Archive for January, 2015

Cuomo Ups the Ante in his Demagogic Assault on Teachers and Unions

January 23, 2015

Yucking it up with the editors of The Daily News Yucking it up with the editors of The Daily

Employing the same fear card he used on January 1 when he made the remarkable and wholly unsubstantiated statement that, “ we have teachers that have been found guilty of sexually abusing students who we can’t get out of the classroom, ” while offering not a shred of evidence, Governor Andrew Cuomo met with the editors of The Daily News yesterday to further whip up anti public school, anti teacher hysteria and especially anti union hysteria.

“If (the public) understood what was happening with education to their children, there would be an outrage in this city,” Cuomo said. “I’m telling you, they would take City Hall down brick by brick.”

Cuomo weaseled out of explaining himself with the condescending statement that, “It’s only because it’s complicated that people don’t get it.”

To hear such naked and shameless fear mongering and calculated anti labor nonsense spewing out of the mouth of the most powerful politician in the state of New York, a man who holds the same office and is a member of the same party as were Al Smith, FDR, and Mario Cuomo, is chilling, to say the least and a crystal clear example of completely labor and worker rights has been orphaned in our now completely degenerate two party political system.

“Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this,” Cuomo said. “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.
“This was a program to educate kids.”
He decried that 250,000 kids over the past decade were trapped in failing schools.

Pitting teacher rights against student rights — as if the two were mutually exclusive – Cuomo, who preposterously defines himself as “the student advocate,” engaged in out right demagoguery, which as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and others have proved can go a long way in an increasingly fragmented and embittered America.

Using reformer clichés like “Teacher employment program” and “failing schools, ”and ranting about “Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights, “the man who referred to public schools, not as a sacred public trust but as the “ last monopoly” that he vowed to break, knows what he is doing when he employs such language. His appeal is two fold: first to the parents in the most desperate communities of the schools that have been starved of funds who are being so shamelessly used by the hedge fund/ charter school industry. Next, he is
Is appealing to the politics of envy, to that majority of Americans who reduced to the status of “at will” employees, can be fired for any reason at any time, and to whom he is tacitly asking: why should these teachers have due process when you don’t?

Cuomo knows better than anyone in New York State the meaning of the shocking arrest of Sheldon Silver and is making the most of the vacuum.

At the same time, as if forewarned of Silver’s fall, TV airwaves are suddenly filled with pro charter school ads funded by Families for Excellent Schools, a front funded entirely by hidden millionaires and Cuomo supporters.

Again and again, over the past 24 hours, I hear in my head these words of FDR: “Nothing that happens in politics is an accident.”

Again and again over the past 20 years, I ask myself,
what has happened to my country ?

One Day After Cuomo Declares War On Education, Sheldon Silver Is To Be Arrested.

January 22, 2015


This is the stuff of nightmares. Or something uglier and more disturbing than nightmares.

One day after Governor Andrew Cuomo unleashed the most comprehensively insidious attack on the public school system and public school teachers in memory,New York State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, the one man in all of New York state with the political clout and will to at least mitigate Cuomo’s assault is to be arrested on charges of corruption.

The timing of this chain of events could not be worse or more suspicious. The political fallout is too bleak to even contemplate. It means that the power of Governor Cuomo, easily the most ruthless and cunning, anti labor servant of the most rapacious ruling class Albany has seen since the 19th century, has overnight grown exponentially.

Outside of a miracle, it means catastrophe for schools and teachers and democracy.

Rest assured, hedge fund managers, charter school entrepreneurs and their servant Andrew Cuomo are rejoicing.

I am numb.

St Francis In Brooklyn

January 17, 2015


Given the intellectual and spiritual brutality of the world we have created, given the shocking and devastating success of those who have locked us into a culture in which we are constantly reminded that the most sacrosanct human attribute is efficiency and the loftiest goal is the accumulation of money and power over others; given the logical and inevitable immiseration of the overwhelming percentage of people in an economy designed to move wealth and all decision making power upwards to fewer and fewer hands; given a world in which most of us are economically strangled, all of us politically abandoned, in which surveillance is increasingly a norm and data is divine, given all this, it is extraordinarily easy to fall into depression or despair or something worse, namely surrender.

To be frank, I struggle with to one degree or another with depression and despair just about daily these days. Just as frankly, I don’t trust the judgment of anyone who doesn’t.

The weight and the ways of the world we have created press down on us, invades us, informs us, twists us, and degrades us and our children in ways that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago, partly because the technology needed to do so had yet to be invented or mass marketed. Party because the world is a far crueler place than it was twenty years ago. We have been changed and not for the better. The rise of the internet and the global triumph and consolidation of far right politics (regardless of the party or fig leaf) is not an accident. The promise of the “information highway” as emancipation has, as yet, proved false if not out right farcical. It has proved highly efficient, however, in sending out the same message — if you are not rich, famous, or powerful, you are as nothing — in an infinite variety of forms.

With all this, when I read about the exhibition relating to St. Francis of Assisi being held in Brooklyn, I knew I had to go. When I was a child a devout aunt read to me from The Book of Saints and no saint (not even my namesake who rid the Emerald Isle of snakes) touched my childhood soul more deeply and hauntingly than St Francis. He was a rich kid who saw past his time into another place, giving away all to dedicate his life to the poor. He was an environmentalist 700 years before the words passed the lips of man, a communist 500 years before Marx moved past Hegel. He was a poet and madman and a spirit.
He was a beautiful and sublime reminder of the presence of the Other, the World Elsewhere, the divine spark.

I went to Brooklyn and I looked and, in glimpses, I saw. There in the silent room, were 12th and 13th century Bibles and breviaries and manuscripts from Assisi. There was a gigantic version of what we would call a songbook. There was a version of Francis’ lovely Canticle of the Sun. Above all, there was in every page a silent rebuke to the radically degenerate and brutal vision of human existence we abide and in which we are incubating our children.

And there was something else: something that the ruthless cunning and vulgarity of the world we have created is constantly threatening to expiate or extinguish. There in those works was a physical reminder of spiritual transcendence.

There in those works were reminders that the same spark, wanted and unwanted, horrific and all comforting, forever calling, forever present forever, that had ignited Francis had ignited Buddha and Rumi and Teresa of Avila and William Blake and Mother Jones and Dorothy Day and Allen Ginsberg and Daniel Berrigan and Abraham Heschel and Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King and compelled and propelled them to do what they did. Each in their way saw past the vulgarity and brutality of the world into a higher reality and acted at whatever cost to bring that higher state into being. Each knew that political change could never occur without spiritual change and that a spiritual change that did not reject a culture of exploitation and domination was a lie. Each knew that one has to be simultaneously transcendent and rooted. Each knew that such is a perpetual struggle, but the only struggle worth struggling for.

I stood in the room with those manuscripts for a long time acknowledging that the same spark lay also in me, equally wanted and unwanted, horrific and all comforting, forever calling, forever present, forever and with it the same choices and responsibilities.

I walked out of that room far into a cold January evening, far, very far, from where I wanted to be, but far more alive then when I had entered. And I knew somehow that the spirit of Francis had reached out across the ages and past my fears and touched me.

Campbell Brown As Gaia: The Great Mother Speaks

January 14, 2015
Ed reform Gaia: Mother of all Children of "Failing Schools"

Ed reform Gaia: Mother of all Children of “Failing Schools”

Oral arguments in the lawsuit to overturn teacher tenure laws or due process begin today. Wright v. New York, a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court last July by Campbell Brown’s new billionaire backed front the Partnership for Educational Justice, is bankrolling the case under the shameless notion that tenure laws
deny public school students their constitutional right to an adequate education.

In this interview on Reason TV, non-educator Brown is introduced as an “education reformer” (as if that is an actual job title) by Katherine Mangu-Ward. Ward completely omits any mention of Brown’s prior foray into “education reform”, the billionaire backed Parent Transparency Group which, like the Partnership for Educational Justice, was created for the sole purpose of frightening uninformed or naive parents out of their wits and turning them against their children’s teachers.

Reason TV is, in turn, bankrolled by the Koch brothers, who doubtless are delighted with such arguments, as is their editor who, in between Brown’s heroic posturing, is seen yucking it up with the lady.

Brown, chosen as the face of the education reform campaign after Michelle Rhee proved to be too transparently sociopathic and corrupt, plays her part as one of the 1% messiahs for the underclass well.

Why is she attempting to strip teachers of due process? To destroy unions, and privatize public education and further erode the social contract that, alone, promises a modicum of human dignity ?

How cynical of you !

Campbell, you see, became a mother and, as her powers of empathy are oceanic, her maternal instincts moved her to take the part of all mothers everywhere. Or at least those in “failing schools.” Campbell, needless to say, would no sooner think of sending her children to a public school than she would dare subject her children’s private school teachers to the intellectual and spiritual degradation that falls under the umbrella of “education reform.”

Campbell, we are meant to believe, is motivated by love. Love of children. Love of justice. Love of all things excepting due process which, once removed, somehow will place a great teacher in every classroom in the land. Campbell is moved to action by the “extreme inequality” she perceives in New York public schools,yet seems oddly unmoved by the ever more extreme inequality of wealth and poverty that is causing outright desperation across America. Somehow Campbell sees no link between a “failing school”
(never a “failing school system” or “a failing society” )and a third world economy made that much more painful by insane rents, non-existing jobs, an average wage that has been frozen for 30 some years and a child poverty rate that is nothing short of unconscionable.

And you can rest assured no employee of the Koch brothers is going to remind her of any of that.

The only thing that should “shock the conscience” in this world, Campbell implies, echoing the judge in the billionaire financed Vergara case in California, is teacher tenure.

This other things…well, what can a person do ?

Campbell lies as sweetly and sincerely about teachers and is as selective with her anecdotes as she did when she was fronting the Parent Transparency Group.

But no matter.

Like Mother Earth herself, Campbell oozes empathy.

She speaks knowingly if abstractly of “incompetent” and “abusive teachers” who, because of tenure, are almost “impossible to fire, even if they are abusive.”

Campbell even speaks of a mysterious survey in which teachers themselves claim that the granting of due process or tenure is “perfunctory.” A question: Has any one other than Campbell and maybe some fellow billionaire funded shills from the grotesque Educators4Excellence ever even heard of such a curious document?

Not a single case or figure or bit of evidence is given or asked for.

No matter. Campbell oozes empathy.

Knowing that the key to successful propaganda is repeating the same lie endlessly over, Campbell repeats the outright lie of teacher tenure – which means only that one is given due process and cannot be fired by a vindictive administrator whose nephew needs a job – as granting “automatic lifetime employment.” “Automatic lifetime employment,” in fact, even if it is nothing more than a right wing lie when applied to teachers, is something that Brown herself seems to have found in her shilling for billionaire-backed front groups.
Parent Transparency Group folds, Partnership for Educational Justice emerges. Such is one of the many benefits of oligarchy.

But no matter.

Does it trouble Campbell to face the slings and arrows of those who cannot abide her heroic truth telling? Well, says our noble suffering servant, better her than a mother in a failing school.


Someday, and I pray that day comes soon, we as a nation will look back in shame and horror at how easily and effectively a handful of perversely rich individuals set the American people against themselves, class against class, race against race, for the betterment of no one but themselves. If and when that day arrives — and as I write it is an “if” — I would not wish to be Campbell Brown.

Obama Again Uses the Presidency to Shill for Yet Another Gates Eduscam

January 10, 2015

“The executioner’s face is always well hidden.”

Bob Dylan

Happy Bill

Happy Bill

More than any other individual in American history, monopolist, intellectual property rights predator and non-educator Bill Gates has used his immense fortune to insidiously remake the K-12 public school system in his image. He has done this for over a decade, largely by employing the Democratic Party to force unproven experiment after unproven and often mad ( see galvanic bracelets ) experiment down the throats of millions of students and teachers. (For a comprehensive exposure of what Gates has wrought see Mercedes Schneider’s edu blog at ) In the process, private citizen Gates , while improving nothing, has succeeded in causing chaos, demoralization and an even further shrinking of the American mind, in this case to data based idiocy, from sea to shining sea.

Gates is apparently not satisfied with experimenting with the lives and the livelihoods of millions of students and teachers. Like a true monopolist he is reaching for millions more: Gates now wants to remake higher education, this time via community colleges.

President Obama, who has shamelessly shilled for the Gates Foundation- funded Race to the Top and the deceitfully named Common Core States Standards, going as far as to promote the same as his signature education polices, personally and to much fanfare announced Gates’ new plan to the nation yesterday. Of course, as with Race to the Top and Common Core, there was no mention of Gates.

Like all well thought out cons, the scam sounds noble from afar and appeals to the best of the American impulses – fairness, opportunity, social mobility — only to utterly undermine them and pave the way for the privatization of community colleges and the incorporation of Common Core and tracking and data collecting , bringing them to a whole other level.

Here is Gates discussing the scam. Note his casual use of the word “tracking” again and again and again. Note the vulgar reduction of education to cost efficiency. Note the fact that this person would be talking to himself if he did not somehow accumulate the wealth of entire nations.

Each day, the reality that we are not merely well into an age of oligarchy, but an increasingly ruthless and rapacious oligarchy , becomes clearer and clearer. Each day our political system exposes itself as little more than the public relations department of the 1%. Each day the American people become more powerless and disenfranchised.

Each day the wisdom in the words of Justice Louis Brandeis have never been truer; “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Each day we near the place of no return.