We Shall Overcome… Big Money: Rahm Wins Chicago, Loses Soul of Democratic Party

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It’s a sad night.

Progressive challenger Chuy Garcia lost his bid for Chicago Mayor. Neo-liberal Rahm Emanuel won re-election.

It’s a headline that shouldn’t surprise anyone – but it does.

All the polls told us this would happen. Rahm just had too much money. Emanuel raised nearly $23 million compared to Garcia’s little more than $6 million.

That buys an awful lot of television commercials, advertisements, and confidence.

Emanuel had 20 different ads that aired over 7,000 times!

Even if you aren’t paying direct attention to it, after a while that kind of repetition seeps into your bones.

Rahm’s going to win. Rahm’s going to win. Rahm’s going to win…

Even if you don’t want it to be true, even if you fight against it, there’s a part of you that can’t help but believe it.

It’s like being trapped in the coils of a monetary anaconda that looks you right in the eyes as it squeezes the life out of you and unhinges its jaw!

How else could Rahm win? His attempts to goose the city’s sluggish economy were nothing but an attack on the poor and minorities. He closed public health clinics, 50 public schools and installed red light cameras to raise fees. And none of it even worked!

You might think it’s counter-intuitive that money matters so much, but history disagrees. This is how it plays out almost every time. The candidate with the most green wins.

Look at New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised $30.5 million fending off challenger Zephyr Teachout. She raised only $600,000. And we all remember how that turned out.

Without the constant stream of campaign ads and only the bad taste of his actual policies, Cuomo’s popularity now is lower than it’s ever been. And that election was only half a year ago!

Buyers remorse? Sure! But just wait until the next campaign and a truckload of donor’s money to temporarily hypnotize people they should think otherwise and voila! Instant approval. Just add money!

But there’s good news in this nest of vipers, too.

Consider this: both races were internal. These were Democrats vs. Democrats.

But were they really? Rahm’s top donors were conservative billionaires. These are the same folks backing Scott Walker, Mike Pence and Mitt Romney!

The media is trying to spin this as the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party vs. the business wing.

Nonsense! It’s real, grassroots progressives vs. the DINOs – the Democrats In Name Only! And the DINOs keep winning!

But take heart. The future doesn’t belong to dinosaurs.

Look at how far Chuy Garcia pushed Rahm Emanuel! He got enough votes in the primary to force this runoff election. It was no cakewalk for Emanuel.

The people lost this one, but we will remember it.

Neither of these were high turnout elections. We don’t have that anymore in America.

No matter who is running, no matter what’s at stake, the public is so gripped by a sense of helpless apathy that most people don’t even show up at the polls to cast a vote.

But every time we have an election like this one, we stir people up. We fill them with passion. We make them care.

I knew Chuy Garcia had very little chance of winning, but I wanted it anyway.

I read up on him, talked to people, posted on facebook, sent out a barrage of tweets every day.

And I’ve never even been to Chicago!

But Chuy’s campaign meant something to me. It still does. Even with the election lost.

There is a growing majority of people who feel the same way. We care about closing 50 public schools for minorities. We care about local government control. It matters to us that our society is run justly, morally, progressively.

We repudiate the business model, the worship of money and profit at the expense of all else.

And there are more of us everyday.

Yes. In the short term, money still rules.

But what happens on the day when they open the polls and we all show up?

What happens when that passion spurs us – all of us – to actually get out and vote?

What happens when we drown out the drone of campaign commercials with the certainty of what is right?

I think on that day, the Rahm’s and Cuomo’s will fail. On that day the DINOs go extinct.

On that day, we take back our party and our Democracy itself.

It’s coming closer everyday.


“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
-Mexican proverb

NOTE: This article was also published in the LA Progressive and the Badass Teachers Association blog.

Atlanta Teacher RICO Conviction is Blood Sacrifice to the Testocracy

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Make no mistake.

The conviction of 11 former Atlanta public school teachers for cheating on students standardized tests has little to do with what these people actually did or didn’t do.

It is meant as a message for the entire education profession: if you cheat on standardized tests, you will be given the harshest possible punishment!

Don’t get me wrong. These people deserve punishment. They easily deserve to be stripped of their teaching certifications  and to return the bonuses they received for engaging in this activity.

However, they are each looking at a potential 20 year jail sentence for essentially making copies, erasing pencil marks on paper and filling in different bubbles.

This is absurd.

It’s only possible because they were charged with and found guilty of racketeering. You know, the same charge we use against organized crime!

The justification given was that bonuses and raises were awarded to the former educators based on test scores. Prosecutors characterized this behavior as participation in a massive criminal conspiracy and charged the former teachers with violating the state’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.

I’m not surprised that the state of Georgia tried to use this statute against these people. I am shocked, however, that it held up in court.

These defendants have been charged and found guilty of the same crime as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Gambino Crime Family.

Changing standardized test answers to make it appear students are doing better than they really are is certainly a crime, but is it really on the same level as the mafia!? Is it the same as extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, obstruction of justice and bribery?

Because those are the crimes usually prosecuted with a RICO charge!

One thing is certain: it’s worse than murder.

According to Georgia law, actually killing somebody will get you a less severe sentence than cheating on standardized tests!

The mandatory sentence for second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the state is only 10 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter and assisted suicide will get you 5 years.

Heck! Even a first degree murder charge leaves you eligible for parole in 30 years! That’s only 10 years more than cheating on a bubble test!

Again, this has nothing to do with what these defendants did. It’s a message to the rest of us.

These people – all of whom are people of color – are being offered as a blood sacrifice on the altar of the testing gods.

Those of a reflective nature have already suggested that what this scandal really shows isn’t the danger of cheating so much as the problems of high stakes testing.

When you hold educators and schools responsible for student test scores, you create an environment rife for cheating. When you threaten to close schools and/or fire educators and/or withhold pay based on factors out of an individual’s control, you are inviting cheating.

People think, “why shouldn’t I cheat? I’m being held to an impossible standard anyway!”

The simple fact is that teachers can’t control how well their students do on standardized tests. Educators do their best to ensure their students are prepared, but it is up to the student to actually take the steps necessary to learn.

We all accept the axiom that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink. We accept it everywhere except in the school room.

Corporations and their proxies making billions off of standardized testing will tout the importance of the teacher in the classroom. And, yes, the teacher is very important – the most important in-school factor. But out-of-school factors are even more vital.

Parental income, child nutrition, the number of books in the home, exposure to violence – all these have a greater impact than the teacher.

We continually refuse to accept this fact.

More than half of all public school students live below the poverty line, but we refuse to offer any real help. We instead offer nothing but standardization – in the form of tests and canned curriculum – and the magic bullet of increased privatization.

No wonder there are some teachers cheating on their students standardized tests!

We’re forcing them to march calmly over a cliff or take extreme measures!

What these teachers did is not excusable. They did the wrong thing. They cheated. They tried to game the system.

What they should have done is expose it.

They should have refused to give these tests in the first place. They should have made their case in the public square. They should have lobbied their politicians, educated parents and organized a coalition committed to ending this reign of terror.

And there are tens of thousands of people out there right now doing just that!

Every year the anti-standardization movement gets bigger. Every year more teachers and parents refuse the tests.

This court decision is but one more hysterical reaction from our corporate masters to turn the tide. To shut us up.

But we shall not be moved.

You can offer these people up as a blood sacrifice to your dark god, but it is a false deity and we will continue to refuse to worship at its feet.

The days of the Testocracy are numbered. And every day passed is one less in its reign!


NOTE: The article also was published in the LA Progressive, on Education Bloggers Network Website and the Badass Teachers Association blog.

APTOPIX Atlanta Schools Cheating