Thursday, August 30, 2018

Rahm, the master of clichés

“So I’ve asked everybody to explore all available options and think creatively out of the box. One of the things I won’t do is kick the can down the road.” -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Another thing the mayor won't do is shift the tax burden onto his wealthy campaign patrons.

It seems that Rahm will try every gimmick he can think of to make up for the city and state's history of pension theft. Everything, that is, except for that which is most necessary and the only way out of the crisis -- raise revenue by making the wealthiest pay their fair share of taxes.

The latest from his bag of tricks involves selling more than $10 billion in pension obligation bonds, supposedly to head off another massive property tax increase on voters, right before election time. But sooner or later that debt will come due and have to be paid on the back end of the deal by -- guess who? Not to mention, what happens if the market tanks, which it's bound to do. It reminds me of his predecessor, Mayor Daley's selling off the city's parking meters in exchange for a quick cash infusion. We may never recover from that one. 

It's a stupid plan as Rahm's campaign rivals are quick to point out. But fast-talking Rahm has his usual responses. He is after all, the master of the cliché. Check it out. He wants us to "think outside the box" and not "kick the can down the road". 

Why not, "We're taking it one game at a time"? Or, "It's a win-win". OK, now I'm blanking. But you get the picture. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

1968 Revisited

68 Vets  [Bob Black photo]
What fun! I got to relive the "Battle of Michigan Avenue" and more '68 action over the past few days with some of my favorites from back-in-the-day.

On Sunday, Susan Klonsky and I were guides on a trolley tour of '68 protest sights (what's left of 'em), including battle grounds in Lincoln and Grant Park (Gen. Logan's Statue), the Hilton, the Amphitheatre, Panther office (a Walgreens), SDS office (a parking lot), Young Lord's Peoples Church (Walgreens) and more.

The tour was sponsored by Chicago History Museum and Illinois Humanities. It sold out in the first few hours after it was announced. I think we could have filled up 3 more trolleys. Everyone said they liked it and one guy even tried to tip me 10 bucks. I gave it to the driver.

Susan Klonsky & Mary Scott-Boria at Girl Talk last night. 
Yesterday, I spoke on a panel at UIC put on the Great Cities Institute, called "The World is Still Watching. On the panel with me were veteran Chicago activists, Don Rose (Mobilization Committee Against the War in Vietnam), Marilyn Katz (SDS), Cha-Cha Jimenez (Young Lords), Che Brooks and Mary Scott-Boria (Black Panthers), and our soon-to-be Congressman, Chuy Garcia (was only 14 in '68).

And then last night at the Hideout, Susan and Mary did an amazing tag-team talk at The Girl Talk.

We also got some good ink. Check out this story in the NY Times.

You can also tune in to at 11 a.m. CDT Friday, to hear a repeat of our '68+50 show with Marilyn, Mary, Mike James (Rising Up Angry), and Omar Lopez (YLO).

Monday, August 27, 2018


Laura Washington
The whole world is still watching. -Sun-Times
 Martin Ritter, CTU organizer
Three Chicago Teachers Union members have asked to stop paying dues that average about $1,000 annually. That’s out of about 25,000 members — a group that includes some recently added members who teach at charter schools, which are privately managed but publicly funded, including some recently added privately managed charter school teachers. -- Two months after Janus
Jack Torres, a junior at Somerville high school
“There’s times where we’ve thought this is too tiring,” he said. “We’ve all got sore feet. But we keep reminding each other that if we walk, if we stay strong, if we keep sending our message, we won’t know who or where or when, but we might save a life. That’s enough to keep us going.” -- This isn't just Parkland
Prison striker, Kevin Rashid Johnson
Kevin Rashid Johnson, serving a life sentence 
In the past three decades I have been endured every level of abuse they have to offer: I have been starved, beaten, dehydrated, put in freezing cold cells, attacked with attack dogs, rendered unconscious, chained to a wall for weeks. There’s nothing left to fear. -- Guardian

 Tamar Manasseh, founder of Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings
“When you put cops into areas they aren’t familiar with, where it’s not their regular beat, they don’t know the rhythm of the neighborhood, they don’t know the people, they don’t know the players, they don’t know anything." -- Sun-Times

Crain's to Amazon. Won't you please come to Chicago. We've got cheap labor.

"Chicago's low pay scales and big labor pool rank it tops for Amazon's HQ2", says Crain's.
Crain's let the cat out of the bag about Chicago's pitch for Amazon's HQ2. We already knew that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner were offering Amazon over $2B in tax incentives and prime city real estate to move their second headquarters here.

In return, Chicago was supposed to get 50,000 new "high paying" jobs. I don't know how many people actually believe the mayor's B.S. Looking at his and Rauner's poll numbers, there's probably not very many. But if you are one of them, please take a look at the Crain's Chicago Business above-the-fold story this week. It will reveal that the real pitch city corporate leaders are making to Amazon CEO and world's richest man, Jeff Bezos is cheap labor.

According to Crain's, Amazon is more cost-sensitive than most tech companies since it imposes a strict cap on salaries and Chicago can offer Bezos a large skilled labor pool that includes research analysts, techies, and mid-level managers who are among the lowest-paid in the nation.
Chicago also has seen lower wage inflation than many HQ2 semifinalists. Last year, annual pay here rose 1.6 percent, half the rate in Seattle. It's the silver lining in the cloud that has been hanging over the Chicago economy for the past decade. Relatively slow growth in wages and housing values frustrates people already here, but it looks good to employers and employees being squeezed hard by inflation. 
 High-paying tech companies in a small market can drive up wages for nontech jobs, too. Managers in administrative services, HR, training and development, marketing, and sales cost 10 to 19 percent more in Austin than Chicago. Tech-sales workers make 50 percent more in Austin, and market research analysts make 35 percent more. 
In other words, the mayor is selling Chicago's workers to Bezos at a cheap price and without (he hopes) bothersome unions. But the city doesn't need and shouldn't want a company that comes here on those terms.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

DeVos and Duncan both bought into gun culture

Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos and her predecessor Arne Duncan, each wanted to buy guns with federal education funds meant for schools. The difference being, DeVos prefered teachers packing guns in their classroom. Duncan spent lots of ed dollars on expensive military hardware for his own DOE team.

A firestorm erupted when news got out this week that DeVos was considering letting school districts use federal Title 1 money to y guns, putting the issue back at the center of the debate over school safety.

This was mainly in response to the Parkland school shootings. But it also raised fundamental questions about the nature of public schools. Parkland students have been calling for tighter gun control while DeVos and Republican politicians, many on the NRA take, argued that a proliferation of guns in schools would discourage shooters and make schools safer. There's not a lick of evidence to support that theory.

Since he left his post as Pres. Obama's education chief, Duncan has been an advocate of gun control, to the point where, for a few days, he was urging parents to keep their children home from public schools until gun laws were passed. As you might expect, he pleas fell on deaf ears.

For one thing, Duncan's standing with parents has been lower than dirt since he attacked those "white, suburban" opt-out parents. For another, Democrats had a chance to push for gun control during the Obama/Duncan era when they controlled both houses. They didn't and Duncan was silent on the issue back then. Now, with Republicans controlling the legislature and White House, the chances of passing even the minimum gun safety laws are slim-to-none, making a long-term school boycott a ridiculous tactic. Finally, Duncan sends his own kids to private school and therefore has no skin in the boycott game he's playing.

Back in 2010, Duncan himself was a free spender when it came to buying military hardware for his department's own squad of student-loan chasers. He spent thousands on deadly new assault weapons, including these 27 shotguns:
 twenty-seven (27) REMINGTON BRAND MODEL 870 POLICE 12/14P MOD GRWC XS4 KXCS SF. RAMAC #24587 GAUGE: 12 BARREL: 14" - PARKERIZED CHOKE: MODIFIED SIGHTS: GHOST RING REAR WILSON COMBAT; FRONT - XS CONTOUR BEAD SIGHT STOCK: KNOXX REDUCE RECOIL ADJUSTABLE STOCK FORE-END: SPEEDFEED SPORT-SOLID - 14" LOP are designated as the only shotguns authorized for ED based on compatibility with ED existing shotgun inventory, certified armor and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts.
The were meant to replace 27 that were "worn out". I'm still waiting to hear how exactly they were worn out.

A year later, armed with their new hardware, Arne's troops went out hunting for student-loan late-payers. They mistakenly thought they found one out in Stockton, CA where Arne's army kicked in the door in the early morning hours to collect on the overdue loans and dragged Kenneth Wright out of his home, terrifying his small children. It was actually his estranged wife they were looking for.

Wright's neighbors, who did not want to disclose their last names, said they saw the raid unfold.
"They surrounded the house; it was like a task force or S.W.A.T team," across the street neighbor Becky said. "They all had guns. They dragged him out in his boxer shorts, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him."
According to Becky and her two children, the raid started at 6 a.m. with agents ramming down Wright's front door.
 "I watched until I went to work at 10:45 and they were still out there," Becky said.
Her young daughter, Valerie, said she counted 13 agents and one Stockton police officer outside Wright's home.
"I felt really bad for those kids," said Becky about agents when they brought out Wright's three children. "They were crying really loud."
Let's put an end to this gun madness. Keep schools and the DOE gun-free. 

Monday, August 20, 2018


 “It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” 
― George Orwell, 1984
"Truth is truth," Meet the Press host Chuck Todd interjected.
"No," Giuliani replied, "it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth."  -- Rudy Giuliani, 2018
Dr. Jeffrey Epstein upon being taken down by police
 As officers struggled to put him in handcuffs, Dr. Epstein was pepper-sprayed. Dr. Epstein, who is white, repeatedly yelled out “Oh, my God” and, in one profanity-laden line, that he was being treated like a “black person,” the video shows. -- New York Times
Sen. Elizabeth Warren trying her best to save capitalism from itself
My big new bill, the Accountable Capitalism Act, would restore the idea that big American companies should look out for their workers, not just their shareholders. Why do we need to pass this bill? Just look at what’s happened since the #GOPTaxScam passed. -- Twitter post
Corporate shill Bill George responds
Our system of capitalism is functioning well as evidenced by the plethora of U.S.-based companies that are dominating world markets and whose stocks are at all-time highs. -- CNBC
Larry Lewis, a housekeeper at Palmer House
“We’re tired of being stepped on, when these billion-dollar corporations are getting all this money and then they forget us. They forget that we’ve made these places five-star, world-wide-class hotels. …. They want to take our healthcare, they want to take our medicine.” -- Chicago hotel workers vote ‘overwhelmingly’ to authorize strike 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Chicago proud: The Resistance started here

Anti-Trump protest at UIC, March 2016. 

Omarosa's tell-all book makes reference to the March 2016 anti-Trump protest which shut down his campaign rally and sent DT scurrying out of town, not to return again. The protest “left a deep scar”, writes Omarosa Manigault Newman. 

According to the Sun-Times:
“There was a lot of blame to go around for the failure of the Chicago event,” she writes. “We blamed the protesters. We blamed law enforcement for not properly managing the situation. We blamed Chicago and its mayor, Obama acolyte Rahm Emanuel, for not supplying adequate security resources. We blamed everything and everyone, except for Donald Trump.”
“When I look back and try to pinpoint the moment when, in my own heart, I adopted an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mind-set, it was that night in Chicago in March 2016. We all had a bunker mentality . . . I never stopped to ask myself what all this conflict meant for the future of the country. If I acknowledged my role in what was happening, I would have had to come to terms with nearly thirteen years of suppressed doubts and concerns about Donald Trump, and I was simply incapable of doing that at that point.”
Actually, the UIC rally was relatively peaceful (a few scuffles broke out inside the Arena as they always do at Trump rallies). Some 25,000 people gathered peacefully outside the Pavillion immediately following the reports that Trump had slipped into town. Seeing that the few hundred of his supporters would be badly outnumbered by the huge anti-Trump crowd, he called off the rally and split town, tail between his legs.

Writes Omarosa:
“The night of the Chicago rally left a deep scar on my consciousness, and I’d never even reached the city. From my place in the figurative bunker, I came out aggressively to support candidate Trump and believed the argument that the protesters were at fault.”
While the protest, organized by a few student groups, was a great success, it happened despite dire warnings of consequenses from a few frightened Democrats and some in the media.

The Tribune's Ron Grossman, exaggerated the level of violence and implored us to "halt the demonstrations", warning Trump would "profit" from "images of punching and cursing partisans" on the evening news. According to Grossman, "It doesn't matter whose cause is just and whose is not."

But it does indeed matter and there was no "profit" for Trump, writes Omarosa.
 In the aftermath of the botched rally, she says she was instructed to stick to the campaign strategy of “whataboutism” while making the rounds on cable news, pivoting from questions about provoking conflict to attacking Hillary Clinton over the FBI investigation into her emails.
“It was the only thing we had. At that point, we lacked a platform, plans, big ideas about foreign or domestic policy. All we had was Trump’s bluster, the MAGA slogan, and Hillary’s emails.”
Grossman went on to attack, not only the UIC protest, but protest movements in general, including Black Lives Matter and the anti-Vietnam War protests of the '60.

I think it's fair to say that today's Resistance movement against Trumpism was born that day in Chicago. City after city, followed suit right up through the inauguration, and Women's March and today, make it virtually impossible for Trump to travel anywhere outside of his red base areas.

The same hold true for his neo-fascist and white-supremacist supporters.

Let's keep marching people. It won't fall by itself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Left groups and factions appear to be in disarray over election strategy.

While many left groups and activists played leading roles in recent victorious electoral campaigns around the country, there are those who disdain electoral politics in general. That's always been the case, and I could be counted among their ranks back in '68 when SDS's campaign slogan was "Vote in the Streets."

Of course conditions were different then--50 years ago--as we will be discussing Friday on our special '68+50 Hitting Left show on

The Democrats were the war party and the party of southern segregation. Our generation of young radical activists' disdain for national elections was understandable if not politically savvy (although we did run Eldridge Cleaver and Uptown's own Peggy Terry for president that year on the Peace & Freedom Party Ticket).

Then there are the left sectarians who see participation in campaigns and mass organizations strictly as a way to promote their own narrow brand and to split the movement. I know a thing or two about these folks from back in the day, as well.

Peggy Terry, JOIN 1968
But bringing things up to date... Look what happened in CT. Here, progressive Jahana Hayes, a black woman who grew up in a local housing project and captured national attention when she was named 2016 “Teacher of the Year,",crushed official party favorite Mary Glassman in yesterday's primary. If she wins in November, Hayes will make history as the first black woman to win a Connecticut congressional seat as well as the first black congresswoman ever from New England.

But it was Glassman who won the endorsements of Our Revolution and MoveOn along with that of the Chamber of Commerce. Ugh!

According to The Intercept:
The endorsement by the central Connecticut branch of Our Revolution was highly unusual, as Our Revolution claims to back progressive candidates who — unlike Glassman — proudly embrace the policy platform Sanders ran on. (Sanders won more votes in Connecticut’s 5th District in the 2016 primary, even though Hillary Clinton won the state overall in the election.) 
With midterms coming up in November, some left factions have already turned their guns on progressive female candidates of color, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib,for not being "left" or "socialist" enough and for having a wrong or weak line on Palestine.

Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican woman and self-described "socialist" and DSAer, upset powerful Dem regular Joe Crowley in the primary. She did so without any support from the party organization and even though the Working Families Party endorsed Crowley. In fact, Crowley is still running on the WFP ticket even though the organization has shifted its support to Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez has used the momentum from her upset victory to raise money and support for fellow progressives like MI gov candidate, Abdul El-Sayed and others in hopes of a "Blue Tide" in November. This has led to charges from some left quarters that the Democratic candidates being supported by Ocasio-Cortez since her election victory are not strictly “socialist”, writes Juan Cruz Ferre in Left Voice. He also charges her with wanting to replace ICE with something more "humane," and with supporting a "two-state" solution in Palestine.

But, Ocasio is also being attacked for "selling out" by several groups within DSA who describe themselves as the ones who "always fight on the side of justice."

Ocasio responds by saying her understanding of the issue is "evolving." Fair enough. As with all our progressive pols, we need to keep the pressure on. But how?

Rashida Tlaib
Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, is the eldest of 14 children, born to working-class Palestinian immigrants in Detroit, Michigan. Her mother was born in Beit Ur El Foka, near Ramallah. Her father was born in Beit Hanina, a neighborhood of Jerusalem.

She champions progressive policies like Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage, and abolishing ICE, says she is both a Democrat and a "democratic socialist." She could be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress after winning the Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.

DSAer Benjamin Balthaser, responding to an interview with Tlaib in In These Times writes:
There's a lot of great stuff in this interview w Tlaib - her support for the free speech rights of BDS advocates, for a single state with equal rights for everyone in Israel/Palestine, for her articulation of the horror of the Israeli apartheid regime. But what strikes me as most important is that she is able to connect this story - her story - with the daily struggles of Detroiters for equal rights and the longer struggle for civil rights in the U.S. 
Great point, Ben. Something to be learned here.

But now, as Tlaib is taking heavy racist fire from the right and from rabid zionists, she is also coming under attack from the left. She is charged by some lefties with, among other things, taking campaign money from JStreet, a liberal pro-Israel group, and supporting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

There's nothing wrong, of course, with criticizing the positions taken by Democratic Party pols. I do it every day. But the attacks on both women as "sell-outs" is another matter (especially when the attacks arise from factions within Ocasio's own organization [and mine]--DSA).

But still, the polemics continue, not in internal meetings with the candidates, but in open, divisive and personal criticism on social media.

Corey Robin in Jacobin writes:
The camps divided in two: on the one hand, there were those who took Ocasio-Cortez’s comments as confirmation that she is no real leftist, that she is turning right, that she’s been absorbed into the Democratic Party machine, that she’s a fake, a phony, and a fraud. For these folks, Ocasio-Cortez’s comments confirmed their generally dim view of electoral politics.
But leaving those anti-electoralists aside for the moment, Robin takes what many on the left would see as legitimate issue with Ocasio's position--or lack thereof--on Palestine. I have no problem with taking her to task, so long as issues are raised on just grounds and with restraint--in tune with the consciousness of the people in the community who elected her.

Narrow sectarian attacks also open the doors to agents and provocateurs whose goal is to create confusion, demoralization and division.

There never been a more important time for progressive and left forces to learn and develop good electoral strategies to complement organizing work in schools, workplaces and communities. Hopefully the current struggles will lead to greater clarity and more victories.

Monday, August 13, 2018


Susan Bro, Heather Heyer's mother
Susan Bro
Bro told reporters to “please remember not to think of Heather, but why she was here. She was here to support equality, she was here to support affordable housing, she was here to support taking care of people the way you would want to be taken care of". -- The Hill
Issac J. Bailey, author of the memoir My Brother Moochie
"Charlottesville was where white supremacists were welcomed back into the mainstream." -- Politico
Dave Zirin
The Nazis have scurried out of Lafayette Park. There were thousands of us anti-Nazis. There were 30 of them.....and then on cue, the rain did fall. I have to say it was a good day. -- FB
Chicago developer, Gene Bernshtam
“You’re not going to be able to recognize the surrounding blocks in the next few years, and I think that it’s going to be for the better. There’s a much better caliber of people moving in, enjoying what we have.” -- Block Club Chicago

Thursday, August 9, 2018

CPD's 'Bait Trucks'

You would think that by this time in my life, nothing the CPD did would surprise me. I mean, I came of age politically at the time of the Chicago police murders of Black Panther leaders and my friends, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, shot dead while asleep in their beds on the west side of Chicago. Not to mention the police killings of dozens of other unarmed black men and women since that time.

It was less than a week ago that my brother and I interviewed CPD frame-up victim Ronald Kitchen, a survivor of  the Jon Burge's "Midnight Crew" torture machine. Kitchen spent 21 years in the penitentiary, 13 on death row before having his forced-confession, murder conviction overturned. You should read his book, My Midnight Years, to get the whole story behind this atrocity.

So I don't know why hearing about CPD and Norfolk Southern Railroad using "bait trucks" filled with Nike shoes to entrap young black kids playing hoops on a playground in Englewood, has pissed me and got my blood boiling. But it did.

Maybe it's because, as a former high school basketball coach, I had to spend time, away from the court, begging for donations and even coming out of pocket so my players wouldn't have to hoop in their street shoes -- an embarrassment, especially when playing against wealthy, over-resourced suburban schools.

Or maybe it's because I just heard about Mayor Rahm Emanuel's obvious election campaign-inspired deployment of 600 more cops to communities being ravaged by gun violence while attacking the morals and values of black parents. If they were so badly needed in west and south-side city neighborhoods, why were these cops out initiating petty crime at playgrounds, rounding up dozens of entrapped kids for incarceration and branding them with an arrest record?

It's the mayor who needs to shape up his own values system.

If he was really interested in reducing youth violence and building better police-community relations, he could start by having these same cops out in the community giving away those same Nike-donated shoes and organizing community basketball leagues for young men and women, rather than having them work for Norfolk Southern to manufacturing crime. .
“This bait truck operation is an unacceptable and inappropriate use of police resources,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, chair of the City Council’s Black Caucus. “In a moment where police capacity is clearly under extreme strain, these sort of tactics are the last thing we should be spending manpower and energy on.” (Tribune)
And what's Nike's role in this entrapment scheme? Haven't they been profiteering off of Chicago's young basketball talent for years.

Had to ask.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Rahm blames gun violence on 'low morals' and 'too many with criminal records on the street'.

"This is a Trump-free zone," Mayor Rahm Emanuel boasted in June

It was only a few weeks ago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and top-cop Eddie Johnson were patting themselves on the back while claiming credit for the reported 15th consecutive month of declining gun violence. The good news came just in time for Rahm who used it as a jumping-off point to his re-election campaign.

He even used the occasion to thumb his nose at Trump, who is fond of making Chicago his punching bag whenever he wants to whip up his deplorables into a racist, anti-urban frenzy.
"This is a Trump-free zone," Rahm bragged. "We have facts. What matters ... is what happens on the street."
And the facts are that at least 75 Chicagoans, nearly all black and Latino, many of them children, were shot and at least a dozen killed on city streets last weekend. Now Rahm has turned his fire away from Trump and on to victims of street violence.

By Monday, there was no more back-patting. No more shit-talking Trump. Instead, the mayor started pointing fingers at parents and community residents, blaming them for low morals and a shortage values.  Trumpism without Trump, if you will.

Diverting attention from the burning issues of poverty, education and joblessness Emanuel scolded his critics.
“You can talk about jobs, and they count, but in parts of the city where there aren’t jobs, people did not pull the trigger."
Then moving from bad to worse the mayor echoed Trump's racist lock-'em-up demagogy.
“There are too many guns on the street, too many people with criminal records on the street, and there is a shortage of values about what is right, what is wrong, was is acceptable, what is condoned and what is condemned.”
Yes, there are way too many guns on the street, most of them flowing in from across the Indiana line. Remember, it was Rahm himself, as Obama's chief of staff in 2009, with a Democratic majority in congress, who put the kibosh of what was probably the last attempt at national gun-control legislation.

As for "too many people with criminal records on the street" -- that's a line right out of Trump's repertoire, at a time when there are more than two million people in prison with African Americans being incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites, that's racist scapegoating at it's worst.

Current policies make it difficult for those coming out of prison to find employment. For example, it's extremely difficult or impossible to get records sealed or expunged, especially those of juveniles. This adds to the problem and drives crime and violence numbers upward. A criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50%, says the NAACP. The negative impact of a criminal record is twice as large for African American applicants.

Last weekend's explosion now has Rahm, still in campaign mode, promising to put 600 more cops and detectives into the neighborhoods hardest hit. The “strategic deployments” will add 430 officers to five South Side and West Side police districts: Calumet, Gresham, Ogden, Harrison and Austin.

But there is no correlation between police saturation of a neighborhood and violence prevention. Cops enter the picture (and usually not in a good way) only after the fact. And the siege strategy rarely includes beat cops and relationship building. Rather the focus is crisis deployment.

I know it's too easy to blame Rahm for last weekend's shooting. It's easy because after six years in office, his policies still favor investment downtown and in wealthy areas of the city and the deprivation and lack of investment, closing of schools, libraries and social-services in the neediest neighborhoods. But the problems predate go beyond Rahm Emanuel.

The isolation and destabilization of neighborhoods, particularly on the south and west sides of the city, began long before Emanuel came to power. They are a big part of the black exodus from Chicago and play a major role in generating violence and crime. And so far, I've heard little beyond tweaky reforms from his top mayoral contenders.

Monday, August 6, 2018


Ocassio-Cortez at Netroots: “Our swing voter is not red to blue. It's non-voter to voter." 

Anoa Changa at Netroots
“I think Trump’s win scared the shit out of everybody. I think it’s been a wakeup call for a lot of people that we have to invest. We can’t just do the traditional model where we only talk to super-voters.”
That doesn’t mean ignoring whites and Trump voters. Instead, "it’s rejecting the notion that our way to victory is having a centrist, moderate right-leaning strategy that feels like we could peel off Romney Republicans, versus investing in communities of color, marginalized groups and progressive white people." -- The Atlantic
Unite the Right comes to D.C.
Jackie Jeter ATU Local 689 President 
“More than 80% of Local 689’s membership is people of color, the very people that the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups have killed, harassed and violated. The union has declared that it will not play a role in their special accommodation.” -- Think Progress
Michael Jordan
"I support L.J.," Jordan told NBC News through a spokesperson. "He's doing an amazing job for his community." -- The Hill 
Elijah Edwards, Pres. AFSCME Local #2858
Since the Janus decision, "District 31's membership has gone up..." -- Hitting Left
Kimberly Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
“There’s been enough injustice done in different communities. We’re starting to fight back.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Camelot charters and the politics of 'disruption' at CPS

Camelot Education takes the students public schools have given up on. But the for-profit company’s approach to discipline has led to allegations of aggression and abuse. (Slate)
Disruption has become a centerpiece in the lexicon of school reformers. It starts from the faulty assumption, held by both liberals and conservatives, that public schools, public space in general, and public (democratic) decision-making are all broken remnants of a bygone era, and that the crisis of stability ("status quo") created mainly by unions, must be shattered by "radical" intervention from the top.

This is a far cry from democratic or revolutionary "disruption" by progressive, grassroots social movements or the breaking with old ideas (mental slavery) through critical thinking and building habits of the mind.

Corporate-style reformers use the term disruption in various ways as it suits them. Some use it to talk about modern technology interventions such as Uber. Or as a way of replacing traditional teaching models with computers or with computers replacing schools entirely. Others call for value-added teacher evaluation, merit pay, mass school closings, teacher firings, union-busting and wholesale privatization.

A case in point: The latest charter school corruption scandal in Chicago has the IG reporting that for-profit charter school operator Camelot Education colluded with former schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a pay-for-play scheme that put $67M in public school dollars into Camelot's pockets.

This brand of disruptive corruption is nothing new in a school system run autocratically by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked school board. It was precisely this style of "reform" that landed BBB and her partner in crime, Gary Solomon (Paul Vallas' former partner) in prison.

Speaking of Vallas, it was he who brought Camelot into Philly and New Orleans when he was schools chief there. But that's a whole other pay-for-play story. In 2015, Camelot reported more than $77 million in revenue, more than a third from contracts with the school districts of Philadelphia, Houston, and Chicago.

The Tribune reports:
Schuler’s examination of Camelot centers on behavior that largely occurred between 2012 and 2013. Authorities also investigated Byrd-Bennett, Solomon and Vranas for steering multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts to the SUPES Academy education consulting firm in exchange for the promise of lucrative kickbacks during the same time period.
The trio were eventually indicted for their roles in that scheme, pleaded guilty and are now serving federal prison sentences. Schuler said the completed criminal cases against Byrd-Bennett and her co-conspirators allowed his office to finish the Camelot probe.
According to the Sun-Times:
Camelot paid nearly $700,000 to get “access and favor” to Byrd-Bennett, including $294,000 to Solomon and Vranas. Byrd-Bennett allegedly was in line for a job with Camelot when she left CPS — except she left instead for a cushy federal prison in West Virginia.
But what especially caught my eye was not the crime itself, but the reaction to it by the mayor and the press. As expected, once the story broke, the conversation turned to what kind of punishment should be meted out to Camelot. Some favored debarment from CPS and revoking their charter, while others called for an outside monitor to take over operations. Then there were Rahm and the Sun-Times editorial board calling for a slap-on-the-wrist fine and for keeping Camelot's Chicago charters up and running.

Rahm didn't mention "disruption" when he closed NTA.
And here's where disruption comes in. Rahm claimed that the debarment of Camelot would cause "disruption" in the education of the Texas-based company's 800 Chicago students spread across 6 schools. Of those 800 zero were white.

Of course, he's right. (Incidentally, that comes out to 133 students per school if you're counting.) That's quite an intervention at a time when the system is "broke" and when dozens of CPS schools were closed for being too small ("under-utilization").

The S-T editorial calls for a "negotiated settlement" rather than giving Camelot the boot.
CPS says it plans to negotiate fines — hefty fines, we hope — against Camelot, and that would be a start in making this right. The district also has begun debarment proceedings, meaning Camelot eventually could be prohibited from doing business with CPS.
As we see it, what matters most is what’s best for the students, and the sudden closing of the four schools could disrupt the last chance at a decent education for hundreds of young people who sorely need it.
A better solution would be to hire an independent monitor to oversee Camelot’s contract, and then re-bid that contract once it’s up, as the inspector general recommends. 
A do-over or Mulligan, if you will, which would keep this corrupt company in business.

The S-T editors claim "Camelot has a reputation for doing good work in a tough field: educating former dropouts." BTW, the link in that quote offers no evidence of Camelot doing "good work". (Shameful reporting, editors.) Actually, Camelot has a terrible reputation, including charges that they operate "like a prison".
The abuse allegedly occurred in Camelot programs in Reading; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; New Orleans; and Pensacola, Florida. Jandy Rivera, for instance, a former teacher at Camelot-run Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, says that on multiple occasions staff members, including administrators, “baited kids so they could hit kids.” For the most part, staffers who allegedly assaulted students have faced no criminal charges or internal discipline; some have even been promoted.
Three points here...One is that Rahm, who closed 50 schools, mainly in the black community, has a lot of chutzpah to talk about the "disruption" caused by school closings, especially after closing every high school in Englewood and about to close the National Teachers Academy.

Two, even though CPS claims state law prohibits them from closing Camelot schools at least until August 2019, crooked and abusive Camelot can certainly be immediately removed from management without closing their (our) schools. The schools could then be returned to CPS where their abusive approach to discipline can be hopefully ended. Those responsible for their pay-for-play scheme could then be forced to pay back their illegally gotten gains and/or be prosecuted.

Third, Rahm's appointed school board and the mayor himself should be held accountable for the lack of oversight on outside contracting and investigated for their role in contracting with Camelot. One place to start is the upcoming mayoral race. Both Rahm and Vallas are running.