Posts Tagged ‘Bloomberg’

The UFT and the DOE: Reflections On A Deal Gone Bust

January 17, 2013

When the email proclaiming no deal between the DOE and the UFT arrived at 2:00 in the afternoon or so I could scarcely believe my eyes.  I suspect that there were many teachers who felt the same  way.     For days I was expecting to arrive at tonight’s Delegate Assembly   to protest what many (myself included) had believed to be a long ago done deal, one inexplicably validating the pseudo science of Value Added Metrics, (VAM) and one rammed into reality without the consensus of the dues paying rank and file whose careers and lives would sure to be hugely affected by it.  My suspicions were made much greater after reading the repugnant post of one Peter Goodman, a retired teacher in no way affected by the evaluation plan, who nonetheless attempted to paint those who opposed the plan as nothing less than Tea Partiers whose small minds failed to realize that the UFT had to please not only the rank and file but Mike Bloomberg, the sleazebags of DFER, and even Michelle Rhee.

Goodman, it was said, was merely a mouthpiece for UFT leadership,

Good God, I thought, is this the true thinking of the UFT?  Needing to please the very forces that have made no secret of their desire to eradicate the very idea of union from human consciousness?  Can it really be this bad ?

With thoughts like this in mind the email at 2:00 came as a jolt —  a jolt that also came with a long over due and unfamiliar feeling of pride in the UFT.  Here they stood up to the venal little bastard in City Hall after all.   Yippie!  Michael Mulgrew even went so far as to publicly call Bloomberg a liar —  six times, he said.

About time, I thought.

When I arrived at UFT headquarters   I encountered something I never  imagined  possible:  a line to get in to the DA that snaked two blocks up Broadway.  Seemed like every chapter leader and delegate in the city had arrived  — but to do what?  There was a strange and almost giddy feel in the air when Mulgrew at last arrived (to great applause) to speak about what happened.

There was, apparently, a deal said Mulgrew,  but Bloomberg being Bloomberg imploded it at the 11th hour.   Mulgrew clearly lamented Bloomberg’s maneuver and spent a lot of time explaining what he felt was good about the plan.  The foolishness of the initial buying into Race To the Top and the presence  of the aforementioned error ridden Value Added Metrics (now apparently called “growth”) were never mentioned.

Little by little the air went out of the balloon.

I was happy to see the thing torpedoed but I have no illusions about the lousiness of the state of things as they are.  Wind up with a psycho principal (a reality I am all too familiar with even if I do not live with it now) and you can kiss your career goodbye and there is nothing the union can do about it.    Such is the reality after a decade of capitulations to those who live to destroy you.

I’m glad I was wrong about the UFT standing up to Bloomberg and his allies.  I’m glad to see it happen at the very moment the bus drivers have gone on strike and further expose this man Bloomberg for the union busting pathological monster that he is.  I was glad to see the smiles on the faces of my long-suffering colleagues.  But I have no illusions that what transpired in the past 24 hours is anything but a brief respite in a war of life or death.  I would like to think it could signal a new beginning but I can’t quite believe that.

I would love to be wrong about that as well.

UFT Walks Out of Bloomberg’s Sham Hearing

February 4, 2011

Rightfully declaring the entire process a scam and a fraud, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) staged a massive walkout of this evening’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) hearing at Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Green, Brooklyn.  The walkout took place about 7:45, an hour and a half into the meeting and included not only all UFT  members but hundreds of angry and frustrated parents and students.   The hearing was the second in two days at Brooklyn Tech, the purpose of   which was to close 12 more “ failing” schools in addition to the 10 that were closed at the conclusion of Tuesday’s five and half hour marathon scam fest.

Chants of  “Black must go!” erupted the moment Chancellor Cathie Black appeared on stage and lasted a full five minutes before temporarily halting.   The chant began again and again holding up the beginning of the process for long stretches of  time. Nobody seemed to mind.

Patrick Sullivan, one of the few panel appointees  who is not a shameless Bloomberg stooge, received a standing ovation when introduced.   As one of the few members of the panel who has actually stood up to Bloomberg and advocated for the children of this city, Sullivan deserved it.

By the time Ms. Black was formally introduced the chanting had begun anew and went on and on and on.

I have never witnessed such scorn hurled upon a public figure before.  Then again, I have never witnessed a public figure who has  so thoroughly invited such  scorn.  Two nights ago in the same auditorium,   the audience demanded that Black answer the questions that were addressed at her — literally all questions to the chancellor had been  intercepted and answered by deputy chancellors –Black broke a four hour silence but scolding the audience and then mimicking them.(http://www.ny1.com/content/news_beats/education/133278/chancellor-black-criticiz)

It was a shocking and bizarre  display, even for one who wears her arrogance as proudly as does Black.  And  it was  not, as they say, well received and was doubtless on the mind of many who attended  the hearing.   I cannot see how this person can continue in the role of chancellor for much longer.   I would not be surprised if she were gone in a month or less, either pushed by a embarrassed  Bloomberg or just sick to death of  being treated with the same contempt she showers on others.

Either way, to see the back of Black could come none too soon.

Speaker after speaker denounced the recklessness and arrogance of Bloomberg and the DOE.   Councilman Charles Barron threatened to show the panel how to close down schools by organizing a massive student walkout.  It’s a delightful and powerful idea and I hope he goes through with it.  Barron also told Black  that she was completely unqualified for the job of chancellor, pointing out correctly  that Black could not even legally teach a class in the school system over which she presides or even enter a classroom unaccompanied by a certified teacher.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew straight out accused the DOE and by extension the panel of lying to teachers, parents, students and the city by setting up schools to fail and then blaming teachers for the failure.  The panel, said Mulgrew,  was  a disgrace and  had no legitimacy whatsoever.

And how right he is.

Shortly thereafter the crowd of at least 2000 people began to slowly rise from their seats and head for the doors leaving Ms. Black and Bloomberg’s largely hand picked panel sitting silently on the stage. I later heard that perhaps 150 people remained.

We walked laughing and smiling into the night.  Some blew whistles.  Some chanted.

It was 29 degrees outside and I felt not in the least bit cold. Neither, I suspect, did any  of  the others.

It was beautiful.

May it mark a new beginning of simply refusing to be treated with contempt.

Addendum:  As all suspected would happen,  Bloomberg’s rubber stamp PEP voted to close all 12 schools.

Mike Bloomberg’s Unwitting Gift

November 2, 2009

Mike Bloomberg’s Unwitting Gift

Having never met the man I cannot say for sure but I can only imagine that a businessman as cunning and ruthless and efficient as Mike Bloomberg seldom if ever makes a move without believing he can extract infinitely more of what ever it is he’s dealing with than what he’s put into it. One does not, after all, become the richest man in New York without, among other things, the gift of calculation to an extraordinary degree. One does not insidiously and with almost military precision and speed eviscerate  the votes of millions of New Yorkers in two referendums without Machiavellian manipulation and   calculation of a lazer-like  intensity and brutal ruthlessness.

So what exactly did Bloomberg calculate and what conclusion did he reach? Let’s be blunt:  Mike Bloomberg calculated (with the assistance of his ever active polling army) that he could, in effect, strip every eligible voter in New York of their constitutional rights, undermine the democratic process itself, insult the intelligence and tempt the integrity of the entire city and somehow you, I and everyone else would simply go along with it.  Or we would somehow forget it by the time the election came along. Or we would be hypnotized by Bloomberg’s ceaseless and omnipotent ads.   Or  maybe  we would just place it in parenthesis while  pondering  Mike Bloomberg’s monumental mayoral achievements without which the city would have sunk into eternal perdition.

What have we here?

What we have here is contempt for the people of New York and the democratic process on a level and to a degree that is nothing short of breathtaking.   “He did what?, ” I recall  people  exclaiming in utter disbelief the  day of his coup.  “How is that possible?” This was the question heard in households all over the city, save, perhaps in the 50 or 60 households of the   people who orchestrated the coup. Nobody knew.  We only knew it had happened.

The act was unprecedented  — not unlike and not unrelated to the problem poised by Bloomberg himself; that of a man with seemingly limitless political ambitions, little if any political integrity —  who solely because of his absurd wealth — posesses the ability and the inclination to strike fear into and demand compliance  even from those usually lording it over others.  Consider the behavior of the editors of the N Y  Times, the Daily News and the Post in the term limits affair.  Here were three men who dismissed Rudy Guliani’s similar attempt to retain his power, albeit for  weeks,  not an entire term, in the tone of  correcting a wayward child.  And this, mind you,  during the midst of Rudy-Mania, when “America’s Mayor ”  seemed to many to be the greatest man in the history of the sperm cell.

No such tone for Mike.  No.  New York needs Mike.  His  steady hand.  His wisdom.  His independence.  His finanical acumen to see us through these tough times.

And other breathless, obsequious  almost Hallmark level nonsense.

Reading  the absurd and contemptuous words of his devotees had led me to   believe   that Mike Bloomberg’s immense wealth, far from keeping him above  “special interests” , has allowed him to become   the most corrupting force in City Hall since the days of Jimmy Walker and before  that ,Tammany Hall.  Yes, it is a most casual and accepted corruption, far more subtle than that of Boss Tweed  —  but it is corruption none the less.  Bloomberg is  not on the take.  Bloomberg corrupts. Bloomberg tries to  put you on the take.   He  simply purchases who and what he  wants — political parties, City Councils,  ministers, elections, what have you.     In this kind of  corruption it matters not at all that Bloomberg himself  never dirties his hands.  He needn’t do so.  Others dirty their hands for him.  Consider  Calvin O. Butts, minister of the historic Abyssinain Baptist Church in Harlem and perhaps the most influencial African-American minister in the city.  Butts is supporting Mike  Bloomberg.  According to the New York Times, Bloomberg’s rival,  Mr. Thompson was reportededly furious at what he considered Butt’s  betrayal. ” But what he did not know,”  said the Times  “was that Mr. Bloomberg gave a $1 million donation to the church’s development corporation — roughly 10 percent of its annual budget — with the implicit promise of more to come. “What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are important to me?” Mr. Butts said in an interview before he endorsed Mr. Bloomberg.”  ‘

You could say, Pastor Butts,  that I’m not for sale, no ?  Can you not ?  Sadly, the scenario with Butts has repeated itself in city wide.

This is corruption.  Who other than Bloomberg has a million dollars to hand out willy nilly?  What, other than the basest form of  self interest — Bloomberg’s as well as whoever it is he  is  purchasing  —  is being appealed to and  manipulated here?

But most of all what we have here is a man with   essentially limitless capital and utter contempt for the democratic process and hence the rights of all others.   If ever a man embodied Justice Louis D. Brandeis’s dictum about democracy and wealth – “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both, — ”  it is Mike Bloomberg.

Bloomberg’s  shameless act was possible for one reason and one reason only: his  tremendous,  even insane wealth allows him to corrupt everyone who is corruptible until he gets what he wants. Indeed, this election is  nothing short of Bloomger’s attempt to corrupt an entire city.  Sure Mike, it’s OK to over turn millions of votes.   Anything is OK as long as Mike  gets  what Mike wants.  And what Mike wants is power, laws and the will of the people be damned.

Let us be clear.  You can rationalize and explain and excuse what Bloomberg did for rest of time — and you can rest assured, Bloomberg has already hired people, ivy league  educated people to be sure, to, as much as humanly possibly, do exactly that. And you can rest assured he pays them very well.

But, if you truly believe in   democracy what you cannot possibly do under any circumstances is justify Bloomberg’s act.  There is simply no getting around it:  Bloomberg undermined the    democratic process and people who believe in democracy neither do such nor accept such. Perhaps the presidency of  George W. Bush, which  began with its own undermining   of  democracy when the Supreme Court stepped in to  declare Bush the victor allowing the man to spend the  next eight years dismantling the constituion and Bill of Rights has subtly  eroded our sense of  belief to a place where repulsive acts like Bloomberg’s are somehow acceptable.  I hope and pray not.  But  consider the rage, the rightful rage that swelled in this  nation as the revelations of the Watergate scandal came to  light. And what was Watergate but the attempt  to undermine  of the democratic process ?  Yes, the stakes were infinitely higher and, yes, the procedure was different but the difference is in style and not in substance.   Both were intended to undermine the democratic process. The difference is  that Nixon failed where Bloomberg succeeded.  As yet anyway.  And while it is true that Bloomberg   did not actually hire a gang of CIA sleazebags to get his way, it’s also true that he did not have to.     Why should he when he can simply buy 29 sleazy members of our City Council led by disgraceful speaker Christine Quinn herself to steal your vote before you even knew what happened ?

Boom.

Done deal.

Next.

Nixon’s tawdry maneuver cost him the   presidency.  Bloomberg is hoping   that his slimy move will position him for the White House.

It may well  do that, but, for the moment it provides an opportunity for New Yorkers to rise to what Lincoln called “the better angels of  our nature.  ” In a sense, in a very  real sense this  election is  not about Mike Bloomberg and Bill Thompson at all.  From his eight years at City Hall anyone with eyes to see knows Mike Bloomberg. Every one in education, for one,  knows that his much vaunted reforms are a sham and that Bloomberg is the Bernie Madoff of test scores.  What sane man would place a half psychotic former federal prosecutor like Joel Klein in charge of the largest school system in the nation ?  But it does not matter if Mile Bloomberg was the greatest mayor in the  history  of the city  instead of the mediocrity that he is.  The man does not believe in democracy. The man believes he is a law unto himself.  The man holds us all in contempt.

Anyone who’s kept on eye on things in New York knows  Bill Thompson as well.   Bill Thompson is a decent and honorable man who is a true public servant.   I  have no doubt  that he would make a fine  mayor and I will have no trouble pulling the lever for him come Tuesday. Indeed, I will do so happily.

But this election is  bigger than these two men.

It is about plutocracy as opposed to   democracy. It’s  about the will of the people as opposed to the will of  an arrogant narcissistic billionaire mediocrity. It is  about deciding, as the  old  union  anthem went, “Which Side Are You On?”  There is no middle ground.  Not here.  Not now.

It provides New Yorkers with an opportunity to tell the Michael Bloomberg’s of the world and the rest of the nation  that we shall not be bought and our rights  are not for sale, Christine Quinn and Co. be dammed.    Above all it provides New Yorkers with a moment to affirm their belief in the sacredness of the democratic process and the will of the people.

These opportunities are Mike Bloomberg’s unwitting gift and seen clearly they are as  monumental a gift  as the arrogance that birthed it.  He  has calculated that we are too foolish, dumb, broken or   in awe of his magisterial powers to use it.

Let us hope we have the courage and the faith, in ourselves and in the democratic  system, to use it — for if we do not we are accepting and deserving of contempt.

And we will receive it.