In-studio guest, CTU Political Organizer, Brandon Johnson.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trump's speech heralds a continuation of eternal 'war on terror'

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. -- Donald Trump on eternal war
Since this blog is supposed to be mainly about education politics, I feel it necessary to reiterate -- war is the mortal enemy of education. Case in point: The greatly underestimated 16-year Afghan war price tag currently stands at $1.72 trillion. 

I know. I know. A trillion doesn't go as far as it used to. But still, that's enough to fund the Chicago Public Schools for the next 300 years, with enough left over to resolve the pension crisis, provide handsome raises for teachers and staff and replace all outworn facilities.

Trump's speech last night never mentioned the assumed cost in human lives and treasure of his "plan" to escalate and continue the war indefinitely. He also never uttered the words, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, or Venezuela. Oh yes, those were last week's wars. The generals, it seems, love the Afghan war because it drags on indefinitely with minimal political fallout and no big domestic anti-war movement to worry about.

Trump offers no rhyme or reason for his grand campaign flip-flop except to blame it on the generals. He seems to recognize (or if he doesn't, he should) that war in Afghanistan is a no-win proposition, as all previous invading imperialists and colonialists have learned the hard way.

The Trump escalation is essentially a continuation of the Bush/Obama plan to keep enough troops and mercenaries in country to keep from "losing," and to prop up the corrupt drug-dealing regime in Kabul. But there is one added dimension -- Trump's naked attempt to provoke a new war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

Unlike the neocons and Clinton Democrats, Trump says he's not a "nation builder" trying to force U.S.-style democracy (such as it is) on Afghanistan.

He says:
I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. [So therefore, I will continue the policy indefinitely.]
We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.
 And by "killing terrorists," he means...  173,000 dead, with 183,000 others seriously injured so far. An estimated 31,000 of those have been civilians, including women and children.

Trump's speech is also a break from former adviser Steve Bannon's populist wing (that correctly refers to it as "unlimited war," and compares Trump's strategy to that of former President Barack Obama) and the Republican Party's libertarian isolationist wing.

As for the Democrats, there was hardly a token peep out of them. The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island criticized the speech as "too vague." Ouchie!  Nancy Pelosi said the speech was "low on details but raises serious questions." Sizz! What else could they say? Trump was echoing their own war policy under Obama.

U.S. Marine sniper unity in Afghanistan (Guardian)
So what did a politically isolated Trump have to gain by going on national TV with his escalation plan? One explanation is that he's trying to shake his image as a KKK, white supremacist apologist by cynically claiming that war and militarism brings the races together.
The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission, and one shared sense of purpose.They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together — and sacrifice together — in absolutely perfect cohesion. 
What a load of crap! The very same racist and pro-fascist forces who invaded Charlottesville last week often find a comfortable sanctuary within the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq and other battlefields. Thas has been well documented, including in this piece by the Guardian's Matt Kennard.

Kennard writes:
The neo-Nazi movement has had a long and tense relationship with the US military. Since its inception, the leaders of the white supremacist movement have encouraged their members to enlist. They see it as a way for their followers to receive combat and weapons training, courtesy of the US government, and then to bring what they learn home to undertake a domestic race war.
With his poll numbers plummeting into the low 30s, DT hoped to take Charlottesville off the front page and rally the nation around war patriotism. Why not? It's always been, as Samuel Johnson put it, the last refuge of a scoundrel. It may buy him time. I doubt it.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Dick Gregory in Greenwood, Miss, April 2, 1963 after a voter registration protest.
Dick Gregory, R.I.P. 
I waited at the counter of a white restaurant for eleven years. When they finally integrated, they didn't have what I wanted. -- Chicago Defender
CTU's Brandon Johnson on IL Senate Bill1
We're not having the real conversation which should be about revenue...We have a taxing system that is unfair and unjust. -- Hitting Left 
Steve Bannon
"The Trump presidency is over." --Weekly Standard
Netanyahu's hand-picked Israeli minister, Ayoub Kara
“Due to the terrific relations with the U.S., we need to put the declarations about the Nazis in the proper proportion... Trump is the best U.S. leader Israel has ever had. His relations with the prime minister of Israel are wonderful, and after enduring the terrible years of Obama, Trump is the unquestioned leader of the free world, and we must not accept anyone harming him.” -- Jerusalem Post
Historian Eric Foner
 “Obviously, we have some pretty deep divisions along multiple lines—racial, ideological, rural versus urban...Whether they will lead to civil war, I doubt. We have strong gravitational forces that counteract what we’re seeing today... People are not debating the Civil War. They’re debating American society and race today.” -- New Yorker: Is America headed for a new kind of civil war?
Former WI Senator Russ Feingold
 Even if the white supremacists are condemned, even if the entire Republican party rises up in self-professed outrage at white supremacists, if voter suppression and other such racist policies survive, the white supremacists are winning. -- Guardian 
 Gen. Curtis LeMay wrote:
 “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another… Over a period of three years or so, we killed off, what, 20 percent of the population?” -- In “Strategic Air Warfare,” by Richard H. Kohn

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A union leader and a corporate school reformer abandon Trump's ship

"It's never met, we've never had a meeting," Trumka said.
The stunning events in Charlottesville have stirred so much public anger towards the Trump regime that they've driven many of his closest collaborators, including corporate CEOs worried about tarnishing their brand, to abandon ship. Trump's open support and praise for murderous white supremacists, anti-semites, KKK and nazis has become a source of concern and embarrassment, even for many Trump allies, staffers, and collaborators who have hung with him up until now, despite a long string of similar racist and chauvinist outbursts.

Two particular breaks, one in the last few days, have especially caught my eye because they involved, not right-wing conservatives, but a union leader and a Democrat corporate school reformer.

The union leader is Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest group of labor unions in the country, who quit Trump’s manufacturing council Tuesday evening, saying he refused to accept any tolerance of “bigotry and domestic terrorism.”

All well and good. But the question remains, what was Trumka doing as the only union leader, on that sham council in the first place? And why did he quit, obviously under pressure from below, only after the departure of the CEOs from Walmart [30 hours earlier -- h/t C.B.], Merck, Under Armour and Intel?

One answer is that Trumka has long been a fan of Trump's failed America First protectionist and racist jobs strategy. Remember, Trumka sided with Trump at Standing Rock in support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, in that way diminishing the moral standing and political credibility of the labor movement. While most unions were taking the line of resistance to Trumpism, all Trumka wanted was a seat at the table, even one that didn't really exist. The council NEVER MET.

Now, only after Trump's promise to "bring back American jobs" has been discredited, and on the eve of Trump's disbanding the council altogether, did Trumka finally criticize it for not taking meaningful steps to help the workers he represents.
“It’s clear that President Trump’s Manufacturing Council was never an effective means for delivering real policy that lifts working families and his remarks today [on Charlottesville] were the last straw.” 

"We would say to DeVos that public school choice is a great thing." -- Shavar Jeffries

The corporate school reformer is Shavar Jeffries, president of  the misnamed, Democrats for Education Reform. DFER, founded by a group of hedge-fund operators, was never really Democratic nor about school reform.

The group was the most influential force pushing so-called "choice" and school privatization policies within the Obama White House  and inside Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan's DOE. They were also a force behind Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy charters in New York, helping her rise to fame as a highly paid, anti-public school, anti-union superstar.

Moskowitz has become one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders and contended with Betsy DeVos for Trump's favor in a run at the Sec. of Education cabinet post. In return for DFER's financial support, Jeffries was given a seat on Success Academy's Board of Directors.

But earlier this summer, Jeffries resigned from the board.

According to POLITICO:
Moskowitz and Jeffries now represent the charter sector’s two ideological poles in the Trump era. While Trump and DeVos’ call for a national school choice system would appear to align them with Democrats who support an expansive charter sector, but the president’s controversial comments about minorities, and his education secretary’s plan to slash $9 billion from the federal education budget, have complicated that support.
 On one side, reform-minded Democrats have warned that Trump's embrace of school choice could eventually destroy education reform. New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, who supports charters, has called some charter leaders’ embrace of Trump a potential “the kiss of death” for the movement reformers have been trying to build for decades. Jeffries said much the same shortly after Trump’s election: “the policies and rhetoric of President-elect Trump run contrary to the most fundamental values of what it means to be a progressive committed to educating our kids and strengthening our families and communities.”
So Jefferies' departure had little do do with Moskowitz's anti-union or school "choice" policies which have found a home inside DeVos' DOE. In fact Jeffries is in lock-step with most of these policies. Unlike most Democrats, he even says he's open to school vouchers as well as privately-run charters.
If they’re going pursue some sort of voucher program, we’ll examine it whenever they put it together...
Like Duncan, he's also a backslider on school desegregation, opposing "coercive" school integration and claiming, "There's not a political will to bring about integration..."

Like labor leader Trumka, DFER and other charter/voucher supporters have been hurt and embarrassed by their direct and indirect ties to Trump. It's all about the brand.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Are IL Dems going to cut a deal with Rauner on vouchers?

Archbishop Blase Cupich and Mayor Emanuel have been talking vouchers.
What I'm hearing is that there's not enough votes in House to override Rauner's veto of school funding bill. Override requires 71 votes and Dems have only 67. It comes as no surprise that they can't find even 4 Republicans willing to break with our mini-Trump governor and support adequate and equitable funding for schools. Boss Mike Madigan doesn't seem to care that much or have any more screws to tighten,  even if he did.

Rauner is still committed to sticking it to Chicago and CPS. He claims that Chicago is getting too large a slice of the budget pie. It's the big lie, as Rich Miller points out in Capitol Fax. Chicago gets back only 80 cents for every dollar of taxes it contributes. The city is actually subsidizing the wealthy suburbs. But it's the sword Rauner's obviously willing to fall on in the upcoming elections. In the meantime, his strategy for public ed is loot, pillage and burn.

So with school opening only days away, I'm worried that a deal has already been cut between Republicans and SB1 author Andy Manar, Cardinal Blase Cupich and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a new "compromise bill" that includes school vouchers and restrictions on teachers collective-bargaining rights.

The Tribune has already sent up some signals and naturally would love such a deal. 

Rahm insists he's against vouchers but last week, he dodged questions on school vouchers, leaving reporters to wonder about his position even as his latest batch of private emails showed Cardinal Cupich lobbying the mayor on the subject and Rahm open to discussing the matter.

When he was our guest on Hitting Left, Dem gov candidate Rep. Dan Biss called any new compromise on vouchers, "a catastrophe" and "unacceptable". He called any notion of compromise on the issue, "a red line." I hope he sticks by that.

All the denials lead me to believe the fix is in. Hope I'm wrong.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Shame of a nation

Trump's response

He characterized what was happening in Charlottesville as an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides." Whatever his motive, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis — the kind of villains that it takes virtually no political instincts or particular ideology for a mainstream figure to condemn — escaped even a token condemnation from the president. The Klan was treated instead as just one of several unruly partisan hordes. It was a remarkable moment. It seemed almost as if something in the country had shifted. -- Code Switch
Colbert King
That was your crowd down there in Old Virginia, Donald Trump. They were speaking your language, vomiting your sentiments, acting out what animates you from within. -- Washington Post 
National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro
 “There can be no doubt that the appalling display of white supremacy and hatred on display in Charlottesville today was the precipitator of the violence." -- NNU
Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser
Bossert said that people “on both sides” showed up in Charlottesville “looking for trouble” and that he wouldn’t assign blame for the death of a counterprotester on either group. -- CNN 
KKK leader David Duke to POTUS
 “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.” -- Guardian 
 Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signor
"Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here's mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus." -- The Hill
Global Times editorial
‘If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.’ -- Market Watch

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rahm plants kiss firmly on cheeks of his Chicago bankster pals

As he was laying off nearly 1,000 more CPS teachers and staff, Rahm Emanuel, speaking at Wednesday's Chicago Investors Conference,  promised the city's hedge funders and investment bankers -- his biggest campaign contributors -- that he will continue to be their faithful servant.

Emanuel claimed the biggest challenge facing the city is the need to renegotiate labor agreements with 90 percent of the city's 30,000-member workforce, which expired June 30. Those up for new contracts include laborers, firefighters, police and other municipal employees.

From DNAInfo...
The unions must partner with the city to ensure those labor agreements "benefit the entire city," Emanuel said. "As we negotiate the new contracts, I expect … to see savings in wages and benefits, health care and other places that are key to the City of Chicago’s future."
 Emanuel used the speech to tout the greatest hits of his nearly two terms in office, including Chicago's status as the No. 1 city for corporate relocations and its bragging rights as the restaurant city of the year, as determined by Bon Appetit magazine. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are Dem leaders on the road to nowhere in 2018-20?

Sneed this morning on...
Dem presidential loser Hillary’s Clinton’s new book, “What Happened,” which details an intimate view of her disastrous campaign, blasts and blames everyone . . . including herself.
And a disastrous campaign it was. Hillary turned out to be the worst possible candidate, although Dem leadership will never admit it. They're content to blame the November debacle on Putin/Sanders/Stein, an analysis that leaves them on the road to nowhere in 2018-2020.

I wonder if the book will hold accountable her top (all-white) campaign strategist/pollster team of Podesta, Mook, Benenson, Anzalone, Binder & Co., who somehow thought it was a great idea for her to bash young Sanders voters and then hang out in Arizona the last week of the campaign.

She ended up winning the national popular vote by 3M only to lose WI, MI and PA by a combined total of 77,744 votes and there's a sociopath with his finger on the nuclear button in the WH. The consequences of Dem arrogance and entitlement.

Speaking of same old, same old... it looks like Dem leaders in IL are all-in behind billionaire J.B. Pritzker in the party primary.

Sneed again... Picking Pritzker . . . and pricking Kennedy? [Perfect verb for Kennedy, the perfect prick--mk]
• Translation: Sneed is told top Cook County Dem slatemakers gathering Thursday and Friday for their biannual slatemaking meeting are predicting J.B. Pritzker will be endorsed as the party’s pick to try to unseat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“It’s simple. Pritzker has the financial wherewithal to mount a vigorous campaign against Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has limitless money to fund his re-election campaign,” the source added.
Makes perfect sense in a way, since there's little to separate the rest of the Dem primary pack from J.B. besides the size of their war chests in this, likely the most obscenely expensive gov's race in history.

Last point this morning...

Saw some progressive Chicago educators scratching their heads yesterday over the mayor's sudden, apparent support for vouchers. Rahm himself has played his cards close to the vest, since his not-so-secret meeting with Ed Sec. Betsy DeVos back in April. We wouldn't have known about their meeting, were it not for a recently released cache of Rahm's private emails that reveals he had been open to discussing a controversial voucher-like program that could divert millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Jay Rehak
Tomorrow at 11 CDT on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Bros...
Brother Fred talks pension theft with Chicago Teachers Pension Fund trustee board prez Jay Rehak and Teacher Retirement System blogger and activist John Dillon.