Monday, February 20, 2017

Lillis, Pallotta, to Challenge Magee for NYSUT President

The political winds aren't brisk enough so let's throw a NYSUT election into the mix.

Come April 8, current NYSUT president Karen Magee will either be out of a job or preparing to run the union into the ground for another three years.

Magee's two challengers are in it for the wrong and right reasons, respectively. 

First for the wrong. Although he teamed up with her on the sham successful Revive NYSUT slate in 2014, current NYSUT Executive Vice President and semi-regular reader of this blog Andrew "Andy" Pallotta is now trying to throw Magee under the same bus that ran over her predecessor, Dick Iannuzzi.

The problem is that Pallotta has been driving the bus both times. 

Evidently, Pallotta is finally serious about reviving NYSUT, and thinks he's got what it takes to lead public education to the promised land. His eight-year record as a NYSUT officer, however, belies any serious hope that Pallotta can help pull schools back from the brink.

As NYSUT Executive Vice President, Pallotta's main charge has been to lobby legislators on behalf of working teachers, and at least earn a legitimate victory every once and a while.    

Since 2009, however, New York teachers have faced loss after loss, with Governor Andy Cuomo and the state legislator callously attacking teacher pensions and due process rights while spewing Common Core tests across the state. Thanks to Cuomo's Education Transformation Act, for example, trumped-up charges are now all it takes to fire tenured teachers and hand their schools off to voucher school villains. Meanwhile, s
uburban and rural districts are pinned-down by an insolvency-inducing tax cap, while urban schools are flush with rats instead of cash. 

But it's not like Pallotta hasn't tried. In fact, just last year he spent $109,600 (the maximum amount) of voluntary member donations (VOTE-COPE) on Republicans in the New York Senate, whose leader - John Flanagan - recently pledged allegiance to Betsy DeVos, President Trump's toxic secretary of education. It's safe to say that whatever campaign cash Flanagan and his flunkies received from NYSUT was spent on obliterating any compassion they had left for public education - the platform of American democracy.    

Speaking of President Trump, Pallotta is a former member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which recently took the absurd action of striking any references to Trump from a union resolution, opting to refer to Trump only as "the presidential election." Pallotta's pals in the UFT were apparently too afraid to offend public school teachers who voted for Trump, otherwise known as Those Who Should Know Better

And it's this kind of kowtowing that's placed teachers and their unions exactly where they are today - begging for scraps at the laps of people whose names they won't even whisper.

This is America, and our freedoms should include permission to criticize our leaders. Any educator who delays speaking truth to power is only running toward the inevitable cries of "Would've, could've, should've!" as their careers careen into flames.

Magee's second challenger, on the other hand, is not afraid to say Donald Trump's name. A high School
physics teacher and current President of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers (LFT), Mike Lillis has experience which Andy Pallotta severely lacks - running a classroom while running a union in the dark age of school deform. Lillis also has a good-old fashioned obsession with facts and data, which he has used to help unravel and reveal the fleecing of public education.

The attacks on schools can be boiled down to one number - 1630 - which equals the average score New York State expects students to achieve on the SAT. Only 34% of students who take the SAT, however, achieve this score, and your third-grader will not be one of them unless she scores a 3 on tests Cuomo himself once called "meaningless." Subpar students naturally means subpar teachers, whose subpar schools will soon be transformed into subpar websites.     

In a world of alternative facts, 1630 is an indisputable digit which represents all that is wrong with school deform.

Sadly, when Lillis brought this bogus benchmark before the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, crickets filled the room. After all, everyone had always assumed that "college and career ready" meant whatever Bill Gates wanted it to mean, and did not originate from say, some arbitrary test score. NYSED promised to "get back to" Lillis with an explanation, and he's still waiting. Lillis did get the Commissioner to admit that the teacher evaluation system was "random", however, a both hilarious and horrifying admission from the state's top education official.

Joining Lillis on the ST slate of candidates are Bianca Tanis, who's running for Pallotta's old position, Megan DeLaRosa (1st Vice President), and Nate Hathaway (Secretary/Treasurer). Like Lillis, all of them are full-time teachers and unionists, and all of them care deeply about their profession, on personal and professional levels.

Fearsome Foursome (clockwise from top left): Lillis, Tanis, Hathaway, DeLaRosa

All of them are also leaders of the opt-out movement, an unprecedented act of civil disobedience which has pushed back against the privatization of public education. As a founder of New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), Bianca Tanis has traveled the state and appeared on national television to educate teachers and parents on the standardized threats their schools face. This dedication alone has given working teachers more hope than Andy Pallotta could ever hope to give.      

Even amid the lunacy of a Trump presidency, t
he existential threats faced by NYSUT and teachers in general cannot be minimized. This election should at least help expose those threats to a public flogging of logic and the altruism of educators. 

Lillis and ST recognize these threats, and want schools to persevere and prosper. They know, for instance, that the eager students sitting in their classrooms today are a lot less likely to become teachers tomorrow because of the losses of the past decade, losses which the likes of Pallotta have done little to stop.  

With all three branches of government ready to turn America into a Right to Work nation, it's finally time for NYSUT to get serious and give grassroots teachers a chance to lead. Besides, there's little to stop NYSUT from sliding off the cliff once dues becomes optional, and your leader will be the guy who brought you Tier VI and four-year tenure.

Mike Lillis and the ST slate will fight for fairness, for all teachers and students. They understand the importance of the Union movement and do not enjoy seeing it decimated by apathy and ignorance.

Whether it's ST, the UFT, or NYSUT, the Union must endure - it is the only barrier keeping us from the billionaire barbarians.

We must hold the line and move forward, together.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Constitutional Case for Boycotting the Inauguration

If Donald Trump thought Barack Obama was an illegitimate president, he needs to look in the mirror this Friday afternoon.

Trump's infamous fixation on Obama's birth certificate was fueled by an alleged allegiance to the Constitution, which simply requires that all presidents be U.S. citizens and at least 35-years-old. Trump appealed to the authority of the Constitution to justify his asinine claim of presidential illegitimacy and stoke the worst instincts of his loyal base.  

Obama eventually added credibility to Trump's conspiracy theory and released his birth certificate, needlessly proving he was indeed preserving and protecting his end of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, as Trump takes the Oath of Office, he will be dragging the country into a Constitutional crisis a lot more serious than the origins of Obama.

As of Friday, Donald Trump will be an illegitimate president, but not because he was born in Kenya or has the attention span of a five-year-old. No, it's a lot worse. Since Trump still refuses to sell his businesses, he will be in clear violation of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, otherwise known as the Emoluments Clause, which states:
"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
Look past the capital letters and mumbo jumbo punctuation for the essence of the Founders' statement: America is not for sale, and no asshole should be allowed to enrich himself at the expense of its sanctity and safety. Trump's business entanglements circle the globe, and it's not only what he owns buy who he owes. His debts to foreign governments are unknown and shall remain unknown until he releases his tax returns, documents which Trump claims no one cares about. If no one cares about the tax returns, then why not just release them? Why not stop the blackmail suspicion from growing?      

It would have been nice if the piles of stuffed file folders at Trump's recent press conference contained his tax returns and not pamphlets from Trump University. The grim irony here is that unlike Obama, who went above and beyond to release his document and placate the birthers, as long as Trump owns and owes places and people, he will need to release his tax returns should he ever want to be considered a legitimate president by millions of Americans.                                                                     
And so the inauguration of Unpresident Trump is no inauguration at all. Illegitimacy breeds illegitimacy, and if Trump is illegitimate, so is his inauguration.

While Congressman John Lewis and others are boycotting the inauguration because of a foreign power's influence on the election, proving the power of Russian propaganda is a far more difficult task than proving that yet another politician is profiting from his position. On the other hand, if Trump was a compromised candidate - which his tax returns might also show - the election does lose legitimacy, as voters were sold a bill of goods by a compromised, foreign agent.    

If our country has any dignity left, the demands to see Trump's tax returns must far surpass the demands to see Obama's birth certificate. For while both are linked to the Constitution, one has legs and legitimacy while the other festers in a puddle of bigotry and illegitimacy. It should surprise no one that accusations about Obama's legitimacy originated from an illegitimate president who as of Friday will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution to the very least of his ability...  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Donald Trump's Conflicts with the Constitution

The looming inauguration of Donald J. Trump Dump has American stupidity scraping the abyss. Look no further for evidence of this than our future leader's command of the English language and his own attention span. Indeed, these deficits alone may be all people need to fear the next four years. 

But another reason to dread Dump has as much to do with ignorance as it does good old-fashioned greed and hubris. 

The U.S. Constitution, a document which binds the Republic together, is about to be violated in more ways than a pedophile in prison. Dump's presidency, in particular, is poised to wreak havoc on both the First Amendment and the Emoluments Clause. For those still trying to pronounce it, the Emoluments Clause shields federal officials from the financial influence of foreign powers, while the First Amendment shields citizens from the dictates of demagogues like Dump.

More on the First Amendment later. 

As of this blog post, Dump has shown zero signs of shedding his business entanglements at home and abroad. As a result, government officials from Saudi Arabia to Stormville will soon be inclined to fellate the most powerful man in the world, waving fees and expediting permits. Likewise, it will be in Dump's best interest to forge federal policies that boost his brand around the globe. Because of these conflicts, Dump's most precious commodity will be his businesses instead of the American people. It seems we've elected yet another politician who puts money before morals, power before principles.   

And what if World War III breaks out in Turkey, for instance? Will Dump send in ground troops to fight Russians, or to protect his skyscrapers? Unless this actually happens, we may never know for sure, since Dump dumped most members of the media after he was elected president.

         Trump has dumped around the world,
      and he's not even president yet.      

The closest Dump has come to a press conference in recent days was a brief and bizarre appearance at his Mar-a-Lago resort with boxing promoter and former murderer Don King. If and when Dump does give his next real press conference - one in which more than three questions are allowed - expect it to be filled with sentence fragments, superlatives, and abrupt non-sequiturs. Dump knows no other way, after all, and each press conference and speech he gives sounds a lot like the previous one played backwards.    

Trump with Don "Only in the Idiocracy" King

Though we should not expect a 70-year-old man to suddenly discover lucidity, a free press is among the ways we ensure that the president is neither incompetent nor corrupt, something Dump has unfortunately yet to demonstrate to the majority of the country. His inane Tweets, if anything, have proven the opposite - stained by ignorance, greed, and hubris. Nevertheless, Dump's Tweets are preserved for posterity, and will make for a fine display in his presidential library, right next to an oil painting called Nuclear Winter is Coming

Hubris, as the Greeks remind us, is often the most destructive flaw of all. And if the Greeks know anything, Dump's unpresidential pride may soon wrap itself around the First Amendment, cracking its spine before consuming it.

For example, Dump prefers to tell us what to think rather than how to think, and filters his demands through his ego, otherwise known as his Twitter account:

"I will take my message directly to the American people and bypass the unethical press that wants to see their candidate elected."                                                           -Donald J. Trump    

Even if Dump's messages made sense, the leader of the free world cannot be held to a standard of 140 characters or less; never mind hurling barbs at Hollywood actors and Gold Star fathers, among the many others who pay his salary.    

Further, will Dump's rants on Twitter replace White House press briefings?

Or if he does keep his businesses, who will stop him from using all of that Commander-in-Chief ca$h to say, start his own disinformation news network?

Who will stop him from buying Twitter? Dump's critics should prepare to have their accounts suspended, at the very least, and bloggers should have their high-priced lawyers on standby.

A world which bullshit circles before the truth gets out of bed does not need someone like Dump as an arbiter of truth, or nuclear weapons, for that matter.

It will be up to the ignorant and informed to save this world before it swallows itself.