Bill Gates and the Medal of Freedom: Obama Officially Recognizes the Right of the Rich to Impose Public Policy

November 19, 2016

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As if to officially acknowledge the insidious and tacit transformation of the remnants of democracy to not so subtle oligarchy, the Obama administration has announced that Bill Gates is to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a sense, as the Obama administration has done more to undermine public education than any in American history, it is right and fitting that Gates, the person who has bankrolled and forged that effort more than any individual in American history, be so duly honored.
For the past 15 years, Gates, a private citizen with zero educational experience and knowledge, has been allowed to use his virtually limitless fortune to impose his will on the public school system as he has pleased, an effort he has pursued with the same ruthlessness that he once used to obtain the intellectual property rights that have led to his immense fortune.

Gates’ efforts have led directly to the expansion of publically funded, privately managed charter schools, the creation and imposition of idiotic and grossly unfair teacher evaluations, mass financing propaganda like Waiting For Superman, and the purchase and acquiescence of long standing education organizations such as the national Parent Teacher Association. In addition, Gates has funded the creation of a seemingly endless amount of freshly minted “grass roots” advocacy organizations (Educators for Excellence, for example) the sole purpose of which is to deceive an unknowing public into believing that a campaign to privatize the school system by the richest people on earth is rising from the streets. (The usurpation of the language and iconography of the Civil Rights Movement has been both beyond shameless and disturbingly successful. ) It has also led to the immiseration of teachers from coast to coast as well as the weakening of the power of teacher unions – who foolishly tried to dance with this monopolist — across the nation. Gates’ crowning achievement thus far is the imposition of the secretly written, deceptively named, disastrously received Common Core State Standards which, as they were written with standardized tests in mind, in turn have led to a reduction of education to test prep.

His success at” reform” has led education historian Diane Ravitch to sardonically dub Gates “ the superintendent of American schools. “
That this unelected, unaccountable and largely hidden figure has been allowed to forge his will on an American institution as vital as the public school system should fill every American who actually believes in participatory democracy with abject horror.
Instead, Gates is being awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. And so it goes. Allow an individual man to accumulate the wealth of a state and it is only a matter of time before that individual begins to act like the state and a short time after that the state recognizes said individual as proxy for the state.
May the kind of freedom President Obama is awarding here be clearly recognized and seen for what it is. It is the freedom of the private citizen to make public policy for millions providing that private citizen is super rich.
The rest of us be damned.

What a sad, sad time in which we live.


Awakening In Trump Land: A Thought On Resistance

November 13, 2016

As the shock slowly wears off and the grotesque reality of a President Trump slowly sinks in, the moral imperative for political and spiritual resistance on a mass and sustained scale grows stronger and stronger. There is one man whose example I find myself thinking of again and again and again.

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Anti-Trump Protesters Gather In Union Square

November 12, 2016

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And so again they came.

New Yorkers aghast at the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States gathered in Union Square, just as they are gathered in towns and cities across the country, to signal their fears, their outrage, their beliefs, their defiance and ultimately their hopes for a sane, inclusive and compassionate America. They then proceeded to march peacefully up 5th Ave to the hideous Trump Tower where they were met by a massive police presence.

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The Surreal Real: Coming to Terms With President Trump

November 12, 2016

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Three days later and I’m still reeling. Three days of numerous stunted conversations with both friends and strangers, all replete with pauses and head shaking and holding up of hands, all ending with words neither illuminating nor comforting. The fact, like the sudden death of a friend, is too brutal for either. The unspeakable has been spoken. Loudly. Across the nation and the world. By tens of millions of my fellow citizens. It brings a sense of profound dislocation, a shattering of one’s sense of reality, a confirmation of one’s worst fears about our own nation. A FDNY friend calls and tells me he has not felt this sense of loss since 9/11 when scores of fellow firemen perished beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers. Another, older friend compares his feelings to those he felt on and after November 22, 1963.
Suddenly, overnight, the horribly surreal is all too horribly real and will remain real for years.

I find myself asking, where the hell am I? Is this the country of my birth? Yes, it is. And most resoundingly, no, it is not. Something has changed. Something primal and riddled with inchoate rage and violence, something that has been growing for many a year, has been revealed. And no event in my life has made that revelation more horribly obvious than the stunning election of Donald J. Trump, a man who has never lifted a finger for anyone other than himself, a man who embodies all that is debased, degenerate, degrading and dangerous in American culture, to nothing less than the presidency of the United States. And this at a hour when, due to the machinations of G.W. Bush and the connivance of Barack Obama, the powers of the presidency have been expanded and enlarged more than any time in American history. The event is singular in its indictment of both the American people and the American political system, particularly the Democratic Party , that pushed such people to such desperate measures.
I never watch TV news and I find myself obsessed with watching TV news, as if I somehow need visual verification that this event has actually happened and I am not, in fact, hallucinating. And there it is: Donald Trump, the same man who spoke of grabbing pussy and banning Muslims and building a wall to keep out Mexicans, is sitting in the Oval Office with Barack Obama preparing to take it over. There is Donald Trump, the same man who cheered on spectators attacking protesters at his rallies and bragged about not paying taxes, being led by Speaker Paul Ryan to the spot at the Capital where in 70 days he will take the oath of office. Meanwhile, the talking heads speak of Trump’s cabinet, naming Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin, all of whom four days ago were punch lines.

Reeling.

I am trying to come to terms with the fact that this obscene and sickening narcissist, a man who has never spent five minutes in public service, this scamming, hustling, Reality TV personality, will be leading my nation, the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and I cannot.
And yet I must.
More, as significant as the political aftermath are the cultural effects, which for many supporters of the president –elect means instant legitimization of the basest of human impulses: racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti LGBTQ,, anti any and all progressive movements. Indeed, as reports of high school students chanting “white power” and “Build the wall” filter in, such horror has already begun. Certainly, white supremacists, who loudly made their presence felt at his rallies across the nation, are rejoicing in the ascension of this grotesque man.

Still, as with any violent and traumatic attack on one’s sense of reality, the mind in time fights back because it must fight back. It would be absurd to look for silver linings in this darkness but perhaps, perhaps, perhaps with enough work there will be opportunities, which are a very different thing.

Perhaps there will at last be widespread recognition of the immense political betrayal of working class Americans by the Democratic party, especially under Clinton: NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the laws that led directly to the mass incarceration of millions, mostly African Americans, and above all, the political apotheosis of Wall Street. All of this continued unabated under Bush and Obama, all of it that has led directly to the greatest concentration of wealth in the fewest hands in modern times and the simultaneous immiseration of millions of Americans, now so crazed and hopeless that enough of them seek salvation in the absurd and vicious promises of a billionaire con man with no political experience or knowledge of governance whatsoever.

I have in my travels over the past few years met and spoken with some of these people, formerly working class and now called the “precariat “ as their lives have become so precarious. Former members of the Democratic party, one and all, formerly well employed, now forgotten and seething in their hollowed out cites and towns which no killer app can save for the simple reason that no killer app was meant to. I have felt their volcanic anger and their completely justified sense of primal betrayal and it was frightening. Yet I did not see this coming.

What to do ? What to do ?

I do not know.

What I believe is this: The election of Trump is an unprecedented political and cultural disaster demanding unprecedented political and cultural responses — chief among the latter, solidarity and decency and kindness which in an age of casual cruelty take on radical proportions. Protests have begun. May they continue and grow and grow and grow. Mass civil disobedience on a scale never before seen in America may be our only hope. There is nothing that would please the powers that be more than violence as it would be instantly and indefinitely used to justify massive police oppression.
Whatever we do may we have the wisdom to do it right.


A 150 Mile Journey For Justice: 10 Years after Legal Decision, Billions Are Still Owed New York State Schools

October 2, 2016

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Parents, students, teachers and elected officials gathered together in downtown Manhattan this morning at a press conference before some of the participants began a 150 mile walk to Albany to demand the payment of billions of dollars New York State owes their schools. The protest pilgrimage called “EdWalk2016” commemorates the ten-year anniversary of the decision
reached in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case that directed New York State to adequately and equitably fund poor school districts. During the same decade, the New York State has implemented draconian “reform” after draconian “reform,” such as ever changing and incomprehensible teacher evaluations linked directly to ever more difficult student tests.

On Broadway

On Broadway

Former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson

Former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson

I met the marchers in Times Square.

Bringing the word to  Times Square

Bringing the word to Times Square

“We have teachers from Buffalo, Schenectady, Syracuse, Westchester County, Long Island, and every part of New York city. Twenty-three of us are walking to 153 miles to demand the $3.9 billion that have been denied our students and our schools,” said special education teacher Henry Montalto, one of the walkers.

Pilgrims-teachers Mindy Rosier and Henry Montalto

Pilgrims-teachers Mindy Rosier and Henry Montalto

The protest is organized by the Alliance for Quality Education.