Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Baghdad embassy siege, a predictable result after 16 years of failed war policy

Bush declares victory in Iraq in 2003.
It was 16 years ago that President George W. Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared, "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. It was, as former President Bill Clinton called it, "the latest, grandest example of the eternal struggle of former presidents to rewrite history." And the Clinton's, who supported the 2003 invasion, know a thing or two about that.

New Year's siege on Baghdad embassy.
Now, as night fell on the last day of 2019, U.S. embassy staffers were locked in a "safe" room with Trump calling on the Iraqi police to help protect them as the embassy in Baghdad was under siege by thousands of Iraqis chanting "Death to America", protesting the recent U.S. airstrike against Iranian-backed militia fighters in Iraq and demanding that all U.S. troops, including mercenaries ("contractors"), leave their country.

How the mighty have fallen. A predictable climax to a failed regime-change strategy that has transcended the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, caused the deaths of millions and cost trillions. It's one that still holds sway in the White House and within the leadership of both political parties.


Friday, December 27, 2019

Rahm: Fighting Trump is 'sinking to his level.'

"Some may accuse me of being Pollyanna-ish — there’s a first time for everything." -- Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel is trying once again, to rebrand himself. He no longer wants to be seen as the divisive advisor who was canned by President Obama or the ex-mayor driven out of Chicago before voters could get a clean shot at him at the polls.

When he still had hopes of winning re-election, Mayor 1% tried to rebrand himself as a "progressive". But now, with real progressives threatening the centrists' hold on the Democratic Party leadership, he's dropped the progressive facade and is working with the DNC leadership to isolate and discredit the party's left-wing. Rahm now wants to morph into the "no-conflict" conciliator with Trump and the Republicans to "bring the country together."

He's warning Democrats to veer away from any anti-Trump resistance movements, especially the kind being forged by the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during the primary elections.

To Rahm, fighting Trumpism is "sinking to Trump's level."

In yesterday's Washington Post op-ed, Rahm appears downright giddy over the new NAFTA deal Nancy Pelosi cut with Trump. 
If everything in Washington centered on conflict, President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would never have been able to align themselves on a major trade agreement. And yet there they were, serving up evidence that division and consensus can sit, however uncomfortably, side by side. What did that moment tell us? Riven though we are, we are also, on many matters, united.
From Rahm's POV, there's no longer a need for sharp conflict with Trump over issues like climate change, gun control, or immigration. Why? Because we're all already agreed. There's a national consensus, says Rahm.
We don’t need to tell Americans that the president’s decision to bully Greta Thunberg was wrong — they know that. We don’t need to tell them that his Dec. 18 attack on Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and her late husband, John, was beyond the pale and beneath this nation — they know that as well. 
This from the former White House chief-of-staff who called immigration reform, "the third rail of politics" and who warned Obama's attorney general to "STFU" about gun control. 

Rahm's call for consensus-building with Republicans is nothing more than a poke at the left-wing of the party who he and Dem party leaders see as a greater threat to their power than they do Donald Trump. Without mentioning Sanders, Warren or AOC by name, Rahm tries to paint them as the purveyors of conflict and Joe Biden as the Pelosi-style unifier.

He writes:
If Trump is going to do his best to deepen the conflict, should we do the same? Or, after three years of enduring the White House’s efforts to pit community against community, should we lean into the exhausted electorate’s desire to embrace a leader who will bind up the nation’s wounds?
His rebranding efforts won't work. He's still the same divisive, corporate shill he's always been. If the Democratic leadership follows Rahm's lead and opts for conciliation with Trump as their strategic goal, they will fail again as they did in 2016.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Florida moment, the morning after

I'm down here in Trumpland (so the polls tell me), visiting family and getting a respite from the Chicago winter for a few days. I stopped in Walgreens early this morning to pick up the local papers. When I set them on the counter to check out, an older white guy in a Hawaiian shirt, standing behind me in line, sees the IMPEACHED headlines and goes off. But not the way I expected.

"Did you see? They impeached the son-of-a-bitch."

The two black women behind him in line chime in. One asks, "Is he really impeached? I hate that Trump. He's so rude and nasty. Are we rid of him?"

The second woman adds, "He's holding these rallies all over and you know, he doesn't even pay his people. He never has anything nice to say about anyone."

The white guy clarifies: "No, he's still president until the Senate votes him out. And that ain't happening."

The anti-Trump chatter goes on for another minute, with the black woman behind the counter joining in, shaking her head in frustration. "How did he ever get elected?"

I'm grinning, happy that my newspapers were the catalyst for this anti-Trump mini-rally. Just to make sure I'm not pegged as a deplorable, I say, "That's okay. We'll kick him out in November." I know, that wasn't all that revolutionary or inspiring. But in the moment, it was all I could think of.

My takeaway...Hatred of Trump among many is personal and visceral, not just political; i.e., there was no mention this morning of the Ukrainian arms deal or the phone call to Zelenskiy.

I, who've been the most skeptical of the Democrats' impeachment gambit, realize that this was just a snapshot and that us two old anti-Trump white guys in Walgreens aren't indicative of our demographic's voting patterns. But on this rainy Florida morning, the day after impeachment, I'll take it.

I'll be AWOL once again from Friday's Hitting Left show. In the NBA, when LeBron or Kawhi miss back-to-back games, they call it "load management." Exactly!

But you can tune in to www.lumpenradio.com tomorrow from 11-noon CT where brother Fred will be doing our annual movie talk with fellow film buffs Susan Kerns and Floyd Webb. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

CTU leaders take the wrong side in sexual harassment scandal

Image result for madigan + alaina hampton
Machine boss Mike Madigan & whistle-blower Alaina Hampton

Chicago unions have no choice but to work with House Speaker Michael Madigan if they want to get anything done in Springfield. But working with Madigan is one thing. Embedding within what's left of Madigan's political machine and colluding with him to blackball his victims of sexual harassment is something else. And that appears to be exactly what CTU leaders have done.

Case in point -- CTU's collusion with Madigan's gaggle of sexual harassers in the Alaina Hampton case. First, after offering to hire Alaina as a political consultant, CTU withdrew its offer, apparently under pressure from Madigan. Then they foolishly held back documents implicating themselves from investigators until they were forced to make them available.

After Alaina sued and won a settlement in the case, which cost Madigan's political committee about $900,000 (Alaina received $75K with the rest going to the lawyers), the teachers union picked up a large chunk of the tab.
As for Madigan, the powerful Southwest Side Democrat likely won’t be holding any benefits to pay for the settlement and his own court costs. Since September, labor unions have stepped up to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to Friends of Michael J. Madigan, the same fund used to pay the settlement. -- Sun-Times
And this from Politico...
The case is now settled, but Hampton says CTU has continued to disparage her on social media, so her legal team filed a cease and desist order. Hampton revealed the legal move Monday in a tweet directed to CTU after a spokeswoman described the case as having "factual distortions, hyperbole and outright lies." The spokeswoman's tweet was deleted, but not before Hampton responded with her own tweet: "You can't hide from the truth. That's one reason my attorneys sent you and CTU a cease and desist for defamation a month ago."
Even with reports finding bullying, inappropriate behavior and fear pervasive in Springfield under Madigan's rule, union leaders are reportedly still currying favor from the machine boss and still apparently following his lead on who to hire and fire.

CTU leaders are on the wrong side of this one.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He'd be a deserving awardee. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

18 years of lies on Afghanistan revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2019


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

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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Hat's off to Julián Castro

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Buttigieg's white blindspot on school deseg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not my choice of words, but I understand.

Monday, December 2, 2019


Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Chicago's Broadway Armory

Sen. Elizabeth Warren 
 "Only in Chicago is the big Saturday night entertainment politics." -- Tribune
Mayor Pete Buttigieg hasn't got a clue
"I was slow to realize" South Bend schools were not integrated. -- Interview with Rev. William Barber
Alaina Hampton settles sexual harassment suit
““Since speaking out publicly nearly two years ago, we have seen positive changes in this state,” Hampton’s statement said. “The legislature has passed sweeping legislation to deal with sexual harassment, which achieves important gains — although there is still more to be done." -- Tribune
Ald. Daniel La Spata
...in response to my blog post which called the passage of a $15 minimum wage by the City Council, a "big victory for Chicago workers."
"Of course that’s a win. One Chicago workers had already been struggling toward."
La Spata was one of the 11 aldermen who voted against passage.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Passage of $15 minimum wage is a big victory for Chicago workers

“This vote is easy for me,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th, said, because it closed the gap without layoffs, increased the minimum wage and opened libraries closed on Sunday.
Chicago's city council has approved by a 39-11 vote, a budget that will raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15/hr and it won't take six years to fully implement as it does under the new state minimum wage law. The city's minimum wage will rise to $15 by 2021 and apply to youth, people with disabilities and other groups that historically have been paid less.

The vote represented a big win for Mayor Lori Lightfoot who, after only six months in office, has been able to end so-called, "aldermanic prerogative" and slowly begin to close the city's huge budget gap without a large property tax hike.

And guess what? Businesses aren't fleeing the city and the Willis and Trump Towers (unfortunately) haven't crumbled into the river as predicted by the corporate lobbyists' fear campaign.

Restaurant servers and other tipped workers aren't fully covered under the new law and that's not good.

As the Chicago Reporter's Nicole Hallet points out:
There are many good policy reasons to abolish the tip credit, including ensuring that workers have pay stability and combating the problem of sexual harassment in the service industry. Women working in restaurants with lower minimum wages than other industries in the state were twice as likely to report being sexually harassed by a customer than women who were paid their state’s minimum wage.
But tipped workers will see their minimum increase to $8.40 an hour on July 1, from $6.40 currently, and the city is directed to study the impact of tipped wages on working-class families so it can revisit the issue in the future. The tipped wage will be set at 60% of the minimum wage — meaning it will rise to $9 in 2021 — and increase accordingly as the minimum wage rises annually with the consumer price index.

As for me, I think all workers should be paid a living wage and that none should have to work for tips. But that's for another post and another day. I still think passage of the mayor's budget is an important victory for the city's working people and marks a significant break from the policies of the previous regime.

Shia Kapos at Illinois Playbook writes:
The vote should have been easy — and it was for 39 council members — but 11 progressives voted no.
Well, that's not exactly right. Six of the no-votes came from the council's socialists who blocked with a handful of what's-in-it-for-me and anti-Lightfoot aldermen to try and stop passage of what is arguably the most progressive budget in the city's history.
"No" voters: Daniel La Spata (1st), Anthony Beale (9th), Raymond Lopez (15th), Jeanette Taylor (20th), Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Andre Vasquez (40th), Matt Martin (47th) and Maria Hadden (49th) 
This from Crain's:
Supporters said Lightfoot’s proposal pointed the city’s ship in the right direction and closed a projected $838 million gap without raising substantial taxes or fees. Most aldermen praised a brand new budget team—Lightfoot, Budget Chair Pat Dowell, and Finance Chair Scott Waguespack—for conducting a transparent process that included community input.
“This vote is easy for me,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th, said, because it closed the gap without layoffs, increased the minimum wage and opened libraries closed on Sunday. 
While I'm elated that there's finally some real debate in the council, I'll leave it to the 11 to explain their votes on this one.


The overstuffed and possibly hungover Klonsky Bros. are taking today off. But you can listen to our archived interview with veteran civil rights activist, Timuel Black and his co-author of Sacred Ground, Susan Klonsky. That's today from 11-noon on WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago. Streaming live at lumpenradio.com. 

Tune in on Friday, Dec. 6th, when our in-studio guest will CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

14 years after Katrina, half of the schools in New Orleans all-charter district are considered "failing".

"Hurricane Katrina gave a great American city a rebirth." -- Kristen McQueary, Chicago Tribune

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated much of the Gulf Coast, including the city of New Orleans. The hurricane triggered a chain reaction which led to the near-total abandonment of the city and its public school system. Over 1,200 died in the storm and nearly half the evacuees never returned.

For some conservative ideologues like Univ. of Chicago economist Milton Friedman and other neo-liberal reformers, the storm's devastation wasn't as much a disaster as it was an opportunity to replace the city's highly segregated, predominantly African-American public school system with privately-run, publicly-financed charter schools.

Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” because it gave the city a chance to rebuild and improve its "failing public schools."

Former Chicago and Philly schools chief Paul Vallas got hired to lead the city's educational reconstruction project, which included firing the largely-black teaching force, busting the teachers' union and ultimately replacing every public school with charter schools.

The Tribune's McQueary wished for a similar disaster to strike the city of Chicago so it might follow the New Orleans example.

Now, 14 years later, comes the news that nearly half of the schools in the all-charter New Orleans district are considered "failing."

According to the Times-Picayune, a whopping 35 of the 72 schools in the district scored a D or F on their performance report, meaning nearly half of local public schools were considered failing, or close to it, in the school year ending in 2019. Since then, six of the 35 have closed.
While New Orleans has long been home to struggling schools, the data released this month are concerning. There was an increase of nearly 11% percentage points in the number of schools that received the state's lowest grades from the 2017-18 school year to 2018-19.
"It makes me angry and hurt. Because these are the children of our city," said Ashana Bigard, a parent of two children in Orleans Parish schools and a longtime critic of the post-Hurricane Katrina education reforms that rebuilt the district as a network of charter schools.
Me too. I'm angry and hurt by the great privatization scam that's been run on the citizens of post-Katrina New Orleans. As far as "failing" schools are concerned, as long as there's concentrated dire poverty in the city, there will be schools that are labeled "failing", whether they are charter or regular public schools.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

More Biden debate blunders

Yes, I'm keeping track...
Biden last night: I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone -- anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.
MeBiden is the sole Democrat in the 2020 field who opposes legalizing marijuana at the federal level. Just five days earlier, speaking at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Biden said he opposed the legalization of marijuana claiming, there is not “enough evidence” as to “whether or not it is a gateway drug.”
BidenI come out of a black community...
Me: Really? Who knew?
Biden: I have more people supporting me in the black community that have announced for me because they know me, they know who I am. Three former chairs of the black caucus, the only African-American woman that's ever been elected to the United States Senate, a whole range of people...
Kamala HarrisNo, that's not true. The other one is here.

Me: And she sure hasn't endorsed Biden.
Biden: No, I said the first. I said the first African-American woman. The first African-American woman.
Me: No, you didn't. You said, "the only." Maybe you meant to say, "the first."
BidenThe fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for all.
Bernie Sanders: Not true.

Me: 77% of Democrats support Medicare for all (KFF Tracking Poll).

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I've got problems with the impeachment strategy

Republicans aren't disputing the facts. They're telling Democrats where to shove them.

I know it's early in the game, but so far my fears about the current shitshow that is the Democrats' impeachment hearings are coming true. It's not that I'm against impeaching the grifter president. His attempt to use the weapons sale to Ukraine as quid pro quo to get dirt on Joe Biden and his son is a clear criminal act and should be prosecuted. Trump and the Republicans aren't even disputing the facts. They are simply reminding us that POTUS is above the law.

In my mind at least, the hearings, which are taken by most as impeachment itself, fail as a political strategy leading up to the 2020 elections.

I just can't imagine the predictable outcome of a failed impeachment attempt moving the needle much, especially in the battleground states, let alone inspiring millions of young voters in a crusade to win the White House and Congress.

To make matters worse, Nancy Pelosi's messaging about the "dangers" facing us in the upcoming election (even when she is misquoted on Fox News) gives the impression that without the hearings, Trump is bound to win the election.
“The weak response to these hearings has been, ‘Let the election decide.’ That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action, because the President is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections.”-- Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi's pessimism is understandable, especially given the slumping of her favorite candidate, Joe Biden. But I'll leave that for a future post.

The hearings, duller than a Chicago Bears game, have put all the Democrats' eggs in the Ukraine basket. They have nearly pushed all other issues like health care and education to the side, issues that gain traction with key voter blocs. Stories and events that present an even stronger rationale for impeachment or certainly for defeating the Republicans next year now pale in comparison to the Ukraine fiasco.

On the global front, there's Trump's pardoning of convicted war criminals, a move opposed by his own Pentagon brass. Or his putting the final nail in the coffin of a negotiated just peace settlement in Israel/Palestine by sanctioning and encouraging future Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This happened, by the way, with hardly a peep from the Democrats.

I could go on about the U.S. role in sanctioning the right-wing coup in Bolivia; the continued separation of thousands of children from their parents as part of the human rights immigration crisis on the southern border; or Trump's disastrous trade wars. All of these now have a media half-life of about four days because of all the air all being sucked up by Trump's phone call to Zelensky.

I hope I'm wrong and that the hearings inspire a move of swing Trump voters. I just don't see it happening that way.

Monday, November 18, 2019


COUNTING VOTES -- 81% of the teachers who voted backed the contract.
CTU Prez Jesse Sharkey
...called the contract, "a powerful advance for our city and our movement for real equity and educational justice for our school communities and the children we serve." -- Channel 3000
Ald. Ed Burke "Diminished and preoccupied"
That's how Sun-Times Fran Spielman describes indicted Ald. Edward Burke. "He's no longer the center of attention at council meetings he once dominated. He occupies the front-row seat closest to the door, arrives late, leaves immediately and seldom if ever, speaks." --Illinois Playbook
Barack Obama vs. the party's 'left activist' wing
He tells wealthy donors: “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.” -- New York Times
Now contrite former N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg 
“I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. I didn’t understand back then, the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.” -- New York Times
Bill Russell accepts HOF ring 44 years after his induction

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Better to teach journalistic ethics by example

Why were faces blurred in this Facebook photo used in the Sun-Times story?
A routine news story became a viral controversy Sunday night after the editors of Northwestern University’s student-run newspaper issued an apology for interviewing and photographing campus protesters. Journalists from around the country quickly took to Twitter to attack the paper’s staff, saying they shouldn’t apologize for doing their job. -- WBEZ
It reads like a Who's Who in Chicago news reporting. I'm referring to the list of TV and newspaper reporters who have been lining up to teach a lesson to the students who staff the Daily Northwestern. The hubbub and overkill is about the paper's recent editorial apologizing for the way they covered the campus protest over the university's speaking invitation to arch segregationist and former Trump Atty. General, Jeff Sessions.

It was an unnecessary apology for interviewing and photographing campus protesters in a way that might put them in jeopardy. It's not the job of the press to protect the identities of protesters, say the critics and I generally agree. But I also applaud the student journalists for at least wrestling with the moral implications and unintended consequences of their actions and how their coverage might impact the lives and security of their fellow students. This, at a time when student activists, especially students of color, are often targeted for expulsion or arrest when they exercise their constitutional right to protest.

This kind of ethical and moral questioning goes to the very heart of democratic education and is something we rarely see among members of the corporate media.

There's no clearer example than the Sun-Times own coverage of a different sort of protest back in April when the racist FOP and other fascist and white nationalist groups marched in Chicago in an attempt to take down progressive States Attorney Kim Foxx and raise their profile in the city. While the article was a good exposure of some of the extremist groups involved, the Sun-Times editors also made a decision to blur the faces of some of the cops participating in the rally.

Who made the decision to blur the faces in the photo? Why wasn't there the same kind of critical response and ethical questioning from the professionals as there was around the Northwestern student editorial? I raised the question about the blurred faces at the time to a member of the Sun-Times editorial board who told me they would get back to me with an answer. Seven months later, I am still waiting for their explanation.

So until then, the pros who were silent back in April would do well to save the lecturing and teach by example.

This from Northwestern Daily's Editor Troy Closson.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Bolivians take to the streets in support of overthrown President Evo Morales after the U.S.-backed military coup. The placard reads: ‘Evo you are not alone.’ 
Trump hails the coup
 Calls it “a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere”. -- Guardian
 A twisted view of the latest U.S.-backed military coup in Bolivia
For a socialist president who was until recently hailed as the great success story of the Latin American left, this unseemly end serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when world leaders remain in office for too long. -- New York Magazine
Chesa Boudin
S.F.'s District Attorney-elect, Chesa Boudin
Many of Boudin’s policies, though, are even more progressive than those of Gascón, who was one of the country’s most liberal district attorneys. One departure, Boudin said, is he will no longer charge gang enhancements, which greatly increase the penalty for crimes if a defendant is found to have participated in a street gang. The law has faced criticism over the disproportionate number of black and brown people who are charged with gang crimes. A 2016 audit of the state’s gang database found that only 8% of documented gang members are white. -- San Francisco Chronicle
 CTU Pres. Jese Sharkey 
...leaders knew it was time "to start thinking about ending the strike and counting up what we had achieved. We began to realize that we had gotten as much out of CPS as we thought that we were going to get," Sharkey said on the union’s podcast, CTU Speaks!
The CTU later published a series of tweets about the veteran pay issue and implied some people “are looking to manufacture a crisis" about it. -- Tribune
R.I.P. Noel Ignatiev
In time his view that whiteness is a social and political construction — and not a phenomenon with a biological basis — has become mainstream. The resurgence of white identity politics and white nationalism in recent years made Ignatiev’s arguments relevant to a new generation of readers who argued the notion that race is more about power and privilege rather than about ancestry, or even identity. -- L.A. Times

...Only if we start with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Breaking...NY’s poor causing congestion, says de Blasio

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Billionaire Bloomberg says he's running. But why?

The prototype for the Rahm Emanuel mayoralty was Michael Bloomberg's New York. -- Crain's
The oddsmakers in Vegas put the odds on Michael Bloomberg winning the presidency at 14/1. That puts him even in their minds with Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg and trailing only Donald Trump 7/5, Elizabeth Warren 3/1, and Joe Biden 8/1 in the eyes of bookies.

I follow this stuff only because the bookies usually have a better handle on things than do the pollsters. That's why the house always wins.

Why is this billionaire Republicrat media tycoon and former New York mayor even considering jumping into a crowded Democratic primary as a 14-to-1 longshot? He knows the odds as well as anyone. One, because he can afford to, and two, he wants to be a hedge against the progressive insurgents like Warren and Sanders.

If either of them won the primary, I could even imagine Bloomberg running as an independent or third-party candidate in key battleground or swing states to draw away votes. Bloomberg is worried much more about the progressive ascendency than about his off-and-on frenemy Trump (who calls Bloomberg "Little Michael").

Known as the stop-and-frisk mayor in New York, Bloomberg once claimed that the biggest problem was his cops "over-stopping whites", and that he was just evening the score.

During his time in office, Bloomberg wielded his personal power against New York's communities of color and their public schools. He imposed a tidal wave of privatization on the city, including a big swing towards privately-run charter schools. What pissed me off most was how he used our "small schools" rhetoric to promote charters.

He was an advocate of using standardized testing results as the main vehicle for evaluating school and teacher performance.

He thought poor and especially immigrant parents were too ignorant to have much to say about their children's education.

Bloomberg once claimed:
“Unfortunately there are some parents who just come from — they never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of education...The old Norman Rockwell family is gone.”
That last part is true, and good riddance.

All this reminded me of this great quote from NYT's Michael Powell back in 2011:
"There is an 'autumn of the patriarch' feel to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg these days."
He's an outspoken enemy of organized labor and even compared the teacher unions to the NRA and used the big-lie technique to charge the unions with protecting child molesters.

Bloomberg's charter school cronies, Eva Moskowitz and Joel Klein. 
He hired corporate-style reformers like of Joel Klein and the totally incompetent (thank goodness) Cathie Black to replace public schools with charters and erode public space and public decision-making. Among his partners in crime was the city's supreme charter hustler, Eva Moskowitz, who enriched herself running the so-called Success Academies.

Bloomberg is a horrible politician who was only elected because of his bottomless war chest. You need only go back to his paper-thin 2009 victory in the NY mayor's race over relative political unknown Bill Thompson. Bloomberg poured $90 million of his own fortune into the race, a sum unequaled in the history of municipal politics, that gave him a 14-to-1 advantage in campaign spending. Yet he won by only 5%.

So, is Bloomberg's announced candidacy a bluff, a real threat to anti-Trump forces, or neither? One thing is for sure: Michael Bloomberg offers no positive alternative to Trump or to the current field of candidates in the Democratic primary.