Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Not with a bang but a whimper.[

Hollow Men
So this is the way Trump goes out. Not with a bang but a whimper, to borrow from T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men. And if there was ever a fitting description for D.T. and his White House crew, hollow men (and women) is it. 

His MAGA insurrection apparently has turned out to be a dud, having shot its wad on January 6th. His Republican Party is in tatters as rumors spread of a new fascist "Patriot Party" under his command. Democrats can only wish. 

His plan for lifetime immunity from criminal prosecution evaporated after his own lawyers told him that pardons for himself and his grifter family wouldn't hold up in state courts and would only further incriminate him. The only hope the grifter clan has for staying out of prison rests with his appointed Supreme Court trio or the benevolence of Biden and the Democrats. 

Ironically, the one pardon he issued of any consequence was for his fascist muse, Steve Bannon, who stands accused of bilking Trump's own supporters out of hundreds of millions of dollars, money that was supposed to go towards building his glorious border wall. As P.T. Barnum used to say: "There's a sucker born every minute."

This morning's planned farewell rally, originally envisioned as a counter-inauguration, turned into little more than fodder for SNL with invitees being asked to bring five guests with them. The irony, which may have been lost on the dum-dums in the tiny crowd, was the playing of Credence's Fortunate Son as D.T.'s chopper landed at Edwards. 

It ain't me, it ain't me
I ain't no millionaire's son
It ain't me, it ain't me
I ain't no fortunate one

Gotta go now. Gaga is singing the National Anthem at the Inauguration. She'll be followed by JLo doing This Land is Your Land. 

Wish you were here to see this, Woody. 

Monday, January 18, 2021


Dr. King is arrested for "loitering" in Montgomery, Alabama, in September 1958.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated. -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The Radical King”, Beacon Press

WHO's Mike Ryan on year 1 of Covid

We can blame climate change. We can blame policy decisions made 30 years ago regarding everything from urbanization to the way we exploit the forest," he said. "You can find people to blame in every level of what we're doing on this planet." -- Beacon Journal 

President-elect Joe Biden

 “We remain in a very dark winter,” Mr. Biden told Americans on Friday. “The honest truth is this: Things will get worse before they get better.” -- New York Times

 Bill Barr To Trump...

Your 'clownish' legal team is lying and your voter fraud claims are 'bullsh*t'. -- Crooks & Liars

Jesse Wegman

 The rioters incited by President Trump and Republicans to storm the seat of the federal government on Jan. 6 did not have Mr. Warnock’s name on their lips. They didn’t have to. In their eagerness to destroy American democracy rather than share it, they showed themselves to be the inheritors of a long tradition of rebellion against a new world order: a genuine, multiracial democracy. -- New York Times Op-Ed


Friday, January 15, 2021

Trump's last few days. 'Loot, pillage, and burn.'

National Guard Troops sleeping on the floor of the Capitol.

Trump isn't sticking around D.C. until the very end
. He's hopping on the next Air Force 1 headed for Florida where he can watch in the safety of Mar-a-Lago as his confederate gangs threaten to lynch lawmakers and try and bring D.C. and 50 state capitols to a violent, chaotic halt. They won't succeed in restoring the defeated Trump regime to power. But they could leave many casualties and lots of property damage in their wake again. The state's repressive forces arrayed against them, will likely be a deterrent. If not, they will be overpowering. As many as 25 thousand troops are so far deployed. That's more than are currently deployed in the Middle East. 

By this afternoon, 43 troops had reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. 

The problem with state repressive forces is that they threaten the freedom and civil liberties of all of us, not just the fascists and white supremacist MAGA thugs. And that repressive, official militarized force, aided and abetted by a reactionary Supreme Court, is just what the MAGAs are trying to provoke. There's already a Republican-led move, likely to draw some Democratic support, to push through new anti-riot laws. As if there isn't a shitload of those already on the books. 

Within one day of last week’s attack on the Capitol, at least three states used the MAGA insurrection as an excuse to introduce legislation to criminalize protest, legislation that couldn't have passed in the days following the Black Lives Matter protests. There's even talk, now circulating within both parties, of dusting off old anti-sedition laws.  

In his last days in office, Trump and what's left of his party, are carrying out their loot, pillage, and burn strategy in order to make it impossible for Biden to implement pandemic relief or to undo the political and economic damage the Republicans caused during the past four years. 

Among the Trumpists' last-days priorities is the carrying out of court-sanctioned federal executions.  A Black man, Corey Johnson, 52, became the twelfth inmate put to death at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana since the Trump administration restarted federal executions following a 17-year hiatus. He was pronounced dead at 11:34 last night. His execution followed by days the killing of the only woman on federal death row: Lisa Montgomery.

Dustin Higgs will likely be put to death tonight

What a monstrous regime! It's not hard to imagine what the years ahead might look like had Trump been reelected. It may be too late, even with the impeachment process, to keep him and his cult followers at bay during these next 5 days and beyond.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Dow is still a four-letter word to me

“Dow is committed to the principles of democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. Our values – integrity, respect for people, and protecting our planet – are the foundation on which we stand and our values guide our political contributions,” the company wrote.

Ruling Class Splits are important to note and utilize, when possible. But this one is unfathomable. The chemical giant Dow has announced it's suspending all PAC contributions “to any member of Congress who voted to object to the certification of the presidential election.” The suspension will last for one election cycle — two years for representatives and up to six years for senators.

Upon hearing this news, an old San Fernando Valley State College SDS comrade sent me some old clips to remind me of the battles we SDSers waged against Dow, the main manufacturer of napalm and other chemical weapons during the Vietnam War. 

 On May 7, 1966, Daily Breeze reporter 
Bob Rawitch [my former editor at the SFVC Daily Sundial] sat in on a regional meeting in Los Angeles of a relatively new left-wing group, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In the next day’s Breeze, he reported on the group’s tentative plans to picket the Dow plant in Torrance and to distribute 5,000 leaflets protesting the use of napalm in the Vietnam War.

The demonstration was scheduled for Saturday, May 28, during the Memorial Day weekend. Two pro-war groups announced plans to counter the SDS protest: the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), and the Victory in Viet Nam Association (VIVA), whose South Bay branch was headed by future congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Dow plant manager vowed to conduct “business as usual” at the plant during the protest, and Torrance Police Chief Walter Koenig assured residents that the department was equipped to handle “any demonstration disturbance that might arise.”

NO BUSINESS AS USUAL soon became our mantra as we shut down universities across the country in protest of Dow Chemical and the genocidal war from which they were profiteering and still are. 

Fast forward 56 years and we find Dow, their brand threatened by association after last week's MAGA assault on the Capitol, announcing that they were cutting donations to the election deniers.  

Over the weekend, several other large companies — Marriott, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Commerce Bancshares — announced a suspension of donations to members of Congress who voted against election certification. Monday, the list expanded to Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Airbnb, Mastercard, and Verizonlp. Hallmark has even asked for its money back from two of the senators who opposed certification, Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall. 

But here's the thing. Only those who just fell off the pumpkin truck will buy this sudden corporate about-face. Temporarily cutting-off donations, with a wink and a nod to right-wing PACs, only makes people more aware that these companies have been buying politicians and underwriting Trump and his MAGAs to the tune of millions each year since 2016. And there's little doubt that they've gotten their money's worth. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Wednesday was a MAGA dress rehearsal

It appears that Wednesday's assault on the U.S. Capitol was only a dress rehearsal for so-called Million Militia Marches leading up to Inauguration Day, with armed white-supremacist and fascist groups primed to attack government buildings and perceived enemy politicians in all 50 states. 

As with the online chatter ahead of that assault on the Capitol, new online calls to action are rife with insurrection talk and vows to bring guns to Washington in defiance of the city's strict weapons laws. Twitter cited some of these posts in its announcement Friday night stripping Trump of his account and preventing him from creating new ones in the future. Some event listings are openly discussing delivering "justice" for Ashli Babbitt, a rioter and Air Force veteran who was fatally shot by police inside the Capitol on Wednesday.

Unlike the first assault, which was an attempt to overturn the Democrats' electoral victory and keep Trump in power, the next actions, planned or unplanned, reflect a lack of faith in electoral politics on the part of the MAGAs. An online militia forum called for recruits in Kentucky because "diplomatic efforts have been exhausted."

Whereas the last riot had a semi-official air about it, having been inspired and called for by the POTUS himself, the next rounds will be organized mainly by loosely-affiliated Republican and other right-wing groups, Proud Boys, and neo-Confederates, who apparently have given up on any electoral or constitutional path to power. Most have already turned on Trump and Pence for having sold them out last week. 

For example, the St. Croix County, WI Republican Party is telling its members to "prepare for war" and to remove "leftist tyrants" from office. Scrawled across the top of the party's homepage is the Latin phrase "Si vis pacem, para bellum," which is followed by its translation: "If you want peace, prepare for war."

But rather than influence the next elections, the next wave is designed to cause fear and chaos, including disruption of the pandemic recovery. This, the very definition of terrorism. 

The question prepared will police, FBI, Secret Service, and the military be for another round of riots? Once shooting begins, security efforts have already failed and the fascists have succeeded. They are quite willing to use their rank-and-file protesters as human shields and cannon fodder. Another question has to do with cops and even elected officials taking part or even leading the assaults as was the case Wednesday. 

Here in Chicago, aldermen and community activists are demanding the resignation of John Catanzara, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police after he came out in full-throated support of the Trumpists, making excuses for the riots even as rioters caused the deaths of capitol cops. 


As long as we're talking impeachment, why not start here? Globally, there were more than a half-million new corona cases reported yesterday. One-third of them in the U.S. alone. US deaths: 375,373 (up 1,365 from yesterday). This with a president and political regime purposefully sabotaging Covid recovery and enabling massive profiteering off the pandemic. 


The department with the oxymoronic name Homeland Security is in total shambles and that's probably a good thing. With the main threat to national security coming from the White House rather than from foreign terrorists, and the inability (unwillingness) of the regime to protect even itself against Trump-inspired, white-supremacist, domestic terrorism, another DHS director has called it quits. 

Chad Wolf, who was never formally appointed, lasted only 14 months before joining the mass exodus of rats from this sinking ship. How do you "resign" from a post to which you were never appointed? Beats me. Wolf was roundly condemned for his role as Trump's wingman in the war on immigrants. If one thing has become clear since Wednesday, it's that the main threat to homeland security is homegrown, not imported.

Monday, January 11, 2021



Another man, wearing a red Trump hat, told the officers, “We backed you guys in the summer. When the whole country hated you, we had your back.” At this point, one officer guarding the door said to the others, “They’re ready to roll,” and gestured to them to come with him, the video shows. The officers stepped away from the door together and moved to an adjacent wall. -- Washington Post

Joe Biden 

"We need a Republican Party..." -- Intelligencer 

You fill in the rest. Ie. "like a fish needs a bicycle." 

 Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Wednesday was the day of broken glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol. But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted.” -- Video
Robert Reich
That the attempted coup failed shouldn’t blind us to its significance or the stain it has left on America. Nor to the importance of holding those responsible fully accountable. Trump’s culpability is beyond dispute. -- Guardian 

 Mike Davis

Predictably liberal pundits are now telling us that the far-right has committed suicide, that the age of Trump has ended, and that the Democrats are free to build their shining city on the hill. In fact, the riot was a deus ex machina that lifted the curse of Trump from the careers of conservative war hawks and rightwing young lions whose higher ambitions have been fettered by the presidential cult. -- Guardian

Chicago F.O.P. Prez

 “As your President, I showed a lapse in judgement [sic] yesterday during an interview. For that I am sorry. I brought negative attention to our Lodge, the FOP family, and law enforcement in general. -- Sun-Times

Fascist site folds. Abandoned by corporate backers

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Double win in GA could provide resources needed for a safe national school-reopening campaign

What a great double victory in GA! 
I stayed up most of the night watching the results come in like any good political junkie would. Now I'm trying to unwind and crank out a blog post before grabbing some badly-needed shut-eye. 

Wins for John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, against tough odds, open up new possibilities for Biden to transcend his "bi-partisan" fantasy and advance a progressive agenda that begins to undo much of the damage from the Trump era. As of this writing, Warnock has been declared the winner while Ossoff's lead of 16,370 votes is now greater than that of Joe Biden's over Donald Trump in Georgia (11,779 votes). 

I'm imagining with glee how DT must be beating up on his white supremacist toadies Loeffler and Perdue, over losing to a Jewish liberal and the Black preacher from Dr. King's old Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Thanks and some dough should go out to all the organizers on the ground throughout the state, led of course by Stacey Abrams and her statewide political organization as well as many union brothers and sisters from around the country (including Chicago) and the multi-racial movement of the poor and civil rights groups who have been plowing the Georgian political fields for decades. 

That progressive agenda includes real federal pandemic relief (immediately including $2,000 checks), rent, and debt-relief for those working, unemployed and poor families in greatest need and aggressively leading the war against COVID. 

It must also include a massive program of relief for public school systems ravaged under Betsy DeVos and her predecessors, as well as support for a national reopening of schools on the scale of the Marshall Plan. This federal initiative needs to be put in place apart from or alongside current hit-or-miss efforts by local school boards, many of which have been marked by confusion and division at a time when trust, clarity, and unity in the community are necessary prereqs. 

The key to a safe, full-scale reopening is prioritizing teachers and school staff for vaccination. They should be classified nationally as essential workers with schools used centers for vaccine distribution and community health education.

I'll be talking more about reopening our schools tonight at 10 ET on the Rick Smith Show. Tune in at

Monday, January 4, 2021


Right Ruling for the wrong reason...A British judge has blocked the extradition to the U.S. of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, ruling that “Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”

Trump to Raffensperger

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have." Raffensperger’s Twitter response: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.” -- AP

Sen. Dick Durbin (IL)

President Trump's call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) "merits nothing less than a criminal investigation." In his statement calling for an investigation, the No. 2 Senate Democrat labeled the conversation as "more than a pathetic rambling, delusional rant."

"His disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the legally confirmed vote totals in his state strikes at the heart of our democracy and merits nothing less than a criminal investigation." -- The Hil

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backs Pelosi for Speaker

...a progressive leader, backed Pelosi and told reporters that Democratic unity was important “at a time when the Republican Party is attempting an electoral coup.” -- AP

Trump ~ Fauci

The number of "China Virus" cases and deaths in the U.S. are "far exaggerated," President Donald Trump said on Twitter. He cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's methodology. "When in doubt, call it Covid. Fake News!" Trump said.

Anthony Fauci, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, said anyone who went into the "trenches" – intensive care units at hospitals across the nation – will quickly realize how severe the virus is. He called the statistics "real numbers, real people and real deaths."

Trump shot back on Twitter: "Something how Dr. Fauci is revered by the LameStream Media as such a great professional, having done, they say, such an incredible job, yet he works for me and the Trump Administration, and I am in no way given any credit for my work. Gee, could this just be more Fake News?" --  USA Today

Friday, January 1, 2021

Big changes needed if we are to control the global pandemic and open schools here.

OK, Merle. We've made it through December. Now what?

As we head into the new year, I'm thinking like everyone else, good riddance to Trump and 2020. I've had the words to the old Merle Haggard song, If We Make It Through December, buzzing through my brain. But by yesterday afternoon, I've had reset my expectations to... if we make it through the '20s... 

NBC reports that Pence's so-called Operation Warp Speed is moving at such a crawl that adequately vaccinating Americans will take 10 years at the current pace. Unless things change quickly, that will wreak havoc on global pandemic recovery, including school openings here in the U.S. 

Sorry to sound so gloomy at the start of a new year. I'm really not. Unlike some of my lefty friends who think the history of progress ended with Bernie's primary loss, I am bouyed by Trump's defeat and will be even more so if Warnock and Ossoff pull off victories in Georgia next week.

However, I'm definitely a school-opening person and schools can't open safely without a mass inoculation program for all teachers and school staff and ultimately, kids and parents. All that's now looking more and more out of reach -- at least for a spring school opening. 

JUST IN: 143,924 people in Illinois — including Chicago — have gotten the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Gov. Pritzker’s office. That includes all residents and staff members who consented to the vaccine at state-run veterans’ homes, officials say.

That's good, but not nearly good enough. The reason for the under-inoculation? Sabotage by the Republicans and the Trump White House who have strangled the states and cities since the start of the pandemic. The latest puny pandemic recovery bill, passed with bipartisan support, was a slap in the face for working families, the unemployed, and local municipalities overwhelmed by COVID recovery efforts. 

Without massive federal support, it will be ten times more difficult to get the pandemic under control and for schools to open safely.

ONE FINAL POINT HERE --- Vaccine nationalism has become the main impediment to containing the pandemic. Trump's December 8th executive order specifying that the Americans get first access to any vaccine, formalized with fanfare what has already been de facto U.S. policy. And it's obviously been a failure, not only in terms of spreading the vaccine globally but here as well. 

The lesson is that given the global economy, no country is safe from the ravages of COVID while the rest of the world is in the clutches of this killer disease. 

Even in China, where the virus has been under control for months, a small mutation entering the country on a visitor or in a shipment of food, can throw the entire country into chaos and another lockdown. 

With the White House withholding foreign aid and shipments of vaccine to needy countries, they are increasingly turning to China for the vaccine. 

Fighting COVID requires a global effort and global scientific and medical collaboration. Cold War, anti-China containment policies currently in fashion in both parties just won't do. The incoming Biden administration has an opportunity to tone down the Trumpian rhetoric and reach new trade and anti-COVID agreements with China for the sake of world peace, health, and stability. 

In the latest issue of Foreign AffairsFareed Zakaria argues that the United States needs to temper its reflexive hostility toward China, recognize China’s rise as a feature of the new global order, and craft a strategy of engagement plus deterrence. I'm not sure what he means by "deterrence" but this is a much better line than the one currently holding sway. 

The consequences of exaggerating the Soviet threat were vast: gross domestic abuses during the McCarthy era; a dangerous nuclear arms race; a long, futile, and unsuccessful war in Vietnam; and countless other military interventions in various so-called Third World countries. The consequences of not getting the Chinese challenge right today will be vaster still. 

He's right. 

Monday, December 28, 2020



Debra Haaland, the next Sec. of the Interior

“I’ll be fierce for all of us, for our planet, and all of our protected land,” said Haaland in her acceptance speech. “This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ us. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.” -- Guardian

'Not Tuskegee...'

“This ain’t that, I’ll say it again, this ain’t that,” Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer (2nd) said. “I want to get the message across that this is not Tuskegee; this is about you and about your children and about your generation.” -- Sun-Times

Kim Foxx

 “If we recognize substance abuse disorder as a health condition, then we must modify our justice system to treat it as such,” she said. “Criminalizing health is not in the interest of public safety.” -- Sun-Times interview

 CNN's Jake Tapper 

...says he won't have Kayleigh McEnany on his show because she “lies the way most people breathe.” -- Independent

NY State Dem Party Boss Jay Jacobs

AOC hasn't signaled a run for the Senate. But that didn't stop Jacobs from warning her not to challenge Chuck Schumer.  

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would “absolutely” lose a challenge if she went head-to-head against the veteran Democratic lawmaker, said Jacobs — who noted he’s yet to meet the Queens rep. -- NY Post


Monday, December 21, 2020

Police reform? Where is it?

The Anjanette Young case is one more brick-in-the-wall story about a racist political system. It's a system that reproduces racial inequality, criminalizes and incarcerates Black people, allows cops to "legally" bust down doors and invade homes in the middle of the night, abuse, and even kill women like Young and Breonna Taylor. 

The raid occurred nearly two years ago when CPD cops broke into the home of Young, a social worker who was undressing when they barged in looking for a suspect. Young, standing naked and handcuffed, cried repeatedly that the officers had the wrong address.

So now the city's council has "resigned". The former police chief has been fired and Mayor Lightfoot is rightfully taking heat for her mishandling of the aftermath. 

But Mayor Emanuel, on whose watch this racist assault took place, is up for a Biden cabinet position, and the CPD perpetrators are still on the job, and with easy warrants obtained via informants' misinfo, are still breaking down doors. 

Where is Reform? 

Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 President John Catanzara

Meanwhile... The head of Chicago's FOP, who calls Muslims "savages" and says "they all deserve a bullet..."  He's still on the city payroll

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The path towards safe school reopenings

Chicago has plans for a phased school reopening starting in January if the spread of the virus stabilizes, but the local teachers’ union says cases remain too high. Credit...Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

I don't see any pathway to safe urban school reopenings without first classifying teachers and school staff as essential, frontline workers, and putting them near the top of the vaccine priority list. This should be part of a national campaign championed by the incoming Sec. of Education. Schools should also become centers for mass community inoculation. 

Two things are clear to me. Schools can't open without support from a critical mass of teachers and teachers aren't going to be bullied back into the classroom without evidence that those classrooms are reasonably safe. 

The nation’s roughly three million full-time teachers are already considered essential workers by the C.D.C., which means that in states that follow federal recommendations, they are already eligible to receive the vaccine after hospital employees and nursing home residents.

But, says the New York Times...

The essential worker group is huge — some 87 million Americans — and states will have flexibility in how they prioritize within that population. Many more people work in schools than just teachers, including nurses, janitors, and cafeteria workers, and it is unclear how many of them would be included on the high-priority list.

Last month, more than 10 educational organizations, including the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions, wrote to the C.D.C. asking that school employees be considered a priority group.

But even after educators are inoculated, lots of other measures will need to be put in place before city classrooms can be truly considered safe learning places for both teachers and students. Even after being vaccinated, Teachers could still be silent spreaders. Schools will likely need to continue requiring masks and distancing students for many months until community spread has sharply dropped. 

Public school educators and outside experts need to consider radical school redesigns to meet community needs in the pandemic and post-pandemic era. But that kind of project will require massive federal and state resources and an effort to find common ground between school boards, big-city mayors, and the unions. Either on the national from or here in Chicago, I don't see that happening for the time being.

Certainly not without Democrats in control of the Senate, and even then... 

Cardona & Fenwick

CHOOSING HIS ED SECRETARY...It looks like President-elect Biden is finally close to naming his education secretary. His people just dropped the names of two short-listed candidates to the Washington Post -- Howard University emeritus Ed School Dean Leslie Fenwick and Miguel Cardona, the commissioner of schools in Connecticut.

I don't know much about either one. So I'll go by WaPo's description of each:

Fenwick is a Black woman, and Cardona is a Latino man. Both have experience as classroom teachers, though Fenwick has worked as a dean and scholar in higher education for many years...

...Fenwick has criticized education programs such as Teach For America — a nonprofit that for years recruited only new college graduates, gave them five weeks of summer training and placed them in high-need schools — and the move to inject competition and corporate-inspired management techniques into schools. She’s also spoken against for-profit charter schools and taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.

... Cardona sees an urgency to in-person school and has pushed districts to offer that to parents, said spokesman Peter Yazbak.

“His position has been that in-person learning is the way that we best address the educational crisis caused by the closure of schools last spring,” he said. “A lot of people who are not from Connecticut assume that Connecticut is just Greenwich. But we have a lot of urban districts with students who have social and emotional needs as well as academic needs. The best way for them to get the services they need is in school, with counselors and their teachers.”

Even though they bring different perspectives to the table, they both sound pretty good to me, especially considering the misleadership we've had atop the D.O.E. for the past two decades. I wonder if there's a way to combine the two of them in one cabinet post?

Monday, December 14, 2020

Epstein's poke at Dr. Jill Biden backfires.

The best honorific for Dr. Biden might be "Teacher". 

Whatever the purpose of Joseph Epstein's WSJ screed...
 it surely failed. I think his poke at Dr. Jill Biden for professionally using 'DR.' in front of her name had less to do with educational leadership titles and Dr. Biden's personal achievements (which are notable) and more with discrediting the Biden/Harris election victory. 

Whatever his intent, it most certainly backfired. The negative response on social media has been over the top. While the relatively-unknown Epstein may be the current hero in MAGAland's war on "identity politics",  in the education community he has become just another symbol of Trumpian anti-educator, misogyny. 

If anything, I'm sure he's driven even more white, educated, suburban women from DT's base. That being a demographic shift that helped put Biden over the top in several swing states. Thanks for that, Epstein.

Other reactions: 

Northwestern University said in a statement on Saturday that it disagrees with the "misogynistic views" of Joseph Epstein, an author and former professor at the Illinois school who wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Friday that Biden should drop the "Dr." because it "sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic."

He also compared Biden’s doctoral credentials to an honorary degree that requires no academic work and said her doctorate thesis had an “unpromising” title. 

Epstein, the university said, has not been a lecturer there since 2003 -- clarifying Epstein's statement in the piece that he had "taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree." Northwestern also removed Epstein's profile from its website.

 Diane Ravitch on the Dr. Biden dust-up

To be sure, there was a political edge to [Epstein's] critique: Soon after the election, he wrote an article for the WSJ praising Trump’s accomplishments and chastising his anti-Trump friends. Knocking Dr. Biden is just another way of lamenting Trump’s defeat.

The best comment I have seen on this flap appeared on Fred Klonsky’s blog, quoting Glen Brown. The gist: 70% of instructors in higher education are adjuncts, not paid a living wage. That’s a true scandal.

 Indeed. Take it from me.

In fact, all this begs the questions about the inequalities in academic certification, access to graduate schools of education, and teacher leadership. Some of my favorite topics. But I'll save those for another post once the cloud of Epstein's misogyny has been fully blown away.

Dr. Michael Klonsky

Melissa Korn is the higher education reporter for the Wall St. Journal 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The shame of a nation.

My blood is boiling after seeing news and videos of violent American fascists ("Proud Boys) being turned loose on mask wearers and counter-protesters in D.C. yesterday. 

This follows by days 126 Republican congressmen and 17 red-state attorneys general signing on to the Texas lawsuit aimed at disenfranchising millions of voters, especially voters of color. As expected, the Supreme Court on Friday rejected the suit -- with only wingnut justices Alito and Thomas mumbling their dissent -- but not before more than 60% of House Republicans had signed onto the effort. This group of election deniers reached beyond Trump’s staunchest allies and included powerful figures such as the chamber’s top two officials and the leaders of influential committees, all of whom put their official stamp on this fascist measure. 

This from the New York Times:

“Since election night, a lot of people have been confusing voters by spinning Kenyan birther-type, ‘Chavez rigged the election from the grave’ conspiracy theories,” said Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska. “But every American who cares about the rule of law should take comfort that the Supreme Court — including all three of President Trump’s picks — closed the book on the nonsense.”

With all due respect to Sen. Sasse, I take little comfort in the decision. The Supremes did what they needed to do to regain any semblance of their lost credibility. Nor should we believe that it "closed the book on the nonsense." Its authors are only in the middle of Chapter I. 

The point here is that Trumpism (neo-fascism) has now become a permanent fixture, a violent cult that has forced itself upon American mainstream politics. It's represented by a Republican Party with an elected president as its figurehead and with gangs of armed thugs and white supremacist militias ready and willing to be used when called upon to beat, murder, and intimidate opponents. 

What does give me comfort is the size and scope of the anti-Trump resistance movement, more than 80 million of whom made their voices heard through the ballot box last month and in the streets this past year. 

Next up on the battlefront... the election in Georgia whose outcome will determine control of the Senate in years to come. A Republican victory will mean that the Trump cult will be able to sabotage COVID recovery and continue to block all economic stimulus efforts. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

If you want to eliminate all poverty in 15 years, form a commission, right?

The richest 5 percent of households in Illinois have average incomes 14.6 times as large as the bottom 20 percent of households and 4.9 times as large as the middle 20 percent of households. After decades of widening inequality, Illinois's richest households have dramatically bigger incomes than its poorest households.
-- Report

It's the Republicans that bring my blood to a boil. But it's always been the Democrats who bring out my worst cynicism. 

Case in point -- Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) yesterday announced the Illinois Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security. OK, that sounds like a nice thing to do. I mean, if you're going to completely eliminate poverty and close the racial/wealth gap, the first thing to do is form a commission, right? 

Next, you have to set the commission's goals.
Goals for The Commission outlined in state statute include reducing poverty in Illinois by 50% by 2026, eliminating child poverty by 2031, and eliminating all poverty by 2036. 

You read it right. Pritzker's new commission aims to eliminate ALL poverty in the next 15 years and a month. And they wish to accomplish this, I suppose with a legislature seemingly bent on cutting retirees' pensions as a way of balancing the state budget. 

Also remember, this is a governor and legislature that couldn't rally enough votes in this blue state, to pass the FairTax amendment? 

I mean, these are essentially the same pols who finally passed a $15 minimum-wage bill, but one that takes 6 freakin' years to take effect. 

The Commission, which is set to meet just twice a year, is made up of 25 members: four members of the State General Assembly; one member of the judiciary; and twenty public leaders who "represent key constituencies that are impacted by poverty." Members were appointed by Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, and Chief Justice Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court. 

From my point of view, these names would be more apt to appear atop a Widening the Wealth Gap Commission.

I'd be willing to guess that if everyone in the state made their salaries and were covered by their health insurance plans, the problem would be solved. Ah, let's do that. 

Yes, I'm cynical or at least suspicious. But I'm also willing to give it a try and if the guv appointed me, here are some suggestions I would make to at least start narrowing the great divide between rich and poor. Don't worry, I'm not suggesting killing all rich people and taking their money. That would be illegal and probably wouldn't work anyway. 

But this might... First, guarantee a living wage for all workers and a guaranteed minimum wage for everyone. Second, implement Medicare For All or some form of single-payer, universal healthcare. Third, extend free public education from Pre-K to 16 and beyond.

Best of all, it wouldn't take 15 years to do these things. Most or at least many countries have already done them. But a prereq is the complete reform of the tax code and making the wealthiest pay their fair share. Yes, as I pointed out, they just tried this and failed. Well, try again and try harder. 

How's that for a start? Let's see if Pritzker's Commission will touch any of these with a 10-foot pole. 

They hardly even touch the deeply-rooted issues of race and gender inequality. It took many years in this, the world's richest and most powerful capitalist country, to create this great racial-wealth gap. Closing it in the state of Illinois will take time and great struggle and it will take a lot more than another bureaucratic layer. First, there must be the will and cynical me doesn't see that coming from the top. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Cases top 14 million while 'open-up' cuckoo birds keep tweeting.


More than 13.4 million people in the country have been infected with the novel coronavirus and 267,306 have died as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard.

 Hundreds of people on Wednesday night — including members of the right-wing group Proud Boys — protested the closure of a Staten Island bar that ignored COVID-19 restrictions.-- NY Post

As I'm reading the news today about Florida nearing one million COVID cases, I'm recalling a column written back in May by former Tribune writer Dennis Byrne announcing to anyone who cared that he was abandoning Chitown for the wild and wide-open climes of Florida. He'd had enough of being told to wear a mask or wash his hands. He definitely didn't like Mayor Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker telling him that he couldn't sit inside at a restaurant during a corona surge. 

Byrne, who loves him some Trumpy Gov. Ron DiSantis, said that in FL he felt free to wine and dine on "brisket and bacon burger slathered with BBQ sauce, cheese, onions, and mayonnaise."

I wonder where he'll move next. 

BIRDS OF A FEATHER ~ Mancow, Stone, and...Vallas???

Mancow (left) says he's sick of unions that “radicalize” teachers, and he supports “bringing back civility and respect for cops.” Wants Vallas as his running mate. Good luck with that.  
Trump clone and radio shock jock Erich “Mancow” Muller says he wants to run for IL governor. No joke.

Pritzker must be trembling with fear.  

Mancow is the anti-union, flat-tax, corona super-spreader pal of Roger Stone. (Stone claimed yesterday that "North Korean ships were delivering ballots through a harbor in Maine.”)

And guess who Mancow wants as his running mate? None other than former Chicago schools chief and perennial campaign loser Paul Vallas.

I get it. The two of them are ideologically simpatico. But Mancow could do better. Doesn't he recall how Vallas' last campaign for Lt. Governor went down the toilet, pulling incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn down with him? Or how Vallas fared running against his nemesis, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and finishing seventh in the races with 5% of the vote.

Meanwhile, Vallas has been keeping himself busy speaking at right-wing anti-masker, anti-shutdown QAnon rallies sounding every bit like Dennis Byrne in his attacks on Lightfoot and Pritzker? 

He's gone full-blown MAGA

Monday, November 30, 2020


'Who's gonna pardon me?'

Matt Farmer's latest 

 “Here’s to those emoluments who keep my family fed, and to all those confederate monuments that keep the south so red; here’s to Clorox bleach and UV-red, and a spineless GOP. It’s the end of the show and I still don’t know who’s gonna pardon me.”  -- Who's gonna pardon me?'

Dr. Anthony Fauci

When asked about schools, Fauci said his recommendation has always been to “close the bars and keep the schools open.” -- Slate

Tom Dart, Cook County Sherrif (Just tested positive for Covid)

 "We exploded the curve." --CBS News

Christopher Krebs, fired Director of Cyber Security

"Look, I think these— we can go on and on with all the farcical claims alleging interference in the 2020 election, but the proof is in the ballots." -- 60 Minutes

Robert Malley, a negotiator of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal

 “The Trump administration’s goal seems plain. The plan was “to take advantage of the time remaining before it heads to the exits to solidify its legacy and make it all the more difficult for its successor to resume diplomacy with Iran and rejoin the nuclear deal.” -- NY Times

Full-page Sun-Times ad run by the Chicago Federation of Labor

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Talk about being anti-science. Now we assassinate scientists.


Well, at least now we know what Sec. of State Mike Pompeo and  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were secretly meeting about last week in Saudi Arabia. They were planning the assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.   

Remember, Israeli Mossad agents assassinated a half-dozen Iranian nuclear scientists from 2010 to 2012. Then, in January, Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, in violation of international law, claiming that the killing would "stop a war, not start one." Soleimani's murder occurred during the 2019–20 Persian Gulf crisis, which began after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in 2018.

The difference this time is that there's little pretense about stopping a bomb or heading off an Iranian terrorist plot. Fakhrizadeh's killing, only weeks before the Trump/Pompeo gang will be forced to give up the reins of power, was simply a provocation aimed at sabotaging Biden's transition setting back any attempt at restoring the collapsed nuclear deal.

According to the New York Times:

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, with the support of President Trump, seems intent on scorching the earth to make it harder for any return to diplomacy under President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump, in fact, appears to be hoping for retaliation from Iranian leaders which could then escalate the crisis and leave Joe Biden with a war on his hands when he takes over on January 20th. The Republicans' goal is to weaken Sec. of State Anthony Blinken's ability to negotiate a new nuclear agreement. 

Biden is already committed to reopening talks with Iran along with his European partners. Iran has said repeatedly that it would go back into full compliance with the nuclear agreement if the Biden administration agrees to do the same and lifts the onerous sanctions piled on by President Trump.

This latest provocation was predictable. Some even earlier expressed fears that a new attack on Iran would be used by Trump to use war-time powers to put off the election. Obviously, that was just a pipedream. 

Iran’s response to Soleimani’s killing was limited to a dozen missiles fired against two U.S. bases in Iraq. The hope is now that Iranian leaders will see the Trump/Netanyahu plot for what it is and be measured in their response again this time around. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Trump is going but Trumpism still rules the highest court.

Thousands of unmasked Hasidic sect members squeeze inside the Yetev Lev temple in Brooklyn for the wedding of a chief rabbi’s grandson. Similar weddings have been happening in Brooklyn for months in violation of city ordinances — with precautions such as covering windows with paper and guards at the doors in case an inspector shows up to keep them from being detected.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 midnight ruling, which prevents New York city and state officials from imposing limits on the Roman Catholic Diocese or Brooklyn's Hasidic sect during the pandemic, had little to do with the broad issue of religious freedom. Rather it was a signal to Trump's MAGA death cult and his evangelical base that the extreme right-wing majority, led by DT's newly-appointed religious cultist, Amy Coney Barrett, was on the job and will be for decades to come. 

The immediate effect on New York City is moot because the state had already lifted the particular orders under review. The grave, imminent danger lies in the rest of the country, where public health authorities will feel hamstrung to limit the size of religious gatherings even where the virus is spreading out of control.

The decision also heralds tough times ahead for Democrats and civil-rights activists. It's being interpreted by the right as an affirmation of the notion that religious beliefs about racial or gender discrimination trump civil rights and social justice.

The court majority's message to the Democrats: Even though you may have won the election, there's more than one center of power now and it's not bound by the Constitution. Trumpism rules the nation's highest court. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The first thing Biden promised to do...


Biden was at a candidates event in Houston with National Education Association members in July 2019 when he said: “First thing, as president of United States — not a joke — first thing I will do is make sure that the secretary of education is not Betsy DeVos. It is a teacher. A teacher. Promise.” --

Biden's cabinet is filling up fast. So far, once you get past all the chatter about a "second Obama presidency"; or about slipping a disgraced Rahm Emanuel in through the back door (NO, NO, NO please), or even about appointing Trump Republicans as opposed to anyone from the left, the process has been pretty transparent and necessarily fast-moving. 

But we're still waiting for more than whispers about his pick for Secretary of Education. This may be the most important pick of all given that most school districts remain in limbo or possibly on the brink of collapse because of the pandemic and Trump/DeVos's disastrous response. But even under the new administration, plans for a necessary, safe reopening are going nowhere without an immediate influx of cash -- possibly a trillion dollars or more -- to the districts. 

And it's not just about money. It's about radical transformation and the re-imaging of public education. We will never be able to go back to the old "normal". So where's the transformational leadership going to come from?

There are big questions to resolve about, systemic racial inequality, current, and post-pandemic standardized testing, privatization, student loans, universal pre-K and so much more. It will take much more than the new D.O.E. to undo the damage done these past four years under Betsy DeVos. Not to mention, that done under the previous decades of No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top

But the appointment of a new ed secretary will be a signal about which way the new regime is headed. So how did the first thing on Biden's to-do list move to near-last? Where is this teacher that been promised us? Why the hush hush?

Progressives have been pushing some good people for consideration. So have the influential, pro-privatization, anti-union hedge-fund reformers like DFER. 

I have a few recommendations myself. But I'm dubious that the left will be allowed any input into the decision. That's certainly been the case so far.

Monday, November 23, 2020

DT still has eight weeks remaining in which to break things and burn things down.



Joe Biden has signaled his reluctance to pursue a  criminal case against Trump. In August, Biden said he'd leave the decision to the Justice Department and the attorney general, but he suggested pursuing charges might do more damage than good. Above all, Biden and the Democrats want a peaceful transition of power and don't want to unnecessarily stir up the MAGA wasp's nest. 

"I think it is a very, very unusual thing and probably not very — how can I say it? — good for democracy to be talking about prosecuting former presidents." -- NPR

DT and his grifter family are already the subjects of a criminal investigation by the district attorney of Manhattan as well as a civil investigation by the attorney general of New York State. But the question is, will Biden, Gov. Cuomo, and the Democratic leadership try and put the kibosh on N.Y. Atty. General Letitia James and Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. to drop their cases for peace sakes?

Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime and well-known Republican in Pennsylvania has tossed out another Trump lawsuit aimed at invalidating millions of voters' mail-in ballots. 

"In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more," the judge wrote. -- CNN

This, along with the failure of last week's so-called Million MAGA March, leaves Trump's crew with little bargaining power when it comes to chilling any post-transition indictments. But a peaceful transition won't mean an end to Trumpism or to Trump's leadership and influence over what's left of the Republican Party. 

Dahlia Lithwick writes:

Having lost in the courts, his new work evidently lies in emboldening obscure local election boards to nullify their voting tallies, calling them on the phone to exert pressure, inviting them to the White House. That means that even postelection we are still stress monkeys. He still has eight weeks remaining in which to break things and burn things down. --  Slate 

The makeup dripping down Rudy Giuliani’s face and the inaudible Benny Hill music in the background isn’t proof of harmless comedy; it’s cover for something truly dangerous.

So, where does all this leave us? Relying on the movement for social justice. Same as it ever was. 

There are many hopeful signs such as the Poor People's Campaign led by Rev. William Barber who is uniting a broad range of progressive forces to restart Moral Mondays and lead a multi-racial movement of the poor with a clear set of demands on both Trump and the Biden administration.