RTC members join Renee Taylor after the show Memo From the RTC: A Visit With Renee Taylor and View from Bridge Set Goes Up By Norm Scott Last Sunday, twenty members of the Rockaway Theatre Company family trekked to the theater district to see Renee ...

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"Ed Notes Online" - 5 new articles

  1. Memo From the RTC: A Visit With Renee Taylor and View from Bridge Set Goes Up
  2. School Scope: Socialism and Confusion
  3. The Pragmatic Left: Critics of the Democratic Party Come in From the Cold, Greens Get the Cold Shoulder - Michelle Goldberg
  4. School Scope: On The Importance of The Wave, Local News, Socialism, Capitalism and More
  5. Did the DNC Pass a Perez Resolution Reversing Ban on Donations From Fossil Fuel PACs? -- Common Dreams
  6. More Recent Articles

Memo From the RTC: A Visit With Renee Taylor and View from Bridge Set Goes Up

RTC members join Renee Taylor after the show


Memo From the RTC: A Visit With Renee Taylor and View from Bridge Set Goes Up
By Norm Scott

Last Sunday, twenty members of the Rockaway Theatre Company family trekked to the theater district to see Renee Taylor’s one woman show, “My Life on a Diet” at the Theatre at St. Clement’s on West 46th St. The connection of the RTC to the 85 year old Renee Taylor, the actor and writer, was cemented when the RTC put on “Lovers and Other Strangers,” last May, the play she wrote with her late husband Joseph Bologna and she attended a performance. Co-director Peggy Page promised Renee she would get a crew of RTCers to come to her show and most of the cast from the RTC production, who had been so delighted when they saw her at their performance, attended. Peggy organized the entire day, even creating Renee Taylor fan club buttons we all wore.

I remembered Renee from when I was a kid staying up late and watching the Jack Paar show in the early 60s when she was a frequent, hilarious and often whacky guest. She was (is) a naturally funny person, not just a comedian, and I used to make sure to watch when she was on. But frankly, from that time until I met her at the RTC, I didn’t pay much attention to her, even when she played Fran Dresser’s mom on “The Nanny.” So I never expected to spend such a delightful hour and a half listening to her tell stories about her life and the amazing cast of characters she befriended (including Marilyn Monroe) over her almost 7 decades in show business. I can truly say this was one of the best experiences I’ve had and I urge readers to get tickets before Renee leaves town.
Peggy Page, John Gileece, Taylor, Susan Jasper

After the show, Taylor came back on stage to meet with the RTC crew and take photos and sign programs and gave us a generous portion of her time. Peggy invited her to join us for dinner just down the block. She said she would try to make it but after doing a performance, most of us figured she would beg off. Thus we headed off to Becco’s on 46th street not expecting to see her again, especially after we were put upstairs – a long flight of stairs. But low and behold, a half hour later she showed up (why didn’t you sit downstairs?) and delighted the people at her table. For all of us it was a memorable day and thanks Peggy for helping to make it possible.

Monday, the next day, I joined Tony Homsey’s RTC construction crew in working on the set for the upcoming Arthur Miller’s “View From the Bridge”, directed by Frank Caiati, which opens Sept. 21
and runs for three weekends. The previous Friday we commenced construction on the elaborate set which required us to build an entire state on top of our regular stage, but tilted, which complex ramps going this way and that. Oy! But by 3 PM on Friday, the basics of the set were up. Another Homsey-led miracle.

Get your tickets at: www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org


            

School Scope: Socialism and Confusion

I'm continuing my series of posts in The WAVE trying to sort out "the left" for myself - and maybe others who are as confused as I am. I have begun reading more deeply from current and historical sources to gain more clarity. And I am talking to people on the left. Some of my closest friends lie within the "socialist" spectrum. How can we not have doubts about the problems with capitalism when we see what is going on in this country and others as power and money accumulates in fewer hands? On the other hand, the prediction that as capitalism fails -- or succeeds too well until one person or syndicate owns everything -- it will be followed by a form of socialism which will be a better system for most - seems to be a fantasy especially as we've seen how easy it is for massive numbers of people to be manipulated through propaganda. There are too many examples to name going back to the dawn of civilization where we can see how a small  number of people always seem to gain power under any system. I bet they had many similar problems in the caves.


School Scope: Socialism and Confusion
By Norm Scott
Published in The WAVE, Friday, August 17, 2018
www.rockawave.com

The UFT was founded by social democrats who were members of a party called Social Democrats USA (SDUSA). Albert Shanker and most of the early UFT leadership were members. They were virulent anti-communists who came out of the Trotskyite wing of socialism, which had been the main enemy of Stalinism. In the early 70s’ the almost 100 year old Socialist Party of America split into right and left factions and the UFT was a key player in the right wing faction.

There are so many brands of socialism, when I finish counting on both hands, I have to take my shoes off. When discussing politics with a right winger at a recent dinner, in the midst of disparaging the very idea of socialism, he said the idea of socialism and democracy were contradictory, so how can people call themselves Democratic Socialists? Even among Democrats and people who view themselves as “progressive”, there seems to be confusion about socialism. If you don’t follow the left, you wouldn’t be aware of the differences between Marxists, Marxist-Leninists, Trotskyists, Maoists, and too many more to name here.

Does being a socialist mean you favor Soviet communism, a system that lasted for 75 years and has been viewed as a failure? Consider the past 25 years of post-communist Russia under Putin. A bit more democracy, though basically a one party system under Putin’s control and if you speak too loud you get bumped off. A very nice deal for kleptocrat billionaires who were handed most of the entire state owned industry on the cheap. But most people in Russia would still vote for Putin over the old system - at this point. (Def. of kleptocracy - a form of corrupt government that allows the ruling class to accumulate great wealth and power while neglecting the mass of citizens – sound familiar?)

How about China? Not much democracy but with more than a touch of capitalism, though the state can dictate a lot. China was a massively devastated nation in 1949 when Mao’s revolution began. On the timeline of less than 70 years of history, the outcomes have been impressive, though with great human costs. There were liberalization, but the current leader has been wringing signs of democracy out of the system. Most people in China seem content with a deal that allows them to do well economically. But if that changes, watch out.

Moving on to democratic socialism - a multi-party system, more economic leeway, including various levels of capitalism, though highly regulated to avoid exploitation of the workers – and the consumer. There are often very high tax rates but people do get a lot more for their money, i.e. most of the Scandinavian nations which provide very generous social services. European nations have versions of social democratic parties, but outside Scandinavia they have been struggling of late.

Bernie Sanders identifies himself as a social democrat. Since Trump’s win, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has grown tenfold. DSA is a big tent socialist organization, founded in 1982 as a remnant of the old socialist party of Norman Thomas and founder Eugene Debs, who got 6% of the presidential vote in 2012. They are not a political party and do not run candidates under their party banner on separate lines like the Green Party, but back think-alike candidates running in Democratic Party primaries and in the general election. DSA received a lot of main stream press publicity after socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her recent primary. Our mayor has jumped on the socialist bandwagon, as has Cuomo primary opponent Cynthia Nixon. In last week’s primary a DSA endorsed Michigan Muslim woman won a primary, which may give DSA endorsees at least two seats in Congress plus other seats in local races.

The very idea has right wingers in a frenzy, a frenzy which even infects many Democrats who despise Bernie Sanders and blame him for Trump’s win. The so-called coming blue wave of victories by Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections may just include a small wavelet of social democrats.

Norm promotes his own version of kleptocracy at ednotesonline.com

            

The Pragmatic Left: Critics of the Democratic Party Come in From the Cold, Greens Get the Cold Shoulder - Michelle Goldberg

Greens will sometimes justify these runs as movement-building tools, but they never seem to actually build a movement.... 
The new generation of left-wing activists, by contrast [to the Green Party], is good at self-multiplication. The Democratic Socialists of America [DSA] alone has done more to build left political power since the 2016 election than the Green Party did in the 18 years after Nader helped elect George W. Bush.
In truth, there’s nothing surprising about left-wing candidates losing their primaries. The happy surprise is how many are winning. Unsexy as it sounds, the real story of progressive politics right now is the steady accumulation of victories — some small, some major — thanks to a welcome and unaccustomed outbreak of left-wing pragmatism.
... Michelle Goldberg, The Pragmatic Left Is Winning, NYT, Aug. 9, 2018
I don't always read Michelle Goldberg. She worked for The American Prospect as columnist for The Daily Beast, Slate, and The New York Times. She is a former senior writer for The Nation magazine. Does she carry a grudge against the Greens because Hillary lost?

Her point about the Democratic Socialists of America in contrast to the Green Party, which has built little and wasted resources on national campaigns that could have been used to build grassroots is one I agree with. And I voted Green in a bunch of elections.

I see constant reminders on social media of the DSA's incredible level of activity on so many fronts - the venture into Democratic Party politics is only a sliver.

Goldberg brings some perspective to the move to the left within the Democratic Party and also from critics of the Dem Party on the left of the party that have worked for change outside the Party. Since Trump won many have come to the conclusion that changing the Dem Party is the only pragmatic way to effect change from below at the grass roots.

The left has been ineffective at working at the grass roots - my feeling is that many leftists are theorists and unable to talk to people outside their bubbles - nor do they really want to despite the essence of socialism is organizing the working class. Most leftists have eschewed the American political system as hopelessly corrupt and a waste of time. But given the alternatives, over the past year we have seen people begin to change their minds -- and I may be one of them.

Not unexpected, given Goldberg's politics and political connections to the progressive wing of the Dems, is her take-down of the Green Party, which has been competing with the Dems and all too often being the reason Republicans have won. See the recent race in Ohio where a Trump endorsee won by a sliver due to the Green Party vote of .05 per cent

Did Democrats lose Ohio election because of spoiler Green Party candidate who says his ancestors were aliens?

And here's more good news for Trump:

Joe Manchik has said he'll continue fighting for votes in the November elections
Manchik: "The people calling me a spoiler are just fools. They think I’m stealing votes from the Democratic Party. Well guess what? They’re stealing votes from me!"
While Greens refute charges that they put George Bush and Trump in power (they say most of their voters would not have voted for Dems anyway), the Greens have faced vilification from center and  from segments of the left that had also been critical of the Dems but have decided to get more involved to force them to the left. Contrast the Greens who compete with the Dem party and the Democratic Socialists, most of whom are critical of the Dem Party but are using the election structures to push it left and are embedding themselves in the roots.

Inside the DSA there is some criticism from segments of the Marxist-Leninist left that this venture is hopeless -- that what is needed is an independent third party.

The Pragmatic Left Is Winning
For once, Democrats are not in disarray.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/opinion/columnists/left-sanders-ocasio-cortez-primaries.html

Aug. 9, 2018
On Tuesday, Rashida Tlaib, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, won her primary in Michigan, and she is now overwhelmingly likely to become the first Muslim woman in Congress. In a referendum, people in Missouri voted 2 to 1 to overturn an anti-union “right to work” law passed by the Republican legislature. In an upset, Wesley Bell, a progressive city councilman from Ferguson, Mo., effectively ousted the longtime St. Louis County prosecutor, who many civil rights activists say mishandled the investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown, the African-American teenager whose 2014 killing set off riots.

So it was strange to see headlines in the following days arguing that the left wing of the Democratic Party had hit a wall. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s movement failed to deliver any stunners Tuesday night,” said CNN. “Down Goes Socialism,” announced Politico Magazine, despite the fact that Tlaib’s victory doubles the D.S.A.’s likely representation in Congress. “Socialist torchbearers flame out in key races, despite blitz by Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez,” said a Fox News headline

In part, this spin might just be the inevitable backlash to Ocasio-Cortez’s sudden celebrity. Her primary victory was thrilling and hard-earned, and she’s a charismatic and rousing spokeswoman for her values. But her overnight anointment as the new face of the Democratic Party has created absurdly outsize expectations of her power as kingmaker. 

In truth, there’s nothing surprising about left-wing candidates losing their primaries. The happy surprise is how many are winning. Unsexy as it sounds, the real story of progressive politics right now is the steady accumulation of victories — some small, some major — thanks to a welcome and unaccustomed outbreak of left-wing pragmatism. 

Until quite recently, the most visible embodiment of left-wing electoral activism was the terminally flaky Green Party. It made a showing on Tuesday when Joe Manchik, who claims to be descended from space aliens, won 1,129 votes in the special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. Democrat Danny O’Connor trails the Republican by 1,564 votes in that race, with almost 3,500 provisional ballots still to be counted. 

We can argue endlessly over whether an appreciable number of Manchik’s voters would have gone Democrat if there hadn’t been a Green Party alternative. But I have yet to see any evidence that the Green Party’s habit of running doomed third-party campaigns has ever done anything to further its ostensible values. 

Greens will sometimes justify these runs as movement-building tools, but they never seem to actually build a movement. “They don’t know how to multiply themselves,” Ralph Nader once told me, explaining the dissipation of the party after his 2000 presidential run. “It’s a peculiar characteristic: Green Party people, they don’t like to raise money, they allow themselves to live in neighborhoods and communities where they become minorities of one.”

The new generation of left-wing activists, by contrast, is good at self-multiplication. The Democratic Socialists of America alone has done more to build left political power since the 2016 election than the Green Party did in the 18 years after Nader helped elect George W. Bush.

Just as the Christian Right did in the 1990s, the new electoral left — which also includes groups like Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party — is trying to take over the Democratic Party from the ground up. These activists have, significantly, focused on races for prosecutor, which is a way to create immediate local criminal justice reform. (In Philadelphia, left-wing organizers last year helped elect civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner as district attorney. Among his reforms is the end of cash bail for many misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.) 

It’s true that several candidates endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders lost on Tuesday, including Abdul El-Sayed in Michigan’s gubernatorial primary and Brent Welder in a congressional primary in Kansas. But it’s testament to how far left the Democratic Party’s center of gravity has moved that the winners in those two races — Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and Sharice Davids in Kansas — could be considered establishment. 

Whitmer supports a $15 minimum wage, marijuana legalization and statewide universal preschool. Davids, a Native American lesbian, former mixed martial arts fighter and lawyer, is running as a bad-ass feminist. One of her ads shows her training in a boxing gym. “It’s 2018, and women, Native Americans, gay people, the unemployed and underemployed have to fight like hell just to survive,” she says. “And it’s clear, Trump and the Republicans in Washington don’t give a damn.” 

It’s certainly true that Davids’s campaign put more emphasis on identity and representation, while Welder, a 2016 Sanders delegate, stressed populist economics. The Democratic Party will likely be weighing the precise balance between those progressive priorities for a long time. But the point is, they are all progressive priorities. After Davids’s victory, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her congratulations: “Your win is an incredible inspiration to so many, myself included.”
“Democrats in disarray” is a take that writes itself, but not every disagreement is a war. 


            

School Scope: On The Importance of The Wave, Local News, Socialism, Capitalism and More

My column in The Wave this past Friday - August 10, 2018


School Scope: On The Importance of The Wave, Local News, Socialism, Capitalism and More
By Norm Scott

The gutting of the Daily News has raised the issue of the assault on print publications, exacerbated by the Trump tariff on Canadian paper (not an accident) which has raised costs and other assaults on weakening the press with constant attacks financially on their ability to cover news and also attacks on the integrity of the press. Now I too have always been skeptical of the way some of the press covers the news. I assume all coverage has some bias and try to read a balanced variety so I can make my own decisions. But if you watch Fox or read the right wing press it is clear we are living in different universes.

The Daily News story has been viewed as the coming end of local coverage. We are left with the Post which is Fix news and the Times which doesn’t devote major resources to local coverage. Recently we have also heard of smaller local papers under attack. In Maryland a guy with a grudge shot up a local paper’s newsroom, killing five people. In California we hear of a local paper that was bought by its former editor and his wife, both avid Trump and right wing supporters. Fears in that community are that they will be getting a barrage of biased coverage.

Even more local papers have been bought up by chains. Most people who can afford to own a newspaper are generally wealthier than the population in general and thus tend to be more conservative, so coverage of the left and liberal causes, despite the right wing’s branding of the press as biased left, does not get covered adequately.

Independent papers like The Wave are increasingly important to communities like Rockaway and I give them credit for heroically trying to cover the Rockaways as extensively as possible with very limited resources. And for being willing to give people like me the opportunity to offer alternative views from the left. Here’s hoping that our local independent newspaper can maintain its ability to offer us this service that is disappearing from so many places in this nation and around the world.

As I’ve been trying to point out, there are many brands of liberals, Democrats and socialists. Remember, the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and the Dixiecrats ruled the party even in the Franklin Roosevelt years, only going Republican when Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act in the mid 1960s. There are also many brands of socialists. We think of socialists as communists – the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and even Venezuela. Given that we are seeing mainstream articles and columns even in the NY Times about capitalism and socialism, I will continues to explore these issues in portions of my upcoming summer columns, in addition to resuming education coverage in the fall.

So in this spirit, let me give you a homework assignment for next week: Is a Democratic Socialist Really a Socialist?

Norm does his homework every day at ednotesonline.com

            

Did the DNC Pass a Perez Resolution Reversing Ban on Donations From Fossil Fuel PACs? -- Common Dreams

Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was celebrated by environmentalists for banning donations from fossil fuel companies, it voted 30-2 on Friday to adopt a resolution from Chair Tom Perez that critics said effectively reverses the ban and represents "an absolute failure by the DNC."... Common Dreams
A good chunk of the socialist left despises the Democratic Party and believes working within the party is a dead end. Stories like this helps them make a case. I have been tilting back and forth myself -- paint me confused -- which is why I am reading all sides and posting various points of view --- I just don't want to be trapped in a left bubble.
 
Whenever you think it's safe to jump back into the fight for the Democratic Party you read a story like this. I still think there are not currently any realistic alternatives than to put leftward pressure on the party from below. But despite tilting left, the center is strong with money being a major factor. Changing the party at the top will not be easy -- but from below, maybe. Right now electoral politics is the game and will a blue wave sweep the party and if so how does that play in the nation as a whole?
 
Oh -- NY Times columnist David Brooks just said on Meet the Press "How will the Democrats manage to screw it up this time because they always do?" Then he said as long as they don't swing too far left -- and he says other than a few places, they haven't. [More about this soon where the NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg makes the opposite case - that the left is making important inroads.]
 
Is this a screw up or a smart move? I think making the left enraged will not help the Dems. I mean they can try to snare the more progressive Republicans but this is a short term solution. I just don't see how to bridge the distance between so many disparate points of view even if the uniting factor is despising Trump.

On the other hand, the DNC is claiming it is not a reversal so is this a bit of distorted reporting?
DNC Passes Perez Resolution Reversing Ban on Donations From Fossil Fuel PACs
 
Published on
by
Activists immediately denounced the measure, which "also recommits the party to an 'all of the above' energy stance."
by
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Tom Perez was elected to his current role at a meeting in February of 2017. (Photo: Edward Kimmel/Flickr/cc)

The Huffington Post's Alexander Kaufman tweeted Friday:

UPDATE: resolution passed in a 30-to-2 vote.

from DNC epic: “After hearing concerns from Labor that this was an attack on workers, this resolution acknowledges the generous contributions of workers, including those in energy, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates.”

Read the entire CD story here:


In an email to me, a DNC spokeswoman disputed the characterization in my story, saying "it's not a reversal."
But the resolution opens the door donations from fossil fuel “employers’ political action committees" and nods to “forward-looking employers” that are “powering America’s all-of-the-above energy economy."
  • Molly Kelly, a former New Hampshire state lawmaker running for governor, just put out a statement condemning the DNC resolution.
                

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