Monday, September 16, 2019


BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY--56 years ago, white supremacists bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, killing four girls and injuring dozens more.

Gene Patterson, the editor of the Atlanta Constitution in 1963
A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand, she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her. Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in their hand. -- Tampa Bay Times
 Laura Washington
Let’s put another trope to rest: It’s the one about how these angry black women can’t get along. These two women don’t have to like each other. They probably never will. So what? -- Sun-Times
Stephen Colbert on the Democratic debate
Let the 'humble background games' begin. -- Guardian
Kamala Harris on Trump 
Donald Trump [on trade]… he reminds me of that guy in the Wizard of Oz, when you pull back the curtain, he’s a really small dude. -- The Hill
Donald Trump doing his best Don Quixote
"Goddamn windmills..."  -- Washington Post

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Talk about privilege. Rich get to live longer. Poor & middle class don't.

"Poverty is a life-threatening issue for millions of people in this country, and this report confirms it."—Sen. Bernie Sanders
There are now around 100 million, or nearly a third of the U.S. population living in poverty or near poverty. This figure is missing from glowing news reports about the booming Trump economy. While there are millions of white people living in poverty, poverty rates among African-Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans run two to three times higher. 

newly released report from the U.S. General Accounting Office on Retirement Security, commissioned by Sen. Bernie Sanders reveals that the rich are living longer lives, while poor and middle-income Americans are dying at a comparatively earlier age. Talk about privilege!

This from the report:
GAO found that among Americans aged 51-61 in 1992, fewer than half of those in the poorest 20 percent of America’s wealth distribution had survived by 2014—48 percent. Among the richest 20 percent, 75.5 percent were still alive. The poorest 20 percent were twice as likely to die over the 22-year period than the wealthiest 20 percent.
 GAO similarly observed this massive disparity in life expectancy when examining income and education: only half of those without college degrees and in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution survived to 2014. Among those with college degrees and in the top 20 percent, based on mid-career earnings, 80 percent were still alive.
There's some -- but not much -- mention of racial inequality in the report.
GAO also found that white households in the bottom two earnings groups had higher estimated median incomes, and white households in all earnings groups generally had greater estimated median wealth, than racial minority households in those earnings groups.
"We must put an end to the obscene income and wealth inequality in our country, and ensure living wages, quality healthcare, and retirement security for our seniors as human rights," said Sanders. "If we do not urgently act to solve the economic distress of millions of Americans, a whole generation will be condemned to an early death."

Bernie never mentions race in his introduction to the report. It seems to be his perennial blindspot. But he deserves credit for being the only candidate speaking out forcefully on income and wealth inequality.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cunningham's response to the devastation of black communities? Bring in 'new people'.

Just when you think we've heard the last from the disastrous duo of Arne Duncan and Peter Cunningham, they become media go-to guys on (of all things) gun violence and community development.

Remember, this was the pair that ran the Chicago Public Schools and the U.S. Dept. of Education for years, promoting austerity, mass school closings, privatization and uncapped expansion of privately-run charter schools in black communities. Their policies helped lead to the devastation of urban school districts and contributed to school re-segregation and the push-out of thousands of black and poor families from cities like Chicago.

Why media would turn to them for meaningful solutions to the problems they helped create is beyond me. But here we are.

Cunningham's Sun-Times commentary yesterday (To revive declining South and West Side neighborhoods, import people) was the most egregious. The headline says it all. Now that 300,000 African-Americans have been pushed out of Chicago over the past few decades, Cunningham sees their replacement with thousands of "new, middle-class people" as the city's salvation.

How unoriginal. I have referred to it as the whitenization of the cities. But it's deeper than that.


Cunningham asks, just how do you attract the gentrifiers into formerly segregated, disinvested and isolated neighborhoods like Englewood? He turns to Godfather mobster character Vito Corleone for an answer. "Make them an offer they can't refuse."
So, what would it take to get 4,000 young middle-class families to move into these neighborhoods? The answer, or at least part of it, is affordable, high-quality housing. Sell the houses at cost.
If that’s too high, help cover the down-payment. Still no takers? Help pay their college debt or give them a 10-year property tax exemption, something Philadelphia has done.
Welp, where has that been? Why wasn't that offer made to the families who lived there before, the ones who built those neighborhoods and went to the now-closed neighborhood schools? The ones whose homes were foreclosed upon during the subprime crisis?

As for Duncan, who now runs Chicago CRED—a counseling and job placement service (not exactly what he was primed for by the Emerson Collective), he's cited as an expert on neighborhood gun violence in a Crain's column by Joe Warren. 

There, he carefully avoids any mention of gun control. Instead, Duncan appeals directly to his corporate pals, asking them to hire some gun offenders.
"My selfish interest is that the business community own this and see this as an economic problem, not a crime problem," Duncan says. "We have to hire our way out of this, not arrest our way out of this."
Yes, hire more and arrest less. But this doesn't even begin to deal with the enormous scope of the problem, as Mayor Lightfoot has pointed out in her recent jousting with Ted Cruz. 

But how do we stop the flow of guns and drugs into the city? What do we do about mass youth unemployment, disinvestment, and under-resourcing of public schools? The notion that the answer to Chicago's gun violence epidemic rests simply with more counseling and job placement is absurd on its face.

To quote the mayor:
“There’s a great need across this country for federal leadership in particular to step up and come forward with a real plan to deal with the gun violence that we’re seeing not only in cities like Chicago but really across the country.”
Duncan hasn't a clue.

Monday, September 9, 2019


Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel share a laugh during a segment attacking Medicare for All on ABC's "This Week." 

MapLight reporter Andrew Perez
"Rahm says no one at a bunch of Michigan and Wisconsin diners told him to take their health care away which is probably somewhat true since who in a diner would start talking to him at all." -- Common Dreams
Lori Lightfoot to Ted Cruz
But don’t you dare lecture us with half-truths, cherry-picked statistics and debunked rhetoric designed to score political points with your base and your donors while you, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the other Republicans in charge of the Senate sit in dereliction of your duty day after day, shooting after shooting. -- Washington Post
Amanda Kass
 “I think highlighting that there are lots of police and fire pension systems that are underfunded is accurate,” said Amanda Kass, associate director of the Government Finance Research Center at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “I don’t think it’s accurate to indicate that the majority are on the brink of insolvency.” -- Sun-Times
Rich Miller
But President Donald Trump, who had problems everywhere in suburbia, only won McSweeney’s district by a mere 1.6 percentage points in 2016. And then Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza won it last year by 2 points. Trump isn’t doing much to improve his popularity in the suburbs, so 2020 could be even worse for Republicans in that part of the world. -- Capitol Fax
Tom McNamee, Sun-Times Editorial Page Editor
The last sentence of the editorial made the point. The words were mine, but the clarity of thought was all Marca’s: “When we fully understand, as a society, that school nurses are not ‘extras’ — because kids with disabilities are not ‘extras’ — we predict this chronic shortage of nurses will magically disappear.” -- Marca Bristo made us all listen...

Monday, September 2, 2019


Mayor Lori Lightfoot greets supporters Saturday ahead of the Southeast Side Labor Day parade.
Don Villar, Chicago Federation of Labor
"We're here today because of you, workers. You know, 125 years ago, not far from here, just down the road, is where we had the massive Pullman Strike. They were fighting for the same thing you’re fighting for. They’re fighting for fairness, equality, respect, dignity, the same thing, it seems like 125 years later we’re still fighting the same fight. So this is for you this Labor Day." -- At Southeast Side Labor Day March
...causes confusion by saying record storm will hit Alabama, forcing national weather service to issue correction. Trump says he has ‘never heard of a category 5’ storm before - a remark he has made repeatedly in recent years. -- Independent
Natascha Elena Uhlmann, author of Abolish Ice
The US spends more than $7bn a year on an agency so universally reviled that even its own agents want to be distanced. What could an alternative vision of justice look like? -- Guardian

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Good riddance to the Charter School Commission

Acero teachers in Chicago won the first charter school strike in U.S. history last year. (Labor Notes pic)
Congratulations to all of us who worked so hard to finally get rid of the Illinois State Charter School Commission. We count our victories one by one.

A new law that goes into effect next year, will abolish the Commission and hopefully limit the wild expansion of privately-operated charter schools. That's the result of Senate Bill 1226, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Aug. 23, over the objections of INCS and charter school lobbyists.  Gov. Rauner vetoed a similar bill last year.

The measure was sponsored by state Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat. Holmes made the case that decisions about charter schools, "belong in the community, not at the state level."

I agree. But even with the new law, we're not quite there yet.

Since 2011, when the Commision was established and signed into law by former Gov. Pat Quinn (yes a Democrat), I've worked with several struggling school districts around the state when they've  had to go before the Commission to plead their case. Together we built a research base which was used to debunk the false claims of the charter operators in an effort to stop invasions by powerful, charter school networks. In some cases we were successful and others we weren't.

I found the decisions by commission members to be be completely arbitrary and biased. Keep in mind that the commission was originally the dream of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and that the money for the commission’s original staffing and other expenses came from the pro-charter Walton Foundation. The Commission has been riddled with conflicts of interest from the start.

Commission members have been generally charter-friendly political appointees chosen by the governor and approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). In the eight years prior to Pritzker's election, commission members were handpicked by Rauner, a right-wing governor hellbent on starving and ultimately taking over local school systems, including CPS, using charters and school vouchers as weapons.

But Rauner wasn't the only problem. You might remember when the Commission, acting under pressure from House Speaker Mike Madigan, reversed CPS's rejection of Concept (Gulen) charter schools' application at a time when the FBI was investigating Concept's operations. Records show that the Commission’s Springfield lobbyist, Liz Brown-Reeves, a former Madigan aide, accompanied him on his Gulen sponsored trip to Turkey in 2012.

Earlier this year, the commission approved two Chicago schools: Urban Prep, which the district had ordered closed, and the new citywide school run by Intrinsic.

Currently, there are 140 charter schools in Illinois, 126 of which operate within Chicago Public Schools diverting money, students and teachers away from regular CPS schools. So far there is no evidence that these charters outperform the CPS schools they are trying to replace. In the CPS budget for next year, the district expects to receive $4 million less funding than expected from the state this past school year because “diversions to schools approved by the Illinois State Charter School Commission (SCSC) were higher than expected.”

There are still problems with the new bill. While effectively ending the Commission, the bill shifts its power to reverse local district decisions back over to ISBE, which is also a governor-appointed board.

According to Chalkbeat:
The state board will take over the responsibility of hearing appeals on charter school openings, closings and extensions. The state also will dole out funds it had collected to oversee the schools that the commission had approved. Once the state board takes over the commission’s role, the board will be able to levy a 3% fee on any state-approved charter school to help cover the cost of oversight.
But hopefully, local districts will fare better under the new law and under this governor than under the previous one.

In any case, the struggle continues.

Monday, August 26, 2019


"His goal – to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland – is not bad. His objective is not bad." -- Unnamed official
Senior Homeland Security and national security officials
During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, "I got it. I got it. Why don't we nuke them?" according to one source who was there. "They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they're moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can't we do that?" the source added, paraphrasing the president's remarks. -- Axios
 On Sunday, the White House declined to comment 
“We don’t comment on private discussions that the president may or may not have had with his national security team,” it said. -- The Hill
A senior Trump administration official
...told Axios that the president's suggestion to drop nuclear bombs into hurricanes to stop them from hitting the United States was well-intentioned.
"His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad," the official, who had been briefed on the suggestion, told the outlet. "His objective is not bad." -- The Hill
Jennifer Rubin
All presidential candidates (Republican challengers and Democrats) should express grave concern about his mental and emotional fitness, as should members of Congress. If need be, hearings should be held to convey expert opinion about his observable behaviors. -- Washington Post