Monday, August 30, 2021

QUOTABLES: Biden's Bible

Abdul Matin Azizi, a neighbor who saw the attack. Azizi, 20, said the explosion occurred as the family returned home Sunday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. Azizi said he ran next door to help and found a gruesome scene, the air thick with smoke. “The bodies were covered in blood and shrapnel, and some of the dead children were still inside the car,” he said. -- Washington Post

Biden's Bible

 “Those who have served through the ages have drawn inspiration from the Book of Isaiah. When the Lord says, ‘who shall I send, who shall go for us?’ The American military has been answering for a long time, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.’” -- Speech to the Nation

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia Prof

The sad truth is that the American political class and mass media hold the people of poorer nations in contempt, even as they intervene relentlessly and recklessly in those countries. Of course, much of America’s elite hold America’s own poor in similar contempt. -- Market Watch

Dr. Anthony Fauci

"I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea."
"This is not something new. We have mandates in many places in schools, particularly public schools, that if in fact you want a child to come in -- we've done this for decades and decades requiring (vaccines for) polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis," he said. "So this would not be something new, requiring vaccinations for children to come to school." -- CNN

Seth Meyers

 “I mean, how does this shit keep getting dumber and dumber? First it was hydroxychloroquine, then it was bleach, powerful lights, now it’s horse dewormer? I’m honestly terrified to imagine what’s next. One day we’re gonna wake up and Brian Kilmeade’s gonna be telling people you can cure COVID by eating kibble and sleeping in a bed of kitty litter.” -- Late Night

Friday, August 27, 2021

SEIU Healthcare IL supports vax requirement for healthcare and ed workers


August 27, 2021

Contact: Catherine Murrell, 312-523-3882 

The following was released by SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Greg Kelley on Gov. Pritzker’s recent announcement of Vaccination Requirements for Healthcare and Educational Workers:

SEIU Healthcare Illinois continues to maintain our ongoing efforts to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of our 90,000 members. We are committed to promoting every measure available in protecting not only our members but our entire community, from the life-threatening impacts of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, we are in support of Gov. Pritzker’s recent announcement of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare and educational workers.

As a union of healthcare and childcare workers, we understand how critical it is to ensure that our members are working in safe environments, while also protecting our most vulnerable populations.

In addition to our support of vaccinations and scheduled testing, it is our expectation to partner with employers to foster a collaborative approach in providing resources that enable workers to be vaccinated without negative economic impacts. These resources would include comprehensive educational programs which include channels for employee communication regarding the implementation of the vaccination. 

We are dedicated to working with employers to help respond to worker needs as we combat this devastating disease.  

# # #

Thursday, August 26, 2021

What does F.O.P. stand for?

“We’re in America, goddamn it." -- FOP Lodge #7 Prez John Catanzara

Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has no business calling itself a union. As a matter of fact, they don't. Early FOP founders decided to not use the term "union" because of the anti-union sentiment of the time. 

FOP's fascist potentate John Catanzara is nothing but a Trump-loving racist petty criminal who's been outspoken in defense of the Jan. 6th MAGA Capitol rioters and who recently was suspended from the CPD and charged with filing false police reports. 

Cantazara has from the start, been on a crusade against the city's two top Black female elected officials, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and States Attorney Kim Foxx over their attempts to implement federal court-mandated police reform.

Lightfoot unfortunately has been forced to negotiate with the FOP on issues of abusive, racist, and violent police behavior which shouldn't be a matter of collective bargaining at all. 

For more on that, see my brother Fred's Sun-Times commentary, "I’m a union guy, and I oppose police union contracts that cover up abuse."

But as we enter the next mayoral campaign season, the FOP has refocused its right-wing wedge-issue polemics to target the mayor's vaccine mandate for all city employees. Yesterday, Cantanzara laid bare his thuggy nature by launching this anti-mayor, anti-vax tirade. 

“We’re in America, goddamn it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f***ing Germany, [where they say], ‘Step into the f***ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f***?” he told the newspaper. [Sun-Times]

This trash needs no rebuttal. The Mayor's response (below) is adequate. My blog feels dirty as it is for even printing it. 

At times I've referred to the FOP as Fascists on Patrol. I'm switching now to Friends of Pandemic. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

How far we've come

Remembering Trump's lost armada.

It was just three years ago that Trump was threatening "fire and fury" against North Korea and boasting to N.K President Kim Jong-Un, "My button is bigger than yours". He had Pentagon on a nuclear war footing and the U.S. "lost armada"  sailing into Korean waters.


See how far we've come.

Yesterday, it was V.P. Kamala ("Don't come") Harris, fresh off the Afghan withdrawal debacle, standing on a U.S. combat ship at the Changi naval base in Singapore warning China to end its "incursions" into the South China Sea. 

”Take a look at the map and tell me who's the one making "incursions"?

To borrow a line from Carlos Martinez (@agent_of_change): "Whoever said Americans don't understand irony?"

Advancing our interests...Sounding more and more like an old-line imperialist, Harris proclaimed, “It is also imperative that as we address developments in one region, we continue to advance our interests in other regions, including this region."

Monday, August 23, 2021

Why WHO wants us to forego booster shots

BUDAPEST, Aug 23 (Reuters) - WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that COVID-19 booster shots should be delayed and priority should be given to raising vaccination rates in countries where only 1% or 2% of the population has been inoculated.
If vaccination rates are not raised globally, stronger variants of the coronavirus could develop and vaccines intended as booster shots should be donated to countries where people have not received their first or second doses, he said during a visit to Budapest. 
"In addition, there is a debate about whether booster shots are effective at all," Ghebreyesus told a news conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.  

While I agree with the WHO director's call for making (demanding) vaccine distribution to where the need is greatest a priority, I'm having a hard time understanding his organization's anti-booster strategy. The problem facing us doesn't seem to be a global vaccine shortage so much as a politicized pandemic and entrenched systems of racial capitalism (imperialism) and vaccine apartheid which have sharpened the division between oppressed and oppressor nations. 

In this country, for example, there is a vaccine surplus. Yet millions here remain unvaxed, either due to lack of access to affordable medical care or due to the effectiveness of anti-vax propaganda and fear-mongering on the part of right-wing media. Even with this surplus, only limited supplies of the vaccine are being made available to low-income countries. 

The giant pharmaceutical companies and other vaccine profiteers are reaping billions in superprofits by keeping vaccine costs high and maintaining patents on vaccine production.  Global vaccine distribution has also become politized and weaponized in the new cold war aimed at containing China.  

The cost of vaccinating the world against COVID-19 could be at least five times cheaper if pharmaceutical companies weren’t profiteering from their monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines.

 Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are charging governments as much as $41 billion above the estimated cost of production. Colombia, for example, has potentially overpaid by as much as $375 million for its doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, in comparison to the estimated cost price.

Vaccine inequity remains the world’s biggest obstacle to ending this pandemic and global economic recovery. But Ghebreyesus seems to be assuming that if people here and in Europe agree to forego booster shots, their dose will then be shipped to a needy person in Uganda or Nicaragua. 

In fairness to Ghebreyesus, he includes in his call, this addendum:

Those whose immune system is compromised should get a booster shot, though they represent only small percentage of the population.

It's actually about 3% of the population in the U.S. But depending on the life span of current vaccines, booster shots may soon be required for everyone.  

As for the current effectiveness of booster shots, I will leave that one to the scientists and medical professionals. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Emerson Poll: Perception vs. Reality

Crime is once again the hot-button issue here in Chicago and in cities across the country. Yesterday's funeral following the killing of Chicago police officer Ella French has understandably amplified the anger, fears, and frustrations many feel about violent crime. 

At the same time, a poll was released showing crime to be the overwhelmingly top concern of Chicagoans, dwarfing worries about the spiking covid pandemic, the reopening of schools, and every other issue. But let's take a deeper look and see if there's a gap between that perception and reality. 

What's wrong with this statement?
A WGN-TV/Emerson College poll of Chicago residents found that crime is on the rise, with 62% saying there is more crime now in Chicago than there was a year ago. Twenty-four percent (24%) feel that the amount of crime has stayed the same, and 14% feel that there is less crime today.
Well, for one thing, you can't determine whether or not a city's crime rate is going up or down by taking a poll. Polls like Emerson may give us a sense of people's changing perceptions of crime, or the favorability or unfavorability of certain politicians, but those most often depend on how questions are asked, who's being asked, and who's doing the asking. 

Case in point: Chicago crime isn't really on the rise , although it's completely understandable why so many feel that it is, given local media's attention paid to daily crime reports. While crime rates have been falling steadily over the past two decades, homicides so far this year have risen. 
An NBC News analysis of Chicago Police Department data going back 20 years shows that overall, violent crime continued its slow decline during the pandemic. When all categories of violent crime are added together, the total declined by 46 percent over 20 years and held steady between the first half of both 2019 and 2021.
There's some  research showing  that public demand drives coverage of bad news — that people have a “negativity bias.” But I think it's the other way around, with the media driving the bias. 

It's not that I doubt the veracity of the poll itself. I don't. I just think that polling and news groups tend to overstate the significance of their results and blur the distinction between perception and reality. Polls shape and influence perceptions as well as measuring them. That's something we've all come to recognize in the last few national elections. 

According to the Emerson poll, crime, and especially violent crime, is the number-one concern of Chicagoans. 
Respondents were asked what the number one issue facing Chicago today is. A plurality of residents (44%) feel that crime is the number one issue facing the city.... Compared to the WGN-TV/Emerson poll in June, crime has risen six points as a top issue, from 38% to 44%.

What happened in the city in June and July to cause a six-point jump in perception is not clear from WGN's report. I would guess that it's the daily coverage of the recent wave of horrifying carjackings or the terrible rise in summertime gun violence that has put all of us on edge lately. 

While crime dominates popular concern, all other issues were below 12%: Covid-19 (12%), education/schools (8%), jobs (8%), police reform (7%), healthcare (7%), housing (5%), and homelessness (2%). Six percent (6%) of respondents said something else. 

The widening poverty gap isn't on the list of concerns offered in the poll, although homelessness is and ranks at the very bottom. There's no connection made by the pollsters between this widening gap and crime or contextualizing crime in the way questions are asked. There were no questions either, regarding the easy flow of illegal guns into the city.

Many people around the country perceive Chicago as the number-one crime city in America. But the actual numbers paint quite a different picture. Trump repeatedly criticized Chicago, saying it was “worse than Afghanistan.” I myself engaged in similar hyperbole a few years ago, referring to Chicago as "Chiraq" a la Spike Lee, just to make a point. But it turns out that our city hasn't even made the top-30 list when it comes to urban crime rates. 

A recent New York Times quiz revealed some common misperceptions about crime trends, the most widely held of which involved Chicago. Readers were asked to rank Chicago nationally in murder rate. The options were first, third, fifth, or seventh. Most picked “first,” and only 8 percent chose the right answer (seventh).

I was also a little surprised to learn that even with Chicago students about to return to school in a matter of days in the midst of a surging pandemic, only 8% had education/schools at the top of their list of concerns. In fact, the surging pandemic only made the top of the concern list for 12% of Chicagoans. Is that because Chicago is doing so much better than other big cities in containment? I don't have an answer on that one.

Another surprising (to me) result showed a majority (70%) of respondents having at least a somewhat positive opinion of the Chicago Police Department, while 23% have a somewhat or very negative opinion, and 7% are unsure. 

I'm only surprised at how that perception has changed since its low point, following the police murders of Laquan McDonald in 2014. The fallout from that killing and the political cover-up that following drove then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel from office. Polls at the time showed: "nearly two-thirds of African-American voters in the city said they didn’t trust him, and half of all likely voters thought the mayor should resign. The Emerson poll shows concerns about police reform now dropping into single-digit. 

Not surprising was a strong majority (70%) indicating support for a reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate in Chicago, with 21% opposed and 9% unsure. Such a mandate goes into effect citywide, tomorrow. 

Finally, the poll shows that Chicagoans appear pretty evenly split on Mayor Lightfoot's performance so far, with 46% disapproval and 43% approval. While her approval ratings are down about 20% from a year ago, I'm surprised that they're as high as they are, given the divisive nature of current politics, extremely negative City Hall press coverage, and an unrelenting hate campaign organized by both FOP and CTU leaders who have never gotten past Lightfoot's defeat of their candidate in the last election. 

Monday, August 16, 2021


Yes, ‘I Am Legend,’ the 2007 movie about zombie vampires, is now a part of the vaccine conversation. 
As of Wednesday, more than 166 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. The zombie count, however, remains at zero. -- Washington Post
Stephen Collison, CNN
At the same time, Biden was doing exactly what most Americans, exhausted by long years of foreign quagmires and confused as to why US troops were still in Afghanistan 20 years after 9/11, wanted. There was no national support for escalating the war. -- Biden's botched Afghan exit  

Taliban Spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen 

...told the BBC Sunday that the militants want a "peaceful" transition. -- CNBC

‘Saigon on Steroids’: The Desperate Rush to Flee Afghanistan,” by WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov, Dion Nissenbaum, and Margherita Stancati 
"The lucky few were already inside, crowded onto the last patch of government territory that hadn’t fallen to the Taliban. Outside, as thousands of civilians surged to break through the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport, security forces fired gunshots into the air to force them back." -- Wall Street Journal

“Corporate America grows impatient on Biden’s China trade review,” by Gavin Bade

“Nearly eight months into his presidency, America’s largest corporations are voicing frustration that Biden has not rolled back any of former President Donald Trump’s major tariffs, particularly the duties on $350 billion worth of Chinese imports." -- Politico

NYT’s Elizabeth Harris

“Blackout,” by the right-wing media personality Candace Owens, has sold 480,000 copies across formats since it was published last fall by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. “American Marxism,” by the best-selling author Mark R. Levin, which devotes a chapter to critical race theory, sold 400,000 books in just its first week on the market last month. -- New York Times

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Cold Warriors called it the 'China Virus' but let's look at the numbers

Trump and the Republicans called it the "China Virus" or "Kung Flu." Pretty racist and disgusting. Biden and the Democrats are not much better. They continue to play Trump's blame-China game rather than move forward on international cooperation in the war against COVID and its emerging variants.

But a look at current data compiled by Johns Hopkins University along with national public health agencies shows that  China is playing more of a leading role in the world when it comes to containing the spread of the virus while the U.S. remains the principal driver of covid as the Delta strain becomes dominant.  

Currently, it's the US, India, and Brazil that have the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Russia, France, the UK, and Turkey. The U.S. with more than 36 million cases and over 616,000 deaths has the highest total number of cases, deaths, and death rates in the world. 

The U.S. is now averaging about 650 deaths a day, increasing more than 80 percent from two weeks ago and going past the 600 mark on Saturday for the first time in three months.

Compare that with China, which has four times the population of the U.S., but has had a tiny fraction (106,000) of cases and has suffered fewer than 5,000 deaths so far, according to the researchers at Johns Hopkins. 

In other words, there's a lot U.S. health experts and policymakers could learn from China when it comes to fighting the pandemic. At the top of the list is China's national healthcare system. In the U.S. more than 30 million people have no health insurance. 

But scientific cooperation between the world's two leading economic powers is being hindered by Cold War propagandizing, tariff wars and back-and-forth sanctioning. The biggest losers in all this are the poorest of the world's countries suffering from severe vaccine inequality. 

It's not the lack of vaccines that are the problem. The world's richest countries have a surplus while many countries have close to none. The U.S. has two times the number of vaccines than the number of people. Yet there are states with test positivity rates over 50 percent. 

The continuing yellow-peril demagoguery coming out of the White House and State Dept. has done great harm to efforts to close the great vaccine gap or promote international cooperation, while raising the economic and political barriers between the two countries and bringing them closer to unfathomable war. It has also led to an uptick in the growing wave of anti-Asian violence here in the U.S. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Yes, to vax and mask mandates. Randi flips for the better.

Randi Weingarten says it's a 'personal matter.'

"In order for everyone to feel safe and welcome in their workplaces, vaccinations must be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced.
 -- Randi Weingarten, Statement July 26th

"Since 1850 we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools, it’s not a new thing to have vaccines in schools. And I think that, on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers – not opposing them – on vaccine mandates." -- AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, Meet the Press (Aug. 8th)

It didn't take very long for AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten to walk back her opposition to vaccine mandates. RW claims her new position is a "personal matter," a "matter of personal conscience." I'm not sure what that means in this context. Is she not speaking for her union? I guess we'll find out soon enough. 

But I'll go out on a limb here and say the real reasons for the shift are fairly obvious. 

~Most teachers and parents want their children to return to school safely. The only way to ensure that is to have all adults and as many children as possible vaccinated and masked. The teachers unions misread community sentiment.

~Hours before his death, AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka made clear his support for vaccine mandates. To have the teacher unions appear to be bucking Trumka on this would be divisive and damaging to the entire labor movement.

~At a time when the Biden White House is weighing vaccine mandates for businesses and the federal workforce, there's no way AFT leaders can allow themselves to be seen as oppositional. I'm pretty sure that Joe Biden and Education Sec. Miguel Cardona applied some screws where needed.  

~Weingarten's initial opposition to mandates would have put her in step with the most reactionary Republican governors in the nation, like Abbott of Texas and DeSantis of Florida.  Both have threatened to punish any school or district that mandated masking or vaxing. DeSantis has even refused to mandate masks and has blocked school districts from requiring them, despite his state leading the nation in pediatric hospitalizations.

There are even more good reasons to explain the union's shift, but I will stop there. I'm just happy for her change of heart on this regardless of what's driving it.

I'm hoping it will get some of our local Chicago union leaders, like AFSCME's Roberta Lynch, who's still opposing mandates, to rethink their positions. Then there's the CTU leadership, who's remaining quiet on the issue. 


With schools set to open in days, the delta variant has brought the danger to young children into sharp relief. In Tennessee, for example, the variant is spreading quickly in children--so quickly, in fact, that the state's health department projects that children's hospitals in TN will be completely full by the end of next week. 

Two children died from COVID-19 over the weekend in Memphis. and children age 10 and under now account for more than 10% of all new coronavirus infections, one of the highest rates of any point during the pandemic. 

The Resistance... Austin, TX school Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde announced that the district will require face masks, defying Gov. Abbott's executive orders banning ​​mask mandates. Entities that defy Abbott's orders face fines of $1,000, but it's unclear if school districts could face multiple fines for violating the order. Abbott's office didn't clarify how the order would be enforced, but in a statement Tuesday it mentioned possible legal action, promising the governor would work with the Texas attorney general to fight "for the rights and freedoms of all Texans." 

IL Gov. Pritzker is moving right ahead with vaccine mandates for many state employees including state prison staff. Last week he announced vaccinations would be required for all state employees who work in highly populated facilities. That includes officers in prisons operated by the Department of Corrections and Juvenile Justice. Republicans immediately filed a lawsuit and the FOP went ballistic. 

Becky Pringle, president of the largest U.S. teachers' union, the National Education Association (NEA), is still hanging on to the old line. I guess she didn't get the memo about personal conscience. She told the NYT last week that any vaccine mandate should be "negotiated at the local level." But it's not clear what there is to negotiate when both sides have the same interests.

There's also no legal platform for such negotiations and with the clock on school openings ticking, there's no time left to bargain. 

Right-wing and neo-fascist media fear-mongers, including populist shockcasters like anti-gay bigot Joe Rogan, have made vax mandates their fave key wedge issue in hopes of driving white, male listeners to the polls next year to restore a MAGA congressional majority.

Rogan, who calls himself a liberal when it's convenient, claims that mandated masks and vaccine passports are driving the country one step closer to "dictatorship." What a fool! 

Monday, August 9, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES: Weingarten on vaccine mandates

TOKYO (AP) — Nagasaki on Monday marked the 76th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the Japanese city with its mayor urging Japan, the United States, and Russia to do more to eliminate nuclear weapons. In his speech at the Nagasaki Peace Park, Mayor Tomihisa Taue urged Japan’s government to take the lead in creating a nuclear-free zone in Northeast Asia rather than staying under the U.S. nuclear umbrella — a reference to the U.S. promise to use its own nuclear weapons to defend allies without them. 

Education Sec. Miguel Cardona
“We're clearly at a fork in the road in this country. Cardona said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “You're either going to help students be in school in-person and be safe, or the decisions you make will hurt students." -- CBS' Face the Nation

AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten 

...said Sunday that she wants the union to support mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for teachers. This would be a change in policy, as the AFT currently favors vaccination being a voluntary choice. 

"Since 1850 we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools, it’s not a new thing to have vaccines in schools. And I think that, on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers – not opposing them – on vaccine mandates." -- NBC's Meet the Press

  Scot Ward, president of FOP Lodge 263

“We are not opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine, we are opposed to being forced to take it.” -- Capitol Fax [WTF?]

Andrew French, brother of slain Chicago cop Ella French

 ...said “even before she joined the force,” his sister was a big proponent of therapy or social services over more jail time. He said she wanted to see people get the help they needed, more “than throwing people in jail. -- Chicago Tribune

IL Gov. Pritzker imposing mandatory vaccinations for state employees

“They run the risk of carrying the virus into work with them, and then it’s the residents who are ending up seriously sick hospitalized or worse,” Pritzker said. “It’s a breach of safety. It’s fundamentally wrong, and in Illinois, it’s going to stop.” -- WBEZ
Mokoto Rich on Tokyo Olympics
The fact that the Games went ahead during the pandemic despite strong public opposition in Japan showed the undemocratic principles that underpin the organization. -- New York Times

Monday, August 2, 2021



Willie Nelson headlines protest against anti-voting legislation in Texas

Lloyd Green 

QAnon is their creed, Trump is their Caesar and Gladiator remains the movie for our time. -- Guardian

Dr. Anthony Fauci 

...says unvaccinated Americans are "propagating this outbreak...But the issue is, if you're going to be part of the transmission chain to someone else, then your decision is impacting someone else. It's not only impacting you. And you've got to think about it, that you are a member of society and you have a responsibility." -- Face The Nation

Willie Nelson 

"It is important that we ensure the right for EVERY American to vote and vote safely...

...Laws making it more difficult for people to vote is un-American and are intended to punish poor people, people of color, the elderly, and disabled - why? If you can't win playing by the rules, then it's you and your platform — not everyone else's ability to vote."  -- At Poor People's Campaign March in Austin, TX.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Congressional Whack-a-Mole in hard times

Against the backdrop of the Jan. 6 riot and with Delta sweeping the unvaxed part of the country, voting rights under attack, and millions threatened with eviction, House leaders are keeping busy playing Whack-a-Mole with each other. 

MAGA Party House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy threatened (jokingly?) to bop House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the noggin with the speaker's gavel during a glitzy fundraising dinner in Tennessee on Saturday night.

A war of words between the two party leaders escalated when McCarthy joined other Republicans in vehemently protesting a mask mandate the Capitol physician reimposed and Pelosi supported.

McCarthy went on to say that, should the GOP manage to flip the House in 2022 and if he were to become the speaker, he would find it difficult to resist hitting Pelosi with the speaker's gavel.
"It will be hard not to hit her with it but I will bang it down," McCarthy said.

I call this bipartisan foreplay.