Invaluable Understrappers

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The Choctaw Academy

The Choctaw Academy

[UPDATED due to Clare Spark saying more about teachers unions in a post at 4:22 pm today.]

One thing is for certain: Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools in Harlem have established that black and brown children can “succeed” beyond our wildest dreams if there is strong cooperation between school staff and parents, and a challenging curriculum.

Hope looms on the horizon, but we are all responsible, white and non-white alike, for pushing Eva Moskowitz’s agenda forward, notwithstanding opposition from entrenched interests such as teachers unions (see comments below).
-Clare Spark, “Improving Race Relations: Left, Right, and Middle

The event was filled with men and women in the hedge-fund industry, including Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital Management, Joel Greenblatt of Gotham Asset Management, Boaz Weinstein of Saba Capital and John Paulson of Paulson & Co. Also present: Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater USA and former Navy SEAL.

Loeb, the event’s chairman, sat with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Jimmy Lee, vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co., whose son Jamie Lee works at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and is on a Success school board.

“I’m just very moved by what Dan Loeb does,” Jimmy Lee said. “Away from all the business press he gets, I think being chairman of his board and giving his time, not just his money, makes him a role model. You can tell he cares.”

The program for the gala was done up in the style of a school composition book, with a section featuring yearbook-style photos of students.
-Amanda Gordon, Bloomberg News. Scene Last Night: Loeb, Jeb Bush, Jimmy Lee, Greenblatt

Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines. Take off thine eye! more intolerable than fiends’ glarings is a doltish stare!
-Melville, “Ahab” in Moby Dick

What is the price-current of an honest man and patriot today? They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for other to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret. At most, they give up only a cheap vote, and a feeble countenance and Godspeed, to the right, as it goes by them. There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man. But it is easier to deal with the real possessor of a thing than with the temporary guardian of it.
-From Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government”

Then there was the letter to Irik Sevin, the chief of Star Gas Partners (and “one of the most dangerous and incompetent executives in America”): “Do what you do best: retreat to your waterfront mansion in the Hamptons where you can play tennis and hobnob with your fellow socialites.” (Loeb himself has a fifteen-million-dollar waterfront house in East Hampton.) Hobnobbing was not Sevin’s only crime: Loeb had learned of an Irik Sevin scholarship at Cornell. “One can only pity the poor student who suffers the indignity of attaching your name to his academic record,” he wrote. He got even more personal. “How is it possible that you selected your elderly 78-year old mom to serve on the Company’s Board of Directors and as a full-time employee?” Loeb wondered. “Under what theory of corporate governance does one’s mom sit on a Company board?” A heckler’s cardinal rule: When in doubt, drop the mom bomb.
-McGrath, Ben, “The Angry Investor,” The New Yorker, April 18, 2005

Other projects will focus on the political culture (including the culture of the academy and of the mass media) of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, continuing to rely upon primary sources and original interpretations of the main themes in American and European history, for instance, in current diagnoses of mass death, identity, ethnicity and mental illness, especially as these concepts impinge upon artistic/cultural freedom and the capacity of citizens to resist antidemocratic, sick-making propaganda from partisan sources. (See the recent blogs by Clare Spark on this website. The blogs are united thematically and use primary source materials that have either been ignored or unknown in previous work in the humanities. These are therefore portentous interventions in our understanding of American and European culture, especially as represented in the schools and in the media.)
-From the “About the Yankee Doodle Society (YDS)” page on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog (my emphasis).

Daniel S. Loeb Speech: On Receiving the 2012 Columbia John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement

When I was in College I liked this Elvis Costello song, “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”

I think today we need a new song, “What’s So Funny About Individual Freedom, Free Enterprise and Accountability?”

In fact, I might add what’s so funny about celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great? This entrepreneurial spirit is applicable not only to business but also to the arts and to humanitarian efforts, as is evident by my fellow awardees tonight like Filmmaker Dede Gardner, Venture Philanthropist Ellen Gustafson, Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz, and Tiananmen Square dissident turned fund manager the great venture capitalist Li Lu.

I think this is still an aspirational country, but there are some people who think it is fashionable to denigrate success, while others try to stir up class warfare. I was surprised last fall to see an Economics Professor ensconced in an Occupy Wall Street mob decrying the 1%, attributing all the country’s problems to an issue of poor distribution of wealth and accusing the so-called 1% of being lazy.
-Dan Loeb Speech 3-7-12

There’s confidence. There’s chutzpah. And then there’s Dan Loeb, hedge fund king extraordinaire and head of Third Point Capital, who’s getting set to claim the World Heavyweight Championship of Balls.
-Matt Taibbi, “Dan Loeb Simultaneously Solicits, Betrays Pension Funds,” Rolling Stone, April 11, 2013

“You are an abolitionist, ain’t you?”

“As to that, I cannot so readily answer. If by abolitionist you mean a zealot, I am none; but if you mean a man, who, being a man, feels for all men, slaves included, and by any lawful act, opposed to nobody’s interest, and therefore, rousing nobody’s enmity, would willingly abolish suffering (supposing it, in its degree, to exist) from among mankind, irrespective of color, then am I what you say.”

“Picked and prudent sentiments. You are the moderate man, the invaluable understrapper of the wicked man. You, the moderate man, may be used for wrong, but are useless for right.”

“From all this,” said the herb-doctor, still forgivingly, “I infer, that you, a Missourian, though living in a slave-state, are without slave sentiments.”

“Aye, but are you? Is not that air of yours, so spiritlessly enduring and yielding, the very air of a slave? Who is your master, pray; or are you owned by a company?”

“My master?”

“Aye, for come from Maine or Georgia, you come from a slave-state, and a slave-pen, where the best breeds are to be bought up at any price from a livelihood to the Presidency. Abolitionism, ye gods, but expresses the fellow-feeling of slave for slave.”
-Melville, The Confidence Man

Guys like Dan Loeb, they don’t actually do anything, other than shave cuts off of other peoples’ money. The psychological justification for taking such high fees is that they earn for their clients, but even that’s debatable in some cases (AFT points out that some of Loeb’s funds haven’t even outperformed the S&P).

The point is, many of these guys owe their outrageous lifestyles to people who actually work for a living, who’ve been putting nickels and dimes away week after week for years, just so guys like Loeb can swoop in, make a pitch after a fancy lunch or two, and then take big chunks of that cash to buy private jets and Picassos. For them to suddenly become self-righteous and political, to tell the world that it can’t afford real pensions and retirement funds for regular people anymore, is a rich irony.
-Taibbi, “Dan Loeb”

The financial titans, who tend to send their children to private schools, would not seem to be a natural champion of charter schools, which are principally aimed at poor, minority students.

But the money managers are drawn to the businesslike way in which many charter schools are run; their focus on results, primarily measured by test scores; and, not least, their union-free work environments, which give administrators flexibility to require longer days and a longer academic year.
-”Charter Schools’ New Cheerleaders: Financiers,” By TRIP GABRIEL and JENNIFER MEDINA, New York Times, May 9, 2010

“There is no better friend and worse enemy.” Campbell Brown, “journalist” and Success Academy Board member on Daniel Loeb, quoted in “Scene Last Night.”

Last week I attended the first benefit gala for the Success Academy Charter schools initiated by Eva Moskowitz. My son Daniel S. Loeb was being honored, and Chris Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey was the keynote speaker. Wall Street heavies and some major Republicans were present by the hundreds, as were many of the young principals of the various Charter Schools.

The Governor said flat out that if we did not rescue America’s public schools, the republic was finished, and I could not agree with him more. Christie, like many other activists on behalf of quality free education for all, sees the teachers unions as the chief obstacle to achieving this goal. Sadly, teachers unions have defended teachers, no matter how inept and unqualified, at the expense of learners in our country….

I find it very mysterious why the high priority given to free public education by Governor Christie and Dan Loeb (like Charles Sumner and other enlightened Americans who came before us), is not widely shared. One can understand why unqualified, underperforming teachers defend tenure and pensions, but how to account for the indifference of parents and grandparents, or of all citizens, many of whom complain about the great dumbing down of our culture and sense an irreversible decline of American leadership in the world?

-Clare Spark, Eva Moskowitz and the Charter School Movement, May 26, 2013.

“If you look at student outcomes in New York, 91 percent of teachers around the state are rated effective or highly effective, and yet 31 percent of our kids are reading, writing, and doing math at grade level. How does that compute? How can you argue that the status quo is okay with stats like that?”
-Campbell Brown on The Colbert Report as reported in the Washington Post, “Fact-checking Campbell Brown

“The slavery question has not two sides.” As to the moral bearings of the question–question of right and wrong–this was correct. As to the way in which slavery could best be got rid of, it was not correct. He not only refused to see any moral excuse for the opposite argument, but could never appreciate how far that opposite argument was apt to make an impression upon ordinary minds. Not to see two sides of a question was an element of weakness in a statesman but an element of strength in a moral agitator and a revolutionary character.

He was a moral terrorist–making it appear as a sort of moral delinquency not to follow him–which men were afraid of.
–Carl Schurz on Charles Sumner, quoted in Clare Spark, Hunting Captain Ahab, p 200

On the other hand, it is not hard to understand the source of the popular distrust in capitalism today. Many people see the collapse of the sub-prime markets, along with the failure and subsequent rescue of many banks, as failures of capitalism rather than a result of a vile stew of inept management, unaccountable boards of directors, and overmatched regulators not just asleep, but comatose, at the proverbial switch. When we hear the chorus of former executives and regulators exclaim that the crisis was “impossible to see coming”, while at the same time walking away with millions or going on to greater levels of responsibility in government, it is both puzzling and demoralizing. It is easy to see why so many people have concluded that the entire system is rigged.

This crisis of trust in our system is not limited to inept executives in regulated financial institutions who bury their shareholders and then walk away with ill-gotten sacks of loot. Having analyzed hundreds of proxy statements from the outside and having had the “pleasure” of sitting on several corporate boards, giving me a chance to walk the sausage factory floor, I have personally witnessed the incompetence of many boards of directors. One can only conclude that the incentive systems put in place for directors reward luck and station more than they do talent, skill or creation of shareholder value.
-from YDS: The Clare Spark Blog. Loeb, Daniel, “Growth or Redistribution?

While he was putting his house in order, Schurz also attempted to carry out his ideas about Indian relations. In his first annual report on 1 November 1877, he expressed the opinion that trouble between whites and Indians in the United States could not be entirely avoided because they were living too closely together. The solution, therefore, he thought, was to separate them by settling the southern tribes in the existing Indian Territory, while creating a similar reserve for the northern ones. Yet not- withstanding this unfortunate insistence on segregation, which at least for a time led to continuing the ill-conceived policy of removing entire tribes from their ancestral homes, he also strongly advocated assimilation. Recommend- ing that agriculture and husbandry be encour- aged, he advised the discouragement of hunting because it made the Indians warlike. Above all, he wanted to further concepts of private prop- erty, especially the holding ofland in severalty. Once Native Americans were willing to live like whites, all the rights of citizenship ought to be conferred upon them….

The secretary continued to expound his theories in his annual reports. In 1878, he repeated his suggestions of the previous year. Taking great pride in the progress already made, particularly in Indian education, Schurz reported that fifty students had been sent to Hampton Institute. There they would “receive an elementary English education and through practical instruction in farming and other useful work, be sent back to their tribes after the com- pleted course.” The education program was an important part of his continued emphasis upon assimilation, his encouragement of agriculture rather than hunting, and his propaganda for individual allotments of land.
-Hans Trefousse, “Carl Schurz And The Indians”

I will end this Labor Day blog by observing that teachers are petit-bourgeois and definitely NOT working class, despite their enthusiasm for their “unions” in which they ape the organization of real laborers. When I trained to be a science teacher in the 1950s, we were constantly asked “is teaching a profession? And if so, should they strike for higher wages?” It is our teachers who are preparing their students for real life as mature adults. The least they could do is not succumb to those administrators who joyfully participate in the Democratic Party urban machines and the collectivist ideologies that these mobsters dispense to kids and their parents who could and should know better. (emphasis in original)
-Clare Spark, “Labor Day 2014

Finally, satisfied that the correspondence merited inclusion in the canon, Loeb did what he does best: he went public. “It is hard to find good help these days,” he wrote to an undisclosed list of colleagues and friends, attaching the entire exchange. “Read from the bottom.”
-McGrath, “The Angry Investor”

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Douglas Storm is a host and producer for Interchange on Bloomington, Indiana's community radio station WFHB. "Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it..."

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