Monday, February 22, 2021


This, in the era of mass school shootings...

Trump Junior

Donald Trump Jr. Rips Teachers Unions In Front Of A Gun Wall.

"The teachers' unions are out of control & are destroying our kid’s futures." -- Huffington 

 U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

“White supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are more than domestic terror threats. They are becoming a transnational threat." -- Addressing U.N. Human Rights Council

Simon Tisdall on Iran nuclear agreement

Biden’s instinct to try to break this impasse and find a diplomatic way through – supported by the UK, Germany and France – is the right one. But words are not enough. As a sign of good faith, he should swiftly relax some sanctions and unfreeze Iran’s Covid-related $5bn IMF loan request. -- Guardian

 Yuh-Line Niou, a Democrat who represents New York City's Chinatown 

“They are all calling me asking me, 'How do I get this vaccine? What’s going on?' Then they will ask me, 'Hey, can you translate this site for me?'” -- USA Today 

 Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus 

“We can’t let one or two Democrats prevent the $15 minimum wage from being in the relief bill. It’s bad politics and bad policy.” -- The Hill

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Republican Party may be dead but Trumpism is still very much alive.

 "I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There's never been anything like it." -- Donald Trump

Following the failed impeachment vote, it's should now be clear to all that the Republican Party, or what has become the Trump Party, is bankrupt, if not dead. But in its place is an emergent white supremacist, neo-fascist movement here and in Europe. Trump is out of the White House but is still very much in as the movement's benefactor, figurehead leader, and international symbol of resistance to democracy.  

Roughly 70% of Republicans continue to support Trump strongly, polls suggest. A similar share says they would be less likely to vote for a Republican senator who voted to convict Trump. 

He and his one-time fascist sidekick, "Alt-Right" founder Steve Bannon set out to destroy the official Republican Party and reconstruct a global neo-fascist network soon after the election in 2016. It's obvious now that they have succeeded and Bannon has been rewarded with Trump's only pardon of any consequence for his efforts.

AP reports:

In nearly half of the more than 200 federal cases stemming from the attack on the Capitol, authorities have cited evidence that an insurrectionist appeared to be inspired by conspiracy theories or extremist ideologies, according to an Associated Press review of court records.

The FBI has linked at least 40 defendants to extremist groups or movements, including at least 16 members or associates of the neo-fascist Proud Boys and at least five connected to the anti-government Oath Keepers. FBI agents also explicitly tied at least 10 defendants to QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that has grown beyond its fringe origins to penetrate mainstream Republican politics.

Parler posts containing the word “revolution” grew by five times as much as the overall rate of message traffic after the election, the analysis found.

And by "revolution", they don't mean a democratic or socialist one, but rather a fascist putsch reminiscent of Germany in the 1930s that embraces many of the old fascist symbols and language about white identity and the threat of "replacement" by immigrants. 

The neo-fascist, white-supremacist wave has gained strength against the backdrop of the pandemic and a worldwide recession and a Trump administration that has gutted social reforms and driven millions into poverty while widening the racial/class wealth gap. The U.S. now has the highest level of income inequality among its post-industrialized peers.

While many of those arrested in the Capitol riot owned businesses or worked white-collar jobs, a large sector of declassed white youth, many out-of-work, out of school and facing bleak futures, have become potential recruits for groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. 

An apocryphal AP story this morning describes the growing despair among French youth. 

Nearly a quarter of French young people can’t find work — two-and-a-half times the national unemployment rate and one of the highest in the European Union’s 27 nations. Many university students now rely on food aid and several organizations have rallied to meet the need.

The pandemic has led to a surge in mental health complaints that authorities say are most acute in people without work, those in financial hardship, and young adults. 

The rise of neo-fascist movements and their apparent embrace offered by a majority of Republicans needs to be taken seriously. First and foremost this requires an immediate and massive injection of pandemic relief funds and vaccines, including more than a trillion dollars in funding to support safe school reopening, and setting the federal minimum wage at $15/hour. This must be done immediately, even without Republican support if necessary. 

Also, Trump and his co-conspirators, along with leaders of the neo-fascist and neo-confederate groups that attacked the Capitol on January 6th, need to face criminal and civil trials in state courts if necessary. This can be done without adding draconian new repressive laws or government agencies or infringe on the civil liberties of the rest of us. 

But this is just the beginning of a long struggle that will require some heavy discussions and difficult reassessments by left/progressive community and union groups about the direction of organizing efforts. 

Hopefully, more on this to come. 

Monday, February 15, 2021



“If [a metal shredder] is not good enough for the North Side,” said Gina Ramirez, referring to the area where RMG previously operated General Iron, “then it’s not good enough for the South Side.” -- Guardian

Sen. Mitch McConnell

His is a profile in cowardice. But I felt a need to quote him here.

"Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty...There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day..."We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one. -- CNN

Then he voted "not guilty".

Dr. Anthony Fauci

"I think it can be done. I mean, obviously, it's not a perfect situation, but it's really important to get the children back to school in the safest way possible. Safe for the children, but also safe for the teachers and the other educators." -- ABC's "This Week"

 CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky

"We have work to do" when it comes to reopening schools safely.

"If there's more disease in the community, there will be more in school and that most disease in school does not come from in-school transmission but comes from outside, from into the community. So what we would advocate for is to have more kids in school as our community spread comes down." -- CNN

AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten tweets

For the first time in 10 months, we have a set of guidances that's based not on politics, but on public health. -- @rweingarten


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The good ones are leaving us too soon.

Our living room was packed on a summer day in 2014 for our Bagels With Karen fundraiser.

As everyone has heard by now, former CTU Pres. Karen Lewis passed yesterday, leaving a tear in my eye but also great memories for me to hold on to. Some of my fondest include our (Susan and my) occasional breakfast meetings at Meli's on Wells Street just to touch base and have a few laughs. 

Another was from an event we held for Jonathan Kozol back in 2012. Kozol had the crowd on its feet, applauding as he talked about the inspiring effect the Chicago teachers' strike was having on teachers and supporters across the country. Kozol said he first heard news of the strike at a book tour event in Los Angeles. When a teacher in the audience announced that teachers in Chicago had walked out, “the roar of the crowd delayed the program for several minutes.”

But the loudest prolonged ovation that evening was reserved for Karen Lewis. It broke out spontaneously as she entered the sold-out Thorne Auditorium and Northwestern Univ. Law School. Karen spoke briefly, introduced Kozol, and then embraced the author in a show of unity. 

Jonathan and Karen at Maggiano's in 2012

After the event, a group of us went out with Jonathan and Karen to grab a bite at Maggiano's. I don't remember the dinner conversation at all. But what I do recall was the stream of random folks who instantly recognized Karen and wanted to shake her hand. One woman spotting Karen from across the large room raced over to our table to give her a bear hug. She turned out to be a suburban teacher who wanted nothing more than to tell her fellow teachers that she had met the great Karen Lewis. 

R.I.P. ED PEARL... Another sad moment came yesterday when I learned that an old friend from my L.A. days had died. Ed Pearl was the owner of the Ash Grove, the place where the music and the movement all came together for me back in the '60s. Regulars there included: Ry Cooder,  Lightnin’ Hopkins, The Byrds, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf, Albert King, Freddie King, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Johnny Guitar Watson, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, The Chambers Brothers, Maria Muldaur, and many others.

Ed was also a political activist who used his club and his resources to support civil rights and anti-war movement organizers as well as struggling artists and musicians. He will be missed. 

A question for all my old great friends and comrades out there. Where the hell are you all goin'? What's the rush?

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


I was in Parkland two days after the massacre in 2018. I did some interviews with parents, educators, and students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, all shaken with anger and despair, feelings that in the following months would inspire the energy behind a movement for gun control. It was a movement led by the students themselves, that would sweep the nation and play a critical role in the political shift towards Democrats in the last election.

Like most of the country, I cheered on the dozens of students who boarded the buses to Tallahassee that day to offer their "reasonable" gun control proposals to the state legislature only to be ignored and insulted by state pols.

Now three years later, some of those feelings of grief and anger have returned as I watch video of gun-toting white-supremacist, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene berating anti-gun student leaders and mocking news of the massacre that killed 17 people at MSD and wounded 17 others and still no significant gun laws on the books. 

Rep. Greene is easy to hate unless you're one of the thousands of north Georgia Republicans who elected her. Or one of the MAGA cultists who make up a large chunk of the party's base and who cheer wildly as she promises to protect gun owners from the claws of encroaching "communists" (You know they're everywhere in Georgia). She even suggests that the horrifying school shootings were pre-staged events. 

But Greene isn't the real problem here. The real problem is that in the three years since the MSD massacre, and despite all the student protests, nothing has been done in the way of meaningful federal gun-control legislation and despite his campaign promise to ban assault weapons, nothing on Biden's current agenda indicates it's a priority for Democrats. 

That's because Dems fear losing their working-class base and red-state Republicans are threatening to block enforcement once a bill is passed. Same as it ever was.

This, even in the wake of gun-toting militias storming government buildings and threatening the lives of legislators. Not to mention the horrible rise in the number of shootings in cities like Chicago. 

Federal gun control, including the outlawing of military assault weapons, has been dropped to near the bottom of the Democrats' legislative agenda ever since Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told Attorney General Eric Holder to "shut the fuck up" about the issue a decade ago.

According to Daniel Klaidman’s book, Kill or Capture, Emanuel became enraged after hearing that Holder had given a speech vowing to keep Obama's campaign promise to ban assault weapons.

"The comments roused the powerful gun lobby and its water carriers on Capitol Hill. ‘Senators to Attorney General: Stay Away from Our Guns’ read a press release issued by Senator Max Baucus of Montana -- a Democrat, no less," Klaidman wrote. "Emanuel was furious. He slammed his desk and cursed the attorney general. Holder was only repeating a position Obama had expressed during the campaign, but that was before the White House needed the backing of pro-gun Democrats from red states for their domestic agenda."

"The comments roused the powerful gun lobby and its water carriers on Capitol Hill. ‘Senators to Attorney General: Stay Away from Our Guns’ read a press release issued by Senator Max Baucus of Montana -- a Democrat, no less," Klaidman wrote. "Emanuel was furious. He slammed his desk and cursed the attorney general. Holder was only repeating a position Obama had expressed during the campaign, but that was before the White House needed the backing of pro-gun Democrats from red states for their domestic agenda."

Focusing on Taylor Greene is too easy. She's low-hanging fruit. Now that Dems have taken the White House and there's a Democratic majority in both houses, there's no excuse not to move ahead on this and finally do justice for the murdered Parkland students and the more than 240,000 students who have experienced gun violence at their schools since Columbine in 1999.  

The NRA has gone bankrupt. Public opinion (95% of Democrats) increasingly supports a ban on assault weapons and red-states aren't all that red these days. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

We need Covid relief now. What's the hold up?

Fred Klonsky art.

Bernie Sanders says Senate Democrats have the votes to pass another COVID-19 relief package now. 

In an appearance on ABC's “This Week,” he was asked if he believes Democrats have enough votes as bipartisan support for a relief bill appears to dwindle. 

“Yes, I believe that we do because it's hard for me to imagine any Democrat, no matter what state he or she may come from, who doesn't understand the need to go forward right now in an aggressive way to protect the working families of this country,” Sanders said.

Robert Reich agrees:

 "The new president can achieve huge and vital reform and relief without the party of Trump – and they know it." 

So if Democrats can...why aren't they doing it? People need relief now! Schools need to open safely with lots of federal support now! We need vaccines in peoples' arms now! Republicans are stalling and trying to negotiate a relief package that's half the size of the current relief bill. The question is, why appease them if you don't have to?

I'm remembering back to the first half of President Obama's first term when the Democrats wasted their majorities in both houses of Congress by abandoning or deeply altering most of their promised reform initiatives in the name of "bipartisanship" and to keep from alienating a Republican Party that only wanted to sabotage his every move. Is this déjà vu all over again?