Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Perjury in Amero Trial?

Michael Belair's trial testimony is worth our scrutiny for two reasons. The first involves this exchange;

David Smith: Without telling us exactly what they told you, when you spoke to these children, did it cause an alarm that something might have occurred where they saw something on the computer?

Michael Belair: They each told me they had seen something inappropriate on the computer.


Belair's answer is false. Michael Belair interviewed thirteen teenagers in Julie Amero's classes. Two of the girls interviewed had their statements dismissed. One [G1], Belair claims has no first hand knowledge of the incident but had heard rumors. The second girl [G2], claims to see a website that allows you to rate people by looks but sees NO PORN [Police Narrative Supplement, Ref: 04-5212-OF, page 9].

Student 2, a prosecutorial witness was interviewed by Belair as well. Student 2, in the same supplemental police narrative [Ref: 04-5212-OF] claims that he saw Amero's monitor between 9 and 10 o'clock and it's blank but he claims to see a site called chicks.com. No such site appears in the log files for Napp's computer and Belair himself notes this in the same document.

In essence, this student has no first hand knowledge either except as a verifiable false witness for the prosecution [unlike G1]. In a separate document, another victim asserts Student 2 told him he saw porn but that's not what Student 2 swears to. Belair either confuses the facts or believes that the hearsay of one accuser trumps the sworn statement of the accuser himself.

Let's just say we have a witness with a credibility problem here.

Everything else Student 2 testifies to is hearsay, yet neither Belair, Smith, or the judge disallow the testimony nor does Belair note this exception.

Student 4 testifies to seeing women in bathing suits. This is later claimed to be lingerie on a site where you could rate who was better looking. This appears to be the exact same site G2 witnessed and tells Belair "she did not see any pornographic images when she looked at the computer"'. Inappropriate? G2 says no such thing nor does Student 4.

The second reason Belair's testimony is interesting involves this exchange;

Davis Smith: Officer Belair, did you see anybody operating that computer and viewing those websites?

Belair: No, I did not.

Well, if Belair did not see Julie access these websites, who did? The students who allege seeing her "looking at" pornography never claim she is accessing it although they infer she did. The students assume she's guilty and the police assume the students are victims instead of accusers.

And Smith has no problem with the act of coupling images from websites that may or may not have been displayed on Julie's monitor and implying that these were seen by students. Is this ethical prosecutorial behavior?

Furthermore, Belair defers initial student questioning to Mr. Fain who has no qualifications to perform police work. It remains unclear what Mr. Fain says to these students. Are they asked to testify against Julie because he thinks she's guilty of something? Does he prejudice the witnesses before they make their statements? And are these witnesses cherry-picked while exculpatory witnesses are selectively ignored?

This procedure simply doesn't pass the sniff test.

The fact is that whatever pornography that may have showed up during Amero's day, shows up on Mr. Napp's computer under Mr. Napp's account. A verifiable rumor has it that approximately one year later, in that same classroom, some students are caught downloading porn and creating CDs of it. Julie Amero had nothing to do with this and that's the only significant difference.

The police guidelines for identifying patterns of pornography are that offenders have a history of downloading the stuff and that they horde it and find it to have value.

Let's see... Amero repeatedly reported her problem and tried to rid the computer of it so I guess she's NOT hoarding anything but on the other hand...

Oh, you connect the dots and ask yourself why the school and the police never followed up. Because if anyone did, Julie would be exonerated.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Unknown Artist: coveandberam

For a number of weeks I've wanted to get around to starting a series of posts that allow me to recommend some of the world's great new artists that no one seems to have ever heard of. I'll start with someone who I listen to and have become a great fan of.

Coveandberam is Jennifer Warren's recording persona. On soundclick.com, she offers over 50 free MP3 songs for our listening.

I was rummaging around in [legally] free MP3 sites a few years ago and her work just knocked me out. She's a violinist whose complex lyrics and layered recordings are a fascinating blend of the raw emotional release of punk lyrical sensibilities fused to a classically trained instrumental pastische of guitars, violin, and assorted percussion instruments.

These most recent recordings offer a glimpse of a young artist who has worked for years in relative anonymity and who doubts her own talent if we take the lyrics autobiographically. Nonetheless there's a real power in both Open Arms and To the Wolves that deserve your attention.

The catalog of songs is a mixed bag filled with lots of small gems worth adding to your MP3 collection.

In any case, when you hear someone putting down today's young musicians, coveandberam will give you plenty of reason to rethink those accusations.

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Involuntary Manslaughter in the Amero Case?

That's the question that I ask myself as I read the transcript of the Amero case found here. Some of my colleagues compare the prosecutor to [expletive deleted] for the alleged disregard he had for exculpatory evidence that he allegedly chose to exclude from the trial.

Assuming David Smith's alleged disregard for evidence favorable to Julie Amero's innocence, does it make any sense to pursue the charge of mere prosecutorial misconduct when in fact Julie Amero's miscarriage can be, in no small part, attributed to the pursuit of trying a woman while allegedly knowing that the complete body of evidence proved no crime. Now, I'm no lawyer but if prosecutorial misconduct is to be taken seriously then the judiciary needs to examine this case carefully. A life was lost! Shouldn't those responsible be charged with involuntary manslaughter?

What do you think? What if it were your kid?

There are two problems with alleging prosecutorial misconduct. One is that the charge is usually sought to throw out a guilty verdict. There is enough dirty laundry in the Amero trial, IMO, to render this a mistrial under any circumstance. The mountain of misinformation fed to the jury and the failure of the jury to establish a mens rea to match the charges is compelling enough.

But the bigger problem is that a charge of prosecutorial misconduct rarely results in even a slap on the wrist. Maybe it is time for the judicial branch to take its own crimes as seriously as it takes everyone else's.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

No Wonder Education In America is Failing

Connecticut's Big Lie, Mr. Education himself, Joe Lieberman disingenuously hosted a forum on Friday concerned with the No Child Left Behind Act. For those of us who care about education, we would have preferred an open-minded and intelligent moderator but this is Connecticut's disgraceful contribution to the U.S. Senate and the Senate probably was paying back Connecticut for us sending this guy to Washington in the first place.

As an aside, the next time the Senate volunteers Joe for education duty please drop this guy in the middle of Baghdad with the Department of Education to study the improvements there. You'll be doing America and the cause of education a favor.

Now, let's face it, these events are just photo-ops for guys like Lieberman. His mind is made up. This is what he campaigned on in 2006;

September 20, 2006

WEST HAVEN -- U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman yesterday pledged if re-elected to hold hearings next year with school administrators, teachers and parents to improve the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The three-term Democrat, who is running as a petitioning candidate after losing the primary to Ned Lamont, wants "the practical experience of the people on the ground" to play a significant role in reauthorizing the act in 2007.

"It's an important opportunity next year to get it right, not to abandon it,"
So this event was just another circle jerk of a politician who has no intention of listening to what's being said except for the comments that reinforce his own remedy which is:
"Tests are not perfect, but they're one standard for judging progress," Lieberman said. "We may want to find others."
That's right. More, louder NCLB and... you guessed it... more tests.

And as these people all sat around in a circle and jerked, this report was released on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that its results would also get buried in the weekend news doldrums.
U.S. high school students are taking tougher classes, receiving better grades and, apparently, learning less than their counterparts of 15 years ago.

Those were the discouraging implications of two reports issued Thursday by the federal Department of Education, assessing the performance of students in both public and private schools. Together, the reports raised sobering questions about the past two decades of educational reform, including whether the movement to raise school standards has amounted to much more than window dressing.

“I think we're sleeping through a crisis,” said David Driscoll, the Massachusetts commissioner of education, during a Washington news conference convened by the Department of Education. He called the study results “stunning.” ...
and
The transcript study showed that, compared to students in similar studies going back to 1990, the 2005 graduates had racked up more high school credits, had taken more college preparatory classes and had strikingly higher grade point averages. The average GPA rose from 2.68 in 1990 to 2.98 — close to a solid B — in 2005.

That was the good news — or so it seemed. But the standardized test results showed that 12th grade reading scores have generally been dropping since 1992, casting doubt on what students are learning in those college prep classes.

Math scores posed a different sort of mystery, because the Department of Education switched to a new test in 2005 that wasn't directly comparable to those used before. Still, the results of the new test didn't inspire confidence: Fewer than one-quarter of the 12th graders tested scored in the “proficient” range.

The reports also showed that the gap separating white and black, and white and Hispanic students, has barely budged since the early 1990s. And while the results were not broken down by state, a broad regional breakdown showed that the West and Southeast lagged well behind the Midwest and, to a lesser extent, the Northeast.

David Gordon, the Sacramento County, Calif., superintendent of schools and a participant in the Department of Education news conference Thursday, said he found it especially disturbing that the studies focused on “our best students,” those who had made it to 12th grade or who had graduated.

“It's clear to me from these data that for all of our talk of the achievement gap among subgroups of students, a larger problem may be an instructional gap or a rigor gap, which effects not just some but most of our students,” Gordon said.

The reading and math test was given to 21,000 high school seniors at 900 U.S. schools, including 200 private schools. The transcript study was based on 26,000 transcripts from 720 schools, 80 of them private. The reports did not give separate results for public vs. private schools.
and
Among other things, Hall said the transcript study provided clear evidence of grade inflation, as well as “course inflation” — offering high-level courses that have “the right names” but a dumbed-down curriculum.

“What it suggests is that we are telling students that they're being successful in these courses when, in fact, we're not teaching them any more than they were learning in the past,” she said. “So we are, in effect, lying to these students.”

Although the reports came out five years after passage of President Bush's signature education reform initiative, No Child Left Behind, Hall and others said it would be unfair to blame that program for the students' poor showing. They were already in high school when No Child Left Behind was enacted, and it is primarily aimed at elementary and middle schools.

Driscoll recalled an earlier president's contribution to education reform — the Nation at Risk report that seemed to galvanize the educational establishment when it was issued by President Reagan in 1983.

“That was a shocker,” said Driscoll. “But here we are, 25 years later (and) ... we've just been ignoring what it's going to take to really change the system.”
Well, No Child Left Behind may not be the blame but it has nothing to do with a solution. Today, our schools have been homogenized into test taking factories and innovation, creativity, the celebration of unique individuality, and the incentive to learn have all been long bleached out of the system. You will notice that the corresponding drop in learning almost precisely parallels Joe Lieberman's ignoble tenure in the Senate.

Co-incidence?

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Friday, February 23, 2007

The REAL Complaints About Julie Amero

There is no doubt the victims in the Amero case complained about Julie Amero but the police reports never transcribed what the real complaints were.

Why? Julie Amero was tried and convicted by school administrators in the press and to the parents. The police were merely the instruments of getting her to a "fair trial" that would in the immortal words of a Norwich Bulletin -cough- journalist, "She’ll get what’s due to her"!

Today, the phrase "fair trial" in America is as meaningful as the words "new and improved" on a bottle of detergent. Fair trials have simply become the public spectacles in which enraged public mobs mete out their anger through the play-acting of the court. The state, prosecutors and police are endowed with unlimited resources by which to toy with the accused and their rag-doll defense attorneys. And the public are forever fascinated by these Kafka inspired passion plays.

It is STILL unclear what Julie Amero was convicted of and it torments her as much as those who try to defend her. She was depressed at her trial and, not surprisingly, remains distressed. She has a right to be. Her situation is not significantly different from a torture technique on political prisoners around the world.

"Confess!", the prisoner is told.

"To what?", the prisoner replies.

"You know what!", the torturer retorts. And so it repeats, over and over. The prisoner confessing to every petty foible they can imagine and many they did not do. But nothing satisfies the torturer.

We all have proof Amero did nothing inappropriate. Smith, the prosecutor has and had it. So did the police, the school administrators. The judge should have known, should have had the same suspicions we all have, but played the willing fool instead. Why spoil the public humiliation, the gratification of a hungry mob, why ruin the spectacle? In small town America you can get away with kangaroo courts if nobody is watching.

Here's what they knew or should have known had they read the statements of the students.

Only three "victims" claim to have seen pornography from their seats. This group is clustered in the second Language Arts class. None of the students sitting in the same seats in the first or third classes report any such thing. Many of these students use precisely the same description of what they saw, "little pictures". To put this into context, the screen sizes used in schools are the smaller 14 or 15 inch monitors so when we are told students sitting approximately 10 feet away looking at a screen tilted at an angle away from them see little pictures we can believe they were little.

But seven other students were not to be denied. They all admit that when they heard the rumor that the teacher was surfing for porn, they made excuse to visit her desk. So a small parade of students, find a question, or need to use the bathroom, or have a piece of paper that needs to be thrown away at the teacher's desk. Almost to a student, though, they admit they want to see the porn.

But here's where the students start complaining.

Victim #8 complains that Julie clicks off the screen. Victim #3, corroborates this.

Victim #1 so aggressively approaches Julie that she has to push his face away and admonishes him not to look at the screen. In the sequence of events, victim #1's behavior implies an a priori expectation that something on the screen is or will be of interest and this may be the trigger source for the rumors that swirl around the first Language Arts class and co-ordinate around the special interest group in the second Language Arts class.

A student who is not listed as a victim but who loudly claim to know everyone else's experience walks up and sees nothing more than a server error message on the screen. His vicarious descriptions of classroom logistics makes interesting reading nonetheless because the porn story oneupmanship between students shows a storyline here.

Victim #7 complains that Julie turned the monitor to the wall when he approached.

Victim #8 complains that when the teacher noticed her advances, she clicked off the monitor. The police narrative changes the word 'monitor' to 'screen'.

Victim #10 claims, "when she realized I was coming she shifted her body to block the screen. She let me print my story and I went back to my desk."

In fact in all three classes Julie was in only a handful of students make salacious claims and those we'll talk about at another time. Furthermore, we know from police documents that other students walked up to Julie's desk and report no pornography but because they aren't "victims" the police ignore their statements.

And we also know that Principal Fain has preceded all police interrogations with his own vigilante interrogation of over 60 students armed with Mr. Hartz's CD of pornographic sites visited. So by the time the students talk to police they already predisposed and maybe even encouraged to elaborate on the events of that day.

The irreparable harm that these blundering, groping moral guardians of society inflict on Julie Amero is the true crime. Yet not a one of the guilty has even been inconvenienced.

And far from being negligent there's plenty of evidence that Julie did the right thing over and over again but never realized she was attempting to stop a phenomenon that is as relentless as a Hollywood monster that won't die.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Cargo Cult Science of No Child Left Behind

The other day, the Motley Fool ran an article called "What's wrong with American Companies?" They assert that...
The United States, and the rest of the developed world for that matter, no longer has a stranglehold on the global economy. This isn't to say there isn't more growth to be found in developed markets, but the rest of the world has been catching up. Rapidly.

Those of us who analyze educational trends and realities aren't surprised. The onslaught of the public school system by deranged conservative forces have long rendered the public schools intellectual blood baths.



Just as Alex, in Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange
is forced to continuously view subject matter so are American students presumed guilty of ignorance and forced to regurgitate the basics for their own good until they are suffocating from the educational process.

And the public or, more specifically, John and Jane Taxpayer, justify this pedagogy in the holy name of school accountability, closing achievement gaps, and giving our kids a dose of social equality that they will never forget.

The umbrella program that this is administered by is called No Child Left Behind or NCLB (pron. nickel-bee). It is the vehicle for redundant and relentless high-stress testing on all students without consideration for their learning disabilities, emotional frailties, or intellectual development patterns. The message is as clear as a Nazi torturers instruction, "We have ways of making you learn!"

Indeed we do.

NCLB claims to be a data-driven approach to teaching yet the data that has accumulated points more to its failure than any success. By measuring the results of random student populations in the same school it asserts that schools are either passing or failing to teach the prescribed dogmas. Its results more accurately reinforce a truism that is well-known with or without high-stress testing. That is that schools in poor, urban minority neighborhoods have difficulty reaching the same achievement levels of middle and upper class neighborhood schools.

NCLB sells the idea that raising the test scores in these schools is a remedy for the poverty, isolation, and racism these realizations point to. By eliminating these symptoms presumably we eliminate the disease. Theories like this are brought to us with a straight face by the same people who think democracy will stabilize the Middle East.

But NCLB claims that by gathering data and lots of it that the activity of collecting such data is a sufficiently scientific activity so as to justify the education theories being applied.

Many years ago, Richard Feynman used the Cargo Cult Science analogy to illuminate this kind of scientific behavior. During World War II, pacific island people who had been isolated from the outside world before the war suddenly became locations for air bases. After the war, the planes stopped coming.

...we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and science that isn't science.

I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head to headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas -- he's the controller -- and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they're missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school -- we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty -- a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid -- not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked -- to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can -- if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong -- to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.

The easiest way to explain this idea is to contrast it, for example, with advertising. Last night I heard that Wesson oil doesn't soak through food. Well, that's true. It's not dishonest; but the thing I'm talking about is not just a matter of not being dishonest; it's a matter of scientific integrity, which is another level. The fact that should be added to that advertising statement is that no oils soak through food, if operated at a certain temperature. If operated at another temperature, they all will -- including Wesson oil. So it's the implication which has been conveyed, not the fact, which is true, and the difference is what we have to deal with.

We've learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature's phenomena will agree or they'll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven't tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it's this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.

A great deal of their difficulty is, of course, the difficulty of the subject and the inapplicability of the scientific method to the subject. Nevertheless, it should be remarked that this is not the only difficulty. That's why the planes don't land -- but they don't land.

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn't they discover the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of -- this history -- because it's apparent that people did things like this: when they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong -- and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that. We've learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don't have that kind of a disease.

But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves -- of having utter scientific integrity -- is, I'm sorry to say, something that we haven't specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you've caught on by osmosis

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

I would like to add something that's not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you're talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you're not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We'll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you're maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the applications of his work were. "Well", I said, "there aren't any". He said, "Yes, but then we won't get support for more research of this kind". I think that's kind of dishonest. If you're representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you're doing -- and if they don't support you under those circumstances, then that's their decision.

One example of the principle is this: If you've made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish BOTH kinds of results.
The renewal of NCLB is being debated by a closed forum of well paid NCLB cronies and enablers. They control the money, the process, the invitation lists, and all the power. You and I are little more than a nuisance. They are turning our children into uniform croquets. Anyone who has read Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night will know what croquets are.

But on the outside and along the watchtowers of what's left of civilization, a growing chorus of voices are offering new ideas, hope, and a shining optimism that insists we can offer our children a better learning environment, a brighter future, and they need you to listen to their message and give it a fair hearing.

Here are just a few of the most important voices in education today.



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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Drawing Evidence Missing in the Amero Trial

As those of us who doubted the verdict in the Julie Amero trial began to investigate the case found, the Norwich Bulletin's coverage of the matter was dumb-founding. They left the impression from the trial that students were exposed to class long doses of pornography yet Amero pleaded innocent to the charges. The two perceptions didn't match.

On this blog I am a vocal and loud advocate that schools get with it in terms of technology and I recommend lots of great free and commercial products [that I make not a dime off of] that I think are worth having in class.

So an idea came to mind. I wrote Wes Volle, Julie's husband, and asked him to draw a picture of what Julie's classroom looked like using GE's Imagination Cubed Virtual drawing tool. It took Wes a few tries but he finally produced this rudimentary sketch.

Say what! The teacher who had a direct line of sight at Julie's computer sees little more than pictures in browser panels. She doesn't see porn but some students report fantastic pornographic details.

We'll talk about this more. By the way, Julie's screen was a 14" or 15" Dell monitor based on what we know today.

Are you all getting the idea that there's something very wrong here?

You'll see that the PC monitor is facing the teacher's desk and the corner of a windowed wall. Clearly students aren't being exposed to much of anything.

Later, we found out Julie had a Team teacher in the classroom. Someone who reported nothing about pornography - just Julie "surfing" throughout the period. So I asked Wes for a diagram showing where she sat. I got this diagram back:



Keep in mind that the arrow indicates the direction the monitor was pointing and that when a student approached her desk she swerved the monitor at a further angle away from the class. This detail provided in the student's own sworn statement.

Are you getting ill yet that Julie lost her child based on this and on March 2 she'll be sentenced to provide yet another pound of flesh for the hungry, frightened mob in Loonsbury?

We'll return to these drawings soon and an analysis of student vernaculars that aren't acquired by the accidental exposure to a single sexually explicit photo.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

School 2.0: The School 2.0 Movement is Starting To Grow and Flower

I found this wiki that is the home for all things School 2.0 related. It includes a Manifesto we'll talk about in the coming years.

This is a huge step forward. Education has been far too comfortable with the corrosive No Child Left Behind policies that are long on platitudes and draconian in practice.

I'm going to add Steve Hargadon's blog to my rss feeds because he's yet another voice of intelligent reform in the wasteland that education has become in America.

I recommend everyone visit both these sites today and often. I'll be contributing my two cents to the School 2.0 wiki just as soon as I find some spare cycles.

I'm going to suggest that the legal community consider starting a Justice 2.0 wiki dedicated to re-establishing an American justice system that is modern, American, and something we can be proud of.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Julie Amero, American Hero

We got a lot of things wrong early on when we defended Julie Amero. We believed slanted newspaper reports declaring that she maniacally sat at a computer whose monitor was exposed like a 52" HDTV to a classroom of teens who shriveled in horror as they were forced to watch Amero's crazed pornographic obsession play itself out in class after class.

Many of us who knew what must have happened explained that she was "hapless", "incompetent", "an idiot", and so on. We were all wrong. This is our Mea Culpa - late - too little - but true.

After the tragedy of 9-11, America, wracked by guilt and shame, went on a feel good crusade in the only way it knew how. That is, by declaring everyone in a uniform a hero and by showering police, fire, and security related organizations with money and toys that would be unimaginable prior to the attacks. Never mind that by declaring every policeman, fireman, and gun-toting government official a hero for merely showing up diminished the bravery and sacrifice of those who rise above the day-to-day routine of doing their job. And never mind that in everyday life people who don't wear uniforms perform far more heroically than too many government slackers.

So America went on a spending spree that delivered Hummers to small town police departments in the event that Ma and Pa Kettle suddenly might start Taliban training camps in Appalachia. And in Indiana, local skating rinks were secured as though crazed extremists were as likely to attack a roller rink party as the Statue of Liberty. America invested in mountains of junk vehicles, military armaments, and extreme gadgetry as if hostile aliens were about to land any minute.

No aliens arrived. No Taliban camps were started. Crickets chirped, were tracked, identified, and blown away with high caliber, state of the art weaponry that video-taped the shells exploding their tiny bodies into harmless nano-particles of goodness. America was embarrassed by this so America decided that during sweeps week, they would create enemies worthy of the excess. A video onslaught of stalkers, sex fiends, thugs, bullies, cannibals, snatchers of candy from babies were elevated to the terrifying position of demigods of evil that America's bored heroes should engage in combat.

In Norwich, Connecticut, the police department received a $300,000 state of the art police van to cruise around in and, well, look for terrorists and, eh, barring that find something to do with it. So they did.

They made beer runs with it and employed eager, crime-fighting young women [18 and younger] to help them entrap shop-keepers [the closest thing to terrorists in Norwich] who sold beer to minors. In three documented instances each of these young ladies were asked to take some of their clothes off to prove [nod, wink] that they weren't wearing wires [we don't want to lose a case on technicalities, do we]. Nobody seems to know if these photos made it to an internet site.

In contrast, on May 2 of 2004, Principal Fain reported to the Norwich Bulletin that at the Kelly Middle School [800 students] there were 27 police visits and 14 arrests for violent activity.

One of those incidences involved Julie Amero. On April 14, 2004, Julie was a substitute teacher when a fight broke out in the school. The regular staff all closed their doors and pretended nothing was going on. A janitor warned Julie not to get involved. Julie ignored him and arrived too late. A thirteen year old girl was badly beaten up by another girl at the school. Julie arrived in time to comfort the bleeding child. Julie was the last person the girl would see before she slipped into a coma.

A few months later, Julie is again substituting and is accused of cruising the internet all day instead of engaging the students.

I cannot comprehend why we choose to spend pennies on education and demand draconian accountability of schools that need security, training, and 21st century technology to function yet we ask no accountability for billions of wasted dollars on toys for police who abuse our trust.

But the more I learn about teachers like Julie Amero the more I think that America's real heroes are not just those wearing uniforms but those who serve in the trenches of our school systems that are often more violent than our streets and far more complex than busting merchants for serving under-aged customers.

In a future blog posting I will revisit our earlier assumptions about what happened in Julie's classroom and the pornography allegations.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Rosling Explains the Disappearance of the Third World

This video is a shining example of what education needs to look like in addition to explaining why the rest of the world has already caught up with the United States in many ways.

This is a mind-blowing tutorial on globalization and why we in America are
clueless about what is happening in the world around us.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Homocides in the Amero Case

It is clear Amero is innocent of the charges of risk to minors in any way, shape, or form. These facts will surface in due time. The delusional death rattle of secret evidences, slander of Julie's name, and the scurrying of rats looking for shelter should not confuse anyone into believing that Amero is guilty.

And today, based on the thin evidence most media outlets have seen, Julie is being described as an incompetent teacher. In looking much deeper at some still to be made public documents and professional opinions, Julie's behavior in the classroom is more professional than the behavior of all of the peers who participated in her conviction. Julie did more, and heroically so, than any other person in that building - all of whom will live with this shame the rest of their lives.

Today when I think of incompetence I think about technical staff, the administrators, the school teachers, the police, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and the community at large. These are the players whose behavior and unconscionable negligence and indifference drains us all of our humanity.

In another blog, My Left Nutmeg, author Maura interviews Julie,
Julie's case really hit home with me, having taught in public schools for nearly a decade. I know that substitute teachers usually get no technology training at all. For the Norwich community to have overreacted so insanely over a handful of 7th graders seeing a few flashes of naked bodies on the screen of a computer that Julie had no responsibility for seems like a cartoonish modern day witch-hunt to me, fed by hysteria over risks to minors from the internet, widespread ignorance about technology, and sensationalism in the media about the handful of women teachers nationally who have been accused or convicted of having sex with students.

I spoke with Julie and Wes Volle, her husband, after I saw that someone had started a blog in her name. Wes and Julie confirmed that this site is legitimate and that they have started a legal defense fund for Julie. I invited Julie and Wes to live-blog with us here at MLN, which they agreed to do soon.

Talking with Julie, I found her version of events to be believable and heartwrenching. She and Wes hope to appeal her conviction, but are struggling just to pay their mortgage with their existing legal bills and Julie unable to work. They've contacted a number of attorneys about the case but have not yet found expert counsel willing to take the case pro bono or at any cost that would be affordable to them. At the end of our hour-long conversation, I attempted to lighten the mood by asking about her baby. After all, I had read in news and blog reports that she was pregnant at the time of the incident, and I assumed her baby would be one of few happy aspects of Julie's life.

Well, I really put my foot in it. Experiencing overwhelming stress after her arrest on felony charges, Julie miscarried. To make this tragedy even worse, Julie had been fighting infertility for years, and after investing thousands of dollars in fertility treatments, this was the only time Julie and Wes had succeeded in conceiving. Two years after losing that much-wanted pregnancy, Julie and Wes can barely afford to keep their home much less pay for fertility treatments. They have given up on their dream of children and are simply hoping to keep Julie out of prison in the short term and clear her record on appeal in the long term.

Raising awareness about Julie's case and her legal defense fund is one way we can help.
The loss of Julie's baby is a murder committed by professionals who don't deserve the privilege of being treated as such.

The inability of Wes and Julie to pay their bills robs us of good neighbors and healthy community.

The draining of their incomes and ability to save is the homicide of hope that some adoptable child has that a Wes and Julie can rescue them from a life of having no parents.

Make no mistake about it. This is a homocide that is killing all of us.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Loonsbury and the Singularity of Science Fiction

The Amero case is the trial of this young century and it marks the end of an epoch journey where man searches for intelligent life elsewhere. The baton of that task is an unnecessary artifact of who we are today and not of who we are becoming.

A few weeks ago, when I still worked at ING I approached an executive who discussed everything but change and the future. I told him he needed to revolutionize the insurance industry by introducing life assurance policies rather than life insurance. Soon we will want policies that insure that our bodies and ourselves get the latest advancement in restoration of the self. We will die only by accident or by information osmosis.

Once you become familiar with the concept of the technological singularity such an idea has prosthetic legs. Life and death will take on different meanings very soon. But I'll save that discussion for another time.

My discussion today involves the intellectual meltdown of America. Our public school teachers are so technologically unsophisticated as to be barely qualified for what used to be third world countries. And our children's curriculum is so saturated with basics testing obsessions that our brightest students are being intellectually deformed and tortured from a lack of stimulus. In truth, every student and teacher is. Our schools need a visionary restructuring and it has to happen NOW. We are losing our future and that will be painful for us all and, yes, this is a crisis of the American Dream.

The public schools are to education what Guantanamo is to model prisons.

But it is not just the schools. Yesterday a group of security experts were pleading to buy an electronic copy of the Amero transcript. Electronic copies are searchable but the State of Connecticut mandates paper copies. I called to plead our good cause.

On the phone I contacted the transcriptionist's supervisor, Maura Simoneau who after some discussion agreed to put in a good word for us. But in exchange she asked that I advocate for better court technology. "In the early eighties we were the first ones using computers and technology but today we have ancient systems. These transcripts should be done in realtime. They can be shown in court on screens. We are just way behind."

Yes. The small town trial of Julie Amero in Norwich which is becoming jokingly referred to as Loonsbury is a microcosm of a national cancer - an overdose of the anti-intellectual policies of government that's killing our country. The sophistication of issues that the Amero case involves reporters must dumb down.

Julie Amero is the first high-profile evidence of something that is emerging in our Loonsbury flatland existence. That is the phenomenon that our information processing machines are behaving independent of the operator. This isn't news to everyone but it is an entirely new tsunami of relationships with machines that we have never seen before. The Amero trial is being treated like an episode of The Twilight Zone instead of AI. There's a reason for that. Too many people aren't intellectually ready for it and that's A BIG PROBLEM.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Ordeal of Judge Carmen Lopez

"And I think that the judge has an obligation, every judge, and now that I am one, I understand even more fully that a judge has an obligation to treat people with respect at all times. Canon three certainly dictates that." - Judge Hillary Stackbein


As I investigate more and more leads in the Julie Amero case, I also come across some of the most compelling stories concerning society and children. If you are wondering why prosecutors are allowed to run amok and why lawmakers are allowed to pass the most draconian and self-immolating morals legislation the world has ever seen, look no further.

Judge Carmen Lopez, an award winning judge, innovator in child custody cases, and inspirational figure in Connecticut Judicial service in 2004 was humiliated and had her professionalism questioned in a judicial inquest that will make you cry.

But this transcript also uncovers an simple truth about Judge Hillary Stackbein's confirmation to a judgeship. Remember, during the Amero case, witnesses report that Stackbein "sleeps" and makes faces at Julie's attorney Cocheo mocking his advanced state of MS symptoms.

It is her letter of complaint about Judge Carmen Lopez that creates the suspicions you are about to sample. A letter of complaint that is mysteriously absent from her confirmation hearing under dubious circumstances.

The plot, as they say, thickens.

Read it all here. The following is excepts from The JUD Committee Hearing transcript.

Senator Newton on Judge Carmen Lopez:

"--the only thing common Judge Lopez is guilty of is caring. This is the price she's paying for caring about an issue, children, which she should care about. Who better else to care than the Presiding Judge, the person that works there? If the conditions were bad enough, and she raised the concerns of caring about children, this is the price that we have to pay when we speak up and tell the truth.

I've taken a tour of that building along with Judge Lopez who invited the delegation to go look at it. It's unbelievable. Now, you know, I read this, and I listened to all the kinds of innuendos. I've known Carmen Lopez for over 20 years. When I was first elected President of City Council, she swore me in. I was there when she became a judge. Maybe it's a good thing I got on this committee because I'm not a lawyer or a judge, and I call a heart a heart. I won't say I call a spade a spade because I don't want you all to misinterpret that.

All I see here, and maybe I'm wrong, Mr. Chairman, is that she ruffled some feathers up on high. That is about how I see it. As a layperson who has no ax to grind one way or another, I would rather have a judge that's willing to speak up on conditions than just to sit back and collect a paycheck that allows situations and things to happen. So you have my full support.

JUDGE CARMEN LOPEZ: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. NEWTON: Because I know you as a person, I know your heart is about children. I'm kind of dismayed, Mr. Chairman, that she's under the scrutiny for doing one thing, caring about children. And I don't have any questions, but I wanted that for the record. Again, I'm honored to be on this committee, and I think it's a shame. I've spoken to the Chairman, my Chairman, and I said to him, point blank, and I want it for the record, she ruffled some feathers. In street terms, she pissed some people off.

But I don't think that we should, you know, take a good judge because she stood up to the system and take her to the coals for doing something that I would hope all judges do. That is stand up and be heard, and let us know, as the Legislature, when we can make a difference and step in and do something. So, Carmen, I'm sorry, Your Honor, I think the thing you did was you opened your mouth too much.

I think you did the right thing by speaking out because there are a lot of children in Mead Hall. You know, we had people standing outside in the rain because there wasn't enough room to house them in that courthouse. Because you spoke out, I think this is a retaliation, and I'll say it, for you standing up for what you believe in. Thank you, Mr. Chairman."


And Later Judge Lopez's character is tested in this exchange;

"SEN. MEYER: Did you, in the presence of this prosecutor, turn to defendants and say, in essence, that you would like to buy them Christmas presents because you have no children of your own?

JUDGE CARMEN LOPEZ: No. I can talk about what happened with that. I had one little boy--

SEN. MCDONALD: Judge Lopez, I'm sorry, could you--

JUDGE CARMEN LOPEZ: I had one little boy, Sir, that was coming before me every two weeks. He was this young, little, cute boy, and he wasn't there because he didn't have, he hadn't done anything. He was there because they couldn't find a place for him. Every two weeks, I had to look into the eyes of hits little black boy and tell him, don't worry. You're going to be coming out of detention.

They were trying to find a place for him. Then it came to be Christmas, and he had no one. He had no one to even visit him. I did. That is on the record. I could never deny that. I said, what would you like for Christmas? He said, a home. That is what he said to me. Yes, I said that, Sir, on the record.

SEN. MEYER: Well, that is a very compassionate thing to do, but I'm asking you within the context of being a judge in an adversary system, is that appropriate conduct? Is your mission in life, instead, something else, hat is not to be a judge and determiner, but instead to be a compassionate advocate and supporter? I'm suggesting to you that the case that is made out in this record before us indicates that you are a very compassionate advocate, but I think it raises a question within the adversarial system as to whether or not judicial conduct is your thing.

JUDGE CARMEN LOPEZ: I don't know, Sir. I'm a member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. It is a national organization that promotes judges participating in communities. It promotes judges using the authority to convene communities to try to find solutions to the problems that are plaguing our society. So to the extent that that is not something that is acceptable in the State of Connecticut, I'm sorry.

I just believe that the courts, that the Judicial Branch is a part of the community. I believe that there are a lot of things that we can do. But in terms of compromising my ability to make decisions, no. No, Sir. My record for three and one-half years, I presided over cases involving termination of parental rights. Let me tell you, Sir, if I couldn't be neutral, if couldn't do the right thing, I would never terminate parental rights. I've done so many termination-of-parental-right cases. That is the equivalent of the death penalty. I've done that. I don't believe that one is there, Sir. I'll take a lot of the other ones, but not that one."


One of the more troubling and insightful passages is this;

"REP. GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. A couple questions, I guess, just to try to clarify for myself. Also, I'm going to try not to repeat things I've already heard. But not only the incident with the, with the cards and the visits with Judge Lopez in the detention, there appear to be some other indications in your letter that was third-hand information or hearsay. Is that correct? Particularly the one about the defendant told the police, go ahead, pile up as many charges, you didn't hear the defendant say that?

JUDGE HILLARY STACKBEIN: I had the written police report.

REP. GREEN: And the police indicated that the defendant said that.

JUDGE HILLARY STACKBEIN: That's correct.

REP. GREEN: Okay. And all police reports are accurate, so there's no question that the police in fact stated what was said and what's fact.

JUDGE HILLARY STACKBEIN: Well, I wouldn't say that. I would just say--

REP. GREEN: Oh, okay.

JUDGE HILLARY STACKBEIN: --why would the police have any reason to put those specific words, I'm buds with Judge Lopez? Why would they do that? How would they know anything about what happened in court regarding the Christmas presents?

REP. GREEN: So the police, the question about the Christmas presents was in a police report?

JUDGE HILLARY STACKBEIN: No. That's what I'm telling you. What happened with the respondent who Judge Lopez offered to buy Christmas presents, when he was subsequently arrested, said that to the police, you put any charges you want. I'm buds, buds in quotes, with Judge Lopez. That was in the police report. I had no reason to doubt that because I don't see where the police would come up with that particular language on their own.

REP. GREEN: I just want to be clear. But you indicated that you're not aware of Judge Lopez buying Christmas presents. You just heard her say that in the court.

JUDGE HILLARY STACKBEIN: That's correct. Offering.

REP. GREEN: You heard her offer that.

JUDGE HILLARY STACKBEIN: Yes. "


Stackbein unquestioningly defers to a police report for facts whose veracity are nothing more than the hearsay transcription of police officers. The larger exchange questions her use of investigative resources on Judge Lopez - something the questioners do not follow up on.

This pattern of deference appears again in the Amero case.

This article tells us what happened to Judge Carmen Lopez.

"For several years Judge Carmen Lopez worked in the Middletown court where the state's most serious child protection cases are sent. These are wrenching affairs in which people lose their parental rights after abusing or neglecting their kids often amidst addiction problems.

But Judge Lopez was sometimes able to manage them "therapeutically." That is, mediate all sides so that in the end the parents themselves feel they have "voluntarily" given up the child, smoothing the path for his adoption and retaining some dignity themselves. This creates a much healthier environment for the child because he feels supported all around.

Lopez' experience is so valued that she is often asked to teach her methods to other judges, just as she did last week in Puerto Rico. She holds many honors and is a board member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

But there's a catch. Carmen Lopez is actually no longer a juvenile judge."


No. She's no longer serving the children she cared so much about. She's changing the diapers of corporations in court. Can our concern for the welfare of children sink any lower?

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Four Hundred Wins for Ron Pires!

Friday night the EO Smith Men's basketball team beat Hartford public in Mansfield. This was an exciting game throughout and EO pulled away to an easy victory. The big news was that coach Ron Pires had achieved his 400th career coaching victory.

Congratulations to one of the country's truly fine high school basketball coaches!

Friday, February 09, 2007

More Porn in the Amero Case!

Just when you think the Julie Amero case has safely resolved itself as being the strangest case of community madness since the Salem Witch trials, it... gets even stranger.

There is a mounting body of suspicion that the computers of the Middle School where Julie Amero substituted were routinely commandeered by students who were far more sophisticated than the teaching staff and administration. And schools dependent solely on the single computer sitting on the teacher's desk become the sole obsession of students dying to participate in virtual activities they so enjoy at home.

Reports are that a student in Julie Amero's class emailed someone saying that Amero was looking at pornography during class. Yet where could the message have been sent from? The teacher's computer was locked in a blizzard of images Julie couldn't control. So that leaves two possibilities. One that the email was sent before the incident or after. And , even more perplexing, the student sending it would have to be computer savvy enough to know she wasn't passing time but furiously trying to stop the phenomenon. This doesn't pass the sniff test, does it?

And all kinds of teachers at the school allowed students to use their computers for whatever activity. Keep in mind - no firewall, no anti-spam, not much of any protection on these machines.

This all sounds like reasonable doubt. In fact more than reasonable doubt. A teacher who is put in danger, say sailing on a sinking boat trying to bail water as fast as possible is hardly creating risk of injury to minors involved in the event - the teacher is at risk as well!

So this introduces the issue of good judgment on the part of the police, prosecutor, and judge. Last night I received an email that dismays me in a hundred ways. It involves Detective Lounsbury's own adventures with girls just a few years older than the students in Julie Amero's classroom.

About six years ago, Lounsbury, his partner were on a police "sting operation". And what sting operation would be complete without beer and young girls packed in the back of your police van?

This report from WTNH news tells the less salacious details of the evening's activities.
A Norwich police detective has admitted to drinking beer while driving a minor around the city on a sting targeting alcohol sales to underage drinkers.

That's according to a report in today's Day of New London newspaper.

Detective Mark Lounsbury, who drove the police van used in the undercover sting operation on November 30th made the admission last week to Deputy Chief Warren Mocek, the newspaper reported.

Mocek is overseeing an investigation into a misconduct complaint against Lounsbury and Lieutenant James Daigle.

A 20-year-old woman claims Daigle photographed her topless while she was working for the department in the same sting operation.

Apparently, Lounsbury and his partner were forgiven for contributing to the delinquency of minors, driving intoxicated, generating pornographic materials and whatnot. Reasonable doubt is not required when none exists.

So Lounsbury at about that time became the department's cyber-crime expert. The Department snatching the keys to the department's love van away from him and giving him what they thought might be less tempting material to work with.

I'm okay with that. People often make mistakes that are out of character, or panic, or use poor judgment and we all need to forgive each other.

But my disappointment in these new revelations is not that Detective Lounsbury is a flawed character but that he exercises such poor judgment when it comes to others far more innocent than he was. And in his case he was a middle-aged man in a position of power and authority taking advantage of young women who may have been intoxicated. Is he now taking advantage of a community that knows less than he does about computers? Sadly, it's an important question that requires some thoughtful contemplation on the part of the community.

All of us who are trying to establish Julie's innocence are dumbfounded by the absence of mature, reasonable adults in Norwich. The schools, the town, and the judiciary need an intervention of sensibility because this new revelation is the tip of an even larger set of complications.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Price Fixing Racket in the Labor Market? Check Your Wallet!

As a contract software development professional, I make my living by offering my services at a price I believe the market can bear for a particular assignment. I work with potential employers to reach a fair price. At least I used to.

In recent days I've been looking for a new contract and I submitted my resume through a few employment agencies to a certain health care insurer in Hartford. The job descriptions were not exact but a fairly glove fit for my skill set. In recent days, I received responses from the employment agencies that my resume was rejected because in one case "it did not work" and in another because my resume was "ineligible".

Because I am not independently wealthy and need work to pay bills I followed up and was told that the company in question used a service called ProcureStaff. And after numerous unsatisfactory explanations of the phenomenon I looked this thing up.

You see, the way things worked in the free market world was that someone needed expertise, they would speak with you and if they were sufficiently satisfied that you could do the job, a fair price was negotiated and you were hired. Now if you have a skill in demand the company needed to pay market price. So the idea that the hiring manager never sees the resume is disturbing - it means I can't compete in the American job market! And it means self-improvement is meaningless because the demand of the market is irrelevant.

So as I say I investigated what might be the matter with my resume by looking up ProcureStaff. What I found was shocking. ProcureStaff appears to a program that may have monopolized the regulation of non-salaried employees. The markets this program affects are insurance, health, government, and more.

You might be asking what this program seems to do. Here's a sample from SDCExec.com.

Avaya began working with ProcureStaff in April 2001. As Battaglia explains it in a presentation she gives on the initiative, “ProcureStaff is Avaya's outsourced administrator of ‘The NEW Procurement Center,' which is a customized total procurement and payables solution for the sourcing, acquisition and administration of all technical, management and clerical non-employee workers required by Avaya managers.” ProcureStaff offers Web-based tools for services requisition management and e-procurement, time-keeping and vendor management — as well as consolidated invoicing, so Avaya receives a single invoice from ProcureStaff for all temps working through the center.

The Honeymoon Period Continues

Since beginning to channel its temp labor spend through the NEW Procurement Center in 2001, Avaya has seen the payback on its work with ProcureStaff ramp up over time. In 2002 and 2003, Battaglia says, the company saw an average 7 percent savings on its average billing rate. But by 2004, the company was already seeing a 29.5 percent reduction in average bill rates. Battaglia credits this jump in savings to the tracking tools available through the ProcureStaff solution, which provides information on all the resources that the company has sourced over a three-year period and which have allowed Avaya to create a baseline for the average price that the company has paid for a given service. With this information, ProcureStaff set up a job library customized for Avaya with 278 unique job titles. “Now each time we source a contractor through the program, we have the backup to know what [bill rate] that person should be coming in at, and that's where we see our savings,” explains Battaglia.
This sure sounds like price fixing to me. But wait, there's more...
As a result of the initiative, Battaglia reports that the company had reduced the number of its preferred temp labor suppliers by 73 percent and seen direct sourcing activity drop by 81 percent for the locations up and running with the new center. In addition, the consolidated invoicing has resulted in process savings for accounts payable.

Interestingly, as Avaya has rolled the NEW Procurement Center out to its operations in different countries, the company, at times, has had to adopt new models to accommodate local requirements. In the Netherlands, for example, local laws do not permit a third party to stand between Avaya and a temp labor agency. As a result, in the Dutch market, Avaya has direct engagement relationships with its agency suppliers and pays the vendors directly. Battaglia credits ProcureStaff with assisting Avaya in researching the requirements of the different markets and ensuring that Avaya remains in compliance with all local labor laws.

Perhaps the icing on the cake for Avaya is the fact that the NEWs program has no budget, since it is funded by the suppliers. When the suppliers sign up under their preferred contract to participate in the center, they agree to a fee (typically 2 to 5 percent) for each contractor that they bring to the program (depending on the volume for a program and how many people it takes to run the program), and those fees go to ProcureStaff. “Our purchasing folks have put a lot of hard work into the program,” says Battaglia, “but ProcureStaff does assume a certain risk in ensuring performance. So it's a no-brainer.”
What this amounts to is a scheme that eliminates smaller businesses from competing AND forces the remaining vendors into a pay-to-play situation. Not very free market nor American, IMO.

It remains unclear what criteria are used to filter legitimate candidates from applying for positions. You see, if a price-fixing scheme is in place there is no room for free market negotiation of any kind to take place. And this distorts employment policy as well since corporations claim they cannot find enough "qualified" candidates through their public relations campaigns.

We may be entering a dark age of employment extortions being committed in a cyberspace that no one is is regulating and where fair employment and compensation laws are being subverted because no one is the wiser.

No wonder college graduates can't pay off their student loans. The labor market may be artificially dampened without so much as a whimper of protest.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Rell's Dystopic -cough- "Vision"

The Courant reported today the shocking news that Gov. Rell wants to raise taxes to aid, among other things, education.

I whole-heartedly support increased aid to towns for education but not at the expense of higher State taxes. And these new taxes will violate the spending limits with malice. IMO, this is not a vision nor is it a true relief. This is a stealthy way to raise State taxes without guaranteeing a corresponding reduction in local taxes. Quite frankly we can't afford this bait and switch game.

What this state needs is lower taxes and the elimination of the Department of Education as well as a rollback of numerous inane and regressive education "laws".

Here's where Rell is wrong.

First, considering the negative environmental impact autos have on Connecticut she should not be attempting to eliminate car property taxes. This is regressive for urban dwellers who reap no benefit by using public transportation. Secondly, it's yet another tax break for the rich. We should be creating incentives for public transportation systems not reinforcing big car purchases.

Instead eliminate all taxes on businesses who upgrade high-tech capital equipment and assemble and operate that equipment in Connecticut and who hire local residents of Connecticut first. This creates jobs and growth that lower taxes by introducing prosperity and a larger labor and tax pool. Connecticut needs quality jobs not taxes.

Second, sunset any tax increase the minute that the state education funding is reduced to local entities. Years ago, lottos were legalized because their receipts were ear-marked for education. Soon after, lottery buyers had a better chance of seeing money than schools. Taxpayers are sick of these sneaky deals.

Third, schools cannot afford any more sugar-coated accountability riders to funding. If the governor is interested in accountability then she must address her own campaign activities long before accusing schools of needing more accountability or high-stress tests. This nonsense is killing education nationwide and she needs to get real about improving education by advocating the complete repeal of the NCLB blight.

No more high school graduation requirements. This blovial nonsense is dropping out more students than it saves. The job of schools is to create learners not student widgets. Let's start holding the veracity of employer and CBIA education claims to higher standards of accountability for a change. I recently heard a story about an engineering firm who preached to educators that that couldn't hire engineers fast enough - educational output was failing them. That was when their stock was selling for hundreds per share. Two years later, at four dollars a share they weren't hiring.

The CBIA incessant whining about American education bears examination because it distorts the true quality of the schools and students - defamation using stock market speculative propaganda.

Is the Prosecution Playing with Loaded Dice?

The Julie Amero case will be looked upon as a milestone in judicial history. The court system and lawmakers can no longer bury their heads in the sand when it comes to ubiquitous, open communication. And individuals must once again assume responsibility for managing their own moral concerns.

But the Julie Amero case also reminds us of how badly our justice system as deteriorated. A few days ago, I posted a blog that lamented the lack of pro bono lawyers who offered their services in the name of social justice causes. In the subsequent days I was educated as to the process that pro bono lawyers follow in offering their services to a client.

A key necessity for lawyers is the transcript of the trial proceedings. With a transcript in hand the lawyer can evaluate the worthiness of a case and petition to offer services based on their belief of the issues.

But the State of Connecticut seems to be maliciously slow in making these transcripts available. The by-product of this inexcusable phenomenon is that it is often too late for pro bono services to aid defendants who can benefit from them.

Secondly, trial transcriptions which are delayed can nullify the chances of receiving pro bono assistance and defendants can suffer double jeopardy in the form of stiffer and more damning sentences that later work to reinforce the guilty claim.

This imbalance may be subverting justice in even the most pedestrian of cases. And it is inexcusable. Computers and transcription systems are available that can remediate this situation. Connecticut needs to take a good, hard look at how justice is dispensed because the system looks to be unfairly administered in favor of prosecution. If such a bias holds true then we must stop teaching our children that we believe in fairness because we are not practicing it in the process.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Amero Whitewash at the Norwich Bulletin

A few days ago I reported the peculiar circumstance that the Norwich Bulletin Search for porn brings up the Bulletin's own vendor recommendations when shopping for "porn".

Considering their simple recipe that Julie Amero should have just "pulled the plug" or "turned it off" one cannot help but wonder why the Norwich Bulletin hasn't followed their own advice.

But what has happened at the Bulletin is far more troubling. A search of the newspaper for "Amero", "porn", and "teacher" cannot find a single one of the vociferous articles penned at the Bulletin that condemned her in the eyes of the community.

You see as a parent, a technologist, and a Board of Education member I believe our schools are on the wrong track. For thirty years conservative commentators and columnists have so poisoned our understanding of children, teens and learning that our schools have become radical social experiments in intellectual torture schemes.

Our schools no longer honor the student's interests or their well-being. Schools are run to pass tests that are almost exclusively fact oriented. In a subject such as math this is less consequential.

But in discussions with about our science curriculum, I am discovering that the mandatory and punishing Connecticut Aptitude tests (CAPT) place no value on an understanding of the human body or the study of animal life. Science teachers who use valuable class time for subjects such as this risk seeing their students perform poorly on perfunctory state tests.

We are growing a generation of young adults who cannot understand the relationship of one body part or function to another. The religious fanatics who oppose science have so twisted our educational imperatives that schools can no longer teach the relationship between stem cells and the greater body, of what cells mean to each other, of the wonders of life. All they are taught is the memorization of labels and endless, dreary factoids that drain all joy out of learning.

And society's criminal neglect of our children's education does not stop there. In a world of exponentially accelerating complexity our kids are not allowed to use computers to get and process information.

And teachers use computers as though they were little more than fancy grade books, email devices, and occasional internet browsers. Their training is menial and their ability to apply computers in class is too often pathetic. Schools fall prey to all kinds of cyber-charlatans who misguide administrators and curriculum developers often resulting in the wasteful purchase of unnecessary hardware, software, or process.

The schools are not failing America, America is failing our schools.

Every student needs a dedicated computer equipped with internet access. Period. This is not a debate it is a necessity.

And a social contract must be honored. It is that the school will provide every responsible firewall and filter it can afford to avoid unfortunate access to inappropriate materials but in the end students must act responsibly and deal with unfortunate events as responsible individuals not as victims or drama award winners.

No matter what anyone does, unfortunate access to inappropriate material will happen - nothing is absolutely safe. But our mission in schools is to learn, to process the best information we can, to explore, and to think boldly and without fear. And this goes for teachers as well. They should be able to surf professionally and personally. There is nothing wrong with this as long as their historic behavior isn't deviant of the school or the community.

Information processing is the future and schools are devoid of it today. But even if our children were to surf the web freely they'd never find Julie Amero on the Norwich Bulletin site. And that's an injustice that must never be allowed to be covered up.

If the Bulletin is embarrassed by their past journalistic coverage they should admit their mistake and advocate that Julie be free on her own recognizance until this nightmarish trial is thrown out.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Claiming the Foul

Last night the EO Smith Men's Varsity team squeaked out a victory in overtime against Rockville High School in an overly physical game.

During the game a rarity occurred, one of our players raised his hand when he fouled a Rockville player. This practice used to be perfunctory on the basketball court. Players could get a technical foul if they didn't acknowledge ownership of the foul.

In fact, there were even strategies around assuming responsibilities for fouls. If your star player was in danger of fouling out, other players would be quick to raise their hands to claim responsibility for a foul the star might be charged with. It is an exercise in sportsmanship and team bonding that has disappeared.

I miss it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Free - Carry Your Windows Apps on a Thumbdrive

The Portable Apps site offers a free set of Windows applications that fit on most any portable drive. They're all free. Many are great and what a nice way for schools to off load responsibility for desktop maintenance of applications.

By standardizing on free applications parents don't have to buy school software, students take it all with themselves, and the schools merely offer a generic and inexpensive computer to host the student's drive on.

Sweet.

Cartoons (click to site of ownership):