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The NEA, Social Justice and Indoctrination Ghettos

The NEA convention had its humorous moments as well as a very disturbing one.

The National Association Education’s yearly convention, which wrapped up last week, was mostly a tame affair with not much worth writing about. But NEA executive director John Stocks did provide some unintentionally comedic moments. His boiler plate lefty political ranting included solemn affirmations about “the insidious entitlements of white privilege” and the evils of “income inequality.” The latter is especially amusing since the latest available NEA tax filing reveals that Stocks’ total yearly compensation is $505,288. But upon further review, maybe his “income inequality” gripe has some merit. American Federation of Teachers president and fellow inequality-griper Randi Weingarten made $543,679 during the same time period. So maybe Stocks is irked about the $38,391 gap.

Then there were Stocks’ shout-outs to such fringe groups as Occupy Wall Street, all of which led Stocks to start screaming – not passionately – just screaming about how we are now in a “movement moment.” (The last time I experienced one of those was after eating some bad clams.)

For an organization that may well be on the verge of losing its forced dues racket and have to moderate its message to actually woo customers, Stocks’ talk was far out in left field, and surely turning off moderates and right-of-center members. For more on his talk, read Jason Hart’s account on Watchdog.org. If you have the stomach to watch to the whole 25 minutes, you can see it here.

Far scarier than Stocks’ talk was the recipient of NEA’s “Social Justice” award, one Jose Lara, dean at LA Unified’s Santee Education Center and a member of the United Teachers of Los Angeles board. The award honors the union member who “demonstrates the ability to lead, organize and engage educators, parents, and the community to advocate on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators, and the communities they serve.” While “social justice” has as many definitions as people using the term, perhaps the most accurate comes from the Urban Dictionary:

Promoting tolerance, freedom, and equality for all people regardless of race, sex, orientation, national origin, handicap, etc… except for white, straight, cisgendered males. F*** those guys, they’re overprivileged no matter what.

That Lara was chosen as anything but “Leftist Indoctrinator-in-Chief” is a joke. On Memorial Day weekend in 2010, Lara, then a teacher, took his students to Arizona on a “field trip” to protest the state’s new immigration law. In a YouTube video, Lara is seen standing in front of a wall-to-wall mural featuring a Who’s Who of murderous revolutionaries, including Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, while proudly displaying the motto Patria o Muerte, Venceremos!!! (Fatherland or Death, We Shall Overcome!!!).

Lara’s radical activities have been well-documented since then. His latest coup was in November 2014 when he led a successful charge to get “ethnic studies” classes added to LAUSD’s graduation requirements beginning with the class of 2019. This move will serve to resegregate schools with each ethnic group separating itself from the general population. At a time when we desperately need to become more united at as a people, ethnic studies classes will further balkanize us.

But it’s really much worse than just ethnic studies. Lara’s brand comes with a radical hate-America, class warfare agenda. In his five minute acceptance speech for the NEA award, he made his thoughts known. He talked about, “fighting for the most vulnerable and oppressed in our community” and that the culture has been guilty of “institutional racism” by “keeping students from learning about their own history.”

Left in the hands of Jose Lara and his ilk, ethnic studies will become pure Alinsky fare, a never-ending barrage of revolutionary, America-bashing screeds, serving only to keep us in race, ethnicity and class ghettos.

That the NEA champions this type of indoctrination is reprehensible. Rich lefties like John Stocks, who laud the Occupy socialists and the Lara-type revolutionaries don’t know what they are in for. As Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Whether Stocks is an appeaser or a true believer, he, as card-carrying one-percenter, will in time become croc fodder.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Five Awesome Things about Having One-Party Rule in California!

There are many in our society–particularly those who’ve come to the conclusion they’re smarter than the rest of us–who rejoice in one-party rule. They therefore must delight in our current state of our Golden State, because it’s simple to determine who does and doesn’t belong in our government. After all, why be “Rational, Tough and Bold” when it’s so much easier to be clever and emphasize that You Care”!

So now that our state enjoys a one-party rule that is more “democratic” than ever, it has the distinct advantage of a more streamlined approach to achieving power in the following five ways:

1)  No one to complain about crippling businesses and the local economy:

The Koch Brothers are a gift that must keep on giving. Without any prominent elected Republicans to blame on everything from our reduced quality of life to tooth decay, these two mysterious individuals are conveniently in the desired role to get folks angry about things without having to pay attention to who has actually been running major cities like Los Angeles into the ground.

After all, the concerns that handed former governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s first major defeat–the slew of propositions that would have addressed pension reform, budget reform, teacher tenure rules and other issues that would have kept our state on an even economic keel–were thrown asunder by the public sector unions who now OWN this state.

Kind of like having the overwhelming thrust of written, television and Internet media on your side in the most blatant of ways, and then hunt down the distinct minority of media outlets who support the other side and brand THEIR followers as crazy, partisan and bigoted.

So how awesome is it that the focus can be on the recent Supreme Court rulings (Citizens United, McCutcheon) allowing more corporate money into politics…instead of the current dominance of public sector union and corporate money that ALREADY encourages politicians to ignore their constituents and go where the money is?

2)  No one to oppose class warfare or stop you when you claim people can’t be successful on their own:

What an awesome circle of tactics our leaders now enjoy! Create an economic environment that favors the upper 1%–and which trashes the future of the middle- and lower-socioeconomic classes–and then blame the OTHER side for the 1% which is both siphoning off the financial largesse of the greater populace and is of YOUR creation!

And if issues arise where your political party has operatives that are connected to both Hollywood and the White House pull federal anti-poverty funds away from impoverished South Los Angeles to more politically-rewarded portions of the City of Los Angeles …then…blame the Koch brothers!

After all, when your one-party system has created an environment where South Los Angeles residents would rather collectively swallow a bag of broken glass than have a legitimate two-party system, why worry about them?

And when individuals and generations of families can’t find full-time jobs to keep them fully-employed and financially-independent, then they HAVE to turn to the politically-empowered for food, shelter and feel-good programs to make them feel represented…rather than merely OWNED.

A wicked-good way to stay in charge, right? Certainly more profitable and successful than to encourage and rally behind those who come behind from adversity to achieve financial independence!

3)  No one to oppose state-sanctioned race-obsessiveness, or inquire what that means and entails:

The emphasis that “you’re a victim, you can’t do it because the cards are stacked against you, so let’s get back at the racist monsters who’ve kept you down” is a first-rate message and strategy to bypass any concerns of hidden messages and implications…like suggesting that some ethnic groups are too stupid and ill-equipped to do it on their own, or that those ethnic groups who are succeeding actually did it on their own.

Take affirmative action, for example–there are many first-rate black and Latino leaders who are brilliant, hard-working, innovative and charismatic leaders. But rather than cherish the success stories of those who’ve come from behind to succeed and achieve the American Dream, it’s a more tasty nectar to cherish and consume when one perpetually presumes there will be an ever-present group of ethnic losers.

Rather than focus, however, on those Asians in our state and in our country who are climbing up the socioeconomic ladder despite overt racism during their own lifetime–like Japanese-Americans moving from concentration camps to being our local gardeners to being our society’s leading professionals–it’s more convenient to attack Asians when they question the fairness of affirmative action.

Sort of like the way that moderate Ted Lieu, the inspired protégé of the late Mike Gordon, who has certainly fought for the average Californian in so many ways but has been attacked because he had the temerity to back off from supporting affirmative action. Blame him, and blame the Koch Brothers, and blame everyone but those doing the blaming. Awesome!

So if we even try to come up with a balanced immigration reform measure proposed by Republican Jeff Denham that encourages military or other service to ensure illegal immigrants a tough but likely measure to encourage them to be part of our American mainstream, it’s not problem-solving, but racism…right?

4)  No one to remind children that you’re rewriting history and telling them a story that just isn’t true:

Why bother to raise the issue of Republicans, conservative Independents and moderate Democrats throwing up their hands in despair and leaving the Golden State (with their money and assets, to boot) and changing the political electorate when you can just claim that there are more Democrats because…well…they’re just the better party?

Why bother to compare the economic history of California when it was a red state with our current status of being the bluest of blue states? Furthermore, why bother to compare our current economic status with red states like Texas, which is pulling all sorts of employers and job creators to locations where they can better enjoy the profits of their blood, sweat and tears?

Why bother to call a group of people (and their enabling employers and paid-off politicians) “illegal immigrants” when we can call them “undocumented immigrants” despite the fact that they knowingly broke the law? And those who ask for fair representation of legal immigrants and native-born Californians…probably racists who should be demonized and put in their place!

Why bother to raise the issues of balanced oil/gas industries versus the newer solar industries when one can just decry and demonize the former as just Big Oil while ignoring the unequal profiteering of Big Solar…and heavens forbid we should focus on states like North Dakota which is enjoying an oil boom! After all, that’s a Red State, so they’re probably racists who HATE the environment!

And why bother to ever raise the public sector pension crisis issue that will bankrupt future generations when it’s easier to just tell children that those raising that issue are probably just fascists who HATE police officers, firefighters and teachers?

5)  No one to stop you when you break the law:

If the California High Speed Rail keeps getting knocked down in the courts because it’s violating both the language and spirit of the measure that the voters approved, it’s not law-breaking, it’s lack of vision…right?

If we trash our environmental rules to allow developers, chambers of commerce and construction unions to break the law and shred our economy, mobility and quality of life to pieces, it’s not law-breaking, it’s obstructionism…right?

If three state senators of the ruling class–er, political party–get nailed for knowingly break the law, it’s not law-breaking, it’s the fault of big money (as in the Koch Brothers and the Supreme Court)…right?

And that really is the wonderful advantages of a one-party state–it’s worked wonderfully well in other parts of the world, and even in our own country–because separation of powers and all that is an obnoxious inconvenience for those too smart or clever to have to listen to the rest of us.

There’s also, of course, one other, final advantage of being in charge of a one-party state:

NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY, BECAUSE THAT’S FOR THE “OTHER PARTY”, RIGHT?

*   *   *

About the Author:  Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC, previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org. He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern. This article originally appeared in Los Angeles City Watch and is republished here with permission.

Fixing California: The Green Gentry’s Class Warfare

Historically, progressives were seen as partisans for the people, eager to help the working and middle classes achieve upward mobility even at expense of the ultra-rich. But in California, and much of the country, progressivism has morphed into a political movement that, more often than not, effectively squelches the aspirations of the majority, in large part to serve the interests of the wealthiest.

Primarily, this modern-day program of class warfare is carried out under the banner of green politics. The environmental movement has always been primarily dominated by the wealthy, and overwhelmingly white, donors and activists. But in the past, early progressives focused on such useful things as public parks and open space that enhance the lives of the middle and working classes. Today, green politics seem to be focused primarily on making life worse for these same people.

In this sense, today’s green progressives, notes historian Fred Siegel, are most akin to late 19th century Tory radicals such as William Wordsworth, William Morris and John Ruskin, who objected to the ecological devastation of modern capitalism, and sought to preserve the glories of the British countryside. In the process, they also opposed the “leveling” effects of a market economy that sometimes allowed the less-educated, less well-bred to supplant the old aristocracies with their supposedly more enlightened tastes.

The green gentry today often refer not to sentiment but science — notably climate change — to advance their agenda. But their effect on the lower orders is much the same. Particularly damaging are steps to impose mandates for renewable energy that have made electricity prices in California among the highest in the nation and others that make building the single-family housing preferred by most Californians either impossible or, anywhere remotely close to the coast, absurdly expensive.

The gentry, of course, care little about artificially inflated housing prices in large part because they already own theirs — often the very large type they wish to curtail. But the story is less sanguine for minorities and the poor, who now must compete for space with middle-class families traditionally able to buy homes. Renters are particularly hard hit; according to one recent study, 39 percent of working households in the Los Angeles metropolitan area spend more than half their income on housing, as do 35 percent in the San Francisco metro area — well above the national rate of 24 percent.

Similarly, high energy prices may not be much of a problem for the affluent gentry most heavily concentrated along the coast, where a temperate climate reduces the need for air-conditioning. In contrast, most working- and middle-class Californians who live further inland, where summers can often be extremely hot, and often dread their monthly energy bills.

The gentry are also spared the consequences of policies that hit activities — manufacturing, logistics, agriculture, oil and gas — most directly impacted by higher energy prices. People with inherited money or Stanford degrees have not suffered much because since 2001 the state has created roughly half the number of mid-skilled jobs — those that generally require two years of training after high-school — as quickly as the national average and one-tenth as fast as similar jobs in archrival Texas.

In the past, greens and industry battled over such matters, which led often to reasonable compromises preserving our valuable natural resources while allowing for broad-based economic expansion. During good economic times, the regulatory vise tended to tighten, as people worried more about the quality of their environment and less about jobs. But when things got tough — as in the early 1990s — efforts were made to loosen up in order to produce desperately needed economic growth.

But in today’s gentry-dominated era, traditional industries are increasingly outspent and out maneuvered by the gentry and their allies. Even amid tough times in much of the state since the 2007 recession — we are still down nearly a half-million jobs — the gentry, and their allies, have been able to tighten regulations. Attempts even by Gov. Jerry Brown to reform the California Environmental Quality Act have floundered due in part to fierce gentry and green opposition.

The green gentry’s power has been enhanced by changes in the state’s legendary tech sector. Traditional tech firms — manufacturers such as Intel and Hewlett-Packard — shared common concerns about infrastructure and energy costs with other industries. But today tech manufacturing has shrunk, and much of the action in the tech world has shifted away from building things, dependent on energy, to software-dominated social media, whose primary profits increasingly stem from selling off the private information of users. Servers critical to these operations — the one potential energy drain — can easily be placed in Utah, Oregon or Washington where energy costs are far lower.

Even more critical, billionaires such as Google’s Eric Schmidt, hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer and venture firms like Kleiner Perkins have developed an economic stake in “green” energy policies. These interests have sought out cozy deals on renewable energy ventures dependent on regulations mandating their use and guaranteeing their prices.

Most of these gentry no doubt think what they are doing is noble. Few concern themselves with the impact these policies have on more traditional industries, and the large numbers of working- and middle-class people dependent on them. Like their Tory predecessors, they are blithely unconcerned about the role these policies are playing in accelerating California’s devolution into an ever more feudal society, divided between the ultra-rich and a rapidly shrinking middle class.

Ironically, the biggest losers in this shift are the very ethnic minorities who also constitute a reliable voter block for Democratic greens. Even amid the current Silicon Valley boom, incomes for local Hispanics and African-Americans, who together account for one-third of the population, have actually declined — 18 percent for blacks and 5 percent for Latinos between 2009 and 2011, prompting one local booster to admit that “Silicon Valley is two valleys. There is a valley of haves, and a valley of have-nots.”

Sadly, the opposition to these policies is very weak. The California Chamber of Commerce is a fading force and the state Republican Party has degenerated into a political rump. Business Democrats, tied to the traditional industrial and agricultural base, have become nearly extinct, as the social media oligarchs and other parts of the green gentry, along with the public employee lobby, increasingly dominate the party of the people. Some recent efforts to tighten the regulatory knot in Sacramento have been resisted, helped by the governor and assisted by the GOP, but the basic rule-making structure remains, and the government apparat remains highly committed to an ever more expansive planning regime.

Due to the rise of the green gentry, California is becoming divided between a largely white and Asian affluent coast, and a rapidly proletarianized, heavily Hispanic and African-American interior. Palo Alto and Malibu may thrive under the current green regime, and feel good about themselves in the process, but south Los Angeles, Oakland, Fresno and the Inland Empire are threatened with becoming vast favelas.

This may constitute an ideal green future — with lower emissions, population growth and family formation — for whose wealth and privilege allow them to place a bigger priority on nature than humanity. But it also means the effective end of the California dream that brought multitudes to our state, but who now may have to choose between permanent serfdom or leaving for less ideal, but more promising, pastures.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com and Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. His most recent study, The Rise of Postfamilialism, has been widely discussed and distributed internationally. He lives in Los Angeles, CA. This essay was originally published in The Daily Beast and appears here with permission from the author.

Class Warfare and Two-Faced Union Bosses

Teacher union bosses’ hypocrisy plunges to new depths.

After the recent congressional vote to keep the Bush-era tax cuts in place, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel lamented on the union’s website,

Today House Republican leadership gave the richest two percent another handout, while pulling the rug out from under millions of children and their families who are falling out of the middle class and into poverty at an alarming rate.

We are long past time to fix a tax system where a hedge fund manager pays a lower federal income tax than the teacher who educates our children. It’s time for everyone to pay their fair share.

Working families and the middle class lost today, while the very rich and corporations won. Working families simply have nothing else to give. And why should they? Despite the rhetoric, there are better options for our economy and country.

Once again we are witnessing a pathetically transparent attempt to rile those who aren’t rich to hate those who are. The standard issue class warfare buzz phrases are a dead giveaway:
• richest two percent
• fair share
• middle class lost while the very rich and corporations won
• hedge fund manager
• working families

Unfortunately, like other class warriors, Mr. Van Roekel has no facts to back his irresponsible assertions. Truth is, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report,

…the top 1 percent of income earners paid 39 percent of federal individual income taxes in 2009, while earning 13 percent of the income.

Again, the top 1 percent earns 13 percent of all income yet pays 39 percent of all taxes. Sounds to me as if they are paying their fair share and then some.

In addition to avoiding facts, he also doesn’t bother to mention that many teacher union bosses – including Van Roekel – are part of the reviled top 1 percent. His total compensation (salary and assorted perks) went from $397,721 in 2010 to $460,060 in 2011. His American Federation of Teachers counterpart, Randi Weingarten, another whiny finger-pointing faux proletarian, saw her total compensation rise from $428,284 in 2010 to $493,859 in 2011. Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering, these 15+ percent raises came as teacher union membership dwindled. And the teachers who did stay on the job were not getting any pay raises, and in fact many took pay cuts. Ah, but when you are a union boss, “hypocrisy” is just a nine letter word.

State affiliate leaders don’t do too badly either. For instance, in Michigan, MEA President Iris Salters’ total compensation in 2011 was $283,280. In New York, NYSUT boss Richard Iannuzzi brought home about $300,000 including salary and perks.

In fact, it’s not only the teacher union bosses who are living high on the hog, the private sector union elites’ income has skyrocketed since 2000.

Michael Sullivan did very well as general president of one of the country’s biggest trade unions — the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association AFL-CIO — during the last decade, seeing his pay triple and then some, to more than $1 million annually.

Robert Scardelletti, international president of the Transportation Communications International Union AFL-CIO, didn’t do quite as well as Sullivan, but still managed to get by while seeing his pay almost triple in the same period, to nearly $750,000.

Larry Weinberg and Joseph Hunt, general counsel of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and general president of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers AFL-CIO, respectively, both saw their pay double as well.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has been banging on Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns in the hope of exposing the Republican who will run for POTUS in November. In that spirit, I am asking Van Roekel, Weingarten and all the other teacher union leaders – who to the best of my knowledge have never done so – to release their tax returns. Seems to me that since their salary is being paid by taxpayers who in turn pay teachers – most of whom are forced to pay union dues – it is only proper that those who grouse about the rich not paying their “fair share” should show us all that they are being consistent and above board. So, how about it?!

I’m not holding my breath.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

CTA Dons Victim Guise and Joins Occupy Wall Street Crowd

It’s almost Halloween and the California Teachers Association, a rich and powerful outfit, is in costume as one of the “99%ers” – protesters who claim to be have-nots.

A couple of weeks ago United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made sympathetic statements about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now the California Teachers Association has jumped in with a full endorsement and suggestions on its website as to how teachers and others can get involved in OWS activities.

Stunning in its mendacity, CTA issued a press release (H/T Mike Antonucci) which announced its “support of the nationwide ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement for tax fairness and against corporate greed.” It goes on to say, “…a stable tax structure begins with everyone paying their fair share.”

Paying their fair share?

Never shying away from class warfare, the union really has hit a new low here. According its latest available income tax form, CTA took in $186,216,493 in 2009. As a 501(c)(5), the union has a special tax exempt status with the IRS which is accorded to “Labor, Agricultural, and Horticultural Organizations.”

Hence, CTA would appear to be following the letter of the law in paying no money in taxes. But there is a bigger picture here, and it is bloated with hypocrisy. First CTA manages to siphon off $600+ yearly ($647 in 2011-2012) from every teacher in the state in forced union dues. Then it turns around and spends much of those dues on politicking — over $211 million on politicking from 2000-2009 — frequently on issues that have nothing to do with teachers or kids – and supporting causes that are contrary to the positions of many of its members. Then the union elites have the audacity to whine about millionaires and billionaires “not paying their fair share of taxes” when they don’t pay a penny, and all the while fund politicians who ensure that CTA’s pilfer-and-spend scheme rolls on undisturbed.

And just what do the “anti-greed” union bosses make for their efforts? In 2009, CTA President David Sanchez was compensated $289,550, three times what an average teacher in CA makes, while VP Dean Vogel had to suffer along with a mere $244,925 a year.

On a national level the union bosses do even better.

According to a recently issued LM-2 report (H/T RiShawn Biddle), we see that AFT President Randi Weingarten raked in a cool $493,859 last year. And NEA President Dennis Van Roekel managed to “earn” a whopping $543,868 in salary and benefits. I guess their justification for such high salaries is that it is very hard work to fight reformers who are actually concerned about educating children.

But CTA and other teachers unions can snooker people only for so long. Far from being a part of the 99%, they are big special interest businesses — spending millions to maintain their monopoly over American education, while paying not a penny in taxes. As Troy Senik wrote last week in Public Sector Inc., “The CTA is the one percent.” And poll after poll has shown that the general public is catching on.

If the OWSers were to put their bongs away, stop beating their drums, defecating on police cars, chanting and repeating nonsense in zombie-like tones for just a moment, they just may realize that the unions claiming to support them are really fat cats disguised as victims.

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.