Archive for November, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Is Alive and Well at Zucotti Park

November 20, 2011

I arrived at Zuccoti Park this evening just as the bells of the majestic Trinity Church were ringing seven times.  It was immediately evident and extremely heartening to see, once again, that Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s grotesque and brutal attempt to break the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement has failed as utterly as have his equally grotesque and brutal attempt to  “reform” the public school system.

There were groups there I’d never seen present before, particularly the 9/11 Truth people.

There was the beginning of a new library to replace the ample one that Bloomberg had ordered  to be trashed.

There were the members of the unions that Bloomberg has tried to undermine or destroy.  There was the announcement that the United Federation of Teachers  were  hosting an intergenerational dialogue about defending the  social contract this Monday morning  at UFT headquarters.   There were the old and the young, the black and the white, the every religion and non religion under the moon, all united to say again and again and again until it  is finally heard and made manifest: we are sick to death of  the brutal, degrading  rule by the Bloomberg’s of this world: America must change: America must live up to its promise:  America must, at last,  save itself  from the reign of  the insane.

The park was filled with the beaten but unbroken and it was beautiful to behold.

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Guantanamo at Union Square

November 20, 2011

As January 11, 2012 marks the 10th  anniversary of the interrogation center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, members and supporters of Witness Against Torture, an off shoot of the Catholic Worker, staged a noon day protest at Union Square to bring attention to an issue that has been wholly abandoned by both the media and the Obama administration as well as  to recruit people  a to much larger rally in Washington D.C. in January.  Obama, you will remember, campaigned promising to close down Guantanamo and end the torture that has become synonymous with it within one year.  That promise, like so many this man has made, has too been abandoned.

As I write, Guantanamo houses 171 Muslim  men.  The Obama administration has stated publicly that 98 of the men are innocent of any wrongdoing.   Nonetheless, they remain in that hell indefinitely.

To dramatize the situation several Catholic Workers and their supporters donned the infamous orange jump suits and black hoods worn at torture centers around the world and stood silent and immobile for the two-hour demonstration.   Vision is   diminished under such a hood but, as can happen in such circumstances, one’s hearing can became keener.  Hundreds of people walked by and while most gave a glance and kept on walking, many took pictures or  simply stared in silence as if trying to make sense of it.  A few were hostile.  “They should shoot them all, “ said one man, his voice dripping with contempt. “Why aren’t you standing up for me?,  questioned another incoherently.    For a long while a smug 20 something hipster jackass wearing sunglasses and roller  blades weaved his way back and forth in front of us waving a large American flag and saying “God bless America.”  At one point he went up to every hooded protestor asking them inane questions in what must have been an attempt to break their discipline.  It failed.  Finally, he rolled away in silence, returning, I suppose,  to wherever it is that smug  20 something hipster jackass’s  wearing sunglasses and roller  blades carrying  large American flag’s dwell.

But this also happened:  people came up and thanked every person standing there.

The rally in Washington, D.C. hopes to attract more than 2000 people,  representing the individuals  still detained without charge or  fair  trial at both Guantanomo and Bagram and form a human chain from the  White House to the Capital.  There will be buses to D.C. from cities throughout the Eastern US.  If  interested email the following:

security@aiusa.org

jan11@witnesstorture.org

www.amnestryusa.org/jan11

http://www.witnesstorture.org

Occupy Wall Street After the Expulsion

November 16, 2011

Like the rest of the world, I woke this morning to learn of the dead of the night expulsion of the Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zucotti Park where they have been encamped since September 17th,  inspiring millions across the country and the world as they did so.    The NYPD raid led to some 70 arrests and  the destruction of all manner of property.  The pretense for the assault was that the park had become an issue of public safety. For this reason the entire area was sealed off, the Brooklyn Bridge shut down and the press forbidden from witnessing the eviction – a transparent and terrifying violation of freedom of the press.

The expulsion is almost certainly part of a concerted effort by mayors across America to stomp the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement out in one brutal blow.

It will not work.

Reports on the internet and in emails were confused and confusing.   People were gathering in Foley Square.  People were being arrested at 6th Ave and Canal St.  The courts ruled the protesters could return to the park.  The courts ruled that the protesters could not  return  to the park.  Around 4:00 pm I got on my bike and made my way through all the places people were said to have gathered but found not a  one.  Not knowing what else to do, I continued downtown to Zuccotti Park  and arrived  there around 4:30 to find first an army of police.  Some wore riot gear and carried rings of  plastic  handcuffs and  huge black batons which you do  not want bashing in your brain.

The NYPD had surrounded the park and were refusing entry to anyone but their own.  The police, in effect, occupied Zuccotti Park.  Surrounding the park were hundreds of  citizens of all ages and races, many carrying signs.  The mood was somber yet defiant.  It was also  tense and very, very different   than any I’ve  felt there before.

Many people wore hand written signs reading “99%,” which someone had made by the hundreds and was handing out.  Little by little I made my way around the circumference of the park looking for familiar faces and finding none but I did meet the maker of the little signs and took one. Occasionally, for unknown reasons, the police would block a sidewalk. This led on two occasions to chants of, “ Who  are you protecting? ”  The police remained  silent but people called out the names of various corporations, the most popular being Goldman Sachs.

Just after 5:00 I was told by a member of the National Lawyers Guild that the court  had ruled  the protesters could  return to the park but they could  not camp there.  A few minutes later, someone else told me he had just heard something entirely different. Meanwhile, as more and more people left their  work and joined in  the crowd was silently swelling.

As darkness fell, three helicopters appeared, hovering high above the park.

Jimmy McMillan, The Rents Too Damn High Party candidate for governor ambled through the crowds shacking hands and  telling all and sundry that their rents are too damn high.

Then, a cheer broke out as it was announced that the police were letting people re-enter the park if only a couple at a time.  I stood upon a steel barricade and glimpsed two young men gleefully running through the park waving American flags.

The mood seemed to lighten and some of the tension lifted.

Still, it was clear that neither side was budging.  Like the economy, like the culture, like the country, this was a situation that could not be sustained.  Something had to break.

Shortly thereafter as I was riding down Maiden Lane, four or five blocks away, I could hear  helicopters flying slowly  over my head in the darkness.

This is getting very interesting.

“Meet New York’s New Hero: “: Sgt Nick Penis to the Rescue!

November 16, 2011

The following  is, admittedly, very small potatoes in the wake of the nocturnal raid on Zucotti Park but since it was written before that fact and is part and parcel with the same mentality I send it forth.

“Meet New York’s New Hero: “: Sgt Nick Penis to the Rescue! 

 I know it’s the New York Post and one should expect nothing less than this kind of macho fascistic nonsense but somehow the praising of a former member of the NYPD  — a man who once swore to uphold the law —    photographed in the act of  dragging a human being outside a building as if he were a bag of trash seems to me to cross a line.

Even for the New York Post.

Here, however, is how the Post puts it: “Tough-as-nails ex-cop Kevin Hiltunen drags Occupy Wall Street protestor Adam Weissman from a Queens auditorium yesterday for interrupting the swearing in of Rep. Bob Turner.”

Just so you don’t miss their  point,  beneath  an action shot of Hiltunen’s heroics and a  typically  juvenile headline ( “Ass Haul” ), the Post placed a  head shot of  “Tough-as-nails ex-cop Kevin Hiltunen” bad-assing  the camera while  sporting the perfect Sgt Nick Penis haircut.

And here from the surreal attendant article:

“I guess you could say I sorted him out,” said Hiltunen, 48, his jacket and tie barely mussed after dragging the scruffy protester out on his rear end.

“I’m a citizen who believes in democracy. I did not ask this man if he was part of any movement,” the former cop said.

Hiltunen was a member of the NYPD from February 1994 until June 2009, when he retired in good standing on a disability caused by an accident, a source told The Post.

Some questions.

What right does this person have to “sort” anybody out ?   Is that a perk of former members of the NYPD ?

Does this man look “disabled” to you ?   What, precisely,  is this guy’s disability ?

Would I be wrong to suppose that the disabled Hiltunen, who worked for the NYPD for a grand total of 15 years, receives a pension rewarding him ¾ of his salary tax free for the rest of his earthly life thus allowing him ample time to volunteer to help Tea Party anti socialists (excepting those socialistic policies that grant disabled NYPD employees ¾ tax free pensions for life) like Bob Turner?

Most importantly, can anyone explain to me why this man was not arrested for assault and battery?  Especially when there is what appears to be an active uniformed member of the NYPD prancing a few feet away from this vicious scene ?


Does being an ex-cop really allow you to make your own laws ?

Or is that only if you have a haircut like Sgt Nick Penis ?

Updated: Mon., Nov. 14, 2011, 10:29 AM

WS heckler from congressman’s swearing-in

By FRANK ROSARIO, DOUG AUER and BOB FREDERICKS

Last Updated: 10:29 AM, November 14, 2011

Posted: 1:09 AM, November 14, 2011

Meet New York’s newest hero.

Kevin Hiltunen, a former NYPD officer, yesterday grabbed an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator by the collar and dragged him out of a Queens school where he’d been heckling US Rep. Bob Turner at the congressman’s swearing-in ceremony.

“I guess you could say I sorted him out,” said Hiltunen, 48, his jacket and tie barely mussed after dragging the scruffy protester out on his rear end.

“All I was doing was trying to stop this historic occasion from being disrupt-ed. There is a time and place to exercise your First Amendment rights,’’ said Hiltunen, of Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, who was identified by people at the ceremony as an ex-Marine.

Adam Weissman, 33, of Astoria, was one of three demonstrators to disrupt Turner’s local swearing-in ceremony at Metropolitan HS in Forest Hills.

Turner won the congressional seat once held by disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner by defeating Assemblyman David Weprin.

“Bob Turner has only been in office for two months and . . .” was all that the bearded heckler could blurt out before he was taken down by Hiltunen.

Holding a sign that read, “Rep. Turner [heart] the 1%,” Weissman remained seated and quiet until Turner, who was there with his wife, Peggy, took the stage about 1:30 p.m. and began to speak.

“He was close by to where I was standing, and he started yelling something about Bob Turner,” said Hiltunen, who described himself as a Turner supporter and a volunteer for his congressional campaign.

“So I grabbed him by his sweat shirt and escorted him out. I just had to do what was right. I was just here to witness this historic occasion.”

Afterward, Turner blasted the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and praised Hiltunen.

“Protesters are on the wrong track. Socialism has been tried again and again, and it doesn’t work,” said Turner. “He picked the wrong guy to pee off.”

The no-nonsense Hiltunen said he hadn’t known Weissman was part of the raucous demonstration based at Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17.

“I’m a citizen who believes in democracy. I did not ask this man if he was part of any movement,” the former cop said.

Hiltunen was a member of the NYPD from February 1994 until June 2009, when he retired in good standing on a disability caused by an accident, a source told The Post.

Weissman, meanwhile, was unapologetic for disrupting the ceremony. After getting the boot, he was distributing OWS fliers on Metropolitan Avenue.

“Before I got grabbed by those people, I wanted to say that Bob Turner has only been in office for two months and he has already sold out his supporters,” said Weissman, adding that he twisted his ankle in the melee but otherwise was “OK.”

“How can you support a man who is a backer of free backdoor trading with China?” he asked.

Additional reporting by C.J. Sullivan

rfredericks@nypost.com

Surprise, Surprise: The Corporate Press Cheerleads the Corporate State

November 12, 2011

 

The following italicized section is an editorial from this  morning’s New York Times.

November 11, 2011

Tennessee’s Push to Transform Schools

 

Tennessee has a long way to go in improving its schools, but it has made significant headway in turning itself into a laboratory for education reform. It was one of the first states to test a rigorous teacher evaluation system, which was put in place this school year. Yet even before the results are in, political forces are now talking about delaying the use of these evaluations. State lawmakers and education officials must resist any backsliding.

 

Tennessee’s need to do better was underscored when the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, ranked the state near the bottom in fourth-grade math performance, just ahead of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. These dismal results — slightly worse than those reported in 2009 — were made public earlier this month during legislative hearings on the evaluation system.

 

The Tennessee Education Association has criticized aspects of the system, citing what it describes as poorly trained evaluators and a confusing scoring rubric, and wants it postponed until it is essentially perfect. Some lawmakers are suggesting that evaluations performed this year not be used in personnel decisions. Such a delay would destroy momentum and could weaken reform.

 

Tennessee and Delaware were the only states to win generous grants in the first round under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education initiative. It won partly because it had approved comprehensive reforms, which jettisoned a system that evaluated tenured teachers only twice every 10 years. The new approach requires that every teacher be observed several times a year.

 

Teacher evaluations now have three components: 50 percent from classroom observation data, 35 percent from student growth on test scores and 15 percent from student achievement measures that are locally selected. The teachers are rated on a five-point scale, from “significantly below expectations” to “significantly above expectations.” School districts are not required to fire anyone based on the ratings, but the state now requires teachers to work for five years, instead of three, before they are eligible for tenure. Those who want tenure have to earn high ratings for two years.

 

At the legislative hearing, superintendents and other school leaders praised the new system, saying that it had forced principals to spend more time in classrooms and required them to offer more help to novice teachers.

 

The president of the teachers’ union, however, pointed out that some evaluators failed to give teachers the feedback they need to improve. And she raised concerns about the fairness of the state’s decision to use schoolwide achievement measures to evaluate the more than 50 percent of teachers who work in grades or subject areas where standardized tests are not given. Better measures are under development but are not available.

 

As with any new reform, adjustments will be necessary. For example, principals should have the option of evaluating high-performing teachers less frequently than novices or low performers. And state officials must continue to review the question of how much standardized test data should count in teacher evaluations. Tennessee will need to address these issues fairly if the system is to win wide support among teachers and school administrators. But, even with shortcomings, the new approach to teacher evaluation is a vast improvement over the one it replaced.

Herein the Obama administration’s union busting extortion scheme Race to the Top in action.  By turning the state into a “laboratory  for education reform” ( am I the only one who find such language chilling ? )  it has paralyzed Tennessee’s school system and demoralized the state’s entire teaching profession.

Sound familiar ?

It has made both teaching and administering onerous if not out right impossible. It is based on wholly unproven assumptions — assumptions provided, once again, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is now the de facto Department of Education and chief policy maker in our great democracy — that may cost good teachers their livelihoods and children any chance of a real education.   Moreover, it could pervert education for  decades to come, reducing it even further into a corporate sponsored test taking disgrace  that you can be sure no child of the editorial staff of the New York Time or the Obama administration will be sullied with.

No matter to wise men of the “liberal” New York Times and their allies in the corporate education heist.  Tennessee must continue to implement this disastrous scheme to keep up the momentum.  Momentum, after all, is more important than accuracy, truth, fairness and even sanity.  Ram it home.  We’ll work out the details later. Sure, people will get hurt and further debased and children will be robbed of anything vaguely resembling a meaningful education – but we must begin somewhere.   Besides, the plan that preceded it was bad too, maybe even worse.  The essential thing is not to think and examine but to just keep pushing forward.  We must resist the “political forces” who advocate “backsliding.”

Herein the level of idiocy, recklessness and callous indifference to reality that has pervaded corporate education reform from day one. All in the name of putting kids first, of course.   Herein the level of craven surrender to corporate dictates that has characterized the Obama administration from day one. RTTT is a boon to test makers like no other.   Herein the logical results of Race to the Top, a plan designed to undermine the very thing it is claiming to improve and so antithetical to public education it should appall all, being excused by the non educator editorial staff who run the New York Times: the same folk, mind you, who thought it a splendid idea to let   Mike Bloomberg undermine the will of millions and purchase himself a third term at City Hall and thus allow him to do all he can do to privatize the NYC public school system. Rest assured, Mike is not letting them down.

Herein the corporate media cheerleading the furthering of the corporate state, democracy and the will of the people be damned.

Long live Occupy Wall Street and the spirit that brought it to life across the states and the globe. Let it occupy every office and editorial board and class room across these starved and suffering United States until the corporate state is exposed as the degrading, inhuman, mindless totalitarian monster that it is and can only be and locked in the dust bin of history where it belongs.