Monday, August 31, 2020

Violent confrontations part of Trump's game plan for holding power

Right-wing armed militiamen takes to the streets in Portland. 
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to denounce armed vigilantes taking to the streets during at today's press briefing. Asked if the White House believes that citizens should stop showing up in cities, especially ones they don’t live in, with weapons to protect buildings, McEnany didn’t directly answer. -- CNN
Trump's inciting violence, including his lauding right-wing gun thugs as "patriots", isn't necessarily about winning the election. Polls indicate that Trump's approval numbers are still dropping even as mass support for ongoing protests is waning (61% in June to 48% in August) and that his standing in the polls has worsened amid outbreaks of violence and his chances of winning a normal, traditional election may be growing slimmer. 

But that doesn't mean that ongoing violent confrontations and street battles aren't feeding Trumpism or playing to Republican hands.

Jeet Heer, writing today in The Nation, surmises that
Aside from the obvious political advantage Trump is trying to extract, his incitement of violence serves another purpose that goes beyond simple electoral calculation. Trump is trying to make the United States ungovernable in order to rob his political foes of any meaningful victory.
Inciting violence is Trump’s Samson option. Like the biblical hero who famously brought the Philistine temple down on his head, Trump would prefer that everything collapse around him rather than to surrender.
But his encouragement for increased violent confrontations can be more than a testimony to DT's personal narcissism and racism. It may also be part of the Republican strategy for holding onto power in the face of a predictable electoral defeat or as an excuse for suppressing the vote through intimidation and even cancelling the election and maintaining control of the state apparatus indefinitely, ie. a coup d'etat.

America's most senior general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, told members of Congress the other day, that the military wouldn't play a role in November's election and won't help settle any disputes if the results are contested. But the very fact that Milley felt compelled to make such a statement shows the pressure for intervention is there.

Furthermore, Trump has shown that he doesn't need or necessarily want official military or "deep state" backing for any extra-constitutional moves. He has in place his loyal (he assumes) white supremacist militia groups like the kind we currently see in Kenosha plus trained paramilitary and mercenary groups at the ready thanks to his relationship with Betsy DeVos' brother and Blackwater founder, Erik Prince.

It may well be that it's Joe Biden and the Democrats who will need Milley's help if they win in November, rather than the MAGAs.

Biden during a June interview on The Daily Show when he was asked what would happen should Trump resist leaving office after an election defeat. His response:
"I promise you, I'm absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch," Biden said, referring to the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Me, I'm not so sure.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The streets of Kenosha

Demonstrators pray while protesting the police shooting where an unarmed black man was shot several times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 
The Sheriff of Kenosha claims to have never seen the video of Jacob Blake being shot seven times in the back by his police officers. If he's not lying -- which he is -- he's the only living soul who hasn't seen it.

To those who are critical of NBAers and WNBAers for going back to work after a one-day wildcat strike, forget it. Especially WNBA sparked an unprecedented movement against racism in the sports community. The real question is, why didn't organized labor join them in their walkout?

Trump's gun thugs.
Here's an excellent NYT piece on white supremacist Stephen Miller, the man behind this week's RNC attempt to conjure up a “radical left” hellscape.

What's up with more stupid provocative shit on CTU's Twitter pages?

This the latest one showing union support for performance artists pretending to behead Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos via guillotine. Union r&f will have to figure out if this messaging speaks for them. So far, CTU critics are being attacked on Twitter as "Bezos lovers".

I'm guessing WaPo hater, Pres. Trump is smiling at the idea of assassinating Bezos as soon as he finishes using that guillotine on the union leadership itself. That's probably why AFT Prez Randi Weingarten had no choice but to come out openly and criticize the tweet. I doubt that Randi really believes Sharkey and Gates favor guillotining at this time and I'm sure she will pull her critical tweet if she hasn't already. But at a time when the streets of Kenosha and other cities are filled with gun thugs, it's probably not the time for more misdirected, pro-violence messaging, especially from union leaders.

No doubt Bezos is a rich prick. He's one of a small group of billionaires that has amassed billions more in personal wealth during the pandemic. But this isn't just about him. It's also about us.

What I'm reading...

Here are two books that may help guide you through these difficult times. The first City Schools and the American Dream 2, by Pedro Noguera and Esa Syeed is hot off the press and offers up a valuable tool for educators trying to rethink schooling and school reform in the post-pandemic era. The book combines some solid sociological study with practical lessons from urban schools that have taken on racism and social inequality the right way.

The second is Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community” by Dr. Martin Luther King, which was the last book MLK penned before his assassination in 1968. It's a series of essays in which he makes clear that he was neither a Marxist nor a doctrinaire socialist; he instead advocates for a united social movement around radical reforms such as a guaranteed income.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Education on the brink, but missing from Biden/Harris speeches

The topic of education was, unfortunately, MIA from the main convention speeches. It barely came up in either the Kamala Harris or Joe Biden speech. This at a time when public ed has been pushed to the brink, not only by the pandemic but by the current administration's response to it and should be a central issue in the campaign.

I'm not sure where party platforms go after elections, but the draft Party Platform does have some good stuff in it. There doesn't seem to be any big changes in it from the 2016 Platform, but it's still a hell of a lot better than the Republicans'. Plus the idea of sending Betsy DeVos packing has my heart aflutter.

From the Platform...
As Democrats, we believe that education is a critical public good—not a commodity—and that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that every child, everywhere, is able to receive a world-class education that enables them to lead meaningful lives, no matter their race, ZIP code, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or household income.
On the pandemic...
The emergency conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have vividly demonstrated to parents, students, and educators across the country that there is no sustainable, long-term substitute for high-quality, in-classroom learning. Significant gaps in access to technology, including lack of access to high-speed broadband, have deepened inequities in our educational system for students of color, students with disabilities, and students in rural areas and under-resourced neighborhoods during this pandemic. We will need increased investments in public education to help students get back on track when public health experts determine it is safe to return to schools. 
On charter schools and vouchers...
Democrats believe that education is a public good and should not be saddled with a private profit motive, which is why we will ban for-profit private charter businesses from receiving federal funding...And Democrats oppose private school vouchers and other policies that divert taxpayer-funded resources away from the public school system.
On testing...
The evidence from nearly two decades of education reforms that hinge on standardized test scores shows clearly that high-stakes testing has not led to enough improvement in outcomes for students or for schools, and can lead to discrimination against students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, and English language learners. Democrats will work to end the use of such high-stakes tests and encourage states to develop reliable, continuous, evidence-based approaches to student assessment that rely on multiple and holistic measures that better represent student achievement. Those measures will be supported by data collection and analysis disaggregated by race, gender, disability status, and other important variables, to identify disparities in educational equity, access, and outcomes.
It will be up to us to demand adherence and accountability from a hopefully new regime.

Friday, August 21, 2020

United front against Trump doesn't mean struggle ends.

"Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement, left us with this wisdom: Give people light and they will find a way." -- Joe Biden 
"You and I cannot be free in America or anywhere else where there is capitalism and imperialism." --  Ella Baker, Puerto Rico Solidarity Rally 1974

Yes, I was captivated as usual by the Obama speeches and deeply moved by Kamala Harris' personal story and will definitely try to beat my brother Fred to the polls this time around to vote the anti-Trump ticket from top to bottom.

Although you might not have gotten this from the convention's singular focus on Biden/Harris, we also need to get out the vote for congressional candidates and take back the Senate if we are to begin undoing the damage Trump's regime has caused. My hunch is, congressional candidates weren't getting much play at the DNC so as not to offend or scare away the anti-Trump Republicans.

It's pretty clear that a united-front strategy -- all hands on deck -- is the right one to take down Trump in November even though it leaves some ("they're all the same") ultra-lefties grumpy and feeling betrayed by their base. But it's also important to remember that even within a united front, struggle goes on. Without that struggle -- and there is room for struggle -- the tone of the Democratic Convention would have been far different and minus progressive voices that made it through Nancy Pelosi's loyalty screen.

It seemed almost pro forma for convention speakers to tip their hat to SNCC '60s freedom fighters at the start of every speech. It shows how much the national BLM protests have forced the party leftward in order to maintain its credibility with labor, immigrants, and younger Black and Latinx voters and how much today's Democratic Party leaders like Harris (admittedly) have to stand on the shoulders of their Black Freedom Movement forerunners.
And these women inspired us to pick up the torch, and fight on. Women like Mary Church Terrell and Mary McCleod Bethune. Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash. Constance Baker Motley and the great Shirley Chisholm. -- Kamala Harris speech
Despite all the civil-rights chatter, it became pretty clear that Pelosi's right-center conception of the anti-Trump united front is far different from ours. Hers is essentially a Kasich/Clinton/Obama coalition that even welcomes with open arms, union-busters, Pentagon and NRA faves, global-warming deniers, right-to-lifers, and neocon Republicans while keeping progressive and left-leaning Democrats at arm's length or out the door completely.

I know, AOC got her minute in the sun (and a powerful minute it was) and Bernie Sanders is too legit to quit. But I'm amazed, though not really surprised to see even loyal progressive Texas Democrats like Julian Castro and Beto O'Rourke, let alone Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib getting short shrift at the DNC. Remember Omar and Tlaib are big-time vote-getters and election winners in crucial swing states MI and MN.

Yet, Pelosi, Biden, and other Dem leaders feel compelled to attack them and other Squad members publicly and are, hopefully unsuccessfully, backing machine pols against them in local primaries. Case in point is Pelosi's recent endorsement of Rep. Joe Kennedy III in a primary challenge against progressive Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.

The struggle continues

Friday, August 14, 2020

After the broken glass has been swept

Looting... An inevitable, spontaneous reaction to the widening wealth and racial inequality gap which has been expanding at a record pace globally during the COVID pandemic.

Sunday night, there was another police shooting of a young black man in Englewood. The details of the shooting weren't immediately clear and still aren't. Why not? The cops weren't wearing their body cameras in clear violation of the federally imposed reform consent decree. CPD claimed it was because of "budget constraints". What a load of crap? Rumors about the shooting spread. Things got hot and carloads of people headed to the Miracle Mile to voice their anger.

Yes, the community is frustrated, they’re demanding reform and, sadly, some people are looting.

But loot-pillage-and-burn is more the strategy of  Donald Trump and his grifter family than that of the urban poor and working class. Just take as an example, his move yesterday to loot the U.S. postal service of $25 billion rather than give COVID-free voters a chance to remove him from office.

Looting has never been the way of the Freedom Movement as the Rev. Jesse Jackson reminded us, and it's somewhat disheartening to hear a young, movement militant holding forth in front of the TV cameras, dangerously (to themselves) calling on people to "take anything they wanted to take" and rendering looting more profound by describing it as "reparations."

Predictably, fascist FOP President John Catanzara was armed and ready with a hand-delivered  letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch's office at the Dirksen Federal Building Thursday morning, asking the federal prosecutors to step in to pursue charges against "looters" meaning the BLM protest leaders. I'm sure Catanzara's pals, Trump and Atty. Gen. Barr are ready to comply.

Catanzara obviously wants to misdirect fire away from the police violence which set off this unprecedented wave nationwide protests in the first place, and onto Mayor Lightfoot and State's Attorney Foxx for supposedly "letting suspects cycle through the system without consequences."

Currently, a gaggle of downtown business groups, Chicago's corporate media, with the Tribune editors and Crain's Greg Hinz leading the way have joined Cantazara in attacking the city's Black leadership and even threatening elected officials, who he claims have "lost control" of the city. He's ordering them to "do their job" and restore law and order, or else...

Who are these guys?
Hinz expects Lightfoot and Foxx to keep the city's downtown safe for investment, suburbanite shopping, and tourism.
This has to stop. Now. Downtown is the economic hub of the Midwest, with 600,000 jobs, including mine. It’s home to a quarter of a million people. And we are tired of having our neighborhood trashed because our mayor and our state’s attorney can’t seem to control things.
Note the emphasis on "our neighborhood". The people on the south and west sides are tired of life on the bottom as well. But "control" is an illusion under the current conditions. Police or even Trump's federal troops only play their role after the fact and have been the purveyors of violence rather than protectors. Take Portland as an example.

It's also worth remembering that the Mayor and State's Attorney don't just work for your patrons, Mr. Hinz. They're elected officials who ran and won in opposition to your machine candidates.

 Remember, Mayor Lightfoot defeated your law-and-order guy Bill Daley who threatened to put camera-equipped drones on every street corner in Chicago. It was Daley who you proclaimed was, "the best guy for business." Obviously, Chicago communities didn't agree.

Kim Foxx is doing just what she was elected to do. She prosecuting violent crime while reforming the racist mass incarceration policies which have been plaguing Chicago Black and Latino families and communities for decades. To think that looters are looting because of her lowered bail policy is preposterous.

I'm especially glad to see that Foxx and Lightfoot are working it out after their initial falling out following Monday's looting. We need that unity.

According to Politico:
By afternoon, Lightfoot and Foxx were on the phone. During the conversation, they agreed to work together to come up with solutions for moving forward to avoid another night of destruction. It was “a very productive call,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
“They both have to navigate this really complex terrain — with intense scrutiny from every direction — and find a way to get the unrest and violence under control while still executing on the reform agendas they ran on,” Joanna Klonsky, a comms consultant with close ties to both women, told Playbook.
Remember, the Miracle Mile was built by the city's working people who now can't afford to shop in those stores. People will find a way.

Monday, August 10, 2020


All school districts across the state of New York are cleared to open, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference by phone Friday morning.
Maggie Mulqueen, psychologist
School has never been just about the curriculum. It’s also about students’ health and development...But schools can’t fill those needs while an epidemic is raging. It is quite possible that reopening schools could actually be worse for children. -- Think
Bill Gates
Commercial labs have left customers struggling with long waits, while “very wealthy people have access to these quick-turnaround tests.” -- CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS
Derrick Morgan, on jump in Black gun ownership
“Whether it was fear of a food shortage, lack of a grocery store, the short response times for law enforcement or whether people were just fearful they were going to be attacked, I don’t know,” said Derrick Morgan, national commander of the Black Gun Owners Association, to Politico. -- Black Enterprise
Trump (#OINk)...
...slammed Ocasio-Cortez as “a real beauty” who “knows nothing about the economy.” He singled out policies in her Green New Deal proposal. “She knows as much about the environment — do we have any young children here? — as that young child over there. I think he knows more,” Trump said. -- NY Post

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Did you know there are U.S. soldiers fighting and dying in Africa? Why?

U.S. training combat forces in Africa

It's called AFRICOM. You didn't hear or read much about its secret war in Africa until three years ago when four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger and earlier this year when Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., 23, from the Chicago suburb of Hazel Crest was killed in combat in Kenya. But it's a serious and costly imperialist military adventure.

Last week, the Pentagon admitted for the third time that its bombing campaign against terrorist groups in Somalia, which has been underway for more than a decade, had caused civilian casualties there. The U.S. military has carried out more than 180 airstrikes in Somalia since 2017, 42 of them in 2020.

There are currently about 7,500  U.S. troops and 1,000 DoD civilians or contractors (mercenaries) based throughout Africa, who are primarily tasked with training as well as combat missions. Most operate from Camp Lemonnier, a permanent and growing U.S. base in Djibouti, which is used as a staging ground and command center for special operations missions across the continent, The U.S. has another 200 troops in Kenya and roughly 100 "nonuniformed personnel".

AFRICOM'S self-proclaimed mission?
U.S. Africa Command, with partners, counters transnational threats and malign actors, strengthens security forces and responds to crises in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.
But AFRICOM's unstated purpose also has to do with U.S. global strategic contention with Russia and China than it does with fighting terrorism. China now has 52 embassies in Africa — a 24 percent increase from 2012.

AFRICOM didn't start with Trump's administration but goes back to Clinton in the late 90s and was escalated by Bush and then Pres. Obama in 2004. Trump, with his "America First" approach to foreign policy, has actually been committed to a 10% "drawdown" of troops on the African continent despite the objection of hawks like John Bolton and Steve Bannon.

U.S. military adventures in Africa will likely continue and increase under a hawkish, anti-China Biden administration especially with Susan Rice or Tammy Duckworth as his V.P. or in a key foreign policy position.

Even though congress willingly surrendered its constitutional war powers back during the Korean and Vietnam "conflicts", it still oversees the gigantic Pentagon budget and gladly funds foreign military adventures like the current ones in Africa, regardless of the consequences here at home and without any public debate.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

CPS made the right decision but big challenges remain

After floating a plan for a mix of in-person and remote learning, the mayor and CPS made the right decision by starting the Chicago school year with remote learning only. It was a decision driven by rising coronavirus numbers along with resistance to an opening from the CTU and many parents. It's also a decision that may save some lives and prevent fewer COVID casualties.

According to Sarah Karp at WBEZ:
The announcement also comes amid rising COVID-19 cases in Chicago. The district said a move to remote learning was dependent on whether the Chicago Department of Public Health determined COVID-19 cases weren’t under control. Though the city hasn’t surpassed those benchmarks, there is growing concern Chicago will reach them before too long. 
Now, Chicago parents and teachers will be looking to Chicago Public Schools to put forth a robust remote learning plan.
The initial hybrid plan would have rotated students into buildings two days a week for in-person classes. But CPS officials also said all along that the plan was "preliminary" and that they wouldn’t reopen schools unless it’s safe to do so. That determination has now been made.

But keeping schools closed for the next few months doesn't even begin to deal with either the immediate or long-term educational or health issues created by the pandemic.

There are some immediate measures that CPS, together with the teachers and other stakeholders, can and must take to take to ensure that internet access, along with adequate nutrition and healthcare is available to all of its nearly 400,000 students. The needs of thousands of homeless children have to be met along with those students with special needs, mental health issues, and physical challenges. A daunting, if not impossible challenge with only weeks to plan.

I'm not sure a "robust remote learning plan" can even be considered a real thing under these conditions--without a huge influx of federal dollars and supports which aren't likely under Trump/DeVos.

Then there are some in leadership at CPS who think a robust remote learning plan means returning to the same old sorting, tracking, and testing system that failed so many students in the past, only doing it remotely.

According to WBEZ's Kate Grossman on FB:
Chicago Schools CEO Janice Jackson announced that every teacher would provide live instruction every school day. The district also will return to its regular grading system, with all students receiving letter grades. 
I know a better plan can be produced, but it can't be done without a close working relationship between CTU leaders and Mayor Lightfoot. There's lots of divisive, sectarian baggage to be shed if such a relationship is to become a reality. Time is running out. But it can happen.

It seems to be happening in L.A. where L.A. Unified and the teachers union reached a tentative agreement Sunday night on procedures for distance instruction in the fall. Details to come. Now New York remains as the only one among the big 3 cities still moving forward with face-to-face teaching.

I was slightly encouraged to read what seemed like an olive branch being extended by CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey today. His tone towards the mayor was hostile and divisive as ever yesterday:
 “The mayor does not have the guts to close schools,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Monday. “They’re putting it on us to close the schools. That’s what we feel like is happening.”
But today, Sharkey was congratulating the mayor for "being willing to listen to the concerns of families, educators, community groups and health professionals."
A good sign if I'm reading it right. We'll see.

Until the pandemic is under control and Trump and the Republicans are out of the White House and Congress, local school districts will be faced with lots of bad choices, like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

On the bright side is the movement in the streets, unprecedented ferment from below which has always been the key force behind progress in this country. Without this ferment, our vision of education and social transformation remains limited to maintaining the status quo or empty reforms.

Monday, August 3, 2020


OKC Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite a threat from GOP state lawmaker 

Nikole Hannah-Jones on Bill Clinton's hit on Kwame Ture
Literally cringed. Stokley was radicalized differently after getting arrested for the 27th time fighting for civil rights in Greenwood. He decided from then on if white people hit him, he was going to hit back... One can eulogize Congressman John Lewis without demonizing other freedom fighters you didn’t agree with. -- The Grio
Hasan Kwame Jeffries
This mischaracterization of Carmichael serves a purpose. It allows people to dismiss his critique of America. -- Washington Post Op-ed
IL Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton
 “What would any of us want for our own children if they had to go to a facility like this? Do we want them in large, cinder block warehouses? Or would we want our children to be in home-like or dorm-like facilities?” Stratton said in explaining the “my child standard.” -- Chicago Tribune
Rev. William Barber and Bernice King
Removing monuments is the easy part. We must make America a real democracy... In fact, many who support flags and statues coming down today also advocate voter suppression, attack healthcare and re-segregate our schools. -- Guardian

Ben Zimmer, contributing writer
The political play here is not hard to decipher. Trump feels he needs to portray “the suburbs” as under an imminent threat to provoke racist fears among white voters. -- The Atlantic
Rep. Raúl Grijalva after testing positive for COVID-19 
“While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously,” he said. “Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.” -- 
Celtics guard, Jaylen Brown