Friday, July 10, 2020

Teacher talk has shifted from cops to corona

Two weeks ago, the battle was raging over cops in the schools. Who should decide whether Chicago schools get to keep or lose their SRO -- the school board or the city council? Or should it be left up to each local school council to opt-in or out, as the mayor had argued?

Should the $33M contract between CPS and the CPD be broken or renewed? And if it were broken, could that money be better spent on vital school needs like nurses, social workers, and peer mediation counselors?

Things got hot and at times personal, which is the Chicago way, it seems. As the late, great Harold Washington used to say in response to his own council wars, "Politics ain't beanbag."

While I was hoping that the school board would vote to ditch the contract, I've been more inclined to leave decisions like this one to the individual school community. Having said that, I thought the board members had a pretty good, spirited debate, with open hearings and protests taking place outside, before voting narrowly (4-3) to keep the contract and leave the decision up to the local schools.

So far, only one school, Northside College Prep, has opted out, but schools have until August 15th to make their decision.

Kenwood Academy, on the city's south side, has decided to keep their cop.

This from the Hyde Park Herald:
Interviews with local school council members, including teachers and parents, and elected student body leaders at Kenwood Academy describe a school where stationed police officers play a limited, necessary role, and all interviewees support their continued presence at the school.
The board is scheduled to revisit the issue in August when the contract runs out and the city council will also get to vote on it. By then, conditions may have radically changed.

Real life, meaning COVID-19, keeps rearing its ugly head, and the only teacher talk I'm hearing these days is not about cops in their school, but whether Chicago school buildings should even reopen in the fall. If they do open in the midst of a swelling, deadly pandemic, the SRO in the school will be the least of our worries. And if schools can't open safely, then the cop issue becomes moot, for now at least, and there will be no need for the board or the city council to renew the CPD contract in August.

The CTU polled its members and found that more than 85% of them feel they should not or might not go back to work in the fall without a detailed plan and resources that will help guarantee the safe re-opening of our schools.
“Our members have made it very clear that they are not willing to put the health—and the lives, quite frankly—of their students, or their students’ families, or their own in jeopardy under any circumstances, and especially now if the Trump administration is talking about using them as guinea pigs to help jumpstart the economy,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. 
Gov. Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot each seemed to be in step with Sharkey in targeting Trump's threats to withhold funding to states and districts that resist his reopen-schools mandate.

Lightfoot pushed back on Trump's demand that schools reopen regardless of the COVID threat.
“It doesn’t make any sense” for the president to make such a sweeping announcement when he doesn’t know how coronavirus is impacting individual school districts. “I don’t put much weight into what President Trump says,” the mayor told reporters.
That unified messaging may provide a good framework for reaching some badly-needed agreement in the ongoing negotiations between CPS and the unions.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The AAP's school guidance principles don't align with Trump/DeVos mandated reopening.

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are threatening to cut federal funding if schools don't fully physically reopen in the fall, regardless of the state of the pandemic and with or without required CDC safety measures being in place.

They may think they think their reckless mandate is supported by the highly respected American Academy of Pediatrics. But it isn't. At least not if I'm reading the AAP's planning recommendations for school reopening correctly.

The AAP, the professional organization of pediatricians, would like to see schools reopen safely in the fall, as would most of us, especially most working families. But the timing of this report left some wondering if these experts on pediatric care were fronting for Trump and the mainly Republican early-openers who have driven up the deadly coronavirus caseload numbers across the country.

The organization “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with the goal of having students physically present in school” -- and the reasons are not just about academics.
The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.
But the AAP guidance goes on to present an extensive list of key principles that should be considered in the course of any reopening. The list includes elements like physical distancing requirements, protective equipment, cohort crossovers, school visitors, common and outdoor space (playgrounds and hallways), on-site health and counseling, special education services, block scheduling in high schools, cleaning and disinfection, and virologic testing and screening and much more.

This one is interesting.
The personal impact on educators and other school staff should be recognized. In the same way that students are going to need support to effectively return to school and to be prepared to be ready to process the information they are being taught, teachers cannot be expected to be successful at teaching children without having their mental health needs supported. 
Do you know of any schools or school districts that can have all or any of these in place in the next six to eight weeks, especially with existing budget and personnel constraints? I sure don't.

The list is comprehensive and makes for a great framework or checklist for educators and school planners. A serious review of the guidance should make it clear that its scope and required planning time and the extra resources needed for implementation fly directly in the face of the Trump/DeVos demands for a fall opening with no money or prerequisites attached.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Can schools open safely in the fall? Discuss...

Can schools reopen in the fall? And by open, I mean with children, educators, and staff safely occupying school buildings which are now shuttered because of the pandemic. If we're just talking about distance learning, then we have to say schools are already open and teachers have been hard at work since the outbreak of coronavirus, trying under near-impossible, inequitable conditions to rebuild their learning communities solely via the internet.

And if schools do reopen, which in one form or another now seems likely, will the educational value being offered and received outweigh the risks to the health and very lives of millions of students and their teachers?

It's complicated. But right now, I would say no.

As the end of summer approaches, Trump and his know-nothing ed secretary Betsy DeVos are threatening school districts that don't fully open.

Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, a Republican, issued a sweeping executive order Monday requiring all schools in the state to reopen their buildings for in-person instruction for the coming school year, even as coronavirus cases in the state continue to skyrocket.

A piece in The Atlantic by former Obama Dept. of Homeland Security Asst. Sec. Juliette Kayyem correctly calls reopening schools "an afterthought."
Schools do not have a simple on-off switch. To reopen schools will not just take a lot of money. Classroom layouts, buildings, policies, schedules, extracurricular activities, teacher and staff assignments, and even curricula must all be altered to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.
But having said that and showing she understands the depth of the safe reopening problem and the obvious lack of planning and resources as fall approaches, former  Kayyem says, do it anyway.

Recognizing that the massive resources and planning needed for a safe reopening in the fall aren't coming, she writes:
Americans must learn to manage around the virus, to mitigate its potential for spread. Fall isn’t far off, and school systems nationwide need to make up for lost time. A bar doesn’t need a groundswell of public support to reopen, but schools most certainly do.
Maybe we need to hear more from educators and others most directly affected on this topic, and less from homeland security experts.

The teacher unions have taken a strong stand on the need for more school funding and the for extra staffing, but seem to also be calling for a "safe reopening" in the fall, as if that's likely or really possible. But to their credit, they also are pressing school districts to allow teachers to opt out of teaching in person.

Kind of like Major League Baseball or the NBA. It makes sense.

In Chicago, the reopening discussion has been mainly focused on cops in the schools, with little public discussion coming from any side about the pressing issues above.

The real threat to student and teacher safety this year, however, doesn't come from the SRO posted in the school but from the corona wildfire pandemic itself. Until a vaccine is available, the resources and planning necessary for a safe reopening are too great to be put in place in the next eight weeks.

CONUNDRUM...Resource-starved local school districts just aren't up to the task. But neither have they been able to offer equitable resources, professional development, or viable programs for stay-at-home kids and teachers. Today's version of Catch-22.

HARVARD...Even with their $41B endowment and some of the smartest people in the educational field, the university has still not found a way to open its classrooms to live instruction this fall. Incredibly, their students are still being charged full tuition of $50K to take online classes.

And speaking of Catch-22, Trump is taking full advantage of the crisis in post-secondary ed by threatening immigrant students with deportation unless they enroll in regular classrooms.

This might be the right time for undergrads in high-tuition colleges to take a gap year or to enroll in a community college.

An even better alternative might be to spend the fall and into the winter marching and demanding the things we need to save public ed. The Movement is a fine classroom.

I'm reviving my nearly-dormant Small Schools twitter page to encourage a more focused discussion on schooling in the corona and post-corona era. Feel free to follow and post or repost. 

Monday, July 6, 2020


Frederick Douglass on the Lincoln statue 
“The negro here, though rising, is still on his knees and nude. What I want to see before I die is a monument representing the negro, not couchant on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man.” -- 1876 Letter
President Trump
“Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.”  -- Guardian
Mayor Quinton Lucas
“Systemic racism doesn’t just evidence itself in the criminal justice system,” said Quinton Lucas, who is the third Black mayor of Kansas City, Mo., which is in a state where 40 percent of those infected are Black or Latino even though those groups make up just 16 percent of the state’s population. -- The fullest look yet at Corona inequality (NYT)
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi 
“We seem to have a president that has given the green light to the racists to come out of the woodwork and start attacking Asians,” said state Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), who represents Torrance, the scene of some the most widely viewed hate episodes recorded on video. -- L.A. Times
Steve Hotze, Houston GOP powerbroker 
Hotze left a voicemail with TX Gov. Abbott's chief of staff with the incendiary instruction, "Shoot to kill."
 "I want to make sure that he has National Guard down here and they have the order to shoot to kill if any of these son-of-a-bitch people start rioting like they have in Dallas, start tearing down businesses — shoot to kill the son of a bitches. That’s the only way you restore order. Kill 'em. Thank you." -- Texas Tribune

Sunday, July 5, 2020

KIPP's rebranding

A little more than a decade ago, teacher union organizers in the midst of an organizing drive at a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, used KIPP's slogan, "Work hard. Be Nice" against the school's anti-union leaders. They launched a national campaign urging KIPP teachers everywhere to get organized under the slogan of "Be Nice."

Now, feeling the impact of the continuing Black Lives Matter protests, as well as criticisms of sexual abuse and racism coming from within their own ranks, KIPP, one of the first "no excuses" charters, has announced they are dumping the slogan altogether. The move is in many ways, comparable to the name changes being considered under pressure, by Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians and the NFL's Washington Red***ns. It could easily fall under the heading: Giving up a little to hold on to a lot.

But whether the superficial rebranding will mean an end to KIPP's abusive discipline practices remains to be seen. For example, they have so far failed to adequately address the allegations of sexual harassment and assault of girls of color by one of their founders, Mike Feinberg which they kept buried until the Me Too movement emerged and he was finally fired.

Unimaginable in this day and age, but true...The Texas Tribune reports that Feinberg's teaching credential has been restored by some administrative judges who claimed there wasn't enough evidence to justify revoking Feinberg's state certification over an allegation of sexual misconduct from more than 20 years ago.

According to the Tribune:
The case, though, only examined one of the claims that KIPP said prompted Feinerg's firing. The hearing did not examine two other allegations of sexual harassment by two additional adult KIPP alumni.
“This proposal for decision does not change the circumstances of Mike Feinberg’s departure from KIPP,” said a KIPP spokesperson, referring to the recommendation.
All this leaves me wondering what crime you would have to commit in order to have your teaching license pulled in TX?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Gun crazy!

Gun sales are skyrocketing around the country including in the Chicago area. A mainly white racist fear/rage response to Trump's looming election loss, government's pandemic "mask-wearing tyranny," BLM protests, and threatened defunding or disbanding of police is driving long lines at gun shops around the country.

In Illinois, for example, from June 1 to June 17, there were more than 42,000 applications for cards to legally possess a firearm, compared with about 7,000 during the same time last year, a 501% increase, according to the Illinois State Police.

Sturm, Ruger stock shares are at their highest level since before Trump was elected; Smith & Wesson’s stock is at a 19-month high. 
Smith & Wesson Brands Inc.’s stock SWBI, 5.33% ran up 10.1%, to the highest close since September 2018. The firearm maker’s shares have hiked up 42.2% over the past 4 sessions and have powered up 61.5% year to date. -- Market Watch
White panic-buying is overwhelming local gun shop owners. Check out this post from this firearms dealer in the Chicago burbs. 

The image of this white couple "protecting" their wealthy gated community could well become  Trump's re-election poster.

This on top of gun threats and actual shootings of peaceful protesters could presage a new level of Trump-inspired, right-wing violence. In Louisville, Ky., a man opened fire from the edge of a Breonna Taylor killing protest area in a park Saturday night, and a 27-year-old photographer was killed. Some bystanders in the park fired back, injuring the shooter, according to a police report.

Armed vigilantes opened fire on statue protesters two weeks ago in New Mexico.

In the past month, at least seven people with ties to far-right extremist group boogaloo have been arrested for attempting or carrying out violence at recent protests.

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks a rally 

It was just two years ago, following the school shootings in Parkland, FL that the youth-led movement for gun control had gun manufacturers and the NRA on the ropes. Chicago was the jump-off point for anti-gun rallies across the country. The Parkland students “Road to Change” tour was launched at the annual “Rally for Peace” at St. Sabina’s Church. Those students jarred the national consciousness when they were able to swiftly organize a massive “March for our Lives” rally in Washington and related marches in other cities. It was a youth movement, much like the current one but not as diverse, that many believed had the potential to derail Trump and his MAGAs.

My how things have changed. Now, with guns continuing to flood Chicago neighborhoods, gun violence has reached predictable record highs. The terrible brew of pandemic, poverty, youth joblessness, school closures, and readily available guns, has created more free-fire zone in cities like Chicago. 

After 65 people were shot, 17 fatally in Chicago last weekend, including a 1-year-old and 10-year-old Lena Nunez, in our Logan Square neighborhood, blocks from Mayor Lightfoot's home, the Mayor made a powerful statement that caught my attention. 

She said:
Everyone needs to wrap their arms around their children, not just the ones who are victims but the shooters as well, Lightfoot said.
There's a growing recognition that in many cases, but for fortune, the shooters and their victims could be interchangeable. Both they and their families are victims in their own way.

The mayor's statement stood in stark contrast to the Trumplike one made by CPD Supt. David Brown who targeted those he called, "these evil murdering bastards."

He's either got to get straightened out by the mayor or follow his failed predecessors Eddie Johnson and Garry McCarthy out the door.

Monday, June 29, 2020


Mississippi lawmakers voted Sunday to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, a symbol that has flown for more than 120 years.

James Waterman Wise
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” -- NY Review of Books
Miss. State Sen. Derrick Simmons
"In the name of history, I stand for my two sons, who are 1 and 6 years old, who should be educated in schools and be able to frequent businesses and express their Black voices in public places that all fly a symbol of love, not hate." -- NBC News
Pete Giangreco, Democratic political strategist 
... called Trump’s letter a campaign stunt to gin up support. “Trump is playing the law and order/race card, and attempting to scare people by painting a future under Democrats that is some sort of Mad Max post-apocalyptic danger zone.” -- IL Playbook
 Former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg 
“Under the current trajectory, Trump is on the precipice of one of the worst electoral defeats in modern presidential elections and the worst historically for an incumbent president.” -- Politico
Donald Trump
"And you got to remember Andrew Jackson, the Battle of New Orleans and so much. He was a very good president. He was a great general and you can’t let that happen.
"You make some mistakes, like, you know, an idiot like Bolton — all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don't have to drop bombs on everybody. You don't have to kill people." -- Hannity Town Hall interview

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Abandoning Chicago for FL or TX probably not a good idea

Florida bars empty out as the state's COVID cases top 10,000. 10M globally. 
FL reported 9,585 new corona cases yesterday, exceeding the previous record set Friday. Today the total number of cases has already soared above 10,000. The mainly young people who flocked to the beaches and packed the bars over Memorial Day, along with their older, more at-risk friends and relatives, are now feeling the pain of Gov. Rick DeSantis' early opening. He's boasted all along that he, like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, were more than willing to play Trump's dangerous game by sacrificing thousands of lives in order to jumpstart "the economy" and boost corporate profits.

Then after helping jack up the state's COVID death toll above 3,300. DeSantis doubled down, moving on FL's public school system by expanding the already-huge school voucher and "scholarship" program.

A measure DeSantis signed Thursday will increase funneling of taxpayer dollars away from public schools and into the pockets of private school operators. It quadruples the rate at which vouchers will grow annually. This at a time when public ed in the state has been battered by the pandemic and will need those dollars and many more if radically replanned public schools are to reopen safely in the future.

If the metaphor holds up and this is really a war against COVID, DeSantis and Abbott will go down as two of the sleaziest enemy agents of all time.

This morning, I'm worried about my many friends and some of our closest relatives living in FL as the cases mount and the death toll spirals out of control. I'm also thankful to be here in Chicago where Gov. Pritzker's and Mayor Lightfoot's leadership in response to the pandemic has thus far been effective.

According to Crain's Greg Hinz:
It’s hard to deny Lightfoot and Pritzker a well-earned victory lap for their response to the pandemic. Their plan was early, thorough, and comprehensive. And it worked, as the number of cases and hospitalizations has plummeted even as the amount of testing has soared.
Hinz, btw, was actually being critical of Lightfoot and Pritzker for being "arbitrary." He claims Republicans "had a point" in their suit against Pritzker for setting a 10-person limit on public gatherings. Of course, any number would be arbitrary. But the results so far show the Gov was right. Republicans would have had us going the way of Florida and Texas.
Melbourne, FL restaurant. 

IN HINDSIGHT...Then there's former Chicagoan and Tribune right-winger Dennis Byrne who abandoned our city for the hotter and more open climes of Florida to escape the mask-and-distancing tyranny of Lightfoot/Pritzker. Back in May Byrne wrote blissfully about being able to gorge on a "brisket and bacon burger slathered with BBQ sauce, cheese, onions and mayonnaise" at Jacksonville’s BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Wrote Byrne:
It tasted good enough by itself, without the added delight of knowing that such pleasures were verboten in Chicago and throughout Illinois. Here’s to you, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Yeah sure, you know better, having confined your masses to a much more rigid, nearly universal lockdown. Never mind the restaurants that will go out of business. Never mind the people you treat like sheep who don’t know how to take care of themselves. Be satisfied with your self-assured virtue and wisdom.
Nearly two months have now passed. FL's bars are empty. The beaches are closing. BJ's has been forced to close again for indoor dining. But they still offer curbside pickup if you're dying for brisket and bacon burger. Florida is facing record highs in COVID cases and deaths while Chicago has flattened the curve. The mayor's go-slow reopening has probably saved thousands of lives.

I'm still looking for an apology to Chicagoans from Byrne but doubt if I'll see one. In fact, he hasn't mentioned the word Florida in the past month of tweeting. I hope he got COVID tested and his arteries reamed out after his BJ's extravaganza.

Monday, June 22, 2020


"President Trump and several staff members stood backstage and gazed at the empty Bank of Oklahoma Center in horror." -- Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, New York Times 

Poor Peoples Campaign
“The worst mistake we can make now, with all the marching, the protesting in the streets, would be to demand too little,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a co-chair of the campaign along with the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. -- New York Times
David Massey, former SDNY prosecutor
“While there have always been turf battles between the Southern District and the Justice Department in Washington, and occasionally sharp elbows, to take someone out suddenly while they’re investigating the president’s lawyer, it is just unprecedented in modern times." -- New York Times
Laurentio Howard, father of Marshall High student
“Watching the Floyd video, I felt hurt, afraid, just thinking it could have been me because I was there at Marshall. To have to stand back, to not be able to help my daughter being brutalized by officers sworn to protect her, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced,” said Howard, a sheet metal worker with the city of Chicago. -- Sun-Times
Trump's idea of a joke
 "When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people. You're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please." -- Tulsa speech
Anne Caprara, Gov. Pritzker's Chief of Staff not laughing

But the "lowlifes" were all inside the arena. All 6,200.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Dad was a 'premature anti-fascist'

Photograph by Peter Stackpole for Life Magazine (1937).

Our dad was one of the original real antifas back in '37. This, a far cry from today's Antifa, a mythical group that exists mainly in MAGA nightmares, the media, and on Donald Trump's proposed list of domestic "terrorist" organizations.

Just in his teens, he hopped a freighter, crossed the Pyrenees, and fought for Spanish freedom alongside his comrades in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Back then they called them premature anti-fascists. When he died, we spread his ashes off the Barcelona coast.

Happy Father's Day Robert Klonsky and to all the anti-racist, anti-fascist dads out there as well.

"There was so much response... over a million ticket requests, that we decided that the BOK Center was just not big enough,” Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh said on Friday. “We had to have more so that's why we have the neighboring streets all blocked off. There's going to be two stages. The president is going to speak in both locations."
The morning after...Everyone knows by now that Trump's million-ticket MAGA rally in Tulsa was a total bust. The rally was deliberately planned to counter the massive continuing Black Lives Matter protests and the commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. But when only a few thousand MAGAs showed up, Trump had to cancel his outdoor rally and speech, Republicans blamed it on Antifa of course.  Dad lives!


When asked if he would attend Trump's racist rally, Dr. Anthony Fauci said "of course not." He added that in the case of Trump’s rallies “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd” and “crowd is better than big crowd.”

I hope this wasn't the only or even the main reason he chose to stay away. But I wish he would have said so.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Oh no. Look who's back. It's General Tata

Sarah Palin with Gen. Tata
I first wrote about Gen. Anthony J. Tata back in 2012. Back then it was considered hip for some reason, to put generals and admirals and such, in charge of the schools. We did it here in Chicago when Rahm Emanuel appointed Marine Col. Tim Tyrrell and paid him $180,000/year to run his mass school-closing operation.

Tata, a brigadier general who doubled as a right-wing ideologue, was brought into D.C. by evil corporate school reform demon Michelle Rhee as her second in command. He then became fast friends with Sarah Palin (remember her?) and wrote a glowing review of her book, "Going Rogue," on the Big Hollywood site operated by the late wing-nut journo-goofball Andrew Breitbart.
Tata wrote that Palin "is far more qualified to be president of the United States than the current occupant of the White House" and that she is "precisely the kind of leader America needs."
I guess that wasn't enough of a clue for the embattled Wake County, N.C. School Board that hired Tata as their schools chief to take command of the board's re-segregation initiative. The program, which was pushed mainly by Republican school board members, backed by national tea party conservatives, aimed at reversing years of gains by the North Carolina civil rights movement. Pledging to "say no to the social engineers!" the board rolled back one of the nation's most celebrated integration efforts.

After mass protests by the NAACP and court actions, the school board finally was forced to fire Tata. But he was then appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to head of the State Dept. of Transportation.

Then there was this in 2015, when Tata was accused of having committed adultery with “at least two” women --- but I digress. 

FAST FORWARD...So quite naturally, who should pop up yesterday as Trump's proposed appointee to the third-highest post in the Pentagon? None other than Brig. Gen. Tata himself. The job includes managing policy decisions on everything from Afghanistan and the Middle East to China, North Korea, and Russia, as well as artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and more.

Tata would succeed John Rood, who was ousted as undersecretary for policy in February after being viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump.  TaTa could even become next in the line if the secretary of defense and the deputy resigned or were removed.

Only this time, the recommendation caused the shit to hit the fan. 

Tata, a frequent guest on Fox News and ardent defender of President Trump, was accused of making Islamophobic and inflammatory remarks against prominent Democratic politicians, including falsely calling former President Barack Obama a Muslim and a "terrorist leader".
In several tweets from 2018, Tata said that Islam was the "most oppressive violent religion I know of" and claimed Obama was a "terrorist leader" who did more to harm the US "and help Islamic countries than any president in history." 
 Tata, in one radio appearance, speculated the Iran deal was born out of Obama's "Islamic roots" in an attempt "to help Iranians and the greater Islamic state crush Israel."

Here's more Tata tweets.

Many among the top brass are worried about the "politicization of the military", especially after Trump used the military against the protesters in D.C. following the police killing of George Floyd. 

At least three retired Army generals have now pulled their support for Trump's nominee after the embarrassment of seeing Tata's comments.

If they would have asked me, I could have told them I knew him back then. 

Monday, June 15, 2020


Hollywood Blvd. 

Mariame Kaba, organizer against criminalization 
Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police... here’s an immediate demand we can all make: Cut the number of police in half and cut their budget in half. Fewer police officers equals fewer opportunities for them to brutalize and kill people. -- New York Times op-ed
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn

... said Sunday no one is going to defund the police, and instead called for a "reimagining" of police forces across the country."
 Clyburn told CNN's Ana Cabrera on Saturday that he believes pushing a "defund the police" slogan only gives "cover" to President Donald Trump and the people opposing change in the law enforcement system. -- CNN

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar 
"No one is saying crimes will not be investigated. No one is saying that we are not going to have proper response when community members are in danger."

Instead, she said the current policing infrastructure should not exist anymore, and echoed Clyburn's call to reimagine the system, citing changes in places like Camden, N.J.

"We can't go about creating a different process with the same infrastructure in place," she said. "And so dismantling it, and then looking at what funding priorities should look like as we reimagine a new way forward is what needs to happen." -- Politico
Rep. Bobby Rush
 “They’re the organized guardians of continuous police lawlessness, of police murder and police brutality. The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police is the most rabid, racist body of criminal lawlessness by police in the land. It stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ku Klux Klan then and the Ku Klux Klan now.” -- Politico

Friday, June 12, 2020

Remembering Medgar Evers

Bob Dylan at civil rights gathering in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1963, singing ‘Only a Pawn in Their Game'.
On this day in 1963, Medgar Evers, Mississippi’s first field secretary for the NAACP, was gunned down in his Jackson driveway just as he proclaimed, “you can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.”

Medgar Evers
It was Byron De La Beckwith Jr., a white supremacist, and Klansman from Greenwood, Mississippi who assassinated the civil rights leader. Two trials in 1964 on this charge resulted in hung juries.  Some justice was finally achieved when Beckwith was convicted and given a life sentence by a racially diverse jury in 1994. He died in prison in 2001 at the age of 80.

The killing of Medgar Evers' inspired Bob Dylan to write, "Only a Pawn in Their Game" which he performed at the March on Washington in August of that year. 
The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool
He's taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
The song resonated with the millions who heard it and who came to understand that behind the actual shooters and lynchers stood a whole system of oppression and racial injustice.

Today, 57 years later, only the names have changed, Floyd for Evers, Chauvin for Beckwith. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Systemic racism goes far beyond the police

Case in point... Georgia voters, especially in majority-Black precincts, waited hours in the rain, in the midst of the pandemic, to cast their ballots yesterday. A harbinger of things to come in November in red states where racist Republicans control of the election apparatus. 

Another case in point... In Iowa, David Harkin, a white landlord stands accused of evicting a black businessman, Jeremiah Johnson, and his partners from their office in his building after seeing video of them at a Black Lives Matter protest. In a letter to his attorney, the landlord complained: "We live in a day and age where people demand rights who have never earned anything or done anything to deserve them."

Lining up to vote in Mississippi in 1965. 
For me, this embedded line of racist reasoning is as deadly as a cop's chokehold and harkens back to Mississippi and other southern states in the early '60s when African-Americans who attempted to register to vote were fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes and worse.

Speaking of Iowa...the state went heavy for Trump four years ago. But change is in the air since corona and the protests and polls are now showing the race tightening here.

According to Politico:
Since the start of the year, Democrats in Iowa have added about twice as many active voters to their rolls as Republicans, nudging ahead in total registration for the first time in years. The farm economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. And though Trump still holds a small lead in the state, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, he’s now airing TV advertisements there — a tacit acknowledgment that the campaign anticipates a contest.
Since IL is in the bag for Democrats, IA-and=back might make for some good road-tripping for Chicago campaign workers come November.

The police, the courts, and the entire criminal justice system were and are being used as enforcers of systemic white racism and supremacy. Our protests in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor police killings are already driving some badly needed police reform and raising mass consciousness about racism and policy priorities.

But what kinds of reform and how deeply will they go? Demands for budgetary spending reforms and new priorities just touch the surface. And how do they move from slogans to successful policy initiatives?

Brother Fred and I will be discussing these questions and more on Hitting Left Friday, 11-noon CDT with our friends, the Stevenson brothers, Craig & Corey. We're still zooming but airing live at

Sunday, June 7, 2020

From the halls of Montezuma...

I see where the Marines have banned all depictions of the Confederate battle flag including on T-shirts and coffee mugs. According to Newsweek, it's an effort to cool "heightened racial tensions" spilling over due to protests against the death of George Floyd.

But this could be a slippery slope for the USMC. I mean, what's next, the banning of the corps from imperialist warring against peoples of color from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli?

My favorite Marine...I feel like popping a salute to this courageous Marine, identified only as Todd for obvious reasons. A Marine with two purple hearts, Todd stood at Utah’s State Capitol with black tape over his mouth reading “I Can’t Breathe” and holding a sign that said, “justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and countless others…” Some photos show Todd's shoes melting in the blistering heat; the weather in Salt Lake City was in the 90s.

Back to reality for a sec...The fact that confederate memorabilia (they could have added WWII Nazi stuff as well) needed to be officially banned because it wasn't currently a good look, shows the depths of the problem. As does the fact that Todd was out there by himself. Whatever happened to Esprit de Corps?

Also worth a read...The answer may be found in this piece in the Marine Times: The Marine Corps: Always faithful — to white men, by retired Marine colonel Thomas Hobbs.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The generals' revolt. Why it's important.

On the steps of the  Lincoln Memorial, June 2, 2020. (Photo credit: Martha Raddatz).

"When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
 -- Gen. Mattis in The Atlantic
Trump has taken a political beating in the media over his threatened use of the Insurrection Act as a means to deploy the military against civilian demonstrators and send federal troops into the cities to "dominate" the protesters. State governors and local mayors are throwing him a collective middle finger on that one. But they're not his main problem.

His clownish, but dangerous maneuver Monday night to clear protesters out of Lafayette Park, stroll across H Street and hold up a Bible in front of the historic St. John's Church -- all the while flocked by a phalanx of law enforcement officials. actually cost him support among white evangelical supporters. Something few thought would ever happen.

Even more significant was the open revolt by a group of top military brass, including his own Sec. of Defense Mark Esper, at the prospect of the use of federal troops to put down the protests. General Mark Milley, the top US commander, even issued a memo to military leaders reminding them of their oaths to protect the US Constitution and the "right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly".

All this came the heels of the resignation of James Miller, a former undersecretary of defense for policy. He announced his resignation from the Science Defense Board in the Washington Post upbraiding Esper for being such a political toady. Then came an open letter from Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who chimed in with his own strongly worded statement criticizing Trump directly for his divisive rhetoric during the protests.

Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, and Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, also spoke up this week in support of the protests for racial justice, with Silveria directly repudiating the use of violence against fellow Americans. In addition, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who heads the National Guard Bureau, put out a statement Wednesday entitled “We Must Do Better,” denouncing the racism that has resulted in the deaths of so many unarmed African Americans

Troops from Fort Hood refused orders to go to Chicago to crush protests in 1968/ 

What the hell's going on you might ask?

Well for starters, with Trump's reelection campaign floundering and poll numbers showing Joe Biden pulling ahead, especially in key battleground states, any plan by Republicans to cancel or rig the elections in November or to hang onto power after a loss to Democrats, would require military and paramilitary logistical support.

Then there's the likelihood that the generals themselves are fearing dissension in their own ranks? Are they afraid of a revolt in the event troops are ordered to fire on members of their own communities? It wouldn't be the first time.

I'm thinking back to 1968 when the order for troops from Ft. Hood to go to Chicago for “Riot control” duty at the Democratic National Convention led to one of the most powerful rebellions by African-American soldiers who came to be known as the Ft. Hood 43.

Buckle up. These past four months have been a wild ride. The next five could get even wilder.

Monday, June 1, 2020


If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot
 -- Claude McKay (1919)

'MAGA loves the black people' -- On way to space launch
Emily Witt
An officer would repeat, like a mantra, the directive “Move back.” The protesters would chant, “You move back.” A few cries would ring out: “This is a public sidewalk” or “We have a right to be here!” Then the police would make their move: pushing forward, pepper-spraying, dragging people who resisted. -- New Yorker
Even Michael Jordan (Better late than never)
"I see and feel everyone's pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough... ESPN
Deborah Brown, Human Rights Watch
“President Trump’s executive order amounts to a threat to punish social media platforms and the people who post on them because the government might disagree with the way the companies moderate content.” -- HRW
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President
Racism plays an insidious role in the daily lives of all working people of color. This is a labor issue because it is a workplace issue. It is a community issue, and unions are the community. -- Tweet
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
At a press conference, Lightfoot referred to the nation’s “original sin” of racism, and she said, “I stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with peaceful protestors. But she added, “I’m also hurt and angry at those who decided to hijack this moment and use it as an opportunity to wreak havoc, to loot and to destroy. -- Presser
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter 
We’re calling for ‘peace, not patience’ -- Today

Thursday, May 28, 2020

We're re-imagining post-corona schools. So are they.

Betsy DeVos Just Made It Harder for Defrauded Students to Get ...
Using federal school rescue funds to feed private school operators.
I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops. " -- Kristen McQueary, Chicago Tribune Editorial Board
Rethinking corona-era schooling seems to be the order of the day for progressives and community educators. But rest assured, we're not the only ones doing the rethinking. Fifteen years ago, the shock & awe that came with Hurricane Katrina, left the door open for conservative ideologues like Friedman, along with the privateers and charter hustlers to reimagine the Gulf Coast disaster not as a crisis, but as an opportunity for privatization and profit.

I remember Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calling Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” because it gave the city a chance to bust the teachers union, fire the predominantly-black teaching force, and replace every public school with a privately-run charter.

Back home in Chicago, the Tribune's Kristen McQueary wished for a similar disaster to strike our city so it might follow the New Orleans example.

It looks like she finally got her wish.

Now, as educators, parents, students, and local officials ponder the impending reopening of schools, another battle is brewing between the defenders of public space and decision-making and the same group of corporate "reformers", now headed by the likes of Trump's ed secretary Betsy DeVos.

Case in point -- While we try and reimagine post-corona schools as small, safe, public centers of community health and education, where ubiquitous technology supports teacher/student relationships, Trump/DeVos are forcing public school districts to spend their federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income.

The New York Times reports:
A range of education officials say Ms. DeVos’s guidance would divert millions of dollars from disadvantaged students and force districts starved of tax revenues during an economic crisis to support even the wealthiest private schools. The association representing the nation’s schools superintendents told districts to ignore the guidance, and at least two states — Indiana and Maine — said they would.
DeVos' use of federal ed dollars as a cudgel to beat down local school district harkens back to the post-9/11 era when Secretary Duncan used federal funds to impose his Race To The Top "reform" strategy on local school districts and to punish mostly black and Latino, inner-city schools for their low test scores, to leverage mass school closings and teacher firings.

More on the coming battle and rethinking corona-era schools to follow.

TOMORROW ON HITTING LEFT... Brother Fred and I will be doing our own reimagining along with Chicago teacher/author Greg Michie and some of his students. The show is scheduled to run tomorrow at 11 CT but may run instead on Saturday due to corona-related issues. Check out our FB page @HittingLeft for more on this. You can now download the Lumpen Radio app for easy listening.

Greg is the author of two must-reads for educators: Holler If You Hear Me & Same As It Never Was.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

'Opening-up' the economy

The economy is always "open", says Jeff Bezos. 
econ·​o·​my / plural economies
An economy is a system of making and trading things of value. It is usually divided into goods (physical things) and services (things done by people). It assumes there is a medium of exchange, which in the modern world is a system of finance. This makes trade possible.
In this time of Corona, pundits and politicians talk about the economy like it's a door that can be opened or shut or a light that can be turned on or off with the flip of a switch. Small but aggressive groups of "open-up" protestors, whipped up by D.T. and right-wing demagogues (some armed) are storming statehouses demanding that governors and local officials "turn the economy back on."

In Chicago, Lightfoot haters are on a roll. I'm still looking for the source and context for this quote.

Yes, the mayor is correct. The pandemic hasn't "closed" the economy. Just ask Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos.
America’s billionaires saw their fortunes soar by $434 billion during the U.S. lockdown between mid-March and mid-May, according to a new report.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had the biggest gains, with Bezos adding $34.6 billion to his wealth and Zuckerberg adding $25 billion, according to the report from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program for Inequality.
What Mayor Lightfoot, Gov. Pritzker, and local officials around the country have done is closed the businesses and public places that are potential corona sources.

The numbers prove them right on this.

Monday, May 25, 2020


Denita Jones, a Dallas-area call center worker
“We’re not essential, we’re expendable." -- Guardian
Donald Trump, done taking Hydroxy
"Finished, just finished...And by the way, I’m still here. To the best of my knowledge, here I am.”  -- Sun-Times
Adam Smith, husband of Reopen NC leader
 “But are we willing to kill people? Are we willing to lay down our lives?” he asked. “We have to say, ‘Yes.’ We have to say, ‘Yes.’ Is that violence? Is that terrorism? No, it’s not terrorism." -- Raw Story 
Domingo Garcia, national president of LULAC
 “We’ve received reports that some [mainly Latino] workers at a plant were turned away from grocery stores and not allowed in, because they were presumed to have the coronavirus because they worked at the local meatpacking plant.” -- Guardian
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi 
American officials "are taking China-U.S. relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War." -- The Hill
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace 
“I’ve done some deep dive into it, there really is no record of massive fraud or even serious fraud from mail-in voting...It’s being carried out in Republican states, it’s being carried out in Democratic states, there is no indication that mail-in voting as opposed to in person voting tends to favor one party over another.” -- Daily Beast

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

All in this together? Not in IL

Right-wing, anti-stay-at-home protest in Chicago as COVID-19 cases top 96K with over 4K deaths in IL.
ALL IN THIS TOGETHER? -- IL Republican leaders are using the pandemic as an excuse to try and knock Gov. Pritzker's proposed graduated income tax amendment off the November ballot. Instead of a tax increase that would affect only those making over $250,000/year, Repugs are pushing their own amendment to allow cuts in public-sector pensions.

Their efforts to shift the tax burden for the state's impending budget crisis away from the wealthiest and onto the backs of retirees have little chance of succeeding in Springfield. And they know that another try at diminishing public workers' pensions would once again fail to meet the constitutional test in the courts.

Their only hope is to use the issues to rally downstate anti-taxers and jump on the backs of the current right-wing, anti-Pritzker early-opening protests in order to keep down-ticket Republican pols from going down with Trump's ship in November.