Wednesday, January 24, 2024

What Is 'Settler Colonialism'? NYT

I'm very interested in this discussion as I have not been in the loop on the details of the concept of settler colonialism. Many on the left view it from a racial lens, which has often been true but as the article points out Japan engaged in it. And I remember that Stalin used Ukraine as a form of it -- and today's war is partially an outcome of his policies in the 30s and current eastern Ukraine is very Russian and used as a reason for the invasion. I need to do a lot more reading on the subject and there are some sources in this article.

Of course the major issue today is the question of Israel.  There are lots of links in this article to check out. Of course I expect to be called a self-hating Jew for just posting it.

A look at the academic roots of the idea, which has stirred fierce debate when applied to Israel.

In the intense war of words over the Israel-Gaza war, a particular phrase has popped up repeatedly. At protests, on fliers and in some mainstream publications, it is common to see Israel described — or more likely, assailed — as a “settler-colonial” state.

The concept of settler colonialism originates in academia, where its use has surged over the past two decades, whether in case studies of particular places or sweeping master narratives that purport to explain everything since Columbus. It has also been widely taken up on the activist left, invoked in discussions of gentrification, environmental degradation, financial capitalism and other subjects.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Norm Reads: Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

I've been a science fiction fan since I was a kid reading Jules Verne. I don't read a lot of it but lately I've been focusing on getting away from politics and into the future. Kim Stanley Robinson is on of my favorites. It took me a year to read the Mars Trilogy. What's interesting about Robinson is he deals with the realm of possibilities. 

Ministry of the Future, while overlong and tedious at times, dealt with the horrors of climate change, echo-terrorism, which actually had a major impact, and almost every solution for global warming being tried, and often succeeding.

Many also called its portrayal of the climate crisis—and of human society on the verge of collapse—prescient. Three years after its release, and mere weeks after scientists declared June of 2023 the hottest June on record, the accuracy with which Robinson’s predictions are coming true utterly terrifies....despite the horrors its protagonists face, the novel is quite optimistic: humans come to value collaboration, mitigation, and adaptation over greed and selfishness. But to get to that point, we first must go through hell. 

There's always hope in his stories. In New York 2140, the seas have risen and Manhattan looks like Venice and high tides bring the ocean up to mid-Brooklyn. And Rockaway no longer exists. I could imagine the remnants of my house under water. But the city functions - sort of. 

In today's NYT there are articles on all the nations sending stuff to the moon. The article mentions that only China has a good success rate. I just finished reading Red Moon written in 2015. And here he posits China as by far the most advanced nation on the moon, with a massive base on the South Pole. The United States is far behind but with its focus on the North Pole. Everything is real in the sense of it all looks possible. Robotic bulldozers have created space for very livable communities. And getting back and forth uses rocket sleds. 

There are 3 key characters, 30 somethings American tech nerd named Fred, Qi, a Chinese princelingess as privileged daughter of a Politburo member, and a much older Ta Shu, a famous Chinese media/philosopher/poet who brokers much of the action. Qi is the major force, leading an underground movement in China to overthrow the Party. Ta Shu, while critical of the Party, also fears its demise. His view is that the so-called two party system in the US is not much different in actuality from the one party system in China - the book is from 2015 when that had more elements of truth than today.

Spoiler alert - in the end there are simultaneous revolutions from beneath in the US and China with the hope that there will be some unity between the masses in both countries. A dream for sure.

Here are some links and segments from reviews, many of which were critical of the wordiness of the book.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

UFT/Unity leadership has been the Major Obstacle to Ending Mayoral Control so direct fire at THEM, Plus Ronnie Almonte on reasons not to renew

"We cannot take a stand against mayoral control as long as the UFT won't openly oppose it."  

Politicians have said this openly to me. 

With the current sturm and drang over mayoral control, we must keep in mind that it will never end as long as the UFT/Unity leadership keeps supporting it.

And those who speak at meeting after meeting making the case against it must keep this in mind. They should be speaking at every UFT forum to challenge the bullshit that the UFT wants real change instead of virtue signalling.

Ask people in the schools and I bet they want mayoral control to end. Their major complaint would be the level of micromanagement and control and their total inability to fight against it. 

One example of how committed to mayoral control the UFT has been was when Daniel Alicea, at that time not opposed to Unity, felt that they were open to discussing the issue and willing to make major reforms. So he put up a resolution for the DA to open the issue for discussion and saw month after month delaying tactics lasting a year before it faded. That opened his eyes to the deceptive games UFT/Unity play.

Renewal of mayoral control of the school system is on our radar. The governor is pushing for a 4-year extension, and the UFT gives false signals of wanting some changes but not out-rightly opposing, as I reported in my last post:

The very concept of mayoral control, no matter the city or the individual in charge, is inherently doomed to fail. And is undemocratic and a form of racism, given the racial makeup of the populations of most cities that have implemented it. Most school systems (mostly white suburbs) elect school boards. 

Mayoral control was a plot to remove regular oversight of massive school systems with massive budgets and remove fundamental oversight, thus opening the doors to extensive corruption where lobbyists get to operate. In the old days of community control with 32 school districts for k-8, of course there was corruption but it was hard work for the vested interests to deal with so many elected school boards. What was needed was more oversight, not the elimination of local involvement. The charter school industrial complex were major players in pushing for mayoral control, as was the testing industrial complex and other corporate entities with the power and influence to get in the door of the mayor.

The "let schools compete" corporate business model cannot work for schools and that has been proven time and again since it was first implemented in Chicago in 1995 (now shifting to an elected school board) and NY in 2002. Teachers rated by test scores, schools rated the same way, enormous oversight and pressure on teachers that I in my 35 year from late 60s never faced, thought there was some pressure, especially from an ambitious principal who took over in 1979 and fundamentally gave me a taste of what became mayoral control to the point that I no longer wanted to teach a regular class and became a computer cluster. 

Thus, my experience prepared me to oppose mayoral control because I had seen what it would bring. And as I pointed out I shared all this with UFT leadership time and again. And 20 years later they still want only tweaks. In no way do they want a democratic election for school boards. But then again why would we expect UFT/Unity leadership to be interested in democratic institutions?

Of course the rub in all this is what are the alternatives to mayoral control? A topic for another day. 

So I will state this once again for all those forces opposing mayoral control: 


I'm posting UFT Exec Bd (non-Unity) rep Ronnie Almonte's testimony at a hearing on Thursday. Ronnie didn't get a lot of time to present the entire case against mayoral control and focused on the incompetence of Mayor Adams and the fundamental injustices inherent in a school system controlled by one politician no matter what political party.

Testimony Against Mayoral Control: No single person should control NYC public schools

NYC public schools are governed by a system of mayoral control. This means that the mayor, currently Eric Adams, effectively makes unliteral decisions about how the Department of Education runs. Mayoral control was successfully implemented by Mayor Mike Bloomberg in 2002; however, every few years it must be renewed by Albany. Current Mayor Eric Adams was granted an extension of mayoral control in 2022, which is up for renewal this year. Last night I attended the public hearing on mayoral control in Manhattan, alongside families and fellow educators who overwhelmingly spoke against it. You can view recordings of this hearing (forthcoming) and past hearings here. In the meantime, I’ve posted the testimony I (mostly) gave below.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

In 2002 I Warned the UFT About Evils of Mayoral Control and they still only want Tweaks as Hochul calls for 4-year extension

Ed Notes, Sept. 2002: When UFT leader Randi Weingarten floated a proposal to give the mayor control of the school system in May 2001, Education Notes took strong exception, arguing that giving politicians control would only result in a system of education by the numbers in a corporate style system. Did Weingarten sell out our educational interests for a pot of gold? The next few years will allow people to judge for themselves.

I did some satire on UFT capitulation:

Late breaking news: Bloomberg says he needs to take over UFT (some say he already has) to make school system work and will ask the state assembly (a UFT subsidiary) for control.

Well, in essence it was not satire as for most of his tenure the UFT put up a faux resistance, while fundamentally agreeing with most of the Bloomberg ed deforms: high stakes testing, closing "failing" schools, charters, etc. Their support for the horrendous 2005 contract enabled the Bloomberg assault.

You judge given the past 22 years of mayoral control. I love to say I told them so. And I will continue to do so. Ed Notes was warning them about the consequences in the first tabloid edition which had a print run of 10 thousand after I retired in 2002.


But they never learn. Or rather they don't really care about the impact on members and students. What they care about is power and their allegiance to center/right Democratic Party allegiances. And big cities with mayoral control are often run by Democratic mayors who want the power of control over the schools - and the patronage it brings. What does the UFT get out of mayoral control? They only have to lobby and deal with one person instead of messy alternatives, like elected school boards. Plus who knows what else? Well actually we do know but I leave you to guess.

Knowing the membership is not happy with the job done by any of the mayors who controlled the NYC schools so far - Bloomberg, de Blasio and Adams -- UFT leadership maintains a fiction they want change, when all they want is minor tweaks.