Another Satellite is Falling!

Dear Commons Community,

It seems like every few months we hear about another decommissioned satellite getting ready to leave its orbit and come crashing usually in bits and pieces to Earth.  This time it is a 2.69-ton German ROSAT satellite that was launched in 1990 and retired in 1999.  The largest single fragment of ROSAT that could hit the earth is the telescope’s heat-resistant mirror.  Scientists who have worked on ROSAT believe that it will not hit over Europe, Africa or Australia which leaves a pretty large chunk of the rest of the world.  The chances of a person being hit by a ROSAT fragment is about 2,000 to 1.

It seems to me that if we have the technology to launch and put a satellite into orbit for ten years, we should have the technology to gracefully make it go someplace else rather than crash on Earth.





US Senate Panel Passes New Version of No Child Left Behind!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times is reporting that a US Senate panel yesterday passed a new version of No Child Left Behind (Elementary and Secondary Act) that would greatly reduce the role of the federal government in K-12 education.  This version is not likely to pass through both houses of Congress or be endorsed by President Barack Obama.  The major stipulation of this new version is that the federal government (i.e, US Department of Education) would have a much reduced role in overseeing the country’s elementary and secondary schools.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan, civil rights and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the legislation would so thoroughly eviscerate the federal role in school accountability that they could not support it. But education groups representing superintendents, principals, teachers and school boards said they were delighted.

The issue of federal involvement in K-12 education has been a major criticism of the current No Child Left Behind and continues to irk most educators who would prefer that education be controlled at the state and local level.  After all they argue, the states and school districts provide ninety percent of the funding for education and therefore should be in control of standards, curriculum, teacher certification, etc.   In years past, civil rights groups justifiably would argue that states and localities created underfunded schools for minority students and ignored the disparity that existed in the education of children of color.   A compromise needs to be reached that ensures the role of the federal government in monitoring and correcting inequities while getting it out of the business of micromanaging education.

The issues associated with a new No Child Left Behind run deep and it will be interesting to see of how this bill winds through the legislative process.





They Are Only Words But!

Dear Commons Community,

In the past few days, there have been a number of reports of celebrities and others making comments that are at the least  incendiary and at the worst,  prejudicial, bigoted and biased.

Here are examples:

The actress, Susan Sarandon, called Pope Benedict XVI a “Nazi” because of his membership in a Hitler Youth organization, during an interview at the Hamptons Film Festival in New York on Saturday

HBO’s Bryant Gumbel likening  NBA Commissioner, David Stern to “a slave owner, whose bigger priority is to demean  players… Stern’s version of what’s been going on behind closed doors has, of course, been disputed. But his efforts were typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys.”

A substitute teacher, Patricia McAllister,  at a recent Occupy Wall Street rally in Los Angeles said, “I think that the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve … need to be run out of this country.”

Without a doubt we are living in a tense time but we don’t need any of the above.  These words and epithets do not help and can only be interpreted as trying to hurt “others”.



Republican Candidates Debate – One More Time!

Dear Commons Community,

Last night CNN aired another debate among the Republican presidential hopefuls.  Three candidates (Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain) drew most of the attentiion.  Rick Santorum and Ron Paul made interesting comments.  Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich struggled to stay relevant.  There were several heated exchanges such as when Perry questioned Romney’s honesty over whether or not he (Romney) hired illegal immigrants to mow his lawn.

“Mitt, you lose all of your standing from my perspective because you hired illegals in your home,” Mr. Perry said. “And you knew for — about it for a year.”

He went on, “And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you’re strong on immigration is, on its face, the height of hypocrisy.”

Candidates also questioned Herman Cain at this debate more so than in the previous ones.  For instance, Cain recently criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying, “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”  At Tuesday night’s CNN debate, Cain stood by his comments — to loud cheers from the audience.

“I still stand by my statement,” he said.

“They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place,” he added. “Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good. Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration.”

In response, Ron Paul criticized Cain for blaming the people who have been hurt by the financial crisis through no fault of their own.   “I think Mr. Cain has blamed the victims,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that are victims of this business cycle. We can’t blame the victims. But we also have to point …to Washington as well as Wall Street, but I’d go over to the Federal Reserve. They create the financial bubbles.”

All in all, good political theater!


New Yorkers Support Occupy Wall Street Protest: Quinnipiac Poll

Dear Commons Community,

The Huffington Post is reporting that in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, New Yorkers overwhelmingly back the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and even Republicans think they should be allowed to continue their demonstrations.

New York City voters agree with the views of the Occupy Wall Street movement by a nearly three-to-one margin; 67 percent agree with the protesters’ views and 23 percent disagree, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

When asked who was the most responsible for the current state of the economy — part of what has fueled the protesters — New Yorkers put the blame on George W. Bush: 37 percent of New York City voters blame the administration of the former president; 21 percent blame Wall Street and financial institutions; 18 percent blame Congress; and 11 percent blame President Barack Obama.



Mayor Bloomberg’s 3rd Term: A Mistake!!!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has a hard-hitting analysis of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 3rd term in office.  In essence, he should have left after the 2nd term when the going was good.   Here are examples of why:

“City contracts to computerize the time-card and personnel systems have imploded, leading to a billion dollars in cost overruns and indictments in the time-card case. Hundreds of police officers have been implicated in a ticket-fixing scandal. A campaign consultant stands accused of skimming $1 million from the mayor’s last re-election effort. And when a blizzard buried subways and highways last year, the mayor advised New Yorkers to use the down time to take in a Broadway play(presumably after residents outside Manhattan strapped on snowshoes and trudged across bridges)…

The mayor appointed Cathleen P. Black, his Upper East Side neighbor, as schools chancellor. She lasted 95 days before he signaled that her expiration date had arrived. The mayor’s education record suffered other indignities, even before Ms. Black’s appointment. When state officials recalibrated test results, the former Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s heralded great leap forward in state test scores became a modest hop… In August, a group gathered to debate the city’s gains in education. The city’s chief academic officer laid claim to substantial advances, and Meryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the State Board of Regents, cast him a look somewhere between quizzical and disbelieving.   Seventy-five percent of those youngsters who go to community colleges need remediation, she noted. And only 24 percent eventually get a degree.   “Are you kidding me?” she asked to loud applause. …

Perhaps the conclusion to his third term  may rest with how he handles the Occupy Wall Street protest.  As the protest accelerated yesterday in Times Square, I think that it is inevitable that the Mayor and the protesters will have a reckoning and it will not be pleasant and may in fact be tragic.

As the article indicates:

“The mayor had spoken with disdain of the demonstrators’ demands and defensively of his former Wall Street comrades. In his visit, though, he declared his allegiance to free speech even as he made a housekeeping argument for letting his sanitation people give the plaza a good cleaning. Demonstrators sounded unconvinced of his good will, and after a flurry of angry phone calls from elected officials to the park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties, the cleaning was put off. ..His problem, and there’s nothing he can do about it, is that he embodies everything they detest,” said a former administration aide …”

This article is well-worth a read.



Gail Collins Takes a Whack at Herman Cain!

Dear Commons Community,

Gail Collins in her NY Times column today takes a whack at the Republican favorite of the month primary candidate, Herman Cain.     Here are some examples:

“the core of the Cain story is how he rose in the world of business to become C.E.O. of a pizza chain [Godfather’s Pizza] whose name sounds kind of like an ethnic slur.”

“Cain’s chief economic adviser works at the Wells Fargo office in Pepper Pike, Ohio.”

“on the matter of immigration, Cain says that he thinks it would be a great idea to build an alligator-filled moat between the United States and Mexico. (“And make it a real big moat.”)”

She concludes that his real reason for running is not to win the nomination but to promote himself, his book and T.H.E. Inc., which stands for The Herminator Experience.

God help us but the sad truth is that given the way Washington D.C. has functioned for the past year, the Herminator probably would not be any worse.


Occupy Wall Street and Zuccotti Park Threatened with a Shutdown!

Dear Commons Community,

The following message was sent to the PSC membership last night by Michael Fabricant.  The text refers to today (Friday, October 14th).



Dear PSC Members:

We are borrowing the text from a Move On alert to its members.  The City of New York is threatening to shut down Zuccotti Park tomorrow at 7:00AM.  Now more than ever, those who have stood up to Wall Street greed need our support.

Unless we act now, tomorrow morning could mark the end of the occupation of Wall Street.

Mayor Bloomberg has ordered the NYPD to clear Zuccotti Park at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Protesters would only be allowed back in under new rules that would make it impossible to continue the occupation. But this is our city, our park, and our mayor, so as New Yorkers, we can put a stop to this.

If you can, come to Zuccotti Park tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. to stand with the protesters at the moment when they need us most. We are not sure what form the protest will take, but the other PSC Officers and I plan to engage in peaceful protest against this unjust and unnecessary action by the City. The Occupy Wall Street participants have put everything on the line to stand up against Wall Street greed and the corruption of our democracy. Tomorrow morning it’s time to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

And right now call the city at 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (212-639-9675), and demand that Mayor Bloomberg respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights and not interfere with this peaceful occupation. Press “0” to speak to an operator when it asks you to choose a language.You can also text the Mayor at 311692. Your regular cell phone texting charges will apply.

Mayor Bloomberg claims the shutdown is necessary for “cleaning operations,” but this tactic has been used to end protests before. And the new rules explicitly prohibit tarps, sleeping bags, and even “lying down.”

This “operation” is not about cleaning, it’s about trampling on the First Amendment rights of protesters to speak out against economic injustice and gather peaceably to petition the government. It could damage the movement that has been spreading across the country.

So come to the park Friday morning at 6 a.m. to stand with the protesters.

And right now, call 311, or 212-NEW-YORK (212-639-9675), and tell them you want Occupy Wall Street to be allowed to remain in Zuccotti Park without restrictions on their ability to camp overnight. You can also text the Mayor at 311692. Your regular cell phone texting charges will apply.