Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The insecurity of a nation

Like the '60s except no self-conscious anti-war movement. 
In a little over a year since the election of Trump, a dangerous feeling of national insecurity has spread across the land, despite the trend toward economic recovery. Gun violence, the rise of neo-fascism here and in Europe, and the growing threat of nuclear war have all contributed.

That national insecurity has been used by the regime to place the country on a war footing with Trump's appointment of John Bolton as his new security chief and Congress (with help from Democrats) passing a $1.3 trillion spending bill that includes more than $700 billion for the military-industrial complex, more upgraded nuclear missiles, warplanes and military bases.

Still no action on DACA.

Trump now wants Pentagon generals, already pissed off over the firing of H.R. McMaster, to show their gratitude by kicking back over $30B of that to pay for his border wall.

With the atomic clock edging closer to midnight, Cold War with Russia, trade war with China, and Bolton itching for pre-emptive strikes against Iran and North Korea, playing on this sense of growing national insecurity may be the only way out for Trump and the Republicans in the November elections.

There are still contradictory forces operating within and outside of the regime and both political parties. Bolton's influence shouldn't be overstated and he will still have to contend with Haley, Mattis and Pompeo for DT's ear.

But while many official Democrats and the labor aristocrats are still pushing "guns and butter" and hopelessly seeking a seat at Trump's table, a hopeful alternative national consciousness is emerging as the mass student protests against gun violence move towards a potential coalescing with Black Lives Matter youth and the emergent women's #Me2 movement.

Shades of the '60s? Maybe, but minus a self-conscious anti-war movement.

More positive signs ironically coming from an economically self-confident China, now tamping down the trade war threat and working along with South Korea to push diplomacy on the Korean peninsula. Xi Jinping's meeting with Kim jong un may force Trump's hand and lead him to negotiate with Kim. Let's hope.

Keep hope alive 'til November.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

1965 in the rear-view mirror

 Students who are revolutionary in spirit... have come up with real social criticism in three phases: the Free Speech Movement, which began as an attack upon the bureaucracy of the large university and turned into a protest against the impersonality of all institutions that, like the government welfare program, have lost contact with the people and values they were designed to serve; the Civil Rights Movement, which began as a campaign for Negro rights and turned into a campaign for eliminating local pockets of poverty; and the Peace Movement, which has begun as a protest against American military involvement in Vietnam and is turning into an attempt to influence all of foreign policy...
...There was also concern for the fact that, in their enthusiasm for the movement, many students were leaving their studies and shuttling back and forth among the campuses of the nation as vagabond dropouts in a vaguely academic orbit. And the unkempt appearance, condescending manner, and frequent acts of civil disobedience of many of the demonstrators added to an impression that this particular lot had spoiled, and that something must be done to keep the rest from being ruined.
-- From "The Price of Peace Is Confusion" by Renata Adler in the December 11, 1965 issue of the New Yorker

Monday, March 26, 2018


What Emma Gonzalez said without words.


SPRING IS traditionally a time when schoolchildren come to the nation’s capital to learn about their government. But on Saturday it was the students — tens of thousands of them from all across the country — who did the schooling. --Washington Post
Republican pollster 
Jim Hobart, a Republican pollster, said the marches illustrated the enormous energy of the Democratic base and revealed generational changes in the electorate that Republicans will have to grapple with.
“As we have seen in special elections, Democratic enthusiasm is already very high and the gun issue just adds to that,” Mr. Hobart said, noting that students in his hometown Atlanta had traveled by bus for 10 hours to join the march in Washington. “These same students are much more likely to not just vote, but volunteer.”
Sen. Patty Murray (WA)
The top Senate Democrat for education, praised the Omnibus Bill as a "bipartisan agreement" to dismiss the "extreme ideas [from Betsy DeVos] to privatize our nation's public schools and dismantle the Department of Education". -- Washington Post
Political strategist, Joanna Klonsky
"There is a reckoning going on in Illinois, just like everywhere else. Many of the preconceived notions of the unshakeability of the power structures as it existed are breaking down. It's become top of mind for anyone who operates in politics right now. They know it's a ticking time bomb that can go off at any moment." -- The Hill
Cynthia Nixon
 “When I announced yesterday that I’m running for gov, one of Cuomo’s top surrogates dismissed me as an 'unqualified lesbian'. It’s true that I never received my certificate from the Department of Lesbian Affairs, though in my defense there’s a lot of paperwork required.” -- Twitter

Stormy Daniels
Trump told her: “Wow, you are special. You remind me of my daughter.” -- The Hill

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Big election wins in IL yesterday

Brandon Johnson on Hitting Left
Lots of big wins yesterday in IL. Congrats to Chuy, Brandon, Fritz, Delia, Aaron, Alma, Beatriz,  and the rest of the victorious, progressive, machine busters.

Also to Marie Newman who didn't win but ran a helluva race for congress against oinker incumbent Lipinski. He had big backing, not only from the rotten DCCC leadership, but from anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ groups as well. Sad to lose a race so close.

Also a salute to progressive Dan Biss who finished second to billionaire Pritzker and ahead of Chris Kennedy, in the gov primary race. Now Dems have to somehow pull together, at least until November, to crush Rauner.

They have a great chance, riding the anti-Trump wave. Good sign yesterday was a huge increase in Democrat voter turnout while many Repugs stayed home.

Some of Team Newman
It was a good day for teachers, advocates of elective school board and for the CTU. Bad day for school privatizers. Although I didn't agree with all their choices, the unions showed their power by backing winners with nearly every endorsement. Big win especially for CTU organizer Brandon Johnson who battled his way to victory in county board race.

FRIDAY ON HITTING LEFT... Much more election stuff to talk about on Friday's Hitting Left with the Klonsky Bros.

TODAY AT NOON ON HITTING LEFT... Tune in to or listen on WLPN, 105.5 FM today at noon, for a special HL show. We're continuing our 1968 retrospective with guests Cha Cha Jiminez (Young Lords Organization), Billy Che Brooks (IL Black Panthers), and SDS veteran organizer Susan Klonsky.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On election day: It's not about, in pols we trust.

Biss on Hitting Left
It's election day in Illinois and in the governor's race, the choices are woeful. Like many on the left, I had hoped that Bernie Sanders' stunning performance here in his statewide 2016 race against Hillary Clinton, would have led to movement-backed, candidates (preferably not just rich, male and white). But the divisions in the progressive left and in the labor movement, the powerful hold of old Democratic machine politics, and fear of Republican Bruce Rauner's billions in this, the most expensive gov's race in history, left us where we are now on election day. We've got three traditional Democrats to choose from. 

Let me say upfront that I early voted for State Sen. Daniel Biss in the Democratic primary. I say that unapologetically, even though I've been among the sharpest Biss critics ever since he and state Democrats engineered passage of an unconstitutional bill that would have slashed the pensions of public school teachers. But given the choices and the fact that Biss came on our radio show and was openly and sincerely self-critical about his vote and his "succumbing to the culture of Springfield", I gave him my vote.

A pol who feels our heat, responds to criticism and changes their position and their votes, is the best we can hope for. Much better, in my opinion, than campaign promises by born-again "progressives".

If you know me, you know I couldn't have voted for billionaire J.B. Pritzker (my god, he's got millions invested in the oil pipeline company we fought in Standing Rock) or for former U of I chief Trustee Chris Kennedy (reasons here. I even tried my best to defend him here, but...). Many liberals are still enamored with the Kennedy family name. Not me. And as an educator, I was repulsed by his attempt to destroy the careers of U of I faculty with whom he disagreed politically.

I also voted for or supported other progressives like: Chuy Garcia and Marie Newman for congress, Fritz Kaegi for county assessor in his run at machine boss Joe Berrios, Brandon Johnson for county board, Aaron Goldstein for AG, Delia Ramirez, and others in local races.

Yesterday on FB, my friend and announced 2019 mayoral candidate Troy LaRaviere, proclaimed his support for Kennedy for a reason that bewilders me.
I found myself going back and forth between two of the three frontrunners, unable to make a choice about whom to endorse. Then one morning, my partner, Margaret, said to me “Forget about endorsements for a minute…. If the election were today, which one would you vote for?”
Without a moment of hesitation, I said that name. Kennedy
Then she asked an even more important question: “Why?”
“Because I trust him.”
Now as we head into the final day of voting, with the Democratic governor's race tightening (only single digits separate Pritzker, Kennedy and Biss in the latest polls) and with no longer any guarantee that Democrats can come back together and defeat Rauner, I'm left with this thought.

Politics is not about "trust". It's not a spectator sport where we vote and then hope to god that the Democrats we elect will do the right thing. They rarely do. And when they do, it's because we are there, as always, in the streets or on the picket line, ready to take them on when they don't.

Harold Washington told us that, the day after he was elected as the city's first black mayor.

Monday, March 19, 2018

WEEKEND QUOTABLES 50 years ago, My Lai...

Journalist Seymour Hersh recounts the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam
Fifty years ago, on March 16, 1968, U.S. soldiers "went from house to house and killed and raped and mutilated, and that just went on until everybody was either run away or killed". -- Democracy Now
Ex-CIA chief John Brennan on Trump
“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history." -- Guardian
J.B. Pritzker on putting $69.5 million into campaign 
“We simply are trying to make sure that we’re paying the bills in the campaign, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to simply get our message out.” -- Tribune
Vincent Warren, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights
Gina Haspel should be arrested, not promoted, and the Senate, if it has a single shred of respect left for the law, should not confirm her. -- Guardian
Gary Younge
The problem with Democrats looking on Donald Trump’s presidency as a slow-motion car crash is that it concedes they are spectators at a moment when they should be in the driving seat – and that, when we come to survey the wreckage, there will be many innocent victims. -- Guardian
Kate McKinnon doing Betsy DeVos
 Analyzing the merits of public schools and charter schools, McKinnon said: “I don’t like to think of things in terms of school. It should be up to the states. In Wyoming, for example, which has many potential grizzlies, there should be a school for bears. And in Louisiana, crocodile crossing guards. And in North Carolina, stop being trans, and that’s what’s best for them.” 
As for the school shooting issue, she added, “We are working hard to ensure that all schools are safe learning environments for guns.” -- SNL

Thursday, March 15, 2018

PA election another hopeful sign for Dems in midterms

Emergence of Women's March and new student (anti-gun) movements could be key to midterm elections. 
“Just two years ago, Trump won this district by 20 points. Two years before that, Democrats didn’t even bother running an opponent against the Republican incumbent. You know, I’m really enjoying this radical new Democratic strategy called ‘trying.’” — Samantha Bee
Trump and the GOP suffered another major defeat this week with the election of Conor Lamb over wing-nut Republican Rick Saccone in the PA congressional race. While the vote was close, there was no way, under ordinary circumstances, that a Democrat, even a pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrat -- a Republican wolf in Democrat sheep's clothing (sorry) -- like Lamb, could have won. But these are anything but ordinary circumstances.

Actually, Lamb only carried one of the four counties (Allegheny) in the district. But it was enough. He owes his victory to an aggressive field operation, strong union support and the reality that he was running against Trump more than Saccone.

The overwhelming Trump vote here in 2016 belied that fact that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district. Trump's win was key in his carrying the state by less than a percentage point, or about 40,000 votes. Clinton's loss in PA was key to the Democrat's defeat  despite Clinton winning the popular vote by nearly 4 million votes.

The difference now was that Democrats "really tried" as Samantha Bee pointed out, and that many white district Trump  voters have become disenchanted and either stayed home or voted for Lamb.

Trump won whites with some or no college education by 39 points, a wider margin than any candidate since at least 1980.

NPR reports:
There are no exit polls to know for sure how this group voted Tuesday, but Lamb made clear appeals to them and it would be impossible to make up a 20-point gap without at least some crossover. In fact, dozens of precincts went more Democratic than in the 2016 election.
Lamb benefited from Saccone's history of supporting "right to work" legislation in the state Legislature. The district has a sizable number of union households that might have been willing to support a different Republican candidate, but unions and the Lamb campaign were able to define Saccone as anti-union.
Black women voters were key in AL election win. 
Lamb's win, on the heels of Doug Jones' narrow senate race victory over Trump-backed, white nationalist, child molester Roy Moore in Alabama could signal a Dem tsunami in midterm elections. That win came as a result of huge black voter turnout organized mainly by African-American women.

The difference in this western PA district of 700,000 is that only 2% are African-American. Seventy-one percent of residents (500,438) are registered to vote. Democrats hold a majority — 46% to 41% Republican voters.

Note that there are 118 Republicans sitting in seats Trump won by less than the 18th Congressional District in PA. Dems need to flip a net of 24 seats to take back control of the House.

Of course, Democrats are quite capable of a blowing it, even while riding the anti-Trump wave. Encouraging signs for them are the emergence of the "me too" and Women's March movement (Trump won among white women voters in 2016) along with a new post-Parkland youth and student movement.  Both of which should produce a wealth of new anti-Trump midterm voters.

However, if the Democrats are banking on more pro-gun, anti-abortion candidates like Lamb, they will suffer the consequences.

Monday, March 12, 2018


 Father of a Stoneman Douglas shooting victim painting a mural in his son’s honor:
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed at Stoneman Douglas
“This time, the gun rights crowd messed with the wrong community, the wrong kids and the wrong dad...I have dedicated the rest of my life to fighting for the cause of gun safety.” -- Guardian
Betsy DeVos
 Lesley Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they're doing?Betsy DeVos: I have not-- I have not-- I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.Lesley Stahl: Maybe you should.Betsy DeVos: Maybe I should. Yes. -- CBS 60 Minutes
Jeff Biggers
As the son of a union teacher and the grandson of a union coal miner, I believe the West Virginia teachers have renewed a strategic call for other movements engaged in what we have called a “resistance” against the onslaught of policies decisions and regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration. -- Guardian
Stable Genius on NBC's Chuck Todd
 “He’s a sleeping son of a bitch." -- At Penn rally
Megyn Kelly
“I would not say that Putin likes Trump,” she said. “I did not glean that at all from him. I did glean that perhaps he has something on Donald Trump." -- The Hill

Friday, March 9, 2018

Will the Janus decision buy labor peace? Doubtful.

Lorraine Forte on Hitting Left.
On Hitting Left today, one day after International Women's Day, we spoke with Chicago journalist  Lorraine Forte, newly appointed member of the Sun-Times editorial board. We led off with a discussion of the current role of women in the labor movement and in the recent wildcat strike of West Virginia teachers.

The most interesting aspect of the just-ended, victorious strike, where women were the main and leading force, is the spark it appears to be providing to teacher militants in Arizona and Oklahoma. It's not just a coincidence that all three are so-called "right-to-work states" with decimated labor unions and no collective-bargaining rights guaranteed to teachers and other public employees.

Some would expect that this weakening of the unions would lead to fewer strikes and more compliance on labor's part. This certainly has been the plan behind the Janus case, now in the hands of an  supreme court where the fix is in now that Trump-appointed union hater Neil Gorsuch provides the deciding vote on the likely decision. That will make it much more difficult for unions to collect dues from all the workers they represent.

The case could have a devastating effect on what's left of organized labor in the U.S. Or, it could be the harbinger of new forms of labor militancy and solidarity.

Currently there are about 14 million union members in the U.S., compared with 17.7 million in 1983. The percentage of workers belonging to a union is only 11%, compared to 20% in 1983. The rate for the private sector about 6.7%, and for the public sector 35.3%. The two national teacher unions, the AFT and the NEA are now the largest unions in the country.

So public employee unions, the kind that Dr. Martin Luther King gave his life defending 50 years ago, are now the last bastion of unionism left. Thus Janus.

In WV, public workers, mostly women, had to take on both the male-dominated state legislature and their own submissive union leadership at the same time and were still able to win.

Is this an omen of things to come? Or will this further erosion of collective-bargaining, virtually turning the entire country into a big "right-to-work" state, really bring about a new era of labor peace?

Joseph A. McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University, tells the New York Times:
“Unions have tended throughout most of their histories to be forces that seek stability, not unrest. When they are weakened, we’re more likely to see the re-emergence of instability and militancy, and the kind of model that we’re seeing happen in West Virginia.”
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten,  one of the movement's most persistent proponents seat-at-the-table politics, echos McCartin:
 "A loss of collective bargaining would lead to more activism and political action, not less," AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten told the Washington Post. "Collective bargaining exists as [a] way for workers and employers to peacefully solve labor relations." 
She's mainly right. The history of organized labor is one of both relative peace and open class warfare. In recent years, that class warfare has been decidedly one-sided with corporate power battering the middle class and working poor and placing unions, including teachers and public employee unions in particular, on the strategic defensive.

What will this mean in a post Janus world?

Of course, peaceful collective bargaining is preferable to open battles. Teachers in particular hate to go on strike. Strikes disrupt schools and the lives of students and their families. But without them, teachers and workers, both public and private, have little to bargain with.

Post-industrial economy has succeeded in blurring over class distinctions and minimizing open class struggle. We are all supposedly "middle class" now, despite living in a time when the chasm between the wealthy and poor is the widest it's ever been. But while the crippling of unions as we know them, will widen the gap even further, it may also lead to a new heightened sense of class awareness and the development of new forms of organization and struggle.

Thank you WVA teachers, for showing us the way forward.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

An International Women's Day salute to West Virginia strikers

On this International Women's Day, a special salute goes out to the women who played a leading role and were the main force in the victorious West Virginia teachers wildcat strike.

WV strike leader Olivia Morris will be conversing with CTU Political and Legislative Director Stacy Davis Gates tomorrow in Chicago, in a program hosted by the CTU.

Congrats to teachers and paras at Namaste Charter School on Chicago’s south side who, despite strong admin resistance, just voted to unionize. Another important victory for Chicago ACTS and the CTU.

One of my Twitter followers is worried that the victory, will do more to say--"charters are public schools"? My answer, as I've been writing about since back in '09: Charters are public schools, handed over to private (often for-profit) companies, but operated with public funds, to the detriment of regular public schools. For the past decade, it has often been the charter operators themselves who, trying to evade NLRB rules regarding the collective-bargaining rights of their teachers and staff, claim that charter teachers are not public employees.

The real point here is that whether you consider charters public or private, teachers should have the right to collectively bargain. The merger of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) with Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS) points the way forward.

For more on this, listen to the podcast of our Hitting Left show from last June featuring Stacey Davis Gates from the CTU and ChiACTS Pres. Chris Baehrend.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Kids now asking about the real Black Panthers

From Max S. Gordon's review of "Black Panther"
An article published this weekend in The Guardian suggests that “Black Panther” has already raised consciousness about black political prisoners. It’s exciting to imagine a generation of black children asking the question, “Who were the real Black Panthers?,” and learning that the party was created to monitor police brutality in Oakland, and expanded to include fights for healthcare, and provided free lunch programs for children; conversations that would ordinarily take place in African-American studies classes at major universities, now being taught to children in the fifth grade. 
Brother Fred and I will be doing a special edition of Hitting Left on March 21st as part of our year-long 1968 retrospective. In-studio guests will be Cha Cha Jimenez from the Young Lords Organization, Billy "Che"Brooks from the original IL Black Panther Party and former SDSer Susan Klonsky. We'll be talking about the old (original) Rainbow Coalition that turned the old Mayor Daley's Chicago upside-down in '68.

Lorraine Forte
Note to the Pearsons: Next time you're giving away $100M to help the cause of world peace, come talk to me first. U of C is the last place you should turn. They're much too busy promoting the likes of war-mongering racists like Bannon and Lewandowski.

Upcoming Friday on HL we'll be talking media/politics with Lorraine Forte, newly-hired member of the Sun-Times editorial board. Lorraine has served as the executive editor of The Chicago Reporter and editor-in-chief of the Reporter’s sister publication Catalyst Chicago.

Monday, March 5, 2018


DACA DEADLINE IS TODAY, AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN: Today is the day that the protections for the “dreamers” begin expiring, and CNN reports that nothing is going to happen to protect them in Congress today or in the near future.

What took so long?
Mayor di Blasio's "peacemaker" with the charter school lobby is the new chief of policy and public affairs at scandal-ridden KIPP. Richard Beuery, who is African-American, was targeted last year in racist emails by Dan Loeb, one of the city’s most prominent supporters of charter schools. But now, with the overdue firing of KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg in response to allegations of sexual misconduct with former students, the organization is badly in need of a brand makeover. 

#TIME'S UP...There's still no explanation forthcoming 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. KIPP has to explain how it is that they just learned about it now? 14 years later? Until then, good guy Beury is left trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again. 

After listening to former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg being interviewed by MSNBC's Katy Tur, I came away convinced that the man is batshit crazy and surmising that the rest of DT's campaign staff must have been made up mainly of unvetted grifters, hustlers and outright foreign agents. Nunberg has been subpoenaed by Robert Mueller to testify before the grand jury, but tells Tur he will risk jail and won't testify. He also tells her that special prosecutor Mueller likely has the goods on Trump. 

What's he afraid of? Sounds like a man who woke up with a horse head in his bed. 

All this confirms my belief that Mueller can bring down DT and his whole grifter family if he really wants or dares to. That's a big IF. It also leaves me wondering how bad the Clinton campaign must have been to win the popular vote by 4 million and still lose the election to this bag of dicks? 

Citizens United...UCLA Prof Adam Winkler writing in the Atlantictells us how U.S. law intended to protect the rights of African-Americans and other minorities became all about the “Civil Rights of Corporations.” 


Loyola Prof. Charles Tocci
To push our schools to even greater levels of sustainable success with long term stability, we must deepen democracy and grow public participation in the district. -- Medium
Lauren Peace
When [West Va teachers] get back into their classrooms, hopefully sooner rather than later, they must talk to their students about how, under intense pressure, and with little more than the support they found in each other, they fought for what was right, and they were heard. -- New York Times Op-ed.
Dan Mihalopoulos
“Judging by the numbers, Illinois may be closer than any other state to becoming a plutocracy — government by the wealthy." -- Sun-Times  
Marie Newman, IL congressional candidate
A good guy with a gun against a bad guy with a gun never works. That's been statistically proven. So we don't even have to have that discussion because it's nonsense. -- Guest spot on Hitting Left 
  Donald Trump [Oink alert]
But [Sen. Elizabeth Warren] said that Rex Tillerson and I should sit down with the leaders of Iran and North Korea and smoke a peace pipe. ... I didn’t like that Pocahontas. -- Gridiron Club dinner