Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SmallTalk Salutes Sen. Warren for standing up to charter lobby

“Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind.” -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Sen. Elizabeth Warren who's taken some time out from kicking Donald Trump's behind to stand strong against her state's powerful charter school lobby.

This from the Washington Post:
There is a pitched battle underway in Massachusetts over charter schools, with proponents pouring money into an initiative on the November ballot that would raise the state cap on their growth and opponents arguing that charters are draining resources from traditional public schools. Now critics have gotten a big boost: Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she was going to vote against Question 2
There are now nearly 80 charter schools in Massachusetts, where no more than 120 charter schools are currently allowed to operate. Question 2 would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools to open every year anywhere in the state.  a move that supporters say will give more parents choices about where to send their children to school and help close the achievement gap.

Sen. Warren 
Jennifer Berkshire, who posts at Edushyster, interviews political scientist Maurice Cunningham who says the campaign to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts is driven by GOP operatives and a handful of wealthy Republican families.
There are a handful of wealthy families that are funding this. They largely give to Republicans and they represent the financial industry, basically. They’re out of Bain, they’re out of Baupost, they’re out of High Fields Capital Management. Billionaire Seth Klarman, for example, has been described as the largest GOP donor in New England, and he gives a lot of money to free market, anti-government groups. Then on the campaign level, you have Republican strategist Will Keyser who certainly knows his stuff, and Jim Conroy who certainly knows his stuff. They know how to make something look like a grassroots campaign that really isn’t.
 On the other side of the battle lines is Arne Duncan's successor at the D.O.E., John King who just sent $245M, money that should have gone to public schools, straight to the charter school operators. That included $8M which will go to the chain he once operated himself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Trump's favorite expression is, "believe me". It's almost like he's begging his audience to buy-in to his often outrageous statements as a matter of faith. In last night's debate he told us to believe him a total of seven times. That's seven shots if you were using the phrase in your drinking game. Let's see if we should have believed him.

Believe Me#1...
Now, look, we have the worst revival of an economy since the Great Depression. And believe me: We’re in a bubble right now. And the only thing that looks good is the stock market, but if you raise interest rates even a little bit, that’s going to come crashing down.
No, I don't believe you. First of all, what's the rating scale based on? Secondly, you are running on the Republican ticket. You know, the party who's economic policies caused the world global economic collapse since the Great Depression. For you to then turn around and criticize the pace of the recovery is unbelievable.

Believe Me #2... 
 And believe me: The day Obama goes off, and he leaves, and goes out to the golf course for the rest of his life to play golf, when they raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen, because the Fed is not doing their job. The Fed is being more political than Secretary Clinton.
No, I'm not believing this one either. What does Obama playing golf have to do with the Fed raising interest rates? The Fed did raise interest rates slightly (a quarter point) last year. It was the first time in 9 years, going back to the Bush administration and there was no objection or dissent from either party. The sky didn't fall. In fact, the recovery and job growth sped up a bit. It may have cooled off an out-of-control real estate market a bit. So I can see why you would oppose it. But in what sense is that "political"? Only in the sense that everything is "political", including you.

Believe Me #3
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they’re not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it’s disgraceful. And believe me, this country thinks it’s — really thinks it’s disgraceful, also.
Okay, I believe you here, sorta.  By why trash the 5th? What's your problem with the Bill of Rights? Also, only one person who worked directly for Clinton is known to have asserted his Constitutional right against self-incrimination: Bryan Pagliano, a computer specialist who held a political appointment at the State Department and also worked for the Clinton family.
It's not just the 5th Amendment you have problems with, it's the 1st as well.

Believe Me #4
CLINTON: And maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years. (APPLAUSE)And the other thing I think is important...TRUMP: It would be squandered, too, believe me.
You're probably right here too. But those of us who aren't billionaires don't get to say: Oh, I think I won't pay any taxes this year because the money will be squandered on war or on a border wall. It's unbelievable that you can get away with that.

Believe Me #5
I’m all for NATO. But I said they have to focus on terror, also.And they’re going to do that. And that was — believe me — I’m sure I’m not going to get credit for it — but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO.Believe Me #6
Bullshit. You are not for NATO. You have advocated the U.S. pulling out of NATO if other members couldn't pay their bills. Cut the crap.

Believe Me #6  
I think we have to get NATO to go into the Middle East with us, in addition to surrounding nations, and we have to knock the hell out of ISIS, and we have to do it fast, when ISIS formed in this vacuum created by Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton. And believe me, you were the ones that took out the troops. 
No, not believable. First of all, Obama and Clinton didn't take out the troops as Obama promised he would. There are still 5,000 troops plus many more mercenaries in Iraq and there's more on the way to fight ISIS. Second, they didn't "create" the vacuum. It was created as a split with the old al Qaeda leadership and supported financially and militarily, possibly by your business pals, the Saudis (Trump is building hotels in Jeddah). The real deal is that ISIS is a product of the original invasion of Iraq (which, believe me, you supported) and the never-ending "war on terrorism".

Believe Me #7
I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day. Believe me, he’s not a happy camper.
No, I don't believe you. First of all, Netanyahu is not a camper. Second, he's happy as a pig is poop. Wouldn't you be if Pres. Obama just gave you $38 billion.

Trump: "Stop and frisk" isn't racial profiling it's stopping "bad people."

"But we need — Lester, we need law and order. And we need law and order in the inner cities..." -- Trump
I actually would have found at least the second half of the debate entertaining, if the stakes weren't so damn high. The Daily Show's Trevor Noah summed it up this way:
"Welcome to the real-life version of Twitter, people," Noah said. "You know that at that point, Lester Holt wasn't even moderating anymore, he was just eating popcorn with everyone else."
I admit, after watching the poorly-run Clinton campaign slide so badly since the convention, I was concerned that Donald Trump would carry his momentum into the debate. Boy, was I wrong.

An apparently sedated Hillary Clinton, halting and self-constrained, waited patiently for her moment. Then she took her best shots, in response to Trump's never ending braggadocio (his word, not mine) about his mythical business acumen, deal-making artfulness and ability to avoid paying any taxes (a charge he never denied), Hillary laid it on him.

First on his unwillingness to allow us to see his tax returns.
CLINTON: For 40 years, everyone running for president has released their tax returns. You can go and see nearly, I think, 39, 40 years of our tax returns, but everyone has done it. We know the IRS has made clear there is no prohibition on releasing it when you’re under audit.
Then on taxes. Remember Trump has been maintaining that corporations are fleeing the U.S. to evade high taxes. But Trump seems to have done pretty well here.
CLINTON: Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax...So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. TRUMP: That makes me smart. 
On the financial crisis, Trump played the perfect disaster capitalist. Neither of them, for reasons of their own, mentioned that the global financial collapse happened under the Republican Bush administration.
CLINTON: In fact, Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, “Gee, I hope it does collapse, because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.” Well, it did collapse.
TRUMP: That’s called business, by the way.
Alicia Machado
Then finally, the coup de grĂ¢ce.
CLINTON: And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman [Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machiado]“Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.
TRUMP: Where did you find this? Where did you find this?
CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.
TRUMP: Where did you find this?
CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet...
TRUMP: Oh, really?
CLINTON: ... she’s going to vote this November.
It was over.

Well, not quite. Trump, fearing even further disintegration of his dwindling poll numbers among Latinos, went after Machado again this morning on FOX, claiming, she had "attitude" and calling her "the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst."
"She was impossible.... She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem."
Trump was either an ill-prepared, out-of-control, chauvinistic, blustering, money-grubbing, nuke-waving racist buffoon (my take), or a great-white-hope, politically incorrect, law-and-order hero, depending on which America you occupy.

Clinton tiptoed cautiously around race and the latest in a string of police shootings of black men. Her best statement was:
Race remains a significant challenge in our country. Unfortunately, race still determines too much, often determines where people live, determines what kind of education in their public schools they can get, and, yes, it determines how they’re treated in the criminal justice system. We’ve just seen those two tragic examples in both Tulsa and Charlotte.
But she played it safe after that. Let's just say, the words Black Lives Matter, were never uttered.

Whereas the @realDonaldTrump let it all hang out. He started out by painting life in the black community as "living in hell" in need of "law and order" (code words for keep them in their place) and ended with his Rudy Giuliani-inspired call for more stop-and-frisk, racial profiling-- making Chicago his whipping boy.

Trump must not have known (and Hillary wouldn't say) that under the rule of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago had already become the nation's stop-and-frisk capital, well after stop-and-frisk had been ruled unconstitutional in N.Y.

In August 2013, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the hundreds of thousands of Stop and Frisks performed annually by the NYPD amounted to racial profiling and violated the 4th Amendment's protections from unreasonable search and seizure because they were based on generalized suspicion.

By the summer of 2014, Chicago cops performed a quarter million stop-and-frisks in just 90 days, without making any arrests. Shootings in the city (including those by police) continued to rise at a record pace before the policy was changed. Stop-and-frisk was proven to be a failed, racist policy.

Trump continued to insist that "stop and frisk" wasn't racial profiling. It was stopping "bad people." It amounted to his only plan for resource-starved black and Latino communities.

It was a desperately-needed win for Clinton. A big defeat for Trump who limped away, crying he had a "defective mic" and that Republican moderator Lester Holt was an agent of the "left-wing" media. His mentor, Giuliani even advised him to skip the remaining debates. Good advice.

DON'T ASK. DON'T TELL...As expected, public education never came up in the debate and the word education was only mentioned in passing three times -- all by Clinton. There was never even a mention of Trump University, school closings, common core, testing, unions, or charter schools.

Monday, September 26, 2016


CTU members Maria Cosme, left, and Nancy Serrano count ballots (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune) 
CTU Pres. Karen Jennings Lewis on CTU's strike vote
"But here's the deal — and this is the truth, period, the end — I don't have to work under this contract. They do. So it seems like, to me, that the people that have to work under the contract should have the most ability to say yes or no to things." -- Chicago Tribune
Jesse Sharkey 
"I fully expect that by (this) week we'll have successfully authorized a strike, and then it will be up to the delegates to talk about where that leaves us and what makes sense for a deadline. We're looking to move this toward a conclusion. All of our options are on the table, including a strike deadline."  -- Tribune
Pres. Barack Obama
And so this national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are.  It helps us better understand the lives, yes, of the President, but also the slave; the industrialist, but also the porter; the keeper of the status quo, but also of the activist seeking to overthrow that status quo; the teacher or the cook, alongside the statesman. -- At the Dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Cultur
Bruce Springsteen on Trump
"It's a rich environment unfortunately for a demagogue." -- Swedish talk show
Monica Navarrete of Lawrenceville, Georgia
"I told him I'm going to vote for him and Hillary so my parents can stay here longer." -- Politico
Trump on using nuclear weapons
[MSNBC, March 30, 2016] Trump said he was open to nuking Europe because it’s a “big place” 
MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in 45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.
TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? -- Think Progress
Just wanted to get him on record...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Note to some fellow lefties...

Students from Johnson C. Smith University at a rally for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times        
Sorry to say, rapacious capitalism will still be here in November. Not only that, but I doubt it will ever be simply voted out. Even if a "socialist" like Bernie were to someday be elected (I wish). But maybe that's just old-school me.

Whatever the case, come the first of the year, either Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, will be our next president and Jill Stein and Gary Johnson will have taken their campaign funds and gone home, a la Ralph Nader and the rest of those perennial presidential spoiler candidates.

That's when the real movement for social justice, peace and racial equality needs to kick into gear again -- after the election, no matter who is elected.

NYT columnist Charles Blow, speaking to Morgan State Univ. students, tries to break through the reported millennial political malaise and encourage a large youth turnout for Clinton.
First — and this cannot be said enough — Clinton and Trump are not equally bad candidates. One is a conventional politician who has a long record of public service full of pros and cons. The other is a demagogic bigot with a puddle-deep understanding of national and international issues, who openly courts white nationalism, is hostile to women, Mexicans and Muslims, and is callously using black people as pawns in a Donnie-come-lately kinder-gentler campaign.
As an educator, I would also include Trump's pledge to do away with public education or what he calls, the "government monopoly" of public schools. And here I thought Trump loved to play Monopoly.

Blow continues...
That person will appoint someone to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court (assuming that the Senate doesn’t find religion and move on Merrick Garland before the new president takes office) and that person will also appoint federal judges to fill the 88 district court and court of appeals vacancies that now exist (there are 51 nominees pending for these seats).
And more...
You can’t have taken part in a march for Eric Garner, chanting “I can’t breathe,” and risk the ascendance of a man who has as one of his chief advisers Rudy Giuliani, the grandfather of the very “broken windows” policing strategy that sent officers after low-level offenders like Garner.
You can’t detest racial-dragnet-policy stop-and-frisk policing as not only morally abhorrent but thoroughly unconstitutional and risk the ascendance of a man who on Wednesday reportedly suggested that he would consider using stop-and-frisk more across the nation.
Makes sense. As Bernie Sanders himself said last week: “This is not the time for a protest vote.”

As one of the leaders of the "vote in the streets" 60's youth revolt and someone who has often cast protest votes or gone fishing on meaningless election days, I couldn't agree more.


September 24, 2016 • 9-10 am CDT
The Live from the Heartland Show 

Standing Rock, Song & Good Food in School
    • Nick Estes, Mike Klonsky, Joel Frankel, Alexander DeSorbo-Quinn 

       —Report from Standing Rock
       —Old Town School of Folk Music
      — Pilot Light: helping kids make healthier choices

       —Rogers Park Food Co-op 
Join Michael James, Katy Hogan & Thom Clark this Saturday for a solid hour of conversation & entertainment with people doing good in the World. 

On (worldwide!) and 88.7 fm, and now streaming live on The Live from the Heartland Show's Facebook 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trib's latest anti-union editorial is laughable

The Tribune's wingnut editors are on a roll this week. They began with a call for a "schoolchildren's Bill of Rights" which had nothing to do with either children or rights, but was little more than a right-wing school  privatization manifesto. 

Now the Trib's editorial board, juiced up on  anti-union Trumpomania, has outdone its Mussolini-loving self with a new diatribe against the CTU. The union's crime?  Holding an open strike vote by its members.

This is actually the second strike vote the union has taken. Nearly 90% of all voting members voted in December to authorize a possible strike, but CPS contested the timing of that vote.

The Trib's screed, comparing the vote, mandated by a state law which the Trib supported, with elections in Iraq, Liberia and North Korea, is laughable. To put it bluntly, the Tribune has problems with elections, period.

Brother Fred notes:
 It was just a few years ago that Stand For Children’s Jonah Edelman, a guy who thought he was way too clever by half, got the Illinois legislature to pass a law requiring Chicago union teachers, and only Chicago union teachers, to vote by a 75% super majority in order to authorize a strike.
He told his friends that he had studied union strike authorization votes and that 75% was some kind of magic number. He was wrong in 2012 and he was wrong last year. He never understood that in a democratic union, you can’t short circuit democracy.
CTU's Jesse Sharkey responds:
The Chicago Tribune is comparing the CTU's strike vote to some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world. What I find enraging here is that the CTU is held to a ridiculously high standard for voting on a strike (75% of entire membership must vote in affirmative.) Think about that: an 80% yes vote on an 80% turnout would still fail. But the CTU is not credited for meeting a democratic standard which virtually no elected official could meet. We are condemned. The appointed Board of Ed is not compared to North Korea and castigated for stalling negotiations for 22 months while their unelected members slash public schools. The Tribune's attack on our vote-by-petition reveals how deeply they despise our power and voice.
Actually, while CPS is still run as a wing of City Hall, by an autocratic mayor and an un-elected school board, the CTU is probably the most democratically-run institution in this town.

On the brighter side, no teachers I know give a damn what the Tribune thinks about their elections.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Tribune's so-called 'Schoolchildren's Bill of Rights'

Created with consent of the governed.
Chicago Tribune editors are calling for a "Schoolchild's Bill of Rights." As anyone familiar with the Trib might guess, Sunday's editorial has little to do with schoolchildren or their rights--except, that is, for their right to have their schools closed or privatized and their teachers debased. 

The Trib's Bill of Rights includes not a single right for students, but instead includes things like:
  • Merit Pay for teachers, a oft-tried initiative which, according to researchers, produced no gains in measurable learning outcomes. 
  • Using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Already the law in IL. 
  • Widespread school "choice," the Trib's code word for school vouchers and privately-run charters. Trib editors write: "The public education industry should view ethnic, parochial or other private schools not as threats but as alternatives that enrich and diversify a community's educational offerings."
  • An end to collective bargaining, including the right to strike.
  • Parent Trigger Laws which enable a small and temporary group of parents to take over a school and hand it over to a private, for-profit company to operate. As you might expect, there's nothing about parents' right to opt-out of the plague of standardized testing.
  • Mass closing of  black and Latino neighborhood schools and leaving boarded-up buildings to further blight communities or sell them off to condo developers. Again, too late. They're already doing it. 
In other words, there's not much on this list that hasn't been going on for years in Chicago, without any positive results. 

Trib editors' ideal schools chief.
The only thing surprising here is the Trib editors' use of Bill of Rights lingo to promote their extreme right-wing reform agenda. Remember it was the same board members who, in a previous editorial, called for CPS to be taken over by an autocrat with "Mussolini-like powers" to execute and implement that agenda. 

I'm afraid that would leave Chicago kids with little more than Miranda Rights. 

A real student Bill of Rights might include items like:
  • The right to learn in a safe environment in a safe community.
  • The right to be well-fed, rested and clothed.
  • The right to opt-out of high-stakes, standardized testing.
  • The right to attend a racially desegregated public school.
  • The right to gender equality including freedom from LGBT discrimination.
  • The right to vote and have voice on important matters concerning school policy.
  • The right to think critically, free from censorship, locker searches and book banning.
  • The right to have a qualified, certified teacher in every classroom. 
  • The right to the same level of funding and resources as students in the wealthy suburbs. 
The list of student rights could and would be a lot longer, if students had any voice in compiling it. I'm quite sure that didn't happen over at the Tribune. 

Mussolini would never have approved. 

Monday, September 19, 2016


Malcolm Jenkins

Eagles' safety Malcolm Jenkins on tonight's team protest
 “Really it’s just to continue to push forward the conversation about social injustice, and that’s a range of things from police brutality to wages and job opportunities, education. There’s just a lot of things systematically that have been set up in this country since its inception that put minorities, especially African Americans, at a disadvantage when you talk about quality of life and actually growing in this country.” -- Washington Post
Pres. Obama
"My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration, that’s on the ballot right now.” -- Speech to Congressional Black Caucus
Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier
I call on all my supporters and allies to join the struggle at Standing Rock in the spirit of peaceful spiritual resistance and to work together to protect Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth. -- CounterPunch
Charles Blow
 Trump has claimed that Bill Ayers wrote the President’s acclaimed, best-selling memoir because surely this black man couldn’t have the talent to write the book. -- New York Times
Bernie Sanders
“So I would just simply say to the Millennials – to anybody else – look at the issues. Don’t get hung up on Trump’s kids, or whatever the story, the birther issue – stay focused on the issues of relevance to your life. I think Clinton is far and away the superior candidate.” -- Dead State
Kate Aronoff, ITT writing fellow
Between Trumka’s DAPL endorsement and the Fraternal Order of Police’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president, this week has shown a stark divide between parts of American labor and today’s social movements. -- In These Times

Friday, September 16, 2016

Right on, Rep. Will Guzzardi

Logan Squarist
After his stunning victory over his machine opponent, people (including me) warned him that he wouldn't be able to do too much as a freshman legislator. Boy were we wrong. Despite swimming with the sharks and battling our sociopath Gov. Rauner down in Springfield, Rep. Will Guzzardi has become a leader in the fight for public education and on other progressive initiatives. Among others, he's championed the cause for an elected school board and an end to Rahm Emanuel's autocratic rule over Chicago Public Schools.

Will's latest campaign is for free tuition at state schools for Illinois residents, paid for, in part with a "millionaire's surcharge".
Illinois Rep. Will Guzzardi (D) has posted a petition online to gather support for free tuition at state schools for Illinois residents. He announced a new coalition called Tuition Free Illinois, which he’s spearheading, to gather support for the effort. Tuition Free Illinois includes Chicago Votes, Chicago Student Action, Young Chicago Authors and College Democrats of Illinois.
“I suspect that this will be very difficult to pass in the current political climate,” Guzzardi writes in an email to LoganSquarist. “But we’re going to push, and we’re going to work to elect leaders who will support these kinds of bold progressive ideas.” -- Logan Squarist
Thanks Will. And keep on pushin'. We've got your back.

Check out Will's Facebook page and sign his petition here. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

AFT and OFT on Ohio’s $71 Million Charter School Grant

For Immediate Release
Sept. 14, 2016

Contact: Janet Bass 202-879-4554

WASHINGTON—Below are statements from the American Federation of Teachers and the Ohio Federation of Teachers on the U.S. Department of Education’s approval of Ohio’s $71 million charter school expansion grant. The federal government called the grant “high risk” because of questionable oversight, accountability and transparency of the state’s charter schools, and it included many accountability measures with the grant.

AFT President Randi Weingarten:  “Charter schools were supposed to be incubators of innovation and part of a larger public school system. Students attending charter schools should have similar opportunities and protections as students in traditional public schools, but due to mismanagement, fraud and waste in Ohio’s notoriously lax oversight system, too many students in Ohio do not. Charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as other public schools for their academic, managerial and financial performance. While we wonder why the grant was given at all, given Ohio charter schools’ history of poor academic performance and assorted scandals, the grant’s restrictions are a vital step toward holding the state and its charter schools accountable to students, their families and taxpayers.”

Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper: “Ohio’s charter school system has produced an unending record of failed performance, suffered from an overall lack of meaningful state oversight and been party to numerous scandals, including a falsified application for this grant. This $71 million could be put to far better use—for example, by expanding community schools with wraparound services to address the nonacademic barriers that impact students’ ability to learn. These programs have been wildly successful where they are available for students in Ohio.”


Trump wants to abolish 'government schools'

Trump delivered his big ed policy speech at scandal-ridden for-profit Cleveland charter school.
“There is no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly.” -- Donald Trump
In last Thursday's big policy speech, Trump promised to do away with "government-run" public schools. That's what he and his basket of deplorable followers call public schools.

WaPo's Valerie Strauss points out that Trump is stealing former Florida governor Jeb Bush's rhetoric here. Bush often called public schools, “government-run monopolies run by unions.”

She adds: "Let’s ignore the irony of Trump using the same language as Bush, whom Trump mocked during the GOP primaries."

Here I can't resist mentioning  the especially close relationship Arne Duncan had with Jeb and other anti-govt, anti-union schoolers, like former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Glad he's gone. Or is he?

It's been a week and we're still waiting for a direct response to the Trump speech from Team Hillary. She needs to draw a clearer line, especially on charter expansion and teacher unions if she wants to rally her base and put Trump away.

See New York Times: Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton: Where They Stand on Education
and Mother Jones , "Will Hillary Clinton's Education Policy Break From Obama's in a Huge Way?" for more on this.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Here's just 5 day's worth of Chicago Trib's CPD headlines

Grand jury to look into possible cover-up by Chicago police in Laquan McDonald shooting
(9/12) A grand jury will be impaneled to investigate a possible cover-up by Chicago police in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald at the request of a special prosecutor appointed in July to investigate the matter. Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor, said Monday she has enough evidence to...
 Lawsuit accuses Chicago cop of beating mentally disabled teen
(9/12) A veteran Chicago police officer has been accused in a federal lawsuit of beating a mentally disabled teen while off duty last year, sticking his gun in the young man's mouth and filing a false police report to cover it up. Both the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police...

4 officers hospitalized after Englewood crash
(9/11)Four Chicago police officers were hospitalized after a crash late Saturday in Englewood, police said. Just after 11:35 p.m., two squad cars crashed while attempting to curb a vehicle in the 5800 block of South Ashland Avenue. The officers were taken to area hospitals with injuries that police described...
Police open fire after witnessing fatal Humboldt Park shooting; 1 wounded
(9/10) It's uncommon for police officers to witness a killing, but Friday night, Chicago police say, gang unit officers watched a fatal shooting unfold on the streets of Humboldt Park. Before it was over, officers intervened and fired shots. A second person was injured by gunfire, possibly from police,...
Police chase death, wrongful conviction, cop overtime suits may cost city $2.7M
(9/9) Chicago taxpayers likely are on the hook for another $2.7 million in lawsuit costs after the City Council Finance Committee on Friday recommended paying out the cash to settle three cases. The largest — $1.375 million — would go to the estate of Eugene Ratliff, who was hit by...
Embattled Chicago cop: 'These are families, and I'm here to protect them'

(9/9) With his reputation on the line, embattled former Chicago police Cmdr. Glenn Evans took his case to the public Thursday, saying he can no longer stand by quietly as others "malign" him. Surrounded by supporters at a South Side church, Evans defended a reputation he says was marred by criminal charges...

 As Chicago killings surge, the unsolved cases pile up
(9/9) The killing was as brazen as it was brutal. Elliott Brown was fatally shot one afternoon in January on the Chicago Skyway when a gunman in a black SUV pulled up next to his BMW coupe and began firing. The 25-year-old Brown was pronounced dead at the scene, and his girlfriend was wounded, shot four...
One Chicago cop charged, another cleared in alleged brutality cases caught on video
(9/8) Chicago police were breaking up a loud West Side block party in July 2014 when cellphone video captured Officer Brett Kahn walking up to a partygoer and slamming him in the head while holding a collapsible metal baton. One year later, in the city's Brighton Park neighborhood...
Chicago cop charged with striking man in face with baton at 2014 block party
(9/8) Cook County prosecutors have brought felony charges against a Chicago police officer more than two years after he was captured on video striking a man with his service baton at a West Side block party. Brett Kahn, 31, an officer since August 2012, turned himself in Thursday morning to an investigator...
No charges against Chicago police in death of handcuffed suspect
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Two members of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe ride through the camp. The man on the left said, “We’re building our shelters for winter right now.” Photo by William Brangham
Member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyata Tribe 
“Even if they’re just little infants, they’re gonna look back at pictures of this and remember: I was here, I was part of this.” -- BuzzFeed
David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe
"My nation's history is at risk because the pipeline builders and the Army Corps failed to consult the tribe when planning the pipeline, and routed it through areas of cultural and historical significance, which will be destroyed." -- NPR
Union members oppose Dakota Access Pipeline 
"Union members understand that today the greatest threat to jobs, health and decent living standards is climate change. We support the National Day of Action on September 13th, and we urge President Obama to stop construction of this destructive pipeline and keep dangerous fossil fuels in the ground."  -- ATU Statement
Kelly Hayes
The old chant, “The whole world is watching!” seemed on the verge of accuracy in Standing Rock. And then came today’s ruling, with a federal judge finding against the Standing Rock Sioux, and declaring that construction of the pipeline could legally continue. -- Transformative Spaces
Connecticut Judge Thomas Moukawsher 
He found that the recent budget crisis “left rich schools robbing millions of dollars from poor schools” and left open the possibility that at any time funds could be moved “away from starving cities to rich suburbs for no good reason.” -- New York Times editorial

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The original plan called for pipeline to run though mainly-white Bismarck

The Snake is headed our way.
Isn't this the way things go?

According to court documents, original proposals for construction placed the pipeline near the water supply for Bismarck, a city that is 88% white. “They altered the route because people were concerned about the impact on the city’s water supply,” Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice attorney representing the tribe said in an interview. “ (The government) put the risk on the tribe. That’s not right.” -- High Country News

The Army Corps of Engineers has a long history of taking lands at Standing Rock including the creation of Lake Oahe which inundated prime agricultural lands and fruit orchards so mainly-white Bismarkians would have a place to water ski and fish for walleye.

Super proud of the Windy City for the big turnout at yesterday's solidarity rally and march on the Army Corps of Engineers office. Other protests took place in cities around the country, including Bismarck. 

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg's ruling was a big blow. But Justice Dept. and Army Corps of Engineers heard footsteps and have temporarily halted operations.

Classic Obama... He calls on Dakota Access to "voluntarily" delay bulldozing Sioux sacred ground.

Chicago solidarity marchers.
But at least Obama did/said something (only after being embarrassed by a student in Laos). Where's Hillary Clinton? She reversed herself last year and came out in opposition to the XL Keystone Pipeline. But now, as the battle rages in Standing Rock, her silence is deafening. Is she afraid of offending the big-bank campaign contributors who have sunk more that $3B into the project? Or the neocon Republicans who have allied with her against Trump?
This despite the fact that the Democratic platform devotes more space to protecting Native American rights than any single other issue. The section was written by a Bernie Sanders appointee, veteran tribal campaigner Deborah Parker, but it was approved unanimously and without debate by every single member of team Clinton, who were in constant contact with their campaign headquarters. -- Bill McKibben, L.A. Times
My friend, filmmaker Michelle Noble drove 23 hours from L.A. to film, record from the encampment. She posted this video clip today.

My fave headline of the day, from the Bismarck Tribune:
Highway 1806 was briefly closed as protesters, horses entered the roadway

Friday, September 9, 2016

Standoff at Standing Rock as we await court ruling

With Defenders of Water School principal Elena and teacher Theresa.
I finally found my calling after all these years. I want to come back here and be the basketball coach at the Defenders of Water School at the Standing Rock Sioux encampment. Susan and I showed up early at the school yesterday, to see if we could help out. Susan spent the morning trying to salvage school supplies that were washed out in Wednesday's downpour, putting remaining usable materials in plastic bins.

I played hoops -- a no-rules 3-on-3 pick-up game with 9-year-olds with players shuffling in an out. An Australian photog took pictures (with permission) and promised to send me some as soon as he could find some a wi-fi connection. I'm still waiting.

Early yesterday morning, a group of activists out on the front line set out to block the Dakota Access bulldozers. But the confrontation never materialized because the 'dozers were inoperable. The torrential rainstorm the day before had left them in a sea of mud. The rest of the day turned into an eerie peace. A standoff with company spotters up on the ridge watching the protesters and taking pictures while activists watched back. "We watch them watching us," said a guy camping at the front line. He had come from Arkansas to be part of this. "They watch us watching them watch us." There's a song lyric in there somewhere.

Approaching the roadblock on 1806.
Today, a federal judge is scheduled to rule on the Standing Rock Sioux lawsuit, a ruling that could stop the pipeline in its tracks or give a green light to DAPL The tribe’s lawsuit contends that the Dakota Access pipeline violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, and threatens the region’s water supply and sacred ancient sites outside of the 2.3 million-acre reservation.

Yesterday came word that Gov. Dalrymple had activated the National Guard in anticipation of the ruling. Dalrymple is avid Trump supporter, solidly behind Dakota Access and the pipeline project. The 100 guardsmen will man the roadblocks out on Hwy. 1806 leading into the encampment, freeing state police for  other duties. Rumors abound that several hundred police from around the state have been training in the nearby town of Mandan for action against protestors.

Tribal chiefs have been meeting to plan a response to the court ruling and the governor's actions. So have the activists.


There is a  reservation school district at Standing Rock. A public elementary school and a high school. I didn't visit them. But I looked on the school district's Facebook page and there is a letter from the school superintendent denying rumors that the school bus had been stopped at a roadblock and that some of those on board were questioned by police.  I wonder how attendance at the "regular" schools is doing. The encampment has opened an elementary school. Mni Wichoni Na KIciziy Owayawa or Defenders of Water School. (I can't type in the Sioux diacritical marks so this is not spelled properly).

MK can spot a hoop anywhere. Between the main tipi and the row of portable toilets, there's a basketball hoop. By no means regulation or even half-sized court, and the "floor" is trampled grass. But it suited its purpose. MK was soon playing with 9-year-olds who were waiting for school to begin. He  can still dominate the boards (or mud) against 4th-graders. He asks a skinny little boy, "Can you dunk?" The kid is happy to have somebody to play with so he puts up with the teasing. Then a little girl joins in. First it's MK versus these two little  ones, then as more kids join, it's 2 on 2, and soon, 3 on 3. And the 9-year-old psych artist shows some attitude,  calling MK "Old Man" and trying to outfox him. The old man will be okay once his wounded pride heals.

The school consists, so far, of a large tipi as the main classroom plus separate tents for math and reading. School is supposed to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. followed by after-school activities; however, things got off to a late start this morning as we worked to salvage materials which had been hit by yesterday's frog-choker of a rainstorm. The supply tent is piled high with cartons of paper, notebooks, and school supplies. I was with a couple of volunteers sorting and organizing the stuff and transferring the undamaged materials into plastic bins. Many tribal delegations arrived with school supplies to contribute to the pool, so there is quite an abundance. The problem is keeping everything organized and dry. And unlike a conventional school building, computers are not in the picture.  Small white plastic writing practice boards -- the kind you can wipe off and reuse --are augmented by white masonite tiles, intended for ceilings, which are easy to clean off. We had to throw away some paper, notebooks and other paper goods that got soaked but most everything else was still in plastic wrappings and so survived.

Aside from conventional school supplies and art supplies, the school has several huge containers of beads and beading materials. Native American bead work has many genres, styles and techniques. I wished I could stay to see how the class would be taught.

We met the school's principal, who is a teacher at the Standing Rock elementary school. She was preparing to teach a morning opener on Lakota values. She was joined by a young teacher from the Chicago suburbs who has come as a volunteer. A mom came over to drop off her kids for school. The mom stuck around to help sort materials. "We got in last night from Arizona," she told me, " and luckily my kids got a full night's sleep in the car, so they're ready for today." There was no official or informal census of how many people are at the encampment nor how many children. And not all the children are signed up for the school yet.  Here in the liberated zone that is this little valley, a new school is being born.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Notes from Standing Rock

We got to camp yesterday afternoon after driving hours through torrential rain storms. We drove in from the north (Bismarck), easily avoiding any roadblocks by taking Rte. 6 off of 94, to 24 and then east into camp.

By the time we arrived, the sky had broken and we got our first clear look at this stunning Missouri River valley rich in colors.  Clearly a land worth fighting for and keeping out of the clutches of oil-profiteers and polluters.

The dirt road into camp had turned to a river of mud. But that didn't seem to slow hundreds of new arrivals, now lined up along the side of 24 in cars, SUVs, pick-ups, and campers with license plates from seemingly every state, waiting to be guided past security and into the main camp. From up on the hill, the first sight of the main encampment is awesome. Thousands of supporters in tents, tipis, or just sleeping in sleeping bags on the ground or in cars. It's a beautiful collage of beloved, well-organized and self-run community and refugee camp. Tribes who, I'm told, haven't joined together in a hundred years or more now coming together with delegations of supporters.

Donated goods stack up at the food tent.
We parked and unloaded our food, warm clothing and feminine products at the donations center. We had stopped at a market in Jamestown to pick up more big cans of beans, diced tomatoes, pineapple chunks and whatever else they had on their shelves. No Costco in this part of N.D.

Teams of cooks and kitchen volunteers were serving meals 24/7. A free store offered clothing, toys and donated goods to whoever needed them. Tanker trucks brought in water for bathing and drinking. Horse corrals and lots and lots of of kids,

The first campers we met, a small group of Onondaga tribe members, had driven here non-stop from N.Y. One woman had a thick Brooklyn accent. They asked us for advice on avoiding Chicago loop traffic and tolls on their return trip to Buffalo.

I stopped by the camp school and met a couple of the volunteer teachers. Class begins at 9 this morning. I asked if they needed help and they said, "all the help we can get." So I'll be back there at 8:30.


From Susan's Notebook

All the senses are engaged in Cannonball. I tracked around the sprawling campground like a big old dog today, sniffing the air and taking in the scene.

Waiting to enter the main camp.
You should see and smell what the cooks are making to feed several thousand people a day at the NO DAPL camp.  I saw folks unloading a pick-up truck full of 30-lb. bags of potatoes. A local farmer dropped off mountains of squashes. There's a refrigerator trailer for the perishables and meat including a couple of head of cattle donated for the cause. They have built a cooker the size of a smallish school bus and a team works steadily splitting wood for the fires so they can keep up with the cooks.  It's fun and impressive to watch. And the sweet smell and taste of wood smoke and grilling foods is hard to beat.

Visually it's remarkable. There are three camps. I've seen only two of them.  One is relatively compact and has a couple of small wind power generators humming away on a hilltop. The hum harmonizes well with the buzz of a million crickets and whoever else is chirping away in the grasses. Waves of nylon tents in every shade of blue line the hillsides, vying with the tribal flags which line the main road into camp. Each of the flags is impressive  for its own vivid color and unique symbols. But massed on tall white poles lining the road into camp are ALL the tribal flags and it's hard to take it all in, harder still to realize -- again -- how little I know of these histories and who these flags stand for. Among all the bright little nylon tents and tarps there are also lots of white tipis, made the old-fashioned way--no fiberglass poles. Most of the ones here are made of a marine cover material which is highly waterproof and the construction allows them to stand up to wind and rain.

It has rained like mad here. Today alone the area got .75 inch of rain in a couple of hours. There are blankets and jackets and jeans spread out to dry on the roofs of the cars and vans, on makeshift clotheslines and lawn chairs. Everything had something drying on it after the rains moved through. The temperature began to plunge as the sun dropped. Donated blankets and sleeping bags were being distributed to folks whose stuff had gotten soaked today. On top of having wet outerwear and wet bedding--there is mud. M.U.D. The sucking, strong, sticky kind of mud in a supersaturated cow pasture that is now home to so many families. Our car got stuck in the mud on the steep road out of camp, and a couple of young guys just got behind us, put their shoulders into it, and gave us enough of a shove to regain traction.

There has never been a gathering of all these tribes and on this scale. People keep saying unprecedented. It's no exaggeration. Even longtime rivals have come together on this one, and there is teasing and humor about historic feuds but in the camp they say there is a sense that something precious,  delicate and wonderful--and powerful--has come together--something about which participants clearly feel highly protective.


School tent
Forget about the reported lack of press coverage of the pipeline struggle. The media, both mainstream and social, is all over the encampment, taking pictures and interviewing anyone who will talk to them. Check out yesterday's Washington Post article.

I hear a New York Times reporter, cameras hanging from her neck, speaking with camp leaders about the rules of engagement. As you might expects, there are lots of restrictions on picture-taking and some of the camps don't want it, period, either for religious or security reasons, or both. But pictures and interviews are possible if done with care and respect for people's dignity and right to privacy.

Last night I talked briefly with former Chicagoan Jeff Haas, one of this country's great civil rights lawyers and author of The Assassination of Fred Hampton. He's working on the Standing Rock Sioux's pending lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I'll try to get back with him this morning to learn more about the battle on the legal front. Yesterday, a federal judge issued a partial restraining order. But the real ruling on the suit is expected tomorrow. No matter how the judge rules, the battle to stop the Black Snake continues. These folks are dug in for the long haul.

I'm hearing that there will be some kind of action this morning but not sure what. So off I go.