Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SmallTalk Salutes Sen. Warren for standing up to charter lobby

“Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind.” -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Sen. Elizabeth Warren who's taken some time out from kicking Donald Trump's behind to stand strong against her state's powerful charter school lobby.

This from the Washington Post:
There is a pitched battle underway in Massachusetts over charter schools, with proponents pouring money into an initiative on the November ballot that would raise the state cap on their growth and opponents arguing that charters are draining resources from traditional public schools. Now critics have gotten a big boost: Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she was going to vote against Question 2
There are now nearly 80 charter schools in Massachusetts, where no more than 120 charter schools are currently allowed to operate. Question 2 would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools to open every year anywhere in the state.  a move that supporters say will give more parents choices about where to send their children to school and help close the achievement gap.

Sen. Warren 
Jennifer Berkshire, who posts at Edushyster, interviews political scientist Maurice Cunningham who says the campaign to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts is driven by GOP operatives and a handful of wealthy Republican families.
There are a handful of wealthy families that are funding this. They largely give to Republicans and they represent the financial industry, basically. They’re out of Bain, they’re out of Baupost, they’re out of High Fields Capital Management. Billionaire Seth Klarman, for example, has been described as the largest GOP donor in New England, and he gives a lot of money to free market, anti-government groups. Then on the campaign level, you have Republican strategist Will Keyser who certainly knows his stuff, and Jim Conroy who certainly knows his stuff. They know how to make something look like a grassroots campaign that really isn’t.
 On the other side of the battle lines is Arne Duncan's successor at the D.O.E., John King who just sent $245M, money that should have gone to public schools, straight to the charter school operators. That included $8M which will go to the chain he once operated himself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Trump's favorite expression is, "believe me". It's almost like he's begging his audience to buy-in to his often outrageous statements as a matter of faith. In last night's debate he told us to believe him a total of seven times. That's seven shots if you were using the phrase in your drinking game. Let's see if we should have believed him.

Believe Me#1...
Now, look, we have the worst revival of an economy since the Great Depression. And believe me: We’re in a bubble right now. And the only thing that looks good is the stock market, but if you raise interest rates even a little bit, that’s going to come crashing down.
No, I don't believe you. First of all, what's the rating scale based on? Secondly, you are running on the Republican ticket. You know, the party who's economic policies caused the world global economic collapse since the Great Depression. For you to then turn around and criticize the pace of the recovery is unbelievable.

Believe Me #2... 
 And believe me: The day Obama goes off, and he leaves, and goes out to the golf course for the rest of his life to play golf, when they raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen, because the Fed is not doing their job. The Fed is being more political than Secretary Clinton.
No, I'm not believing this one either. What does Obama playing golf have to do with the Fed raising interest rates? The Fed did raise interest rates slightly (a quarter point) last year. It was the first time in 9 years, going back to the Bush administration and there was no objection or dissent from either party. The sky didn't fall. In fact, the recovery and job growth sped up a bit. It may have cooled off an out-of-control real estate market a bit. So I can see why you would oppose it. But in what sense is that "political"? Only in the sense that everything is "political", including you.

Believe Me #3
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they’re not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it’s disgraceful. And believe me, this country thinks it’s — really thinks it’s disgraceful, also.
Okay, I believe you here, sorta.  By why trash the 5th? What's your problem with the Bill of Rights? Also, only one person who worked directly for Clinton is known to have asserted his Constitutional right against self-incrimination: Bryan Pagliano, a computer specialist who held a political appointment at the State Department and also worked for the Clinton family.
It's not just the 5th Amendment you have problems with, it's the 1st as well.

Believe Me #4
CLINTON: And maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years. (APPLAUSE)And the other thing I think is important...TRUMP: It would be squandered, too, believe me.
You're probably right here too. But those of us who aren't billionaires don't get to say: Oh, I think I won't pay any taxes this year because the money will be squandered on war or on a border wall. It's unbelievable that you can get away with that.

Believe Me #5
I’m all for NATO. But I said they have to focus on terror, also.And they’re going to do that. And that was — believe me — I’m sure I’m not going to get credit for it — but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO.Believe Me #6
Bullshit. You are not for NATO. You have advocated the U.S. pulling out of NATO if other members couldn't pay their bills. Cut the crap.

Believe Me #6  
I think we have to get NATO to go into the Middle East with us, in addition to surrounding nations, and we have to knock the hell out of ISIS, and we have to do it fast, when ISIS formed in this vacuum created by Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton. And believe me, you were the ones that took out the troops. 
No, not believable. First of all, Obama and Clinton didn't take out the troops as Obama promised he would. There are still 5,000 troops plus many more mercenaries in Iraq and there's more on the way to fight ISIS. Second, they didn't "create" the vacuum. It was created as a split with the old al Qaeda leadership and supported financially and militarily, possibly by your business pals, the Saudis (Trump is building hotels in Jeddah). The real deal is that ISIS is a product of the original invasion of Iraq (which, believe me, you supported) and the never-ending "war on terrorism".

Believe Me #7
I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day. Believe me, he’s not a happy camper.
No, I don't believe you. First of all, Netanyahu is not a camper. Second, he's happy as a pig is poop. Wouldn't you be if Pres. Obama just gave you $38 billion.

Trump: "Stop and frisk" isn't racial profiling it's stopping "bad people."

"But we need — Lester, we need law and order. And we need law and order in the inner cities..." -- Trump
I actually would have found at least the second half of the debate entertaining, if the stakes weren't so damn high. The Daily Show's Trevor Noah summed it up this way:
"Welcome to the real-life version of Twitter, people," Noah said. "You know that at that point, Lester Holt wasn't even moderating anymore, he was just eating popcorn with everyone else."
I admit, after watching the poorly-run Clinton campaign slide so badly since the convention, I was concerned that Donald Trump would carry his momentum into the debate. Boy, was I wrong.

An apparently sedated Hillary Clinton, halting and self-constrained, waited patiently for her moment. Then she took her best shots, in response to Trump's never ending braggadocio (his word, not mine) about his mythical business acumen, deal-making artfulness and ability to avoid paying any taxes (a charge he never denied), Hillary laid it on him.

First on his unwillingness to allow us to see his tax returns.
CLINTON: For 40 years, everyone running for president has released their tax returns. You can go and see nearly, I think, 39, 40 years of our tax returns, but everyone has done it. We know the IRS has made clear there is no prohibition on releasing it when you’re under audit.
Then on taxes. Remember Trump has been maintaining that corporations are fleeing the U.S. to evade high taxes. But Trump seems to have done pretty well here.
CLINTON: Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax...So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. TRUMP: That makes me smart. 
On the financial crisis, Trump played the perfect disaster capitalist. Neither of them, for reasons of their own, mentioned that the global financial collapse happened under the Republican Bush administration.
CLINTON: In fact, Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, “Gee, I hope it does collapse, because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.” Well, it did collapse.
TRUMP: That’s called business, by the way.
Alicia Machado
Then finally, the coup de grĂ¢ce.
CLINTON: And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman [Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machiado]“Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.
TRUMP: Where did you find this? Where did you find this?
CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.
TRUMP: Where did you find this?
CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet...
TRUMP: Oh, really?
CLINTON: ... she’s going to vote this November.
It was over.

Well, not quite. Trump, fearing even further disintegration of his dwindling poll numbers among Latinos, went after Machado again this morning on FOX, claiming, she had "attitude" and calling her "the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst."
"She was impossible.... She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem."
Trump was either an ill-prepared, out-of-control, chauvinistic, blustering, money-grubbing, nuke-waving racist buffoon (my take), or a great-white-hope, politically incorrect, law-and-order hero, depending on which America you occupy.

Clinton tiptoed cautiously around race and the latest in a string of police shootings of black men. Her best statement was:
Race remains a significant challenge in our country. Unfortunately, race still determines too much, often determines where people live, determines what kind of education in their public schools they can get, and, yes, it determines how they’re treated in the criminal justice system. We’ve just seen those two tragic examples in both Tulsa and Charlotte.
But she played it safe after that. Let's just say, the words Black Lives Matter, were never uttered.

Whereas the @realDonaldTrump let it all hang out. He started out by painting life in the black community as "living in hell" in need of "law and order" (code words for keep them in their place) and ended with his Rudy Giuliani-inspired call for more stop-and-frisk, racial profiling-- making Chicago his whipping boy.

Trump must not have known (and Hillary wouldn't say) that under the rule of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago had already become the nation's stop-and-frisk capital, well after stop-and-frisk had been ruled unconstitutional in N.Y.

In August 2013, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the hundreds of thousands of Stop and Frisks performed annually by the NYPD amounted to racial profiling and violated the 4th Amendment's protections from unreasonable search and seizure because they were based on generalized suspicion.

By the summer of 2014, Chicago cops performed a quarter million stop-and-frisks in just 90 days, without making any arrests. Shootings in the city (including those by police) continued to rise at a record pace before the policy was changed. Stop-and-frisk was proven to be a failed, racist policy.

Trump continued to insist that "stop and frisk" wasn't racial profiling. It was stopping "bad people." It amounted to his only plan for resource-starved black and Latino communities.

It was a desperately-needed win for Clinton. A big defeat for Trump who limped away, crying he had a "defective mic" and that Republican moderator Lester Holt was an agent of the "left-wing" media. His mentor, Giuliani even advised him to skip the remaining debates. Good advice.

DON'T ASK. DON'T TELL...As expected, public education never came up in the debate and the word education was only mentioned in passing three times -- all by Clinton. There was never even a mention of Trump University, school closings, common core, testing, unions, or charter schools.

Monday, September 26, 2016


CTU members Maria Cosme, left, and Nancy Serrano count ballots (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune) 
CTU Pres. Karen Jennings Lewis on CTU's strike vote
"But here's the deal — and this is the truth, period, the end — I don't have to work under this contract. They do. So it seems like, to me, that the people that have to work under the contract should have the most ability to say yes or no to things." -- Chicago Tribune
Jesse Sharkey 
"I fully expect that by (this) week we'll have successfully authorized a strike, and then it will be up to the delegates to talk about where that leaves us and what makes sense for a deadline. We're looking to move this toward a conclusion. All of our options are on the table, including a strike deadline."  -- Tribune
Pres. Barack Obama
And so this national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are.  It helps us better understand the lives, yes, of the President, but also the slave; the industrialist, but also the porter; the keeper of the status quo, but also of the activist seeking to overthrow that status quo; the teacher or the cook, alongside the statesman. -- At the Dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Cultur
Bruce Springsteen on Trump
"It's a rich environment unfortunately for a demagogue." -- Swedish talk show
Monica Navarrete of Lawrenceville, Georgia
"I told him I'm going to vote for him and Hillary so my parents can stay here longer." -- Politico
Trump on using nuclear weapons
[MSNBC, March 30, 2016] Trump said he was open to nuking Europe because it’s a “big place” 
MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in 45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.
TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? -- Think Progress
Just wanted to get him on record...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Note to some fellow lefties...

Students from Johnson C. Smith University at a rally for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times        
Sorry to say, rapacious capitalism will still be here in November. Not only that, but I doubt it will ever be simply voted out. Even if a "socialist" like Bernie were to someday be elected (I wish). But maybe that's just old-school me.

Whatever the case, come the first of the year, either Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, will be our next president and Jill Stein and Gary Johnson will have taken their campaign funds and gone home, a la Ralph Nader and the rest of those perennial presidential spoiler candidates.

That's when the real movement for social justice, peace and racial equality needs to kick into gear again -- after the election, no matter who is elected.

NYT columnist Charles Blow, speaking to Morgan State Univ. students, tries to break through the reported millennial political malaise and encourage a large youth turnout for Clinton.
First — and this cannot be said enough — Clinton and Trump are not equally bad candidates. One is a conventional politician who has a long record of public service full of pros and cons. The other is a demagogic bigot with a puddle-deep understanding of national and international issues, who openly courts white nationalism, is hostile to women, Mexicans and Muslims, and is callously using black people as pawns in a Donnie-come-lately kinder-gentler campaign.
As an educator, I would also include Trump's pledge to do away with public education or what he calls, the "government monopoly" of public schools. And here I thought Trump loved to play Monopoly.

Blow continues...
That person will appoint someone to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court (assuming that the Senate doesn’t find religion and move on Merrick Garland before the new president takes office) and that person will also appoint federal judges to fill the 88 district court and court of appeals vacancies that now exist (there are 51 nominees pending for these seats).
And more...
You can’t have taken part in a march for Eric Garner, chanting “I can’t breathe,” and risk the ascendance of a man who has as one of his chief advisers Rudy Giuliani, the grandfather of the very “broken windows” policing strategy that sent officers after low-level offenders like Garner.
You can’t detest racial-dragnet-policy stop-and-frisk policing as not only morally abhorrent but thoroughly unconstitutional and risk the ascendance of a man who on Wednesday reportedly suggested that he would consider using stop-and-frisk more across the nation.
Makes sense. As Bernie Sanders himself said last week: “This is not the time for a protest vote.”

As one of the leaders of the "vote in the streets" 60's youth revolt and someone who has often cast protest votes or gone fishing on meaningless election days, I couldn't agree more.


September 24, 2016 • 9-10 am CDT
The Live from the Heartland Show 

Standing Rock, Song & Good Food in School
    • Nick Estes, Mike Klonsky, Joel Frankel, Alexander DeSorbo-Quinn 

       —Report from Standing Rock
       —Old Town School of Folk Music
      — Pilot Light: helping kids make healthier choices

       —Rogers Park Food Co-op 
Join Michael James, Katy Hogan & Thom Clark this Saturday for a solid hour of conversation & entertainment with people doing good in the World. 

On (worldwide!) and 88.7 fm, and now streaming live on The Live from the Heartland Show's Facebook 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trib's latest anti-union editorial is laughable

The Tribune's wingnut editors are on a roll this week. They began with a call for a "schoolchildren's Bill of Rights" which had nothing to do with either children or rights, but was little more than a right-wing school  privatization manifesto. 

Now the Trib's editorial board, juiced up on  anti-union Trumpomania, has outdone its Mussolini-loving self with a new diatribe against the CTU. The union's crime?  Holding an open strike vote by its members.

This is actually the second strike vote the union has taken. Nearly 90% of all voting members voted in December to authorize a possible strike, but CPS contested the timing of that vote.

The Trib's screed, comparing the vote, mandated by a state law which the Trib supported, with elections in Iraq, Liberia and North Korea, is laughable. To put it bluntly, the Tribune has problems with elections, period.

Brother Fred notes:
 It was just a few years ago that Stand For Children’s Jonah Edelman, a guy who thought he was way too clever by half, got the Illinois legislature to pass a law requiring Chicago union teachers, and only Chicago union teachers, to vote by a 75% super majority in order to authorize a strike.
He told his friends that he had studied union strike authorization votes and that 75% was some kind of magic number. He was wrong in 2012 and he was wrong last year. He never understood that in a democratic union, you can’t short circuit democracy.
CTU's Jesse Sharkey responds:
The Chicago Tribune is comparing the CTU's strike vote to some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world. What I find enraging here is that the CTU is held to a ridiculously high standard for voting on a strike (75% of entire membership must vote in affirmative.) Think about that: an 80% yes vote on an 80% turnout would still fail. But the CTU is not credited for meeting a democratic standard which virtually no elected official could meet. We are condemned. The appointed Board of Ed is not compared to North Korea and castigated for stalling negotiations for 22 months while their unelected members slash public schools. The Tribune's attack on our vote-by-petition reveals how deeply they despise our power and voice.
Actually, while CPS is still run as a wing of City Hall, by an autocratic mayor and an un-elected school board, the CTU is probably the most democratically-run institution in this town.

On the brighter side, no teachers I know give a damn what the Tribune thinks about their elections.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Tribune's so-called 'Schoolchildren's Bill of Rights'

Created with consent of the governed.
Chicago Tribune editors are calling for a "Schoolchild's Bill of Rights." As anyone familiar with the Trib might guess, Sunday's editorial has little to do with schoolchildren or their rights--except, that is, for their right to have their schools closed or privatized and their teachers debased. 

The Trib's Bill of Rights includes not a single right for students, but instead includes things like:
  • Merit Pay for teachers, a oft-tried initiative which, according to researchers, produced no gains in measurable learning outcomes. 
  • Using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Already the law in IL. 
  • Widespread school "choice," the Trib's code word for school vouchers and privately-run charters. Trib editors write: "The public education industry should view ethnic, parochial or other private schools not as threats but as alternatives that enrich and diversify a community's educational offerings."
  • An end to collective bargaining, including the right to strike.
  • Parent Trigger Laws which enable a small and temporary group of parents to take over a school and hand it over to a private, for-profit company to operate. As you might expect, there's nothing about parents' right to opt-out of the plague of standardized testing.
  • Mass closing of  black and Latino neighborhood schools and leaving boarded-up buildings to further blight communities or sell them off to condo developers. Again, too late. They're already doing it. 
In other words, there's not much on this list that hasn't been going on for years in Chicago, without any positive results. 

Trib editors' ideal schools chief.
The only thing surprising here is the Trib editors' use of Bill of Rights lingo to promote their extreme right-wing reform agenda. Remember it was the same board members who, in a previous editorial, called for CPS to be taken over by an autocrat with "Mussolini-like powers" to execute and implement that agenda. 

I'm afraid that would leave Chicago kids with little more than Miranda Rights. 

A real student Bill of Rights might include items like:
  • The right to learn in a safe environment in a safe community.
  • The right to be well-fed, rested and clothed.
  • The right to opt-out of high-stakes, standardized testing.
  • The right to attend a racially desegregated public school.
  • The right to gender equality including freedom from LGBT discrimination.
  • The right to vote and have voice on important matters concerning school policy.
  • The right to think critically, free from censorship, locker searches and book banning.
  • The right to have a qualified, certified teacher in every classroom. 
  • The right to the same level of funding and resources as students in the wealthy suburbs. 
The list of student rights could and would be a lot longer, if students had any voice in compiling it. I'm quite sure that didn't happen over at the Tribune. 

Mussolini would never have approved. 

Monday, September 19, 2016


Malcolm Jenkins

Eagles' safety Malcolm Jenkins on tonight's team protest
 “Really it’s just to continue to push forward the conversation about social injustice, and that’s a range of things from police brutality to wages and job opportunities, education. There’s just a lot of things systematically that have been set up in this country since its inception that put minorities, especially African Americans, at a disadvantage when you talk about quality of life and actually growing in this country.” -- Washington Post
Pres. Obama
"My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration, that’s on the ballot right now.” -- Speech to Congressional Black Caucus
Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier
I call on all my supporters and allies to join the struggle at Standing Rock in the spirit of peaceful spiritual resistance and to work together to protect Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth. -- CounterPunch
Charles Blow
 Trump has claimed that Bill Ayers wrote the President’s acclaimed, best-selling memoir because surely this black man couldn’t have the talent to write the book. -- New York Times
Bernie Sanders
“So I would just simply say to the Millennials – to anybody else – look at the issues. Don’t get hung up on Trump’s kids, or whatever the story, the birther issue – stay focused on the issues of relevance to your life. I think Clinton is far and away the superior candidate.” -- Dead State
Kate Aronoff, ITT writing fellow
Between Trumka’s DAPL endorsement and the Fraternal Order of Police’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president, this week has shown a stark divide between parts of American labor and today’s social movements. -- In These Times