Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Problem: How to talk about Chicago politics on community radio?

Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative, will be our guest Friday on Hitting Left

Friday's Hitting Left show should be a good one. Brother Fred will be back from vacation and Amisha Patel from Grassroots Collaborative will be our in-studio guest. As you might expect, we'll be talking about the current list of Chicago's pay-for-play politics and machine scandals in the roll-up towards election day.

These will include, of course, the mayor's Lincoln Yards/Sterling Bay land giveaway which was being greased up until recently by prison-bound real estate attorney, Ald. Ed Burke. Sterling Bay had to dump him after the the feds arrested him. And then there's the little problem of having possibly the dirtiest alderman of 'em all, wire-wearing Danny Solis, sitting atop the zoning committee.

Amisha and her group have been in the forefront of the struggle to put the Lincoln Yards project on hold, at least until the new administration comes in and the city council has time to vet it. Problem is, it's looking now like the top-monied mayoral candidates all have strong Burke/Solis machine ties and unless the polls are way off (entirely possible) City Hall will likely remain in hands that are just a corrupt as Rahm's, or even worse.

Let's hope there's at least some progressive change coming in the aldermanic races, where some insurgents, women, teachers, and candidates of color have a chance to unseat the incumbents.

As listeners know, Hitting left is aired on a community radio station WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago. It is live-streamed on lumpenradio.com every Friday from 11-noon CT. According to latest numbers I have received Friday, 30-50 thousand listeners are regularly tuned in to Lumpen Radio, with many more listening to our show each week on Mixcloud or downloading it on podcast.

I love being a part of community radio and that's exactly what our show is all about-- community building. But having a political show on a community radio station also has its drawbacks. One of which is language censorship. We cannot uses language that is considered obscenity based on "community standards" without facing serious fines.

As far as Fred and I are concerned, that's not a problem. Mom raised us right and we've managed to get most of our guests to clean up their act for our show. Our producer also keeps a hand on the red bleep button and he's had a pretty strict interpretation of allowable words.

Here's the problem. We're talking about politics and politicians from the likes of our "pussy grabbing" president to Alds. Burke and Solis here in Chicago. We often find ourselves unable to quote them directly or even report the news accurately without resorting to metaphors and code language.

For example, the Sun-Times reports:
The affidavit, sworn out by FBI special agent Steven Noldin, portrays Solis as deeply in debt and routinely on the prowl for sex, Viagra, campaign contributions and other favors.
...In July 2015, Solis called Caldero with another request.
“I want to get a good massage, with a nice ending. Do you know any good places?” the alderman said.
 When Caldero promised to arrange the liaison, Solis asked, “What kind of women do they got there?” “Asian,” Caldero said. Oh good. Good, good, good. I like Asian,” Solis said.
See what I mean? Chicago politics is so vulgar, is so racist, it's unfit for community radio standards. So we have to constantly find alternative ways to talk about it while still keeping our political edge. Actually, it's not such a problem that we can't and don't have fun with it.

Thanks for sticking with us.

Rahm's Wintrust Arena is a monument to neighborhood disinvestment

As we learn more and more about how Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his corrupt cronies in the City Council, like Ed Burke and Danny Solis traded development projects for personal and political gain, it's worth taking a look back on one of Rahm's early superprojects.

The plan for a new DePaul basketball stadium, now called Wintrust Arena, was announced about a week before City Hall closed 49 public schools and nearly all the city's mental health clinics in 2013, was met with heavy protests when it was it was proposed. Protests grew louder after the mayor approved $55 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) funds to pay for it. Ultimately, it was financed through $82.5 million in tax dollars levied by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the quasi-governmental agency that oversees McCormick Place and Navy Pier. It also received $82.5 million from DePaul University, which will use the arena for 23 men’s and women’s home basketball games. It's still not clear what the final cost (not counting operating costs) actually was. But it's probably up around $250 million.

To community residents, the new arena was a slap in the face, continuing the pattern of moving public investment towards downtown and lakefront private development and away from the neighborhoods, from schools and city services.

Not only that, but as many of us predicted it would, the shiny new arena now sits mostly empty during games and events. The supposed anchor team, DePaul men's basketball Blue Demons, which for the past decade or more has refrained from recruiting inner-city Chicago high school players, is not a draw. I went to a WNBA game there and you could sit anywhere you wanted. So many empty seats.

Arena operators claim the building broke even on its expenses during its first year of operation and will turn a profit of roughly $350,000 per year in its second and third years of operation, respectively. But if you go to a ball game at Wintrust you can't help but wonder.

DePaulia, Managing Editor Shane Rene writes:
As the Blue Demons settle into their second season at DePaul’s new 10,000-seat Wintrust arena, men’s basketball fans showed little interest in attending the Blue Demons’ 2018-19 non-conference slate, according to documents obtained by The DePaulia via Freedom of Information Act. 
Through DePaul’s final and most well-attended non-conference game of the season — a crushing last-minute loss to Boston College — Wintrust saw an average of 1,274 fans scan their tickets for each game. Out of the Blue Demons’ nine home games over that time, five saw fewer than 1,000 spectators. 
If there was ever a private university that didn't need a taxpayer (TIF) funded arena, it is DePaul, the largest private, Catholic university in the nation. Wintrust Arena now sits as a near-empty monument to the Rahm Emanuel, pay-to-play era in Chicago politics.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Susan Klonsky and Tim Black talk oral history and Sacred Ground on Hitting Left radio
Timuel Black
 Change is going to come. How will you participate in making that change the one that you would like to have? Because the other side will have people participating to keep it like it is or make it go back the other way. Trump says ‘make America great again.’ My attitude is, make America like it ought to be. -- Chicago Tribune review of  'Sacred Ground'.
Susan Klonsky
...who wrote the book with Black, said the two aimed to “document a fairly typical story of the life of a community.” It just so happens this community was where Harold Washington had ties, former President Barack Obama started on his political path, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made a stand on desegregating housing in the Chicago area. (Black invited King to visit and speak in the city as early as 1956 and helped to organize the notable march on Washington in 1963.) -- Tribune review
L.A. teacher/striker Larry Strauss
Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. -- Guardian
L.A. teacher/striker Cristopher Bautista
Bautista was teaching “Cannery Row,” John Steinbeck’s classic tale of Central Coast haves and have-nots. “I’ve been teaching about the [Los Angeles] strike to my kids,” Bautista said on Day 5 of the UTLA walkout, which ended last week with the union making incremental gains in wages, classroom sizes and support staff. Bautista sees thematic overlap between Steinbeck’s book and the L.A. work stoppage, which drew international attention. “It’s about class struggles, what people need to get by, low pay. There are parallels.” -- L.A. Times
Actress Alyssa Milano
“The red MAGA hat is the new white hood.” -- The Wrap
Ann Coulter
... on Believing Trump’s Wall Promises: “OK, I’m a Very Stupid Girl”. -- Slate

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Kamala Harris announces on King Day. And why not?

Kamala Harris announced her candidacy in the 2020 presidential race on King Day. And why not? An electable black woman (running against Trump at least), a California senator, who will run a little to the left of a Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton and potentially become the first African-American woman U.S. president? (Obviously, no dick problems here.) I'm not jumping on board yet. It's way too early, at least for me to pick a favorite. But I'm glad Harris is in the race, in what's obviously going to be a crowded field. 

Some lefties are already throwing up #NeverKamala signs. This according to Branco Marcetic whose attempted slam piece, "The Two Faces of Kamala Harris" in the latest issue of Jacobin, actually makes her look pretty good, at least when compared to the other Dem Party regulars.

I have big issues with Harris over her record as a state prosecutor. For one, she opposed an early release program for non-violent offenders claiming it would diminish the prison labor pool. For another, her apparent support for the death penalty.

Here's an interesting connection. Harris began her political career as the DA in San Francisco, a job that later led to her becoming the state's attorney general and then senator. You don't see many progressive big-city prosecutors and I'm not prepared to say Harris is one of them.. Chicago's Kim Foxx is one and Philly's Larry Krasner is another breaking from the mass-incarceration, racist law-and-order mode.

But look who's following in Harris' path and running for DA in San Francisco this time around?

It's none other than brilliant, young movement activist lawyer, and friend of mine, Chesa Boudin.

DeChesa Boudin files papers for district attorney, flanked by Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Aaron Peskin. (Image: Nuala Sawyer)

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
When he was just over a year old, his parents — left-wing radicals in the Weather Underground — took part in a Brinks armored car robbery outside New York City that ended in the murder of two police officers and a security guard.
Before he could walk, he was making monthly trips through prison metal detectors and steel bars to visit his mom and dad. Like many other children of incarcerated parents, he was set up for a life of hardship and heartbreak. 
But nearly four decades later, Boudin, 38, is a deputy public defender in San Francisco. His impressive ascent to the office includes becoming a Rhodes scholar, earning a law degree from Yale and clerking for two federal judges. He recently helped upend California’s cash bail system, which was widely seen as inequitable to people of color and the poor.
I obviously can't vote for Chesa, but my check's in the mail. Yours too, I hope.

Monday, January 21, 2019


"The King is Dead" and "Long Live the King" are seen written on a store in the 1400 block of North Sedgwick on April 7, 1968, two days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. | Sun-Times file photo

Classic Mike Royko (April 5, 1968)
Hypocrites all over this country would kneel every Sunday morning and mouth messages to Jesus Christ. Then they would come out and tell each other, after reading the papers, that somebody should string up King, who was living Christianity like few Americans ever have. -- Chicago Daily News
Pence compares Trump to Dr. King
Claims, "both leaders have inspired Americans to change through the legislative process". -- Newsweek
Michelle Alexander's King Day Op-ed
 Similarly, many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the McCarthyite tactics of secret organizations like Canary Mission, which blacklists those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers. -- NYT, Time to Break the Silence on Palestine
Director Alan Sorkin goes after young, elected Dems
"The young Democrats newly elected to Congress should "stop acting like young people".  Sorkin said he believes Democrats should say the party is "not just about transgender bathrooms". -- CNN
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responds
"News Flash: Medicare for All & equal rights aren’t trends," 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman elected to the House, wrote in response to a video of Sorkin's interview.
"When people complain about low turnout in some demos, it’s not because communities are apathetic, it’s bc they don’t see you fighting for them. If we don’t show up for people, why should you feel entitled to their vote?" -- The Hill

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hard to get a handle on mayor’s race. Some polling please.

Polls show community support growing for striking L.A. teachers.

Why no serious polling on Chicago mayor’s race since the Burke debacle? Before Burke, poll leader, Preckwinkle was at only 18%. Could someone make the runoff with 12-15%. Maybe candidates are embarrassed to learn their numbers are so low.

Yes, interest in the race is waning since Rahm dropped out and current front-runners are all late-comers to the race with strong machine ties.

Progressives have no real horse in it despite early CTU/SEIU endorsements of Preckwinkle. But her team’s campaign stumbles have some lefties moving towards Amara Enyia and Lori Lightfoot. Voters yawning. Am I wrong? I’d like to see some polling, please. Media seems just focused on the money race.

Brother Fred and I will be talking about all this and more on Friday with BLM and Assata’s Daughters organizer, Page May along with Tom Gradel, co-author of Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality. Tune in 11–noon at WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago. Live streaming at www.lumpenradio.com.

Speaking of polling, this one shows strong public support for striking teachers in L.A.. The SurveyUSA poll found that almost two-thirds of people polled support the strike, with 15 percent opposed and about 20 percent unsure.

LAUSD Supt. and corporate shill, Austin Beutner is trying his best to scab-out the strike. That could make things hot on the picket lines and even hotter once the strike is settled.

Top Democrats are split on the strike, with DNC Chair Tom Perez, Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren supporting the teachers and corporate-wingers led by Arne Duncan attacking them. Several progressive House members have also declared their support with Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), as well as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ro Khanna (Calif.) tweeting their solidarity.

Remember in 2010, when Duncan came out in support of the L.A. district posting pictures of teachers in the LA Times? It was an attempt to "shine a light" on teachers whose students had lower than average standardized test scores. Duncan claimed there were thousands of teachers longing for their scores to be posted in the new media. He even predicted that in the years ahead, hundreds of school districts would be doing the same.

What a crock that was. 

Monday, January 14, 2019


Harold Washington and David Orr circa 1983

David Orr's letter to Harold Washington
You always said that Burke played the race card, while Fast Eddie was more about power. I know you’ll never forget the dirty deeds Burke did to you during Council Wars. It ticks me off that they held the city back during Council Wars, but you’re smiling and we’re finally going to get some justice. -- Sun-Times
John Bolton: "Bomb, bomb Iran".
Former U.S. Admin. Official
“It definitely rattled people. People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.” -Wall St. Journal
Guardian Opinion
 Above all, the teacher revolt expresses a rejection of the austerity and privatization agenda pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, particularly since the Great Recession. -- LA's teachers can teach the working class about the power of labor strikes

Thursday, January 10, 2019

After the lights came on at the Burke affair

Best quote on the Burke(s) affair comes from S-T columnist Neil Steinberg:
Corruption is like rust. It spreads, both coming and going. When the party’s on and the lights are low, lots of people wander into the dim tent to help themselves at the long tables of pie. When the lights are snapped on, those same people are caught standing there with pie on their faces.
He adds,
It’s almost comical to see the casting call of mayoral candidates lunging for napkins to smear away Ed Burke’s money, or try to. It’ll be interesting to see how long that stain lingers around their mouths.
Yes, it would be comical if the cost of corruption at the highest political levels didn't weigh so heavily on the city's poor and working people facing severe cuts at their schools and city services. Dick Simpson and Tom Gradel, authors of Corrupt Illinois, put the "corruption tax" at $500M. Many experts believe it is much higher.
Examples include the costs of the Jon Burge police-brutality scandal, which has already reached one hundred million dollars and counting. The cost of Chicago police corruption averages more than $50 million per year. Since 2004, "Chicago has paid a staggering sum -- about $662 million -- on police misconduct, including judgments, settlements, and outside legal fees," according to the Associated Press' examination of city records. In 2015, the payment for the fatal police shooting of LaQuan McDonald cost the city $5 million in a settlement, while the cost to investigate and prosecute Police Officer Van Dyke is ongoing. Also, following that shooting, Chicago's legal and consulting bill for the subsequent Department of Justice investigation of city police practices totaled $760,000 through the middle of March, 2016. 
It's especially not funny when the lights come on and you see pie on the faces of the top three or four (at least) candidates for mayor, including the one being supported by many progressives, unions and community orgs.

I put an (s) in parenthesis above after Burke's name because Eddie's wife Anne Burke, the liberal IL state supreme court justice, who Steinberg once referred to as the “the platinum bar of probity” (look it up), was the one (not Eddie) who threw the fundraising party for Toni Preckwinkle, that netted $116K for her campaign war chest. She had already run and won her campaign for Cook County Board President, jumping into the mayor's race only after Rahm dropped out.

Burke (r) endorsed Gery Chico
I suppose Burke's fundraiser was legal and hopefully legally reported. Although you would think a supreme court justice would keep a money arm's length from Chicago politicians, especially when she's already married to the platinum bar of profiteering in the city council. It's not a good look. But Chicago reporters haven't even broached the subject. It seems, she's untouchable.

It was only after that backyard party at the Burke's house was revealed than Preckwinkle announced she would return ALL the money. Previously she copped to receiving only $5.8K.

Preckwinkle also removed Burke from the Cook County Democratic Party's judicial slating panel, a post he held for decades. Good for her. Although without demands for accountability coming from below, who knows if she and others like Bill Daley, Gery Chico and Susana Mendoza would have even bothered bailing on the Burkes for appearance sake alone.

Preckwinkle's progressive backers seem unfazed by the latest scandal. Some are just cynical, claiming "they all do it, so why pick on Toni?" Others blame it all on the "culture of corruption". 
S-T columnist Phil Kadner writes:
Let us remember Burke has not been convicted of anything, although he has been a symbol of Chicago political corruption for decades. He has had the best people into his home. He has done favors for scores of politicians who were happy to accept his support and his money. Maybe they are all victims of the culture of corruption. As someone once said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
SEIU Illinois State Council, unfazed by Burke affair, just dropped another $500,000 into Preckwinkle’s mayoral campaign, more that making up for the Burke money she was forced to return. The new money brings the union’s contribution to Preckwinkle to $1.5 million with more money on the way.

Progressives like Rep. Will Guzzardi and socialist Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) were among the first to endorse Preckwinkle and at least Rosa is now lashing out against his fellow left-wing critics of TP in the press and on social media.
 “There’s nothing here,” Rosa said of the campaign contribution investigators say Burke illegally solicited on Preckwinkle’s behalf. “Do people think she called Ed Burke and said, ‘You’ve got to shake down these guys for $10,000?’ Come on. Let’s talk about what’s important to the people of Chicago, which is who can bring change to City Hall. That’s Toni Preckwinkle.”
Burke scandal aside, it's hard for me to fathom this city's progressives and socialists pinning their hopes for change on the head of the Cook County Democratic Party. It just seems to run counter to national trend of victories by young, insurgent candidates, many of them women of color or immigrants,  over party regulars across the country.

My brother Fred traces the history of the problem in the inability of the Chicago left to unify early on around insurgent candidates in opposition to the old-guard machine.
 In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, there was no single candidate that truly represented the politics of the Bernie movement and you could find Bernie supporters dispersed among all of the candidates, painfully diluted and with little apparent influence. The same can be said about the current race for Chicago’s mayor.
Who knows what more fallout will come from the Burke trial itself or who will be implicated or left with pie on their faces if he decides to roll over for the feds. But by that time we will have elected a new mayor and most likely, one still tied to the old machine by a thousand threads.

You can bet we'll be talking about the Burke(s) affair tomorrow on Hitting Left with a group of insurgent Chicago teachers who are now running for political office. And then again next Friday, January 18th with in-studio guest, author, political consultant and expert on Chicago corruption, Tom Gradel.
Tune in to Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers, Friday on WLPN 105.5 FM Chicago, streaming live at www.lumpenradio.com 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Trump's Wall Speech

I watched Trump’s wall speech last night. Well, it wasn’t really a wall speech since DT hardly made mention of the wall itself. In fact you couldn’t really call it a speech since he simply sat expressionless in front of a camera, reading from a teleprompter, someone else’s (Bolton’s? Kushner’s) words.

There was no energy in the room, not the kind that he’s used to at arena gatherings with his deplorables cheering every mention of the wall, crooked Hillary, or MAGA. I don’t know which of his peeps thought this was a good idea. Trump had nothing to say, nothing new to add to justify his shutdown of the government.

He had no idea who his audience was, but there he sat, trying to look "presidential".

I thought sure D.T. was going to declare a "national emergency" and demand money for the wall that way. Then he could have saved face in front of the deplorables, opened the government and walked away looking like a man who means what he said.

Of course, such declarations, including the most recent where he claimed he was going to immediately pull our troops out of Syria, only to put the withdrawal into reverse a day later, mean nothing to this serial liar.

When he did mention the wall directly, his points were almost silly. Like when he claimed he was conceding to Democrat's demands that the wall be made of steel rather concrete. Have you heard anyone making that steel argument? Me neither.

Or like when he drew an analogy with rich politicians putting a walls up around their houses'
They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside.
Good tip here for the lovelorn. Instead of spending all that money on a ring, show your loved one you care by putting a wall around them.

He also turned himself into a pretzel trying to explain once again how Mexico was going to pay for the wall, "indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico."

Problem solved. Just put the $5.7B into the budget as "indirect income" from Mexico and when it comes in, pay for the wall. Why the need to hit up the taxpayers if the new great NAFTA deal will pay for it? Oh, I forgot. There isn't yet a new NAFTA deal, great or otherwise.

OK, I'll stop now. I feel like I'm having to go through this thing twice.

American Gothic?
But I just want to add, as deadly as Trump's fireside talk was, things weren't much better on the Democrat's side as Pelosi and Schumer , resembling American Gothic, gave a weak rebuttal, actually uniting with Trump on the need to spend billions more on "border security",  just don't call it a wall.

Best alternative to both Trump and the Dem Party stiffs was Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

From Huff Post:
The congresswoman then called upon the president to recognize “that he has systematically engaged in the violation of ... human rights on our border,” including the separation of migrant families.
She also recalled the death of an immigrant child in Border Patrol custody minutes before Christmas Day and questioned how Trump could continue asking for support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“The president should be really defending why we are funding such an agency at all, because right now, what we are seeing is death,” she said. “Right now, what we are seeing is the violation of human rights.”
Ocasio Cortez along with the other new young, mainly women of color, elected in the midterms, now represents the future of the Democratic Party.  

Monday, January 7, 2019


Jill Abramson
We have 102 women in Congress. It's not Trump's Washington any more. -- Guardian
Toni Preckwinkle
 “I won't have my name dragged through the mud” over Burke’s alleged conduct, she wrote. -- Tribune
Susie Madrak
 [...] Along with saying the word “f*ck” at least three times throughout the meeting, the president bizarrely stated that he did not want to call the partial government shutdown a “shutdown,” according to the source. Instead, he referred to it as a “strike.” -- Crooks & Liars
Don Rose on Hitting Left
Don Rose, veteran Chicago political strategist
It was a split in the Democratic Party machinery that created the opening for the election of (Chicago's first black mayor) Harold Washington. The split enabled him to win with a plurality. He came in two or three points ahead of Jane Byrne in that party primary. -- Hitting Left
 Letitia James, N.Y. 's new Attorney General
"I'm running for attorney general, because I will never be afraid to challenge this illegitimate president when our fundamental rights are at stake," she said last fall in an op-ed video for NowThis. "He should be charged with obstructing justice. I believe that the president of these United States can be indicted for criminal offenses and we would join with law enforcement and other attorneys general across this nation in removing this president from office." -- CNN

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

My next challenge

Tomorrow is the first big test for my new knee following a small rehab setback. I'm scheduled to speak on a panel on The Life and Legacies of Fred Hampton at the American History Assoc. convention over at the Palmer House in Chicago.

I'm going to have to navigate the stairs with crutches, climb in and out of a taxi and make it up to the 6th floor and back.

I'm psyched.

The panel, is organized by Univ. of Iowa Prof. Simon Balto. He's the author of Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power.

Here's more info on the meeting in Chicago, in case you want to attend:

AHA Session 12

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Water Tower Parlor (Palmer House Hilton, Sixth Floor)
Panel Chair:Barbara Ransby, University of Illinois at Chicago
Panel:Page May, Assata's Daughters
Toussaint Losier, University of Massachusetts AmherstSimon Balto, University of Iowa 
Michael Klonsky, Hitting Left
Aislinn Pulley, Black Lives Matter Chicago
Jakobi Williams, Indiana University
Then on Friday, Brother Fred and I are back on the air at Hitting Left. Our in-studio guest will be Don Rose, former press secretary to both Dr. Martin Luther King and Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.

Tune in at 11 a.m. on www.lumpenradio.com
Let's do this...