Thursday, December 12, 2019

I'm missing Friday's show with Erika & Jen from The Girl Talk Show. Damn!

Erika, Jen, & Joanna from The Girl Talk Show
I can't believe I'm missing tomorrow's show featuring two of my favorite people. Jen Sabella and Erika Wozniak will be Fred's in-studio guests. For those who don't know them (you must not live in Chicago), Jen and Erika co-host The Girl Talk Show on the 4th Tuesday of every month, over at the Hideout.

Jen, who describes herself as a "professional tequila drinker", is actually a working Chicago journalist. Erika is a veteran, award-winning, teacher and union activist who currently works as an aldermanic chief-of-staff.

I should add that the GTS is produced by ace political strategist, Joanna Klonsky (yes, we are related).

I'm heading down to FL for a few days to visit family, escape the Chicago windchill, and get rid of this damn cold. So, Fred and Annie will have to carry on without me. I'll be listening and kibitzing by text, from 11-noon CT, via live-stream at

One of the funniest (not so funny) parts of The Girl Talk, is when Jen and Erika present the "Douchebag of the Month Award" to some sexual harasser or predator.

My nominee for this month's award is the co-founder of KIPP charter schools, Mike Feinberg.

Feinberg would have been eligible for the award anytime during the past 15 years. He was finally fired by the KIPP board last year in response to allegations of sexual misconduct with former students and now he's suing KIPP and KIPP is suing him back. What a shit show.

According to Chalkbeat:
A former student alleged that KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg sexually assaulted her under the guise of a medical exam, and a former KIPP employee said he offered her money in exchange for sex, according to a court filing by the KIPP charter school network.
The filing offers new details on the sexual harassment and abuse allegations that led to Feinberg’s firing last year, a move that shocked many in the charter school movement. The motion, filed in November, asks for the dismissal of a defamation suit Feinberg filed against KIPP, the country’s largest nonprofit charter network.
There's still no explanation as to why it took KIPP so long to get rid of Feinberg. He was "involved" with a former KIPP student, employed by KIPP Houston in 2004, which led to a "financial settlement" at the time.

Please don't worry about Feinberg's recovery from this ordeal. He's doing much better than his victims. He's currently the president of the governing board of the Texas School Venture Fund, a conservative group that funnels millions of dollars to charter schools, vouchers, and other school privatization initiatives. 

He'd be a deserving awardee. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Hard to understand CTU's vitriol on these charter closings.

Arne Duncan with K12 Inc. founder William Bennett
I'm having a difficult time making sense out of CTU policy statements lately. Yesterday, the union leadership came out with a blistering, overheated attack on CPS leaders. Why? Because CPS recommended the closing of two privately-run charter schools for poor academic performance and financial mismanagement.

The two schools are Chicago Virtual Charter School (CVCS) and Frazier Preparatory Academy Charter School. Both schools opened as part of Renaissance 2010, a failed initiative of former Mayor Daley’s schools chief, Arne Duncan. The initiative called for the opening of 100 new schools by 2010 amid the closure of dozens of schools the district said were "underperforming."

Private charter school operators moved in like vultures, promising that their non-union schools would outperform neighborhood schools. It turned out to be a lie. The best of the charters did just about the same as the schools they were replacing. The worst either kept getting their charters renewed with little oversight, or were closed, either for poor performance, financial mismanagement or put on probation and given a few years to improve. Several more went out of business of their own volition, as with any failed business venture.

CTU leaders have responded to the recommendation with vitriol, calling it "racist and irresponsible."

I have been an outspoken opponent of public school closings, especially the mass school closings in the black community, under Rahm Emanuel's regime, closings that disrupted the lives and learning of thousands of CPS students and drove hundreds of families out of Chicago. But that doesn't mean that no charter school should ever be closed, no matter how poorly it serves its students and their families or how corrupt they are. I know very little about Frazier, except that it has been on academic probation for several years and has failed to meet the standards set by its own operators.

According to the Tribune: 
At Frazier Prep, a K-8 school in Lawndale, CPS further cited a failure to meet a contractual requirement to implement a successful remediation plan and improve the school enough to get it off the academic warning list. Students in the community have higher-quality options, according to CPS.
 Since 2015, the Chicago Board of Education has used a “quality policy” to review charter schools. In accordance with that policy, school officials conducted “comprehensive performance reviews” and said they found that Chicago Virtual and Frazier Prep were failing to provide a high-quality education to students.
I generally mistrust evidence of "low performance" based solely or mainly on test scores. But I'd leave this decision to CPS in consultation with the school community.

CPS has assured the community that if the Chicago School Board approves the closures, CPS will provide families of current students with transition support "to help them identify a new higher-performing school that best meets their educational needs and priorities."

But we heard that before from Rahm. He lied. So far, Lori Lightfoot has shown that she's not Rahm 2.0. CTU President Jesse Sharkey told me as much on Hitting Left, last Friday.

But I do know something about Chicago Virtual Charter, a subsidiary of K12 Inc., the worst of the worst when it comes to privatization and plunder of American public education. The largest of the virtual charter chains, K12 Inc. in particular, has been a sewer of corruption since it was founded by Ronald Reagan's Ed Sec. William Bennett. The company was forced to remove Bennett as chairman of its directors following a series of racist remarks and gambling scandals which threatened the company's marketability.

K12 Inc. has been under investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which has been looking into K12's involvement in a project that received an improper multimillion-dollar grant from the Department of Education during Bennett's tenure at the firm. MEANWHILE...
A K12 Inc. company database that included information for 19,000 students was available for anyone with an internet connection to see for at least a week, according to a report from Comparitech, which describes itself as a pro-consumer organization that offers security services. -- Digital Education
Trump's Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos touts online learning and cyber charter schools as a viable alternative to public schools. But her support for these virtual schools and the private companies that run them may have more to do with her and her husband's investment portfolio than with any positive results for students. Her husband invested in virtual school powerhouse K12 Inc. before she became secretary.

According to The Nation:
K12 Inc.’s lobbyists helped author model legislation to develop sweeping voucher laws through the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that provides state lawmakers with template legislation.
K12, Inc. initially wanted to open a full-time virtual school in Chicago, but Illinois law prohibited full-time online learning. To comply with the policy, K12, Inc. compromised by adding a mandatory, on-campus attendance requirement and thus the CVCS was born.

It's a school that never should have been opened in this city. In fact, back in 2006, the CTU filed a suit intended to stop state and city payments to the Chicago Virtual Charter School. The union sued the charter school operator, the Chicago Board of Education, which approved the school as part of its Renaissance 2010 reforms, and the Illinois State Board of Education, which gave final approval for the charter to open.

So the question is, why the sharp attack by CTU leaders, who called the CPS recommendation to close CVCS racist and irresponsible? I can understand their making a case against the closing of any neighborhood school. But CVCS was not that. Whether to close Frazier is a question worthy of community debate.

I hope the charges of "racism" against CPS leadership and the mayor's appointed school board isn't just a continuation of the negativity directed at the mayor and the board, stemming from the election and the school strike. But I see no other basis for it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

18 years of lies on Afghanistan revealed

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.” -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Three U.S. presidents, Bush, Obama, and Trump, have bought and sold this big lie to the public and built their failed foreign policies upon it.
A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. -- Craig Whitlock, Washington Post
LOOKING BACK...On Oct. 2, 2002, then IL State Senator Barack Obama said in a major speech at an anti-war rally we organized in Chicago that "I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars." He referred to the Iraq War as his "dumb war" example in contrast to Afghanistan, which was billed as a winnable and necessary war to topple the Taliban government, drive out al Qaeda terrorists and install a pro-U.S. regime in Kabul.
"We must embrace America's singular role in the course of human events but we must also be as pragmatic as we are passionate, as strategic as we are resolute. 
Then there was...
Hillary Clinton supported the 2009 increase in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. During the administration's Afghanistan War review in 2010, Clinton endorsed General Stanley McChrystal's recommendation for 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, before endorsing a fallback proposal (ultimately accepted by Obama) for 30,000 troops. -- NYT
And regime-changer McCain...
Robert Kagan, a former adviser to his 2008 opponent John McCain, warned that a quick withdrawal threatens recent gains against the Taliban - and popular opinion could swing against the president if an emboldened enemy takes the speech as a cue to step up attacks.
"This is a political decision, not a military decision," he told POLITICO. "Americans are tired of this war, that's true. But they hate losing more, and if there's the perception that we're being run out of there, the public will turn on him fast." 
Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

The government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war in Afghanistan, but the costs are staggering -- into the trillions.

Now, Trump says he's ready to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, in preparation for a U.S. troop withdrawal.
News of the talks came just before The Washington Post reported it had obtained more than 2,000 pages of government documents that it says show how U.S. officials have for years misled the public about the war in Afghanistan.
What an irony it would be if Republican Trump, facing impeachment and a difficult 2020 re-election campaign, ended the war that Democrats couldn't or wouldn't end. Shades of Republican, Richard Nixon in March of 1973, withdrawing his defeated army from Vietnam, only to be impeached in October of that same year.

I'm doubtful. Most likely, this is for media consumption.

The media has been complicit... The editorial board of the very same WaPo that this week revealed the pile of lies driving the Afghan war, opposed the war's end just months earlier.
The Washington Post’s editorial board (1/28/19) was similarly apprehensive at the prospect of US withdrawal. Lamenting what it considered a deal brokered “mostly on the enemy’s terms,” it proclaimed that “an end to the Afghan war is desirable, but not at the expense of everything the United States has helped to build there since 2001.” -- FAIR
Tell us, WaPo. What exactly has the U.S. built there? The truth, this time please.  

Monday, December 9, 2019


Linda Ronstadt at the Kennedy Center Honors
Linda Ronstadt
“I’d like to say to Mr. Pompeo, who wonders when he’ll be loved, it’s when he stops enabling Donald Trump.” -- Rolling Stone
Sam Greisman, son of the actor Sally Field, another honoree
“Linda Ronstadt got up to get laurels, looked the fucker right in the eye and said ‘maybe when you stop enabling Donald Trump’” -- Guardian
Greg Hinz on ComEd's annual Mike Madigan fundraiser
Source... “It was put together by a combination of ComEd and Exelon. . . .I went because I understood it was part of the process." -- Crain's 
Sharkey on Hitting Left
CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey
We characterized Rahm as “Mayor 1%”, you know, as a “corporate shill”. We picketed his house…The thing about Rahm was that he was such a clear corporate figure who had taken a year-and-a-half off from government work to make $16 million as a stock trader or private equity guy. And that’s clearly not Mayor Lightfoot. She’s not in that same category. -- Hitting Left
Pete Buttigieg cuts ties with a campaign donor
"I learned about it this morning and within about an hour of that, he's no longer involved in the event or the campaign. Transparency and justice for Laquan McDonald is a lot more important than a campaign contribution." -- CBS News
Trump tells Jewish group...
A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me you have no choice...“You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away,” Trump said, slamming Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren during his speech at the Israeli American Council-- Market Watch
Atty. Gen. William Barr...

...threatens communities of color with loss of police protection. 
If communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need. Barr didn’t specify which “communities” he meant, but his comments were interpreted by many to refer to groups that have protested police violence against people of color. -- Washington Post

Saturday, December 7, 2019

On Hitting Left: CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey on Mayor Lori Lightfoot

On yesterday's Hitting Left show, Fred and I interviewed CTU President Jesse Sharkey about the 2019 teachers' strike and found lots of common ground. As readers of this blog know, while we supported the teachers' demands and walked the picket line with the strikers, we've disagreed with current CTU leaders on some issues, including their equating the city's first black, gay, woman mayor, Lori Lightfoot, with her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel. Here's part of our interview where we ask Jesse about his own take on Mayor Lightfoot.

FK: But am I wrong in feeling that your argument made during the lead-up to the strike and the strike itself was that the new administration was fundamentally not different from Rahm Emanuel’s and that there was this characterization of Mayor Lightfoot as being “Rahm2.0”?

JS: Yeah, you’re wrong in the sense that we characterized Rahm as “Mayor 1%”, you know, as a “corporate shill”. We picketed his house…The thing about Rahm was that he was such a clear corporate figure who had taken a year-and-a-half off from government work to make $16 million as a stock trader or private equity guy.

And that’s clearly not Mayor Lightfoot. She’s not in that same category. The thing about Lori Lightfoot is that she had made a series of promises. But at the negotiating table, she wasn’t putting those things in writing into the contract.

MK: I’ve got lots of quotes here but I’m not going to throw them all at you. But it’s pretty clear that the union leadership was referring to the mayor as “Rahm2.0” or worse in some cases. But now, you’re saying that’s not your take?

JS: No, I just don’t think it's accurate. And I think there are ways, in the heat of battle, that people say all kinds of things polemically or rhetorically. But I don’t think the overall way in which we conducted our strategy…You didn’t see us picketing the mayor’s house or calling her “Mayor 1%”. You know, you’ve got 25,000 people...

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Hat's off to Julián Castro

Democratic presidential hopeful Julian Castro joins Black Lives Matter co-founder Melina Abdullah and others in calling for two LAPD officers to be fired in the police shooting of Grechario Mack.

Julián Castro was the only presidential candidate aware enough to pay tribute to Fred Hampton on the 50th anniversary of Fred's assassination by Chicago cops.

On Tuesday, Castro joined a Black Lives Matter protest in Los Angeles, demanding before a crowd gathered outside LAPD headquarters that two officers be fired for killing Grechario Mack. This would’ve been unthinkable for a presidential hopeful four years ago, writes Zak Cheney-Rice at New York Magazine. 

Cheney-Rice is quick to point out that Castro is polling at less than one percent nationally and failed to qualify for the November primary debate, and appears likely to miss December’s as well.
...he’s done himself few favors by pursuing a platform of dubious popularity aimed at helping a small subset of suffering people who have negligible political influence.
But the cards were stacked against Castro and against any non-white candidate in a race so controlled by the party hierarchy and corporate power. All the remaining anointed Democratic debaters are white and all of them seem to me, to be misreading the "negligible political influence" of that so-called "small subset of suffering people." Democrats will do that at their own peril.

Rep. Bobby Rush, a former Chicago Panther himself, stood up on the House floor and recounted the police attack of the house on Monroe St. that fateful night of December 4th.
Madam Speaker, on a cold December morning, 4:30 A.M. Nobody was moving on the streets. They came into that west side community, in Edison trucks. They came into that community with machine guns with the single purpose of killing Fred Hampton and everybody else who was in that apartment. They came using public utility trucks. Not police cars. And in that hour of the of morning. They knocked on the door when they got to that apartment. 
Half of the police officers went to the front door, half went to the rear door.They knocked on the door and they said and one of the gentlemen inside the apartment, he asked who is it, at 4:30 in the morning. And he got a response from one of them police officers and answered by saying, Tommy. And when he said Tommy, he came in shooting. 
I was out in L.A. that night and we got the call around 4 a.m. west coast time telling us that Fred and Mark Clark had been murdered. It was a call that will stay in my memory forever.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Buttigieg's white blindspot on school deseg

“I have to confess that I was slow to realize ― I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated because they had to be because of a court order,” the Democratic presidential candidate said at a North Carolina talk with the Poor People’s Campaign. . -- Mayor Pete Buttigieg
There's no need for me to beat up on Pete Buttigieg any further, now that the master of the white blindspot has all but eliminated himself as a serious presidential candidate.

But I just have to say that I spent a good deal of time in South Bend high schools a decade ago and it only took me about a minute-and-a-half to notice that the schools were racially segregated. Why did it take him so long?

Of course, I wasn't the first to notice. The district has been signing onto consent decrees and deseg plans for the past 40 years, plans which were largely ignored. Last year's Focus 2018 plan, essentially did an end-run around the consent decree in favor of "school choice". It reminded me of the way Chicago failed to respond to deseg orders right up until 10 years ago when Arne Duncan got a federal judge to relieve the district of its obligations under its own consent decree.

South Bend schools are governed by the South Bend Community School Corporation, which has a board of publicly elected members. I say this only to remind myself and my fellow elected school board supporters that an elected board is hardly a panacea when it comes to racial desegregation.

According to the Notre Dame Observer:
In South Bend, " and Latino students are disproportionately punished, suspended and dismissed from schools, crippling chances of academic achievement and obstructing efforts for “equitable and supportive learning environments for all students.” Black students are disproportionately arrested in public schools as compared to white students, resulting in a school-to-prison pipeline fueled by zero-tolerance policies. Beyond school discipline, residential segregation and the ill effects of concentrated poverty further disadvantage minority students trapped in segregated schools.
The road to Democratic victory in 2020 runs through the black community, and I suspected the Buttigieg campaign was a loser when I watched his announcement to run back in April, in a cavernous South Bend former Studebaker factory, filled almost entirely with white supporters.

Buttigieg has led a rejuvenation of his city's downtown area, true. But his is a gentrification strategy that left out a quarter of the population living as outsiders and living at or below the poverty line. That's a quarter filling most of the seats in South Bend's public schools.

Last week, The Root’s Michael Harriot penned a viral op-ed billing Buttigieg as “a lying motherfucker” for stating eight years ago that lower educational achievement within impoverished minority communities boils down to a lack of role models.

Not my choice of words, but I understand.