Friday, February 22, 2019

DAY 7 of our 'National State of Emergency'

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
“I would say it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border,” Graham said on CBS News’s "Face the Nation. “We’ll get them the school they need, but right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands.”
Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- It's DAY 7 of our "National State of Emergency". I hope all you are somehow surviving, safe and doing well.

I'm the kind of guy who runs towards the danger, not away from it. So yesterday, I flew down to our southern border, FT. Lauderdale to be exact, to see how Floridians were handling having Spanish-speaking immigrants and drugs flowing into their wall-less state. 

I'm also trying to escape the Chicago tundra for a while,  catch some 80-deg weather and get in the therapy pool to help speed recovery of my post-surgical knee.

Bravely carrying on in my stead this morning on Hitting Left, will be brother Fred and our favorite political strategist, Joanna Klonsky (yes, we're related). They will be joined in-studio by Ald. Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward and leader of the City Council's Progressive Caucus. Together, hopefully they can make some sense out of the race for mayor. Lord knows, I've tried and failed.

Yes, like everyone else who's awake, I'm mocking DT's phony, self-serving declaration and hoping it can be reversed by members of congress before he can use autocratic power to shift billions out of school budgets to pay for his fu**ing wall. I've already heard Lindsey Graham making the case that paying for the wall is more important than school funding.

Now don't get me wrong. There is an undeclared national emergency down on the southern border that needs responding to. Thousands of immigrant children have been separated, possibly permanently, from their parents and families and hundreds, including infants and toddlers, still remain in custody, unaccounted for, in government camps.

While Nancy Pelosi tries to get a few Repugs to join with Democrats in reversing the SOE, some veterans groups are blasting DT for abusing power with his bogus declaration and slamming his plan to take money intended to build housing for military families and waste it on a racist border wall.

In El Paso, Sunday, hundreds of educators protested the government's treatment of immigrant children in a "teach-in", saying that as mandatory reporters, they are obliged to speak out against detainment and family separations.

Shout-out to protest organizer, Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, who teaches newly arrived refugee and immigrant students in Washington state.

I'll try and send more reports on the National State of Emergency from down here on the border as the week progresses.

Stay strong, America!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Progressives split in Chicago race. Can they unite against Daley in a runoff?

With the first round of the mayoral election only a week away, things are starting to get hot and heavy. Progressives are split at least three ways (Toni Preckwinkle, Lori Lightfoot and Amara Enyia) and there's lots of vitriol back and forth among their camps..

Cook County party boss Toni Preckwinkle, with early support from many progressives, including the CTU and SEIU seemed like the clear front-runner a month ago.  The SEIU endorsements alone translated into roughly $2M in cash and in-kind contributions to Preckwinkle and nearly two dozen full-time campaign workers and upwards of 500 part-time volunteers.

Bill Daley, the man from JP Morgan and the candidate without a shred of progressive pretense, has replaced Rahm Emanuel as the darling of Chicago's 1%-ers. They've gone all in on Daley because, 1) they fear a takeover of the city by left-wing insurgents of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez type and 2) his early lead in fundraising has them believing he's a for-real candidate, who can win.

The irony is that the modern notion of Democratic Partyinsurgency they're so afraid off, goes back to Harold Washington's victory over the Daley machine in 1983. But the latest attempt at building a progressive electoral coalition petered out after the collapse of the Bernie Sanders coalition in 2016 leading to the election of J.B. Pritzker as governor with no real progressive opponent.

The current internecine warfare over mayoral choices results from progressive groups not being able to unify around candidates for mayor and governor two years ago.

Instead, Rahm, their main electoral target with plummeting poll numbers following his Laquan McDonald cover-up and his school-closing debacle, pulled a slick move and abandoned the race altogether, before we had a chance to beat him. Even though #RahmResign was exactly what progressives had been demanding, it took many of them them by surprise, as Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative admitted on our show on February 1st.

Without Rahm as a unifying target, the door was left open for a gaggle of old-line, well-financed Democratic Party regulars to jump in and suck up all the money and organizational support.

Mendoza, Chico, Daley and Preckwinkle, none of whom dared enter the race while Rahm was still in it, all jumped in and immediately got the support and credibility from the party bosses and powerful donors who had been sitting on the sidelines. Daley was the biggest beneficiary with $7M in big-donor money. $2M coming directly from Republican billionaire Ken Griffin.

But the good news is that despite their swollen campaign coffers and TV advertising, none of the party machine regulars or great-white-hope alternatives (Paul Vallas & Gary McCarthy) have been able to create any excitement at the base and break from the pack.

If the vote were taken today, undecided or none-of-the-above would be the clear winner. According to most recent polling, the top 5, including underdog and party outlier, Lori Lightfoot are all with a few points of each other and any two could make it to the runoff, especially if this becomes a low-turnout election.

Lightfoot, who if elected, would become the city's first black, woman, lesbian mayor, is a clear underdog. But she's gained momentum and funding in recent weeks, especially after picking up the Sun-Times endorsement, while Preckwinkle and Mendoza have failed to improve their numbers since being connected to the Burke/Solis scandal.

Progressive Preckwinkle supporters, including those in the CTU and SEIU, who backed her early when union haters Rahm, Vallas and McCarthy seemed like her main opponents, probably did so more because they thought she would win rather than  because of fundamental political agreement. But now they're stuck with her even as her campaign falters and stumbles towards the finish line.

They fear a Lightfoot victory next week will lead to Daley's election in the finals and are training all their tactical guns and money on Lightfoot. For her part, Lightfoot sees Preckwinkle as part and parcel of the Burke/Berrios party machinery and has been gunning for her from the start.

Lori Lightfoot goes head to head with Toni Preckwinkle ally, Rep. Martwick“You were a Joe Berrios surrogate for the entire campaign. You filed this bill [to appoint rather than elect assessor] to profit yourself. Who benefits from a system that’s not changed?” Lightfoot said.
Things really came to a head this week when State Rep. Rob Martwick, closely tied to Berrios and Preckwinkle, tried to disrupt a Lightfoot presser and ended up in a well-photographed head-to-head, David vs. Goliath confrontation with the candidate. Martwick is authoring a bill that would make the County Assessor an appointed, rather than elected position. The bill is obviously meant as payback against anti-machine guy, Fritz Kaegi who defeated Boss Berrios in the assessor's race.

But the damaging confrontation instead meant more bad press for Preckwinkle and the machine. Martwick had to back off, claiming that his bill was only meant as a "conversation starter" while Preckwinkle was forced to issue a joint statement with Kaegi, opposing the Martwick bill.

If all this has your head spinning as you enter the voting booth, join the crowd. Daley seems like the main beneficiary of all this mayhem in the progressive camps, if he and Preckwinkle wind up in a runoff. A Daley/Mendoza runoff is also possible if Preckwinkle continues to stumble.

Amara Enyia, running with big campaign donations from rappers Chance the Rapper and Kanye West, hopes to pick up support from young black activists and hard-left organizers. But she doesn't seem to be gaining traction as the race draws to a close.

But if somehow, Lightfoot pulls an upset on Feb. 26, the whole thing is up for grabs. The progressives only hope is for some kind of reconciliation between Lightfoot, Preckwinkle and Enyia supporters and that's not likely.

But in a close, low-turnout election, anything can happen.

Buckle up and vote.

I'll be AWOL for Friday's Hitting Left show when brother Fred tries to make some sense of all this with Chicago campaign strategist, Joanna Klonsky and Progressive Caucus leader, Ald. Scott Waguespack. But I'll be tuning in to WLPN 105.5 FM, via live streaming on from 11-noon CT. I hope you will join me. 

Monday, February 18, 2019


Victory in Denver Teachers Strike.
Harry Roman, Denver Teachers Union President
During the daylight hours, Roman said he found it surreal to look outside the window of the Denver Central Library’s fifth-floor conference room and see masses of red-clad teachers marching and chanting about the wages he and his team were trying to improve. “It felt like, ‘Wow, we’re creating a movement here,’ ” Roman said. “It was very, very touching.” -- Denver Post
Lindsay Graham
Kentucky kids would be better off if school funds were diverted to the border wall. “I would say it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border...We’ll get them the school they need, but right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands." -- TPM
Senior German official 
"We fool ourselves if we think Trump is just an aberration,” said a senior German official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Trump is a symptom more than a cause.” -- Washington Post
Dr. Angela Davis comes home to Birmingham
It was here [at Carrie A. Tuggle Elementary School] I watched black teachers stand up and “take exception" to white representatives of the board of education calling them by their first names. Where “I acquired, the consciousness of what it means to stand for black freedom...Here is where I acquired the sense of possibilities to resist...This school helped shape my sense of relationship with my community.” --

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Memo to Paul Vallas: Lose the broom

“There’s nothing Chicago politicians fear more than this broom." -- Paul Vallas

So here's Paul Vallas, running for mayor of Chicago and carrying around a broom in his TV ads,  a prop designed to portray him as the anti-corruption candidate. Clever, right? He's the one who's going to sweep corruption out the door.

It harkens me back to 2008 when D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee posed holding a broom for the cover of Time Magazine and then  was implicated in one of the country's biggest test cheating scandals. Rhee became the darling of the corporate-style school reformers and school privatizers who poured millions into her Students First organization. Then, after serving as a corporate exec with a fertilizer company, she tried to become Trump's ed secretary but lost out to Betsy DeVos.

Now comes another former big-city school chief with a broom, the guy who was Gary Solomon's mentor. You remember Solomon. The force behind the biggest scam --SUPES -- ever to hit the Chicago Public Schools. Solomon and his partner in crime, former CEO at CPS, Barbara Byrd-Bennett are now doing prison time for that scam. But it was Vallas who taught Solomon the ropes and somehow, he's walking free, carrying a broom, and running for mayor of the country's third largest city.

After leaving CPS, Vallas developed ties with education consultant Solomon during his tenure at the Philadelphia and Louisiana districts. He then named Solomon to run his Synesi consulting company. Solomon had become adept at penetrating school districts from around the country after buying off their top school officials with perks and bribes in exchange for expensive consulting contracts.

According to the Tribune:
When Solomon worked as vice president of sales at The Princeton Review, the Philadelphia district Vallas ran was a client. Solomon later launched an educating consulting firm that touted itself as connected to the “Vallas model” of school reform. Vallas, who had no formal links to Solomon's firm, chastised the consultant for trying to capitalize on Vallas' reputation.
But Vallas got over his annoyance. He took Solomon with him as a consultant when Vallas moved to Louisiana to rebuild a school district battered in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. A few years later, Vallas was recommending to Peoria that it hire another Solomon-run consulting firm, though no contract was signed. Vallas disputed the assertion that he had pitched work specifically for Solomon's firm.
Vallas previously has told the Tribune he stopped working with Solomon in 2010, but has declined to explain why.
My advice to Vallas. Ditch the broom. It doesn't wear well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Will Chicago elect a mayor who's back in bed with Bezos on HQ2?

Toni Preckwinkle and Bill Daley on board with Bezos. 
...bringing Amazon to town will probably cost untold millions in tax credits—money diverted straight from the state's coffers. That spells a tax hike for everyone else as the state jacks up taxes to compensate for the money it's giving to Amazon.
-- Ben Joravsky
Like Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm St., Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and his HQ2 plan for Chicago just keeps coming back from the dead. It looks like, now that New York has said no, Rahm/Rauner's $2.5B tax and land giveaway to Bezos is back on the table in Chicago.

How can that be with Rauner gone, Ed Burke on his way to jail, and Rahm on his way out the door? It can only happen if Gov. Pritzker and a new Chicago mayor are ready, willing and able to meet all of Bezos demands and accept his unsubstantiated estimates of tens of thousands of "high-paying city jobs".

And which of the current mayoral candidates is ready to bend over for Bezos? According to Crain's there's only two (maybe three) -- Bill Daley, Toni Preckwinkle and possibly, Paul Vallas who hasn't said yet.

While I would expect no less from Daley and Vallas, I'm still amazed that Preckwinkle, who's only in the race because of backing from CTU and SEIU, is willing to play ball with union-buster supreme, Bezos. The jobs Bezos promises are unsustainable and without long-term security. Amazon has the highest employee turnover this side of Walmart and their working conditions are reported to be the worst of any major corporation.

Burke may be under indictment and Ald. Danny Solis may have gone underground, wire and all. But the spirit of pay-to-play and quid pro quo, obviously still lives on among these three.

ONE MORE POINT, if I might... Bezos is also a big backer of charter schools and other school privatization schemes in the state of Washington. According to a report in the Nation, the Bezos Foundation has donated to Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that funds attack advertisements against teachers’ unions and other advocacy efforts to promote test-based evaluations of teachers. Education Reform Now also sponsors Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

Other education philanthropy supported by the Bezos Foundation include KIPP, Teach for America and many individual charter schools, including privately funded math and science programs across the country.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Raise Your Hand on return of PARCC
“To have the Illinois test ready for spring, ISBE has basically adopted PARCC for one more year,” the group said in a statement. -- Sun-Times
John Dingell's last words
Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today. -- Washington Post
Amy Klobuchar's poke at Clinton
"I think we're starting in Wisconsin because as you remember there wasn't a lot of campaigning in Wisconsin in 2016. With me, that changes." -- The Hill
Toni Preckwinkle
 “Can we count on you when it’s needed to say no to the teachers union?” Flannery asked. “Of course,” Preckwinkle said. “Of course.” -- Chicago Tribune
Robert Reich
 America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump declared in his State of the Union address. Someone should alert Trump that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it is socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism. -- Guardian

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Rahm hard at work trying to clean up his legacy on education

Rahm and his predecessor, Richard M. Daley. 
In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tries to do a clean-up job on his years of crisis-ridden, chaotic one-man rule over the Chicago public schools. "I used to preach the gospel of reform," writes Rahm. "Then I became the mayor."

I'm not sure what gospel of reform Rahm was preaching in the first place. With no background in education and a long string of inept and corrupt managers surrounding him, His policies were neither research-based nor educationally sound. Rather they represented a googob of top-down, politically-driven policies and strategies that had more to do with breaking the union, real estate speculation, patronage and disinvestment in black and Latino neighborhoods than in anything curricular or pedagogical.

His mantra during his first campaign was, more classroom seat time equals better learning outcomes, holding up Houston, of all places, as his model. "The data shows that the longer you stay in the classroom learning,  you'll learn more...", claimed Rahm.

But we never were shown any such data. Maybe because, none existed. Everything depended on what was happening in those classrooms, how crowded they were, and who was teaching in them and what else was going on, inside and outside of school.

That led to the first of many clashes Rahm would have with the CTU and it's president, Karen Lewis. ultimately leading up to the great teachers strike of 2012. That strike would end in victory for the union which was able to gather wide parent and community support.

Rahm's revision of history has him winning the strike and Karen Lewis conceding on the longer school day.
My initial doubts emerged four days into what turned out to be the first Chicago teachers’ strike in three decades. After a series of arduous negotiations with Karen Lewis, the union president, we’d arrived at the basic contours of an agreement. In return for higher salaries, Lewis accepted my demands to extend the school day by an hour and 15 minutes, tack two weeks onto the school year, establish universal full-day kindergarten, and rewrite the outdated evaluations used to keep the city’s educators accountable.
In fact, it was the teachers who won that strike, fighting for much more that high wages, but smaller class size and an end to layoffs and much more.

Now Rahm claims to be a school-reform apostate who has abandoned "the gospel of teacher-focused reform for a more top-down approach centered on empowering principals." As any educator could have told him, real reform is not just about power struggles between principals and teachers. It’s more about school/community relationships and adequate resources.

Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he wasn't going to run for a third term, it seems all he's interested in is cleaning up (whitewashing) his brand. That's perfectly understandable if his goal is making a credible transition from the public, back to the private or non-profit (foundation or university) sector at the end of his term, the way his predecessor Rich Daley did after his notorious parking meter deal.

That won't be as easy as it's been for him in the past when he managed investments and other enterprises for the likes of Bill Clinton and Bruce Rauner. For one thing, he's got a poor track record when it comes to enticing giant companies like Amazon into Chicago by hook or by crook. Chicago still owns the reputation as the most corrupt city in the most corrupt state in the union. We still don't know how high up the current Burke/Solis scandal will go or if Rahm can steer clear of it. And despite finally getting a school budget passed in Springfield, Rahm still has to own the fact that he drove CPS finances in the debt hell.

Then there's his role in the cover up following the police murder of Laquan McDonald.

Finally and probably most important is the destruction he's left in the wake of his policy of mass school closings in the city's black communities, replacing them with school vouchers and privately-run charter schools. It was his misleadership on the schools, more than anything, that bottomed out his poll numbers and caused him to finally drop out of race for mayor.

He can now spend his time remaking his brand and rewriting history.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Candidate Bill Daley, the man from JPMorgan Trust

MY FAVORITE BILL DALEY QUOTE -- "I stopped wearing a tie every day when I joined the hedge fund. It's a lot easier."

He doesn't always tell the truth, but at least great-white-hope mayoral candidate, former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, the man from JPMorgan Chase,  and the Swiss hedge fund Argentiere Capital, tells the Daily Line straight-up where he's coming from and where he's heading.
"I’m proud of the fact that I am pro-business."
Unlike some of the new-found progressives running for office, Daley has been consistent in his contempt for progressivism and liberal politics. In case you had any doubt, he supports building the new Cop Academy and Sterling Bay's Lincoln Yards. He's a strong supporter of charter school expansion. He's a teacher union hater (Peter Cunningham is his campaign manager for chrissakes), and he's calling for camera-bearing drones on every block in Chicago.

You want more? In response to CTU’s demand for higher pay and hiring nurses, librarians and aides Daley offers this:
“Conceptually, everyone would like to see everybody get a pay raise as much as she could, and give everybody whatever they want. The reality is, we have to deal with reality."
“Let’s be honest, ‘progressive’ is just because Democrats didn’t want to call themselves ‘liberals’ anymore because it was such a negative term… [I'll make] sure that the economic pie grows and isn’t just the economic pie of government, it’s the economic pie of the private sector, which is much larger and much more meaningful than government’s ability to affect things. 
No, that's not a quote from Trump.

But when I say he's not always truthful, I mean...
 “I’ve been fortunate over the years of having a lot of friendships and relationships around the country. I had one senior businessperson, a Republican, give me a substantial amount of money and has no interest in Chicago other than his attitude was we need reasonable sensible leadership in urban America,” he said. While many connected Chicagoans have donated to his campaign, including the Ricketts, former Tribune owner Sam Zell’s trust, and dozens of Chicago-based investors, he said, “The people that have supported me don’t play in the game of Chicago politics, they have no business interest in that sense."
Yes, you heard it here first. None, zero, nil of Daley's biggest campaign contributors, including Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, former billionaire Trib owner Sam Zell, Byron Trott, CEO of BDT Capital Partners, or Christopher Reyes and M. Jude Reyes, executives of Reyes Holdings,  play politics in Chicago and have "no business interests" there.

If that sounds to you too much like Trump claiming he has never had business interests in Russia...well.

And if you aren't familiar with the billionaire Reyes brothers, they are among the Republican Party's biggest donors.
During his 18-year tenure at Chicago Title’s National Commercial Services unit, Chris Reyes has received increasing responsibility in various departments. Currently, he oversees the Local Commercial Operation responsible for underwriting and closing transactions involving all of Chicago’s trophy buildings, such as the Sears Tower, John Hancock building, Merchandise Mart and AON Center. Most recently, Chris and his team completed the largest commercial deal that has ever closed in Chicago, involving 32 different properties and a price tag of $3.2 billion.
Reyes makes Eddie Burke look like a novice.

I'll stop here. Don't even get me started on the ways Daley is ducking and dodging on #MeToo and women's choice issues. Let's just say that if Daley is elected (latest polls have him in the lead in fundraising and near the top for white voters), you can expect nothing more than a continuation of Rahm's 1%er policies, including massive taxpayer investment for super real estate projects, disinvestment in isolated neighborhoods, autocratic rule over the schools, and less police accountability.

No, definitely not a progressive.