Monday, November 1, 2021

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I'm now posting regularly at Substack. You can subscribe for free to my new Edu/Pol blog at

All my former followers here are entitled to a free sub at my Substack site. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Pandora Papers

A.P. reports that hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders, and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts, and other assets for the past quarter-century, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world.

The report released yesterday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries. It’s being dubbed the “Pandora Papers” because the findings shed light on the previously hidden dealings and thievery of the elite and the corrupt, and how they have used offshore accounts to illegally shield assets collectively worth trillions of dollars... Read the rest of the story at and subscribe for free. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Pushing Back Against Cold War

The U.S. Navy nuclear submarine USS Connecticut reportedly crashed in the South China Sea, Saturday.

Recently, some critical voices have emerged from inside and outside the administration, calling for a foreign policy shift away from cold war. It’s too soon to tell whether or not they will result in any significant changes. 

An op-ed in Tuesday’s Guardian by Lt. Col. (retired) Daniel L Davis, warns Biden and the military leadership not to get “drawn into a no-win war with Beijing” over Taiwan...To read the whole story, go to

And subscribe for free. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

GTFO KEN GRIFFIN: Indiana wants you.

Billionaire grifter Ken Griffin keeps threatening to leave Chicago. He hates this place. Too many poor folks. Too much public space —you know, public schools, parks, libraries... It’s that word public that gets him. Makes him gag.

To top it off, a Black, gay woman is the mayor. She beat the pants off of his candidate, Bill Daley in the last election despite Griffin’s million-dollar bankrolling of Daley’s great-white-hope campaign...

Read the rest of this post here and subscribe to my Edu/Pol Newsletter. 

Monday, September 27, 2021


“We will not tolerate that. That is inhumane. That is not American,” Patrick Brutus, president of Haitian American Professional Network, told a Chicago crowd Sunday. -- Sun-Times

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team." -- Rolling Stone

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

[Afghani] Women must be able to work, girls must be able to have all levels of education, and, at the same time, to cooperate with the international community fighting terrorism in an effective way. So, we need to engage. We don't know how things will develop, but we know that if we don't engage, they will probably go in the wrong direction. -- UN News

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley

"In the words of Robert Nesta Marley, who will get up and stand up?”
“If we can send people to the moon, and, as I’ve said over and over, solve male baldness,” she riffed, then other issues, too, can certainly be addressed. -- Speech to UN General Assembly

Chicago's new public schools CEO, Pedro Martinez

On the contentious relationship between Mayor Lightfoot and the CTU:

I am not naïve. I know there are some political divides that run very deep. But when it comes to, for example, the safety of our children, our children being in school in person, our schools being safe, there has to be common ground there. -- Sun-Times

 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claims he will end rape

Chris Wallace to Gov. Abbott: "In 2019, which is the last year that we have numbers for, almost 15,000 cases of rape were reported in your state of Texas...Is it reasonable to say to somebody who is the victim of rape and might not understand that they are pregnant until six weeks, 'Well, don't worry about it because we're going to eliminate rape as a problem in the state of Texas?'" -- Fox News

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Biden's U.N. speech: A bunch of malarkey

Even while he was preparing to unleash AUKUS, the new white, Anglo-speaking front to contain and confront China with nuclear warships, Pres. Biden tried to play the pacifist in his first address to the U.N. General Assembly. 
"Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants.”
I've got this quote stashed away for use in future blog posts. 

American nuclear sub in the South China Sea

Biden's speech was meant to distance himself from the previous guy and to prop up this country's fading global image in the wake of U.S. foreign policy disasters involving the pandemic, global warming, and budding cold war with China. 

But it failed on all counts and with the botched withdrawal (I call it, repositioning) of troops from Afghanistan -- which included the drone missile attack which killed a family of 10, including small children -- still fresh in their minds, it was met with skepticism on the part of many attendees.   

And why not? Biden wasn't about to come clean about his provocative, self-destructive, imperialist strategic shift away from the "war on terror" and towards cold war with China. 

Also fresh in the minds of many, especially those representing former colonial and neo-colonial nations, were graphic scenes from the U.S. border with border patrol horsemen whipping and rounding up Haitian refugees for mass deportation.

But Biden swore to the incredulous delegates: 

“We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.” 

As Biden himself might say, what a bunch of malarkey!

Notably, he didn’t utter the word “China” once in his 34-minute address. He didn't have to. Everyone knows who AUKUS is aimed at. 

It was left to the straight-shooting U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to set things straight. 

"We need to re-establish a functional relationship between the two powers,” he said, calling that “essential to address the problems of vaccination, the problems of climate change and many other global challenges that cannot be solved without constructive relations within the international community and mainly among the superpowers.” 

And then this daunting reminder. 

“We are on the edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction,” Guterres said. “I’m here to sound the alarm. The world must wake up."

Monday, September 20, 2021


Hundreds of Haitian migrants are being rounded up and deported from the US. The large-scale expulsion involves several daily flights and a show of force at the border, while Haiti faces economic and political crises.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
"We need to re-establish a functional relationship between the two powers,” he said, calling that “essential to address the problems of vaccination, the problems of climate change and many other global challenges that cannot be solved without constructive relations within the international community and mainly among the superpowers.” -- AP
BREAKING: An enormous gathering of journalists in Washington, DC today was orderly and peaceful, and a few Justice for J6  protestors showed up.

 Aaron Schneider

As a result, the US continues its embargo, causes unnecessary suffering to the Cuban people, fails to produce change, and turns the US (not Cuba) into an international pariah in conflict with its own allies. -- Aljazeera 

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti

Rich countries worry about booster shots. They should be worried about Africa. -- New York Times

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Biden's strategic shift towards China brings us ever closer to war

V.P. Kamala Harris was sent to South China Sea last month to try and push Singapore and Vietnam into an anti-China front. But her offer was rejected by both. 

The new Cold War with China, begun under Trump and now escalating under Biden, once again pushes us closer to the nuclear abyss. How close are we? So close that according to a new book “Peril,” by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was so consumed with fear that former President Donald Trump might launch “rogue” conventional or nuclear strikes against China, he acted twice to prevent it. 

Trump's defeat brought hope to many around the world that Biden and the Democrats would break from Trump's anti-China saber-rattling, trade-war policies and shift towards repairing the breach and lowering the temperature. These hopes have grown more desperate during the global pandemic as the growing cold war now includes vaccine wars

Instead, Biden has doubled down on Trump's policies and seems bent on provoking a military confrontation in the South China Sea. 

Here are a few of the repercussions...

North and South Korea are once again firing ballistic missiles hours apart from each other instead of negotiating towards unity as they were doing only a couple of months ago without U.S. involvement. This while South Korea and China were meeting to discuss de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. You get the picture. 

Then there's this...

In what appears to those in the region to be a white united front against China the US, UK, and Australia are creating a trilateral security partnership which will include helping Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines. 

The initiative, called Aukus, was announced jointly by President Joe Biden and prime ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, following US briefings which described the agreement as binding the three English-speaking countries together.

Is anyone in these "English-speaking countries" feeling any safer from all this? Me neither. 

Remember, it was Biden who previously referred to Johnson as, "a physical and emotional clone'" of Trump. 

It's all occurring in the wake of Biden's strategic military shift away from the Middle East and towards Cold War. It follows his helter-skelter withdraw and re-positioning of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Biden's main cold-warrior strategist and regime-change specialist, Sec. Anthony Blinken is under the gun here at home, facing withering attacks from left and right over the "chaotic" Afghan retreat.

I'm still wondering though. Has there ever been a smooth withdrawal by an invading army after a major military defeat? Wish we could ask Napoleon or Gen. Creighton Abrams who was sending Nixon upbeat reports on the progress of the war in Vietnam right up 'til the very end. 

The lessons of war are hard to learn. Let's pull the reins in on the warmakers. 

Monday, September 13, 2021


Columnist Laura Washington

"My message to Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner: You are mired in a bottomless pit of misogyny." -- Sun-Times

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez re. Manchin

“In Washington, I usually know my questions of power are getting somewhere when the powerful stop referring to me as ‘Congresswoman’ and start referring to me as ‘young lady’ instead." -- Guardian 

Rev. William Barber re. Manchin

“He is a part of the demolition crew of this democracy.” -- The Sunday Show

Justice Stephen Breyer

“I Don’t Intend to Die on the Court” -- Fox News Sunday 

Dr. Anthony Fauci

"If you want to get on a plane and travel with other people then you should be vaccinated." -- Podcast  

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus 

"Because manufacturers have prioritized or been legally obliged to fulfill bilateral deals with rich countries willing to pay top dollar, low-income countries have been deprived of the tools to protect their people.”

“There has been a lot of talk about vaccine equity,” Tedros added, “but too little action.” -- Truthout

Friday, September 10, 2021

There's No Such Thing as a 'Low-Skilled Worker'

I hate the term, "low-skilled" to describe the millions of workers who have built and maintained this country and who are largely Black, Latino, female, and immigrant.

So-called low-skilled workers tend to be lower-paid, have fewer rights, and have less recourse to unions and other enforcement bodies. For example, foreign-born “low”-skilled workers are typically tied to an employer and cannot leave without invalidating their visa. They have also historically been used as a reserve army of unemployed workers to hold down wages and break strikes. 

Wealthy countries like the U.S. depend on migration and immigration for essential labor and economic stability. Yet when deciding who is allowed to enter the country, most use a simple dichotomy based on educational attainment: “high” and “low” skilled. 

Under the Trump administration and now with Biden and the Democrats in power, closing the southern border and abusing and deporting millions of immigrant workers and their families has led to devastating cuts in available low-paid laborers forcing restaurants and other businesses, eg. in agriculture and food production, that rely on immigrant labor to close once again.

The rhetoric around skills is typically based on a dichotomy between “high” and “low”: “high” being associated with university degrees and “low” with manual labor. But, these characteristics do not come close to describing a person’s comprehensive skill set; they are just the easiest to evaluate based on the standards and prevailing norms of capitalist society. 

The pandemic and the growth of the so-called "gig economy" have exacerbated the divisions between "high" and "low" skilled with the latter being pushed onto the front lines and in harm's way as they deliver the goods and services need to keep a faltering economy on its feet.

Now, as the resurgent pandemic enters a new stage, millions of unemployed workers have come under attack for their unwillingness to forego unemployment insurance to take crappy, dangerous, and low-paying jobs and are being pushed off unemployment insurance and anti-eviction protection as an act of government coercion. 

Last week, Biden oversaw the ending of extended unemployment benefits in an attempt to force workers back on the job. Meanwhile, mega-corporations like Amazon have been forced to raise basic wages above the prevailing minimum in order to maintain their competitive edge, entice workers to work under otherwise intolerable conditions, and undermine union drives. 

Bloomberg reports that much to their chagrin, for the third month in a row, wages for the "low-skilled: have risen faster than for the "high-skilled". In the previous history of the survey, which now goes back almost 25 years, this had only ever happened in two months, in early 2010. Wage growth for the "low-skilled" is also exceeding that for the "high-skilled" by the most on record. 

In this opinion piece, Bloomberg's John Authers warns that this wage growth is potentially bad for inflation. 

"Wage growth for the lowest skilled is the fastest since August 2008 (not coincidentally, the month before the Lehman bankruptcy), and that could easily lead to higher prices." 

"More interestingly still," writes Authers, "it does suggest a shift in the balance of power between labor and capital. This isn’t as yet a deep-seated or well-established trend, of course. But if it continues it could rattle a lot of assumptions, and alleviate a lot of social tension."

Authers fails to mention that while millions of people struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic, many of the companies hit hardest in 2020 showered their executives with riches. Chief executives of big companies now make, on average, 320 times as much as their typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos managed to add $13,000,000,000 to his wealth in a single day during a pandemic?

No, this widening wealth gap won't "alleviate social tension". Rather, it should provide new rich opportunities for struggling labor unions to expand their shrinking base by organizing the unorganized so-called "low-skilled". 

*Also, see Teri Gerstein's piece in the New York Times: "Other People’s Rotten Jobs Are Bad for Them. And for You." 

Monday, September 6, 2021


Jamie Contreras, secretary-treasurer of the SEIU 
 “We’re not anywhere near done. People still need help. ... For millions of people nothing has changed from a year and a half ago.” -- Covid safety net cut

Rebecca Solnit

If the US defends its democracy, such as it is, and protects the voting rights of all eligible adults, the right will continue to be a shrinking minority. -- Guardian

The Former Guy

...expressed disappointment about receiving a low number of votes from Jews. 

"Look what I did with the embassy in Jerusalem and what I did with so many other things. Israel has never had a better friend, and yet I got 25% of the [Jewish] vote." -- Business Insider

Joanna Klonsky

It’s been quite a week to be a woman in this world. -- Twitter

Friday, September 3, 2021

Pandemic schooling spaces

Mike Klonsky pic.

Driving down Lake Street on the city's west side Monday, I stopped to take a look at the former Dett Elementary School. Dett was one of the 49 schools closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013 for "underutilization" after its population dropped precipitously. Instead of being re-purposed, now, eight years later, the building still sits boarded-up and graffitied, a costly, dangerous blight on the neighborhood. 

Back in 2016, there was a plan to turn Dett into a center for women and girls or an artist incubator but potential buyers for the building backed out. So CPS was stuck with it. Neighborhood students were instead assigned to nearby Herbert or enrolled in charter schools.  

Today students are back in school in Chicago with classrooms packed to overcapacity. Many schools are overcrowded with some kindergarten classrooms stuffed with more than 30 children, a horrifying thought in the middle of this deadly pandemic when there's not yet a vaccine available for young children. 

The lack of available classroom space forced the board to roll back its distancing requirement from six feet to three feet "wherever possible" with unmasked kids often eating together, shoulder-to-shoulder in school lunchrooms. In the high schools, we're seeing images of students, many unvaxed, packed together in crowded hallways between classes.

I can't even imagine being a short-handed teacher, trying to keep up with 32 or so kinders, keeping them masked and at least three feet apart, all the while trying to do some great teaching. And yet, like so many heroic doctors, nurses, and front-line medical staff, teachers are giving it their best shots. But I doubt this mode is sustainable.

CPS is operating in crisis mode in a churning sea of divisive state politics, racial segregation and inequities, all exacerbated by the resurgent Delta variant.

Schooling in a pandemic and preparation for post-pandemic schooling offers a chance for school planners and educators to take a more holistic approach and to try and undo the damage done by the mass closing of schools a decade ago. 

The idea that we still have boarded-up school buildings and schools in some neighborhoods with excess classroom space, while in others, students are dangerously jammed together, is mind-boggling. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

QUOTABLES: Biden's Bible

Abdul Matin Azizi, a neighbor who saw the attack. Azizi, 20, said the explosion occurred as the family returned home Sunday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. Azizi said he ran next door to help and found a gruesome scene, the air thick with smoke. “The bodies were covered in blood and shrapnel, and some of the dead children were still inside the car,” he said. -- Washington Post

Biden's Bible

 “Those who have served through the ages have drawn inspiration from the Book of Isaiah. When the Lord says, ‘who shall I send, who shall go for us?’ The American military has been answering for a long time, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.’” -- Speech to the Nation

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia Prof

The sad truth is that the American political class and mass media hold the people of poorer nations in contempt, even as they intervene relentlessly and recklessly in those countries. Of course, much of America’s elite hold America’s own poor in similar contempt. -- Market Watch

Dr. Anthony Fauci

"I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea."
"This is not something new. We have mandates in many places in schools, particularly public schools, that if in fact you want a child to come in -- we've done this for decades and decades requiring (vaccines for) polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis," he said. "So this would not be something new, requiring vaccinations for children to come to school." -- CNN

Seth Meyers

 “I mean, how does this shit keep getting dumber and dumber? First it was hydroxychloroquine, then it was bleach, powerful lights, now it’s horse dewormer? I’m honestly terrified to imagine what’s next. One day we’re gonna wake up and Brian Kilmeade’s gonna be telling people you can cure COVID by eating kibble and sleeping in a bed of kitty litter.” -- Late Night

Friday, August 27, 2021

SEIU Healthcare IL supports vax requirement for healthcare and ed workers


August 27, 2021

Contact: Catherine Murrell, 312-523-3882 

The following was released by SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Greg Kelley on Gov. Pritzker’s recent announcement of Vaccination Requirements for Healthcare and Educational Workers:

SEIU Healthcare Illinois continues to maintain our ongoing efforts to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of our 90,000 members. We are committed to promoting every measure available in protecting not only our members but our entire community, from the life-threatening impacts of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, we are in support of Gov. Pritzker’s recent announcement of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare and educational workers.

As a union of healthcare and childcare workers, we understand how critical it is to ensure that our members are working in safe environments, while also protecting our most vulnerable populations.

In addition to our support of vaccinations and scheduled testing, it is our expectation to partner with employers to foster a collaborative approach in providing resources that enable workers to be vaccinated without negative economic impacts. These resources would include comprehensive educational programs which include channels for employee communication regarding the implementation of the vaccination. 

We are dedicated to working with employers to help respond to worker needs as we combat this devastating disease.  

# # #

Thursday, August 26, 2021

What does F.O.P. stand for?

“We’re in America, goddamn it." -- FOP Lodge #7 Prez John Catanzara

Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has no business calling itself a union. As a matter of fact, they don't. Early FOP founders decided to not use the term "union" because of the anti-union sentiment of the time. 

FOP's fascist potentate John Catanzara is nothing but a Trump-loving racist petty criminal who's been outspoken in defense of the Jan. 6th MAGA Capitol rioters and who recently was suspended from the CPD and charged with filing false police reports. 

Cantazara has from the start, been on a crusade against the city's two top Black female elected officials, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and States Attorney Kim Foxx over their attempts to implement federal court-mandated police reform.

Lightfoot unfortunately has been forced to negotiate with the FOP on issues of abusive, racist, and violent police behavior which shouldn't be a matter of collective bargaining at all. 

For more on that, see my brother Fred's Sun-Times commentary, "I’m a union guy, and I oppose police union contracts that cover up abuse."

But as we enter the next mayoral campaign season, the FOP has refocused its right-wing wedge-issue polemics to target the mayor's vaccine mandate for all city employees. Yesterday, Cantanzara laid bare his thuggy nature by launching this anti-mayor, anti-vax tirade. 

“We’re in America, goddamn it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f***ing Germany, [where they say], ‘Step into the f***ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f***?” he told the newspaper. [Sun-Times]

This trash needs no rebuttal. The Mayor's response (below) is adequate. My blog feels dirty as it is for even printing it. 

At times I've referred to the FOP as Fascists on Patrol. I'm switching now to Friends of Pandemic. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

How far we've come

Remembering Trump's lost armada.

It was just three years ago that Trump was threatening "fire and fury" against North Korea and boasting to N.K President Kim Jong-Un, "My button is bigger than yours". He had Pentagon on a nuclear war footing and the U.S. "lost armada"  sailing into Korean waters.


See how far we've come.

Yesterday, it was V.P. Kamala ("Don't come") Harris, fresh off the Afghan withdrawal debacle, standing on a U.S. combat ship at the Changi naval base in Singapore warning China to end its "incursions" into the South China Sea. 

”Take a look at the map and tell me who's the one making "incursions"?

To borrow a line from Carlos Martinez (@agent_of_change): "Whoever said Americans don't understand irony?"

Advancing our interests...Sounding more and more like an old-line imperialist, Harris proclaimed, “It is also imperative that as we address developments in one region, we continue to advance our interests in other regions, including this region."

Monday, August 23, 2021

Why WHO wants us to forego booster shots

BUDAPEST, Aug 23 (Reuters) - WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that COVID-19 booster shots should be delayed and priority should be given to raising vaccination rates in countries where only 1% or 2% of the population has been inoculated.
If vaccination rates are not raised globally, stronger variants of the coronavirus could develop and vaccines intended as booster shots should be donated to countries where people have not received their first or second doses, he said during a visit to Budapest. 
"In addition, there is a debate about whether booster shots are effective at all," Ghebreyesus told a news conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.  

While I agree with the WHO director's call for making (demanding) vaccine distribution to where the need is greatest a priority, I'm having a hard time understanding his organization's anti-booster strategy. The problem facing us doesn't seem to be a global vaccine shortage so much as a politicized pandemic and entrenched systems of racial capitalism (imperialism) and vaccine apartheid which have sharpened the division between oppressed and oppressor nations. 

In this country, for example, there is a vaccine surplus. Yet millions here remain unvaxed, either due to lack of access to affordable medical care or due to the effectiveness of anti-vax propaganda and fear-mongering on the part of right-wing media. Even with this surplus, only limited supplies of the vaccine are being made available to low-income countries. 

The giant pharmaceutical companies and other vaccine profiteers are reaping billions in superprofits by keeping vaccine costs high and maintaining patents on vaccine production.  Global vaccine distribution has also become politized and weaponized in the new cold war aimed at containing China.  

The cost of vaccinating the world against COVID-19 could be at least five times cheaper if pharmaceutical companies weren’t profiteering from their monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines.

 Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are charging governments as much as $41 billion above the estimated cost of production. Colombia, for example, has potentially overpaid by as much as $375 million for its doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, in comparison to the estimated cost price.

Vaccine inequity remains the world’s biggest obstacle to ending this pandemic and global economic recovery. But Ghebreyesus seems to be assuming that if people here and in Europe agree to forego booster shots, their dose will then be shipped to a needy person in Uganda or Nicaragua. 

In fairness to Ghebreyesus, he includes in his call, this addendum:

Those whose immune system is compromised should get a booster shot, though they represent only small percentage of the population.

It's actually about 3% of the population in the U.S. But depending on the life span of current vaccines, booster shots may soon be required for everyone.  

As for the current effectiveness of booster shots, I will leave that one to the scientists and medical professionals. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Emerson Poll: Perception vs. Reality

Crime is once again the hot-button issue here in Chicago and in cities across the country. Yesterday's funeral following the killing of Chicago police officer Ella French has understandably amplified the anger, fears, and frustrations many feel about violent crime. 

At the same time, a poll was released showing crime to be the overwhelmingly top concern of Chicagoans, dwarfing worries about the spiking covid pandemic, the reopening of schools, and every other issue. But let's take a deeper look and see if there's a gap between that perception and reality. 

What's wrong with this statement?
A WGN-TV/Emerson College poll of Chicago residents found that crime is on the rise, with 62% saying there is more crime now in Chicago than there was a year ago. Twenty-four percent (24%) feel that the amount of crime has stayed the same, and 14% feel that there is less crime today.
Well, for one thing, you can't determine whether or not a city's crime rate is going up or down by taking a poll. Polls like Emerson may give us a sense of people's changing perceptions of crime, or the favorability or unfavorability of certain politicians, but those most often depend on how questions are asked, who's being asked, and who's doing the asking. 

Case in point: Chicago crime isn't really on the rise , although it's completely understandable why so many feel that it is, given local media's attention paid to daily crime reports. While crime rates have been falling steadily over the past two decades, homicides so far this year have risen. 
An NBC News analysis of Chicago Police Department data going back 20 years shows that overall, violent crime continued its slow decline during the pandemic. When all categories of violent crime are added together, the total declined by 46 percent over 20 years and held steady between the first half of both 2019 and 2021.
There's some  research showing  that public demand drives coverage of bad news — that people have a “negativity bias.” But I think it's the other way around, with the media driving the bias. 

It's not that I doubt the veracity of the poll itself. I don't. I just think that polling and news groups tend to overstate the significance of their results and blur the distinction between perception and reality. Polls shape and influence perceptions as well as measuring them. That's something we've all come to recognize in the last few national elections. 

According to the Emerson poll, crime, and especially violent crime, is the number-one concern of Chicagoans. 
Respondents were asked what the number one issue facing Chicago today is. A plurality of residents (44%) feel that crime is the number one issue facing the city.... Compared to the WGN-TV/Emerson poll in June, crime has risen six points as a top issue, from 38% to 44%.

What happened in the city in June and July to cause a six-point jump in perception is not clear from WGN's report. I would guess that it's the daily coverage of the recent wave of horrifying carjackings or the terrible rise in summertime gun violence that has put all of us on edge lately. 

While crime dominates popular concern, all other issues were below 12%: Covid-19 (12%), education/schools (8%), jobs (8%), police reform (7%), healthcare (7%), housing (5%), and homelessness (2%). Six percent (6%) of respondents said something else. 

The widening poverty gap isn't on the list of concerns offered in the poll, although homelessness is and ranks at the very bottom. There's no connection made by the pollsters between this widening gap and crime or contextualizing crime in the way questions are asked. There were no questions either, regarding the easy flow of illegal guns into the city.

Many people around the country perceive Chicago as the number-one crime city in America. But the actual numbers paint quite a different picture. Trump repeatedly criticized Chicago, saying it was “worse than Afghanistan.” I myself engaged in similar hyperbole a few years ago, referring to Chicago as "Chiraq" a la Spike Lee, just to make a point. But it turns out that our city hasn't even made the top-30 list when it comes to urban crime rates. 

A recent New York Times quiz revealed some common misperceptions about crime trends, the most widely held of which involved Chicago. Readers were asked to rank Chicago nationally in murder rate. The options were first, third, fifth, or seventh. Most picked “first,” and only 8 percent chose the right answer (seventh).

I was also a little surprised to learn that even with Chicago students about to return to school in a matter of days in the midst of a surging pandemic, only 8% had education/schools at the top of their list of concerns. In fact, the surging pandemic only made the top of the concern list for 12% of Chicagoans. Is that because Chicago is doing so much better than other big cities in containment? I don't have an answer on that one.

Another surprising (to me) result showed a majority (70%) of respondents having at least a somewhat positive opinion of the Chicago Police Department, while 23% have a somewhat or very negative opinion, and 7% are unsure. 

I'm only surprised at how that perception has changed since its low point, following the police murders of Laquan McDonald in 2014. The fallout from that killing and the political cover-up that following drove then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel from office. Polls at the time showed: "nearly two-thirds of African-American voters in the city said they didn’t trust him, and half of all likely voters thought the mayor should resign. The Emerson poll shows concerns about police reform now dropping into single-digit. 

Not surprising was a strong majority (70%) indicating support for a reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate in Chicago, with 21% opposed and 9% unsure. Such a mandate goes into effect citywide, tomorrow. 

Finally, the poll shows that Chicagoans appear pretty evenly split on Mayor Lightfoot's performance so far, with 46% disapproval and 43% approval. While her approval ratings are down about 20% from a year ago, I'm surprised that they're as high as they are, given the divisive nature of current politics, extremely negative City Hall press coverage, and an unrelenting hate campaign organized by both FOP and CTU leaders who have never gotten past Lightfoot's defeat of their candidate in the last election. 

Monday, August 16, 2021


Yes, ‘I Am Legend,’ the 2007 movie about zombie vampires, is now a part of the vaccine conversation. 
As of Wednesday, more than 166 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. The zombie count, however, remains at zero. -- Washington Post
Stephen Collison, CNN
At the same time, Biden was doing exactly what most Americans, exhausted by long years of foreign quagmires and confused as to why US troops were still in Afghanistan 20 years after 9/11, wanted. There was no national support for escalating the war. -- Biden's botched Afghan exit  

Taliban Spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen 

...told the BBC Sunday that the militants want a "peaceful" transition. -- CNBC

‘Saigon on Steroids’: The Desperate Rush to Flee Afghanistan,” by WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov, Dion Nissenbaum, and Margherita Stancati 
"The lucky few were already inside, crowded onto the last patch of government territory that hadn’t fallen to the Taliban. Outside, as thousands of civilians surged to break through the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport, security forces fired gunshots into the air to force them back." -- Wall Street Journal

“Corporate America grows impatient on Biden’s China trade review,” by Gavin Bade

“Nearly eight months into his presidency, America’s largest corporations are voicing frustration that Biden has not rolled back any of former President Donald Trump’s major tariffs, particularly the duties on $350 billion worth of Chinese imports." -- Politico

NYT’s Elizabeth Harris

“Blackout,” by the right-wing media personality Candace Owens, has sold 480,000 copies across formats since it was published last fall by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. “American Marxism,” by the best-selling author Mark R. Levin, which devotes a chapter to critical race theory, sold 400,000 books in just its first week on the market last month. -- New York Times

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Cold Warriors called it the 'China Virus' but let's look at the numbers

Trump and the Republicans called it the "China Virus" or "Kung Flu." Pretty racist and disgusting. Biden and the Democrats are not much better. They continue to play Trump's blame-China game rather than move forward on international cooperation in the war against COVID and its emerging variants.

But a look at current data compiled by Johns Hopkins University along with national public health agencies shows that  China is playing more of a leading role in the world when it comes to containing the spread of the virus while the U.S. remains the principal driver of covid as the Delta strain becomes dominant.  

Currently, it's the US, India, and Brazil that have the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Russia, France, the UK, and Turkey. The U.S. with more than 36 million cases and over 616,000 deaths has the highest total number of cases, deaths, and death rates in the world. 

The U.S. is now averaging about 650 deaths a day, increasing more than 80 percent from two weeks ago and going past the 600 mark on Saturday for the first time in three months.

Compare that with China, which has four times the population of the U.S., but has had a tiny fraction (106,000) of cases and has suffered fewer than 5,000 deaths so far, according to the researchers at Johns Hopkins. 

In other words, there's a lot U.S. health experts and policymakers could learn from China when it comes to fighting the pandemic. At the top of the list is China's national healthcare system. In the U.S. more than 30 million people have no health insurance. 

But scientific cooperation between the world's two leading economic powers is being hindered by Cold War propagandizing, tariff wars and back-and-forth sanctioning. The biggest losers in all this are the poorest of the world's countries suffering from severe vaccine inequality. 

It's not the lack of vaccines that are the problem. The world's richest countries have a surplus while many countries have close to none. The U.S. has two times the number of vaccines than the number of people. Yet there are states with test positivity rates over 50 percent. 

The continuing yellow-peril demagoguery coming out of the White House and State Dept. has done great harm to efforts to close the great vaccine gap or promote international cooperation, while raising the economic and political barriers between the two countries and bringing them closer to unfathomable war. It has also led to an uptick in the growing wave of anti-Asian violence here in the U.S. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Yes, to vax and mask mandates. Randi flips for the better.

Randi Weingarten says it's a 'personal matter.'

"In order for everyone to feel safe and welcome in their workplaces, vaccinations must be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced.
 -- Randi Weingarten, Statement July 26th

"Since 1850 we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools, it’s not a new thing to have vaccines in schools. And I think that, on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers – not opposing them – on vaccine mandates." -- AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, Meet the Press (Aug. 8th)

It didn't take very long for AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten to walk back her opposition to vaccine mandates. RW claims her new position is a "personal matter," a "matter of personal conscience." I'm not sure what that means in this context. Is she not speaking for her union? I guess we'll find out soon enough. 

But I'll go out on a limb here and say the real reasons for the shift are fairly obvious. 

~Most teachers and parents want their children to return to school safely. The only way to ensure that is to have all adults and as many children as possible vaccinated and masked. The teachers unions misread community sentiment.

~Hours before his death, AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka made clear his support for vaccine mandates. To have the teacher unions appear to be bucking Trumka on this would be divisive and damaging to the entire labor movement.

~At a time when the Biden White House is weighing vaccine mandates for businesses and the federal workforce, there's no way AFT leaders can allow themselves to be seen as oppositional. I'm pretty sure that Joe Biden and Education Sec. Miguel Cardona applied some screws where needed.  

~Weingarten's initial opposition to mandates would have put her in step with the most reactionary Republican governors in the nation, like Abbott of Texas and DeSantis of Florida.  Both have threatened to punish any school or district that mandated masking or vaxing. DeSantis has even refused to mandate masks and has blocked school districts from requiring them, despite his state leading the nation in pediatric hospitalizations.

There are even more good reasons to explain the union's shift, but I will stop there. I'm just happy for her change of heart on this regardless of what's driving it.

I'm hoping it will get some of our local Chicago union leaders, like AFSCME's Roberta Lynch, who's still opposing mandates, to rethink their positions. Then there's the CTU leadership, who's remaining quiet on the issue. 


With schools set to open in days, the delta variant has brought the danger to young children into sharp relief. In Tennessee, for example, the variant is spreading quickly in children--so quickly, in fact, that the state's health department projects that children's hospitals in TN will be completely full by the end of next week. 

Two children died from COVID-19 over the weekend in Memphis. and children age 10 and under now account for more than 10% of all new coronavirus infections, one of the highest rates of any point during the pandemic. 

The Resistance... Austin, TX school Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde announced that the district will require face masks, defying Gov. Abbott's executive orders banning ​​mask mandates. Entities that defy Abbott's orders face fines of $1,000, but it's unclear if school districts could face multiple fines for violating the order. Abbott's office didn't clarify how the order would be enforced, but in a statement Tuesday it mentioned possible legal action, promising the governor would work with the Texas attorney general to fight "for the rights and freedoms of all Texans." 

IL Gov. Pritzker is moving right ahead with vaccine mandates for many state employees including state prison staff. Last week he announced vaccinations would be required for all state employees who work in highly populated facilities. That includes officers in prisons operated by the Department of Corrections and Juvenile Justice. Republicans immediately filed a lawsuit and the FOP went ballistic. 

Becky Pringle, president of the largest U.S. teachers' union, the National Education Association (NEA), is still hanging on to the old line. I guess she didn't get the memo about personal conscience. She told the NYT last week that any vaccine mandate should be "negotiated at the local level." But it's not clear what there is to negotiate when both sides have the same interests.

There's also no legal platform for such negotiations and with the clock on school openings ticking, there's no time left to bargain. 

Right-wing and neo-fascist media fear-mongers, including populist shockcasters like anti-gay bigot Joe Rogan, have made vax mandates their fave key wedge issue in hopes of driving white, male listeners to the polls next year to restore a MAGA congressional majority.

Rogan, who calls himself a liberal when it's convenient, claims that mandated masks and vaccine passports are driving the country one step closer to "dictatorship." What a fool!