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 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. 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

Sunday, August 25, 2019

School Scope: Those SHSAT Tests, Part 2

Published in The WAVE: - 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 -

In a previous column (Those SHSAT Tests Part 1 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. (

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

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"

Monday, August 19, 2019

President of Puerto Rico Teacher Union Resigns Over Conflict of Interest

There's a long history of the relationship between the various versions of the Puerto Rico Teachers Union over the past 15 years. There are two versions - the FMPR - the left - which pulled the PR union out of the AFT over a decade ago -- we covered that story extensively and over the years Ed Notes has been a political supported of the leaders of the FMPR through my old UFT colleague and pal, Angel Gonzalez.

Naturally Randi was vexed by the FMPR which came under severe attacks by the government of PR - and eventually was decertified which opened the door for the Randi/AFT friendly AMPR to become the official union in PR, a story we also covered extensively.

For links just search Ed Notes for FMPR -- there are probably dozens of articles. Here is one I posted 
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MORE Supports Puerto Rican Teachers Union, Links to Backstory

Angel Gonzalez (left ), Lisa North, FMPR Pres. Rafael Feliciano at forum c. 2011
ICE, GEM and now MORE have been supporting the FMPR for over a decade, since they bolted from the AFT - they sued but lost and the FMPR won and withdrew 40,000 AFT members.We established contact with the FMPR through NYC teacher Angel Gonzalez who worked with ICE and then helped found GEM. His good friend, FMPR President Rafael Feliciano,  made a number of visits to speak at meetings and events. (We had some quotes from him in our movie.) It's been a long story, too complicated to tell now. I'm proud that MORE is contributing $200 to the support of the FMPR.
See also Dissent: Puerto Rico Remade

Below is an article Angel sent me in Spanish that I used google to translate, followed by the AFT Randi praise of Aida Diaz.

Friday, August 16, 2019

2019 -- Politico's Big Joke: MORE Wants to take over UFT - by not wanting to win Elections

What's left of MORE prides itself on being intolerant and insular. It does not wish to deal with viewpoints that vary one iota from theirs. As for what that viewpoint may be, I have no clue. I only know that whatever it is shuts me out as a "right-winger." .... If I'm a right-winger, so is a good 95-99% of UFT membership. What's left of MORE represents what's left of MORE, and little else.  .....NYC Educator Blithering Baloney from Politico on MORE {Updated Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, 1:30 PM}
Oh, that's just great,  and makes the Gods of Irony laugh: unions in legitimate need of reform (if the UFT is at all representative) are to be shaken up by naive Democratic Socialists acting as cat's paws for the Trots[kyists] ..... Former MORE leftist member, a founder of purged ICEUFT.
Democratic Socialists look to take over New York's powerful labor unions screamed the headline from Politico.
Another target is the United Federation of Teachers, a nearly 200,000-member union representing teachers, social workers, secretaries and other school employees. “UFT is the largest local of one of the largest unions in the country. It has the potential to be extremely influential in electoral politics,” the group wrote. “It is extremely internally undemocratic, but there is a reform caucus, MORE, which has many active DSA members.” MORE refers to the Movement of Rank and File Educators, whose website leads with a July post criticizing the union’s internal election process and calling for voting reforms. The union “fails to exercise the full potential of its power” and ends up backing centrist or conservative Democrats, the group added.
Did the authors check out the outcome of the last UFT election which was won by Unity with one of its highest vote totals in history while MORE's vote totals dropped by 75% and they finished behind a ghost caucus? Or read about the way MORE is no more democratic than Unity Caucus? Or that there are way more ex-MORE members than current MORE members?

The funniest quote in the article was a quote from a MORE statement on the election as if to blame the UFT election process instead of their own ineptness and poor judgement where they could claim, "at least we didn't finish last."
“With more DSA teachers, we could bolster and significantly support the internal movement for democracy and militant organizing within the union but it will likely take years to reform the UFT,” it concluded.
Note they say they want to reform the UFT which cannot be done without creating a credible threat to Unity which MORE killed in its divisiveness. They also lodged a protest over some of the procedures in the election with the UFT, some of which were out right funny.

One thing it does is reveal the MORE strategy, since the faction in control has not been able to make inroads into the rank and file even in their own schools, they have used an old tactic on the left and right: Seeding – Bring in activists to form a cadre - a woke vanguard who will lead the unwoke rank and file. There's more than a little arrogance in this concept.

Actually, the UFT was organized using similar tactics – remember, Shanker and other founders came out of the Socialist Party - the very anti-communist cold warrior wing. One of the founders who had been in a middle school which became the organizing center of the future UFT in the late 50s purposely left to go to a high school where he was able to organize inside the high school teachers association, the most militant segment of the union - he used the term "salting" when I spoke to him.

But they had no Unity Caucus to contend with - and it is that factor that is missing from all the training MORE does along with Labor Notes. In the future I'll get into why the current MORE strategy that took us away from the concept of a broad based opposition will fail and for every cadre MORE brings into the UFT and MORE, an equal number will leave or drift away.

Democratic Socialists of America in New York | Getty Images

The Democratic Socialists members approved zeroing in on six of those labor groups during a January meeting and have since begun pursuing the effort.... Politico
Funny how the MORE steering committee came out of the witness protection program in January 2019 to suspend me for 6 months for revealing the misinformation at the MORE election meetings to get people to run in the election not to win and alone in the fall.

James Eterno, another former MORE member (there are way more formers than currents) calls them out on the ICEUFT blog in his excellent piece on the same story: SOCIALISTS OF AMERICA TRYING TO PENETRATE NYC UNIONS
If the Democratic Socialists of America want to be taken seriously inside the UFT, they should work on having their people live up to that democratic part of their name. ... MORE voted against working with any other opposition group in 2019. It appears they are more interested in pushing their political views than in changing the UFT. It is impossible to defend MORE's indefensible lack of fairness. While I can still work with members of MORE on individual issues like opposing the contract, it is very difficult to support their candidates for union office under these circumstances. I don't want my union to be run like this caucus....
Here is another quote on the story from a former MORE member:
Honestly, I'd like to burn every single Bread and Roses flag I see. But from my vantage, this memo was a leak from DSA and, after reading the quotes from the union presidents, I think they may have angered the better part of all 151 of them. (The last time all the city's unions were on the same page, they pulled the rug out from under both Cynthia Nixon AND the entire WFP.) I don't think this is going to go unanswered by the union heads and I'm curious who to sympathize for here.... Former MORE  member.
Now to be clear - I joined DSA and like the work they are doing generally. The organization as whole is broad tent socialist unlike the MORE wing which is sectarian. DSAers who are teachers are wasting their time with MORE since DSA has so many other options for organizing and social justice work. Spending your time at meetings to "learn" how to organize your colleagues to do exactly what? When you could join one of the numerous DSA committees on housing, working for progressive candidates etc can actually lead to results?

Here is the full Politico story - tell Sally and Janaki to do some research.

Democratic Socialists look to take over New York's powerful labor unions

School Scope: The Politics of Newsies

I have two columns in The WAVE this week, both related to Newsies.

[Memo From The RTC: The Oldies But Goodies]

School Scope 

The Politics of Newsies

OK - So it's an old photo

I was so excited to be part of the recent Newsies production at the Rockaway Theatre Company. Much of the play follows the real 1899 strike which inspired a 1992 Disney film which was turned into a 2012 Broadway musical. The story follows a citywide strike by newsboys who were the key distributors of newspapers in the streets of New York. The newsie strike is described in detail in the 2003 non-fiction book Kids on Strike! This was before child labor laws.

The lead character, Jack Kelly, (played to perfection by Sam Kelley) is possibly based on a real character, 18- year old Louis “Kid Blink” Baletti. The play makes publisher Joseph Pulitzer into the main villain but in the real story his competitor William Randolph Hearst was also responsible. I played the part of the evil Snyder who ran a “refuge” – really prison – for boys. The Refuge reminded me of recent stories of the century old Florida state-run Dozier School for Boys in the Panhandle town of Marianna, where boys were abused in every way possible, including being murdered. The school was closed in 2011. Colsen Whitehead based his recent wellreceived novel, The Nickel Boys, on the school.

Snyder’s refuge is funded by the city and he clearly does Pultizer’s bidding, including leading a group of goons to beat up the newsies when they go on strike, fundamentally shutting down the entire city newspaper distribution system. A telling moment comes when a newsie, after being beaten, runs to a cop for help and he clubs the newsie. Police forces from their very origin have been instruments of controlling unions and workers and siding with the owner class.

The newsies are very poor and most are living on the streets or on rooftops. Exceptions are Davey and his little brother Les, who have parents (and are mocked by their fellow newsies – “where do I get myself a mudder?”), but have been forced to leave school and sell newspapers to support the family after their father suffers an on the job accident and can’t work. The charismatic vagabond and emotional firebrand leader, Jack Kelly, also a talented artist, has won the hearts and minds of the newsies (and Katherine, a rare female reporter).

But it is Davey who has an education and knows stuff Jack doesn’t, who provides the blueprint for forming a union and the strike. Yet when they are on the verge, the more conservative Davey, who has more to lose suggests holding back. Jack retorts: if your father was in a union he would have been protected when he got hurt on the job and you wouldn’t have to sell newspapers. That wins Davey over. Naturally, as in real life, the bosses hire scabs and pay them more. The majority of newsies want to use violence against scabs, but Davey says they lose unless they stand together and Jack and he convince the scabs to join them.

The fictionalized romance between street fighter Jack and the educated Katherine who turns out to be (spoiler alert) Pulitzer’s daughter adds the romantic element, but also a political one. Here’s where we enter fantasyland, but after all, this is a Disney production. When the newsies are demoralized after they are beat up by the goons led by Snyder (me) who smashed the cripple Crutchie with his own crutch and he is dragged off to the refuge, it is Katherine who rallies them, not Jack, (a lead in to the showstopper tap dancing “King of New York”). Jack’s spirit is revived but when he saunters into Pulitzer’s office and discovers who Katherine is, he is arrested and bitter and takes a bribe to sell out the strike, which has some basis since Kid Blink and Davey in real life also supposedly were bribed and had to step down as union leaders: a really important point about how some union leaders are sell-outs (as a UFT member, no comment).

I had been wondering why the historically anti-union Disney would create such a seemingly pro-union work of art. But the current corporate Disney does have some unions. But again it is Katherine who wins Jack and the boys over and her upper class friends (including the son of Hearst) help the newsies put out their own newspaper written by her which wins over the city.

Once again, the upper class kids come to the rescue. The final straw is the intervention of Governor Theodore Roosevelt on the side of the newsies. Wiki reports that in the actual strike, Theodore Roosevelt didn’t do anything. In real life the newsies won some victories due to their own efforts, but here, left on their own, would have failed. It took the intervention of powerful politicians and noble wealthy people to save them. Seemingly, Disney fantasyland, but touching on some truths. Like the goon character I play, Snyder, is the only one to take a fall while the politicians and corporate chiefs escape. And I might even have committed suicide while in jail. 

Norm is always in fantasyland when he blogs at And see his Memo from the RTC column.

Memo From The RTC: The Oldies But Goodies

Memo From The RTC 
The Oldies But Goodies

School Scope: The Politics of Newsies].

John Gilleece and Community Board 14’s José Velez.
John Gilleece and Community Board 14’s José Velez.
Over the past few weeks, I covered the remarkable 40-member cast of the Rockaway Theatre Company production ofNewsies (which closed August 4), working my way up in age from the youngest.

The teens were covered two weeks ago and last week the twenty-somethings. Now I’ve reached the final crew, the thirties to the seventies, or the alta cockers. With so many young people in the cast, Director Gabby Mangano balanced things out with a sprinkling of (mostly) mature gentlemen.
Fred Grieco (Nunzio/Roosevelt/_ policeman) has been an RTC mainstay for years and he was called upon to play three important roles. He schlepped in from Staten Island for months. The lure of the theater is strong and Fred always answers the call.
Founder/artistic director John Gilleece (Seitz) and soul of the RTC took on a small role which was a bit unusual for him. It was clear that John was so proud of Gabby, his protégée directing her first main stage production, and he wanted to be there for her all the way. Rumors are that John, despite being in his seventies, will be returning to directing next season, which promises to have some wonderful shows – but if I tell you I’d have to kill you.

Dana Mongelli, Fred Grieco and Brian Sadowski (l to r) from the Newsies cast.
Dana Mongelli, Fred Grieco and Brian Sadowski (l to r) from the Newsies cast.
Cliff Hesse (Bunsen) from Brighton Beach, also in his late seventies, a core member of the RTC and active on all fronts from stage construction crew to painting to scenery design. His knowledge of all aspects of the theater including historical is invaluable.
I, Snyder, was the third septuagenarian in the show – and I think the youngest. I still managed to find the energy to hit Crippie with his crutch, which elicited a comment from someone I met who sat in the first row: you missed him by a mile – thank goodness. I was supposed to be very evil in the show but I don’t think I scared anyone, though one lady on the way out hit me on the head and said, “Meanie!”
Brian Sadowski (Pulitzer) is a 40 something from Brooklyn is really the scary one. He’s made his mark in every RTC production he has been a part of over the past three years. A powerhouse performance as the evil Pultizer. Brian’s voice is amazing and I can imagine how he uses it when he is in the lunchroom of the elementary school where he is an Assistant Principal. 
Rockaway’s own José Velez (Goon) has been in numerous productions over the years and was a fellow card player with me as Murray the Cop in the Odd Couple, the first time I was ever on stage. It was a pleasure to work with him again even if he does manhandle me on the way to jail. Jose is also very active in Rockaway community affairs as a member of the Planning Board.
The youngest of this crew is thirty something Nicolas Baytler (Weisel/Jacobi/Mayor/Stage Manager), a Baltimore native who lives in Rockaway and was making his debut at the RTC, his first performance since high school. Nick attended Frank Caiati’s acting class last fall and got the acting bug. That Director Gabby Mangano trusted him with 4 small but crucial roles is a sign that the boy has talent. He will be appearing in the upcoming Great Gatsby opening September 21.
By 10 a.m. on August 5, the day after the play closed, Tony Homsey and his stage crew had the set down and were busy building the set for The Great Gatsby. They worked on Wednesday, Friday and this past Monday. When I last left them they were busy building a model car for the show, but were still trying to figure out how many miles to the gallon it will get.
Norm posts all his RTC and School Scope articles on his blog, 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Day At the Beach With DSA

There are now numerous elected officials from congress to school boards who classify themselves as socialists, something we hadn't seen in this nation since the late 40s.

I've been posting stories about the remarkable 10x growth of the Democratic Socialists (DSA) in the last three years due to Bernie and Trump. The local DSA groups certainly keep their people busy with a constant list of things to do, both political and social. Yesterday they had a beach party at Fort Tilden beach and since it is so close I decided to take a ride over in the afternoon to check it out.

This is possibly the most beautiful and somewhat secluded beach in the city - a federal beach with no lifeguards - and a place not known to many people despite being contiguous with Riis Park. The lack of food services (though there are porta potties) keeps the place quiet but no longer on weekends. It attracts mostly young people on blankets, not chairs - since most come by public transportation - and young and mostly white.

The beach was crowded yesterday but I found the DSA people under a banner that said "Refugees Welcome". I was there for about an hour engaging in some very interesting conversations with a few people, most of whom are recent converts to socialism of one flavor or another. I seemed to connect with people whose views were somewhat aligned with mine - the libertarian/anarchist crowd who eschew democratic centralism which binds everyone to the will of the majority no matter how slim that might be. One of the guys said he hoped to be a teacher and did I hear of MORE? Oy!

They like a big tent socialist group like DSA. I did talk to one woman who had the only chair and was somewhat within a decade or two of my age -- very nice and someone who also joined post Trump. Turns out her son is a teacher and in MORE and I know him - he came from the DSA crew. A second year high school teacher who I was glad to tell his mom I happened to like. I told her I was no longer interested in MORE and she asked me why. There is no way I could get into the whole story so I was brief.

It is exciting to see a renaissance on the left among that generation and will be interesting to see if they get ripped apart like the left tends to do to itself. The guys I spoke to didn't seem to be very worried about that.

Here is a story about a DSAer who has played a role in Denver.

Denver’s City Council, Led by Democratic Socialist, Stuns For-Profit Prison Operators by Nuking Contracts

Friday, August 9, 2019

The 2019 DSA Convention: Showdown at the Caucus Corral - Bread and Roses Caucus and MORE

It’s true that Bread & Roses doesn’t make any pretense about having more than a couple overarching goals for the organization, citing the limited capacity of DSA as a whole. These priorities include a commitment to a rank-and-file labor strategy, the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, and fostering mass political movements around large policy objectives, such as Medicare For All and the Green New Deal. But it would be a mischaracterization to say that Bread & Roses is opposed to political activity outside its stated, centralized priorities. Above all, above even its ideological convictions, Bread & Roses has a commitment to democracy. .... Current Affairs
I've been following and compiling stories on the Democratic Socialists (DSA), of which I am a fringe member. 
See my post the other day: Democratic Socialist Convention Update: If Not Bernie, What?

I view the rise of DSA which has grown 10x in two years is one of the most significant events as they have the potential to become an alternate space for the left in the Democratic Party and have begun to operate as a quasi caucus inside the Dem Party. But DSA is still a big tent socialist group and is threatened internally by some of the same sectarian politics that have so divided the left over the past century. Bread and Roses caucus has the potential to create a dividing line. 
This is what democracy means, to Bread and Roses: majority rule....
.... rather than bulldoze minority viewpoints, Build [caucus] prefers to work with them, incorporating those other viewpoints in a holistic way. “What ties us together is a commitment to working across our differences, so that we can come to something that works for everybody,”.....CA  
If that is what democracy means, then the suppression of the minority point of view to the point of purging is the opposite of democracy. Which is what happened inside MORE by some of the very people associated with the Bread and Roses caucus. I would say the ICE people in MORE would have been somewhat aligned with the Build caucus by trying to find consensus.

They say all politics are local and in the various factions of DSA I see echoes of the faction battles in MORE where the ISO faction recruited enough people out of DSA to be able to overturn the democratic structure of MORE and push people out who did not agree with them -- call it banishing the minority view, not uncommon among certain branches of socialism. So it is not an accident that many of the same MOREs are involved in the NYC DSA Labor contingent and have ties to the Bread and Roses caucus in DSA.

One of their key planks, which passed narrowly at the convention last week, was the boiler plate rank and file strategy advocated by Kim Moody/ Labor Notes and others associated with the Trotsky wing of socialism. The MOREs used this same issue to create a red line inside MORE - either go along or get out. It was not that many of us in ICE disagreed with the strategy but the sneaky undemocratic way the faction went about it and the hard line they took -- actually they had to suspend the steering committee and throw out the MORE by-laws in order to assure it got passed -- not a good ad for the "democratic" in democratic socialism.

In other words will be see the same type of actions by some of the same people who divided MORE, and in the supreme irony killed rank and file organizing inside the UFT where the biggest instrument of so-called "business unionism" resides, Unity Caucus - has been enormously strengthened - which means even greater control over the AFT which has collaborated with so much ed deform.

So this article from Current Affairs, a non-left wing view is interesting. In a follow-up tomorrow I will print a harder left view from New Politics, where a key editor has fundamentally supported the undemocratic actions within MORE. Expect more fawning from NP.

The 2019 DSA Convention: Showdown at the Caucus Corral

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Memo from the RTC: Newsies Ends Most Successful Run in RTC History - Norm Scott

Memo from the RTC: Newsies Ends Most Successful Run in RTC History
By Norm Scott

There was joy and sadness at Sunday’s final performance of Newsies at the Rockaway Theatre Company as the 50 cast members and crew celebrated the success of a perfect production led by the awesome director, Gabby Mangano who wowed not only the audiences but the entire RTC family with her masterly control of every aspect of the production. Word is it was the highest grossing show of all time.

Dana Mongelli (left), Jessica Helton (top), Ashley Chico (left), Dana Falzone (bottom)

George Raiola and Nick Baytler

Myles Rich and Jonathan Mitchell

Jessica Helton, Dana Mongelli, Ashley Chico
The cast celebrated with a party catered from Thai Rock and when I left at 8PM many were still performing on stage and showing off their individual singing talents The talent in that room was overwhelming.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Democratic Socialist Convention Update: If Not Bernie, What?

When a convention of the Democratic Socialists (DSA) breaks into the mainstream, like this ABC report, we are in new territory.
[UPDATE - NYT today with full page story which I will post and address later -- but note how the article also points to growth of DSA as due to Trump -- but doesn't go where I go -- that some DSA people who are Bernie or bust would rather see Trump win in 2020 than any Democrat because Trump not a wishy washy Dem helps build the movement -- a very dangerous idea when Trump turns us into a police state.]
They held their annual convention in Atlanta this past weekend. I've heard for months about possible fireworks as the former ISO and allies pile in and create issues at the contention. Former ISOers and allies are too weak at this point to overwhelm DSA whose leading lights eschew sectarianism. But there was at least one minor victory and since I have a bunch of things to report I will cover that in future blog posts.
Ideology repeatedly clashed with electoral pragmatism during this year's convention, which veered between a giddy celebration of the group's previously unfathomable successes, delegates' passage of Green New Deal and open borders initiatives, and painful deliberations over how to harness its new power. Two votes during the first 24 hours of the gathering put those questions on display. The first asked what to do in the event Sanders fails to win the Democratic nomination; the second considered imposing a litmus test on candidates seeking DSA's national endorsement.The results were, in effect, a split decision.
On Friday, delegates narrowly passed a proposal that will prevent DSA from backing anyone but Sanders in the next presidential race. The argument in favor was simple: DSA is a socialist organization and risked spoiling its authority on the left by publicly backing -- as Andrew Sernatinger, a delegate from Wisconsin, argued -- "a candidate that is a neoliberal that is not what we are for."
More remarkable than its growth, though, is DSA's increasing presence on the electoral stage. Nearly 100 democratic socialists now hold office at almost all levels of government, from local school boards to the US Congress... ABCNews 
Sectarianism is coming to DSA at the convention ... a knowledgeable and influential leftist in a conversation with me, November, 2018. 
DSA held its biannual convention this past weekend. My instinct is that a certain segment of socialists would rather Trump win than any Democrat, even Bernie based on the idea that all the candidates are reformers of capitalism and if they succeed they will actually strengthen  capitalism and deflect organizing efforts away from building socialism. Which is what happened with the New Deal. Hard core socialists disparage FDR as a light weight reformer. But they are a minority.

DSA is a big tent socialist organization which includes some people who have been associated with the UFT leadership, rankles some sectarians who with the demise of ISO have nowhere else to go.

Current Affairs has an article on DSA caucuses: THE 2019 DSA CONVENTION: SHOWDOWN AT THE CAUCUS CORRAL

Here's tbe New Politics pre-convention analysis:

DSA 2019 Convention Breakdown – New Politics

Note the Bread and Roses caucus which is where people like the ISO and DSA sectarians in MORE have piled in. Their Rank and file strategy is what they secretly discussed and then imposed within MORE and purged people who they felt did not fit into their strategy. I hear their proposal barely won which is a sign internally that half the DSA delegates pushed back and are on the alert. Wish I were there to share with them how well their strategy worked in the UFT election.

It's Bernie or bust
DSA has gone full bore for Bernie and voted this weekend not to commit to another candidate.

I am a DSA member though I don't support some of the DSA precepts about socialism but had a chance to vote for local delegates even though I didn't know most of them. So far from what I've seen DSA is very young, white and preponderantly male. But I'm only seeing a small slice. In one branch there is a requirement that one third of the elected delegates be woman and people of color, so there is an attempt to address the issue.

What tripled the membership in DSA since Trump from 8 thousand to almost 60,000 members? Hint: think orange man. Well, maybe Bernie too though he is not formally affiliated with DSA. Actually Bernie on the surface is a social democrat not a democratic socialist though I think he has been a  For the major differences I posted some articles - one from the mainstream: Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy - How they differ - NY Times.
And another from the socialist left: Democratic Socialism Isn’t Social Democracy - Jacobin

Here is the very interesting ABC news report on the convention. There's a lot to digest in this so read it twice.