Mike Klonsky

Monday, October 31, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Wesley Mann
Sankofa co-director Raoul Roach (son of Max Roach), Harry Belafonte and Gina Belafonte at the Many Rivers to Cross festival in Fairburn, Ga. 
 Harry Belafonte
“America has a cancer that’s at work, and it’s slowly distributing itself through the national body. There’s a million reasons to mobilize, but [now] Donald Trump has stepped into the space. It isn’t Trump the man, [it’s] the number of people who approve of him, who embrace him.” -- Billboard
Author Paul Mason
If we do not break this cycle, you can easily see capitalism being replaced by a stagnant neo-feudalism. -- Postcapitalism and the city
Michael Zilles, President Newton, MA Teachers Association
...once this cruel experiment in market competition has played itself out, we are left with chronically underfunded public schools, school closures, disrupted lives, and an ever more unbreakable pattern of segregation, inequality, and poverty. To avoid that risk, any reasonable person would vote “no” on Question 2. -- Boston Globe
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II
"We need the federal government to step in and start protecting us from the state officials." -- Democracy Now
 Bill McKibben
 "The shocking images of the National Guard destroying tepees and sweat lodges and arresting elders this week remind us that the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline is part of the longest-running drama in American history -- the United States Army versus Native Americans." -- New York Times

Friday, October 28, 2016

New study provides more good reasons to vote NO on 2 in Massachusetts


On Tuesday, voters in Massachusetts will decide whether or not to lift the cap on their state's privately-run charter schools. I hope they will consider the findings in a newly-released study done by Michael Robinson, who describes himself as a concerned parent, taxpayer, and private citizen, and vote NO on Question 2.

Like Mr. Robinson, who has children of his own with disabilities, this issue is more than academic for me, both as an educator and grandparent of a Chicago student with disabilities. The unconstrained expansion of charters has not only drained badly-needed resources from our city's public schools, it has led to further segregation of special-needs and disabled students and less than adequate services delivered to those students within the charters themselves. 

Robinson's study confirms a pile of anecdotal evidence showing that MA charter schools underserve students with disabilities and attempt to improve standardized test performance by using discipline (especially suspensions) as a punitive lever, which many of these schools use to encourage attrition for this resource-intensive population.

This new report on Massachusetts charters, released today, found "91.3% of districts with highest discipline rates for special education students are charter schools" and 25% of charters have no full-time special educators.

The movement against raising the charter cap is growing. Recent polls show the ballot measure failing by 11 points overall, with Democrats opposing it 64 to 30%.

A VOTE NO rally is planned for Nov. 1 in Dorchester at 6:30 PM. Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, NAACP New England Area Conference President Juan Cofield, and more will be speaking.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has joined Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in opposition to Question 2. In so doing, she echoes the national Democratic Party's 2016 platform which has a strong plank on public education, including this statement:
Charter schools must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools. 
As Robinson's study shows, they don't.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bernie has the right line. Keep the heat on Clinton.

“I will be vigorously in opposition, and I will make that very clear.” -- Sen. Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders just gave his millennial supporters (and the rest of us) the best reason not to stay home on election day. He wants us to be part of the movement that defeats Trump and elects Clinton so he and we can become "be the thorn in her side" after Nov. 8th.

It's the thorn that went missing after Obama's historic victory in 2008 when the anti-war and other progressive movements, active during the Bush administration, went to sleep. Many even thought the election of our first African-American president marked the start of the "post-racial" era.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, Sanders made clear that, if she wins the presidency Nov. 8, Clinton will have to contend not only with Republicans who oppose her agenda but also with progressives who were not excited by her campaign and have long feared that she plans to govern as a centrist, in partnership with her new-found friends among the neocons.
“We won 22 states and 46 percent of the pledged delegates, 13.4 million votes . . .and a majority of the younger people, the future of the country. . . . That gives me a lot of leverage, leverage that I intend to use.”
He laid out his post-election strategy and said the he and other senators, including those who will ride the anti-Trump wave into office, have already started plotting legislation that would achieve many of the proposals that fueled his insurgent run for president, including a $15 federal minimum wage, tuition-free public college, an end to “mass incarceration” and aggressive steps to fight climate change.

The senators, Sanders said, also plan to push for the breakup of “too big to fail” banks and to pressure Clinton to appoint liberals to key Cabinet positions, including treasury secretary. Sanders said he would not stay silent if Clinton nominated the “same old, same old Wall Street guys” to regulatory positions that are important in enacting and overseeing the financial policies he supports.

Clinton needs to be pressured on #NoDAPL
Sanders said that his office and others have started converting the party platform into draft legislation. He said the lawmakers “informally” working with him include Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — who campaigned with Clinton on Monday in New Hampshire — Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

That's hopeful news for education activists who fought for and won the most progressive education plank ever in a party platform, including a strong statement on over-testing, support for Opt-Out parents, and opposition to for-profit charter schools.

Sanders has also got to keep the heat on Clinton to finally speak out against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the wave of repression being used against protesters in Standing Rock. The party platform is clear in its support for, "the inherent sovereignty of Indian nations" and its commitment to the right of all tribes to protect their lands, air, and waters".

However the Clinton campaign's pre-election day response continues to be one of tipping a hat to the Sanders movement while also bending towards her neocon allies.

Sanders resists the knee bending:
  “It’s not good enough for me, or anybody, to say, ‘Well, look, Republicans control the House: From Day One, we’re going to have to compromise,’ ” Sanders said. “The Democratic Party, before they start compromising, has got to rally the American people around our ideas and make it clear that if Republicans do not go along with reasonable ideas to benefit the middle class and the working class, they are going to pay a very heavy political price.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trump is a pipeline profiteer. Clinton remains silent.

“We have roadblocks like you’ve never, ever seen – environmental blocks, structural blocks,” he said. “We are going to allow the Keystone pipeline and so many other things to move forwards. Tremendous numbers of jobs and good for our country.” -- Donald Trump
The difference between the two candidates in a nutshell.

Hillary Clinton has promised to "stop fracking" when she's elected. But only "when any locality or any state is against it," "when the release of methane or contamination of water is present," and "unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using."

But she remains silent on the Dakota Access Pipeline even as oil company construction crews continue to ravage Lakota sacred lands, while the piping of fracking oil threatens a big part of the nation's water supply, and while madman Sheriff Kirchmeier escalates his assault on peaceful protesters and journalists.

This, even though back in February, the Clinton camp posted to its website the candidate's policy platform for Native Americans. In it, Clinton declares that she "will continue to stand for Tribal sovereignty and in support of Tribal resources and sacred sites."


But she's also indebted to several energy and pipeline companies that have given millions to her campaign.

Donald Trump on the other hand, is cheering on and personally underwriting the pipeline project in return for company contributions to his campaign.

According to today's Guardian:
Trump’s financial disclosure forms show the Republican nominee has between $500,000 and $1m invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1m holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25% stake in the Dakota Access project once completed. The information was disclosed in Trump’s monthly filings to the Federal Election Commission, which requires candidates to disclose their campaign finance information on a regular basis.
The financial relationship runs both ways.
[Texas billionaire] Kelcy Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, has given $103,000 to elect Trump and handed over a further $66,800 to the Republican National Committee since the property developer secured the GOP’s presidential nomination.
On 29 June, Warren made $3,000 in donations to Trump’s presidential campaign. The limit for individual contributions to a candidate is $2,700 per election and it’s unclear whether Trump returned $300 to Warren. Trump’s campaign was contacted for comment.
Warren made a further $100,000 donation to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee among Trump’s campaign, the RNC and 11 state parties, on 29 June. A day earlier, the Energy Transfer Partners chief executive doled out $66,800 in two separate donations to the RNC.
 Warren has been an enthusiastic backer of Republican politicians, contributing the maximum allowable amount to the campaigns of the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and Fred Upson, chairman of the energy and commerce committee. He also contributed $6m to a committee backing an unsuccessful presidential bid by the former Texas governor Rick Perry.
A court challenge has allowed the project to go ahead even while Pres. Obama has temporarily pulled back the Army Corps of Engineers and has placed a temporary halt to construction on federal land.

Clinton's silence is deafening.

Monday, October 24, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Tom Hayden R.I.P.
Tom Hayden (1939-2016)
If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.” -- Port Huron Statement
Water protector, Chepa Cubias
 “I engaged in this action as part of my responsibility to my mother. If you see your mother violently attacked you run to put your body between her and the violent perpetrator. [Dakota Access was] right on burial grounds sacred to my Lakota relatives." -- Sacred Stone Camp
 Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault 
The DOJ should be enlisted and expected to investigate the overwhelming reports and videos demonstrating clear strong-arm tactics, abuses and unlawful arrests by law enforcement. Preventing government agencies from stripping protestors and tribal members of their constitutional rights to organize and protect our sacred places and water is paramount to both U.S. citizens and tribal sovereignty." -- West Dakota FOX 
 NAACP Chair Roslyn M. Brock
“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools. Our decision today is driven by a long-held principle and policy of the NAACP that high-quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.” -- Salon

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trump plans to do away with public school systems

Trump surrogate, Paladino calls educators, "pot-smokers from Vietnam era". Ouch!
If there was any doubt, Trump surrogate Carl Paladino made it perfectly clear that if his boss is elected his goal will be nothing less than the elimination of public education and complete liquidation of the nation's teacher unions.

Paladino, Trump's N.Y State co-chairman told a group of urban school superintendents yesterday, that Trump would seek to do away with “corrupted, incompetent” public school systems in America’s cities, replacing them with charter schools and vouchers for private schools.
Such an approach would “encourage competition in the marketplace and eventually dismantle the corrupted, incompetent urban school districts that we have in America today,” said Paladino, Trump’s New York State co-chairman, drawing audible boos from an audience composed largely of people who run the school districts Paladino criticized.
Paladino was unfazed: “A monopoly will not continue to work, it will not solve the problem,” he said, decrying what he described as school districts’ dysfunction and their “incestuous relationships with teachers unions.”  
I had to laugh when Paladino went on to attack higher education, referring to academics on college campuses as former “pot-smoking hippies back during the Vietnam era.” Was he referring to me? Has he visited a college campus recently? The median age of tenured faculty (who are now mostly replaced in the classroom by much younger adjuncts) is around 50. That would have made them about 5 years old in the Vietnam era.

Contrast that with Hillary Clinton's likely approach -- continuing Democrats' expansion of privately-run charters, side-by-side with support for traditional public schools with a common-core standards/curriculum and unionized teachers -- and you get a clear picture of the choice available to voters on Nov. 8th. It's not a great choice, but it's a choice.

There's also a progressive education platform, adopted after much internal struggle at the Democratic Convention, around which to organize, once HC is elected. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Looking back on the Chicago anti-Trump protest

"I was wondering what happened with my rally in Chicago and other rallies where we had such violence. She’s the one, and Obama, that caused the violence. They hired people, they paid them $1,500, and they’re on tape saying, be violent, cause fights, do bad things." -- DT
I was out of town on March 11, when thousands of protesters surrounded the UIC pavilion and sent Donald Trump packing. My loss. Turns out, at least according to the Trump campaign, I would have collected $1,500 from Hillary's people if I would only have taken part. Of course I would have had to engage in some fisticuffs to collect my money. It could have marked the beginning of a glorious prize fighting career, even at age 72.

Then again, my brother Fred and sister-in-law Anne took part and neither of them collected any dough -- at least that's what they told me.

I said at the time, that we would one day look back on the Chicago protest as the beginning of the end for his campaign. Now that the Republicans seem headed for a landslide defeat, up and down the ticket, the Chicago protest is being looked at once again as an early source of Trump's slide into the political abyss.

The mainly-peaceful (there were only 4 arrests) but militant protest not only forced Trump to cancel his planned, hate-filled anti-immigrant rally in the heart of Chicago, it also set the stage for the wave of youth activism and protest across the country, making it near impossible for the racist demagogue to campaign in cities with large black and Latino populations.

Some 43,000 undergraduate and graduate students had signed a petition asking UIC to cancel the rally by March 6. Up until March, Trump rallies had been marked by violent attacks on peaceful protesters, attacks encouraged from the podium by Trump himself, and aimed at intimidation. But surrounded by a huge young, multi-racial crowd, the bully was forced to retreat. His tough-guy mask ripped off.

The protest also helped the Sanders campaign activate enough support among young activists to nearly carry Illinois. If Hillary's campaign was indeed behind the protest (which they weren't) it was a colossal mistake on their part. At the time, Trump blamed Sanders for the clashes in Chicago, insisting that the protesters were "Bernie's crowd."  Actually the anti-Trump response was organized at the last moment by  University of Illinois Chicago students, MoveOn.org as wee asBernie Sanders supporters, to their credit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Chicago Pipeline Connection


Back from Standing Rock and already thinking about returning. There was some great news out of Morton County yesterday. A judge tossed out the "riot" charges against Democracy Now's Amy Goodman. Standing Rock friends tell me this morning that all the other felony cases have also been dropped.

But still, almost everywhere I turn, racist symbols abound. Watching Cleveland vs. Toronto in the ALCS, the racist Indian insignia is constantly in your face. If you Google Cleveland Indians you won't find the symbol on their page. Too embarrassing? But watching the game itself, it's displayed prominently.

Then I read this headline in the WSJ: Elizabeth Warren Claims a Scalp Remember, Trump is fond of referring to Sen. Warren as "Pocahontas".

I'm trying to write something for the MSM about the Chicago connections with Standing Rock and the pipeline protests. There's plenty of connections to write about. That's for certain.

For one thing, IL is on the asshole end of the 1,134-mile-long Black Snake that transports fracking oil from the Bakken region of ND down through IA, crossing about 40 rivers, threatening the drinking water of millions of people, before dumping it all out in our state.

Environmental racism is another connection. Remember, the pipeline was originally supposed to run through predominantly-white Bismark until residents protested and pushed it down to Lakota Sioux territory. In Chicago, isolated, poor black and Latino neighborhoods have become the main targets for toxic waste dumps, coal power plants, petcoke, and incinerators.

Then there's the politics of waterToday's DNAInfo reports that water at nearly half of Chicago parks has high levels of lead. There's even higher rates of lead pollution at the city's public schools drinking fountains.

And oh those pipeline investors. Bank of America, which has profited from those toxic debt swaps that helped bankrupt the schools, J.P. Morgan Chase (Bill Daley), Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, to name but a few. All big contributors to Rahm Emanuel's campaign.

The Chicago students who were with me on my last trip to Standing Rock are making their own connections. I'm sure we'll be hearing from them soon.


Monday, October 17, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman
"I came back to North Dakota to fight a trespass charge. They saw that they could never make that charge stick, so now they want to charge me with rioting. I wasn't trespassing, I wasn't engaging in a riot, I was doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters." -- Huffington Post
Racist Derek Black's epiphany 
He studied the 8th century to the 12th century, trying to trace back the modern concepts of race and whiteness, but he couldn’t find them anywhere. “We basically just invented it,” he concluded. -- Washington Post
Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP
“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools ― as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation. Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.” -- Huffington Post
Northwestern Prof Joseph Ferrie on New inequality Study
 New research suggests that social mobility in America may be even more limited than researchers have realized. “Any measure of mobility we have is too high. Whatever you thought, it’s worse.” -- Washington Post
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker
“In our democracy, those who vote decide everything; those who count the vote decide nothing,” -- Miami Herald

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rehabilitating Rahm Emanuel


After spending much of the past year in the Democrats' dog house, it appears Rahm is being rehabilitated. Now that Clinton feels that IL in the bag, it's becoming safe for party regulars, including POTUS himself, to be seen and even have their pictures taken with the mayor.

On Tuesday, Emanuel felt confident enough to announce that he intends to run for a third term in 2019. He's taking credit for putting city finances back on "solid ground" after crying just weeks ago, that the city was broke. He also wants props for averting a teachers strike.

The latest batch of Wikileaks posts confirm what many of us already knew and have been reporting for some time. They show Clinton campaign chair John Podesta being urged last March, before two Democratic debates and the Illinois primary, to have Clinton “separate big time” from a politically toxic Rahm, in the wake of the Chicago police shooting scandal and school closings.

At the time, Rahm's numbers in the city's black community were tumbling into single digits. They're not much better than that now. But it's pretty clear that Chicago's black voters are going to turn out for Hillary. After all, she's not Trump.

Emanuel’s woes in Chicago were also part of the fight between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who came within a whisker of out-polling the mayor in the IL primary. The warning came in a March 5, 2016 email to Podesta from Neera Tanden, a Clinton money bundler, who runs Podesta's Center for American Progress and who had been battling with black civil rights leaders to keep black voters in the fold.
“I got into it w Ben jealous last night and he was all obsessed w how Hillary hasn’t condemned Rahm,” Tanden said of the former NAACP leader who backed Bernie Sanders in the primary. “I’m sure you guys are all over this for the debate but just thought I’d send in that they may well go there for the debate. My rec is to separate big time.”
Cecelia Muñoz tried to prevent Rahm appointment
Some other leaks go back to 2008 when Obama was considering Rahm for his Chief of Staff. Cecilia Muñoz, currently director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, panicked at the idea. She wrote Podesta:
So I hate to bug you with anything else knowing how much must be going on, but the Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff rumor is circulating like wildfire...folks know how explosive that would be in my part of the world, no? The FIRST thing we'll get asked is why he picked someone who has been consistently hostile to immigrants, and we'll have to respond.
Obama did go on to appoint Emanuel just days after Muñoz' missive and Rahm used the COS position to block any and all immigration reform initiatives, just as she had feared. Rahm called immigration, the "third rail" of American politics.

With Rahm working to re-invent himself as a progressive and mending fences with the teachers union, it may now be safe for him to come out from under the bus and for Dems to be seen with him.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Big biz slams Rahm 'retreat' on CTU contract. But he was right.


Chicago teachers have won a major victory without going on strike. But the mayor is under fire from his own LaSalle Street pals for "taking the easy path" and "leaving another eventual crisis for somewhere down the road." They may be right on the latter, but Rahm had no choice but to use his corporate-friendly TIF slush fund if he was to avoid another teachers strike.

Crain's Greg Hinz scolds the mayor for his retreat on TIF, the 7% pension pick-up, and the building of another selective-enrollment high school in Lincoln Park.
After imposing more than $1.1 billion in new taxes for workers and related items last year, Emanuel apparently has decided not to push the limits of the public's patience any further. Or, for that matter, to risk a teachers strike just when Chicago Public Schools is showing signs of improvement, along with Emanuel's rating in the polls.
 Initially, Emanuel defended the TIF program against all attackers. Gradually, under pressure from both his financial bottom line and his political foes, he relented, agreeing to cap most expenditures in the city's thriving central area, and to carve off 20 percent of unencumbered TIF funds, or "surplus," each year and pass it out to CPS and other governments.
 So the schools, at Emanuel's direction, backed off. Yes, teachers hired after Jan. 1 will have the 7 percent deducted from their pay. But starting CPS pay will be increased 3.5 percent on Jan. 1, too, and bumped up another 3.5 percent July 1, so it's a $140 million wash.
In other words, faced with the CTU's unanimous show of rank-and-file solidarity in last month's strike vote, along with growing parent and community pressure to avoid a strike, Rahm did the only thing he could do. He bought four years of likely labor peace and maybe even a third term in office. And he did it without any help from Republican Gov. Rauner, who continues to hold the state's school budget hostage and who is the big political loser in the deal.

Is Rahm back in Clinton & Obama's good graces?
Rahm also took a potentially politically embarrassing (for Democrats) headline off the nation's front pages in the days leading up to the election. Maybe now Clinton/Obama will be willing to be seen with him once more.

As for his plan to build an elite Barack Obama High School on the north side, where selective-enrollment schools blossom like Starbucks, that deal is dead, at least for now. Rahm says his retreat is only "temporary" but I doubt that all the king's horses can put that Humpty Dumpty together again.

Of course his business pals are right. The fix is only temporary. But that's because neither Rahm nor the legislature will dare raise taxes on the state's wealthy, powerful one-percenters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A life changer

Arely Morales photo

The trip to Standing Rock was a "life changing experience" for these Chicago students.
Our group of 11 young people and 3 “old heads” from Chicago got back on the afternoon of “Indigenous People’s Day.” We are not the same people who left last Thursday. The stories and the people we met, the way were welcomed by elders, participating in traditional dances, the drums and prayers, the smoke rising in air, the incredible spirit of community and vision for a future that respects all people and all of life–all of it changed us. 
Lili Diaz Sanchez 
Arely Barrera
Arely Morales
More to come on this.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Chicago students heading home from Standing Rock

Chicago students with their brothers and sisters at the Lower Brule Nation's camp site. (Photo by Michele Noble)

There were lots of hugs, gift giving and a few tears as we said goodbye to Standing Rock and our hosts at the Lower Brule camp. LSNA students had a better night's sleep because the weather warmed some and the winds died down. In the morning it was time to tear down the tents and pack bags into the vans for the long ride home. Blankets, rope, clothing and whatever was donated by supporters back in Chicago, were piled up and left behind in Standing Rock.

I'll let the students speak for themselves when they get back, but several of them told me that this was a life-changing experience.

I just called them in their van, about an hour out of Chicago and they were watching the live stream of today's front-line protest action against the pipeline on their IPhones. As state police began to move in a make arrests, I heard some say they wanted to turn around an go back. Not possible, of course. 

Thanks again to everyone who supported the trip. I'll notify you when there's a public debriefing activity organized. In the mean time, students are planing articles and use of different types of media to tell their story.

WEEKEND QUOTABLES FROM A CRINGE-WORTHY DEBATE

Trump family women appear in self-defense mode.
TRUMP:-- 'It’s just words, folks. It’s just words...'
Last night, this happened...
COOPER: You called what you said locker room banter. You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?
TRUMP: No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk. 
 TRUMP: I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.
Naomi Klein's 2007 book documented the rise of "disaster capitalism" Last night Trump used word "disaster" 17 times.

Giuliani compares Donald Trump to St. Augustine
"I hate to get terribly theological about it, but ever read the Confessions of St. Augustine? Sometimes going through things like this makes you a much better person." -- The Week 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A warm welcome

Joining in on dancing around the campfire

After some 15 hours in their rented vans, a tired, but fired-up group of Chicago students rolled into Standing Rock about 6 p.m. Kudos to LSNA adult leaders Nancy and Juliet for doing the bulk of the driving.

First stop was the Lower Brule Sioux camp where they were welcomed by camp elders, Travis and Louis. Within an hour, while there was still enough sunlight, students had assembled their tents and camping gear. Not bad for a bunch of city kids.

Putting up the tents.
Then we marched up the hill to the main camp to join in to the evening rituals -- traditional campfire, singing, dancing, drumming.

One by one, students took the community mic, introduced themselves and talked about why they had come.

Some talked about their identity quest after learning about their DNA links to indigenous and African ancestry. Others about their struggles back in their own community against gentrification and displacement.

They were greeted with loud applause and then a long line of tribal members and visitors welcomed each one personally with handshakes and hugs. It was a scene I will always carry with me.

After joining in on the dancing,  we hiked back down the hill where Lower Brule folks had built us a fire and cooked up some chili and hot coffee to help take the chill out of the evening air. More talk. More stories exchanged.

A great beginning.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Busy first day back at Standing Rock

I took this picture at 6:30 p.m. By 8 p.m. the tepee construction was complete

The ride down from Bismarck was easy. I decided to take the main road, Hwy. 1806, to Standing Rock rather than trying to evade the roadblock. It's now manned by National Guardsmen, mobilized by the state's right-wing governor, instead of by state cops, and I wanted to check it out.

The young trooper in well-pressed, camouflaged fatigues was very polite. I suppose he saw an old white guy, driving alone in a rented Ford SUV and figured I was headed over to the casino in Ft. Yates.

"There's a protest going on, about 20 miles down the road," he warns.

"No shit", I don't say.

"So, slow down when you get close. There may be people out on the road."

"I sure will."

He waves me through, smiles and says, "Good luck at the casino."

About 20 minutes later, I pass the now dormant front-line camp and then turn into the main camp. I have a friendly chat with the two guys manning security at the entrance, tell them who I am and why I'm back. They remind me -- no weapons, no drugs, no booze. I'm good with that, of course.

The encampment looks a little different than it did a few weeks ago when heavy rains had left us ankle-deep in mud, car wheels spinning and stuck vehicles needing a push up the hill.  Now everything is dry. But temperatures have dropped and cold winds whip through the camp. You can feel winter coming on and the hard-core people are digging in and building traditional cold-weather housing. I'm going to look at some new, traditional home construction-in-progress later today.

Chicago students ready to go.
Up on "Facebook Hill",  which I climb to get better cell reception, a new media tent has been erected after the last one was demolished by the wind. Mainstream media has pretty much vanished from the camp now that the violent confrontations have died down and the dogs have been called off. But maybe they will return this weekend for Indigenous Peoples Day.

When I say, the front-line is dormant, I mean that confrontations between camp militants, "protectors of the water" and police and company thugs have stopped for the time being. I think it's because of pressure from the Obama administration, the temporary shutdown of Army Corps of Engineers operations, and seemingly contradictory appeals court rulings coming out of Washington.

I spent the morning finding a good, sheltered camp space for the Chicago students who should be pulling in to camp by this afternoon. I connected with Lower Brule Tribe Camp leader Louis Grassrope who generously invited us to set up our students' tents there, in a circle around a fire pit. Invitation accepted.

In the afternoon, I wandered around the main camp meeting people who have travelled here from far and wide. I helped unload a trailer of supplies that had just arrived, and then went over to the  Mni Wichoni Na KIciziy Owayawa or Defenders of Water Elementary School, where I watched teacher Theresa, who I met a few weeks ago, reading stories to her kids. They were sitting next to her on a rug or sprawled out on sleeping bags. A beautiful sight.

I'm hoping some of our students can volunteer at the school, even though it may not be open on the weekend. Outside the school tepee I met two veteran teachers, Mary Hadley and Sadie Bell, from the Wind River Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming. We talked about the benefits of total immersion approach to language acquisition. I was so over my head. But we'll talk more today.

Teachers Mary Headley and Sadie Bell 
Our chat was interrupted by a call for volunteers to drive someone to the hospital emergency room in Ft. Yates, about 30 miles up the road. I offered and got to meet Emanuel, a 23-year-old Havasupai from the Grand Canyon.  He had come to Standing Rock with 19 members of his tribe but remained with his cousin after the rest of the group went home. He's diabetic and was visibly suffering, close to shock and without his meds. I got him to the emergency room in time where they treated him and hooked him up with medication. He tells me, he's catching the Greyhound back  home today.

After that adventure I took a badly-needed nap and then spent the evening standing around a fire with Nick, a drummer from Oregon; John and his friend from western Mass., environmentalists working on a book; and Tiokasin Ghosthorse, a Cheyenne River Sioux who did the First Voices radio show in N.Y. on WBAI. He's a mind bender.

My clothes and jacket all smell like firewood ash this morning. What a great smell.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bismarck

I'm driving down to Cannonball from Bismarck this morning, looking to evade the National Guard's roadblocks (it's really not that hard to do) and meet friends at the Standing Rock encampment by noon.

The thing about Bismarck, which sits on the banks of the Missouri River, is that it was the original planned site for the Dakota Access pipeline. But loud protests by the city's 92%-white citizens, rightfully worried about an inevitable leak polluting their water supply, forced the Dallas-based pipeline company and the Army Corps of Engineers to divert the pipeline south through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Talk about your white-skin privilege.

Bismarck is the second largest city (67,000) in ND after Fargo and the 10th fastest growing in the U.S. But more interesting to me is that the encampment at Standing Rock, built in a valley on federal land near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers. is now one of the biggest, newest communities in North Dakota, with a population at times swelling to 4,000. Only 25 of North Dakota's 357 towns have more than 2,000 people.

The LSNA student delegation, riding in two rented vans, will be leaving Chicago this afternoon. It's a long ride, about 13 hours, and I'm hoping their trip is without incident and they arrive in camp tomorrow at least somewhat rested and in time to set up their tents before nightfall. Should be quite an adventure. This will be the first time camping for many of them.

Strong winds are gusting across the Great Plains this time of year and temperatures at night are dipping into the low 30s. These winds make Chicago's hawk off of Lake Michigan, seem like a gentle breeze. If you're coming this way, better wear layers and hammer those tent pegs deep in the ground.

I'm going to look for a group campsite near the tree line to try and keep everyone from being blown away.

On the legal front... The should be a ruling today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, on the appeal by Standing Rock Sioux's lawyers, calling for temporary restraining order against the pipeline's construction.

A federal judge denied the tribe's request to temporarily halt construction of the pipeline last month, but the Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and Department of the Interior intervened in an unprecedented manner with a joint statement requesting "that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe."

Tribal leaders viewed the joint statement from the three federal agencies as a temporary victory, but still appealed the judge's ruling in order to make the request for a "voluntary pause" an enforceable court order, bringing them back to court yesterday.

A positive ruling by the court would be a big victory and morale booster for the encampment's protectors of the water.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Heading back to Standing Rock

  Flyer on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque
I'm on my way to Bismarck this morning where I will pick up some goods and head back down to the Standing Rock encampment. What's different about this trip is that I will be joined on Friday by two vans filled with Chicago high school and college students.

The trip has been organized by our local community organization, Logan Square Neighborhood Association. My wife, Susan is an LSNA board member whose report to the board following last trip to Standing Rock in September helped encourage this trip. The main spark for the journey came from a youth leadership program organized by LSNA. Several in the group received DNA test results revealing their Native ancestry.

The students tell me, they see the struggle in North Dakota as their own.

This should be a great learning experience for all of us, especially being there on Columbus Day Indigenous Peoples Day to support Native American rights and the struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Among the students heading to Standing Rock
Our last trip to Standing Rock ended with a quick return to Chicago to witness the birth of our new granddaughter, Isadora. This time, I plan to be back in time to walk the picket lines with striking Chicago teachers who've been working without a contract for more than a year. As of now, it looks like 26,000 CTU members will hit the bricks on October 10th.

Thanks go out to all those who contributed money and who are still dropping off badly-need supplies, at the LSNA office, including warm clothing and medical supplies, to bring up to the encampment. The students are still about $1,500 short of their goal to pay for their journey to North Dakota. So if you haven't already contributed, you can still do it here. 

Special thanks go out to Barbara Madeloni, president of the 110,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) who sent us a nice-sized personal check. Barbara is a staunch advocate for students and educators in the public schools and public higher education system in Massachusetts where the battle to stop the expansion of privately-run charter schools is raging.

I'm excited to hear that Denver has just joined a list of several other large cities in doing away with Columbus Day and designating the same second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

According to the Denver Post:
Last October, the council passed a one-time proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. But this year the city is following Boulder, which in August became the 14th U.S. community to recognize an annual day honoring Native Americans. Other cities on the list include Albuquerque, Seattle, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore.
I'm still waiting for Hillary Clinton to follow Pres. Obama's lead and say something in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and in opposition to the pipeline. #NoDAPL

Monday, October 3, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES


Cody Hall, Standing Rock camp spokesman
"We're not leaving until we defeat this big black snake."  -- Chicago Tribune
Rahm's spokesman Adam Collins
 “We believe an agreement can be reached since we both agree teachers should get a raise and their pensions should be secured.” -- Tribune's Bill Ruthhart
Bernie Sanders on Clinton's leaked comments
 "What she was saying there is absolutely correct. And that is, you've got millions of young people, many of whom took out loans in order to go to college, hoping to go out and get decent-paying, good jobs. And you know what? They're unable to do that. And yes, they do want a political revolution. They want to transform this society." --  ABC's "This Week."
Judge Steven Teske
“Zero tolerance as a philosophy and approach is contrary to the nature of adolescent cognition,” he told a Senate subcommittee in 2012. For all the arrests, suspensions and expulsions that he had observed, “school safety did not improve,” he said. If anything, “the juvenile crime rate in the community significantly increased.” “These kids lost one of the greatest protective buffers against delinquency — school connectedness." -- New York Times
LeBron James may have just carried Ohio for Clinton
 There’s still a lot of work to be done in Akron, Northeast Ohio, and all across our great country. We need a president who understands our community and will build on the legacy of President Obama. So let’s register to vote, show up to the polls, and vote for Hillary Clinton. -- Business Insider

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Rahm Emanuel's bizarre Trump-like assault on Chicago teachers

Rahm, an embarrassment to the Clinton campaign. 
Mayor 1% is back at it.

He has the power to avoid next week's teachers strike with a reasonable contract offer. There's TIF money within reach to solve the immediate problems.

Instead, he's gone off on the city's teachers in bizarre, Trump-like fashion, claiming that if teachers strike, they chose disrupting children's education over pay raises. He goes on to call it a "strike of choice, not necessity".

The implication is that teachers -- who've been hit by mass firings of 1,000 teachers and staff, who are being threatened with an end to the pension pick-up, which amounts to a 7% pay cut and who've working without a contract for more than a year -- are just walking out for the hell of it.

If this is "a strike of choice", it's the mayor's choice and I predict, he will pay dearly for it as he did four years ago.

Jesse Sharkey, the CTU's vice president, says the union is taking its stand due to the contract status but also to cuts—to pay, school staffing and services like librarians and special education professionals.
“This is in the mayor's power to solve,” Sharkey said. “This is the mayor's problem."
As you may recall, Rahm used those same strike of choice words (see Chicago teacher Greg Michie's 2012 piece in Huffington) in the weeks leading up to the 2012 strike. His strategy backfired, only increasing citywide parent support for the ultimately victorious teachers. 

For Rahm, that strike, along with his massive school closings, marked the beginning of his slide to the bottom. Remember, he was forced to bring Barbara Byrd-Bennett in through the back door to replace his incompetent CEO J.C. Brizard, at the bargaining table. That led to her ascendancy to the top of the system and to the great SUPES corruption scandal that followed. The school system has never recovered.

Four years later, Rahm's ratings are in the toilet, especially in the black community and parent support for the teachers is building once more. The CTU, on the other hand is unified, as this week's 95% strike vote showed.

Rahm's faithful anti-union flack, Peter Cunningham has also been echoing the mayor's line on Twitter. It's what he does. Here he complains about those greedy Chicago teachers:
Brother Fred responds
First, to be clear, having the highest paid teachers in the country means nothing when you look at the data. Being the highest paid in a profession that notoriously is non-competitive with those in comparable professions hardly earns a smiley face. 
The difference between the salaries of teachers in major urban districts like Chicago, LA and NY is negligible. Being first means nothing. Teacher salaries in major urban districts are way below what someone with similar college degrees, certification and years of experience earn in the private sector. 
With what we know about the current CPS offer on the table is that a third of the teachers in Chicago are not eligible to receive any step or lane movement, meaning without a fair salary increase, they will earn even less in the future.
Not to be outdone, Tribune editors (preceding their endorsement of Gary "Where's Aleppo?" Johnson for president, blamed CTU teachers for causing the "chaos and exodus" from Chicago public schools.

Again, Cunningham picks up this ludicrous charge and runs with it.
Does Rahm really want another strike in the weeks leading up to the election, while Gov. Rauner sits on the mountain laughing as the tigers fight below? Isn't the mayor already an embarrassment to his patrons, the Clintons, who won't get within a mile of him and who need a big-city teachers strike right now like Republicans need another Trump?

SAVE THE CHICAGO READER! -- “Help us win the fight for the Reader: its bold writing must be saved,” writes Ben Joravsky on Medium:
“If you like the Reader — if you appreciate its voice of independence in politics and the arts — help us out. Please put pressure on Wrapports. Let them know they should invest the money to build the paper and pay its workers a fair wage. To continue down this path means a great Chicago newspaper will slowly die.”