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OUT OF THE FRYING PAN

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By Jerry WaxmanJosh Katz speech

“Well, ya got trouble, my friend right here, I say trouble right here in River City*…..”

In the musical The Music Man, the story’s central character, a con artist, convinces the town in turn of the 20th century Iowa that the local pool hall is turning the town’s youth into lazy, shiftless and irresponsible juveniles who will grow up to be ne’er-do-wells if the townspeople don’t take action now (emphasis on the word now). He proposes a solution, a boys’ band, in order to profit from the situation. Of course, he never actually teaches them to play their instruments, nor does he ever actually present his credentials to the local school board officials, who never seem to agree with each other.

It’s one of the oldest cons in the book; create a non-existent problem and then propose the exact solution. Termite inspectors have successfully done this for years. Even if you don’t have termites you will after they inspect you. Public education has been the target of these con artist reformers for years dating back to the Eisenhower Administration’s failure to beat the Russians into space. The late Dr. Gerald Bracey exposed the myth in his article The Big Engine That Couldn’t. He spent his life battling education reformers and education bamboozlers until his passing a few years ago.

What passes for reform now is actually a privatization swindle set up by former governor Jeb Bush. Florida was the incubator for what passes as school reform today. Jeb, through his foundations pushed school vouchers, charter schools, rigid testing and the word school choice, which is code for segregation. It’s also interesting that his brother’s No Child Left Behind legislation was modeled on standards and rigid testing four years after Jeb became Governor in 1998. Add to that mix David Coleman, current head of the College Board, who went to billionaire Bill Gates to help him develop the common core standards. Gates never met a data outcome he didn’t like so he, Eli Broad and the Walton family opened the flood gates as it were and inundated us with all sorts of reform because “our schools were failing.” There never was any evidence that the allegations were true, but gazillions of dollars in the proper hands buys an awful lot of influence and legislation.

Neither the Florida Legislature nor Governor Scott and his Dept. of Education will offer any help here at all. They’ve all been stricken by the reform virus or variations of it and are laying down stringent guidelines to the individual districts while opening the cash box to outside privatizing interests.

This has completely demoralized public school teachers, one of the noblest of professions, to the point that over 3000 teachers, almost 25% of the entire teaching force in Orange County, have left the system in the last few years. A recalcitrant School Board doesn’t help either. The Orange County teachers finally got their raise last week based on whether they were highly effective or not by a flawed evaluation system. The Board, at its discretion could have ignored the state directive for last year, however it chose not to. The teachers are furious over this Board action which reinforces the opinion that the Board itself has lost its objectivity and is focusing on money management instead of advocating for the children.

High School mathematics teacher, Joshua Katz, finally had his Howard Beale moment last month when he got mad as hell and swore not to take it anymore. His TED video, released last month, dealing with his frustrations within the system, took almost a year to come to fruition yet it is a masterpiece, intelligent, articulate and very well produced. The video has enjoyed many thousands of hits and will doubtless see even more in the future. It is a textbook example of what is wrong with the entire reform movement.

On June 18 Katz took another step out of the frying pan and announced that he is a candidate for School Board in District One, a move widely hailed by the Classroom Teachers and the progressive community. He will be running against a three term former board chairman, Joie Cadle, whose only real qualification is that she was active in the PTA when her sons were in school. Cadle is the chief stumbling block that prevented the teachers from getting their raises in 2010, and according to the Classroom Teachers Association she’s clueless when it comes to analyzing budgets and allows staff to do her thinking for her. Come to think of it a math teacher with guts would be a welcome sight in that morass on Amelia Street.

Katz realizes that being on the board is still an uphill battle since many rules and guidelines are set and mandated by the state, yet he’s willing to try his best. If he thought that dealing with this school board is tough he’s going to have to get even tougher to deal with Tallahassee if he wins the election. Judging from his videos and his passion he could go a long way. He presents himself beautifully and is engaging at all times. One other asset that comes across is that he is inspiring. He clearly loves his work and always puts his students ahead of even himself.

All during his TED talk and his announcement he never once complained about the teachers’ plight on being evaluated, and he never mentioned the non respect that teachers everywhere have been receiving from pro reformers. It was always about the students and how the system affects them and their families. You get the feeling that he would gladly make all kinds of sacrifices to benefit his students. What’s not to love about that? That’s the epitome of being a teacher. Let’s thank Joie Cadle for her twelve years of service, and let’s send Joshua Katz to Amelia Street on August 26.

The Sentinel Gets it Wrong

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By Jerry Waxman

“All I know is what I read in the papers………………………” Will Rogers

So, what else is new? They recently published two articles on the current contract negotiations between the Orange County School Board (OCPS) and the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (CTA) with misguided slanted statements as well as with oversimplified rhetoric which is designed to sway public opinion against the teachers and marginalize their professional standing.

When you have an organization that that has made a fiasco out of well meaning collective bargaining over the recent years, reducing the level of professionalism in teachers and support staff, what’s your next move? That’s easy. Let the Orlando Sentinel take positions with facts from only one side and use generalizations to gloss over the true story. The first sentence of each of the recent articles seeks to vilify the CTA. The last we knew it took two sides to bargain. If one side is intransigent on a policy or a contract language, and it takes at least 2 sides to bargain, then bargaining cannot take place. The CTA has learned a lesson over time and it now takes contract language very seriously, as the spirit of the agreement has been broken by OCPS many times over the last 4 years devastating many teachers economically. One result is that CTA plans on tracking the number of teachers who have to rely on public assistance during employment and shortly after retirement. Yes, it is important to work together, but it needs to be done fairly, out in the open and collaboratively.

The point is did the reporter write the articles exactly as they appeared, or did the editor change the tone and nature of them? Quoting from the April 4 article:

The union wasn’t objecting to the raises, per se, but to other elements of the proposed settlement. In many cases, the objections are over language that union leaders contend would reduce teachers’ bargaining power.

They also objected to a middle ground on health care benefits. The district wanted to pass on health care cost increases largely to employees. The union wanted the district to pay the full cost of health insurance premiums for employees opting for higher-benefit plans. The magistrate recommended that the district pay the first 8 percent of any premium cost increases, with any additional costs split between the employees and district.

The union also wanted language that would have forbidden the district from using “directives,” which are written clarifications of expectations, against the employee. The magistrate, M. Scott Milinski, wrote that he couldn’t recommend that change, since directives are intended to improve employee performance.

The latest action by the union appears to be sowing some discord among teachers. Carl Howard, a teacher who has long butted heads with union president Diana Moore, wrote her a letter Thursday demanding that she poll union members — or at least school-level union leaders — on what they want done. “A reasonable person would have settled long ago,” wrote Howard, who is a union representative at Princeton Elementary.

The rejection comes amid a contentious union election, with observers from the Florida Education Association threatening to withdraw oversight.

Had the reporter or the editor properly vetted the people they talked to they would have found Carl Howard a completely unreliable source. True, he and current CTA head Diana Moore are at odds with each other, but that’s been his history for years. He showed the same opposition to past CTA head Mike Cahill and in the process angered mostly everyone in union leadership. In case the Sentinel had forgotten, this is the same Carl Howard, who was a sitting Water & Soil commissioner when he was arrested for shoplifting about $800.00 worth of marking pens a few years ago. Howard is also behind the recall petition for Moore which has pitifully few signatures. Howard has also been using the OCPS e-mail system to push his agenda which is both unethical and not intended for that purpose, which could have the school board take corrective action against the union. Moore has said that she has received a multitude of phone calls and messages from teachers complaining about Howard and his tactics

Then on April 5 The Sentinel again published an article focusing on Moore’s leadership. Here are some excerpts from that article:

The focus of the campaign is Diana Moore, who has brought a combative, aggressive style to the union presidency since she emerged victorious from a contentious election two years ago.

“She’s made enemies of the people we need to be working with,” said Teresa Yates, a West Orange High School teacher who has thrown her support behind Glyniss Hudson, a colleague running against Moore.

Still, Moore has many backers.

“I think she’s done a lot to revitalize the union,” said Vincent Johnston, a teacher at Rolling Hills Elementary who thinks the district has tried to undermine Moore.

Moore has headed the union with a strong hand and little interest in compromise. The school district agreed last month to a proposed settlement that would give 99 percent of Orange teachers a raise of at least $2,475 but also require performance pay.

The union on Wednesday rejected elements of that ruling, which was brokered by a special magistrate.

Why is it that a woman who is steadfast in holding the line is viewed by this local media as combative, yet a man would be seen as being strong? Why is it that a woman who shows leadership is aggressive and a man demonstrating leadership is in control? The issue of demeanor aside, the two recent articles fail to connect the dots in tracking just how much of the governor’s money will not reach the teachers for personal budgeting. It may be as high as 33 Million dollars. The union lost out four years ago on the contract talks because of weak leadership with no negotiating skills, and as a result only came away with $500.00 bonuses for all teachers. The union was determined not to let that happen again. They were much better this time and it was because of stronger, more focused leadership. They made some mistakes but you only learn by going through this kind of experience.

The real culprit here is a lack of understanding the budgeting process by almost every member of the board itself, none more clueless than former chair Joie Cadle. She’s the main reason the teachers did not get raises four years ago, and she’s part of the reason that they are in that situation now. Another part of today’s problem is Chairman Bill Sublette, the only elected official in this entire country with two votes. Sublette is a former state legislator who would never question the state’s directives on VAM scores. Every other county in Central Florida, as well as all large counties in the state seemed OK without using VAM scores to settle, but not OCPS. A third part of the equation is Superintendant Barbara Jenkins. Jenkins is a graduate of the Broad Academy, which is notorious for school reform along with the Gates and Walton Foundations, which are dedicated to rigid testing, vouchers, mislabeled school choice and devaluation of teachers in general. It’s no wonder that OCPS schools are up for the Broad Prize, which was just announced on April 9. Barbara Jenkins needs to share her philosophy on union-management partnerships and the process of collective bargaining. Both the teachers and the public would like to know if Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is anti-union.

Most importantly did the Sentinel research the backgrounds of the candidates that have made comments in those articles that show an appearance to be biased in favor of one side? Is the Orlando Sentinel attempting to influence the CTA’s leadership in the upcoming election that will be held on April 11? Collective bargaining cannot properly occur with a board that begins and ends with the philosophy of “take it, leave it or lump it”. On the other hand, “advanced” public school districts with the highest scores from state to state on national tests also have the most productive union-management partnerships with true collective bargaining. They keep their word on agreements made avoided twisting terminology and false claims of legality. The issue here is what’s best for the children? This current school board has shown time and again that the 187,000 children in the system don’t matter to them. Obviously Jeb Bush’s education policies along with the Broad Foundation’s headlong attempt to destroy public education as we know it mean much more to them. The only people who actually do care about the children are the teachers. That’s why they teach. It’s certainly not to get rich.

It is the vision of CTA President, Diana Moore and her supporters to walk the narrow line through negotiations for a win-win result and a stronger contract to guide the growth of students, parents and teacher professionalism in Orange County Schools.

But Wait!!! There’s More—This just in!

In the April 5 Sentinel the article stated:

In a harshly-worded statement, FEA president Andy Ford wrote that the local committee overseeing the Orange CTA election “has no prior experience or expertise in conducting an election and that some members do not have the required neutrality to administer a complex elections process.” He said that the FEA would not continue to help oversee the election without specific direction from the CTA about what the expected role of FEA staff is.

Apparently, the Sentinel had gotten hold of an e-mail sent to Moore and others on her board expressing FEA’s concerns. When questioned by the Sentinel, Ford expressed confidence that the elections will be fair. Of course, when you read the article that statement wasn’t there. At 10:38 AM on April 9 Ford sent word to Moore that after several exchanges with union representatives he was rescinding his withdrawal of support, and at the same time he bemoaned the fact that the Sentinel chose to be deliberately misleading. Here are portions of the e-mail he sent to Moore:

Following thoughtful messages and requests from several committee members, I am rescinding my withdrawal of support for the election. The Chief of Staff has directed Tom Fackender and Aaron Hilligas to once again provide active support to the Elections and Surveys Committee, although they have continued to provide requested support to the co-chairs since last Wednesday because they knew the committee required that help.

Based on the work of the Committee and our staff, we believe that a foundation now exists for that purpose going forward.

I am aware that my email last week was provided to the press. That is an unfortunate occurrence most likely the result of someone forwarding a copy to the reporter, a likely symptom of the atmosphere that now exists in your local. We had no role in that release. When asked for comment by the Sentinel reporter, we told them that we were completely confident that the election was being conducted in a fair and legal manner and that our differences were related to lines of responsibility only. The Sentinel chose not to report our comments.

Stay tuned for further developments. There’s more to come.

“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

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By Jerry Waxman

In B. Traven’s 1927 novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, part of the plot involved outlaws pretending to be police in order to murder the American gold prospectors for whatever loot they could steal. In the novel, Bob Curtin asks them for identification to which one of them replied: “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges (expletive deleted)!”  This was at a time following the Mexican Revolution when many of the revolutionaries split up into bandit gangs. The Mexican government had their own police force, The Federales, as well as the army dispensing quick justice to those that they caught. The 1948 movie was as faithful to the novel as the Hollywood Code would allow, but there were a few changes that did not impede the story. In the movie Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) asks the question, and Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya) responds with the now immortal quote in this piece’s title. Taken as pure entertainment The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of my favorite all time movies, and I’ve also read the book. If people actually read the books that most of these movies were adapted from they would be aghast at the liberties taken and regard them, no matter how entertaining, as cheap imitations. I hate what Hollywood has done to Steinbeck and Hemingway and so many others. So, why this diatribe? That’s simple; I hate cheap imitations and I hate fraudulent representations like Teach For America.

Yes, it’s coming to OCPS and that is tragic. Ask yourself a few questions. Would you choose a doctor or dentist who only had five weeks of training out of college and not a member of the AMA to diagnose and treat you? Would you hire someone who only had five weeks of training without having taken the bar exam, and is not a member of the ABA to represent you? Would you hire any professional be it an electrician, plumber, air conditioner repairman who isn’t licensed? If you would even think about it you’re a fool. There are plenty of con artists out there who fool people all the time and they pay dearly for it. TFA is just another con that our very lackluster school board has fallen for. Shame on them. OCPS spends well over a billion dollars on construction and maintenance every year and I’m sure that their building contractors are quite reputable. That’s no Penny Saver handyman doing that construction, yet they’re quite willing to put people in the classroom that are in no way qualified to teach our most precious assets, who don’t have any stinkin’ badges. Where’s the sense there?

You might want to blame it on OCPS. Their divisive policies have forced 2300 teachers out of the system since 2012 with more to follow. They’re still fighting the teachers over a minimum raise which should have been settled long ago, yet they are willing to bring in TFA people and pay them the same money as hard working teachers who have years of classroom management experience as well as professional credentials in their chosen fields. The money will be supplied by funding from Race to the Top, which is something that any sensible school board would have rejected, but then this board has no guts. Instead of advocating for the children, they act as babysitters for their funders. They are as culpable as any Orange County and state agency, yet they could not have that power unless they were elected, and there is the missing part of the equation. Shakespeare said it eloquently: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  There’s more to that quote but its meaning is clear; we elected them without knowing who they are or what they do and we pay for it dearly. This is very traceable back to former governor Jeb Bush, who at the time was quite popular. Unfortunately, the Bush era brought in legislators that harmed this state, especially in the area of education. Bush founded some foundations that set about to siphon off public money to fund unaccountable charters and enable nonproductive testing to evaluate teachers and school systems. The real enemy of education in this state is Jeb Bush and his minions, yet he was able to convince big money, like The Waltons, The Broads and The Gates Foundation to go along with his ideas. Until we completely discredit and reject Jeb Bush, Florida will wallow in less than mediocre stature

Why do we elect people who do us harm? Why do we elect people who leave us worse off than we were before? The answer to me is obvious. It’s from another famous novel and movie, All the king’s Men, where the main character reveals who the voters really are: “Now listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you’re hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times like they fooled me.” Again, this is not the entire quote but the message is clear-the average voter in this state is a hick who will continue to be fooled come election time. The eleventh largest school system in the country deserves much better. I just got this e-mail from Diana Moore, president of the Orange County CTA and I want to share it with you:

“Our school board members think that spending the $1.5 million additional dollars they just received from Race To The Top on a group called Teach For America is a wise investment.

Well, your Orange County teachers want you to know, that there is NO substitute for training and experience!

Orange County children don’t deserve a revolving door of teachers due to the low morale, inconsistent implementation of this evaluation system by poorly trained principals and assistant principals and holding their step level raises hostage. 2300 teachers have resigned in Orange County since 2012.  The school board members set the tone and vision for our schools, but you as voters elect them.

Paying TFA $41k and $3250 bonuses after 5 weeks of training to go into inner city schools is another slap in the face to your hard working Orange County teachers who have still not settled their contract to bring starting pay up by $3000 to $40k. That is $26.00 an hour to $28.10 since not getting a raise since 2007.

Parents and community members, now is the time to ask your school board, what they are planning for your children, and If the question at the end of the day will be “Who was your teacher today?” instead of “How was your day today?”

Read this article to see:

http://atthechalkface.com/2013/06/30/an-open-letter-to-new-teach-for-america-recruits/

Meet at 445 W. Amelia Street at 4:00 on March 11th to stand with our teachers before the next school board meeting.

These members are running for re-election in August 2014: Joie Cadle-District 1, Bill Sublette, Chairman, Daryl Flynn, District 2, and District 3. Call them about your concerns at407-317-3200.

Diana.Moore@floridaea.org

This is not a time to sit back and complain about what’s going on. This is a time to take direct action. The teachers need the support of the public and the public needs to know the facts. There’s an election coming in August and it’s time for the public to demand accountability from these people. After all, these are Public Schools we’re talking about. I have no complaint at this time on the construction projects recently. These edifices are magnificent and beautifully done. They were built by first class, licensed and insured builders. Shouldn’t what goes on inside these structures demand the same degree of competence and professionalism that went into building them? And OCPS and CTA teachers DO have those stinkin’ badges.

Emulating Gabriel Heatter

By Jerry Waxman

Gabriel Heatter

 

Author’s Note-This was supposed to be a column about the monthly meeting of the Sierra Club and its program. It developed into something else and I was powerless to stop it.

*Look for the silver lining, whene’er a cloud appears in the blue
Remember somewhere the sun is shining, and so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

 

If you’re of a certain age (at least 65 and over) you remember what radio was like in the 1940’s and 1950’s before commercial television took hold. Every network and some local radio stations had their commentators as well as general programming. Gabriel Heatter started in radio in its infancy on WOR in New York after spending some time in the Hearst organization as a reporter. In 1934 WOR became the flagship station for the new Mutual Broadcasting network and Heatter was there for the Bruno Hauptmann trial. Hauptmann was convicted of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. Back in those days Heatter’s two main rivals for air time were Walter Winchell and Edward R. Murrow, so he was hot stuff. In 1939 he gave Alcoholics Anonymous its first national exposure and he was always looking for true and uplifting stories to broadcast. In 1942 when the US was not doing well against Japan in the Pacific the news came in that our naval forces had sunk a Japanese destroyer. Heatter started his program that evening with the iconic phrase “There’s good news tonight” a phrase he would use for the rest of his broadcasting career. It became an instant hit with audiences and Heatter spent the rest of his career making lemonade out of the sour lemons in the news feeds.

Mutual in those days was more than creative; it was eclectic in the fact that much of the programming was experimental. Ken Nordine had some outrageous stuff interspersed with Heatter, Bob and Ray, Orson Welles’s Harry Lime, Gangbusters, The Shadow and science fiction programming just to name a few. I used to listen to it on Philadelphia’s Mutual affiliate WIP and it was heaven to do my homework while listening to it. Heatter could always find the silver lining in the news, and he was so emotional that he would actually cry on the air if the news really affected him. The only other commentator I ever heard openly weep on the air was Paul Harvey on the death of Sen. Joe McCarthy. Yes, I heard that one, live too in 1957.

I’m actually wondering why I’m almost 400 words into this column and I haven’t even approached my subject yet. Well, I guess that’s because Heatter had the right attitude. He had a 30 year career of always looking on the bright side, so let’s give it a try.

The Sierra Club in Orlando meets every third Wednesday in the bucolic setting of Leu Gardens at 7:00 PM. The topic for the evening was a presentation on the pitfalls of the current Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations for which the Obama Administration is seeking “Fast Track” trade promotion authority, a device which the Nixon administration introduced in 1972 as a way to circumvent barriers to unrestricted free trade between certain countries. Fast track limits debate time in both houses of congress and does not allow for amendments or real investigation of documents. Most treaties, and the TPP is a treaty, must pass by a 2/3 majority in the Senate after long, exhausting debate. Fast tracking allows for 50% plus one for passage in both houses. Since the TPP is composed of twenty seven chapters, only five of which deal with actual trade, it is virtually impossible for the senate to debate the merits in the time given. Since I’ve written previous articles on the subject I need not remind everyone about the perils that we taxpayers face if this country signs on to the treaty. Those articles are readily available on my blog, producer1.wordpress.com or in the archives at West Orlando News Online. They contain complete videos of the meetings I attended and they are also available to anyone on my YouTube channel. They speak volumes more than I could write. Links to the Sierra Club meeting can be found here, here, here and here.

So, what’s the good news that happened at the meeting? Well, …..lots of it. First of all, we received word that a judge in Nebraska ruled that Nebraska’s law allowing for the Keystone XL Pipeline was unconstitutional. This is a temporary situation, however, but it allows more time for demonstrations by the Sierra Club and its allies to be put into action. There are several protests planned very shortly.

Secondly, the protests and anti TPP actions over the last year that I’ve been involved are having their desired effect. A year ago no one, including myself, knew what the TPP was. Since then, there has been a growing awareness on the part of the public and certain elected officials that the TPP and especially the ability to fast track it is a bad deal, a very bad deal. While the mainstream, corporately owned press chooses to bury any articles the alternative media has come alive. Articles are constantly appearing in the more progressive blogs including the Huffington Post. Bill Moyers at PBS has done programming on the TPP, and bloggers from all over, including my friend, Shannyn Moore, the conscience of Alaska, continue to write about it. Ed Schultz on MSNBC constantly rails against it. Opposition in the House of Representatives is still short of defeating the fast track, however, Harry Reid is not introducing the legislation to the Senate, which means that if it does come to the floor it will probably have to wait until after the 2014 elections. That buys a lot more time to get more people involved. What it all really means is that we’re starting to turn things around.

More good news that has happened recently, the Affordable Care Act is picking up steam and it appears that record numbers are in the future. It also appears that the heavily financed opposition ads are not making their impact. Chris Christie is finally being exposed for the fraud he really is. Mexico has just banned GMO corn. And this just in: President Obama will not include “Chained CPI” in the budget. On the local Orlando front Rick Scott’s appointed Board of Education got a virtual black eye when it voted for Common Core adoption in the face of organized and rabid community opposition, which will not go away, the city’s double dealing with Tinker Field was exposed and something good could happen from that. These little victories are huge when you consider the forces that have conspired against the average person, yet we need to still be on guard. Fast track, TPP, Keystone XL Pipeline, GMO, Common Core and school privatization and the city commission’s insatiable desire to displace the residents of Parramore will return, perhaps in more evolved and more virulent forms. We can’t sit back and rest on our laurels, for these little victories are only the beginning of a long struggle. Gabriel Heatter’s famous broadcast took place on May 2, 1942, less than one month after the famous Doolittle raid on Tokyo and a full month before the US Navy’s victory at the Battle of Midway and six months before our victory on Guadalcanal. The tide was turning, yet there were three more years left in the war. Heatter was upbeat; I hope I can be too. In case you haven’t guessed, I grew up with old time radio……….and I miss it; The Goldbergs, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen, The Romance of Helen Trent, Lorenzo Jones, Inner Sanctum, Tales of Suspense, The Shadow, Little Orphan Annie, Bobby Benson and the B Bar B Ranch, The Lone Ranger……….etc………..etc………..etc.

 

A heart, full of joy and gladness, will always banish sadness and strife. So always look for the silver lining, and try to find the sunny side of life.

 

*Look For The Silver Lining by Jerome Kern, Buddy Desylva and Jerry Nowak

Remembering Jane Kean

By Jerry Waxman

Jane Kean

Author’s Note* my dear friend, Shayan Elahi, messaged me “It’s Thanksgiving. Write something.” Since we are both rabid fighters for social justice I’m sure that he expected me to write about the Simon Legree Big Box stores and their attitudes toward their employees. I do that kind of stuff every day and so do thousands of other writers and bloggers. I needed something different to write about, although I wasn’t expecting to hear about the death of Jane Kean whom I knew and worked with. What I can say is that I give thanks for Jane Kean and many others in show business for the opportunity to have known them for however brief a period of time.

It was the summer of 1990 and I was in the cast of a local production of The Music Man in Ft. Lauderdale. Jane was hired to play the part of Mrs. Paroo as a guest artist. Our producer had asked me to be Jane’s personal escort and chauffer for the several weeks we would be together. I didn’t exactly jump at the chance because the year before for Bye Bye Birdie, we had had another well know actress from that era (who will remain nameless) who, while not difficult at all kept to herself and never got to know her cast, playing the role of Albert’s mother, May. I did some research on Jane and decided that she was worth the effort, and it was a most rewarding experience. Her association with Jackie Gleason over the years made her a well known and beloved personality in South Florida, especially among the sixtyish and up crowd who actually did buy theater tickets then.

 The glamour photos from the forties and fifties that were published in the obituaries don’t do her justice. Very few of her publicity photos do. They don’t capture the twinkle in her eyes. They don’t capture the pixie quality in her stature and personality and in her uninhibited joy. You had to know her personally to see that. We hit it off from the moment we met. Her husband, Joe Hecht, was with her and we had much to talk about since we were both native Philadelphians. Our time together was spent doing radio and TV interviews, visiting old friends from the Gleason years and doing a lot of lunch. Lots of time spent with Jackie Gleason’s widow, Marilyn, and her sister, the fabulous June Taylor. One noted lunch companion was Hedy Lamarr, who at age 76 was as strikingly beautiful as ever. Oh yes, we also rehearsed a lot too. I’ve done lots of rehearsals in my career and this one never felt like work.

 Through it all, she never complained about the working conditions, or her fatigue or any of the cast and crew and I knew she had some criticisms, but she was a real lady. Her years in Vaudeville, Theatre and night clubs gave her a drive to excel, which she did, yet there wasn’t a bitter sentiment in her character that I could detect. She, Joe and I parted friends and kept in touch for a couple of years. I never forgot how warm and gracious she was. I’m thankful that I got to know her.

No Time for Talking

By Jerry Waxman

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The Orange County School Board meets on Tuesday afternoons and discusses its business supposedly in public. It has all the trappings of being public. The only thing missing is the public. Why, you ask? Simple…The board meets at times when most of the working public is either still working or in transit after a hard day at the office or the factory or school. School, you ask? Of course! Teachers don’t leave when the bell rings. Aside from those who coach, or tutor, or advise clubs there is still a lot of work to do getting ready for tomorrow’s classes, or brushing up on curriculum changes or any one of a thousand other things that teachers of past generations never had to experience. Today’s teachers are better educated, better prepared and better equipped than their predecessors, trained by mentors from my generation and my parents generation, yet they are treated by the system as domestic help or even worse. No other professionals such as lawyers, doctors or CPAs would put up with such treatment. Even bad financial advisors with lousy track records get better treatment and a lot more money. Most of the people who show up for board meetings are people directly connected to or working for the board or have proposals (use your imagination here) to present to the board. So, you get the picture; the real public is nowhere to be found. The people whose taxes actually pay the salaries of these officials are absent, and that’s completely by design. After all, why would a body elected by the people want to have anything to do with people? It interferes with business.

The School Board and the teachers have been in contract negotiations since early in the year and there is no resolution in sight. Back in September the Board’s negotiating team declared negotiations at an impasse, which means that a special magistrate has to resolve the dispute as part of the process. The process has been delayed partially because of the government shutdown and there has been no meaningful dialog to reach a settlement. Recently, the board sent a letter to CTA union president Diana Moore which urged the teachers to accept the offer on the table. Moore and the CTA felt that the suggestions and terms violated more NLRB rules than previously. The CTA official position is that they’ll wait for the magistrate’s decision. It’s as much a protest on their treatment and lack of respect as it is about the money.

At Tuesday night’s meeting the teachers held a rally outside the Board’s building on Amelia Street at 5:00. They had planned to register to speak, not on contract matters but on the teacher evaluation system which completely disrespects their professionalism, during the public comment period of the meeting.  After all, they may be OCPS employees, but they are also members of the public who have every right to speak at these meetings. The Board knew better and in their published agenda declared that there would be no public comment at this meeting. They did, however, deign to allow Moore to address them in their private meeting for a whole five minutes prior to the public meeting. Moore, showing her frustration, came out to the crowd and handed out adhesive bandages to the assembled to signify the silencing of teachers’ voices as well as the public’s voice. Teachers as taxpayers are asking to be heard. Sandy Stenoff, a parent commented on the fact that parents are not aware if what teachers are dealing with and asked them to share with parents, or taxpayers about the problems with this flawed system. This battle is far from being over and the taxpayer funded School Board has given itself yet another black eye. That’s what should be bandaged.

Oh, What A Tangled Web…..

By Jerry Waxman

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“Things are not always as they seem…”

Back in April of 2011 I wrote an article called “Watch The Sound Of My Voice (Never Mind What My Hands Are Doing)” in which I alluded to our current president as the best Three Card Monte man or Pea in the Walnut Shell man I’ve ever seen. Why? Because he has the ability to make you believe him. He is a consummate con artist which is not necessarily a bad thing in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, he has never used his prestidigitation abilities to benefit most of us who trusted him and voted for him. Since that time I have not seen any reason to change that assessment. Sure, he has some solid accomplishments under his belt but it feels more like the bait and switch tactics of unscrupulous retailers; you go to buy the advertised product only to find that it is not available but a substitute can be found that won’t match the better quality or lower price of the desired product. Sure, we’ve got health care, but not anything near what we should have or want, and we’ve got something resembling banking reform, which somehow made the banks richer while we got poorer. Sure, we got a stimulus, which worked for some but not for others and was not nearly enough. The fact that he’s allowed Arne Duncan to continue to destroy public education under the guise of “reform” is a crime, but that’s for another article.

To understand this rant let’s go back to the 2008 campaign season. During their frequent debates Barack Obama never let the chance go by to get his claws into Hillary Clinton by mocking President Clinton’s embrace of NAFTA, saying he would not approach trade deals that way. He also took the opportunity to belittle Hillary’s stance on the Iraq War. This was all very calculated as it was strictly to get the support of those progressive Democrats who might have otherwise supported her. He also made a few gaffes that provided insight into his character, especially his God, Guns and Gays speech in rural Pennsylvania and his allusion to Ronald Reagan as a “Transformational President”. But wait! Were they really gaffes, or were they really cold, calculated subliminal hints? His speech in Pennsylvania, which created a big media uproar did not hurt him with the Democrats, and the Alabama/Mississippi sections of Pennsylvania would never vote for him anyway. He also alluded to Ronald Reagan in a positive way. Anytime a Democrat says anything positive about Ronald Reagan you know there has to be an ulterior motive. It was to assure the old Reagan Democrat crowd that they could trust him, and also to assure those independents on the fence that he wasn’t a big city liberal. He also kneecapped Hillary again by adding that Bill was not a transformational figure like Reagan, conveniently forgetting that Bill brought the corporate world into democratic politics in a way that no one before did, and from which candidate Obama benefitted greatly, conveniently forgetting that it was Bill Clinton who implemented NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, giving us Fox News and spreading Rush Limbaugh’s influence as well as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 which overturned Glass-Steagall and opened the way for the destruction of our economy and the middle class. Hold these thoughts in mind as I wend my way to the main theme of this essay-President Obama’s embrace of the Trans Pacific Partnership aka the TPP. I’ve written about the TPP several times so I won’t go into its history so much except for historical context. The negotiations actually began during GWB’s second term, but something that big was going to have to transcend administrations the same way that NAFTA did. Clinton did sign the agreement but the negotiations were all done under the previous Bush administration, which tried to fast track it and failed. It took two years to bring about congressional debate which nearly failed. Vice President Al Gore had to cast the deciding vote in the Senate in order for NAFTA to succeed. And NAFTA definitely succeeded in diminishing us as the foremost exporter nation in the world. It was and still is a terrible deal for the average American.

We have a history of terrible trade deals dating back to the Russian Wheat Deal of 1972, also known as the Great Grain Robbery. Basically what happened was that Russia had a failed wheat crop and had to go to the open market to purchase wheat. We had surplus wheat through our policies of buying up extra wheat production from farmers in order to keep prices stable. We sold them about 440 million bushels at very reduced prices, which benefitted grain suppliers but caused prices to skyrocket and the taxpayers paid the subsidies for years to come. The GAO called it an extremely mishandled transaction that cost us dearly. In our trade deals with Japan we have always allowed them to export to us but our exports to them have been severely limited. The Nixon administration introduced Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which gave the President the ability to negotiate trade deals with strictly an up or down vote in Congress and no debate time or amendment proposals. Congress went along with it because Nixon was trying to open up China and he could not appear weak to the authoritarian Chinese. Basically, Congress gave up its constitutionally mandated authority to approve trade negotiations. The time limit for the TPA expired and has to be renewed, which the administration is eagerly trying to do. Why is a president who is supposedly all for openness and accountability, who as a campaign promise said he would not be involved in this kind of charade, trying so hard to fast track a bad deal for 98% of Americans under such a cloak of secrecy? Haven’t our experiences with NAFTA and CAFTA taught him any lessons? Think hard. Some of the answers will boggle your mind because things are not exactly as they seem. Read MacBeth and Othello again, or for the first time and be aware that even though you know what’s going on, the affected characters don’t, yet Shakespeare handles it perfectly.

President Obama owes Wall Street and many of these transnational conglomerates big time, and everything he’s done over the last five years has been to benefit them with their tacit approval no matter what they say publicly. He’s been aided in this by certain blue dog democrats in congress like Sen. Max Baucus. Yes, the same Max Baucus who not only killed the public option but gave us the prostituted law that the opposition calls “Obamacare”.  Baucus is the point man for the Democrats on TPA and TPP hearings, so that doesn’t bode well. When I posed the question to my sources as to why Harry Reid did not get rid of Baucus as committee chair and replace him with a more progressive senator I was told not to go there, but given no reasons. Hint…”we don’t to wind up like Manning and Snowden and neither do you.” So, understand that Wall Street is looking at the gazillions of dollars to be made at our expense and the administration is going to help them make it. That’s one hell of a payback. It’s also a main reason why Larry Summers, a Wall Street insider who was complicit in the crashing of the economy, was considered for the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve.

People in the know are figuring that at this time fast track will pass the Senate. It sounds strange but too many Democrats are also beholden to the banks also. Even if it comes down to Joe Biden having to cast a tie breaking vote he’s not going to vote against his own administration. The best chance we peons have of defeating fast track is, strangely enough, in the House of Representatives, where clearly John Boehner has no control over the most radical elements of his party. It’s a perfect chance for the progressives to get together with the tea party types and kill it forever. If fast tracking fails there is no way that it will be revived for the scrutiny it will have to be subjected to. It is incumbent upon everyone, regardless of party affiliation, to call on their representatives to defeat the fast track.

On Friday, September 27 there was an Anti TPP rally at the Communication Workers of America Hall Local 3108 in Orlando sponsored in part by the CWA, Central Florida Sierra Club, AFL-CIO Central Labor and the Orlando Light Brigade. Speakers included CWA member and event organizer James Howe who spoke on the history of the labor movement and its social relevance, Lorraine Tuliano, former president of CLC, who reminded all why we don’t need another NAFTA, Jeannie Economos of the Farmworkers of America who spoke of the dangers to American food producers and farmworkers that is represented by the TPP. Other speakers included Phyllis Hancock, head of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, who spoke about how low wages negatively impact minorities, Marjorie Holt, from the Central Florida Sierra Club, who voiced the club’s concerns over the disregard of environmental protections that will happen if the TPP is passed. Yours truly also spoke to the effect that reduced wages would have on the small business community. I was followed by Roger Harris of the AFL-CIO and Steve Wisniewski, President of Local 3108. Both men reiterated labors concerns. The main speaker of the evening was Alisa Simmons of Public Citizen and Global Watch. Simmons has been traveling the country talking to different groups as well as lobbying politicians on Capitol Hill. Her remarks were both enlightening and chilling and she stressed the need for immediate mobilization and action from the grass roots.

The more we learn about the TPP the more dangerous it becomes and we only know a small percentage of what is in these documents. The secrecy behind these talks is as tight as the Manhattan Project. Why? It doesn’t stand to reason that our trusted leaders would sell us down the river for little or no gain, or does it? Nobody wants to give away trade secrets, especially the guy who claims he’s got nothing up his sleeve. Next week there is an unscheduled session in Bali which will be attended by the president’s hand picked point man, Michael Froman, whose sole function is to get our participation passed by Congress. That’s a far cry from a candidate who frowned upon NAFTA and excoriated the banks among other broken campaign promises. So, considering all the factors who can we trust? I’m not sure I have faith in our leadership to do right by us anymore. It especially hurts when you genuinely like a man like our President. Once that faith and trust has been lost it is virtually impossible to regain it. Being the man we voted for would be a good start because the man we have is part of the bait and switch.

The real quote by Plato is:   “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”  It appears as a dialog between Phaedrus and Socrates in “The Phaedrus”. Abraham Lincoln said it too in slightly different words. It’s time for this con to end.

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