NEA Convention Report. Part Two, more of the same, and worse... If 'Wisconsin' was a victory, how does the NEA spell D E F E A T?... The NEA Representative Assembly Days Two and Three, 2012 Grueling Times with High and Low Lights and a Closing Kablooey!

We left off with an NEA video proclaiming victory in Wisconsin as John Lehman, an NEA member, won a state senate seat. The gruesome loss in Wisconsin was simply washed away in a mass cheer-up. At the close of the video, I was standing next to an NEA Peace and Justice Caucus member. To him: “Do you think they’ll talk about the wars?” Him: “Probably not. It’s hard to get people to pay much attention to the wars during election years.”

President Obama doesn't visit the teacher union conventions, which he began snubbing on behalf of his hedge fund and charter school supporters as early as July 2008, before he was even nominated. During each convention, he has a different excuse for not being there, the most exotic being in 2008 in Chicago, when Substance saw him doing a fundraiser at one of the convention hotels during the AFT convention and then he flew to San Diego and addressed the teachers over the big screen. Above, Obama and NEA's Dennis Van Roeckl on the big screen during the 2012 NEA convention. With Arne Duncan's policies and Race To The Top being even more unpopular that No Child Left Behind, Obama's aides also fear he will be booed by teachers, so he will also avoid being present during the AFT convention at the end of July. Substance photo by Rich Gibson.Now, a parade of Political Action “Captains.”

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel ("DVR" here): “These are the people who understand who our opponents are. They want to privatize everything, and destroy the middle class and they want to SILENCE OUR UNION! They want right-to-work states. Michelle Bachman. Santorum. Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney..." (loud boos–forgetting that Romney says, again and again, that he shares Obama’s educational policies)...

Standing next to what may be a Republican now; “What do you think of that?”

“We allow union bosses to collect our dues and they do what they want with it. They’re ramming Obama down our throats and we are the ones who are silenced.” She walked away before I could grasp her broader views.

Paul Krugman, known in more radical circles as “Capital’s Bulldog,” the one who wants a New-New Deal (which would be very different this time around), is being awarded the NEA Friend of Education Award, given not long ago to the vacillating reactionary Diane Ravitch as she hugged DVR and Arne Duncan.

Problem: Krugman is a no show. He didn’t call in. Didn’t send a tape. Nothing. Hoo Boy! NEA ran some tapes from TV programs to offset the truancy.

Forward to Becky Pringle and the Secretary Treasurer’s yearly report. Here, I only touch on highlights as it is easier to grasp the mammoth NEA budget from published reports. Additionally, while Pringle is most assuredly a competent Secretary Treasurer and fills the office with considerable dignity, it would be impossible for her to address the complex funds even in four hours of dismaying tedium.

-- NEA has 2,198,732 active certified members, down 66,866.

-- 483,641 Education Support Personnel (ESPs) down 13,865.

-- 43,852 active life members. (NEA is annoyed at past leaders, and these members who, two decades and more ago, bought life memberships for 500 dollars and avoided dues ever since).

Total Actives: 2,726, 045.

Add in—63,518 students (down 6,676) and 283,470 retired. NEA has 154,171 Higher Education members, one of the few areas of growth, but only up 1,062.

We shall address how NEA reaches its claim of more than 3 million members later.

A press packet picked up by most of the for-profit media fills in some blanks. “NEA lost more than 100,000 members since 2010. By 2014, union projections show, it could lose a cumulative total of about 308,000 full-time teachers and other workers, a 16% drop from 2010. Lost dues will shrink NEA's budget an estimated $65 million, or 18%.”

Questioned by the floor, the chair indicated that certified teachers make up 71% of NEA membership, and pay 87% of the dues, a throwback insult to ESP’s, hinting they don’t pay their share typically initiated by people who resent the attention many NEA staff devote to ESPs, and their growing leadership — the president of the Michigan EA is an ESP, a significant shift for a group that once didn’t want them at all and rejected an offer from leaders of the Michigan State Employees Association to affiliate, giving MEA at least an additional 50,000 member, on the grounds that, “they aren’t teachers.”

Lily Eskelsen, VP, commented: “Times have been bad before, but never this bad.”

Even so, NEA is far from poor.

“Our operations cost more than one million dollars per day.”

NEA has assets around $350 million dollars. Imagine; what if NEA really wanted to do something?

Pringle cited these prime factors that caused the member/budget collapse:

*The Recession,

*Education “Reform.”

*Attacks on Collective Bargaining.

Per the NEA Strategic Plan, NEA could lose 308 thousand members in a short span, at a loss of $65 million. From the dias again, “Things will never be the same.”

Left out: capital’s collapse in 2008 and continued stagnation in industry while finance runs wild again; lost wars; the corporate state as an executive committee and armed weapon of the rich.

In response to a query from the floor, Pringle rejected the idea of a dues increase on a procedural basis. Such a motion would have to be submitted months in advance of the RA. Henceforward, through the RA, each business item was costed, to the dollar (not unusual) and every business item was costed on a per-delegate, and per-member, basis, sometimes close to the penny (fairly unusual).


Begin with Jill Biden, PhD and former teacher, but first, a grudge and getting in the door.

After September 11, 2011, for about three years I found myself under sharp scrutiny and sniped at by whatever was passing for Homeland (sic) Security: from the children in camo outfits armed with fully auto weapons (loaded—will you take cover in Starbucks?) to screeners to whoever handled my luggage. If I checked bags, as I often had to do, they tore up my posters, leaflets, did whatever they could to my clothes and dop bags, and left me a note saying “It is all for your own safety.”

Then it stopped for what may be seven years now — nothing.

This trip, however, I reached the Hilton on Connecticut Ave. easily from Reagan (sic) National Airport (wonderful chat with a cabbie from Eritrea who knew more about imperialism than most Americans) to the Hilton.

Opening my bags in lovely room 7158, complete with a view of the Washington Monument (wait for the fireworks story, D.C. and in San Diego) I found this:

I had a box of six cookies. Now there were three.

I had cameras. Destroyed. Pieces scattered around my suitcase.

I had Triscuits. Opened, smashed, crumbs everywhere.

I had a nice notebook reserved to work the RA. But for page numbering and a few random notes to set up thinking about the RA, it was blank. Gone.

I packed clothes carefully, strewn and deliberately crushed all over.

I must be dangerous again! I called TSA and left a really scary phone message. Perhaps a mistake?

As I approached day two, when the Vice President of the USA, Joe, “Blow Me,” (General McCrystal’s term) Biden, would speak, I thought: What would Kim Philby do?

Answer: Take off the “No Blood for Oil” button. Wrap up in double plastic and seal the “Education Agenda is a War Agenda,” poster. Don’t bring the Deutscher book: “Stalin.” Put a few Bible quotes in the beginning of the notebook I would now be forced to use. Should have gotten that haircut. Button the top button. Smile. And I limp rather pitifully anyway.

The Secret Service would be all eyes, ears, touching, x-raying. Most suspicious character arriving.

Members were warned, over and again, not to bring bags as they would be carefully searched, creating delays.

Uzis would be out of sight, as always. How do they hide them anyway?

I approached security.

Not secret service— just security guards. Maybe a clever Secret Service ruse to put us off guard?

Without putting a thing in trays, two guards waved me in. I walked through a very simple security device, nothing like the electronic body search in most airports and onto the RA floor.

Easy. Insulting? Just another aging guy with a gimp.

Biden–watch your back. It won’t be me, but....

Dennis Van Roekel introduced Jill Biden as a teacher, just like us. She introduced the VP.

Biden never mentioned the Race To The Top (RaTT). Nearly no one ever did. Banned in NEA’s Orwellian world.

For the next several paragraphs I'll be paraphrasing Biden interspersed with direct quotes:

We should demand high standards for everyone. Children tend to become what you expect of them. (Now a turn to the Demons).

This is NOT your father’s Republican Party. You guys are under full blown assault. Romney’s plan is to use public money to pay for private schools. We have a fundamentally different view from Governor Romney. He says you only care about yourselves, not your students. These guys don’t understand why you teach. There’s good teachers, lousy teachers, and great teachers but we are a PROFESSION (shouting). You chose to MAKE THIS COUNTRY BETTER.

It’s you who gets your neighbor to watch your own kids so you can help a student. Great teachers in York gave up their raises in Pennsylvania and there are thousands of others like them. You are the people who organize fund-raisers for people whose homes burned down, who buy school supplies for kids.

Mr Romney and the Republicans make you the fall guy. They hector and blame and call you selfish. They have a different value pattern. I SAY SHOW ME WHERE YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY AND I WILL SHOW YOU YOUR VALUES!

They cut millions from education and want a $4 billion tax cut for oil companies. They cut Headstart and Pell grants and work study jobs. They refuse to help the states hire back 300,00 teachers. Governor Romney opposes the $2,500 tax break FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS.

Their budget won’t help the USA to lead the world! They have a completely different value set. Romney told teachers in Philadelphia that class size doesn’t matter. How many of you have a Swiss bank account?

Go to his (Romney’s) web site. ‘When your cause in life is preventing parents from having a meaningful choice, then you are on the wrong side.’

I cannot think of a candidate for President who has so assaulted YOUR PROFESSION!

This is about making the USA the strongest economy in the world, again. It comes down to an economy where everyone has a chance. Romney believes that you reward those at the top and the job creators will take care of the rest.

We believe that we EXPAND FROM THE MIDDLE UP! A tax system where everyone pays his share.

Millionaires are just as patriotic as the poor but nothing has been asked of them in this horrible recession.

Being middle class is owning your own home, a child with a safe park, a chance for school after high school, entre’ to college should be intellectual level, not income.

Middle class is being able to help your elderly parents, to believe your children will do better than you, and BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!

Nothing makes it more possible to be middle class than an education.

You’re the ones who give people hope. Wings! NONE OF US WOULD BE HERE IF IT WERE NOT FOR TEACHERS.

Yeats said, “education is not filling a pail, it is lighting a fire. It doesn’t always happen.


End of quotes and paraphrasing with but one comment as the crowd shouts “FOUR MORE YEARS”–sheer clumsy demagoguery and they love it.

Nearly all of them have, at the least, Bachelor’s degrees. They forgot, clearly enough, that Biden celebrated Rham Emanuel’s Mayoral win in Chicago, was in attendance at the parties, as Emanuel launched his plans to demolish the Chicago Teachers Union. Hysteria breaks memory into separate decomposed pieces.

To their credit, I was told members from Dublin, CA., made a small protest. Unable to get from my middle seat and toward the back, I missed a photo op.

We moved to New Business Items. These are outlined in limited detail at the NEA’s web site linked here

What’s missing is the discussion and in many cases, even the crux of the motion.

I will cherry-pick highlights.

We began with a motion regarding the Miramonte, California, teachers who, one discovery that one of their colleagues was accused as a child molester, the entire staff was involuntarily transferred. The staff was there to speak in their defense and they did, passionately, tearfully, very effectively. The body overwhelming approved their appeals.

It is early in the RA. Over time, as time passes, RA chairs (Lily and DVR and a few others share responsibility) gain confidence, get better at catching who is at what mike and why, but there is plenty of stumbling around now.

As noted in the earliest paragraphs of the Day One Report in Substance, delegates voted in favor of a motion to support the Chicago Teachers Union. In introducing the item, a delegate noted, “Illinois changed the bargaining rules for Chicago....Chicago is the only city that doesn’t elect its own school board....Chicago will come to you next.” Chicago Teachers Union members voted more than 90 percent to authorize a strike in a referendum that took place between June 6 and June 8. Perhaps the good news of the strike vote in Chicago will come to you next as well.

No movement for social change will walk a direct line. Rather, it will inch, or leap, forward, often spiral back on itself. It will not learn without critical reflection. That’s why criticism is key, action in itself–and why it is not cynicism.

Onto the Big Screens (not as numerous nor as big in the past) again: “We Educate America!” Patriot red, white and blue bunting flying.

To the Good Governor Award for Mark Dayton of Minnesota. DVR portrays him as “good goalie,” as he has featured Barack Obama (BO) in the past. Dayton vetoed a bill that would have made it easier to fire veteran teachers. He did not, however, halt the deep cuts to education and, especially, the University of Minnesota. Protecting veteran teachers did not protect rookies. None of that, of course, was mentioned.

Dayton’s speech, like nearly every presentation at the RA, is on youtube, linked here for those who wish to watch.

Want to just guess?

“I greatly appreciate public school teachers....Excessive testing is ruining learning for children and teaching for teachers...I vetoed a bill that would have abolished tenure.”

There was a considerable attention paid to testing this year, about 15 years too late. Now, the Big Tests are habituated into the daily life of school. Many, but probably not most, teachers who entered the job in that period couldn’t operate without the curriculum guides and the Skinnerian approach tests forge.

But test opposition at the RA never got to the crux of the issue; why it is the curriculum is so much more regimented, why school revolves around the exams, nor even why the logical next step, merit pay is spotlighted. Nor do we see any official complaint about the militarization of schooling and daily life in the USA. Simple answers to that Why: Capitalism, Imperialism, and the Corporate State, hidden from view at the RA. A nation promising its youth perpetual war, bad jobs or no jobs, or meaningless jobs, or jail, is going to turn its state schools into illusion mills and human munition factories–or try to from every angle.

New Business Item 3 was presented by Arlene Pavey of California. “NEA shall compile a list of individuals and corporations who contribute $250,000 or more to "super pacs" and additional activities. The list shall include companies and products they control. The information shall be published in the "NEA TODAY" prior to March 1, 2013.” The projected cost (always estimated at sky-high rates when leadership disapproves) is $25,000. Smacking of a intimation of class struggle, the motion was moved to committee on a dubious vote call by DVR.

The silly season began early. New Business Item 6 passed: “NEA will play the film: “NEA Reads the Declaration of Independence DC 2012.” This film, by NEA-MTA member Bill Coleman, features NEA members from around the country in a patriotic mosaic reading the words of our Declaration. We ask that this film be played at this RA on a lunch break for all members to see.”

More and more delegates in funny hats (a tradition at RA’s) appear wandering around the floor, volunteering for photos.

New Business Item (NBI) B: “Misuse of Standardized Tests--NEA will:

Call on governors, state legislatures, state education boards, administrators, and assessment system consortia or developers, to reexamine public school accountability systems in the state, and work with educators to improve them based on fair testing standards promulgated by experts in testing practice;

Call on states and districts to develop systems based on multiple forms of evidence of student learning that do not require extensive standardized testing, are used to support all students and improve schools; and are not used for purposes for which they have not been validated;” and so on.

While this item repeats existing NEA practice that backs the right of parents to opt kids out of the Big Tests, it says nothing about informing them of that right, or of fighting laws and directives that order teachers not to inform them. Again, NEA rings a hollow bell that makes no honest sounds.

NBI 10, a complaint about the method used to dismiss senior NEA staff via a phone call, was ruled out of order since “staff and personnel issues are handled only by the Executive Director, John Stock” No discussion allowed.

NBI 14, opposing a war with Iran, was suppressed with a motion: Object to Consider. No debate. Gone. Thanks go to Patrick Crabtree of Georgia for finishing this one off.

NBI 15, a mild allegation protesting foreclosures and seeking information on their status, so modest that it urged nothing be released until after the November election in order, presumably not to hurt BO, was repressed: Object to Consideration.

NBI 22, opposing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, passed. Sheer stupidity: “NEA shall develop a strategy to reverse “Citizen United” Supreme Court decision through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This will include working with coalitions, office holders and concerned citizens.

In addition, the Plan shall include a component to involve and educate our members through NEA’s affiliates.”

NEA delegates, most of them political activists, should have some modicum of a grasp of what it takes to amend the US Constitution. This folly will waste hundreds of member hours and, if it happens, will we go back to the good days when the rich and corporate didn’t have an undue influence on government?

NBI 25, initiated by the front for the Trotskyist Revolutionary Workers League, the By Any Means Necessary coalition (more on them later) called for the resignation of Arne Duncan and an end to the RaTT. Killed before birth. Object to Consideration. So odious, so divisive, so dangerous, no debate allowed.

I thought about speaking and voting for this NBI 25. It would have been good to raise a finger to the demagogue in the hermetically sealed White House, surrounded by berms, and on this holiday week, armed men in an out of uniform carrying what look like weapons on full auto.

It would have done nothing much. Obama could easily replace Duncan with the open fascist, Alan Bersin, once superintendent in San Diego, and education boss of all of California. Bersin is now BO’s Border Czar. He made a career promoting nationalism, segregation, ignorance, and back door profiteering (after failing as Education Commissioner, he went to the San Diego Airport Board where he fought for a new, floating --yes, floating in the Pacific--airport). Voted down by the citizenry on that harebrained scheme 3/1, Bersin latched on with Obama. It’s inverted merit pay rather like the bankster bonuses and promotions of Generals who keep losing wars.

A bitter discussion of how it is that the RaTT is NCLB on steroids, promoted by not only Duncan but Democrats and Republicans alike (the key issues of American life are all run in bi-partisan fashion: the wars, the bailouts, and schools) and were driven home by BO’s pal, Rham Emanuel would have spiced up the whole room.

I do not think much of Bamn, but I know some Bamn members who were once good friends. My inner conflict was resolved by NEA’s silencing of the problem.

There is always something to play up at the end of the day. Today: BO, Obama! Himself! He’ll phone in on Thursday! Cheers. The demagogue, who played hard for NEA support last election, and who suffered the pleas of NEA bosses for the chance to support him this year, won’t show up. No chants of “Assassin! Fascist! No Blood for Oil! Stop the Ratt!” and worse. For Biden, who cares?

The Fourth of July: Right to Revolution Day in the USA

The day opened with a cheer: God Bless America! God Bless Our Troops!!!

Not: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security....”

Assuredly nothing about the noxious National Defense Authorization Act: Goddamn morons. In the words of the immortal Holden Caulfield, “all morons hate it when you call them a moron.” Forgive me.

The communal “Shut Up About That!” continued apace.

NBI 27 called for NEA backing for the student strikes in Canada against rising tuition. Projected protests would include actions at embassies and counsulets. Bloody Murder: Object to Consideration. Too odious, too divisive, dangerous to NEA, to discuss.

NBI 31: Delegates simply perseverate about voting. Even though thousands of lesson plans are available online for anyone to crib, delegates passed this–“NEA shall publicize lesson plans through appropriate and available online and other no cost vehicles, tools and resources to increase civic engagement that encourages a lifelong habit of informed voting in every classroom, and extending into the community. Special emphasis should be put on collecting teaching lessons on the struggle for voting rights and the current struggles against voter suppression laws.”

Oh, those rotten Republicans. Democrats don’t do that, do they?

An inspirational moment: praise for Education International (EI). Dennis Van Roekel (to be termed out in two years as NEA top) will become the VP of EI, replacing the retired, protuberant, Reg Weaver, himself an ex-NEA prez.

We have International Guests!

Ellen Fartu from Liberia.

Jurgen Lindrom of Sweden.

Patrick ? -didn’t catch the name, from Bahrain, the Saudi colony where riots and news of their violent suppression are hushed.

Mora Sandi of Costa Rica.

A delegate from South Africa’s corrupt SADTU, the ANC backed fake teacher union.

Philip Jallifer of Canada.

And a few others. One delegate said to me, EI brings everyone here who should not be here, and no one who should be here is allowed to come.”

DVR claimed, “EI exists to ensure that every child gets a quality education. EI began in the 1920's with NEA help.

Then followed a video on the Global Campaign for Education featuring EI leaders like Mary Hatwood Futrell, also a former NEA prez, John Bangs, Irene Duncan, the International Labor Organization’s Oliver Lange. Reg Weaver. (Those not presented include a host of AFT bosses like Ed Macelroy who, like Weaver, did little in office but grow fat).

Education International is, in fact, an inheritor of the CIA-sponsored Cold War unions. Affiliated with the CIA front, National Endowment for Democracy, the American Institute for Free Labor Development, the Meany Center, and other intelligence groupings, EI exists, not to promote quality education, but to pick off indigenous leaders in foreign countries, bring them for training in the US, and turn them back against “their own” people for US rulers’ interests (pinch–think Obama or Hispanic Bishops).

In addition, EI members sit at the same table, in full knowledge, with groups like AIFLD fund and train armed killer-thug teams whose task is to terrorize and murder people leading dangerous (sic) indigenous organizations. Like truancy laws, all forms of capital are backed by violence, open or not.

It is in EI that we can witness the first hand knowledge NEA and AFT (and other union) bosses have of their roles as marionettes for the empire, taking that bribe, encouraging the deadly violence the Masters’ require. Don’t believe me? Google the organizations and dodge my work. See Paul Buhle and Kim Scipes and William Blum for starters.

But enough of that Too Awake noisy material. Quiet! It’s time for a “Patriotic Prayer for Our Troops Fighting for our Freedoms.” They, “allow us to fulfill Our American Dream!”

Flags. Bunting. Fireworks on the big screen. Rubes go wild.

The NEA Choir, wittingly or not, mixed a bit of history, singing “God Bless America!” followed by the full versions of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is your Land.” Guthrie, whose guitar was brightened by an etching saying, “This machine kills fascists.” wrote his song because he hated the jingoistic “God Bless America,” swill.

Back to work. Teachers! Noses to the grindstone. Now!

A move to reconsider NBI 25, the Bamn effort to fire Duncan and attack the RaTT, failed.

The grindstone grows boring. People are lying in the isles, some doing exercises, despite DVR’s pleas to cut it out. Beach balls are starting to fly. Pop! Right on your head. Surprise. Wake up. But not too much.

NBI 34, a motion to oppose segregation through charter schooling failed, in part on the argument that “public” schools are segregated at levels of the Brown 1954 court ruling. Nice.

NBI 39, proposed by Jane Watson of California, was meant to support what began as a farce, the Save Our Schools (SOS) movement that targeted testing but carefully avoided the reasons for the tests, wars and capital’s collapse, while pandering for backing from union tops, Diane Ravitch, the vacillating reactionary who is a member of the National Endowment for Democracy (above) and on their board, who serves on the Albert Shanker Institute’s board, another front named after the famed AFT boss who may have been the worst labor faker in U.S. history, and others of their ilk.

Watson made an emotional, if halting, appeal. “We’re under attack. We need alliances. We at SOS stand for equitable funding, opposing high stakes testing, local curriculum development (although SOS refuses to mention the Common Core as Susan Ohanian has courageously underlined). We have done Webinars! Diane Ravitch supports SOS. The Texas superintendent (read good boss/bad boss game) backs us.

Delegates from Florida and the revered Wisconsin (we won!) delegation lit into Watson and SOS, insisting Ravitch quit (she later tweeted she didn’t, but so?). “SOS is not what it appears to be (sure isn’t). It is floundering. Top leaders, at least six, have quit. You can easily google for that (I tried and couldn't although there is plenty of information about the corporate moves on SOS as it moved from farce to fraud). SOS most certainly should not be backed by NEA!”

NBI 39 was beaten down decisively–maybe for the wrong reasons.

As Susan Ohanian has documented on her web site, NEA picked up half a million from Bill Gates last year. In turn, quite a few SOS affiliates are funded by NEA. As old “Blow Me” Joe Biden said, “follow the money and find the values.” The symbiotic relationship of Gates money, NEA money, recipient money, like SOS and some of its member groups should be crystalline. It’s why, for example, SOS allowed no criticism of Obama or even the Common Core Standards, which NEA backs and funds, as we shall see in detail later on.

Watson appeared the next morning asking that her NBI be reconsidered. Since a motion to reconsider wraps up the day at nearly every RA, either she wasn’t there to hear that, or she is unschooled on parliamentary procedure. Either way, she was ruled out of order and not allowed to finish a sentence that probably went, “It was disinformation! Diane Ravitch, our hero, didn’t quit SOS and we have proof.” A disheartened Jane Watson was told to go sit.

So, here was NEA’s play on SOS. First, they used SOS. gave money, as a diversion from a potentially class conscious movement, rising up in schools with the OWS and the massive anti-tuition movements especially in California and New York State. NEA created a few new poster boys whose photos and work were feature in, for example, the glossy “California Teacher,” magazine. All of them toed the lines of march described above–no talk about wars, no criticism of the President, no complaints about bailouts, build a bigger stronger government.

SOS promoted all-class unity and its logical partner, nationalism. After all, if they are “our” schools, rather than capital’s, it would be odd that “we” don’t run them already, would it not?

The for-profit press loved it; the Washington Post, clarion bell for Michelle Rhee, the Race to the Top, and Obama, touted the SOS’ conference and march with a torrent of pre-SOS blogs and interviews. Education Week, the right wing of school press, gave uncritical pre-event coverage, noting that organizers had a meeting with Duncan who described the exchange as a “good conversation.” (Education Week, July 29th).

Then NEA, other unions, and politicians, joined in a demonstration in Washington DC, that in one participants angry note to me (I had criticized SOS here was described as “something that made me feel good at last.” Drug dealers make people feel good. Watch out when that alone is going on.

NEA then let SOS flop around, drawing in more and more people, and corporatists, but with participants like the honest Susan Ohanian getting something of a hearing in meetings and on her web site, SOS became something of a bother, even if the corporations were moving for its control.

The last play: NEA popped the SOS bubble. So long, partners. It’s been good to know ya. It’s your misfortune.....

Next stop–a Dr Seuss video. NEA sponsors “Read Across America,” (RAA) a project that urges reading to children, akin to the incessant RA calls to Stop Bullying, about as safe and vapid as that can be. Makes you feel real good!

RAA is a huge movement and probably does little harm–other than to hide the fact that the San Diegan Seuss, Theodore Geisel, was a dedicated anti-fascist who wrote, for example, his “Sneetches,” as an anti-fascist tract and who despised the Nazi agent, Charles Lindbergh, also briefly a San Diegan (the airport bear his name, sad to say, but then everything in Detroit is named after Henry Ford). Seuss drew appropriately vicious cartoons of Lindbergh as a Hitlerite long before WW2 . Bet very few children in RAA are told that history.

At this point, I concluded that much of this RA is a clumsily stage managed waste of time. It’s one piece of nonsense onto the next with delegates kept fairly busy, but even a systematic plan to organize voters isn’t in the cards (though, in the delegations the drive for every person to become an Educator for Obama grows more tedious).

Now: Fireworks on the mall. Hot double damn!

Having traveled the metro to the mall early, I saw the growing crowds, the armed men on the metro platforms, and I knew about another screening process. I retreated to a meal with NEA staffers and then, my room, 7158 in the Hilton with a good view of the Washington Monument.

At nine on the nose, Kablooey! 30 minutes of explosions. Zowie! But, having lived in DC for several years in the nineties, I knew that we once got an hour. Now we can blow up thousands of real people, but can’t afford good fake explosions. A shame.

While I could watch the fireworks live, I could also simultaneously watch a year old PBS broadcast of the fireworks past, complete with the 1812 Overture, God Bless America (again), the Star Spangled Banner, even some Springsteen. All of it was sponsored by the Department of the Army. Truly, the TV had the more exciting view.

At the end of the counterfeit bombing, the crowd on the Hilton Terrace, seven floors below me, went wild. “USA! USA! USA!”

Down my hall came running adults, “USA! USA! USA!”

Delegates or drunks? Don’t know.

Fascism, though, has been a popular movement, a mass force in the past, even if, over time, it didn’t serve its German or Japanese adherents too well. History is obliterated in American schools. Who would know that now?

As an aside, San Diego, “America’s Finest City,” not long ago, “Enron By the Bay,” gained international fame, again, when a scheduled $400,000, 17-minute, firework display on the Bay blew up in about 10 seconds; one massive explosion. Check for the dozens of youtubes. Perhaps a hundred thousand people on boats, in rented hotel rooms, on docks, in huge crowds, in bars with a view, were nonplused, lost big money, but probably are no less patriotic today.

The owner of the Fireworks company says, “It was a computer glitch. That is an act of God. I am really not liable.”

That is a good end to a long day.

Tomorrow, a wrap up of Day Five of the RA. A review of the budget, the Left at the RA, and NO BULLYING! And Why Are things as they are?

Rich Gibson is a co-founder of the Rouge Forum which will have their next conference in Detroit in 2013. He is an emeritus professor at San Diego State University. Disclosure-- Gibson worked for years at affiliates of the NEA and receives a very, very, very, small pension from the union. He will probably lose money on the RA but will be reimbursed for most of his expenses. Gibson attended Cranbrook School on a scholarship, the same private school Romney attended. Gibson swears he is much younger than Romney. Gibson’s mother, forced out of Detroit Public Schools for teaching well, was Romney’s elementary public school teacher. Gibson says Romney was not the smartest or dumbest kid in the class but either way, Romney is not her fault.


July 8, 2012 at 1:56 PM

By: Christal Watts

Biden was opposed during NEA...

It was members of the Oakland Education Association who held up signs after Biden spoke.

July 9, 2012 at 4:00 PM

By: Rich Gibson

Thanks for the Correction, Cristal

...and my apologies to OEA for attributing the Biden protest to the wrong folks. I try hard to get things right, but as I noted in the piece, I missed the protest and took the word of others. Perhaps OEA has photos? If so, they would be a great addition to Substance on the RA, graphically showing opposition. You can email them to Please send each one as an attachment, and in JPG format. Indicate who is in them if we are going to report that, and who took the photos.

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