Saturday, December 24, 2016


Report-back from UFT Delegate Assembly of December 14, 2016*
By Marjorie Stamberg

New York -- President Michael Mulgew opened with comments on Trump’s cabinet choices: The Labor Secretary, Puzder does not believe in the minimum wage, the head of the Environmental Projection Agency thinks global warming in a hoax, the education secretary doesn’t believe in public education, Exxon Mobil is the secretary of state, and so forth.
There was a slide show on Betsy Devos, who has almost single-handedly destroyed the Detroit public schools. She got the job after Eva Moskowitz turned down the job, because she woudn’t take the pay cut. On the state level, there is a proposed Constitutional Convention – we must have a “Vote No” campaign because if they have one, they will use it to destroy collective bargaining and pensions in New York State. Also vouchers are not legal in New York State – they will want to change that.  Probably they won’t be overturning the new ESSA (federal education program) immediately.
Around the country, the election of Trump, who vowed to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants (after the Obama administration has deported more than 5.5 million) has caused great consternation, anxiety and fear among immigrant students, their families and teachers.
I raised a motion, “NYC Schools Must Be a Sanctuary For Immigrant and All Students” which has been put forward by my group, Class Struggle Education Workers. The resolution (attached) calls for setting immigrant defense committees in the schools, and for the union to take action to stop deportations.
Prior to the meeting, we handed out about 400 copies as the delegates streamed in.
After Mulgrew’s report, followed by Q&A, they opened the floor for resolutions.
I was called on first, and followed the procedure for “motions for next month’s agenda”: first present the motion and then be the speaker “for.”
I told the delegates that I would not read the “whereases” because they were basically to inform the members of current New York law regarding immigrant rights, and to document the specific threats made by the incoming Trump regime. 
I then began to read the “Resolveds.”  I didn’t get past the first one, which said that the UFT should state that “police and immigration authorities will not be allowed on school premises under any circumstances.”
At this point, a Unity retiree popped out of his chair to cry  ”point of order” that the whole motion supposedly violated the Taylor Law. This is typical of the Unity machine. Anything that smacks of real struggle triggers a Pavlovian response among the bureaucratic hacks who act as constables for self-enforcement of the Taylor Law, which they regard as a godsend to block mass action. In any case, what the motion called was an on-going assembly of teachers, students, staff and parents to shut down the schools in the face of actual deportations.
The “point of order” was ruled out of order by the chair. I then continued to read the “resolveds” in the motion.
Then I motivated the resolution, saying that our November D.A., held the day after the election, was very powerful, because delegate after delegate spoke of their passion to protect the thousands of immigrant students in NYC schools. (Over half of all public school students in the city come from homes where a language other than English is spoken.)
I said we need to make the schools a place of sanctuary, welcoming for parents to come with any concerns or threats made to them, we need rapid response teams and phone chains in place to respond immediately to any threat of deportation. And we need to organize across the schools to actually stop the deportations if they occur.
I noted that the migra in NYC would quite likely not come into the schools where we will protect the kids; they were much more likely to break down doors in the dead of the night.  I said I know people have some worries, that “we can’t do this because of the law,” and “we can’t do that…”  But, I said, we are the biggest union in NYC, we have powerful allies like the TWU, we have strength, and we need to do what we need to do, because we are not going to let our students be dragged out of the schools or out of their homes.
There was considerable applause as I finished.
Howie Schoor, the convener of the Executive Board, then spoke against. He repeated that the UFT couldn’t just stop ICE (the immigration police) from coming in, we had no right to stop them, we couldn’t shut down the schools, because that violates the Taylor Law and would lead to teachers getting fired.
A chapter leader said to me, “Hey, I’d be willing to get fired for that, what’s wrong with these people?”  But in fact, you don’t get fired for violating the no-strike, slave-labor Taylor Law, but you get fined.
The vote was taken, the delegates duly voted it down, having received their cue from Schoor’s diatribe. I looked toward the section of the hall where a lot of oppositionists sit and saw about 30 or so cards raised to vote “yes," I’m not sure how many total in the hall.
Mulgrew said it was voted down, but then added that even though some of the “resolveds” weren’t doable under any circumstances (says who?), and probably a violation of the Taylor Law, that he had already told the DOE that if they try it there will be arrests of teachers, that this is a decision every person needs to make themselves, but that he as UFT president was prepared to take the consequences because “I will not let kids be dragged out of our schools.”
What UFT officials will actually do is another matter, but here they have at least verbally made a commitment of sorts, and it’s up to us as educators to stand with our immigrant students, which is why we need to mobilize all of labor, together with parents and students and everyone who defends democratic rights.
Other points of note at the D.A.
•    Opt Out Campaign.   In the Q & A, a delegate asked whether we could be penalized under ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) if the number of students who “opt out” of high-stakes testing goes above 5 percent. (ESSA is the latest federal education program, following “Race to the Top” (Obama/Duncan), which followed Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.” 
The answer from Mulgrew was yes, we the NYC schools could lose pot-loads of money if that happened. This was a not-so-veiled barb against the Opt Out campaign which the bureaucracy in the past has suggested would “hurt children” if we lose the Title 1 federal funds. (This is the standard UFT leadership response to why we have to swallow Common Core or whatever national mandate, because otherwise funds will be withdrawn.)
•    NY State Constitutional Convention   The UFT is campaigning big time for a big “No” vote in November when the electorate will be asked to vote on whether to have such a convention.  Apparently, the voters are asked to vote every 20 years on whether to have one.  If people vote yes, then every law in the NY State constitution can be up for a change.  The right-wing intends to use this method to outlaw collective bargaining, impose-right-to-work anti-union laws, take away pensions and many other items
•    Argument in the Executive Board over the “Resolution Calling for Respect for All People.”
E-board members from the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators/New Action slate (who now have the high school seats) were incensed about the machinations over this motion. The motion talks about opposing racist, anti-immigrant, anti-gay speech, discrimination or harassment in the schools, particularly in the current atmosphere, but beyond “action committees” to vaguely “defend our values” doesn’t specifically call for doing anything concrete.
The motion in question starts with two whereases: “”Whereas, the presidential election campaign rhetoric targeted communities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identify and religion, and displayed abusive behavior toward women, has threatened the nation’s promise that all people are worthy of respect” and
“Whereas, the presidential election campaign rhetoric has outlined an education agenda overtly hostile to public schools and teachers, promising to prioritize vouchers and charter schools at the expense of public schools”….
At the D.A., Peter Lamphere (MORE)  put up an amendment to change “Whereas, the presidential election campaign”… to “Whereas, the Donald Trump election…” Peter said that was the initial wording of the motion in the E-board, and that the leadership changed it behind their back to take out the reference to Trump.
This sparked furious responses from some delegates and LeRoy Barr (secretary treasurer) about how a “lot of UFTers” voted for Trump and we have to win them back to the right path, and we can’t be hostile and we can’t insult them, etc., etc. When I asked out loud to people around me, “A lot of people? Who?” Delegates snapped back “Staten Island.”
So, the line coming down from the AFT tops is that the union is going to go out of its way to avoid criticizing the Trump administration as such: where they can’t work with it, they go to court, and meanwhile they dance around the issues where they can. However, it will not be possible to duck a fight over school vouchers, more charters, national right-to-work legislation, attempts to eliminate collective rights and defense of immigrant students, which are core issues for the Trump regime.
So here you have the “mainstream” Weingarten-Mulgrew business union bureaucracy trying to avoid direct confrontation with Trump, and the MORE/New Action “opposition” wanting an anti-Trump popular front with the capitalist Democratic Party. What we need is a class struggle workers party.
•        Coming January demonstrations:  Mulgrew said the UFT just learned that the Trump & Co. will forbid any demos around the Washington Mall (no word as to where they will be permitted, maybe in Maryland?).  If people want to go to Washington, Mulgrew said the AFT will provide buses. The UFT will probably demonstrate at demos in NYC; they might go to DC, but were non-committal at this point.
          Mulgrew ended the meeting, wishing everyone happy holidays and a good rest because “when we come back, it is war.”
*As one of your UFT delegates I report-back on the monthly meetings.  These reports are "my take" on the meeting. For official minutes, let me know and I'll send them along to you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

HOD Dec Meeting

HOD Meeting December
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting last week saw two resolutions passed.

The first was entitled CTU Resolution to Support the Standing Rock Sioux.

The resolves state the CTU will officially stand in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's opposition to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) across the Tribe's ancestral lands, waters and sacred sites, and calls on the US Army Corps of Engineers to obtain consent from the Indians before taking any federal action regarding the pipeline that would harm the ancestral lands, water and sacred sites and that the CTU will call for an immediate end to any and all aggressive actions in which police forces are using water hoses, rubber bullets, tear gas cannons and mace against peaceful water protectors.

One delegate added to the resolution giving financial support to the Dakota protesters in which teachers can send money.

The second resolution passed unanimously is the CTU Resolution to Defend Targets of President Elect Trump's Attacks. The CTU will condemn hateful, racist and xenophobic rhetoric promulgated by the President elect, not participate in divisiveness created by politicians by labeling undocumented immigrants as good or bad immigrants, not participate in pitting black and brown communities against each other, provide trainings to CTU members on how to support undocumented youth, not support ICE raids and deportations even if federal funding is cut, oppose efforts to create a Muslim registry system, advocate that all public and charter schools in Chicago become sanctuary schools, support the ACCESS Bill, join the Immigrant Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and support rallies, marches and other actions that further protect students and families.

In our next report you will read our correspondent and delegate from New York recap the NY HOD meeting in which their union fought back against supporting an anti-Trump resolution to protect the undocumented immigrants here.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Privatize Clerks

Now CPS Wants to Privatize the Clerks!
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) now have the clerks in their sight to privatize their services. 

Just like when CPS privatized the engineers, which certainly didn't help the schools when engineers were no longer under local control of the principals, their jobs outsourced which results in reduced pay and benefits, and more schools to service for less.

The staff at Hammond School were asked to sign a petition to immediately eliminate the new requirements for personal payroll management through Kronos Self Self-Service.

The teachers object to the unfair practice of forcing teachers to manage and monitor their own payroll, including benefit days, absences, and leaves. The petition was prepared by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and passed out at the last House of Delegates (HOD) meeting last Wednesday, that states "we object to the harms this will cause to Clerks around the system as positions are eliminated and combined."

The petition also states that time is taken from instructional preps, lunch, and or personal time at least once a week, including training, no hard copies or further instruction was provided prior to installation of the program, no technological support for staff, and staff and faculty are being asked to perform technology tasks outside the realm of instruction, thus creating excessive paperwork for teachers.

The new contract just ratified states that CPS must not issue excessive paperwork to the teachers, however, critics say the language is vaguely worded in the contract and thus can be exploited by CPS.

In addition, the union petition states the instructional material has been inadequate and the new system creates stress, unease and fear of lost pay.

"This unnecessary and onerous system will deprive educators of time necessary to prepare instruction, mentor students, and attend to the needs of our classroom," the petition states. 

CPS is already piloting this program in a few select schools, some located on the North side. Word out there is teachers don't like it.

One of the things teachers will have to do is fill in the paperwork when they are absent, or late that the clerks currently do.

We at Second City Teachers encourage all schools to bring signed petitions back to the union and have it presented to the Chicago Board of Education meeting to state we do not want our valuable clerks privatized!

Monday, December 12, 2016


Hi, I’m a university president,
After I triple student tuition costs which will lead to low enrollment, I’ll cut staff, and, at which point, I’ll continue to financially cripple our university, and then, I’ll complete my tenure which will include a million-dollar plus bonus simply because that’s how this works, and then, just a few months later, the mayor will appoint me to the board of the public schools, and,
in case you don’t believe me, I am real – Google it.  

Samuel DuBois is a poet, writer, and photographer. He was born in Chicago, and raised on the city’s south side and in the Gary, Indiana area. He is an editor of Coordenadas Zine. He won the Nopales con Cielo Award for fiction/non-fiction.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


By Stephen Wilson

MOSCOW -- Many years ago, the current Minister of Education, Olga Vasilieva, recalls that on a trip to America she attended a special memorial remembrance ceremony devoted to those American soldiers who had died during the war in Vietnam. The experience evidently held her in awe. She stated : " When I began to murmur something to a 
companion,a young school boy who was holding a standard threw a glance at me and silently drew his finger over his mouth signaling me to be silent.
I couldn't imagine Russian boys of that age behaving in such away."
The Minister had been recently interviewed by a journalist from Argument  and Facts. Like many other Russian politicians , she was expressing sentiments such as 'Why can't Russians be as patriotic as Americans ?' . Some Russians have even gone as far as to suggest Russian schools should emulate American by getting their students to sing the national anthem on a daily basis.
During the interview, the Minister then gave a moralistic talk on how young people should be genuinely, and not superficially patriotic. Like many Russians, she wonders whether the younger generation are either less, or more patriotic than the previous. Unlike some who recall the wartime exploits of young children who sacrificed themselves by throwing themselves with a grenade to stop tanks,
 and lament a perceived decline, the Minister leaves the question open.
The comments indicate that some Russians have a more complex and ambiguous attitude to Americans. In a word, many are inconsistently Anti - American. They don't all mock Americans as idiots who imagine Russians walk about the streets with bears.
But are Americans as patriotic in the sense which Olga Vasilieva perceives?
For many people narrowly and crudely reduce patriotism to absolute loyalty to the state. This view claims in the words of Pushkin's play 'Boris Godunov' that:
'History is made by the Tsar and nobles, while the people remain silent'.
But not all Americans blindly stand to attention to sing the National anthem in American schools. If they don't perform this ritual, it does not mean they are unpatriotic, but on the contrary , could even be affirming a more solid and deeper patriotism. Daniel Ogen, from the Blackfoot Indian tribe told me a sad story which dates back to his childhood days of the 1960's. He told me:
"One day I came to school in a very angry mood . I had just heard the news that my brother had been killed while serving in Vietnam. When the teacher asked us all to stand and sing the national anthem, I just refused to stand up.
 The teacher went mad and shouted at me to stand up and come here but I refused to move from my desk. So the teacher came up to me and tried to physically drag me away from the desk. But because I clung on to the desk with
 such strength he could not wrestle me off . So he sent for two other teachers to try and wrestle me off. None of them could drag me off. So they all ended having to carry away the desk out of the classroom with me gripping on to it !'
I still wonder how Daniel managed to cling on to that desk with such stubborn diehard tenacity. But I'm sure the sentiments expressed by the Minister of Education about the homage paid by young Americans at the remembrance
ceremony would have been appreciated. While visiting Russia , he was sick of many Russians taunting Americans as thoughtless and ignorant idiots.
He was at pains to inform them that there were many unheard of voices in America . Not all Americans go around chewing gum and incessantly or otherwise pretentiously smiling.
But if you seek to identify an example of American patriotism then you should look at the action in South Dakota, where American native Indians and their supporters went out and fought the construction of an intended oil platform over sacred land. They fought to defend the graves of their ancestors against companies who see land as merely a commercial asset. . They risked life, limb, and liberty against a well-armed police force. They have won a victory against
 the oil company because the army decided to halt construction. So patriotism means more than just silently respecting the dead at religious services .It implies fighting to protect the graves of your ancestors.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dakota Pipeline

By Stephen Wilson
A charming Lithuanian Folk tale tells how a young man rode out to graze his horses at night. Later,he fell asleep on a little path. But when he began to doze off , someone came up to him and violently pulled off his overcoat thus wakening him up. He rose up and looked around but saw nobody. He went
asleep and again, but someone pulled and flung his coat away. This time he cursed and went to sleep in another spot. When he slept he had a dream where a voice warned him : "Man, Don't go to sleep on a path that everyone travels on ! That means that ghosts walk there by night. A living person should n't lie down there. "
Practically all the Folklore around the world retain stories conveying the same moral : " Never . ever build a road ,or house or pipe-line over the graveyards or places where the dead lie buried. Any one who is rash or impudent enough
to push his luck, will suffer misfortune. For instance, in Moscow, in a district called Ostankino , the Russians built houses, palaces and a theatre over an ancient graveyard. Local people constantly complain of illness, lingering fatigue and suffer premature deaths. In Sokol, where an old First World war graveyard was demolished in the 1920's and 30's , local residents claim the walls in their houses crack , things break and ghosts constantly disturb them.
It is unlikely that the company, Energy Transfer Partners , who intend to force through a 3.7 billion Dollar projected Oil pipe line from the Bakken Oil field in North Dakota to a refinery in Patoka Illinois , near Chicago, will heed the warnings of old Folk-tales. The company has remained
intransigent and are arrogantly pushing ahead with construction even in the face of an appeal by President Obama to temporarily stop the construction never mind opposition from American native Indians and environmental
The local Standing Rock Sioux tribe and thousands of Native Americans claim the project threatens to violate their sacred burial grounds as well contaminate local drinking water. Should any pipe accidently burst then the impact on the land would be devastating. They claim at least 11 burial ground sites would be threatened. Since April 2016 when 200  
horsemen descended upon a site and set up a camp of resistance, there has been a bitterly prolonged struggle between the two sides.
The American native Indians have presented a more than convincing case that this land belongs to them according to past agreements and treaties and that the pipe line project is patently illegal . Unfortunately, their case was rejected by an American court thus needlessly intensifying an already heated dispute.
What has shocked and angered the whole World is how American Law enforcement has attempted to violently crush the revolt. Given the -heavy response of the law, it is a wonder noboby has been killed yet. The police have 
wantonly used tear-gas, rubber bullets ,water cannon and lethal concussion grenades. Anyone who lived in Belfast during the 1980's can testify how dangerous Rubber bullets can be as they killed peaceful demonstrators as well as school children. One young protestor , Sophia Wilansky , was hit on the arm with such a grenade despite the fact she was fleeing rather than challenging the police. She might now lose one of her arms !
The police claim that the protestors were throwing rocks at them and refusing to obey the letter of the law. But whose letter of the law are they observing?
The native Indians can reasonably argue that the real trespassers on this land are not themselves but the police and the soulless oil companies whose greed has rendered them stupid. They have more money than brains !
They are also violating sacred land which is just not done .
The people fighting against this pipe line are finding the struggle daunting.
As many as almost 300 people have been arrested.
Ladonna Allard ,a member of the Standing Rock Nation , stated:
" They are going under the river 500 yards from my Father's grave, my aunt who I buried last week". Another protestor denies allegations that the protestors are aggressive . Rose Stiffen insists that "We are innocent people, women , children and elders".
The American Native Indians can take heart from the fact that a new site on Facebook gathered 1 million signatures against the proposed pipe-line.
However, the struggle relentlessly goes on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Election Interference

This from a Reader ...

All this talk about recounts and "Russian interference" is so wrong. These are not "our" elections. They are elections run by the imperialist ruling class to decide who will be its political representatives in the next period. There is no "popular mandate" and "the people" don't decide anything. To promote this idea is wrong and harmful. It promotes false illusions among the masses just at the time when clarity is so needed. The electoral process is managed by the ruling class through its political representatives and media outlets. They decide what is "legitimate" to discuss and who to choose. They promoted Trump. The purpose of elections is to de-mobilize the masses.

All of this avoids the real question: why does the ruling class need a political representative like Trump at this moment? Even though they know it will provoke a lot of opposition?

No one has interfered with elections around the world more than the US ruling class. They control the process in most of the world. And when they don't get the outcome they want, they organize coups or other ways to sabotage elected governments. Countless examples. To promote the idea that "democracy" equals popular power is to ignore decades and decades of history.

Just look at what Obama is doing now. He is a lame duck so people say now he can do what he really wants. So what is he doing? Going back on the plan to close private prisons. Expanding the global war to Libya and Somalia, and giving Trump even more 
war powers for the coming years. Turning over to Trump Guantanamo, no restrictions on torture, expanded wars all over the globe. Expanded powers to involve local police in arresting and turning over immigrants to ICE.  Lists of who to deport. $1 trillion plan to revamp the nuclear arsenal, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Nothing progressive from the Democrats: the other wing of the imperialist vulture.

Who knows? There is so much false information out there it is often difficult to be sure what to believe. But why don't the Democrats talk about all of the Black people denied voting rights? Or the new laws about voter registration? They clearly don't want to mobilize any mass opposition. Just rely on the system--like recounts. And "give Trump a chance" rhetoric. They don't want to call the system into question either. Just maybe some voting errors. This just supports the legitimacy of the system.
It is easy to blame "Russian hackers." These days they always blame someone that only the government can have any evidence of (like mysterious plots the "security services" foiled), This not only mobilizes people around the reactionary program of the ruling class; it also teaches people to rely on the system and its military/police forces to "protect" them.
So who knows about Russian hackers? But even if there is truth to it, it seems to be a diversion from what's really going on, and a diversion from the very reactionary plans of the ruling class, which is in charge of these elections like all elections. So it seems like a smokescreen. Did Hitler come to power because of some mysterious hackers (whatever the equivalent would have been in that era) or because of the needs of the German ruling class. THAT is the issue.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Social Media Control

Rising Use of Cities Monitoring Protests and Social Media
By Jim Vail
Chicago News

Massive protests rocked this country after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
In the days after the election hundreds of thousands have hit the streets, students have walked out of classes and celebrities like Lady Gaga, Mark Ruffalo and Cher were among the thousands protesting outside Trump Tower in NYC late on election night.
Meanwhile, local government and police are using social media monitoring products to probe posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube for information on those protests, and any potential threats.
According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, social media monitoring products have the capability to read, interpret, and categorize millions of posts in mere minutes, allowing users of the software to stay on top of discussions on social media in real-time and search through past posts.
Some social media monitoring products even claim they can interpret the nuances of sarcasm in posts, evaluate credibility and influence of a message, chart out relationships between social media users, recognize and create alerts based on images (including emojis), and pinpoint the movement of individuals.
“In short, social media monitoring technology provides the capability to constantly monitor and archive information on millions of people’s activities,” writes Rachel Cohn and Angie Liao in
The authors write that according to a survey of police chiefs, 96.4 percent of law enforcement agencies surveyed used social media to listen and monitor.
The problem is while police say this is to monitor criminal activity, the technology can be used to monitor political and social justice movements such as the current Trump protests sweeping the country. The writers state that the police have used Geofeedia, Media Sonar and DigitalStakeout to monitor Black Lives Matter activists. During the Freddy Gray protests of 2015, Baltimore police used Geofeedia’s real-time monitoring to run social media photos through facial recognition technology.
The facial recognition technology, which Facebook uses and explains why you get notices of photos you were tagged in, can be used to discover rioters with outstanding warrants and arrest them directly from the crowd protesters.
“Investigations have revealed that some companies even marketed their services to law enforcement for monitoring of protesters,” Cohn and Liao write.
During the NATO protests several years ago in Chicago, the police arrested a number of protesters. Some were taken to the infamous Homan Square detention center where they were shackled and prevented from making a phone call. There are a number of lawsuits against the city based on this.
According to the report, some companies allow the police to create “undercover accounts,” or “targeted friend requests” that law enforcement believes the subject will accept, such as accounts depicting ‘attractive women’ or accounts purporting to be from a friend or acquaintance.
Still, while more information is detailing the growing reality of our surveillance state, very little is known about how, when and why social media monitoring technology is used by the police. Outside a freedom of information request, “there’s almost no way for the public to determine whether their local police department or sheriff’s office possesses social media monitoring software, much less obtain information on their policies regarding the use of such software,” the report states.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Film Review

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia -- A new film has hit the Russian cinema based on the wartime legend of twenty eight heroes who died defending Moscow from a relentless and
remorseless German offensive aimed at capturing the city in
 November 1941. The film comes just at a time when historians are passionately and angrily arguing over to what extent the legend was invented. It is as if the film was made to staunchly preserve the legend..
One of the film directors behind the film, Andrei Shalop claims the film represents : " Real Cinema about real heroes of our great nation.... From Childhood, like the majority of my contemporaries, I have loved war films. As a Russian, I think this is a fully worthy genre.The Great Patriotic War - this is the most significant event in our history. The most important point is we won.It seems to me that most film directors want to make such films about war.. In my family, two of my grandfathers and a grandmother fought in this war."
Before I set out to watch this film I was expecting another crass and crude patriotic war film with cliched dialogue , a lot of gory blood and
a film overwhelmed by special effects that it sounded like a computer
game. This was not the case ! In fact , the film uses real Panzer tanks,
dug out trenches and weaponry. The soldiers are not reminiscent of
marvel super heroes or gloriously dying with shrill last words. Instead,
the soldiers wait , smoke and and tell anecdotes tensely, as the Germans
thunderously bombard their positions. The bombardment scenes quickly
dispel romantic notions of war.
However, the dialogue is laced with patriotic lines often attributed to the heroes. For example we hear : " Not only the whole of Moscow is watching us with bated breath but the whole World because right here we have to defend Moscow." and of course the immortal last words of the commissar :" Russia is vast ! But there is no where to retreat !
For Moscow is behind us".
The soundtrack of the film reminded me of 'The Magnificent Seven' and thoughts of the Seven Samurai and the Brave 300 Spartans crossed my
mind. As a wartime genre the film passes as better than average. Or to put it another way , far worse war films have been made in recent years.
If you want a stirring fast moving action and entertainment, it is good.
But if you want facts , find a decent history book !
Fresh Controversy about the legend was provoked by a decision of the head of Russian state archives to publish a 1948 state investigation into what actually happened near Dubosekovo where the 316th Rifle Division fought off invading German tanks . The publically reported version claims 28 soldiers , including Panfilov, heroically died defending the gateway to Moscow thus preventing the Germans breaking through to the city. The soldiers accomplished the feat of destroying 18 German tanks. At the
end of November, a journalist called Krivitski , in an article titled 'The Testimony of the Twenty Eight fallen Heroes , 'for Red Star, claimed that 28 men under Vasili Klochkov , in an anti-tank platoon from the 1075th regiment, repelled fifty German tanks.All the 28 soldiers died ! The paper claimed that Klochkov's last words were : " Russia is vast ! But there is no where to retreat ! For Moscow is behind us !'. Six months after this article the heroes were posthumously made heroes of the Soviet Union'.
There was one snag. The official 1948 investigation found that not all the 28 soldiers had died. In fact, six soldiers survived ! One soldier who was severely wounded later died in hospital. Two soldiers ended up as German prisoners of war while another two managed to escape captivity. Another
soldier returned to his native Ukraine where he worked for the local police and was later arrested for 'collaboration'. The latter case refers to Ivan Dobrobabin who after the battle was captured, then escaped and returned to his village to work as a local policeman . In 1943 he was arrested bythe Red Army , only to be freed by a later German counter offensive. He was finally arrested in 1947 for collaboration with the Germans. During his interrogation Dobrobabin offered his version about what happened during battle. He claimed that it was he himself who led the 28 heroes and not Klochkov.
This represents the most damning revelation which ,if accepted, punctures the grossly inflated legend.
In another case, one of the survivors, Ivan Shadrin , following the battle, was captured by the Germans .At the end of the war he led an uprising of prisoners against the Germans. When he returned back home to his local village he discovered that his wife , presuming him dead , had taken a new husband.
The current Minister of Culture ,Medinsky 'a historian', was enraged by the publication of those relevations. Medinsky fumed : "It is a sacred legend which is simply impossible to besmirch. Only scumbags try to do this".
Sergei Mironenko , the director of State Archives was promptly fired. The facts suggest that far less than 18 German tanks were destroyed and more men than 28 were involved in the defence.
However, do those facts completely undermine the heroic feat of those 28 soldiers? Nobody doubts that there were thousands of brave heroes who died fighting the Germans. In fact, 28 fallen heroes is rather a grossunderestimate ! The Historical Journal Rodina, once wrote an article titled' 7000 Heroic Panfilovs ' . (See Rodina, September 2015 number 9)
Why do some people presume that just because some of the 28 did not die they were any less heroic ? Is it not a case that some people have myopic, misleading and childish notions of who can be regarded as a hero? Being taken as a prisoner of war does not mean the soldier ceases to be a hero.
For example, Ivan Shadrin organised an uprising against the German guards in his concentration camp. Heroism can't be simply reduced to martyrdom or self-sacrifice. It can assume many diverse forms. An every day heroine might be a single mother who carries on struggling to survive against persistent poverty and yet manages to retain her dignity against constant humiliation. One of the sad legacies of the Great Patriotic War was that a lot of heroism went unacknowledged and unrewarded. We should not be self-righteous about who qualifies as a hero and who does not. In fact, a person can begin the war as a coward and then become a hero ! Only a
society which thrives on an anti-philosophical culture meanly and dogmatically defines heroes . There are inexhaustible ways of being heroic!
There were far more than 28 Panfilov heroes!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lower coaches stipends

CPS Outsourcing Coaches to Save Money
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Public Schools recently announced that they have teamed up with the Chicago Park District to provide sports programs to the elementary school students.

Among the recent budget cuts was the elementary sports programs.

CPS no longer pays coaches to coach sports such as basketball, flag football, track and field, softball, etc. to students in 5-6 grades and 7-8 grades.

Before they paid coaches a measly $20 per hour rate and put a minimum of only so many hours a coach could be paid.

The teachers who coached in the elementary grades of course put in more hours than they were compensated.

Many suburban districts compensate their coaches much more and thus produce better teams. In fact, outside basketball, Chicago public schools rarely win state competitions.

The recent announcement that teachers and others can apply through the Chicago Park District to coach teams means that coaches will be make even less. The park district pays $12 an hour according to a former employee who now teaches in CPS.

The deal appeared to be orchestracted by CPS CEO Forrest Claypool who headed the park district before heading the schools.

So the race to pay less and less is alive and well, the children's well being be damned!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Russian Trump Reaction

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia -- The Trump victory came largely as a surprise . It was largely unanticipated.
However most Russians appear to welcome the Trump victory in the Presidential elections because of his confessed admiration for President Putin, a desire to improve Russian American relations and a past statement suggesting he would recognise the Crimea as part of Russia. They hope that the election of Trump will be pivotal in ending a new cold war , curbing if not cancelling sanctions and bringing real peace to Ukraine.
When I told one of my students that Trump had won the election , he expressed delight saying: " Did Trump win ? (disbelief) That is great news ! If I had the right to vote in the American Elections I'd vote for Trump. " Questioned as to
why he supports Putin he stated: " Trump wants to improve relations with Russia. He likes Putin."
Before I had visited my student I had dropped into a small corner shop and noticed them watching a news report of Trump winning . I asked the manager what he thought but he was not so optimistic. "I don't think it will make any difference. America always needs an enemy and Russia represents the ideal arch enemy. It is because Trump owes a lot of things to the industrialists who support them and they'll have their agenda."
Perhaps the Russians have been strongly alienated by implacable anti- Russian policies of the Obama Clinton government. Russians blame them for supporting the war in Ukraine, sanctions as well as being behind doping scandals. The idea that Russians helped Trump secure victory is regarded as an insult to not only Russians but the intelligence of Americans. The Russians are tired of what they see as hysterical warnings that the Russians intend to invade the Baltic states. The election of Trump is viewed as representing 'punishment for this stupidity. '
When I attended one of David Wansbrough's lectures two weeks ago, his comments on Clinton were warmly welcomed by the Russians in the audience. He stated that in the Arab world Hillary Clinton was known as 'Killary ' because of her involvement in the murder on Colonel Gaddafi.
The Russian film Director Stanislav Govorukhin stated : "I was against Clinton because she is so disgusting. I remember when the future Government of Islam killed Gaddafi , one person would look at this incidently with moral
superiority but most people expressed pity. Only she felt great joy. I'm very glad that Trump won".
Vladimir Spivakov, an actor claimed: "It seems to me , that the majority of Russians namely wanted this result. "
Yevgeni Yasin , a manager from the Higher school of Economics, stated:
"Clinton was supposed to be the next American president as most of the American press wrote. The victory of Trump was for me, unexpected.
"I can't say I'm satisfied because I don't understand this figure. If we will practise the policies , which we did with Obama, then finally Trump will say, "It is impossible to do any business with those fellows".
Not everyone welcomed the Trump victory in Russia. The Moscow Times published a front page article with the heading 'Grave New World". They go so far as to state that Trump's victory has stalled all attempts of reform in Russia. The article appears to grossly overestimate the influence of America on the internal affairs of Russia. The Editor in Chief Mikhail Fishman makes the ludicrous theatrical statement that, "The hope for change in Russia has been buried in the voting booths of Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina."
(Moscow Times , no. 5780, 10-16 November, Post Election Analysis , Mikhail Fishman)
Even more hysterical was a comment from a former American Ambassador which attributed Trump's victory to Russian covert intervention.
Neither the Russians, nor the Americans have such a huge influence on the internal affairs of each other. It is either hysteria or wishful thinking to suggest otherwise.
A much darker explanation as to why Trump is so popular in Russia lies with the fact that his authoritarian policies, racism , and hostility to migrants, refugees and Afro-Americans are shared with many Russians.
What we might be witnessing is a Brexit effect where the powerless and side-stepped working class whites are endorsing extreme right wing populist policies as a protest against an establishment politics which has long ignored
Nevertheless, Trump remains a dark horse. He is a notorious liar whose statements contradict each other and are highly inconsistent. Will he really build a wall between Mexico and America? Will he carry out his promise to deport 6.5 million illegal migrants and eventually 11 million?
Will he reverse the concessions Obama made to illegal immigrants where some of them could obtain more legal status and services? Will he actually improve relations with Russia or is it just bombastic banal rhetoric?
One thing is certain. The victory of Trump represents a severe blow against struggling migrants, refugees and the most disadvantaged sections of American society . The irony is that Clinton was the the fifth candidate in American history who while winning the most votes, still failed to secure  
the presidency. Another Irony is that Trump previously condemned the electoral college system of presidential elections as 'unfair ' for the very reason that his opponent lost! So much for democracy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump Wins

Trump Wins - People Continue to Lose
By Jim Vail

Our Smilin Lyin Commander In Chief

Donald Trump surprised many of us, shocked us many would say, by winning the president race.

People didn't think it was possible. A clown, a racist, a wacko, etc., etc.  How could someone like that win?

Well, first, he is one hell of a brilliant businessman who knows how to fool the people, amass millions and get his name everywhere. 

And his womanizing, lying, vicious talk, fakeness and obsession with image make up the perfect face for a vicious empire that bombs the world and now looks like the joke it really is.

I found it humorous some people lamented on Facebook that World War III could break out. But that was Hillary Clinton his opponent who threatened to go to war against Russia, not Trump. In fact, Trump said the US should focus on working with Russia to fight Islamic fascists in Syria, not destroy the government like Hillary did in Libya that gave birth to ISIS.  

Trump played to people's dark side by blaming immigrants for taking their jobs. He was the only one who spoke to the working class white people who have lost their jobs. He was also the only one who said he would stop the disastrous free-trade agreements, tear up NAFTA and bring back jobs to Ameria. The Democrat stayed quiet on that too.

In fact, the only reason to vote for Hillary was to vote against Trump the clown. 

But why vote for Hillary if she promised nothing for the people who continue to lose in this system. Like eight years of Obama made our first black president a practical non-entity when he implored people to vote for Hillary.

It reminded me why Bruce Rauner won against Democrat Pat Quinn for governor. He wanted to be Rauner by naming Paul Vallas as his running mate. There was no reason to vote for Quinn. What did he do for the working class? 

The people voted against the establishment again.

But they will get nothing in return. Just like those poor Ukrainians who rushed out to overturn their corrupt government, implement a coup and establish a new government. A new government beholden to Western interests, to American empire interests namely, that demands privatization and further eroding the social contract to support the people. 

The people always lose in a capitalist system where the ruling class controls the political mechanism. 

Trump did what he did because he was able to finance his campaign. He was free to tell the truth - and lie as he always does like any good politician - and show who Hillary really was, a paid whore to Wall Street, CIA hacks and the establishment she has served and that made her and her cheatin husband very rich.

Trump promised big business and the wealthy more tax cuts, and to bring back jobs to the people.

Trump's a billionaire. A liar. A fake.

Wall Street will get its tax breaks. The people will continue to eat shite.

These elections are a fake choice for the people. 

So the great wizard continues to do his magic and the people of Oz continue to wear their green spectacles and vote.