Saturday, September 28, 2019

School Scope: Students Rally, NYC High Schools Cheat, Auto Workers Strike - The WAVE

School Scope:  Students Rally, NYC High Schools Cheat, Auto Workers Strike
By Norm Scott
For The WAVE - Sept. 27, 2019

Reports of cheating by pumping up graduation rates at a Queens HS by the NY Post have caused a stir. A lot of teachers have been saying “Duhhhhh!” Pressures to pass kids and increase grad rates began in the early years of the Bloomberg administration. Of course then, the NY Post, a Bloomberg supporter, bragged about those phony numbers. Bloomberg and his henchman Joel Klein incentivized schools to cheat by closing over 150 so-called “failing” schools which committed the crime of not being smart enough to game the system.

The reaction of the UFT under both Bloomberg and the mayor’s controlled DOE has been consistent: join in the accolades and ignore the pleas of teachers for an honest system. Former UFT president once bragged that the increase in scores was due to the work of teachers and therefore they deserved a raise when Bloomberg was balking at a contract. I warned Randi about that slippery slope – that if scores go down, do teacher salaries get cut?

The UFT is in a difficult place. The pressures on teachers by administrators is intense. Their recourse should be the UFT but in the absence of that option they will go to the press, in particular the NY Post which has an agenda that is not in our best interests and aims to take down the DOE and de Blasio and also casts shade on us as a union, especially with those teachers who come to feel the UFT functions as an apologizer for the DOE. We know the hypocrisy of the Post which advocates closing schools that are deemed failures. Many teachers are perfectly satisfied to go along since high grades and grad rates also make them look good. If we brag about how well schools are doing as UFT President Mulgrew often does, we don't look very good when these stories put all progress into doubt.

Climate march

Memo from the RTC: Gatsby Wows - The WAVE

Memo from the RTC:  Gatsby Wows

By Norm Scott
For The WAVE - Sept. 28, 2019

Let me admit straight out. Even knowing that the great director Frank Caiati was directing The Great Gatsby at the Rockaway Theatre Company at Fort Tilden, had recruited an outstanding cast, and had designed the set, I still wasn’t sure I would like the play, especially after having recently re-watched the 1977 Robert Redford version of the movie. I also don’t remember loving the book, considered one of the greats of all time, when we read it in college. But I was a young fool, taking things at face value. Like a lefty like me doesn’t want to read about the idle rich, as if that was all the novel was about. (Then again I am hooked by Downton Abbey and since I’m retired I actually feel like a member of the idle rich, partially due to my wonderful Medicare for a few.)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Jacobin on Randi on Medicare for all - Speaking out of 4 sides of her mouth

Why Is Teachers Union President Randi Weingarten Attacking Medicare for All?... Weingarten pulls her bait and switch; different versions of Medicare for All, including plans “that preserve a role for commercial insurance,” are actually all the same, she argues, and are just different paths to universal coverage:.... Jacobin
This is ridiculous and it made me realize the exact type of harm she [Randi] caused within the UFT. When she backs this flim flam center neo lib shit, she alienates her own constituents on the left who hate it bc it doesn't do enough and on the right who hate it bc ... because. The only ones who remain are the other center and the 'yes' men. So, because she likes shit like this crap, she has to build her followers from that flock ... which makes us all like her policies even less.
And it's because at the end of the day she cares about the DNC more than she cares about her own union.... comment from a UFT member re: Randi obfuscations on health care.
Yesterday, I posted my comments on Randi Weingarten's Politico article on medicare for all which was more than a little confusing: Randi Weingarten on Medicare for All and a Rebuttal

Now be very clear -- Where Randi leads Mulgrew follows so whatever Randi says becomes UFT policy. I'm working with some former colleagues to put together a rebuttal for the October DA and for UFT Ex Bd meetings.

One of them just sent me this reminder of a 2018 AFT resolution which tries to say all things to all people:

One of our buddies sent the comment above that pretty much nails the Randi experience:

Yesterday, Jacobin came out with a rebuttal too.

Why Is Teachers Union President Randi Weingarten Attacking Medicare for All?.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Randi Weingarten on Medicare for All and a Rebuttal

Abigail Shure, Ed Notes' Newark correspondent sends me Randi-isms. Randi justifies the union stance against the elimination of private insurance in Politico. Sometimes I wonder if unions are getting a slice of the action to keep them from going off the rails by calling for the end of for profit health insurance.

The false choice over “Medicare for All”

We can have both private health insurance and an expanded role for government....

That our unions are supporting private health care companies and their profits as a better alternative is disconcerting. I believe it is Randi and the unions presenting a false choice. That somehow our medical plans are being taken away. In fact everyone who turns 65 has their medical plans taken away, mine 9 years ago. I haven't pined for my old UFT plan yet, though I do pay for the UFT supplemental plan.

I sent Randi's comments to a retired NYC teacher (who was a core ICEUFTer) who has focused her retirement on assisting people in health care choices and here is her very quick take on Randi's comments with more to come. She is very attuned to what is going on and raises issues of Warren beginning to make some compromises. I have no proof yet about Warren changing on medicare for all.
First - "people who like their current employer-based plan—which 7 in 10 Americans claim to (although it’s likely they like their doctor, not the plan itself"    ...  this is really true.  People think they like their plan, but they really like their doctors and hospitals.  Most people, instead, gripe consistently about the hoops they have to go through with their plans.  They hate their copays.  They hate their huge deductibles.  The only time they reach a true comfort zone with their plan is when they get a very expensive operation or hospital stay, when the contrast is so very obvious what they DO pay and what they WOULD HAVE HAD to pay if they didn't have a plan.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Our Waterloo - Winning Dec. 23: - Everyone is Claiming Credit

There were predictions of Armageddon if schools were open on December 23. Lunatic commentators on the blogs had everyone working the entire summer once this wall was breached.You would have thought the DOE had announced that class sizes were being reduced to 15, there was such joy in Mudville. Yes, boys and girls, you won't have to work on December 23. Now you only have to work 181 or 182 days (depending on reports) instead of that extra day. (OK - so I'm out of it for 17 years and maybe I'm jaded but I do wonder how the non-teaching public reacts to mass celebrations over the relief of not having to work 182 days.)

Most of the time parents are happy when kids have to go to school. But no before Xmas when many of them travel or do other holiday stuff. The parent outrage may have been the biggest factor.

You won't have to replace that day with another day off, like Columbus Day, as the flawed petition from the faux militant MORE/UFT Caucus begged for - er - requested.

That didn't stop MORE from trying to take credit, as in this morning's email: As educators, together we win! Your voice was heard! 

Thousands of teachers signed our December 23rd petition and the DOE listened! Great things happen when educators come together, from common-sense calendar fixes to fighting larger injustices.

If MORE's voice had actually been heard you would be working on Columbus Day. And note the pat on the back excludes parents. It was parent pressure the most. And it is more state ed dept than DOE. We know that principals were outraged too so inside Tweed there was a lot of push back. And the costs to the DOE. So I never believed it was the DOE that was pushing this. Mike Schirtzer told me his principal hugged him over the news and gave the UFT credit. I imagine the UFT once it got on its horse and saw the reaction did some heavy duty lobbying.

If anyone deserves credit it is James Eterno for being first out of the box to raise the issue. We can't act like the UFT sat on its hands though James blames them for approving the calendar which he claims would have been stopped in its tracks if Mulgrew had objected. I'm not so sure of that.

James, an educator and a public school parent of two young children, at least his claim is credible and more modest than the shameless MORE which only jumped in after James, who is not welcome in MORE, was first out of the box with reports on the calendar on the ICEUFT blog.

James celebrated with the news:


There was no fanfare and no announcement at last night's UFT Executive Board but the Department of Education has quietly changed the calendar for the 2019-20 school year. School is now closed on Monday, December 23rd, 2019 in New York City.

We can take a little bit of credit for the change as pressure from parents and rank and file teachers, which we certainly helped to motivate, convinced the UFT to keep fighting for December 23. Our April 26 blog piece and our NY 1 appearance did something to bring this issue to the public sphere where we looked reasonable by using precedent. When December 23rd came on a Monday in the past, it was always a day off going back 33 years. It will be this year too. We didn't ask to give back a day like others did either. The rest of the calendar is unchanged.
Yes, that NY1 report made the issue go viral. James was on the case and kept applying pressure. Even UFT insiders tell us he was correct in pushing back so hard and was effective.

Oh, and I don't want to neglect the FB NYCDOE teacher chat where UFT officials lurk and could see the real rank and file respond.

Oh, and Schirtzer just texted: Hey what about mike schirtzer who first brought it up at ex bd. No fucking credit. Ok, Mike - here's some fucking credit.

Arthur reported the news on his blog:

23 Skidoo

There was quite a push back on December 23rd. It was ultimately successful, and I'm very glad of it. People in my building were quite happy as well. In my old age, I've developed a particularly low tolerance for stupid. Let me define that term--stupid is thoughtless, pompous, pedantic, inconsiderate, and wholly unnecessary bad behavior from people who ought to know better.

Now anyone can make a bad decision. A real measure is whether or not that person determines to stick with it. When there's evidence to prove the person wrong, does he accept it? Or does he vehemently argue with it because it doesn't conform with his predetermined and utterly inflexible worldview? You never can tell.

I don't know who made this particular mistake. I don't know how the DOE calendar is negotiated. This notwithstanding, I offer congratulations to all parties who did this, and decided to not be stupid.  You know, if more people would just wake up in the morning, look themselves in the mirror and say, "Hey, today I'm gonna try to not do or be anything stupid," what a wonderful world this would be.

Yesterday Mike Schirtzer emailed me the revised DOE calendar. I checked with a UFT source to make sure it wasn't April Fool's in September, or some mass hallucination, but once I did I emailed our entire staff. I then walked from department office to department office like Santa Claus declaring, "No school December 23rd."

It's a day of hope. Who would have expected NYC DOE, the same department that turns us down at step two all the time regardless of what merit our complaints have, the same department that sustains the clown car called "legal," the one full of English-challenged lawyers who can't be bothered reading the contract, the department overflowing with Bloomberg leftovers who cry reverse discrimination when a Latino fires or transfers a few of their worthless asses--Who could imagine it would rise up and do something not stupid? That is undeniably a step in the right direction for the DOE, perhaps an example for all humankind to replicate.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What Media Like Best About Elizabeth Warren: She’s Not Bernie Sanders --- Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Why has Warren—who has positioned herself as Bernie Sanders’ closest ideological competitor, and a vocal crusader against corporate control over the political system—so far escaped the scathing and skeptical coverage Sanders has received? The answer has to do with both the differences in how the two candidates frame themselves, and the way major media cover elections..... Sanders has helped shift the center of the party so much in recent years—many see Warren as a more acceptable alternative. Even Third Way, the pro-corporate think tank that in 2013 warned in the Wall Street Journal (12/2/13) that Warren was leading Democrats “off a populist cliff,”  has warmed up a bit to her.... Warren has been working hard to convince she “is a team player who is seeking to lead the party—not stage a hostile takeover of it.”  By reassuring the kind of party insiders the media rely heavily on for framing their stories, Warren has largely avoided the kinds of aspersions—often anonymous—lobbed at Sanders.  .... Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
In every long form interview Bernie has done he comes across so well, whether it is with center/right Joe Rogan: which elicited this comment:
I was uncertain on Bernie to be honest and after this video and reading up on him, I can not believe he is so grossly misrepresented in the media.
or this past weekend which I caught a bit of. Bernie makes the connections others don't.

Listen to Bernie in real conversations not in sound bites.

It is funny to hear Trump and the right shout fake news when people on the left have been claiming media bias against the left for well over a century.

The Washington Post is owned by the richest man in America - think he isn't threatened by Bernie? and probably Warren too, but with Biden so weak they may look at her as "controllable." And the NYT assigned Bernie coverage to Sydney Ember, formerly in the financial field and notably anti-Bernie.

FAIR took a look at the issue:

What Media Like Best About Elizabeth Warren: She’s Not Bernie Sanders

Monday, September 23, 2019

My Commentary on NYT NYC DSA Challenge to Local Unions re: MORE

A lot more attention has been paid to this story of the NYC DSA labor branch organizing to challenge the leadership of NYC traditional unions sparked by an original Politico story which I reported on: Politico's Big Joke: MORE Wants to take over UFT -...

It is of interest here because MORE/UFT is involved, though MORE is not mentioned in this article. The NY Times is following up on the somewhat mocking piece in The Chief -- Meet the New Left, Just As Daft as the Old Left --- Chief Leader Richard Steier on DSA Labor Group "Takeover".

The theory behind this move from DSA is based on what is known as "the rank and file strategy" (RFS) and I have been posting and will continue to post on to try to uncover what might work and what might not in the strategy, if it is valid at all, or if so, are the people trying to execute it even capable? Here are two of my posts:
Now comes the NY Times piece, and the fact they are taking it on - they are taking it seriously, while I know at least those in the no inside the UFT are laughing out loud. Maybe they have some opportunities in other unions.

I took note of this point about red-baiting which has been used to attack socialists for 150 years. But I also see charging red-baiting by socialists as a method to deflect legitimate criticism.
Some backlash was immediate. But it exploded recently, after the group’s [DSA] 37-page memo about its plan [to challenge local unions] was reported by Politico, leading union leaders to accuse D.S.A. of sowing division. 
In response, D.S.A. members — including State Senator Julia Salazar, the first member of the group to serve in the Legislature — said the union leaders were “red-baiting.” .... NY Times
I agree with Salazar that this is red-baiting by anti-socialist unions like the UFT. People on the left are very sensitive to red baiting, a traditional weapon used inside unions - and we saw our own Unity Caucus leadership use it time and again over the years, most notably in the attack on ICEUFT/TJC
Presidential candidate Kit Wainer, who never hid is leftist and Trotskyist views but Unity sent out an "October" surprise with a postcard sent to members' homes right before the election. Unity played dirty politics in an election it wasn't going to lose anyway. I wrote about it then:
Internally, when some on the left criticize others on the left, the group being criticized often charges red-baiting to deflect criticism. For instance, there are leftist/socialists like me an many others connected to ICEUFT who are opposed to Trotskyist views and criticize them for that reason - their view of organizing and socialism differs.

We saw that all the time when the leftists in ICEUFT criticized the manipulative tactics  of the International Socialists (ISO) inside MORE. Their charges of red-baiting backed people off and some of us tried to be careful not to step over a red-baiting line while they engaged in secret behind the scenes organizing tactics to isolate the ICEUFT people  - and they brilliantly executed their strategy with the assistance of the undemocratic socialists connected to DSA no matter the costs to MORE. Fundamentally, the ISO crew organized behind the scenes to push the ICEUFT progressives out under the cover of claiming rude emails when in fact some of the comments were criticisms of ISO functioning like a secret caucus within a caucus and being exposed was not something they wanted to deal with.

So was it red-baiting when ISO was called out for its actions related to taking control of MORE? [I still haven't published their internal memo where they brag about doing so and driving ICE out.]

In New York, the Far Left Is Targeting a Close Ally

Activists are trying to influence labor unions in New York City. Accusations of spying, subterfuge and “red-baiting” followed. 

  • A group of far-left activists huddled in the basement of a labor union in Manhattan, aiming to upend a Democratic institution that they felt had grown stale. 
  • The potential target was not an entrenched politician, or the local county party. It was a much closer ally: labor unions, including the one that was hosting the activists’ meeting earlier this year.
    The plan did not go over well. The union, a branch of the Communications Workers of America, kicked the activists out. Labor leaders accused the activists of plotting infiltration. The activists, in turn, recently warned of union spies.

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,, and I’ll hand deliver for a cookie.

Norm blogs for cookies at

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 -

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,

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: 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 - 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,

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

Leonie Haimson and Carol Burris TALK OUT OF SCHOOL

Leonie and Carol on the radio every week. Here's their first show: Listen here:

  • 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,
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.