Tuesday, September 17, 2019

School Scope: NYC Students Allowed to March on Climate, UFT Issues Support

Submitted to The WAVE for September 20 publication.

School Scope: NYC Students Allowed to March on Climate, UFT Issues Support
By Norm Scott

Last week I was wondering if masses of NYC students would join the September 20 #ClimateStrike and then last Friday the DOE sent out a message that high school students will be excused with a note from their parents. Younger students can only leave school with a parent.‬‬ The UFT issued support for the climate march and a call to meet at 3pm @Foley Square for a UFT contingent. This looks like an all day event, with starting time at noonish and lasting until 5 PM. So come on down!

As I write this early Tuesday morning before the march I’m guessing it will be huge. There’s something brewing in the air politically on climate and growing with every natural disaster. It’s no longer about getting water in your basement but disasters on food production and mass extinctions that have already begun. Ever think of the catastrophe we face if bees go extinct? Later tonight I’ve got a hot ticket to see left wing superstar Naomi Klein at Cooper Union in a talk about the Green New Deal. I think we will be seeing a lot more action around this issue, especially from young people who see their future going up in smoke.

Something other than climate is in the air. Last week I talked about the union movement as evidenced by the NYC Labor Day parade, even if it wasn’t on Labor Day. Did you know that Labor Day came about in September in this country because the traditional day of celebration around the world was, and still is, May Day, which was viewed as too left wing? So an alternative date after the summer was found and the message of “labor as a class” was muted. Maybe Bernie will change it back to its rightful place when he becomes president.

The major strike by the United Auto Workers against General Motors seems to be garnering some sympathy from the public. The press hasn’t savaged the workers and taken sides in favor of a corporation which was bailed out by public money and the workers themselves. Now that profits are up, it’s “screw you.”

I do find it hard to understand how a serious unionist could support Republicans who look at unions as an orthodox Jew views bacon. To Republicans unions are socialistic – which is un-American because they interfere with the ability of capitalists to maximize their profits. Let’s make America great again by going back to the good old days of the 10 hour work day and child labor.

I don’t only blame Republicans. Over the past three decades Democrats haven’t been overly friendly to unions either. Neither Carter, Clinton or Obama did much of anything to provide a bulwark to the Republican attacks. It is no accident that we have the lowest rate of unionism in the industrialized world. And for the socialists out there, don’t tell me how free labor unions are in so-called socialist countries where unions are an instrument of government. When the government owns the industries strikes are even more difficult.

In this country, unions, especially in smaller towns and cities had been bedrocks of stability and provided a reasonable middle class for people. Neo-liberal policies that allowed for manufacturing to abandon this nation and seek cheap labor in places like Mexico and China helped hollow out jobs. Elizabeth Warren pointed this out in the debates. To save money on labor, companies will move to China or Mexico or any place where labor costs are low. That was what NAFTA was about and as Ross Perot said in the 1992 presidential campaign, we heard a giant sucking sound as millions of jobs went poof. Bernie Sanders, who opposed NAFTA two decades ago when it was pushed by the Clinton administration and Republicans, appeared on the Joe Rogan (certainly not a left-winger) podcast and made a connection between the millions of jobs lost and the opioid crisis. Yes, there is a thread that connects all things politically and economically.

The Indypendent, a progressive monthly newspaper that has been around for two decades and just published its 250th edition. I’ve been leaving copies in Rockaway libraries. Or contact me, normsco@gmail.com, and I’ll hand deliver for a cookie.

Norm blogs for cookies at ednotesonline.com.

Chief Leader Richard Steier on DSA Labor Group "Takeover"

It’s also labor history from the Neo-Insane School of Political Thought.
Rooted as this analysis is in pie-in-the-sky perspective, it makes the assumption that bringing in more-militant leadership would bring the city to the feet of the union and increase its power, rather than leading it to be marginalized. And, as long as the DSA is playing fantasy political football, convince the great majority of UFT members who have repeatedly voted for the established leadership group by wide margins over dissident groups like the Movement of Rank and File Educators—which the memo states includes “many DSA members”—that it’s time to go way left.... Richard Steier
Steir throws shade on the AOC victory and the Caban campaign in Queens and makes some points. He mentions MORE but he doesn't touch about the reality that MORE shrank rather than grew since it's founding  - more talk about their recent election debacle in more detail. I met a woman at a DSA event whose son came to MORE through DSA and she put out the line about the red state strikes offering hope. I asked her if her son, a 3rd year teacher, has to work a second job like so many vets in red states have to. She said No. There you have it I said. There will be no similar rebellion as long as salaries are decent. And by the way, compare the lousy working conditions in NYC to the even lousier working conditions elsewhere. Now if there's a depression with massive layoffs, some things may change. But even then I don't believe MORE has the organizing chops to even make hay then.

As to the strategy from these groups, I only know what MORE does in the UFT based on their strategy. I will parse what is wrong and right in that in future posts.

Here's what I learned from socialists I've been in groups with. They are always optimistic and always live on the sunny side of the street. Every strike is a sign from heaven that the point of no return has been reached toward socialism. I believe the point of no return will be reached on climate change way before. Can socialism flourish under water?


Razzle Dazzle

Meet the New Left, Just As Daft as the Old Left


LABOR PAINS: Former Communications Workers of America Local 1180 Vice President Bill Henning (left), said he believed a Democratic Socialists of America plan for taking over unions the group believes aren’t sufficiently militant could potentially ‘rejuvenate that fighting spirit in organized labor.’ District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido (center), in contrast, believes the proposal could ‘end up alienating and splitting a very large number of people’ at a time when unions should be focused solely on defeating President Trump next year.
Last Monday, a friend who’s a retired union leader wrote to express concern about an Aug. 14 article in Politico New York detailing a memo the city branch of Democratic Socialists of America had disseminated discussing how to engineer a quiet takeover of a half-dozen city unions, among them District Council 37, the United Federation of Teachers and Transport Workers Union Local 100.
The rationale behind this master plan shimmies and shakes.
DC 37 is targeted both because Executive Director Henry Garrido “is more politically and organizationally ambitious” than his predecessors dating back to the 1990s and due to the “general disengagement of members & a layer of leaders and staff who appear unable or unwilling to do the organizing needed to regain our power.”
TWU Local 100 is seen as a prime target for a takeover because of its “history of militancy, internal democracy, and rank-and-file activism,” notwithstanding the fact that it represents people whose “jobs are generally well-paid with excellent benefits,” which would seemingly make members less-susceptible to radicalization, especially since the union’s 2005 strike ended badly for both its leadership and its rank and file.
UFT as Gateway to ‘Working-Class Solidarity’
The memo speaks of the “social/political leverage” of better infiltrating the UFT, stating, “With public schools located in every borough, neighborhood, and district, education workers’ social and political leverage is also potentially enormous. Teachers and other education workers see everything students and their families go through, and we can highlight issues of homelessness, economic insecurity, racism, and inadequate healthcare and educational resources. Teachers and other education workers have access to communities beyond our worksites that can build solidarity across the working class.”
On the other hand, it stated that the UFT “is tremendously influential politically, but fails to exercise the full potential of its power. Its strategy rests on electing fairly centrist/conservative Democrats and holding them to commitments on maintaining basic standards in treatment of educators.”
Rooted as this analysis is in pie-in-the-sky perspective, it makes the assumption that bringing in more-militant leadership would bring the city to the feet of the union and increase its power, rather than leading it to be marginalized. And, as long as the DSA is playing fantasy political football, convince the great majority of UFT members who have repeatedly voted for the established leadership group by wide margins over dissident groups like the Movement of Rank and File Educators—which the memo states includes “many DSA members”—that it’s time to go way left.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Memo from the RTC: Hell Week - for Sept 20 WAVE

Memo from the RTC:  Hell Week
By Norm Scott

Monday evening, the beginning of Hell Week when a show goes full blown every evening until opening night, the most intensive and difficult time for every show where people don’t get out until 11 PM or later. After this Thursday’s dress rehearsal the actual performances are a snap, Only three days work a week instead of seven.

So I stop by The Rockaway Theatre Company to catch a bit of the rehearsal, the first I’ve been too. There are kinks to work out, especially the lighting and sound cues. This will be a looong rehearsal. From the opening seconds the atmosphere is tense. Issues of gender, race, white supremacy turn up very quickly. Did that stuff go on a century ago? I thought it was all due to facebook and twitter. Some stuff is going to happen on stage tonight that may stay with us for a while. Perfect for these times.

The stage looks gorgeous – like a giant double picture frame – no props are visible. They are stashed in various places, ready to pop up on stage, as if my magic. There are a lot of actors, some of whom I haven’t seen before at the RTC. Wait a minute – how did director Frank Caiati get Mia Farrow looking 40 years younger out to Rockaway to play Daisy? And all those other gorgeous women dressed in 1920s garb? And those handsome guys looking like they were dropped out of a time machine right onto the RTC stage? I want to take some photos but Franky won’t let me. He wants to save the delicious surprises and allow for the magic of transportation back a century for  the audiences who come out for the nine performances beginning this Friday September 20 and running for three weekends. (Tickets - https://www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org/2019)

I can’t stay long and I don’t want to miss the excitement of watching the play unfold on opening night. And I have to get home to watch the Jets get slaughtered by Cleveland and the Mets continue what may turn out to be a heroic but futile try for the playoffs. Yankees are off tonight – thank goodness or I would be going nuts. (Hint: my tablet has the Fios APP and I can watch TV and I can watch the debacle of both games.) So I leave after 10 minutes and come home to find the Jets lose their backup quarterback early on and are on third string and losing 16-3 at halftime. And Mets’ pitcher Steven Matz loses a 4-1 lead by giving up 6 runs in the 4th inning. Think I’ll find a movie – maybe one of the three versions of The Great Gatsby from 1949 or 1974 or 2013  – or maybe go searching to see if I didn’t lose my college copy of the book in the hurricane. Come to think of it, Gatsby, given the outcome, could have fit right in with the Mets or Jets, who should have signed Nick Carroway to play quarterback.

Norm posts all his RTC and School Scope articles on his blog, ednotesonline.com.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Memo from the RTC: Gatsby Opens September 20 for Three Weekend Run

Memo from the RTC:  Gatsby Opens September 20 for Three Weekend Run
By Norm Scott

“I didn’t even know there was a Great Gatsby play” is the usual response from people who read the book and saw the movies from 1974 and 2013. I didn’t either and after re-watching the ’74 Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version I had difficulty imagining how the elaborate houses and parties might be staged especially on such a relatively small stage we have at the Rockaway Theatre Company Fort Tilden location. But manage it they did, though I still haven’t been to a rehearsal to see what director Frank Caiati and Assistant Director John Panepinto have done with the top level cast. I hope you read the wonderful interviews The WAVE’s Fionnuala O’Leary did with both of them – John’s was in the paper last week. And look for more as she has a whole list of RTC people to interview. (And what a great job The WAVE is doing promoting the theater. Word is that they bought 50 tickets for a Newsie performance for the advertisers and staff, one of whom told me this was her first show and that she had gone in expecting a typical high school type show but got Broadway instead. She will be back frequently she said.

Last week I wrote about Franky and John’s interview with Insectavora on “The Nothing Podcast With Nobody Important.” Fireeater Insectavora, also known for her distinctive facial and body tattoos, was their most recent subject and you can hear this fabulous interview at: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-fire-eater-a-rough-thing-to-be-awful-at/id1465000037?i=1000448439115. Hers is quite the story.

RTC Master Builder Tony Homsey (wait until you see that yellow Gatsby car old sport) and I were silent witnesses to that interview held at Coney Island USA (1208 Surf Avenue - https://www.coneyisland.com/programs/coney-island-circus-sideshow) which not only hosts the Coney Island freak show but also magic shows every Sunday at noon and is also a museum of Coney Island history and lore – oh to see those Steeple Chase horses again. We went back on a Sunday a few weeks later to see the magic and the freak show as we watched a woman walking barefoot on swords and Insectavora eat fire and make a drawing using a nail she pushed all the way up her nose. The paintings were offered for sale after the show and I know of one hanging on a wall in the Rockaways but if I tell you where I’ll have to kill you.

Norm posts all his RTC and School Scope articles on his blog, ednotesonline.com.

Friday, September 13, 2019

School Scope: Will NYC Students Join Global Climate Walkout?

Since I wrote this on Tuesday, the DOE has announced that students will be excused to attend the rally.

School Scope

Will NYC Students Join Global Climate Walkout?


Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg blew into town and is making waves over the threats from climate change and leading a global strike on Friday, Sept. 20 with a rally and march starting at noon at Foley Square in lower Manhattan. If the word has caught on, we may see disruptions in schools where there are student leaders promoting a walkout. It will be interesting to see if students in Rockaway, one of the more endangered areas of the city by climate change, take part. Let me know if you hear of anything brewing.

Author Jonathan Franzen in this week’s The New Yorker says that the people fighting climate change are in essence misleading us just as much as the Republican deniers – giving us hope that we still have a chance. Greta is offering hope but he thinks we should be preparing for the consequences. He points out that “we’ve made essentially no progress toward reaching [the target of keeping below 2 degrees Centigrade]. Today, the scientific evidence verges on irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.” Phew! I’m out of that zone and have no direct descendants to worry about. But if I did—- well, I do wonder about the proud Republican parents in Rockaway, one of the first places to go in what Franzen calls The Climate Apocalypse.

I wonder how one would teach children about climate change and risk scaring them to the extent we children of the 50s were frightened about the coming nuclear wars by hiding under our school desks during drills?
In the good news department, I attended the Labor Day Parade celebrating unionism on the first Saturday after Labor Day. It was thrilling to see the streets thronged with thousands of unionists proudly wearing their teeshirts. Construction workers and teachers marching together. I of course marched with the UFT contingent and didn’t get much of a chance to engage people from other unions. Given that there are about 200 thousand UFT members, 99 percent stayed home and those who showed were among the most committed. Yes, there is a gap between what I call the 1 percent committed and the rest and closing this gap should be a goal of UFT leaders, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Unionists from both sides of the political divide were marching together. Even the divide between UFT members and their bosses in the Council of Supervisor Associates (CSA) – the principals and assistant principals. Former CSA leader Ernie Logan was the Grand Marshal of a Labor Day parade? The very same people who have made so many teacher lives miserable? How we are all unionists when one is the boss is beyond me. But the UFT leaders often use “we are all unionists” as a reason not to attack mad dog principals.

Norm is a mad dog when he blogs at ednotesonline.com

Leonie Haimson and Carol Burris TALK OUT OF SCHOOL

Leonie and Carol on the radio every week. Here's their first show: Listen here: https://www.wbai.org/archive/program/episode/?id=5601

  • Student privacy and school diversity proposals. -
Synopsis: Co-hosts Leonie Haimson and Carol Burris discussed the latest education news of the day, including the proposed student privacy regulations that would allow school vendors like the College Board to sell personal student data and use it for commercial purposes. More on this below, including how to submit your comments to the State Education Department.
Then they interviewed NYC parent Shino Tanikawa of the School Diversity Advisory Group and high school students Tiffany Torres and Alex Rodriguez of Teens Take Charge about the proposals to increase integration in NYC public schools by eliminating gifted programs in elementary schools and to stop screening middle schools by means of academic factors.

Also below is a link to the latest proposals of the School Diversity Advisory Group.
  • NYC parent Shino Tanikawa of the School Diversity Advisory Group and high school students Tiffany Torres and Alex Rodriguez of Teens Take Charge. -
Info / Links:


Air Date & Time: Wed, Sep 18, 2019 10:00 AM
Hosted by: Leonie Haimson + Carol Burris

Leonie Haimson
Carol Burris
Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters, which the NY Times has called the“city’s leading proponent of smaller classes.” The organization is dedicated to providing information on the significant and wide-ranging benefits of smaller classes, particularly for at-risk children, to boost student learning, engagement, and graduation rates, and lower disciplinary referrals.
Leonie was a public school parent for 15 years. She received the John Dewey award from the United Federation of Teachers in 2007, was named one of NYC’s “family heroes” by NYC Family Magazine in 2009, and was honored as an “Extraordinary Advocate for our Children” by Advocates for Justice in 2012.
In 2014, she received the “Parent Voice” award from Parents Across America for her work on protecting student privacy and leading the success battle against inBloom, the Gates-funded student data collection company. In 2015, she was named one of the ten most influential people in education technology by Tech and Learning Magazine.
She co-founded and co-chairs the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy [PCSP], which has released two toolkits, one for parents and one for educators , on how to better protect student privacy. The Coalition has also been invited to testify before Congress twice in recent years on how federal student privacy law should be strengthened. Leonie also sits on the board of the Network for Public Education.
She has appeared onCNN,Fox News,MSNBC,Good Day NY,WNBC News,National Public Radio, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now,NY1,Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV and numerous other television and radio shows. She has written for theNY Times,the Nation,Education Week,Washington Post,the Indypendent,SchoolBook,Huffington Post,Chalkbeat,In These Times,Gotham Gazette,City and State, and other publications. She blogs at the NYC Public School Parents ..

Carol Burris is the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education, a national organization dedicated support and improve public education. Carol served as principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre NY from 2000 to 2015.
Prior to joining Rockville Centre, she was a teacher of Spanish at the middle and high school levels in Lawrence, New York. She received her doctorate from Teachers College in 2003. Her dissertation won the NASSP dissertation of the year award. In 2010, she was recognized by New York School Administrators Association as their Outstanding Educator of the Year, and in 2013 she was again recognized by NASSP as the New York State High School Principal of the Year. In 2018, she was honored as the Outstanding Friend of Public Education by the Horace Mann League.
Carol has co-authored two books on educational equity, and her third book, On the Same Track: How Schools Can Join the 21 st Century Struggle against Re-Segregation, is available from Beacon Press. She is the author or co-author of numerous journal articles on educational equity, and she has served as an expert witness of school desegregation for the U.S. Department of Justice. Carol is a frequent guest blogger for the Answersheet of the Washington Post.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I Went to the Labor Day Parade, UFT First Ex Bd Meeting with New Board - UPDATED

It was nice to see labor unions making a show. For organizing purposes a lot more could be done. Every union was isolated and the march just dissipated. A mass rally might have more impact. It was funny but when we passed Trump Tower there was little reaction.
Despite trying to disengage from the UFT scene since I gave up on MORE and caucus building I can't seem to manage getting it out of my blood.

I attended two UFT official events over the past few days plus

I had not been going to Labor Day marches until last year when post-Janus I felt there had to be some showing of support for unions. And I went back this past Saturday. Last year and this year the UFT was having a post-march barbecue and I never miss a food event. I had a good time and it was a good feeling to see so many unionists from so many different unions gather together, all wearing their tee shirts identifying their union - except the UFT which gave out umbrellas. It is more powerful to have every union with their tees. The CSA all had on their tees and marched in front of  us.

I saw many familiar faces at the parade, mostly those I see at regular UFT events. Many Unity Caucus foot soldiers who are probably expected to show up.

It is funny how over the years the activists in the union an all sides have something in common that separates them from the overwhelming majority of UFT members -- a common bond. I see that when I go to AFT conventions -- the same people. We get along fairly well on the whole. I see no reason to engage in attacks on people I may disagree with. It is what unites the Unity Caucus and their critics - about a 1000-1500 in a union of 200 thousand members. Add the chapter leaders who mostly do the work in their own schools but don't take part in union events and it could be over 2000 people serious about union work. But most likely less.

I call it the 1% of the union. And if the day comes when that interest level rises to even 10% we will have a very different union.

I did hang out with some of my compadres - former MOREs - which is pretty funny- there were more former MOREs by far than current MORES - I saw only two handing out Bernie leaflets. I walked with Mike Shulman from New Action, Arthur Goldstein, Patrick Walsh, Bruce Markens, Ellen Fox, Lisa North, Gloria Brandman and a few others - people who  rubbed shoulders with in MORE.

Unity people I knew were very warm and friendly, particularly toward Arthur. I think they see his and Mike and Mindy's (she was still recovering from back surgery) running with Unity as a big victory for them -- an affirmation to them of sorts that they have been on the right track and their critics wrong. Given the vacuum out there and the uselessness of trying to build an opposition, I can see how easy it is to fall into the pull of their gravity. There are union activities and for those who want to do union work where else is there to go? Spend your life trying to build a caucus instead of finding more fruitful things to do?

I saw Jamal Bowman who is primarying Eliot Engel for Congress in the Bronx and his crew who are young and active. He is supported by the AOC backers. I told Jamal not to expect UFT support as they would back Atila the Hun if he was an incumbent but did suggest they come to Delegate Assemblies to distribute lit and maybe finds some volunteers. They have until next June. I am thinking of working in a primary campaign for Lauren Ashcraft who is running against Caroline McCarthy in Manhattan/Queens. I met her and her campaign manager at a Bernie debate watch party and she is seeking Justice Democrat support. I should have told them to come to the parade.

There were few spectators, right winger Curtis Sliwa among them - he gave me his card. I heard him on the radio on Monday talk about the thousands of marchers but how few spectators. Why would you watch this parade and not march if you are a supporter of unions? I think only tourists might be interested. However, given the number of union members our turnout was only a smidgen. It definitely seemed like less than last year. Good, more barbecue for me.

On the way to the barbecue I did notice how the CSA crowd all gathered in a restaurant to drink to their happiness at being considered a union despite how they screw other unionists while the UFT treats them with kid gloves. 

On Monday afternoon I was sitting in my garden smoking my pipe and reading and trying to decide whether to shlep into the city for the first UFT Ex Bd of the year. The fact that I did so has more to do with enjoying the social relationships I've developed than with union policy. I like seeing people and chatting. And of course they feed any UFT member who attends.

It was sort of sad as the New Action crew is no longer there. We all used to meet at 5 to talk about stuff. With no one on the board they don't see it worth going. I don't either and probably will go much less often than in the past. 

With the retirement of Howie Schoor, this was the first meeting Leroy Barr was running. On Saturday I asked Howie how we could live without him and he wondered if Leroy would be funnier than him. I told Howie I was going to compare Leroy's food with his. Leroy hit a big one with steak, chicken and salmon plus eggplant. Not bad. No macadamia cookies however.

Leroy tried to be funny too. Actually, he seemed a bit nervous since this was a brand new ex bd -- younger, more diverse. I like Leroy personally even though we've had some spats over the years. He is clearly one of the people in line to succeed Mulgrew one day though given that 75% of UFT members are women there might be some push back. Insiders say that there are some internal differences over policy inside the top leadership - nothing serious enough to make a difference. I don't have enough info to go into more detail.

Leroy ran the meeting efficiently - will he have the same patience Howie seemed to have to give people some room? I hope he will be as flexible as Howie.

He had to wait a bit for Mulgrew to show and give his report. Mulgrew also seemed a bit nervous -- he tried to pull some enthusiasm from the audience and they weren't giving much. These are his core people. I think hard liquor at these meetings would get him a better response.

As for what was discussed at the meeting, I was too busy eating, though I took some notes between bites. The UFT may not always be there for everyone who needs help with their school issues but it does try to put on a show about its humanitarian work.

I took some notes and I'd tell you more but I'd have to go look for them and I'm lazy, so why not just leave it to Arthur to tell you what happened at the EB? [Next meeting Monday Sept. 23 at 6PM. Looking forward to some pina coladasand filet mignon.]

UFT Executive Board September 9, 2019--UFT Supports Dorian Victims, Census, Trump Victims and More -


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Critique of Rank and File Strategy/ Kim Moody/ Solidarity - DSA Build Caucus

There are a lot of ideas buried inside the article below and my commentary where I try to make connections to where things have been and may be going inside the UFT union movement and will be doing a followup using the articles on so-called the rank and file strategy which is what MORE Caucus has and will be operating under. But I will have more to say at another time.

By the way, I'm heading over to the Labor Day parade up 5th Ave today followed by a UFT sponsored barbecue, which is our union leadership's version of a rank and file strategy -- faux organizing by feeding them.
the Rank and File is a strategy document for a socialist organization dedicated to raising class consciousness and building a mass movement. The document is not only relevant to would-be vanguard parties, but also to organizing socialists as a whole....
“Industrialization” was not unique to Solidarity[the Labor Notes Trotskyist org not the caucus]. Many socialist and communist groups (especially those like Solidarity in the Trotskyist tradition) tried throughout the 70s-90s and largely failed. Industrialization sought to place members of socialist organizations into industrial jobs. The goal was twofold: first, to move away from middle-class, college-educated, and counter-cultural recruitment and reorient towards a blue-collar working class. Second, to agitate amongst workers for a radical movement against the bosses and the conservative, bureaucratic unions who protected them. Industrialization was a failure. Employers screened out degreed applicants and long hairs. Those who got hired had trouble recruiting for a revolutionary party when workers’ political horizon shortened, caught up in defensive struggles over pay and pensions.... 
   ... Build/DSA,  https://dsabuild.org/rank-and-file-analysis
The 1% in the UFT - the activists on both sides
The landscape within the UFT for the inside players in the union leadership and in the opposition - the 1% of the UFT - has gone through some changes over the past three years, though to the 99% of the rank and file these changes are irrelevant and if they were aware, somewhat of a joke. And I admit I am part of the joke due to my obsessions as part of the 1% for 49 of my 52 year membership in the UFT.

I've been trying to sort issues out from an academic and organizing perspective within the context of my own history of activism in the UFT which has been my personal focus for the past two and a half decades plus the decade of the 70s. While the experience in MORE has given me insights into the various political forces that operate in unions, I still see many of the ideas worth examining, and not automatically reject them as some colleagues who left or were pushed out of MORE have done. The recent influx of teachers from the Democratic Socialists into MORE could be a new dynamic in the UFT - or not. But I am focusing my attention on this dynamic and also on those who are pushing back against it.

MORE has adopted the rank and file strategy for whatever that means inside the UFT (which was used as an artificial divide in MORE to push out people - especially the ICEUFT who were charged with not supporting the rank and file strategy - which was not true -- ICE didn't support using suspensions and turning over democracy in its implementation.

But there were questions to be raised and I actually tried when I pointed out that the old defunct TJC caucus failed with the same strategy which is an imported strategy not organically grown inside the UFT.

And it is always interesting to watch how a strategy hatched outside the context of our particular union is adapted to our unique situation of being in a union with a massive membership and with a leadership in its most dominant position in 25 years, partly due to either the inherent weaknesses in the rank and file strategy or MORE's incompetent implementation - with the recent failed election strategy being a key - like alienating the non-DSA connected opposition in the UFT is not a violation of the rank and file strategy. But I leave it to interested readers to explore further.

I posted an article on the Rank and File Strategy by Barry Eidlin a key player in the Labor Notes/ Solidarity vapor. And you should read it
A sort of counter group in DSA to Bread and Roses seems to be Build

Th article below takes a more critical look at the Rank and File Strategy, which seems to be the working plan in MORE. Rather than break down the Bread and Roses article and this one, I'm posting it without further comment but will take a closer look at segments in follow-ups. The key for me is how it touches on the politics and organizations that have been active in segments of opposition groups in the UFT over the past 50 years. As Arnold said, I vill be back to dig deeper.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Was Jeffrey Epstein Protected Because He Was an Agent of CIA Blackmail?

I read in today's NY Times that there will be a podcast on the Epstein story. So far reporting has been about the young girls and clearly this was a major focus of Epstein's actions. But is there more to the story? Like was he using a form of kompromat to gain leverage on people by getting photos and tape on them? I think there was a pretty good chance he did. But the big question is "was it only for personal gain or was Epstein working for the CIA and the Israeli spy agency?

This long a sordid story from Mintpress points things in that direction. But I no longer trust anything I read so don't just buy everything this talks about - the focus is on Clinton/Epstein but also includes people from both parties. I put up stories for wider consumption to get comments but don't just buy everything. Filter, filter, filter.

There are critics of Mintpress and then there are critics of those critics. (They wrote that it was Syrian rebels not Assad who did that chemical attack). It is left-leaning so don't think this is a right wing attack on the Clintons. Google them to read pros and cons. The same author of this piece also wrote this:

How a Group of Pro-Israel Activists Blacklisted MintPress on Wikipedia

Oy! But this is riveting as it points to Clintons (both of them)/Epstein connections going back to the 80s when Clinton was governor.

While this network has long been able to ensure its success through the use of sexual blackmail, often acquired by the unconscionable exploitation of children, it has also been a driving force behind many other ills that plague our world and it goes far beyond human and child trafficking. Indeed, many of the figures in this same sordid web have played a major role in the illicit drug and weapons trades, the expansion of for-profit prisons, and the endless wars that have claimed an untold number of lives across the world, all the while enriching many of these same individuals.
There is no denying that such a network is “too big to fail.” Yet, fail it must — otherwise this decades-long cycle of abuse, murder and fraud will continue unabated, destroying and taking even more lives in the process."..... From “Spook Air” to the “Lolita Express”: The Genesis and Evolution of the Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton Relationship

Far from being the work of a single political party, intelligence agency or country, the power structure revealed by the network connected to Epstein is nothing less than a criminal enterprise that is willing to use and abuse children in the pursuit of ever more power, wealth and control.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

School Scope: Off the beach and back to school for you, but not for me

Posted to The WAVE for publication Sept. 6, 2019.

School Scope: Off the beach and back to school for you, but not for me
By Norm Scott

Before I begin, kudos to the excellent WAVE editor/reporter Ralph Mancini who left us for a new career on the west coast. Best of luck Ralph.

I got a call from a teacher friend who reminded me it was the first day back to school. I looked out the door and my block was filling up with teachers parking their cars. It’s seventeen years since I retired from teaching and I’ve conquered those butterflies of going back after the freedom of over 60 days off. I’ll leave it to the mathematicians to figure out how many consecutive days I’ve had off since retirement. I never minded going back because I liked being in a school. My problem was the loss of freedom and how all the things I wanted to do in the summer never got done. Many of them have still not gotten done in seventeen years. I made my friend, who has a year old toddler and that made it even harder for him to leave home, feel better by reminding him he only has 184 school days to go till next summer.

I haven’t lost my interest in education issues, as you can see by the existence of this School Scope column which I took over from the great Howie Schwach in 2003 when he retired from teaching to become the editor of The WAVE. (I used to buy The WAVE for Schwach’s writings on education and school policy and was often on the same wavelength.)

A Sept. 3 NY Times editorial led with: “Diversifying New York’s Schools: New York’s schools are among the most racially segregated in the country.” We’ve been buying that trope forever. Blogger Bob Somerby (dailyhowler.blogspot.com) pushed back and attempted to trace the source of this claim. He posted the % of white kids in major cities and almost all of them have much lower percentages (Los Angeles: 9%, Chicago: 9%, Miami/Dade County: 6.7%, Dallas: 5.1%, Houston: 8.9%, San Antonio: 2%) which counters the trope. As usual, I am torn on the issue, examining all sides with an open mind, thus leaving me paralyzed. How nice it would be to be able to take a simple and firm position, even when facts get in the way.

The big back to school story was that a panel appointed by de Blasio recommended the elimination of, or at the very least, major modifications in gifted and talented (G&T) programs, which ties into the controversies over the tests for the specialized high schools, the SSHAT, which I wrote about over the past few weeks. There is too much context to get into in this limited space but check my blog where I go deep.

One of the major problems I faced as a teacher, and currently in general discussions with people on just about any topic was/is providing context – digging deep down to the roots. Like teaching of evolution to children who came from religious homes, though I think I only got pushback from one parent. New ideas have emerged, only firming up the legitimacy of the theory. I used to enjoy having discussions about evolution with the earnest Jehovah Witnesses standing at my door with their pamphlets that “disproved” evolution. Evolution is only a “theory” and so is creationism and therefore the two theories are equivalent and both should be taught, they would say, though I question how evolution is taught, if at all, in religious schools. They weren’t convincing me and I wasn’t convincing them so we didn’t get very far, though when I wanted to be snarky I brought up the theories of a round and a flat earth and whether they should be taught that way. All I’d need to do is flatten a globe and present it as proof of a flat earth.

Norm aims to reach the edge of the world at ednotesonline.com.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Daily Howler on Elimination of G&T - Trashes NYT coverage, How WIll teachers teach?

....are the people on this panel really "education experts?" Or are they possibly just liberal/progressive bubble-dwellers, like those in the other tribe? The membership of this high-level collection of experts can be perused at this link. At a glance, they don't necessarily look like a group of "education experts" to us. At a glance, that includes several members of the panel's five-person Executive Committee. This doesn't necessarily mean that the panel's proposals are bad. It tells us something about the way modern "elites" pander to one another. According to Shapiro's report, this panel has apparently recommended "doing away" with "all elementary school gifted programs."Really? The New York City Public Schools should "stop most grouping by academic ability," even as it eliminates "all elementary school gifted programs?" Can that possibly be what these experts have recommended?

We ask the question because we spent a number of years in Baltimore's public school classrooms. During that time, we learned that fifth-graders are not all alike. .... Daily Howler
It's always interesting to hear The Howler who actually did teach in poverty schools in Baltimore for a decade. I didn't just jump on board and yell "Yippie" as most of my progressive friends are doing when I heard about this. Behind the scenes even progressives I know have doubts. But I do think that the G&T programs have been a joke - like you can tell about a 4 or 5 year old. Or even later. And the numbers of kids of color denied is ridiculous -- I met enormously talented kids of color in my own school.

Everyone seems to agree there will be white flight but feel these changes are crucial - a "so what" view of things. I think it will go further than that and will give new life to the charter movement and we will see more powerful forces calling for lifting the charter cap - charters won't be held accountable of they are segregated. In fact I believe that the elimination of homogeneous grouping has spurred many parents of kids of color to get away from classes that put their kids with kids who are struggling academically and behavior wise. I taught top classes and bottom classes and believe me - all poor to some extent and parents of color - but there were major differences in these families - the somewhat poor, the poor and the very poor. The top classes based on reading ability were the G&T on most schools.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

"In Search of a Russiagate Scalp: The Entrapment of Maria Butina" John Kiriakou

she met and began dating Patrick Byrne, the founder and CEO of Overstock.com. We learned recently, thanks to Byrne himself, that he was a longtime FBI source and that the FBI directed him to begin dating Butina. He did so. And he reported back to the FBI that she was simply a graduate student. That wasn’t good enough for the FBI, though and, according to Byrne, he was instructed to go back to Butina, to begin a sexual relationship with her, and to again report back to the FBI. He did that, too.
In the end, the Justice Department accused her publicly of “trading sexual favors” for access, an accusation that prosecutors had to withdraw. It was patently untrue... Consortium News
Sean Ahern sent this story to the list serve and I'm publishing  - is some truth in the claims about fake news - I prefer to call it misleading news that leaves out info or distorts it? Maybe. Maybe not.
But then again do we believe this version is accurate and not coming from undercover Trump defenders? Fact is that many people on the left never believed the Russia stuff which liberals jumped on to justify the Hillary loss. Here are some other articles to check out about Patrick Byrnes.

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/08/overstock-ceo-patrick-byrnes-odd-fling-with-maria-butina.html. And another from the Daily Beast:

Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne Claims Maria Butina Offered to Arrange One-on-One for Him With Putin

See below the article for the NY Times coverage. It's hard to figure out what to believe and we need to apply this to - well- almost everything.

Maybe we are all living in the figment of someone's imagination. But I'm learning to check out the publications and came up with this on

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

School Scope for Aug 30: Bits ‘n Pieces


School Scope:  Bits ‘n Pieces
By Norm Scott

I got a call from Gail at Fios that my monthly bill was going up but the good news was that for about the same cost I could have five premium movie channels I will barely watch instead of the three I currently have that I don’t watch. I told her my problem was that with Netflix I had so many choices I often wasted so much time trying to choose I ended up just watching the Yankee or Mets game. I took the deal anyway because I can’t resist a “bargain.”

So, as I come to what will be the final School Scope of the summer, I face the same problem: I have so much to write about I can’t choose. So I’ll take a brief shot at a few of them and leave it to interested readers to follow up.

My last two columns were about the test that some elite NYC high schools use as sole admission. While I don’t support the entire structure behind standardized tests and all the baggage they bring to the educational table, I won’t take the position at this time that they shouldn’t count at all – just that other factors should be taken into account, including creating a diversified school environment for all students which will benefit everyone. That means having some flexibility so that if a student scores a one point below another don’t assume that the other student is one point smarter. I scored very well on standardized tests to become a teacher but certainly wasn’t a better teacher than colleagues who scored much lower (our scores were posted on the seniority lists and some of the best teachers had the lowest scores). In other words, don’t take a narrow view of the concept of merit. Speaking of which…

Teacher Merit Pay Dies in Newark and Denver
We heard this summer of the death of the much vaunted merit pay for teachers in Denver and Newark pushed by the ed deformers with a lot of help from former UFT and current AFT President Randi Weingarten which negates the charge that it was the teacher unions that killed them. For years Randi campaigned for teachers in numerous cities to accept contracts with merit pay. At the time I termed that “Randi’s Sellout Tour.” In Newark, then mayor Cory Booker took the $100 million bucks Mark Zuckerman gave him and wasted it on this and other scams. Good riddance hopefully to him as a serious candidate and to merit pay. While capitalism may teach a logic that these schemes should work, the reality is that they don’t work in education and cause harm because the only way to judge “merit” is based on student test scores. I knew every trick in the book on how to inflate test scores and could have been a rich teacher. I know there are many rabid capitalists out there who doubt me and consider the way teachers are paid based on years served as socialism. Of course police, fire, sanitation and just about every other public worker don’t work on merit pay. Go out and do some research.

Speaking of capitalism and socialism, I’ve been doing a little bit of thinking given that this is the first time that the concept of socialism is being discussed in a serious way since the 1930s. Polls show that over 40% of young people think favorably of socialism, which has caused panic among right wingers and Republicans, which pretty much boils down to the same thing. Witness last week’s distorted and hysteria-filled (and hilarious) letter to The WAVE attacking socialists and branding Democrats as socialists. As if here are no failed capitalist systems. But that is the way Republicans think so I don’t hold it against them. The reality is that the leadership of the Democratic Party are just as nervous over the insurrection from the left in the party they have owned which is why they are pushing Biden. There is much confusion over what exactly “socialism” means and I was using this column to explore the differences last summer. I get the feeling that The WAVE doesn’t want too much talk on that issue so check out my blog for that discussion.

When you examine the presidential candidates considered most “left” (despite polls showing their ideas have a lot of public support, Sanders and Warren, there are differences. Bernie has always been a socialist and brands himself as a democratic socialist, which means bringing elements of socialism through democratic means by convincing enough people that society needs a serious makeover. Warren proudly calls herself pro-capitalism, as long as it is not allowed to run amuck with the “greed is good even of we have to burn down the Brazilian rain forest and make the earth inhabitable one day” crowd.

Norm burns with ambition – to blog at ednotesonline.com.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

School Scope: Those SHSAT Tests, Part 2

Published in The WAVE: WWW.Rockawave.com - August 23, 2019

School Scope:  Those SHSAT Tests, Part 2
By Norm Scott

Debates over the controversial SHSAT special high school admission tests has roiled the local education world and has driven a rift between the Asian and Black/Latinx communities. State law forces the city to use only the SHSAT despite de Blasio’s attempts to have it changed. Let me state right up front: I am opposed to using a standardized test as a sole criteria for admission to specialized high schools for a number of reasons, which I will get into in a follow-up column. (For SHSAT news - https://shsatsunset.org.)

In a previous column (Those SHSAT Tests Part 1 https://www.rockawave.com/articles/school-scope-315). I wrote about my experiences prepping for tests in the late 1950s/early 60s for Brooklyn Tech (which I didn’t get in) and the NY State Scholarship exams in my junior and senior high schools (where I was successful). I described my evolution in learning how to take tests between the disaster in the 8th grade where time was called with 65% of the test completed and 12th grade where I had mastered test time management. Both times I had been well-prepared to answer the questions but the test prep my schools offered did not address the “how to take a test” issue. I pointed to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast that addressed test taking using the LSAT (law school admissions) as an example. Gladwell referred to a tortoise and hare concept of test taking and how time limits favor hares whereas tortoises who take a slow and steady course bring skills to the table that hares may lack. (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/revisionist-history/.)

What if the SHSAT were not timed? Would some tortoises pick up enough right answers to get into the specialized schools? A for-profit web site actually has a guide on how to apply for extra time on the SHSAT, a legitimate exercise for students with IEPs, but something that has been abused for SAT’s and other tests, as pointed out in this March 14, 2019 NYT piece:

Is the College Cheating Scandal the ‘Final Straw’ for Standardized Tests?
“For parents desperate to boost their children’s SAT or ACT scores, the test preparation company Student-Tutor offered an enticing solution: claim a learning disability and qualify for extra time. “This time advantage can help raise their scores significantly!” the website blared. “Some students have even reported raising their score by as much as 350+ points!” This week’s college admissions scandal provided an instruction manual for gaming the SAT: bribe the proctor, hire a stand-in, see the right psychologist to get a signoff for more time.
college admissions experts said that in some communities, it is well known which psychologists will provide paperwork attesting to disabilities like A.D.H.D. — for thousands of dollars. “Parents have figured out that this is a freebie,” said Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, a special education lawyer. ‘This was a scandal waiting to happen’.”

The NYC Marathon has no time limits and when I used to volunteer there were people coming in late in the evening. We often hear this said about many aspects of life – even applying to the baseball season: it is a marathon, not a sprint. Should this concept be applied to standardized tests? What if we totally removed time limits? I see the good, bad and ugly to that. I could see myself spending hours on a question that stumped me once freed from the time limits.

I went from a tortoise when I took the Tech test in 1958 to a hare when I received a NY State scholarship in 1962. But was I any smarter other than having figured out how to use limited time on tests to my advantage? Well, I did figure out how to manage a test. I learned to take the number of questions and divide it into the amount of minutes I had and to set up sign posts as to where I should be at different times. Thus on a 50 question test in 60 minutes I had a little over a minute for each question. My strategy was to run through the test answering all the quickie questions to gain time, putting a little dash next to those questions that looked solvable with a little more time – I would go back after knocking off the easy ones. The ones that seemed hardest got a dot, so they could be attacked with the balance of time. The aim was to come down to two options and guess, giving me a 50-50 chance even on the hardest questions. If half the test were in the hardest category, that was a sign to just go home.

Norm takes unlimited time when he blogs at ednotesonline.com.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

DSA, the Rank-and-File Strategy, and Organizing the Unorganized

Any serious effort at building a powerful socialist movement in the U.S. will have to involve transforming existing unions and dramatically expanding their ranks.... Barry Eidlin 
There's a lot that bothers me in this article when applied to the UFT but my brain can't organize my thoughts well enough to address them here. The idea of going into teaching with the higher purpose of pushing socialist ideas is somehow bothersome. Some of the best organizers I've seen came out of the UFT not based on political aims but out of the experience of teaching and the conditions in the schools and the UFT and that is what turned them towards more general progressive politics.

There are people in the UFT confused about the strategy within MORE Caucus around the idea of not running in elections to win.

I'm putting this up as a way to go deeper on the issue raised in Politico which bloggers in the UFT commented on (links included in my post: Politico's Big Joke: MORE Wants to take over UFT - by not wanting to win Elections.)

The local DSA labor group, which includes the faction in control of MORE, is part of the group and the Rank and file strategy (RFS) which comes out of the Labor Notes/ISO/Solidarity faction on the left is making this the heart of their organizing efforts. This is a 20 year old idea and author Barry Eidlin is part of the Labor Notes wing. RFS on the surface makes sense for lots of unions but when it comes to the UFT the MOREs live in a reality distortion field, choosing to follow a formula rather than their own experiences - or those of other activists in the UFT like the more experienced people in ICEUFT that MORE purged.

One of the keys to the RFS is to avoid taking union jobs  - and in MORE, taking positions on the Ex bd seems to fall into that category. Though actually winning elections like in Chicago and LA and Baltimore is something I have not teased out of the RFS.

Eidlin is providing a framework for DSA people who go into unions. In all the Labor Notes training I took - which by the way many of what's left in MORE also took but given the results the training didn't take in terms of organizing the rank and file -- MORE is pretty much filled with their version of "activists" - people who have longer term goals than taking over the UFT.

My version of an activists is someone like Unity Must Go who took in the job of chapter leader and supported push backs to Unity. MORE is not interested in this class of activist.

I'll try to get deeper into issues raised here and also post some critical views of the RFS -- from within DSA from the Build Caucus which seems to push back against Bread and Roses Caucus of which Eidlin is a supporter.


DSA, the Rank-and-File Strategy, and Organizing the Unorganized

Dystopian fiction? Lunacy? They won’t need us...We’ll be a problem. The solution: climate change will kill some, the bots will deal with the rest.

To elites, we are tools at best, useless eaters at worse. They are trained to look at us and figure out how much value they can extract: as consumers, workers, voters and soldiers. Then they extract the value, and if some of us wind up dead, or homeless or sick or crippled, well, they don’t lose one second of sleep over it. Because to them, we aren’t people. The great problem of being a member of an elite is keeping the Praetorian guard happy: which doesn’t just mean the core soldiers and cops but the key retainers who execute policy at the highest level. The next great problem is the mob: the tools and useless eaters sometimes get uppity, and revolt and you need to be sure you can put them down: hence the Praetorian guard.
But they’re working on this problem..... Ian Welsh

Another interesting find from Michael Fiorillo. I've been thinking along these lines since one of my favorite movies, the 1984 The Terminator. which other than the time travel stuff has some serious elements of the future. You know the drill. Skynet takes over and decides humans are not needed. Here Ian Welsh speculates on why climate change dangers are ignored by most of the ruling class: They have the means to protect themselves. Take Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos - why put so much wealth into space? That's their or their heirs' escape routes.


Our Leaders Kill For Their Own Benefit

2019 August 20
by Ian Welsh

Big Brother Award

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Merit pay Dies in Newark But don't forget Weingarten Role in Getting it passed in the first place

Mr. Christie and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten hailed the contract as a model for cooperation that teachers union locals across the country should emulate.... Wall Street Journal, 2012

Merit pay was the heart of a ‘revolutionary’ teachers contract in Newark. Now the Cory Booker-era policy is disappearing.


Arthur has a post on this story today: Long Discredited, Merit Pay Dies in Newark. 
As does Ravitch: Newark Wipes Out Performance Pay for Teachers

Neither mention the role union leaders played. You can't understand the merit pay issue without understanding the complicity of our union leaders with Randi Weingarten leading the parade.

In fact the break in my quasi-support for Randi came in 2001 over her support for merit pay and I tried to bring a resolution to the DA calling in us to oppose all forms of merit pay and for the first time I couldn't get the floor for months.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weingarten Negotiates Another Sell-Out in Newark, NEW Caucus Says "VOTE NO"