Monday, December 28, 2020



Debra Haaland, the next Sec. of the Interior

“I’ll be fierce for all of us, for our planet, and all of our protected land,” said Haaland in her acceptance speech. “This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ us. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.” -- Guardian

'Not Tuskegee...'

“This ain’t that, I’ll say it again, this ain’t that,” Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer (2nd) said. “I want to get the message across that this is not Tuskegee; this is about you and about your children and about your generation.” -- Sun-Times

Kim Foxx

 “If we recognize substance abuse disorder as a health condition, then we must modify our justice system to treat it as such,” she said. “Criminalizing health is not in the interest of public safety.” -- Sun-Times interview

 CNN's Jake Tapper 

...says he won't have Kayleigh McEnany on his show because she “lies the way most people breathe.” -- Independent

NY State Dem Party Boss Jay Jacobs

AOC hasn't signaled a run for the Senate. But that didn't stop Jacobs from warning her not to challenge Chuck Schumer.  

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would “absolutely” lose a challenge if she went head-to-head against the veteran Democratic lawmaker, said Jacobs — who noted he’s yet to meet the Queens rep. -- NY Post


Monday, December 21, 2020

Police reform? Where is it?

The Anjanette Young case is one more brick-in-the-wall story about a racist political system. It's a system that reproduces racial inequality, criminalizes and incarcerates Black people, allows cops to "legally" bust down doors and invade homes in the middle of the night, abuse, and even kill women like Young and Breonna Taylor. 

The raid occurred nearly two years ago when CPD cops broke into the home of Young, a social worker who was undressing when they barged in looking for a suspect. Young, standing naked and handcuffed, cried repeatedly that the officers had the wrong address.

So now the city's council has "resigned". The former police chief has been fired and Mayor Lightfoot is rightfully taking heat for her mishandling of the aftermath. 

But Mayor Emanuel, on whose watch this racist assault took place, is up for a Biden cabinet position, and the CPD perpetrators are still on the job, and with easy warrants obtained via informants' misinfo, are still breaking down doors. 

Where is Reform? 

Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 President John Catanzara

Meanwhile... The head of Chicago's FOP, who calls Muslims "savages" and says "they all deserve a bullet..."  He's still on the city payroll

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The path towards safe school reopenings

Chicago has plans for a phased school reopening starting in January if the spread of the virus stabilizes, but the local teachers’ union says cases remain too high. Credit...Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

I don't see any pathway to safe urban school reopenings without first classifying teachers and school staff as essential, frontline workers, and putting them near the top of the vaccine priority list. This should be part of a national campaign championed by the incoming Sec. of Education. Schools should also become centers for mass community inoculation. 

Two things are clear to me. Schools can't open without support from a critical mass of teachers and teachers aren't going to be bullied back into the classroom without evidence that those classrooms are reasonably safe. 

The nation’s roughly three million full-time teachers are already considered essential workers by the C.D.C., which means that in states that follow federal recommendations, they are already eligible to receive the vaccine after hospital employees and nursing home residents.

But, says the New York Times...

The essential worker group is huge — some 87 million Americans — and states will have flexibility in how they prioritize within that population. Many more people work in schools than just teachers, including nurses, janitors, and cafeteria workers, and it is unclear how many of them would be included on the high-priority list.

Last month, more than 10 educational organizations, including the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions, wrote to the C.D.C. asking that school employees be considered a priority group.

But even after educators are inoculated, lots of other measures will need to be put in place before city classrooms can be truly considered safe learning places for both teachers and students. Even after being vaccinated, Teachers could still be silent spreaders. Schools will likely need to continue requiring masks and distancing students for many months until community spread has sharply dropped. 

Public school educators and outside experts need to consider radical school redesigns to meet community needs in the pandemic and post-pandemic era. But that kind of project will require massive federal and state resources and an effort to find common ground between school boards, big-city mayors, and the unions. Either on the national from or here in Chicago, I don't see that happening for the time being.

Certainly not without Democrats in control of the Senate, and even then... 

Cardona & Fenwick

CHOOSING HIS ED SECRETARY...It looks like President-elect Biden is finally close to naming his education secretary. His people just dropped the names of two short-listed candidates to the Washington Post -- Howard University emeritus Ed School Dean Leslie Fenwick and Miguel Cardona, the commissioner of schools in Connecticut.

I don't know much about either one. So I'll go by WaPo's description of each:

Fenwick is a Black woman, and Cardona is a Latino man. Both have experience as classroom teachers, though Fenwick has worked as a dean and scholar in higher education for many years...

...Fenwick has criticized education programs such as Teach For America — a nonprofit that for years recruited only new college graduates, gave them five weeks of summer training and placed them in high-need schools — and the move to inject competition and corporate-inspired management techniques into schools. She’s also spoken against for-profit charter schools and taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.

... Cardona sees an urgency to in-person school and has pushed districts to offer that to parents, said spokesman Peter Yazbak.

“His position has been that in-person learning is the way that we best address the educational crisis caused by the closure of schools last spring,” he said. “A lot of people who are not from Connecticut assume that Connecticut is just Greenwich. But we have a lot of urban districts with students who have social and emotional needs as well as academic needs. The best way for them to get the services they need is in school, with counselors and their teachers.”

Even though they bring different perspectives to the table, they both sound pretty good to me, especially considering the misleadership we've had atop the D.O.E. for the past two decades. I wonder if there's a way to combine the two of them in one cabinet post?

Monday, December 14, 2020

Epstein's poke at Dr. Jill Biden backfires.

The best honorific for Dr. Biden might be "Teacher". 

Whatever the purpose of Joseph Epstein's WSJ screed...
 it surely failed. I think his poke at Dr. Jill Biden for professionally using 'DR.' in front of her name had less to do with educational leadership titles and Dr. Biden's personal achievements (which are notable) and more with discrediting the Biden/Harris election victory. 

Whatever his intent, it most certainly backfired. The negative response on social media has been over the top. While the relatively-unknown Epstein may be the current hero in MAGAland's war on "identity politics",  in the education community he has become just another symbol of Trumpian anti-educator, misogyny. 

If anything, I'm sure he's driven even more white, educated, suburban women from DT's base. That being a demographic shift that helped put Biden over the top in several swing states. Thanks for that, Epstein.

Other reactions: 

Northwestern University said in a statement on Saturday that it disagrees with the "misogynistic views" of Joseph Epstein, an author and former professor at the Illinois school who wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Friday that Biden should drop the "Dr." because it "sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic."

He also compared Biden’s doctoral credentials to an honorary degree that requires no academic work and said her doctorate thesis had an “unpromising” title. 

Epstein, the university said, has not been a lecturer there since 2003 -- clarifying Epstein's statement in the piece that he had "taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree." Northwestern also removed Epstein's profile from its website.

 Diane Ravitch on the Dr. Biden dust-up

To be sure, there was a political edge to [Epstein's] critique: Soon after the election, he wrote an article for the WSJ praising Trump’s accomplishments and chastising his anti-Trump friends. Knocking Dr. Biden is just another way of lamenting Trump’s defeat.

The best comment I have seen on this flap appeared on Fred Klonsky’s blog, quoting Glen Brown. The gist: 70% of instructors in higher education are adjuncts, not paid a living wage. That’s a true scandal.

 Indeed. Take it from me.

In fact, all this begs the questions about the inequalities in academic certification, access to graduate schools of education, and teacher leadership. Some of my favorite topics. But I'll save those for another post once the cloud of Epstein's misogyny has been fully blown away.

Dr. Michael Klonsky

Melissa Korn is the higher education reporter for the Wall St. Journal 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The shame of a nation.

My blood is boiling after seeing news and videos of violent American fascists ("Proud Boys) being turned loose on mask wearers and counter-protesters in D.C. yesterday. 

This follows by days 126 Republican congressmen and 17 red-state attorneys general signing on to the Texas lawsuit aimed at disenfranchising millions of voters, especially voters of color. As expected, the Supreme Court on Friday rejected the suit -- with only wingnut justices Alito and Thomas mumbling their dissent -- but not before more than 60% of House Republicans had signed onto the effort. This group of election deniers reached beyond Trump’s staunchest allies and included powerful figures such as the chamber’s top two officials and the leaders of influential committees, all of whom put their official stamp on this fascist measure. 

This from the New York Times:

“Since election night, a lot of people have been confusing voters by spinning Kenyan birther-type, ‘Chavez rigged the election from the grave’ conspiracy theories,” said Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska. “But every American who cares about the rule of law should take comfort that the Supreme Court — including all three of President Trump’s picks — closed the book on the nonsense.”

With all due respect to Sen. Sasse, I take little comfort in the decision. The Supremes did what they needed to do to regain any semblance of their lost credibility. Nor should we believe that it "closed the book on the nonsense." Its authors are only in the middle of Chapter I. 

The point here is that Trumpism (neo-fascism) has now become a permanent fixture, a violent cult that has forced itself upon American mainstream politics. It's represented by a Republican Party with an elected president as its figurehead and with gangs of armed thugs and white supremacist militias ready and willing to be used when called upon to beat, murder, and intimidate opponents. 

What does give me comfort is the size and scope of the anti-Trump resistance movement, more than 80 million of whom made their voices heard through the ballot box last month and in the streets this past year. 

Next up on the battlefront... the election in Georgia whose outcome will determine control of the Senate in years to come. A Republican victory will mean that the Trump cult will be able to sabotage COVID recovery and continue to block all economic stimulus efforts. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

If you want to eliminate all poverty in 15 years, form a commission, right?

The richest 5 percent of households in Illinois have average incomes 14.6 times as large as the bottom 20 percent of households and 4.9 times as large as the middle 20 percent of households. After decades of widening inequality, Illinois's richest households have dramatically bigger incomes than its poorest households.
-- Report

It's the Republicans that bring my blood to a boil. But it's always been the Democrats who bring out my worst cynicism. 

Case in point -- Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) yesterday announced the Illinois Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security. OK, that sounds like a nice thing to do. I mean, if you're going to completely eliminate poverty and close the racial/wealth gap, the first thing to do is form a commission, right? 

Next, you have to set the commission's goals.
Goals for The Commission outlined in state statute include reducing poverty in Illinois by 50% by 2026, eliminating child poverty by 2031, and eliminating all poverty by 2036. 

You read it right. Pritzker's new commission aims to eliminate ALL poverty in the next 15 years and a month. And they wish to accomplish this, I suppose with a legislature seemingly bent on cutting retirees' pensions as a way of balancing the state budget. 

Also remember, this is a governor and legislature that couldn't rally enough votes in this blue state, to pass the FairTax amendment? 

I mean, these are essentially the same pols who finally passed a $15 minimum-wage bill, but one that takes 6 freakin' years to take effect. 

The Commission, which is set to meet just twice a year, is made up of 25 members: four members of the State General Assembly; one member of the judiciary; and twenty public leaders who "represent key constituencies that are impacted by poverty." Members were appointed by Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, and Chief Justice Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court. 

From my point of view, these names would be more apt to appear atop a Widening the Wealth Gap Commission.

I'd be willing to guess that if everyone in the state made their salaries and were covered by their health insurance plans, the problem would be solved. Ah, let's do that. 

Yes, I'm cynical or at least suspicious. But I'm also willing to give it a try and if the guv appointed me, here are some suggestions I would make to at least start narrowing the great divide between rich and poor. Don't worry, I'm not suggesting killing all rich people and taking their money. That would be illegal and probably wouldn't work anyway. 

But this might... First, guarantee a living wage for all workers and a guaranteed minimum wage for everyone. Second, implement Medicare For All or some form of single-payer, universal healthcare. Third, extend free public education from Pre-K to 16 and beyond.

Best of all, it wouldn't take 15 years to do these things. Most or at least many countries have already done them. But a prereq is the complete reform of the tax code and making the wealthiest pay their fair share. Yes, as I pointed out, they just tried this and failed. Well, try again and try harder. 

How's that for a start? Let's see if Pritzker's Commission will touch any of these with a 10-foot pole. 

They hardly even touch the deeply-rooted issues of race and gender inequality. It took many years in this, the world's richest and most powerful capitalist country, to create this great racial-wealth gap. Closing it in the state of Illinois will take time and great struggle and it will take a lot more than another bureaucratic layer. First, there must be the will and cynical me doesn't see that coming from the top. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Cases top 14 million while 'open-up' cuckoo birds keep tweeting.


More than 13.4 million people in the country have been infected with the novel coronavirus and 267,306 have died as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard.

 Hundreds of people on Wednesday night — including members of the right-wing group Proud Boys — protested the closure of a Staten Island bar that ignored COVID-19 restrictions.-- NY Post

As I'm reading the news today about Florida nearing one million COVID cases, I'm recalling a column written back in May by former Tribune writer Dennis Byrne announcing to anyone who cared that he was abandoning Chitown for the wild and wide-open climes of Florida. He'd had enough of being told to wear a mask or wash his hands. He definitely didn't like Mayor Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker telling him that he couldn't sit inside at a restaurant during a corona surge. 

Byrne, who loves him some Trumpy Gov. Ron DiSantis, said that in FL he felt free to wine and dine on "brisket and bacon burger slathered with BBQ sauce, cheese, onions, and mayonnaise."

I wonder where he'll move next. 

BIRDS OF A FEATHER ~ Mancow, Stone, and...Vallas???

Mancow (left) says he's sick of unions that “radicalize” teachers, and he supports “bringing back civility and respect for cops.” Wants Vallas as his running mate. Good luck with that.  
Trump clone and radio shock jock Erich “Mancow” Muller says he wants to run for IL governor. No joke.

Pritzker must be trembling with fear.  

Mancow is the anti-union, flat-tax, corona super-spreader pal of Roger Stone. (Stone claimed yesterday that "North Korean ships were delivering ballots through a harbor in Maine.”)

And guess who Mancow wants as his running mate? None other than former Chicago schools chief and perennial campaign loser Paul Vallas.

I get it. The two of them are ideologically simpatico. But Mancow could do better. Doesn't he recall how Vallas' last campaign for Lt. Governor went down the toilet, pulling incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn down with him? Or how Vallas fared running against his nemesis, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and finishing seventh in the races with 5% of the vote.

Meanwhile, Vallas has been keeping himself busy speaking at right-wing anti-masker, anti-shutdown QAnon rallies sounding every bit like Dennis Byrne in his attacks on Lightfoot and Pritzker? 

He's gone full-blown MAGA