Monday, November 18, 2013

Edward Snowden's Legacy: Privacy Matters

Absence of Privacy

It is troubling that the FISA court has affirmed that Americans have no protected right to privacy via third party vendors e.g. telecommunication companies. Following this reasoning process the National Security Agency and other sleuths may extract and store not only email communication but financial, medical, education, and employment records on all of us. For further information please see U. S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Public Filings.

Some Americans say "they have nothing to hide" and thus no complaint with ever present NSA surveillance, but they have not pondered the possibility of self-incrimination. A case in point: the David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell tryst. As The New York Times recently explained, privacy and confidentiality are nonexistent because "No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A."

The breaking and entering digital technology developed by the NSA and its Wall Street coterie has been employed by other parties for advantageous reasons. Rupert Murdoch's News of the World editor apologized in its final issue for hacking cell phones and computers to enhance readership. Leveson Report investigators found that News of the World was not the only newspaper trafficking in stolen communications.

The National Security Agency, a prominent decision-maker in government affairs, is endowed annually with $10.8 billion. It is confirmed that the 35,000 NSA workforce, tasked with preventing terrorist attacks, has been roaming outside its purview by banking phone call data and communication fingerprinting U.S allies.

Angela Merkel's cell phone, for instance, was monitored from 2002 to 2013. It is not known whether the NSA was acting independently or with permission from Presidents Bush and Obama but either way these actions have impaired foreign relationships.

The world's discontent with NSA's intrusive electronic snooping is so acute that Senator John McCain has called for Keith Alexander the NSA director [2005-present] to resign or be fired. In September Mr. Alexander told Senate Intelligence Committee members that “I believe that it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox.” The $2 billion lockbox referenced by Mr. Alexander, the NSA Utah Data Center, has experienced multiple systems' failures [explosions] since going operational.

NSA's Reconnaissance for Good or Naught?

Tailored Access Operations: NSA's ability to enter electronic systems e.g. personal/business/government computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones affix spyware, and then watch and listen. The New York Times reports that:
But as the [Snowden/NSA] documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.
The NYT's "No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A" article raises the question of advance knowledge of planned murderous forays and cites the following examples.

During the assault on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel in June 2011, the NSA was listening to the Taliban teams' cell phone conversations while they searched the facility for targets.

The NSA was cognizant that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons in the past, yet this information did not stop the August sarin gas massacre.

Intelligence agencies are critical to security but when they abuse their spyware capabilities they reveal ulterior motives. William Binney, a former NSA whistleblower believes that unless the NSA and its partners are constrained, the United States will become a totalitarian state. The truth is we are already NSA's captive audience.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Race to the Common Core Goal Post

Excerpt from Secretary of Education Rod Paige's letter explaining the No Child Left Behind Act.

Dear Parent:
On January 8, 2002, when the No Child Left Behind Act became the law of the land, we began a new era of education in our nation’s history. Democrats and Republicans in Congress joined together with President Bush in an historic agreement to improve the educational opportunities for every American child.
Accountability, local control and flexibility, new options for parents, and record funding for what works are now the cornerstones of our education system. If your child isn’t learning, you’ll know why. If your school isn’t performing, you’ll have new options and the school will receive additional help. Our commitment to you, and to all Americans, is to see every child in America—regardless of ethnicity, income, or background—achieve high standards.
No Child Left Behind puts the focus on instruction and methods that have been proven to work. It makes a billion-dollar annual investment to ensure every child learns to read by third grade. And it provides the resources for reform and unprecedented flexibility so states and local communities can get the job done.
As affirmed by Congress and the president, providing fundamental math and reading skills to the nation's children were reasonable and achievable goals, but numerous states chose not to meet these  obligations. The reasons for states' waywardness are complex but mostly they emanate from Wall Street machinations. The orchestrated denigration of No Child Left Behind was the springboard for Common Core State Standards.

Critics of No Child Left Behind faulted standardized testing yet these assessment measurements are significantly present in the Common Core format. Some complained that the employment of highly qualified teachers, special tutors and failed-school options were unnecessary state burdens, others blamed unions. The millions of children who have been deprived of their educational rights should know that state governments and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are responsible.

For a greater appreciation of Wall Street's involvement in states' affairs please refer to the American Legislative Exchange Council's 18th edition, "Report Card on American Education."  This report measures states on academic standards, homeschooling regulatory burdens, private school choice options, charter laws, teacher quality policies and digital instruction. North Carolina, for example, receives a C for its efforts. Based on National Assessment of Educational Progress data North Carolina's graduation rate is 66.1%— 4th grade reading comprehension 32%, 8th grade reading comprehension 29%.

The Common Core State Standards digital strategy as foretold by Rupert Murdoch in 2011:
Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital revolution. When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.
In 2014 Mr. Murdoch will begin selling educational video games via his company Amplify.

The Worth of Common Core State Standards According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Education Secretary Duncan said that he was "convinced that this new [Common Core] generation of state assessments will be an absolute game-changer in public education” because they would be able to tell millions of school children, parents and teachers — “for the first time” whether students are “on-track for colleges and careers.”

In preparation for Common Core State Standards, the Tucson Sunnyside Unified School District ceased textbook purchases for grades 4-12 four years ago and is converting all schools to  digital. This experimental education delivery system should be employed by all schools remarked Secretary Duncan:
What you’re doing has national implications. We’re trying to move from print to digital. As a nation, we spend $7 to $9 billion a year on textbooks that by the time you receive them, are out of date. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Disinformation on the part of Secretary Duncan: The copyrighted CCSSO-NGA Common Core text/test school merchandise is not complimentary, is subject to design change and will likely cost the contracting parties the same billions per year.  The approximate expense of switching schools to the Common Core course of study is $16 billion.

Secretary Duncan's thoughts on the Race to the Top Common Core State Standards Initiative.  Common Core is:
Tight on goals, but loose on means—that's our theory of change. It's the exact opposite of how No Child Left Behind was structured.
Race to Wall Street's Goal Post

As illustrated, Race to the Top multi-billion dollar grants and legal relief were linked to states' compliance with the Common Core agenda and other profitable-to-industry pursuits.
  • Developing and adopting common standards—Participating in consortium developing high-quality standards—Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments by Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments.
Postscript: The Common Core State Standards test product, fabricated by industry-favoring trade groups, is suspect because The National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers profit from the enterprise.

To preview the costs of Common Core's copyrighted 2008-2013 digital teaching modules click here. New York has published Common Core English Language Arts and Mathematical questions from the spring 2013 testing session. Results may be reviewed on the Engageny website.
  • Supporting Instruction Data Collection Systems by fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system—Accessing and using State data—Using data to improve instruction.
Postscript: The Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the State Higher Education Executive Officers is fine-tuning and expanding the current longitudinal student profiling system. This soon to be universal storage construct includes students' Personal Identifiable Information.

Reuters reports that Boards of Education in North Carolina and other states have and are providing confidential student data to inBloom, Inc. The inBloom infrastructure designed by Amplify (Rupert Murdoch) and sponsored by the Gates Foundation is planning on selling student data to education technology concerns in 2015. The stated reasons for combing students' electronic records is to merchandise educational games and to assist teachers and principals.

Profiling children from kindergarten to the employment office is a breach of privacy and those who support it have another mission

An anecdote: my 1950s report cards stated that I did not work and play well with others. Future employers appreciate this type of information.
  • Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals—Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance by measuring student growth—measuring student growth—developing evaluation systems—conducting annual evaluations.
Postscript: The creation of digital degree pathway programs have been lucrative business ventures. Kaplan University and the University of Phoenix  are just a few of the companies offering online certification. It has been evidenced that these financially-focused entities have abused education funds and are often not graduating qualified professionals.
  • Make education funding a priority—Ensure successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools or as stated by Secretary Duncan in 2009:
    States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top Fund.
Postscript: Charters and other alternative education facilities such as K12, Inc.. have critical deficiencies. Forbes recent article, "Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City," provides reasons why these publicly-funded quasi-private schools are still flourishing.

North Carolina is an example of one of many states under Wall Street's influence. For the period 1997-2011 North Carolina paid more than a billion and a half dollars [$1,558,404,984] to corporate boards holding school charters. Studies conducted by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research found that North Carolina's charter schools had four shortfalls: "low academic performance, lack of racial balance as required by state law, lack of transfers of innovation to public schools, and sometimes questionable management and financial compliance."

There is growing awareness that the Common Core Initiative, student data collection/dissemination, fast-tracked degree programs and charter schools have little to do with education enhancement and much to do with gaming the public.