Monday, November 4, 2013

"The Square", Casinos' UFT friends and the On-Going Mendacity of de Blasio

*What "The Square" conjures for teacher union activists *More disturbing gestures by Bill de Blasio *Why I am voting left instead of for de Blasio

An important political documentary is in the theaters, "The Square," Jehane Noujaim's documentary on the democracy protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. Noujaim, who nine years ago filmed the "Control Room," chronicles the activities of activists at Tahrir square and the twists and turns in political alignments and the changes in government.  The film is a powerful inspiration on the worth of pro-democracy activism.  I heartily recommend it to activists. It also gives viewers serious pause to the US' policy of giving a billion-plus each year to the Egytian regime. Of the gas and bullets lobbed at protests, of the vehicles running over protestors, I could not help but think that our tax dollars paid for these vicious crimes against our Occupy counterparts in Cairo.

Yet, in the latter part of the film it alludes to members of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement that went over to support the government of Mohammed Morsi. Critics charged that this move gave cover to repressors of democracy.

I could not help but think of the collaborators from the teachers movement, worse, Randi Weingarten, Dennis Van Roekel and Michael Mulgrew, who support the teacher evaluation programs and toxic Common Core State Standards experience that are destroying the teaching profession and American education. (Cravenly, they have accepted money from Bill Gates and other neo-liberal aggressive proponents of corporatized education. Read here and here.) Just as suffer from tanks or trucks literally running over protestors, American teachers suffer from evaluation systems that put complete blame for the state on American education without recognizing the impact of a depressed economic system that has high under-employment and record level income disparity for the industrialized world. As teachers are driven out of the profession out of revulsion and despair, the Weingartens, Van Roekels and Mulgrews of the teachers unions are at fault.

Is it any wonder that teachers are leaving the profession, in disgust and despair, that teachers are looking for alternatives to teaching, not because of the students, not because of the craft of teaching itself, but because of the totallized destruction of the profession, because of the degradation of the esteem of the educator?  The universal acceptance of every questionable tenet of the education "reform" privatization movement on the part of the political class (excepting Letitia James, New York City's soon to be public advocate) and the news media (especially embittering when compassionate liberals like WNYC's Brian Lehrer commit to a black-out of the real reformers of education, those going against the grain of the corporatizing of education) are features that foster further alienation from the standard politics and media.

So, we speak of betrayal of principle. It is very disturbing when we read of fresh, new ways in which the supposed leaders of the teachers unions promote another toxic development. The United Federation of Teachers have generously promoted Las Vegas style casino gambling in New York City to the tune of spending $250,000 from its political action funds to support a referendum on gambling. This has never happened with a free, open discussion by the members. And this advocacy is an expression of callous disregard for the toxic nature of gambling. As an occasional practice, gambling is not so offensive, but for too many it is an addictive undertaking depleting people of their resources. For far, far too many, addictive, problem gambling will cause the sapping of individual or family finances, the spending down of retirement savings, straining their credit lines, the withdrawal of an individual from quality family time in order to spend time with the gambling habit. As an example, in spite of politicians' claim that gambling saved Atlantic City, the reality is grimmer. In a survey by the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, 22 percent of respondents said that gambling was the cause of their homelessness. An early 2000s survey of gambling research indicates that the introduction of legitimate, state-sanctioned gambling locations generally is followed by a doubling of problem gamblers according to a number of measures

Count presumed New York City mayoral election winner Bill de Blasio among those supporting the offensive plan to expand casino gambling in New York City, for his rationale is that it will bring revenue to New York City and the state. Well, if we are seeking revenue with no regard for morals, we could also legalize blood-sports. That too could bring in revenues. But we reject certain morally noxious enterprises.

Additionally, the Perdido Street School blog reports that de Blasio met with Rahm Emanuel for about an hour to discuss "transition and urban affairs." Indeed! We should emphatically note, as PSS has done, that Emanuel is virulently anti-labor. Why Emanuel of all people? There are plenty of other Democratic mayors that he could confer with. That he chose to spend time with Bloomberg's twin in Chicago is extremely disturbing. Consorting with Emanuel is rank hypocrisy on the part of de Blasio. If the BDB bemoans two cities of New York he is two-faced, for Emanuel has aided glitzy developments in Chicago, all the while neglecting the public infrastructure and balanced development in his city. The Emanuel meeting comes on the heels of de Blasio's ingratiating himself to the city's business class and gutter tabloids with his open proclamation that he is a fiscal conservative. As I said when this earlier meeting was reported, fiscal conservativism is no neutral, consequences-free development. It will mean financial hardship with real consequences for wage earners and their families.

You can rest assured that there will be a de Blasio landslide. So, education leftists in New York City can safely follow principle Tuesday, November 5, and vote for a candidate with more authentically left ideals.

Just as I will be remembering our Egyptian counterparts this Tuesday, I will be remembering our Chicago Teachers Union counterparts, who have been proverbially driven over by the tanks of school closures. I will remember who laid off our proverbial cousins in Chicago. This voter will be choosing from among Anthony Gronowicz (Green), Daniel Fein (SWP) or Randy Credico (independent). They have platforms for municipal change that is more authentic than the mere changing of party label. New Yorkers are fed up with tyranny and callousness. Bill de Blasio should exercise care with his steps. Otherwise, he could find himself a one-term mayor. His betrayals would open the door for Letitia James, a candidate whom education activists can feel is more sincere and authentic than a mere change in party label. Aside from voting for James, I will be voting for Scott Stringer for comptroller, both on the Working Families Party line.