years White House operatives have been trying to gin up press stories about voter fraud. David Iglesias of New Mexico was one of seven U.S. Attorneys fired by the White House for their refusal to bring voter fraud prosecutions. “We took over 100 complaints,” from the GOP, he told us, “We investigated for almost 2 years, I didn’t find one prosecutable voter fraud case in the entire state of New Mexico.”

Iglesias, a McCain supporter, has, for the first time, leveled a new and serious charge: Despite finding none of the 200 voters guilty, he says the White House nevertheless ordered him to illegally prosecute baseless cases against innocent citizens, just to gin up voter fraud publicity. His refusal, he says, cost him his job. “They were looking for politicized — for improperly politicized US attorneys to file bogus voter fraud cases.”

Read the rest of the article at HuffingtonPost.com

Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are authors of an investigation of vote suppression in the current Rolling Stone, and a comic book voter guide, “Steal Back Your Vote,” both available for download at StealBackYourVote.org. …more

Spoiling America

Greg Palast 

Excerpted from Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s “Steal Back Your Vote” investigative comic. You can download all 24 pages at www.StealBackYourVote.org.

Odd thing about the 207 voters of precinct 999 in Dona Ana County, New Mexico.

Not a single one could choose between George Bush and John Kerry in 2004.

Or at least that’s what their ballots said.

The Secretary of State at the time told me, “Some of those people just can’t make up their minds.” Dirt-poor Dona Ana is 63% Hispanic and the precinct is made up entirely of overseas voters, mostly the Chicano soldiers in Iraq or on duty. The machines say that Hispanic soldiers don’t care who becomes their commander-in-chief.

Or maybe, the machines failed to register their votes.

Few Americans realize that in 2004, 1,389,231 ballots were never counted because they were “spoiled.” How do ballots spoil? They get left out of the ‘fridge? No, they’re supposedly unreadable, blank, or just somehow lost in the machines.

Here’s an unfun fact: not everyone’s vote spoils the same.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission found that the chances of an African-American voter losing their vote is 900% higher than a white voter. Hispanic votes vanished at a rate 500% higher than Anglo votes.

Something’s rotten.

************************

Go to www.StealBackYourVote.org to download the guide for free or pick up print copies of the investigative comic book by Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  Every donation you make for copies of the comic allows us to send more out to low income groups in states like Ohio, New Mexico and Colorado.

Get the guide now – all copies will be sent out via priority mail. If your group would like to distribute the Steal Back Your Vote guide please contact keri (at) gregpalast.com for special rates.

After you’ve picked up the comic book get the t-shirt. Wear it into the polling place and tell them that they can’t steal your vote! Support the fund by picking up the Steal Back Your Vote t-shirt by the cool people over at Clothing for the American Mind. A portion of every purchase goes to support the Palast Investigative Fund. …more

Nuns on the Run!

Greg Palast 

Download the entire comic for FREE

So, these ten nuns walk into a polling station and… Oh, you’ve heard that one?

What you didn’t hear is that, besides the Sistersof the Holy Cross who lost their vote because their drivers licenses expired, 144,896 other legal voters were told to scram in this year’s primary —all caught attempting to vote without a license. The rejected were, disproportionately, African-American,according to data from the University of Washington.

Apparently, the idea for this racially rancid rule came to Karl Rove while he was buying his Pampers: “If I try to cash a check at a grocery store, I have to show an ID. Why not for voting?”

The answer, Karl, is that for a century, Indiana folks have voted without photo ID with not a single known case of voter identity theft. It’s true the law nabbed Shirley Preiss, a 98-year old Democrat whose driver’s license expired. Drop that ballot, Shirl, and no one gets hurt.

Santiago Juarez sees some truth in Rove’s remarks. We met with Santiago in Espanola, New Mexico, where he was running a registration drive among low-riders, the young Mexican-Americans who cruise the street in hopping, bopping, neon-outlined Chevys. He says, “The same poverty and racism that keeps these kids from getting credit cards keeps them from getting ID.” A young Mexicana he escorted to the polls was turned away from her first-ever attempt to vote for failure to produce an ID to the white pollworker’s satisfaction, despite Santiago’s protest.

“She said, well, something you can’t print, and refused to try again. She said, ‘They don’t want me to vote, anyway.’” …more

A Warning from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Greg Palast 

An excerpt from the Steal Back Your Vote! investigative comic

Voter suppression is real. It’s a crime. And it’s happening to YOU.

But there’s something that you can do to prevent it. That’s what this guide is about. Start with page 19: ‘7 Easy Steps to Steal Back Your Vote.’

For many years, top investigative reporter Greg Palast and I have been exposing voter suppression.

This is a deliberate strategy to keep minorities from voting, senior citizens from voting, young people from voting in an effort to suppress the vote and maintain their hold on power.

Our concern is not partisan. We need every American to vote: Democrats and Republicans. You can do all the campaigning you want in a battleground state like Ohio or New Mexico, but if your voters aren’t counted, you’re going to lose the Presidency–and our democracy.

Pass on this link: www.stealbackyourvote.org. Go to the site. Download copies of this comic book, buy copies in bulk and watch Greg’s BBC Newsnight film. Get out the word! There’s still time to steal back your vote!

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
From Steal Back Your Vote! The Investigative Comic …more

Steal Back Your Vote! Comic book Free!

Greg Palast 

Maybe it’s not a free nation anymore – but at least it’s a free comic book.

STEAL BACK YOUR VOTE, the investigative comic book voter guide by Bobby Kennedy and me is now available to download for free free free at StealBackYourVote.org.   (That’s thanks to your generous donations to date.)

And now you can get packs of the full-color print edition for the cost of printing and shipping. Less than a buck a book.  And we’ll shoot it to you right now by priority mail.

Officially, 2.7 million voters have been purged from the voter rolls since the last election. And those voters weren’t vanished by ACORN or Mickey Mouse.   ‘The Purge’n General,” “Nuns on the Run” and “Votes Gone Rotten.”  What’s so funny about the death of Democracy?  Would you rather CRY?

Based on my investigation with Kennedy in the current issue of Rolling Stone.  Featuring art by the graphic gonzo’s Ted Rall, Lukas Ketner and Troubletown’s Lloyd Dangle. Download the guide and find out what really is happening in the scary world of election theft, and …more

Block the Vote

Greg Palast & Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for Rolling Stone Magazine

“I don’t think the Democrats get it.  All these new rules and games … could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states.”

Rolling Stone Magazine has agreed to make the full article available for download.

You can also download
the comic book voting guide: 
Steal Back Your Vote

“The new registrations thrown out, the existing registrations scrubbed, the spoiled ballots, the provisional ballots that were never counted — and what you have is millions of voters, more than enough to swing the presidential election, quietly being detached from the electorate by subterfuge.

“Jim Crow was laid to rest, but his cousins were not,” says Donna Brazile. “We got rid of poll taxes and literacy tests but now have a second generation of schemes to deny our citizens their franchise.” Come November, the most crucial demographic may prove to be Americans who have been denied the right to vote. If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls — they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering.

These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80 percent of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.

Maez was not alone in being denied his right to vote. On Super Tuesday, one in nine Democrats who tried to cast ballots in New Mexico found their names missing from the registration lists. The numbers were even higher in precincts like Las Vegas, where nearly 20 percent of the county’s voters were absent from the rolls. With their status in limbo, the voters were forced to cast “provisional” ballots, …more

The Missing Votes
A Rolling Stone Magazine Investigation

Greg Palast & Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  

Don’t worry about Mickey Mouse or ACORN stealing the election.  According to an investigative report out today in Rolling Stone magazine, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast, after a year-long investigation, reveal a systematic program of “GOP vote tampering” on a massive scale.

– Republican Secretaries of State of swing-state Colorado have quietly purged one in six names from their voter rolls.

Over several months, the GOP politicos in Colorado stonewalled every attempt by Rolling Stone to get an answer to the massive purge – ten times the average state’s rate of removal.

– While Obama dreams of riding to the White House on a wave of new voters, more then 2.7 million …more