Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Chauvin's murder conviction should be an easy one. But it won't be.

Chauvin (right) with his defense attorney, Eric Nelson. 

“Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all."
-- Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump

 From Tamir Rice to Michael Brown to Eric Garner, a long series of non-indictments in high-profile killings of Black men and women make plain that prosecutions of police officers are rare, and convictions rarer still. -- Bloomberg Law 

Monday, March 29, 2021


U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on the military killings in Myanmar


R.I.P. Beverly Cleary

“I had chicken pox, smallpox and tonsillitis in the first grade and nobody seemed to think that had anything to do with my reading trouble,” Cleary told the AP. “I just got mad and rebellious.” By sixth or seventh grade, “I decided that I was going to write children’s stories.” -- Guardian

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell 

“She wanted to check on his pulse, check on Mr. Floyd’s well-being,” Blackwell said. “She did her best to intervene. When she approached Mr. Chauvin …. Mr. Chauvin reached for his Mace and pointed it in her direction. She couldn’t help.” -- AP

Bessemer, AL Amazon warehouse worker Linda Burns

 “They are treating us like robots rather than humans.” -- AP

 Attorney Walter Shaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics

"Georgia's bill would make it a crime to give free food or water to voters standing in line for hours and hours. But we know who these politicians force to stand in line all day long," Shaub said earlier this month on Twitter. "I've never once stood in line for even five minutes where I get to vote. This racism is thorough." -- CNN
Emma Berquist @eeberquist

everyone's anti-godzilla until there's a 200,000 ton boat that can't be moved

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

It will be a great and historic tragedy if this Dem majority fails again on gun control

A solemn group of King Soopers workers, left, some from the Boulder store and some from the same district, brought large displays of flowers for each of the victims of the mass shooting.  (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

It's become a familiar pattern. Dems promise mild federal gun control legislation but get no bi-partisan support so they drop the issue. Then comes another mass shooting and there's a new whirlwind of gun-control chatter that dies down again after a week or so. 

Pres. Biden did not fulfill a campaign promise to send a bill to Congress on his first day in office repealing liability protections for gun manufacturers and closing background-check loopholes.

But after two mass shootings, which took the lives of 18 people, in less than a week, he's once again promising "common sense" gun legislation, including the banning of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. He's also promising to take executive action if Republicans block passage in the Senate. 

But we've heard those promises before, like after the Sandy Hook killings in 2012 when Obama tasked Biden with coming up with a legislative package of gun control measures. But the effort resulted in no significant legislative action, and Obama was forced to enact a handful of relatively modest reform through executive actions.

After a February 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., students launched a wave of activism that propelled gun-control issues to the front of the Democratic agenda, including Biden’s. But since taking office, the president has been swamped by other crises, from the pandemic to the economy to immigration.

Dems fear losing Republican support on potential bipartisan issues. Trump's MAGAs threaten to block enforcement once a bill is passed. Same as it ever was. 

This was the case even in the wake of gun-toting militias storming government buildings and threatening the lives of governors and 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, was 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.

And without strong, enforceable federal laws, state and local legislation becomes almost meaningless since illegal guns are easily transported across state and municipal borders. 

Then there are the courts, now loaded up with Trump-appointed judges. Three years ago, the city of Boulder banned assault weapons. A court blocked the measure just 10 days before Monday’s rampage.

It would be one of the great historical tragedies if no significant gun legislation is possible even with a Democrat in the White House and a Dem majority in both houses.

Monday, March 22, 2021



Robert Reich, former US secretary of labor

The most dramatic change in American capitalism over the last half-century has been the emergence of corporate behemoths like Amazon and the shrinkage of labor unions. -- Guardian

 V.P. Kamala Harris in Atlanta

"For the last year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans. People with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate." -- Washington Post
Sen. Raphael Warnock 

It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. Colleagues, no Senate rule should overrule the integrity of the democracy and we must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not. -- Democracy Now

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General

 "Some countries are racing to vaccinate their entire populations while other countries have nothing. This may buy short-term security, but it’s a false sense of security." -- Media briefing

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Cold war comes home. Eight dead in Atlanta.

U.S. carrier group in the South China Sea

Hundreds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders turned to social media to air their anger, sadness, fear, and hopelessness. The hashtag #StopAsianHate was a top trending topic on Twitter hours after the shootings that happened Tuesday evening.
-- AP

This as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan are meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and high-ranking diplomat Yang Jiechi in Alaska today—the Biden administration’s first in-person meetings with Beijing. 

And what more appropriate place than frigid Alaska could there possibly be for the Biden administration's leading cold warrior Blinken, to push for a chill in any potential positive relations or cooperation between the world's two economic powers. With missile-loaded U.S. warships and aircraft back patrolling in the South China Sea, and a U.S. admiral talking openly about "preparing for war with China", the threat of the cold war turning hot has the atomic clock moving much too close to midnight. 

Hopefully, once the cameras and microphones are turned off, the staged polemics, airing of grievances, and threats of sanctions can be put aside for a few hours and something positive can be worked out on trade, environmental issues, and pandemic relief. It's not very likely, but a Covid-battered, war-weary world badly needs it. 

COLD WAR COMES HOME...The escalation of China-bashing by U.S. media and politicians, carried over from the last two administrations, has precipitated a growing wave of hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans. 

There's growing outrage over the fact that the terrorist suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was not immediately charged with hate crimes. Authorities said Long told police the attack was not racially motivated, and he claimed that he targeted the spas because of a “sex addiction.” Six of the seven slain women were identified as Asian.

Margaret Huang, president, and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. The gunman “was very clearly going after a targeted group of people.” She also cringed at the comments of a sheriff’s captain who said of the gunman, “It was a really bad day for him.”

Monday, March 15, 2021

Anti-China cold warriors threaten pandemic recovery and progressive ed

“I made clear the US will defend our national interests, stand up for our democratic values, and hold Beijing accountable for its abuses of the international system.” --
Sec. of State Tony Blinken

It shouldn't take fear of China's economic power to jumpstart our post-pandemic economy or adequately fund our public schools. But that is the logic of the cold warriors and regime changers who play leading roles in Biden's State Department and in many foreign policy think tanks. 

The current revival of cold-war nationalism, following in the wake of Trump's racist "Kung-flu" fear-mongering and white-supremacist populism, presents formidable threats to post-pandemic recovery. It's also responsible for the spike in anti-Asian racism and violence since the start of the pandemic.

Escalating tensions with China could also negatively influence educational priorities the way they did with the Obama administration's so-called Race To The Top. 

Yesterday's WaPo opinion piece by columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. asks the question: Will China get our country moving again?

Our response to this fear does not have to descend into warmongering, and it shouldn’t mean abruptly cutting off cooperation with China in areas where, as on climate action, partnership is necessary...But the danger China poses could fundamentally reorder U.S. attitudes toward government’s role in domestic economic growth, research and development in ways that leave the United States stronger. 

That all depends on what you mean by "stronger".  

For example, while competition for the vaccine market this past year did lead to some great achievements in the field of medicine, vaccine nationalism also caused a widening of the gap between the vaccine haves and have-nots (read: rich and poor countries), leaving the latter with collapsed economies and with millions suffering and dying needlessly from disease, child poverty, and hunger. We can only imagine the possibilities offered by a multi-national effort in the war to defeat Covid. 

Do we really think we are safe from this horrendous disease that has already killed 2.6 million worldwide, when millions more are dying in other countries? Do we really think we can successfully rebuild our own shattered economy if the economy of more than half the world remains in tatters?

Even in China, where the virus has been under control for months, a variant strain entering the country on a visitor or in a shipment of food, could force the entire country into another lockdown. The same is true for this country. 

Big-power confrontation and competition for global supremacy is nothing new and we've come to expect it as normal. It's not only embedded in the new globalism, it's been a function of imperialism since the turn of the last century. It's what led to the start of both world wars as well as the rise of the military-industrial complex, and the economic imbalance caused by the militarization of our society. 

During the Trump years, it was represented by the Republicans' America-First demagogy which precipitated the MAGA attack on the Capitol on January 6th. I'm still hopeful that the Democrats' victory will bring about a turn away from MAGAism. 

But recent threatening statements by Pres. Biden, and his appointed Sec. of State Tony Blinken, are discouraging. The Biden administration has an opportunity to tone down the Trumpian rhetoric and reach new trade and anti-COVID agreements with China for the sake of world peace, health, and stability. 

As for education... the perceived China threat also impacts the conduct and content of schooling. 

As Dionne points out:

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite, it set off a national panic...One result was the 1958 National Defense Education Act, as Congress “began searching for ways to produce scientists and engineers who would equal Russia’s.” Another, of course, was the space program.
Cold warriors at that time raised the chilling specter of Soviet missiles raining down on American cities from outer space and blamed "failing" public schools for our lag in the race into space, or as it became known during the Obama administration, "the race to the top."

One result was the rise of heavily-tracked mega high schools and an over-reliance on high-stakes, standardized testing. This is nothing new. During the Obama administration, then Sec. of Education Arne Duncan used the fear of U.S. students lagging behind China to impose a regimen of punitive high-stakes testing on the nation's schools and teachers. Obama even called it "our Sputnik moment."

Now, schools and educators are again forced to confront the question of educational purpose. Is it the schools' purpose to train a new army of anti-China cold-warriors? Or rather, to prepare a generation of critical thinkers with the skills and habits of mind necessary to build a democratic society? I'll go with the latter. 

To participate in an ongoing discussion on post-pandemic schooling, follow @Smallschools on Twitter. 

Monday, March 8, 2021


First and foremost, neither Dr Seuss nor Mr Potato Head are being cancelled. 

Akin Olla on Dr. Seuss

Real cancel culture has existed in the United States and it is worth remembering what it means to be truly cancelled. The multiple red scares in the United States involved socialist – and allegedly socialist – actors, directors and musicians being spied on and blacklisted by production companies and studios for their political views. -- Guardian

Brazil's fascist President, Jair Bolsonaro

As Covid deaths soar in Brazil, Bolsonary said he regretted any loss of life, but demanded to know: “How long are you all going to keep crying?” -- New York Times

Washington Correspondent Carl Hulse

 Bipartisanship is dead.

Other marquee Democratic measures to protect and expand voting rights tackle police bias and misconduct and more are also drawing scant to zero Republican backing. -- New York Times

 Teamster Local 710 Secretary-Treasurer Mike Cales

“The solidarity within this group is inspiring. The situation was not looking good yesterday, and we were literally 15 minutes away from going on strike when the employer finally realized just how serious the situation was." -- Sun-Times

 Civil rights activist and daughter of MLK, Bernice King

 “Royalty is not a shield from the devastation and despair of racism.” -- Tweet

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The return of the regime changers. Missiles are flying again in Iraq.

“They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.
No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
― Joseph Heller, Catch 22

Pres. Biden and his newly-appointed Sec. of State Anthony Blinken seem bent on pushing the U.S. into a disastrous hot war with Iran. Biden has only been in office a couple of months and already missiles are flying again in Iraq and Syria. 

Yesterday a missile attack in western Iraq led to the death of a U.S. mercenary. 

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the contractor “suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering” and died shortly afterward. He said there were no service members injured and all are accounted for. British and Danish troops also are among those stationed at the base. 

The rocket attack was the first since the U.S. struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week, killing one militiaman and stoking fears of another cycle of tit-for-tat attacks as happened more than a year ago.  -- AP

Now the Pentagon is surely preparing for another retaliatory move.  

It appears to me that this escalation was intentionally meant to sabotage the resumption of U.S. nuclear weapons talks with Iran. Blinken seems to be another regime-changer in the mold of Hillary Clinton.

All this begs the question, why are U.S. troops and mercs still in Iraq after 17 years, over a million deaths, and $4 trillion in taxpayer money wasted. BTW that's triple the money needed for pandemic and economic recovery. 

We should also remember that amid the fallout of the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iran's General Qassem Soleimani a year ago, the Iraqi parliament voted to oust all U.S. troops stationed in their country. Trump's claim on Iraqi oil aside, it now seems like with the current escalation, Iraqis along with all other countries in the Middle East, already ravaged by the global pandemic, face the prospect of being drawn into all-out war again. 

The current escalation dashes the hopes of those who believed that the Democrats' victory would lead to at least a temporary halt to our failed imperialist adventures in the region and to the possibility of bringing our troops home and out of harm's way.

They should have known better. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Capitalism 2.0. Is the lion really lying down with the lamb?

What's going on here? Corporate America, Hollywood, and NFL owners all rebranding and advertising Black Lives Matter themes, doling out billions in philanthropic grants to left and progressive organizations, and even heaping faint praise on socialists. 

From watching the TV ads, one would think that the Fortune 500 corporations had all joined BLM, that the NFL had made things right with Colin Kaepernick, and that the Golden Globes weren't being awarded by a white-only board. 

In this vein, two recent articles in Crain's Chicago Business caught my attention this week. The first, "City Council's socialists see themselves as an antidote to the status quo", by reporter A.D. Quig, is surprisingly praiseful of a "socialist bloc" of aldermen, elected to the Council in the 2019 anti-machine wave that included the landslide election of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

Quig writes: 

Their legislative scoreboard isn't terribly impressive, and they've rankled some of their colleagues and the mayor along the way. But they've undoubtedly moved the needle: They changed city policy to fight gentrification in Woodlawn, along the 606 trail and in Pilsen. They've pushed officials to at least examine wresting control of Chicago's electrical grid from ComEd. And in the most recent city budget, they helped boost funding for non-police anti-violence programs and to have mental health workers respond to certain emergency calls instead of cops.

Corporate capitalists lauding socialist aldermen? Is the lion really lying down with the lamb or just preparing lamb stew? I would say, a little of both -- a divide and conquer game.

In the second, "Capitalism 2.0, it's not just about profits"Judith Crown claims there's a "new capitalism" that is all about socially conscious investors seeking "to improve sustainability and benefit the social good while still making money."

Putting lipstick on a pig? Of course. 

Corporate greed has never been more rapacious. The gap between the one-percent and the rest of us has never been wider, and it's been made more apparent by a pandemic and global recession that has reproduced and magnified social inequality and put thousands of working-class and poor families on long food lines while Wall St. booms. 

According to Oxfam, the world’s 10 richest billionaires — which include Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and LVMH luxury group’s CEO Bernard Arnault — have collectively seen their wealth grow by $540 billion over this period. 

Big philanthropy using a portion of its enormous concentration of wealth to improve its image while avoiding taxation is nothing new. It goes back to the days of Carnegie and Rockefeller. But there's more to it than that. 

(Dissent Magazine)

Warren Buffett's son Peter calls it "Philanthropic Colonialism", and he oughta know:
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

So why is this sop to City Council socialists, now coming from the voice of big business in Chicago?

Well, for one thing, it's definitely not a "sea change," but the same old, same old in response to popular revolts and grassroots reform. It's what we used to call "riot insurance" back in the '60s. It's new in that it includes and is shaped by new technologies and includes innovative and created corporate branding strategies combined with the use of, what I call power philanthropy. That is, huge foundations created by the like of Bill Gates as alternatives to government, public space, and decision-making.

That's not to say there aren't real divisions among the plutocrats, populists, and fascists or well-intentioned philanthropists who truly support social justice and environmental movements on the ground. 

But the system's short-term response to popular revolts is still tactical, a mixture of political repression along with some concessions and hard-won reforms for racial justice and expanding the social safety net. Then there's the long-term, strategic response -- an ideological barrage fomenting division, confusion, and false consciousness, the normalization of inequality the manufacturing of consent. 


It was largely these insights about how power is constituted in the realm of ideas and knowledge, along side of repressive force, that pushed many of us progressive educators to develop the popular education practices, to contest accepted norms of legitimacy and foment critical thinking skills and habits of the mind in our classrooms and communities. All this in the face of a top-down corporate reform, heavily-funded by these same power philanthropists which was often successful in buying off leaders and fomenting divisions and splits at the base. 

Our strategy included the adult literacy and consciousness-raising methods of Paulo Freire in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, methods of participatory action research (PAR), and many other approaches to social transformation, popular media, communication, and cultural action.

I'll leave it to the current generation of activists, organizers, and educators to develop their own counter-strategies, and they are doing just that. 

There's no better example I can think of than the current organizing drive among Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, which ties labor issues to Black Lives Matter and issues of racial equality. That's the recipe, it seems to me. 

Monday, March 1, 2021



Tim Miller

 CPAC Was the Real Republican Party All Along. -- The Bulwark

Sarah Jones

Schools need to reopen, but the process is complicated by problems created by years of underfunding, not by teachers unions. -- New York Magazine

Tim Cadogan, GoFundMe C.E.O.

  “This is a war against a virus...If this were a war against another country at this scale, it would be no question what we would do, right? We would mobilize our society to defeat it.” -- New York Times

King James responds to Zlatan

"I’ll use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that’s going on around this country and around the world. There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice are.” -- Sportsnet