Archive for January, 2015

Andrew Cuomo’s Idea of Democracy is Fascism

January 31, 2015

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As one who believes in the primacy of language, I try my best to use words as responsibly and precisely as I can. With that in mind, as a person of the Left, few things have annoyed me more than the promiscuous use of the word “fascism” by a certain kind of would-be -Leftist who uses the word not as a description of identifiable political policies, but as a verbal bludgeon to bash in the skull of anyone with whom they disagree. Like all words and more so, fascism is a word to be used judiciously.

That said, anyone with knowledge of political systems who has perused Andrew Cuomo’s proposals on education, and especially his proposals on teacher evaluations for the state of New York, would have to conclude that Cuomo has stepped out of the bounds of known democratic policy and into the realm of fascism. Well into the realm of fascism.
The ideology of fascism has certain very identifiable characteristics, none more so than the consistent invocation of the primacy of the state over both the local and the individual. Bearing that in mind, consider Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for statewide teacher evaluation.
50 % of the evaluation will come from state test scores.
35% will come from an observation from an “independent “ evaluator hired by the state.
15% will come from the principal of the school in which the teacher works.

I do not wish to discuss here the research that completely discredits the idea of standardized tests scores as anything approaching a fair and adequate criteria for evaluating a teacher’s ability to teach. Nor do I wish to discuss the enormous sums of taxpayer money that will be needed for the state to hire “an independent evaluator “ to evaluate the hundreds of thousands of teachers in New York state.

What I wish to do here is merely point out the immense amount of professional autonomy Andrew Cuomo is attempting to usurp in one fell swoop from all principals in all communities in all of New York state, and that such massive and contemptuous usurpation of authority has no place in any meaningful democratic policies or traditions.

It does, however, fit perfectly into the fascist belief of the primacy of the state over all things and all people.

It is a profound indictment of the naked degeneracy of our contemporary political climate that such policies have been posed not by some nut job fringe candidate of a white supremacy group like David Duke but from the sitting Democratic governor of New York in his state of the state address, and there was not immediate and massive resistance.
It is breathtaking and terrifying that, absent a major and sustained resistance of the kind we have not seen in generations anywhere in America, such fascistic policies could well become state law.

The usurpation of local and individual control in the issue of teacher evaluation is, however, merely one example of identifiable fascist ideology in Cuomo’s education policy. Under fascism, for example, labor unions are suppressed or eliminated altogether. Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to suppress or eviscerate the power of all unions but he has shown a particular animus toward teacher unions.

Under fascism, certain groups or people are identified by the powerful as enemies, and campaigns are created via any and all forms of media to convince a populace to unite against them as a common foe. Due to limitless funding of billionaires, the concentration of media by a handful of ideologically driven mega-corporations, and the utter spinelessness of most politicians, precisely such a campaign against teachers has been underway and massively financed for over a decade.
Cuomo has profited from this campaign and consistently and cleverly echoed it. The disdain Cuomo has showered on public school teachers is palpable and growing more so all the time.

Fascism seeks to degrade or completely remove the human element. Cuomo’s proposals seek to achieve this disgusting goal both by the inter-position and domination of bureaucracy ( the outside state hired “expert evaluator”) or, better still, by interposition and domination by techno- bureaucracy ( a standardized state test ) as the latter provides the veneer of “progress” that is used by the wily to fool and trap the uneducated.

The conflation of corporation and state as well as contempt for the intellectual and the arts, both of which can be found in Cuomo’s’ incredibly vulgar test based notion of education, are also principles of fascism.

I am under no illusions that a man as powerfully ensconced, immensely financed, impervious to truth and monstrously ambitious as is Andrew Cuomo can be moved to alter his grotesque perception of teachers and principals across the state. Nothing will stop Cuomo from attempting to bully New York state legislators into supporting policies built on the tacit belief that New York State’s teachers and principals are so utterly incompetent and untrustworthy that they need the ever present eye of the ever growing and all powerful state led by Andrew Cuomo.

I do believe, however, that the overwhelming majority of people are beings of good will and good faith who seek, above all things, a life of dignity and decency, not merely for themselves and their children but for all people, including their children’s teachers and principals.
Dignity and decency for teachers and principals are impossible under Cuomo’s plan.
Slow motion, daily degradation, perpetual demoralization and, in a year or two, mass firings are a virtual certainty.

I do not believe, that is, that the overwhelming percentage of people are in anyway in favor of what Andrew Cuomo is really intending to do to our teachers, to our principals, our schools, our communities, and to our government.
But nor do I believe that many are truly aware of the gravity and long term effects of what Cuomo is proposing. Many, perhaps most, will need to be educated.
It is our job and duty to educate them. In whatever way we can.
Somewhere, many years ago, I recall reading the following words: Good government will come when all things are called by their right name.
I believe there is great truth in those words.

Andrew Cuomo’s education policies are way past even the radical right wing and nothing less than fascistic. We need to call them by their right name and do so repeatedly and loudly until this is understood.

Addendum: Herein is a kinder, gentler version of Cuomo’s policies. See the section on school boards. http://metroland.net/2015/02/05/andrew-cuomo-report-card-shark/

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Scenes From A Silent Snowed-In City

January 27, 2015

Even as the storm was nowhere near as apocalyptic as TV talking heads predicted, Juno did (and continues to) drop a whole lot of snow on the city, effectively shutting New York down. The school system, the MTA and even, despite their slogan, the US Post office are closed.

This morning when peered out my window at the silent street below I was compelled to take a Leopold Bloom–like stroll ( sans the cuckold business ) through my still sleeping neighborhood to see what I could see. This I did. Here is what I saw. Enjoy.

Ludlow St, looking south

Ludlow St, looking south

Stanton St, looking east

Stanton St, looking east

Clearing snow off the roof of Katz's Deli

Clearing snow off the roof of Katz’s Deli

East Houston St at 7.00 / A.M

East Houston St at 7.00 / A.M

Clinics closed.

Clinics closed.

A gated Tompkin's . Square Park

A gated Tompkin’s Square Park

Tompkin's Square Tompkin’s Square

A lonely  sojourn on 1st Ave.

A lonely sojourn on 1st Ave.

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St. Marks of   the  Bowery

St. Marks of the Bowery

Stuyvesant Place

Stuyvesant Place

A very rare occurrence

A very rare occurrence

The noble Cooper Union in the snow.

The noble Cooper Union in the snow.

On the Bowery

On the Bowery

Workers

Workers

The Catholic Worker is open to all who hunger.

The Catholic Worker is open to all who hunger.

Home, warm socks, sleeping family, and coffee.

Home, warm socks, sleeping family, and coffee.

Central Park Under Snow

January 26, 2015

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Expectant of Snow

January 26, 2015

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I love snowstorms. I love the way they slow down the entire city of New York and force us to become aware of every step we take.

I love the way people tend to become more human in a snowstorm, acknowledging each other’s presence, even saying “hello” and “good morning” to strangers.

(How radical!)

I love the way kids go to bed expectant of snow (and snow days!) and rush to the window to see if snow has come and the carnival air it brings when it does.

I love the way the whole city, at least for a little while, is made dream-like and silent and still.

I love walking as snow falls and this afternoon I intend, if I can, to walk from Harlem where I work to the Lower East Side where I live and take it all in, aware of every step I take.

I love sitting in a warm apartment with a cup of coffee and a guitar looking out a window watching the snow fall from the sky in the warmth of people I love.

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The Manchurian President Shills For Union Busting Ralm Emanuel

January 24, 2015

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So Obama makes a radio ad for the re-election of Ralm Emanuel, he who did his best to destroy the Chicago Teachers Union and, when he failed to achieve that lofty goal, then retaliated against teachers and communities by massive school closings. Obama’s ad centers on Emanuel’s education policies which, in turn, center on school closings, charter schools, mass layoffs, union busting and privatization. Such polices are among the most oligarchically beloved and promoted in the nation.

No surprise here at this point. Only profound sadness. In fact, I’m reminded of Obama’s tacit endorsement of Michael Bloomberg’s illegal third term when he refused to even be photographed with Bloomberg’s opponent, Bill Thompson, even though Thompson was a Democrat and even though Obama’s support might well have seen Thompson elected. That was, after all, at the height of Obama Mania and, despite Bloomberg spending $100 million, Thompson lost by a margin of less than 5%.
Instead, four more eternal years of rule by the richest man in town.
Then there is the matter of race.
Thompson, of course, is African American, as are two of the Chicago mayoral candidates. None of the three are neo-liberals.
Such is life in “post-racial “ America.
Obama’s weasly betrayal of Thompson took place at the very beginning of Obama’s presidency, so the man is nothing if not consistent.
Obama’s ad does serve as a stark reminder, however, of how politically orphaned and degraded 99.9 percent of Americans now are and how we will remain so until a great change, as yet unimagined, is forged.

We have, at this point, no choice but to imagine it.