Monday, March 30, 2020


Migrant workers in India wait to board buses following government mass evacuation order. 
Donald J. Trump
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the US president claimed that, if his administration keeps the death toll to 100,000, it will have done “a very good job” --Guardian
 Nancy Pelosi
"His denial at the beginning was deadly." -- CNN
 U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres
 "The spread of COVID-19 is measured in a matter of a single day — not weeks, months, or years — and Respondents appear to ignore this condition of confinement that will likely cause imminent, life-threatening illness." -- Judge orders release of ICE detainees
Amanda Klonsky
An outbreak in a jail or prison will be a death sentence for many thousands of people. And so we're asking our state and local governments, the federal government, the Trump administration, to take this threat seriously, to release as many people as possible. It's the only way that we can reduce the number of deaths. -- PBS News Hour
Fareed Zakaria
“The United States is on track to have the worst outbreak of coronavirus among wealthy countries. This is the new face of American exceptionalism." -- CNN
David Gilbert, incarcerated '60s activist  
Most crucially, the policies we are living under will be most effective when we have a say in shaping them. Allowing prisoners an active role in creating a safer environment will protect lives both inside and out. -- Letter to New York Times

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Trump's crashing. Govs leading. Where's Biden?

According to today's Washington Post-ABC poll, Trump and Biden are running neck-and-neck. One can only wonder how big a lead Biden would have if he was running as serious a campaign against DT as he is against Bernie Sanders and the party's left-wing? Since capturing the lead against Sanders in recent primaries, Biden has retreated to the sidelines as President Trump has stolen the spotlight with daily coronavirus briefings. 

But now, Trump's numbers are crashing over his handling of the coronavirus. His approval ratings have plunged a net 13 points in less than a week. At this hour of crisis, with an anxious public desperately looking for leadership, the grifter president is proving once again to be a divisive and dismal failure. Now seems like the time for Dems to take the offensive.

Latest polls also indicate:
Near-universal support for social distancing. People want it to continue as long as public health experts say it's necessary. Republicans are already trying to walk back Trump's asinine calls for "reopening the economy" by Easter and quarantining individual states. They say, "he was just thinking out loud."
Also, state and local government leaders are more trusted on the pandemic response than Trump and the federal government. 
The problem for Democrats is that governors, sure winners if they were running, like Cuomo and Newsom (and I would add Pritzker), aren't in the race. Joe Biden is.

But where is Biden? According to Jon Levine in the NY Post, Biden has been turned into
"a virtual prisoner of his Delaware home, where he’s reduced to sniping at President Trump from the family rec room."
“He’s making himself irrelevant,” Saikat Chakrabarti, a former chief of staff to Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, told The Post, saying the virtual broadcasts were not helping. “We need action immediately, and Biden can’t do anything real right now.”
Biden and the party leadership seem lost and ambivalent about taking on Trump. Anita Dunn, a top Biden advisor tells Politico, “Everything that's happening right now is like nothing I've experienced in previous presidential campaigns."
“Biden has a thin line,” an outside adviser said. “As much as I dislike Trump and think what a bad job he’s doing, there’s a danger now that attacking him can backfire on you if you get too far out there. I don’t think the public wants to hear criticism of Trump right now.”
The adviser doesn't tell us how Democrats are supposed to win a close presidential election without criticizing Trump. The fact is, it just won't happen. Maybe it's time for some new advisers.

Now,  possibly reacting to pressure to wage a more aggressive campaign, even in these difficult times, the party centrists have let Biden out of his bunker for some national face time.

At last, there was a Biden sighting on Meet The Press this morning.

Biden had some mild criticism of Trump's tardiness in confronting the virus. Better than nothing, I suppose.

But then a jaw-dropper. In response to Chuck Todd's question about whether or not he would continue sanctions against Iran, Biden went all Trump on us, claiming he didn't have enough info to answer the question and then implying he would keep sanctions alive since the Iranians were likely "lying" about their numbers of dead COVID victims.

I know we have to support Biden against Trump. But at times like this, you have to wonder if the Dems really want to win and if they're really going to offer progressives and young people a real choice, rather than a fading echo?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

New tactics called for in these difficult times

Homeless families threatened by coronavirus occupy vacant houses in southern California. 
"This is our moment to prove ourselves and a nation that, in Chicago, we may get bent, but we will never be broken." -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Brother Fred and I should be back on the air with Hitting Left by March 27th. Of course, we'll be doing the show from our respective homes so long as this sheltering-in-place (or as I call it, house arrest) remains in effect.

I understand, support, and am complying with the extreme measures called for here in Chicago by Gov. Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot, necessary for containing COVID-19. But I worry about the unintended consequences and what the new, rapidly-changing conditions mean for us activists and organizers. The victories by Democratic Party centrist Joe Biden over Bernie Sanders in the primaries have progressives looking at new organizing and electoral tactics.

The collapse of the global economy could be catastrophic and will likely cause the death of nearly as many people as the virus itself, especially among the most vulnerable populations throughout the world and people currently incarcerated here in our jails, prisons, and immigrant detention facilities.

These consequences are exacerbated by the Trump gang's misleadership, political opportunism, racism, and propensity towards profiteering from the crisis. In January, millionaire Republican Senators Burr & Loeffler were given a briefing by Trump officials about the COVID threat. Then, as Trump was downplaying the risks, they dumped their stocks before the catastrophic market crash. And they weren't the only ones taking advantage of insider trading.

While some form of bailout may be necessary, it should be targetted at helping those most in need with controls in place on how that money is spent. One of the reasons industries are so short on cash right now is that they have spent billions in past bailout money, buying back their own stocks instead of investing in their workers or preparing for difficult times like these.

I'm also worried about Trump using the crisis as an excuse to suspend democratic rights, grab more power for himself, launch a war against Iran or other perceived enemies, and even canceling the November elections if it looks bad for him and the Republicans.

Some good news coming out of China where Wuhan officials have reported three straight days with no new COVID cases. Whether you believe these reports or not, it's clear that in China and South Korea, the virus now seems under control. Businesses are reopening, including American-owned companies like Apple stores. Apple just reopened 42 of them in China, while at the same time, closing all of its stores in the U.S. and Italy.

Trump and the Republicans, on the other hand (joined at times by leading Democrats), are continuing their anti-China polemics, even referring to COVID as the "China Virus." When asked to explain, Trump said, it was because the virus "originated in China." His explanation had some on Twitter referring to him as Buick Skylark and Motel 6.

Yes, humor, even dark humor, will help us survive all this.

But while Cold War and racist, anti-foreigner politics rule the WH, China and other countries continue to make progress against the disease. Chinese and Cuban doctors have been in Iran, Italy, and Venezuela recently, where they have offered their services and expertise. They have reportedly developed medical treatments that lower the fatality and suffering rates for those afflicted with COVID19, and are distributing them – without any patent or profit – to those in need. Iran and Venezuela are countries to whom the IMF has refused to offer loans under pressure from U.S.-imposed sanctions.

In Iran alone, the COVID death toll could rise to 3.5 million. But the U.S. has announced that it will be expanding its inhuman sanctions anyway.

Now, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox is calling Trump’s early handling of COVID-19 is "the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime.”

Among the other unintended consequences...Hundreds of American troops are being withdrawn from Iraq in part over the coronavirus. And mother Earth is getting a breather from air pollution demonstrating the importance of and what's possible with a Green New Deal.

More good news... People here are creatively developing new ways to resist, carrying on political campaigns and where necessary, using Occupy tactics and other forms of direct action to support the homeless.

These new tactics for organizing, including a review of the March 18th NY Times piece by Astead Herndon, Progressive Ideas Remain Popular. Progressive Presidential Candidates Are Losing. Why?" will be food for our discussion on our upcoming Hitting Left shows.

Tune in on Fridays at 11a.m. CDT at WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago or on livestream at

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Two big election wins

Another bad day for Madigan and the machine. Big wins for Kim Foxx and Marie Newman.
People are crazy and times are strangeI'm locked in tight, I'm out of range -- Bob Dylan, (Things have changed)
After nearly two weeks in COVID lockdown, I needed an emotional lift last night and I got one. In fact, two. The IL primary wins by Kim Foxx and Marie Newman had me grinning like a pothead last night while pedaling my damn stationary bike and watching the results come in.

Yes, Bernie Sanders did get trounced by 30 points as expected. Plus a couple of other local down-ticket progressives were knocked off. But the Foxx/Newman wins were big, big, big. Kim ran up the score on three great-white-hope opponents including billionaire's son Bill Conway who tried to ride the "bullshit" Jussie Smollett case to victory a la Bush and Willie Horton.

Both Foxx and Newman were backed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who also endorsed Biden.

The icing on the cake for me was watching Eddie Burke get beat in his own ward race for committeeman by freshman State Rep. Aaron Ortiz. 

As the song goes: It's hard out here for a pimp. 

Marie pulled an Ocasio-Cortez by narrowly defeating 8-term incumbent Dan Lipinski whose family has ruled the district for 38 years. Lipinski was backed by many old-guard Democrats, AFL-CIO leaders and party boss Michael Madigan.

She did it even while calling on Madigan to step down and backing Bernie Sanders.  Yes, that's right. The same 3rd-district voters who overwhelmingly chose Biden over Sanders chose progressive Newman over Lipinski.

Lipinski pitched himself as in line with the district’s voters and cast Newman as too extreme, citing her support for "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal.

I shouldn't be surprised though. All over the country polls are showing voters who overwhelmingly support progressive issues like Medicare-for-all, voting for Biden because they think he can beat Trump.

Bernie lost big. But with nearly the city's entire black leadership endorsing Biden, and with the Chicago left, including the teachers union, badly divided and unable to turn out Sanders voters, he had no chance to stall the Biden momentum.

And now that it's clear that Bernie has no real pathway to the nomination, he and his team may decide to pack it in and actively work for Biden. Whether they do or not, Bernie will still have lots of influence at the convention. This mainly because Biden and the DNC know he can't win without support from the party's progressive base.

I say all this without a clue how or even if a real election campaign can be carried out under the conditions of COVID.  But I'll take victories when and where I can find them.

Monday, March 16, 2020


Yamiche Alcindor, PBS White House correspondent 
Why did you shut down the pandemic office in the White House?
Trump first calls it a "nasty question." Then says, "When you say me, I didn’t do it…. I don’t know anything about it...I don’t take responsibility at all.”  -- CNN
Sociologist Eric Klinenberg
We need social solidarity, not just social distancing. To combat the coronavirus, Americans need to do more than secure their own safety. --New York Times
Bernie Sanders
You got schools all over this country now being shut down. OK? How are we going to make sure that the kids do well in this crisis, not become traumatized? What do we do about the parents now who have to stay home with kids and can't go to work?
So I think what -- bottom line here is that, in this crisis, we have got to start paying attention to the most vulnerable. That includes people who are in prison right now, people who are in homeless shelters right now. What about the half-a-million people who are homeless tonight? Who's going to respond to them? -- Debate
Joe Biden 
“Across the country, middle and working-class families are being squeezed by debt. This is a massive problem and one that we need all of the best ideas to solve. That's why today, I'm adopting two plans from @BernieSanders and @ewarren to achieve this.” -- The Hill
 Amanda Klonsky
If you think a cruise ship is a dangerous place to be during a pandemic, consider America’s jails and prisons. -- New York Times
 Angelique Power, President of The Field Foundation
If our ancestors and our history have taught us anything, it’s that in the face of unimaginable struggle comes a symphony of superhuman connectivity and response. Our better selves rise and stretch across the chasm not because we have to, but because it is in fact what saves each of us—not only one by one—but collectively. -- Letter from the President

Saturday, March 14, 2020

In times like these...

Students at Chicago's Little Village Academy as CPS school ordered closed. 
"The system is not really geared to what we need right now. That is a failing. Let's admit it." -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
With virus and science deniers Trump/Pence misleading the war against COVID-19, it's become impossible for local governments to rely on the feds for leadership out of the crisis. The bumbling and total incompetence of the Trump regime along with years of GOP assaults on the very idea of government has left us with a system totally ill-prepared and in full chaos mode.

Currently, the number-one concern is the lack of tests available to even begin to identify potential coronavirus patients and deliver adequate healthcare.

As yesterday's guest on Hitting Left, State Sen. Robert Peters pointed out, with the breakdown of federal support, resource-starved states, cities and local municipalities are forced to try and fill the gap. Peters, who along with States Atty. Kim Foxx, is championing efforts to get rid of cash bail, is also concerned about the plight of vulnerable prisoners and staff in the state's jails and prisons as the pandemic grows. A large percentage of these prisoners are simply there awaiting trial.

An open letter from dozens of concerned local community groups to Cook County calling for immediate decarceration of Cook County jail, the largest of its kind in the U.S.

Curtis Black, in the Chicago Reporter, reports:
Gov. J.B. Pritzker should act quickly to review the cases of elderly and infirm inmates in jails and prisons and provide medical furloughs or compassionate release to “as many of them as possible” in order to prevent a devastating outbreak of coronavirus in the prison system, according to a letter initiated by a prison educators group and signed by over 1,500 educators and health professionals.
They point out that prisons “are known incubators and amplifiers of infectious disease.” According to other advocates arguing for immediate steps, an outbreak of coronavirus would “cripple an already broken [prison health] system” and result in deaths of elderly inmates, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Gov. Pritzker did what he felt he had to do yesterday when he ordered all state and CPS schools temporarily closed sending 2.2 million school children home for at least the next two weeks. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had pushed as long as she could to keep schools open as centers for delivering needed meals, healthcare and safe havens for children and families. Lightfoot said she was deeply worried about students whose parents can’t take off work and those who are dependent on breakfast and lunch at the school. About 76% of students in Chicago Public Schools are low income.

At her own news conference following Pritzker’s announcement, Lightfoot said the governor needed to consider the entire state’s needs and not just those of Chicago Public Schools. Though she insisted she and Pritzker were in “lockstep."

The temporary school closings were done only after a belated advisory was issued from the CDC authorizing local districts to temporarily close their schools. Until now, the CDC had advised that schools stay open and issued a set of guidelines for their operation during the crisis.

Here in Chicago, the closings were demanded by the CTU.

The state will view these as “act of God” days, meaning school personnel are expected to be paid during the next two weeks. The governor also waived the requirement that schools be in session for 180 days to receive state funding, meaning no district will lose tax dollars as a result of cancellations.

A plan has apparently been put in place to deliver food and other supports to children and families who are normally served by in-school programs. But I imagine that many teachers are still torn about once again being separated from their kids during this crisis.

Now Pritzker should follow Ohio and Washington state's lead and suspend statewide standardized testing.

A salute goes out to the heroic Chicago librarians and park district workers who are trying to fill the gap while putting themselves at risk, keeping libraries and park programs up and running during the school shutdown.

Nationally, Senate Democrats are expressing concern over the negative effects that K-12 school closings could have on students and families and demanding answers from Trump's Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos.
"In K-12 schools, many families rely on the Federal School Lunch Program and may experience food insecurity if they can no longer access meals at school," they explained.
"Few school districts have experience providing wide-scale educational services online for all students, and not all families have access to home computers and high-speed internet to take advantage of such online options. Online learning cannot substitute for a number of services provided in the school setting, and it raises particular challenges to ensuring equity in access to education for all students," they added.
All this while the Fed is about to bail out Wall Street with weekly injections of $1.5 trillion (with a T), to try and revive a crashing stock market. The next time you hear a politician tell you that we can't afford healthcare for all or abolishing student loan debt, tell them to go f**k themself.

Monday, March 9, 2020


Women Pack Streets in Massive Int'l Women's Day Marches Across Latin America
New York Times editorial
Already, citizens who are underinsured or uninsured are being slammed with medical bills that they can’t afford when they seek testing and treatment for the virus. Unsurprisingly, experts say that many of them are bound to avoid such care as the outbreak rages on. -- ‘Health Care for Some’ Is a Recipe for Disaster
 Rev. Jesse Jackson endorses Sanders
"With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States and our needs are not moderate. A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path. The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path. That's why I choose to endorse him today." -- CNN
Jane Fonda endorses Sanders
 "We have to get a climate president in office, and there's only one right now, and that's Bernie Sanders." -- USA TODAY
Kamala Harris endorses Biden
Senator Kamala Harris to Joe Biden: "I also believe and it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who is built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country."
She continued, "It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me." -- New York Times
Trump's chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow
"Although, frankly, so far it looks relatively contained." -- Speaking on CNBC on Friday
This after Cruz's boss called COVID19 a "hoax"...

Alice Embree in Austin, Texas
"If the Coronavirus has really passed from humans to Ted Cruz, then we are f*****d." -- FB

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

On Chicago's 183rd birthday, I'm early voting

Happy birthday, Chicago. Sanctuary city of immigrants. Heartbeat of anti-Trump resistance. Definitely a union town with a black, gay, woman mayor. Look how far you've come in 183 years. See how far you have to go.

On my way to early vote this morning. The choice for me is pretty simple. Buttigieg out. Klobuchar out. Bloomberg out. Warren will likely be out before you read this post. My only choice left is between the two old white guys, Biden and Sanders.

One voted for the war in Iraq, supported the so-called "Race to the Top" in education, and authored the crime bill that paved the way for the world's worst mass incarceration.

The other, the leading progressive politician of our time. Author of a bill that requires congressional approval of acts of war. The leader in the fight for Medicare-for-all and tuition-free, K-16 public education. Opponent of school privatization. Supported by more than 100 African-American scholars, writers, and educators.

All this and more will make my vote for Bernie Sanders an easy one.

My other easy vote will be for State's Attorney Kim Foxx who has turned IL from being the false-conviction capital of the U.S. into its opposite.

Monday, March 2, 2020


Protesters shut down Klobuchar’s rally in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Sunday. Now it looks like she won't even carry her home state in the primary. 
Mary Moriarty, a public defender in Minnesota’s Hennepin County
“In the case of Myon Burrell -- where you had a really high-profile shooting of an innocent girl and you put a lot of pressure on the system to get someone to be responsible for that -- I think a lot of corners were probably cut.” -- AP
Richard Wolffe on Buttigieg 
All that was missing was a reason for being: a purpose, a mission. Something with more meaning than a talented youngish man who was on the rise. Something more meaningful than a preternatural prescience that the former vice-president would implode. When Joe Biden failed to do so, there was no reason for Pete Buttigieg. -- Guardian
Stacey Abrams on voting in GA
“Across Gwinnett, across Georgia, there are folks who are afraid of their power, who are afraid of what they remember, and they’re afraid to try this time...In 2020, our responsibility is to erase their fear, to take their hands and walk with them. . . . Yes, they have been silenced . . . but this time they are not going alone.” -- Rolling Stone
Lisa Donovan at The Spin
On Friday, my colleague Lolly Bowean asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot if she plans to make an endorsement and whether she could share who it is. The mayor smiled and said only: “When or if I do, I’ll let you know.” -- Tribune
Public Schools Try Ditching A-to-F Letter Grades
“The focus is more on learning for learning’s sake because you want to learn the material and you’re actually interested in it,” said 17-year-old Taylor Daniels, who grew up going to Winnetka Public Schools District 36, which doesn’t give letter grades until mid-year 7th grade. “Teachers are able to teach more to engage the student than teaching to a test.” -- WBEZ