Friday, October 20, 2017

Abolish ATR Status? Unity Caucus Bellweather Peter Goodman

Abolish the ATR System, It Was Bad Policy in 2005 and Poor Policy Now. Teachers Belong in Classrooms.... Peter Goodman

Holy mother of crap --- Is a Unity stalwart now saying what Unity pushed through is bad policy?

Link sent to me by Bruce Markens -- basically the only non-Unity District rep for a decade -- the reason they ended district rep elections -- with this comment by Bruce:
Peter Goodman often "anticipates" what Unity winds up doing. If so, you should anticipate a Unity resolution arguing for abolishing ATR status.  Of course, whether such a resolution is actually implemented is a real question. The Unity folks mainly want a PR response to the very problem they created and are embarrassed by Karen Sklaire's exposing their indifference and contempt toward  ATRs  BTW, Karen's statement was brilliant..... Bruce Markens
Goodman talks about the orderly old system which was overturned by BloomKlein and Randi.
Teachers have been excessed from schools for decades, schools lost enrollment and the junior teacher was bumped and placed in another school in the district; it was an orderly procedure without favoritism or politics. In the late eighties the former Board of Education began closing schools, the Board and the Union negotiated a process; half the teachers in the replacement schools would be excess teachers from the closing school; although they did had to exhibit qualifications through an interview conducted by a Board-Union committee; once again, an orderly process.

On ATRs and APPR - Ed Notes Handout - Oct 2017

I handed this out at the DA. If you want a pdf email me at People should read Karen Sklaire's speech.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rich Gibson on Ken Burns' Vietnam

I generally likes the Burns' series but here is another view even if Gibson posted this before seeing the series. But he gives the long perspective and ties a bunch of loose knots together.
I still maintain that Burns couldn't have gotten the funding for this film and it is very valuable to revisit this at this time even if not a perfect film.

The Vietnam Wars

Burns Vietnam

Boomers Teach the Grandbabies
More Lies Ahead About the Wars on Vietnam
by Rich Gibson
Go to his link to see all the photos and refs.

 I am archiving it below.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ATRs to UFT - It is About Dignity, Don't Tell Us We Are Lucky to Have a Job

It is condescending to say I’m lucky to have a job.  I don’t feel lucky. ATR system is failing. Better to not have a job than stay and feel humiliated.
Please tell me.. where is MY protection that takes a HUGE chunk of my paycheck and tells me to sit back and obey.
Lucky not to get fired? At least if someone tried to fire me- I’d have grounds to find a lawyer and contest. You have stripped me of any rights. And now all I can do is hope that I will find something and feel like somebody before I lose myself.
I sat there all summer reading articles in papers not ONCE hearing any of MY story. The story of a 14 year award winning teacher that no one wanted. Where are those articles? 

I am a member of 2 unions- Actors Equity and the UFT. I believe in public schools and I did not ask for this. You my union has turned a blind eye on these ATRS most of whom are not there because they are a problem. Where is the article that talks about people like me?

 ---- Karen Sklaire speech to UFT Ex Bd, October 16, 2017
Karen Sklaire delivered one of the most powerful and emotional speeches to the UFT Ex Bd I've ever heard. You could hear a pin drop. And Mulgrew was even there to hear it. Kudos to Howie Schoor for being so tolerant of allowing people like Karen, who was not on his sign-up list, to have their say. Howie has done a great job of moderating what could be difficult meetings and fostering a cordial relationship between the leadership and the opposition.

Yes, where are you Kate Taylor of the NY Times with your biased reporting that turns a talented teacher like Karen into mud and makes her even more unemployable as the NY Times aids and abets what amounts to abuse?

And where is the UFT in countering that narrative?

How dare the UFT say, as they did last night, they can never change the public's minds about ATRs when they don't even try? Yes they were asked last night to counter the crap coming from reporters such as Kate Taylor and the Times editorial board.

If the UFT put Karen's speech up as a commercial she would change minds. When I heard them say that I practically leaped out of my seat when they put up pablum for commercials. I wish I had a video recorder yesterday.

[As I write this I am watching another UFT commercial about how public school proud they are -- where's their public school pride in allowing this to happen to Karen and so  many others?]

The bi-monthly MORE/New Action pre-Ex Bd meetings may be the most exciting things happening in the union for activists. Last night was no different as ATRs, led by active MORE members who are ATRs, showed up to make their case and get some answers from the UFT. (I have a lot more to say about our outstanding group of elected reps in coming days as I report on some of the rancor within MORE over their role.)

MORE and New Action High School Exec Bd reps have been doing a wonderful job since elected last year. The EB meets every 2 weeks, mostly on Mondays and we hold a pre-meeting downstairs in the back of the lobby. People who are speaking during the open mic period are invited to join the meeting and coordinate with them. For many of us, this has been among the most exciting work MORE has done.

Now I know Karen Sklaire's story because our MORE colleagues Alexandra Alves and Karen Arneson are chapter leader and delegate in her school. Alexandra and another colleague came to the EB to support Karen last night. I know that the old principal wanted to get rid of her theater program. And have followed her story through Alexandra and Karen Arneson, some of the best people I've met in MORE. I went with them to see Karen's one woman show at The Fringe a few years ago.

Arthur Goldstein reported at NYC Educator on Karen's statement:
Karen Sklaire—ATR—15 year teacher of theater—excessed.  No theater positions available. Say UFT said there was no union representation for ATRs. Second excess in 15 years. First time alone in a room for three years. Left and came back when recruited. Won RFK award in teaching, excessed two years later. Had opportunity to sub for six months—rejected by DOE. Have been assistant in 1st grade, making copies. Told by DOE can’t be placed. Told by union lucky to have job. Am pro union, has been nothing but a heartbreak. I just want to say it’s heartbreaking and I’m ready to leave. Condescending to say I’m lucky to have a job.  I don’t feel lucky. ATR system is failing. Better to not have a job than stay and feel humiliated. Schools won’t see me because I’m ATR with 15 years. Only people fighting for me are DOE theater program people.
He also reported on other great statements (sorry I don't have a transcript of these remarks as I do of Karen's).
Gina Trent—English teacher for 17 years, mostly as ATR. Grateful UFT preserved salary and benefits. However, you should fight for more quality of life issues. Most of my colleagues envy ATR position. Disturbing. Many young people leave with health issues and stress. We need to try to get principals accountable where all teachers have no trust. We need to place pressure. We need to defend ATRs and senior teachers. Research suggests we are the most effective. 
And MORE associates:
Aixa Rodriguez—ESL teacher and ATR, rated HE—No vacancies for ESL in Bronx HS—CR Part 154 makes courses double counted so there are no vacancies. Asks that stereotyping FSF, be challenged by UFT. Leads to rampant ageism.

August Leppelmeier—NYT maligned character of ATRs. Very unfair. Most ATRs excessed for downsizing. Somehow city isn’t placing ESL teachers. Those charged have been cleared. If not, they’d be fired. UFT needs to stand by concept that people are exonerated. Expects union to fight in press with ads, speak publicly, use social media. Has been going on since June. We expect more.

Karen was kind enough to send me her written version of the speech, though I wish you saw Karen, who is trained to be in front of a crowd, in person. Too bad the UFT doesn't allow taping - if they put Karen's speech on line it would have an impact.

 Karen Sklaire's speech (which she said were talking notes).
Good Evening

My name is Karen Sklaire. I am entering my 15th year as a theater teacher for the DOE. I am the 2015 recipient of The Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Honor as a teacher and actor creating the first world wide theater lesson that has been translated in over 22 languages. 

As a theater teacher I have created curriculum for K-5 theater teachers, was one of the original teachers who rolled out the Blueprint for the Arts, I created the first Robert F Kennedy human rights theater camp merging human rights education and theater as a way of teaching empathy in the classroom. The camp gave scholarships to underserved communities. I have merged with Broadway Theaters to bring students to their first Broadway production and directed many shows. My curriculum is significant in ESL, ELL and ENL communities as a way of teaching children to understand the language through their body and learn how to enunciate. I am currently on the DOE facilitator team for theater where I’ll be leading a workshop at the city wide Professional Development this coming November on using empathy in Playwriting. 

I have been a highly effective teacher up until the last year. where my principal did not visit my classroom till March and gave me effectives across the board because she was told to not give out highly effectives. I am now an ATR. This is my second time. 

In 2007 I was excessed within the first month of school and made to sit alone in a room only to sub very rarely at the school I was at at the time. I was forced to take the first job which was a high school in The Bronx that moved the principal to strategically punish me until I quit. 

I came back a year later after being sought after because of my reputation as an excellent hard working teacher. My principal did not inform me of being excessed till the week before school ended. All really qualifiable positions had been filled already and budgets were in place. I spent the summer applying to as many jobs as I could but only ONE called me in as they needed a music teacher and could I do that. Which I cannot. 

I was told the word ATR was like the scarlet letter of teaching. Either my salary was too high or they didn’t trust me because of my status. 

I sat there all summer reading articles in papers not ONCE hearing any of MY story. The story of a 14 year award winning teacher that no one wanted. Where are those articles? 

I have been kicked around this year in the most demeaning way. A principal told me that the DOE is trying to get me to leave which is why they said NO to any long term sub positions that would have had me actually WORK for my salary instead of being an assistant for a 24 year old first grade teacher. I remember sitting in a closet filing her papers in her portfolios crying and wondering why I was being punished. 

The Union person I spoke to said that I consider myself lucky that I still have a job. I wondered if that person would say to a person who was in an abusive relationshop- your lucky your not alone. 

It was not their fault- that is what they are told to say. And I have heard it over and over. I even have an award winning show about it. Every opportunity I had to possibly get placed the DOE stood in my way. The union said that's the rules. I have experienced a nervous breakdown and have still showed up to my demeaning position. I had the heads of arts and special programs and a current part time gig I have scream at the DOE saying they got the wrong person lost in the system. There IS NO job for me on this October 16 except a possible 3 day a week gig in Inwood. I’m currently subbing in a performing arts school in the Bronx. My commute for both is about one hour and 40 minutes. I am exhausted and I have too much talent and a huge resume and no one to hire me. I can't imagine enduring this for a whole year so it’s up to me to move my home so I can probably take a lesser paying gig to keep my sanity. 

I am a member of 2 unions- Actors Equity and the UFT. I believe in public schools and I did not ask for this. You my union has turned a blind eye on these ATRS most of whom are not there because they are a problem. Where is the article that talks about people like me? How much emotional abuse must I endure before I break?
Please tell me.. where is MY protection that takes a HUGE chunk of my paycheck and tells me to sit back and obey.
Lucky not to get fired? At least if someone tried to fire me- I’d have grounds to find a lawyer and contest. You have stripped me of any rights. And now all I can do is hope that I will find something and feel like somebody before I lose myself.
Her website is Karen Sklaire 
Karen will be doing a benefit for Puerto Rico in November

Monday, October 16, 2017

Luis Reyes on UFT: I believe in social change, redemption and renewal

UFT/Unity Caucus leadership lauded as a social justice org.

I posted the NY Times article on the American role in undermining democracy in Chile in the early 70s on various listserves (US Role in Chile Horror: And They Worry About Russian Meddling?)
and mentioned the role our union leaders played there. Luis Reyes, long-time social justice activist here in the city and beyond made the following comment. I am posting this as a message to people and caucuses like MORE that think they can outflank the union leadership on SJ issues. A group of us in MORE have been contending that if we want to challenge the UFT leadership, it has to be on issues where they have not supported the members, not on how social justicey they are.

Norm and all:

I believe in social change, redemption and renewal. On Saturday, I was honored by the UFT at their ELLevating Conference with the Luis O. Reyes ELL Advocacy Award in the UFT auditorium filled with more than 1,000 teachers and teacher leaders. The honor goes to many who made this moment possible.

In the 1970s, Albert Shanker (R.I.P.), wrote in his NY Times column  that bilingual education was "...unamerican and separatist."

 In 1984, I reached out to  Sandra Feldman (R.I.P.), to start a dialogue with the UFT leadership. Latino and other bilingual leaders met with leaders of the UFT; and, together we started a movement that resulted in the UFT changing its position on bilingual education and supporting state LEP Aid. Today Evelyn DeJesus, a Puerto Rican bilingual educator from the Lower East Side is the Vice President for Education and Carmen Alvarez continues to be the V.P. for Special Education. 

Today, Michael Mulgrew, the President of the UFT, and Randi Weingarten, the President of the AFT, have been leaders in the the AFL-CIO union coalition sending relief union volunteers, emergency supplies, and donations to the Hurricane Maria Relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The UFT sent 30 school nurses and others there this past week. We are rebuilding Puerto Rico, reconstructing professional relationships, and preparing to receive children, families, and, yes, teachers from Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to New York City and New York State. 

Yes, I am eternally grateful and appreciative of social change, redemption and renewal.


Luis O. Reyes

Sunday, October 15, 2017

US Role in Chile Horror: And They Worry About Russian Meddling?

There is a cable from the Central Intelligence Agency to its officers in Santiago after a failed operation in October 1970 to prevent Allende from assuming office, which he did that November. The C.I.A. provided weapons for the plan, which resulted in the killing of the commander in chief of the army, Gen. René Schneider, and the agency later sent money to help some of the plotters flee the country. “The station has done an excellent job of guiding Chileans to a point today where a military solution is at least an option for them,” the cable says, commending the officers, even though their plot was foiled.

There is no more outrageous story to read today than this one, especially for those who continue to harp on Russian interference, which if it happened pales in comparison what the CIA, etc did and continues to do all over the world interfering everywhere. Another story pops up every day. Read this one in Chile -- which by the way had our own union leader Al Shanker involved using the CIA influenced AFLD to try to undermine leftist teacher unions in Chile.

The American Federation of Teachers and the CIA by George N. Schmidt


Also see:

Documenting U.S. Role in Democracy’s Fall and Dictator’s Rise in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile — An old rotary phone rings insistently.
Visitors at a new exhibition at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights here in Santiago who pick up the receiver hear two men complain bitterly about the liberal news media “bleating” over the military coup that had toppled Salvador Allende, the Socialist president of Chile, five days earlier.
“Our hand doesn’t show on this one, though,” one says.
“We didn’t do it,” the other responds. “I mean, we helped them.”
The conversation took place on a Sunday morning in September 1973 between former President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger. The two men were discussing football — and the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government 5,000 miles away with their assistance.
For the exhibition, two Spanish-speaking actors re-enacted the taped phone call based on a declassified transcript.
The chance to listen in on the call is part of “Secrets of State: The Declassified History of the Chilean Dictatorship,” an exhibition that offers visitors an immersive experience of Washington’s intervention in Chile and its 17-year relationship with the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Continue reading the main story
A dimly lit underground gallery guides visitors through a maze of documents — presidential briefings, intelligence reports, cables and memos — that describe secret operations and intelligence gathering carried out in Chile by the United States from the Nixon years through the Reagan presidency.


“There is an arc of history that is very dramatic when you put these documents together,” said Peter Kornbluh, the exhibition’s curator who is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive in Washington and director of its Chile Documentation Project. “They have provided revelations and made headlines, they have been used as evidence in human rights prosecutions, and now they are contributing to the verdict of history.”
On view are documents revealing secret exchanges about how to prevent Chile’s Congress from ratifying the Allende victory in 1970, plans for covert operations to destabilize his government and reports about a Chilean military officer informing the United States government of the coming coup and requesting assistance.
There is a cable from the Central Intelligence Agency to its officers in Santiago after a failed operation in October 1970 to prevent Allende from assuming office, which he did that November. The C.I.A. provided weapons for the plan, which resulted in the killing of the commander in chief of the army, Gen. René Schneider, and the agency later sent money to help some of the plotters flee the country.
“The station has done an excellent job of guiding Chileans to a point today where a military solution is at least an option for them,” the cable says, commending the officers, even though their plot was foiled.
The exhibition includes only a small sample of the 23,000 documents on Chile that the Clinton administration declassified between 1999 and 2000 in response to international requests for evidence on Pinochet’s crimes. The former Chilean dictator was arrested in London in October 1998 and awaited extradition to Spain to face trial on charges of human rights abuses during his rule.
As several other European countries also sought Pinochet’s extradition based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, Mr. Kornbluh, the curator, led a campaign to persuade the White House to release classified records that could serve in an eventual trial against the general.
Documents on Chile from 1968 to 1991 from seven United States government agencies, some of them heavily redacted, were released as part of the State Department’s Chile Declassification Project. Most were declassified months after Pinochet was sent home from London for humanitarian reasons, but just in time to contribute to new judicial investigations in Chile.
The documents have been used as evidence in several human rights inquiries involving American victims, including the 1973 killings in Chile of Frank Teruggi and Charles Horman; the 1976 car bomb assassination of Orlando Letelier, a foreign minister and defense minister in the Allende administration, and his American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, in Washington; the 1985 disappearance in Chile of Boris Weisfeiler, an American professor; and the killing of Rodrigo Rojas, a Chilean-born United States citizen who was burned alive by soldiers in Chile in 1986.

Copies of the front pages of dozens of newspapers during the Pinochet era, on view in the exhibition.CreditTomas Munita for The New York Times 

They have also shed light on Operation Condor, a network of South American intelligence services in the 1970s and ’80s that shared information, traded prisoners and orchestrated assassinations abroad. The head of DINA, Chile’s clandestine intelligence agency, Gen. Manuel Contreras, was the mastermind behind Condor, and hosted an inaugural meeting in November 1975 in Santiago.
In the exhibition, the seats at a rectangular table bear the names of the intelligence chiefs of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile who attended Operation Condor’s first meeting. A layer of earth covers the table, and brushes are provided for visitors to reveal what is beneath: the names of Condor victims, many of whom vanished without a trace.
Nearby, copies of the front pages of dozens of newspapers from the Pinochet era hang from a panel simulating a kiosk. They were all published by the conservative media empire El Mercurio, which received at least $2 million from the C.I.A.
The records in the exhibition also profile Pinochet, trace intelligence gathering on brutal state-sponsored repression and detail how the Reagan government abandoned Pinochet to his fate in 1988, fearing a further radicalization of the opposition.
“These documents have helped us rewrite Chile’s contemporary history,” said Francisco Estévez, director of the museum. “This exhibit is a victory in the fight against negationism, the efforts to deny and relativize what happened during our dictatorship.”
The Memory and Human Rights Museum opened in 2010 during the first term of President Michelle Bachelet and offers a chronological reconstruction of the 17-year Pinochet government through artifacts, recordings, letters, videos, photographs, artwork and other material. About 150,000 people visit the museum annually, a third of them groups of students, Mr. Estévez said.
The National Security Archive donated a selection of 3,000 declassified documents to the museum several years ago, while the State Department provided the Chilean government with copies of the entire collection. Chileans, however, have rarely seen them.
“To see on a piece of paper, for example, the president of the United States ordering the C.I.A. to preemptively overthrow a democratically elected president in Chile is stunning,” Mr. Kornbluh said. “The importance of having these documents in the museum is for the new generations of Chileans to actually see them.”

Are You Planning to Run for Chapter Leader in May/June 2018?

Every three years each school and functional chapter holds chapter leader elections. Most often they are not contended but when they are things can get heavy. I and a group of other people have had extensive experience in what people face in these elections, especially for first timers.

Is your principal hostile to your running either because there is a relationship with the current CL or does your principal see your election as a threat? Then expect some behind the scenes (or open) campaigning against you.

Are you challenging a Unity CL? Expect a campaign that can get vicious. If you win expect a possible challenge to the borough office even over trivial issues and a chance they will overturn your victory and find something wrong with how the election was held.

Therefore pay strict attention to the procedures laid out on how to run an election -- there must be a committee and the CL has a lot of say -- so fight to get one of your people on. Also pay attention to how ballots are set up and protected.

Most important is how to run a campaign and how to pace such a campaign. At the MORE convention yesterday Gloria Brandman, a retiree who was a CL, suggested MORE provide assistance and training for people wanting to run. We had hoped to run a training at the convention but that time got subsumed by a Labor Notes "Secrets of a Successful Organizer" -- I've taken it a few times and there are no real secrets.

Here is Gloria's pitch which was passed. Execution will be the key. Get in touch if you are interested in running for CL or Del. Sessions will begin after the New Year - or before if there is demand.
Chapter Leader/ Delegate Election Campaign

From the MORE website:

“MORE’s central priority will be the development of a UFT caucus. Our aim is to reach UFT members with our message of a more active and democratic union that can effectively fight back against what we have called the “ed deform” agenda and for the basic union rights of our members”.

In order to achieve these goals, a union caucus must have some level of power within the union organization. We have gained 7 seats on the Executive Board with our High School representatives and we must continue to build on this success. The UFT will be holding Chapter Leader/Delegate Elections in the Spring of 2018 and this should be the next level in which we build our base and our power.

I propose that MORE engage in a Chapter Leader and Delegate Building Campaign.

This will be twofold:

1. Encourage and support all current MORE Chapter Leaders and Delegates to run for re-election in their schools and chapters.

2. Seek out our supporters in schools that are not yet represented by MORE and encourage and support these members to run for Chapter Leaders or Delegate in their schools.

Memo from the RTC - Rhapsody Players Delight Saturday Night Crowd in Benefit Performance

Memo From the RTC:  Rhapsody Players Delight Saturday Night Crowd in Benefit Performance
By Norm Scott

Those lucky enough to attend the benefit performance of “The Rhapsody Players” ( at the home of the Rockaway Theatre Company last Saturday night were treated to two hours of delightful entertainment by the seven member singing group, accompanied by an outstanding six piece band. This was the second time I had seen them and the harmony and the ability of each member to deliver a rock’n sock’n solo gave the audience the feeling they were at a top level show delivered by star pros. They were recently joined by our one of RTC’s major stars and voices, Renee Titus, whose voice can knock down walls – and practically did.

We were accompanied by David Bentley, a former colleague and friend of mine, who since his retirement from the NYCDOE reviews plays in various parts of the nation ( David, invited us to dinner the night before at the famed Lamb’s Club, a social club in New York City for actors, songwriters, and others involved in the theater. It is America's oldest theatrical organization – since 1874 and we were treated to members performing various songs as we ate dinner – all with an accompaniest on the piano. All performers are members of the club, which over its 142 years has contained many famous members – oh that photo on the wall with a 25 year old Fred Astaire.  We told David about the RTC benefit and he decided to join us, expecting a nice performance by local amateur talent. Well, he was blown away and couldn’t believe The Rhapsody Players were not performing professionally. I agree and am only sorry that all RTC fans didn’t get to see it. Hopefully The Rhapsody Players will return to Rockaway soon.

Rockaway Café rehearsals heat up and RTC preps new courses
I’ve been added to the cast of the legendary RTC productions of The Rockaway Café, which returns after a few years layoff, on Nov. 3 for 10 performances over 3 weekends (and one Thursday). But fans shouldn’t fret – I can’t mess things up too badly since also joining the cast are Tony Homsey and Curtis Wanderer – also known as that dynamic duo – Tony Curtis.

The three of us will also be involved in a brand new course being taught by Tony – Basics of Theater Set Construction, beginning soon after Thanksgiving and running every Sunday for 8 weeks in two hour sessions. Basic use of the tools used, safety in using the tools will be covered in the first session. This is not a set design course but how to exercise the vision of the set designer and the director in the most feasible manner possible. One of the goals is to expand our set building crew so as to distribute the workload. One of the major projects in the course will be building the sets for the two children’s theater group’s plays in February and March.  If interested in joining us keep an eye out for more information in a few weeks.

Read Norm’s other column, School Scope and his blog at

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ken Burns' Vietnam War, Must See Despite Left Attacks

Burns has set himself up as a self-appointed national therapist for interpreting U.S. history. This is hard to take at times, but the subject matter he covers usually rises above his paternalistic liberalism.... Burns' series outlines the deep roots of deception involved in U.S. foreign policy that I imagine a younger generation will find shocking....... there also frustrating limits and omissions to Burns and Novick's series. In the first episode "Déjà vu," narrator Peter Coyote tells us that "America's involvement in Vietnam...was begun in good faith, by decent people, out of fateful misunderstandings." Yet the whole series proves the opposite at every turn.
.... in the first episode, I saw an extraordinary act of historical censorship. The U.S. plucked Ngo Dinh Diem out of obscurity in the mid-1950s and made him the president of the Republic of Vietnam, or "South Vietnam" as it was referred to. In all of the photos of the era, standing behind him clear as day, is the lanky figure of Edward Lansdale, the CIA's man in Saigon, the man who made Diem. Yet Lansdale is never identified....
Unfortunately, many people on the left in the U.S. seem to have watched only the first 20 minutes of this first episode. Disgusted by claims of "good faith" and "decent people," they didn't watch any further, though they did take to Facebook and Twitter to denounce it.
....... Socialist Worker, Joe Allen, author of Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost.
The carping from the left began from the first frames of Ken Burns' documentary which for me exposed the entire lying and manipulative structure of the American power structure. Some if it was fair and some not --the SW review is very balanced:
The Vietnam War is a compelling, beautifully made and revealing documentary series. Burns and Novick have brought back the Vietnam War back to its proper place in our living history. Despite their limited critique of the war and their misplaced hostility toward the antiwar movement, this series should be watched and debated by all.
Burns exposes how history continues to repeat itself in Afghanistan. And it will never end. The dumb strategies in 'Nam and what we see today are similar. Clueless. The minute we are out of Afghanistan we know the script of what happens to puppet type governments. Does that mean we root for the Taliban to win? Hell no. Every alternative is worse than worse.

Also we see how the right wing and the admin went after anti-war protestors and blamed them for the losing war. And also how the soldiers turned against the war, which was the biggest threat to the war wing - which is why they so quickly went to an all volunteer army and killed the draft.

Also we saw how we destabilized an entire area with Cambodia and Laos being essentially undermined and destroyed, leading to the Kmer Rouge. We saw the same in the Middle East and the rise of ISIS due to our actions. (Oh what Saddam would have done to ISIS).

But some elements of the left want purism, as I saw on FB with commentary. Let's be clear that the documentary also exposes some of the brutal acts of the North Vietnamese, which is a no-no in some left circles. No one would pretend that the victory of the North Vietnamese (compare to what happened in Korea in 1950 which has influence over what happened in Nam.)

Allen makes this important point:
Throughout the series, the Vietnamese national struggle is one that Burns and Novick can't make up their minds about. Was it a civil war, a national struggle for independence or an example of Cold War Communist expansion? 
People on the left also have some issues. I imagine Trotskyists would condemn the North Vietnamese as Stalinist variations.

So reading the piece in this very fair assessment in the ISO newspaper is instructive in that it defends Burns while also pointing out the flaws. I won't get into the weeds of whether I agree or disagree at this point since I do want to write more about the series.

Thanks to Mike Schirtzer for pointing me to these articles.

An epic series with an Achilles' heel

Allen's point here is important:
... the real Achilles' heel of The Vietnam War is Burns and Novick's disdain for the antiwar movement.
Veteran civil rights activist Bill Zimmerman is given a fair amount of screen time, but the movement against the draft is called a campaign of "self-interest" because the young men who could be drafted were at the core of it. When tens of thousands of antiwar activists attempt to shut down Washington, D.C., in one protest, Burns and Novick echo Nixon adviser Pat Buchanan in calling them the "crazies."
Barnard College antiwar activist Nancy Biberman makes a tearful apology: "It pains me to think of the things that I said, that we said. And I'm sorry."
What misplaced words could ever compare to the scale of murder, destruction and deception committed by the U.S. government? Yet what is now presented as excesses on the part of the antiwar movement is presented as co-equal. It should be pointed out that no government official ever apologizes for anything during the series.
Worth reading is:

Vietnam War Protesters have NOTHING to Apologize For | By | Common Dreams

School Scope: Has di Blasio Done Anything Right? Oh, Say, Can You See at a Ranger game? - Norm in The WAVE

My latest in The WAVE - Pub. Oct. 13, 2017

School Scope:  Has di Blasio Done Anything Right? Oh, Say, Can You See at a Ranger game?

By Norm Scott

I took my umpteenth Rockaway ferry ride on Sunday. A friend dropped us off but we could easily have walked the two blocks from our house to get the free jitney to the ferry. We got off at Wall Street and waited less than 10 minutes for the Astoria ferry where we used the free transfer and got dropped off at 34th Street after a 10-minute ride. Not bad for two bucks seventy five. And I didn’t have to even take my car keys. There has been no more relaxed way of traveling around the city – and even more routes are on the way. And I love how these fairly small boats maneuver in and out of the docks in a jiffy. Only once this summer did I fail to get on a ferry because it was overcrowded.

Finally seeing the NYC waterways being used effectively to move people around is a game changer for transportation in our city – if the schedules work for you and you have some extra time. And more routes are to come. So when it comes time to give credit to the mayor who made it possible, we see Rockawayites carping and grouching over what ultimately is minutia. Most of the time the boats are big enough and by next year they will have bigger boats when they need them. But most of the time they don’t.

And how about NYC Ferry and Hornblower, the San Francisco based company which blew into town as people complained about them when they were given the contract. Consider the time frame of hiring entire staffs, who have been very nice and courteous most of the time –  and making the boats run on time and building the boats? And how about the low fare after large city subsidies?

Funny how di Blasio is expected to win overwhelmingly, though is he so disliked even by people who support his policies – hell, I don’t like him. But add the fact he implemented a massive pre-k program for 4 year olds that has saved so many people so much child care money and is rolling out a program for 3 year olds, let’s give some credit where credit is due. In Rockaway it will be interesting so see the vote. We can predict that the west end will go against him overwhelmingly while the reverse will happen in the east end. As for the middle peninsula, I don’t have a clear picture. Probably somewhat mixed.

As for Erich Ulrich, our local city councilman who wouldn’t challenge di Blasio in this election but will most likely run in four years, I noticed he is supporting the constitution convention while trying to give himself some cover by saying he doesn’t support the anti-labor aspects. I don’t buy it. The people who are pushing the convention are not on the side of workers. They have something more up their sleeves.  I would like to see massive reform of our political system in the state. The convention is not the way to do it. I have a way to judge making these type of decisions. What groups are pushing it and when I look at the list I see a lot of enemies of working people on it. Too bad Ulrich has decided  to join them. But then again he has that Republican label on him, which means that ultimately he is aligned with a Party that wants to destroy labor unions and the hard won rights it took a half century to build.  Don’t get fooled by phony rhetoric. Ulrich also supports charter schools and Phil Goldfeder’s support of him doesn’t surprise me since Phil LOVED charters and pretty much any scheme that would help the privatization of the school system. I don’t love Democrats very much either and my own union, the UFT, seems to be supporting Ulrich despite their massive campaign for a NO vote on the convention. That leaves me scratching my head, but them again the UFT often leaves me scratching my head.                                     

Oh, Say, Can You See at a Ranger game?
The national anthem is in the news over protests in the NFL. There are claims that kneeling during the anthem is a form of disrespect and has that has become a race issue. Generally the people opposing the players have been white. So I was reminded of NY Ranger playoff hockey games I attended years ago with a pretty much white crowd. When the anthem began, people stood. In regular season games the last bars of the anthem were drowned out by crowd noise. But during playoffs, soon after the anthem began so did the noise – to the point that you couldn’t hear the anthem at all as the crescendo built after Oh Say Can You…..  Is there an analogy here between the national anthem at a hockey game and some of the protests at a football game during the anthem? I imagine white and black people on the whole might view things from a different perspective.

Norm is scratching his head as he tries to make his blog great again at
Also read his Memo from the RTC columns in The WAVE.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Free Speech and Race – Left, Right, and Center By Norm Scott

My latest in The WAVE ---

School Scope:  Free Speech and Race – Left, Right, and Center

By Norm Scott

In this country race really matters – all the time. But then again we were born under the star of slavery, the consequences of which will never disappear.

Some people drape themselves in the flag. Some in the Declaration of Independence. Some in the Constitution. I am not a big flag guy though I have a few in my garden – my block has lots of flags and I want to fit in. I love the Declaration – “when in the course of human events” – and “all men are created equal” – unless you are black – or even one tenth black. Yes, race matters.

Along with people I have political differences with, I also love the Constitution – see we can agree on some things. I would love to drape myself in the Constitution – maybe even make a double breasted suit out of it. But there’s that little slavery thing – something about slaves being counted as 3/5 of a person for voting purposes by their masters. I can protest the 3/5 rule and maybe make my suit out of 2/5 of the Constitution. Patriots may cheer when I wear it, even if some parts of me will be left exposed.

Well, no biggie. Slavery was the thing in those times. If you didn’t own some slaves you just weren’t in. For some people lamenting the past, it may still be something they yearn for. Imagine the freedom to be able to whip people for not standing up during the anthem?

We are hearing a lot about free speech from all sides. But this is not new. Remember how hated Muhammad Ali was when he refused to go into the army because he didn’t want to go killing people of color in Vietnam when people of color had been so badly treated over the centuries in this country? If you haven’t seen the Ken Burns series on Vietnam it is a must see with so many similarities to the divisions of today. (I wonder how many protestors from the 60s are today screaming about the black athletes protesting?)

Some on the right are complaining that the left is trying to silence their voices through campus protests – A pushback against political correctness that forces people to temper their real thoughts played a role in the Trump victory . The libertarian in me is finding it hard to support people who want to suppress any free speech. Maybe an exception for Nazis.

The left has historically been a target of suppression – for well over a hundred years. Like if you said you were a communist you could go to jail. Is swearing allegiance to the United States of Capitalism a requirement? The accusations against Communism is that there is a lack of freedom and democracy and a one party system in Communist countries. There is no little irony that many of the same people who make these accusations are going nuts over athletes taking advantage of our “democratic” system and free speech, which supposedly gives them the right to kneel during the national anthem.

The right to organize labor unions has also been under attack, especially in states like Wisconsin. It began in the earliest years of the movement when police and the army were used to support the bosses from the late 19th century through the depression. One of the great things about FDR’s New Deal was the attempt to redress the balance by having the federal government support workers –good luck waiting for the states ¬¬– most of them are even easier to corrupt, believe it or not, than the feds, though the gap is closing – in the wrong direction. A word of warning to those who love the Republican health care law leaving things to the states.

What is ironic is that Democrats, ostensibly the party of labor, on the whole, has not done very much since FDR to help labor – remember how Harry Truman went after unions in steel, mines and railroads and the Taft-Harley Act (1947) which put controls over unions which were seen as growing too powerful. And Reagan’s destruction of the air traffic controllers union opened a Pandora’s box of attacks on unions to the point that their extinction is being predicted even before global warming puts us all under water.

We can only marvel at how a demonstration by one lone player – Colin Kaepernick – which has caused a lot of commentary – exploded after Trump’s comments into a full-fledged revolt by so many athletes in certain sports. (OK, not hockey – guess why?). Over 70% of pro-football athletes are black. And over 75% of the NBA are black and over 80%, people of color. And most of the white NBA players are from abroad. Interestingly, in baseball only 7% of the major league players are black, 27% Latino and over 60% white. That is why you will not see major protests in baseball but football and basketball will have protests exploding. Yet, even on the Yankees, baby bombers are Latino Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, certainly part black (like Derrick Jeter). Judge was adopted by white parents (like Kaepernick was) when he was a day old. Jeter, Obama (and probably Judge) are half white. In this country that makes them black. Race matters in this country.

Trump called for fans to boycott football over the protests but not over the number of head injuries or the woman beaters allowed to play while Kaepernick is seemingly banned over his protest. Funny how both the left and right have been calling for people to boycott the NFL. (The left often meets the right at certain points). The best American female tennis players are black and the best American golfer in a generation was also black.

Trump needs to spend more time addressing the issue of the disappearing white American athlete so we can make sports great again.

Norm is trying to make his blog great again at Also read his Memo from the RTC columns in The WAVE.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Is UFT Burning Money Pre-Janus?

In regards to the welcome center balloons and Windex comment, who paid for the expensive plants? Who purchased the new wooden furniture? Who paid for the painted walls? Who paid for the IT labor? Who paid for the new lighting fixtures? Who paid for new plumbing and plumbing fixtures? Who paid for the water fridge? Who paid for the water cooler? Who paid for the high tech coffee machine? Who paid for the banner? Who paid for the wiring? Who paid for the computers? Who paid for the fancy water bottles? Who paid for the signage to be removed? Who's paying the staff to work the extra overtime to staff the center? Who paid for the customer service training courses? We haven't even touched on who's paying for the new conference center in excess of 3 to 4 million dollars? How does all of this justify promoting an incompetent events manager to a position of higher authority who appears to be at the center of all of this out of control spending? Many people are forced to staff the welcome center even when they voice objections they are they do not have a choice. I don't remember this being brought up at any delegate assembly. How does a union that represents workers rights treat it's own staff this way? There are people that interested in working in the center that have been rejected by the UFT because of their background....  Concerned About Spending
If you work at the UFT, leave comments - I don't track people who comment - nor can I.This is in reference to my post, of last week, Making Merry at the UFT Citywide Chapter Leader Meeting.
I strolled into the brand new Welcome Center in the back of the lobby which was staffed by some heavy hitters of UFT officialdom, who posed for some photos on the condition they appeared in Ed Notes. Someone told me "they spent $70,000 alone furnishing that space when a desk is available right next to security." The price of balloons has certainly been going up.

I was glad to see they look pretty happy.

Someone is apparently not so happy and sent me this complaint that they are "Pressuring UFT workers to staff the welcome center during regular work hours and extending work days without pay." I pointed out that people like David Hickey and Janella Hinds seem to be there but this insider claims the staffing is often from the lower paid employees and comes from "An operator from administrative services, MBO and membership staff, accounting staff, David Hickey's secretary, print shop staff, IT staff ---- the big wigs usually have the administrative staff cover for the shift assigned to them."
Which elicited these comments from someone defending the union:
the 70k figure is ridiculous. It cost nothing, except some windex and a few balloons.
Cafe 52 has been closed for at least 3 years.
Our anonymous commenter is concerned about out of control spending and seems to have a finger on the button.

By the way -- the new conference rooms on the 2nd floor of 50 Broadway which this person claims is costing 3-4 million, may have a source of revenue as Eterno points out:


Daily Howler on Fatal Stabbing in NYC School - Asking deeper questions

....we were struck by the name of the school at which this unfortunate event had occurred. The high school in question is apparently called The Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation. We'll be honest. The name sounded a bit improbable, possibly even a bit high-fallutin', for a public high school in the Bronx. Question! How many public school kids in the Bronx, or anywhere else for that matter, are actually focused on wildlife conservation? 

Long ago, clueless elites fell in love with the high-fallutin' idea that low-income kids need to be challenged more at school. This reasoning has never exactly made sense: These under-served kids can't meet the traditional academic standards we already have—so we'll make the standards tougher? This unusual reasoning always sounds good—from a thousand miles away.

In truth, some low-income kids aren't being challenged enough at school—but many are perhaps being challenged too much, from their earliest years. We couldn't help wondering if that was occurring inside this unfortunate, oddly-named school.
The Howler, a former teacher, touches on some fundamental truths.

Posted: 04 Oct 2017 08:35 AM PDT

Part 2—And a rather unusual name: Last Wednesday morning, a 15-year-old student was fatally stabbed during a class at his public high school in the Bronx.

On Thursday morning, Sarah Maslin Nir published the New York Times' first news report about the fatal stabbing. We were struck by an historical claim—and by the name of the school.

It had apparently been a long time since a student was killed in a New York City school. Headline included, here's the way Nir's report began:

NIR (10/28/17): Bronx High School Stabbing Leaves a Teenager Dead and Another One Wounded

A 15-year-old was fatally stabbed and a 16-year-old was critically wounded in their Bronx high school on Wednesday morning
in what police say was apparently the culmination of weeks of conflict.

The killing, the first inside a city school building in more than two decades, according to the mayor, set off a lockdown that left hundreds of children cowering inside their classrooms, the older ones frantically texting parents for help. As word of the killing spread, parents desperate to see their children descended on the school building, which houses two schools—the elementary school P.S. 67 and the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, serving students in grades 6 to 12.
According to Mayor de Blasio, it was the first killing inside a city school building in more than twenty years.

For ourselves, we were struck by the name of the school at which this unfortunate event had occurred. The high school in question is apparently called The Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation.

We'll be honest. The name sounded a bit improbable, possibly even a bit high-fallutin', for a public high school in the Bronx.

Question! How many public school kids in the Bronx, or anywhere else for that matter, are actually focused on wildlife conservation? We were struck by the name of the school—and especially so later on, when Nir offered a cursory academic profile of the students:

NIR: The Wildlife Conservation school was started in 2007 by the Urban Assembly, a nonprofit organization that runs 21 small schools across the city, serving primarily low-income and academically struggling students.

Student test scores are low: This year 13 percent of the middle school students passed the state reading tests, and 5 percent passed the state math tests. In 2016, the school's four-year high school graduation rate was 73 percent. More than half of the high school students were chronically absent that year, meaning they missed more than 10 percent of school days.
Say what? According to Nir, five percent of the school's students passed New York's statewide math test last year. A more impressive 13 percent passed the statewide test in reading.

Nir said that the students' test scores were "low;" they sound extremely low. Having said that, might we offer a quick observation?

Nir isn't an education reporter; there's no reason why she should be. That said, passing rates for individual schools should generally be placed in a wider statistical context.

The passing rates for this oddly-named school sound extremely low. That said, what were the passing rates for high school students in New York City as a whole? For the whole state of New York?

Absent such data, it's hard to know exactly how low those passing rates actually are. And no—there's no reason to assume that these statewide tests define a sensible standard for "passing." A reporter should always include the wider passing rates, just to provide basic context.

(What were the statewide passing rates? You'll have to go elsewhere for that. In the past decade, states have made it increasingly hard to access such basic information. We're tired of staging long, fruitless searches for such information, especially in a world where it's plain that no one actually cares about the school lives of students like the ones at issue.)

We were struck by the intersection between the high-fallutin' name of this school and its horrible sounding data. It sounded like the school's test scores were extremely low. Beyond that, its graduation rate was unimpressive, and it sounded like attendance problems were rampant.

Within this school, a killing occurred. We'll offer some observations, starting with a couple of questions:

Who the heck is the Urban Assembly and why is it running these schools? More specifically, why is it running a public high school which seems to be built around wildlife conservation, in the face of which its students refuse to attend?

We're prepared to admit that this sounded odd and unattractive. Quickly, we'll offer some thoughts:

The name of that school sounds wonderfully high-fallutin', in a way which tends to turn the heads of clueless, uncaring "meritocratic" elites. The capsule profile Nir provided had a different sound:

It sounded like the kids at this school might well need types of "remediation" more than they need to be concerned about what's occurring in the rain forest or on the plain. Might they possibly need types of help this school just isn't providing?

A quick bit of background:

Long ago, clueless elites fell in love with the high-fallutin' idea that low-income kids need to be challenged more at school. This reasoning has never exactly made sense:

These under-served kids can't meet the traditional academic standards we already have—so we'll make the standards tougher? This unusual reasoning always sounds good—from a thousand miles away.

In truth, some low-income kids aren't being challenged enough at school—but many are perhaps being challenged too much, from their earliest years. We couldn't help wondering if that was occurring inside this unfortunate, oddly-named school.

Nir was offering a capsule, first-day report about a deadly event. Absent the missing context for those test scores, she did a perfectly decent job. Eventually, she quoted the dean, Kevin Sampson. He explained what had occurred:

NIR: Shortly after they were released from the lockdown on Wednesday afternoon, Asia Johnson and Yanique Heatley, both 18, stood outside the high school at 2040 Mohegan Avenue in the West Farms neighborhood.

The two were friends with all three of the students involved, they said. Ms. Heatley described Mr. Cedeno as ''different from the other guys.''

''He likes Nicki Minaj, stuff from H&M. He likes Kylie Jenner,'' she said.

''This hurts,'' Ms. Johnson said. ''No one should experience bullying but there's a way to handle it.''

''It's really sad,'' Ms. Heatley added. ''Two boys might lose their lives and our friend will never see the outside again.''

Mr. Sampson, the school's dean, stood, visibly shaken, outside on Mohegan Avenue. He had performed CPR on Matthew, he said. ''Two of my students got stabbed and one of them died,'' Mr. Sampson said. ''It was about what it's always about—bullying.''
Dean Sampson said the killing had resulted from bullying. He said that's what such incidents are always about.

The next day, in a front-page news report, the Times described the types of bullying which had allegedly occurred. But Nir had already begun to describe the horrid conditions which allegedly obtained within this school. The next day's front-page report would describe these conditions in much greater detail.

Was bullying at the heart of this deadly incident, or might the problems have run deeper? Tomorrow, we'll review the gruesome conditions being attributed to the school, and we'll ask a simple question:

If schools lives actually matter, why didn't the New York Times report on this school long ago?

Tomorrow: What the parents said

Friday: Do school lives actually matter? The two-year-old, nationwide test scores which you've never seen