Thursday, May 28, 2020

We're re-imagining post-corona schools. So are they.

Betsy DeVos Just Made It Harder for Defrauded Students to Get ...
Using federal school rescue funds to feed private school operators.
I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops. " -- Kristen McQueary, Chicago Tribune Editorial Board
Rethinking corona-era schooling seems to be the order of the day for progressives and community educators. But rest assured, we're not the only ones doing the rethinking. Fifteen years ago, the shock & awe that came with Hurricane Katrina, left the door open for conservative ideologues like Friedman, along with the privateers and charter hustlers to reimagine the Gulf Coast disaster not as a crisis, but as an opportunity for privatization and profit.

I remember Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calling Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” because it gave the city a chance to bust the teachers union, fire the predominantly-black teaching force, and replace every public school with a privately-run charter.

Back home in Chicago, the Tribune's Kristen McQueary wished for a similar disaster to strike our city so it might follow the New Orleans example.

It looks like she finally got her wish.

Now, as educators, parents, students, and local officials ponder the impending reopening of schools, another battle is brewing between the defenders of public space and decision-making and the same group of corporate "reformers", now headed by the likes of Trump's ed secretary Betsy DeVos.

Case in point -- While we try and reimagine post-corona schools as small, safe, public centers of community health and education, where ubiquitous technology supports teacher/student relationships, Trump/DeVos are forcing public school districts to spend their federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income.

The New York Times reports:
A range of education officials say Ms. DeVos’s guidance would divert millions of dollars from disadvantaged students and force districts starved of tax revenues during an economic crisis to support even the wealthiest private schools. The association representing the nation’s schools superintendents told districts to ignore the guidance, and at least two states — Indiana and Maine — said they would.
DeVos' use of federal ed dollars as a cudgel to beat down local school district harkens back to the post-9/11 era when Secretary Duncan used federal funds to impose his Race To The Top "reform" strategy on local school districts and to punish mostly black and Latino, inner-city schools for their low test scores, to leverage mass school closings and teacher firings.

More on the coming battle and rethinking corona-era schools to follow.

TOMORROW ON HITTING LEFT... Brother Fred and I will be doing our own reimagining along with Chicago teacher/author Greg Michie and some of his students. The show is scheduled to run tomorrow at 11 CT but may run instead on Saturday due to corona-related issues. Check out our FB page @HittingLeft for more on this. You can now download the Lumpen Radio app for easy listening.

Greg is the author of two must-reads for educators: Holler If You Hear Me & Same As It Never Was.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

'Opening-up' the economy

The economy is always "open", says Jeff Bezos. 
econ·​o·​my / plural economies
An economy is a system of making and trading things of value. It is usually divided into goods (physical things) and services (things done by people). It assumes there is a medium of exchange, which in the modern world is a system of finance. This makes trade possible.
In this time of Corona, pundits and politicians talk about the economy like it's a door that can be opened or shut or a light that can be turned on or off with the flip of a switch. Small but aggressive groups of "open-up" protestors, whipped up by D.T. and right-wing demagogues (some armed) are storming statehouses demanding that governors and local officials "turn the economy back on."

In Chicago, Lightfoot haters are on a roll. I'm still looking for the source and context for this quote.

Yes, the mayor is correct. The pandemic hasn't "closed" the economy. Just ask Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos.
America’s billionaires saw their fortunes soar by $434 billion during the U.S. lockdown between mid-March and mid-May, according to a new report.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had the biggest gains, with Bezos adding $34.6 billion to his wealth and Zuckerberg adding $25 billion, according to the report from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program for Inequality.
What Mayor Lightfoot, Gov. Pritzker, and local officials around the country have done is closed the businesses and public places that are potential corona sources.

The numbers prove them right on this.

Monday, May 25, 2020


Denita Jones, a Dallas-area call center worker
“We’re not essential, we’re expendable." -- Guardian
Donald Trump, done taking Hydroxy
"Finished, just finished...And by the way, I’m still here. To the best of my knowledge, here I am.”  -- Sun-Times
Adam Smith, husband of Reopen NC leader
 “But are we willing to kill people? Are we willing to lay down our lives?” he asked. “We have to say, ‘Yes.’ We have to say, ‘Yes.’ Is that violence? Is that terrorism? No, it’s not terrorism." -- Raw Story 
Domingo Garcia, national president of LULAC
 “We’ve received reports that some [mainly Latino] workers at a plant were turned away from grocery stores and not allowed in, because they were presumed to have the coronavirus because they worked at the local meatpacking plant.” -- Guardian
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi 
American officials "are taking China-U.S. relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War." -- The Hill
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace 
“I’ve done some deep dive into it, there really is no record of massive fraud or even serious fraud from mail-in voting...It’s being carried out in Republican states, it’s being carried out in Democratic states, there is no indication that mail-in voting as opposed to in person voting tends to favor one party over another.” -- Daily Beast

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

All in this together? Not in IL

Right-wing, anti-stay-at-home protest in Chicago as COVID-19 cases top 96K with over 4K deaths in IL.
ALL IN THIS TOGETHER? -- IL Republican leaders are using the pandemic as an excuse to try and knock Gov. Pritzker's proposed graduated income tax amendment off the November ballot. Instead of a tax increase that would affect only those making over $250,000/year, Repugs are pushing their own amendment to allow cuts in public-sector pensions.

Their efforts to shift the tax burden for the state's impending budget crisis away from the wealthiest and onto the backs of retirees have little chance of succeeding in Springfield. And they know that another try at diminishing public workers' pensions would once again fail to meet the constitutional test in the courts.

Their only hope is to use the issues to rally downstate anti-taxers and jump on the backs of the current right-wing, anti-Pritzker early-opening protests in order to keep down-ticket Republican pols from going down with Trump's ship in November.

Monday, May 18, 2020


Detroit residents line up to be tested for the coronavirus in April. 
Prof. Kim Phillips-Fein, author 
“There is a way that these crises fall with a different weight on people based on social class, even though there’s a strong rhetoric of ‘We’re all in it together,’ that’s not really the case.” -- New York Times
Prof. Brandi T. Summers, author, educator
But our cities have long kept their black residents contained and at the margins. Populations trapped in place are easier to price-gouge and police. Capitalism and immobility work hand in hand. -- New York Times Review
 Ann Trent, 72, of Manhattan 
“They don’t care about us,” she said on Saturday. She sat on a bench at the west end of the Brooklyn Bridge as a steady stream of mask-free sightseers and bicyclists passed her by, and she mused, “What happened to all of us protecting everyone else?” -- NY Post

The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and respected medical journals
 The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear.  -- Editorial
Barack Obama 
 The virus has “torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.” -- Speech to Class of 2020
Charles Blow
Trump was elected to restore the cultural narrative of the primacy of whiteness. Now, with the colossal disaster of his Covid-19 response threatening his re-election prospects, Trump is attempting to draft Obama once again as his primary opponent. -- New York Times

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The great divide

A PIPE DREAM. 'All in this together.' (Chicago alley mural)
“They’re pumping gas. They’re stopping at grocery stores,” said Kim Langdon, 48, of Ashland, N.Y.  “If they’re infected and they don’t know it, they’re putting everyone at risk.”
Rich New Yorkers are fleeing the city and headed for second homes upstate to avoid the densely packed NYC, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. But NYT reports that upstate locals don't want 'em.
People with second homes in the Catskills region of New York are being warned to stay away in venom-laced Facebook posts and blunt messages from county officials. Boardwalks and beaches in some Jersey Shore towns are barricaded and residents are urging the closure of coastal access bridges to outsiders. In the Hamptons, the famous playground for the rich on the East End of Long Island, locals are angry that an onslaught of visitors has emptied out grocery store shelves.
At least they're not blaming the Chinese.

In Illinois, right-wing pols like NRA puppet and state Rep. Brad Halbrook, calling themselves the New Illinois Movement, are using the issue of early-opening to play off white downstaters against Chicagoans, are pushing to force Chicago to "secede" from the state. They know full well that won't happen. Without Chicago, the state economy, especially their own,  wouldn't exist. But it's a desperate, demagogic (racist) move to salvage some votes and keep down-ticket Republicans from going down with the Trump ship in November.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is suffering worse joblessness than other countries. Almost three million more Americans filed for jobless benefits last week. The total over the past two months is now 36.5 million.

And joblessness in this country usually means no health insurance. And no health insurance usually means sick people who can't afford to see a doctor to treat injuries or illnesses and make them even more susceptible to COVID.

More from David Leonhardt at the Times:
What’s striking is that the countries with the smallest increases in unemployment have something in common. Their governments have put in place sweeping programs that directly pay companies to retain their workers. The details differ. Australia, Denmark and New Zealand created new programs. France and Germany expanded existing programs. But all of them have tried to maintain the connection between employer and employee even as much of the economy is temporarily shut down.
An even better plan would be for universal health care and a guaranteed basic income so that workers wouldn't have to make the impossible choice about work vs. health in the time of Corona.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Reckless reopening and universal guaranteed income

UAW President Walter Reuther (shaking hands at right) presided
at the opening of the new Local 879 Union Hall in 1955
Political Economy lesson for these times: The story goes that Henry Ford II once boasted to UAW leader Walter Reuther that he could build cars without workers.
 “Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues." Without skipping a beat, Reuther replied, “Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?”
Reuther won that one on points but the robots and offshoring production prevailed in the end. The current pandemic which has put millions out of work and driven many millions more into poverty is driving some deep questioning about the inequities in current society and new thinking about life in a post-pandemic world. Isn't it time to start talking seriously about universal basic income and health insurance?

Ameya Pawar
Brother Fred and I will be doing just that in upcoming editions of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. On Friday, May 22nd, 11-noon CT, we will be joined by former Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar. After leaving office, Ameya joined the Economic Security Project as a senior fellow and is working on narrative change efforts around guaranteed income and public options, including public banks. It should be an interesting show. Tune in to

Look at these numbers...As Trump and his right-wing band of media whores open fire on Dr. Fauci and the medical and scientific community, we take note of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose their reckless "reopening" policies that place profit above human life.

According to this week's Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, a huge majority (78% to 22%) of Americans, believe it is “necessary” for people in their communities to stay at home as much as possible.
The spread is very similar among those of incomes below $50,000 (82-18), those of incomes of $50,000 to $100,000 (77-23), and those of incomes over $100,000 (71-29). It’s also much the same among rural voters (77-23) and non-college-educated whites (75-25), both demographics that tilt heavily towards supporting President Trump […]
Fifty-eight percent of Americans overall say current restrictions on businesses are “appropriate,” vs. only 21% who say they are “too restrictive.”
Right-wing gunman provided support to the owner of a bar in Odessa, Texas, which reopened last week in defiance of an order that it remain shut. 
That's the reason the premature openers need to call out gun thugs and militiamen with assault weapons to stand guard outside their businesses.

Let's not be cowed by the right-wing crowd. Their support is dwindling. Their leaders are flailing about in a state of panic. Their militias and gun thugs won't save them. Their days are numbered.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

We're all in this together. Aren't we?

Between 40-60 million pushed into poverty in the Corona era.
"We are all in this together. We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family." -- Donald Trump, Address to the Nation, 3/11/20
This old saw may turn out to be the biggest lie ever told. Whether or not you believe it may well depend on which side of the poverty/race line you fall on. Whether you're one of the 40-60 million pushed into a life of poverty or one of the half of one percent cashing in on the sickness and misery of others; whether you're one of the 4,500 Tyson workers who've caught COVID-19 or one of the company's owners threatening to fire employees who fear to return to work. It could even depend on whether you're a state or local official having to go it alone with little or no help from the feds while the president boasts about how he's won the adoration of the governors and how he already defeated the pandemic. You get the picture.

CEO Randall Stephenson is out at AT&T. I know this is a hell of a time to lose your job, but don't worry about Randall. He won't be standing on line at the unemployment office like the 20,000 or so AT&T workers who've lost their jobs mainly due to offshoring and the corona crisis. Many of those remaining are working under unsafe conditions, here in the U.S. and in places like Jamaica and Costa Rica.

But not Randall. While AT&T lines up for its share of the multitrillion-dollar corporate bailout --mainly used for stock buybacks -- a bailout that will be paid for by taxpayers, their children, and grandchildren, he's leaving with a golden parachute retirement package. His pension is valued at $64 million with an additional $27.6 million in deferred earnings, according to the New York Times. This massive sum of money provides him with a guaranteed income of $274,000 a month for the rest of his life. This is on top of his total last three years with an average $30 million/year compensation.

CWA Union Pickets AT&T Offices in San Antonio Over Continued Job Cuts.
Establishment splits...Aside from the current (mainly one-sided) class warfare raging against the poor and working class, the pandemic has also intensified ongoing factional strife among the rich and powerful. For example, among those happiest to see Stephenson go is none other than Donald Trump. You see, AT&T owns CNN, along with more than 90 of its other major corporate divisions. Trump hates CNN as he hates all news media ("enemies of the people") and has been using his anti-trust division to go after them specifically.

Lots of AT&T money went to Republicans in 2016. But none to Trump. DT never forgot it.

Elon Musk not "in it together."

Monday, May 11, 2020


Hilarious excuse Trump gave for not wearing a mask at the mask factory in Arizona. “I can’t help it if you didn’t see me wearing one." -- John Oliver, Last Week Tonight

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
“The light at the end of the tunnel is absolutely there, but it's still just a glimmer, and we still have a long way to go before we can safely return to the way things were before.” -- Chicago Tribune
IL Gov. J.B. Pritzker
"We’re going it alone, as the White House has left all the states to do." -- Chicago Tribune
Paul Rosenzweig on Barr's Justice Dept. 
Going forward, no American citizen can have confidence in the Department’s impartiality. And that, in turn, erodes Americans’ faith in their institutions, enhancing the opportunity for authoritarian control. Which, I suppose, may very well be the ultimate objective of the entire exercise. -- The Atlantic
Dolores Huerta, UFW co-founder
In an interview with The Associated Press, Huerta pledged to do “whatever I possibly, humanly can to make sure that Joe Biden gets elected.” -- antiracismdsa
Trump hails new racist head of the FOP

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Trump, the king of deflection, leads attentive media on a wild goose chase

No mask, no distancing with corporate pals at Honeywell mask plant. A provocation? Of course.

Today's blaring Trump headline becomes tomorrow's page-15 news story. Every day brings a new provocation, a new outrage or baseless rant against the press corps. Is D.T. having a meltdown? A psychological break? Or is this all White House strategy to keep an always-attentive press and Democratic opposition (such as it is) off balance?

Trump's game plan of leading the press by the nose from one daily crisis to another and having Dems react, appears to be working to an extent. Democrats apparently have no campaign or media strategy of their own besides having Joe Biden send out messages from his basement.

I'm looking back on how the Dems dropped the whole Ukraine/impeachment thing five minutes after the vote was taken in the Senate. I don't really blame them for slinking away from that one. After putting all their cards in that basket, I doubt you will ever hear the word Ukraine even whispered by a Democrat again.

It's like the way you will never hear the words, "Race to the Top" from the lips of the old Obama/Duncan education crew.

Trump is the master of deflection. In just the past two weeks he's led us on a trail of fears, from hydroxychloroquine and bleach injections, to "very good people" with guns and swastikas at the Michigan statehouse, to yesterday's rant against Dr. Bright the whistle blower. 

Oh, I almost forgot the Asian killer hornets.

What will it be today? It likely depends on tonight's Trump's  overnight tweets. My guess is, the disbanding of the coronavirus Task Force. Bye bye, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. Or maybe just a shot fired over the bow and a walk-back next week.

The press and the Democrats are still being led around by the nose. Only a few reporters dare to point out, the emperor has no clothes (ugh, make that go away).

One bright light is an ad created by a group of mainly neocon Republicans & never-Trumpers attacking DT's “failed presidency." Good on them. 
“Under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker, and sicker, and poorer,” it continues, with somber string music reverberating in the background. “And now Americans are asking, if we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?”
Why can't Biden and the Democrats produce something like that instead of, "Trump is soft on China" or "I will veto Medicare for all even if it passes both houses"?

Speaking of media coverage...After a month of radio silence with most of its the crew in Guam, struggling to recover from COVID-19, the U.S.S. Roosevelt is headed back out to sea yesterday without its whistle-blowing Captain, Brett Crozier and with crew members knowing that the top brass doesn't have their backs.
More than 4,000 crew members went ashore last month. While more than 2,000 are back on board, at least 1,000 are still testing positive for the virus and remain on land. And the close to 700 crew members who had been protecting and running the Roosevelt and systems aboard have now moved into hotels and other facilities on the island for their quarantine. -- Time Magazine
But here's the latest...
 Medical personnel and crew members on the Roosevelt say that several returning sailors have displayed symptoms that they associate with the coronavirus. But Navy officials counter that all sailors must have tested negative at least twice before going back on the ship, and that they will be tested again on board if they have even the mildest flu-like symptoms. -- N.Y. Times
I was amazed to see any coverage at all of the Roosevelt story since there's been an unofficial blackout on all reporting of the toll corona has taken on the entire fleet and on U.S. invasion and occupation forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.

Monday, May 4, 2020


Trump's gun thugs storm MI legislature. He calls them, "very good people."

Brittany Packnett, activist, educator
“The Michigan demonstrations "are what happens when people of racial privilege confuse oppression with inconvenience.” -- AP
David Axelrod & David Plouffe
“Biden in the Basement” is not a strong enough show to hold the audience. -- New York Times
Prof. Anita Hill
 “Joe Biden has denied Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations, but that should not be the end of the inquiry. Given the significance of this moment, the allegations against both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump should be investigated, with results that are “made available to the public.” -- New York Times
Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100
“The MTA has to recognize this with more than just thanks and praise. They need to put that thanks and praise into my members’ paychecks. You can’t keep asking people to come to work and carry such a heavy burden for the same rate of pay. It’s just not right.” -- 98 transit workers dead from coronavirus
Rev. William J. Barber
In a country as wealthy as the United States, poverty is a political choice, and it is time for real solutions that provide lasting freedom from fear and want. -- CNN
Peter Lynn, head of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
“There is a staggering overrepresentation of black people in homelessness, and that is not based on poverty,” he said. “That is based on structural and institutional racism.” -- New York Times