Friday, June 18, 2021

I want an elected school board but this bill stinks


House lawmakers passed the Chicago elected school board bill Wednesday, dealing a blow to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, even as enough potential flaws in the measure were identified that a trailer bill with substantive changes is already in the works.
-- IL Playbook

As my readers know, I've been an active supporter of an elected representative school board for Chicago for many years. Here's a piece I wrote in Crain's back in 2015 and another I wrote in Huffington Post in 2011. There were many more.

Now after 26 years of mayoral control, Chicago Public Schools is on the verge of monumental change as it looks ahead to an elected board. In 1995, a Republican-controlled state legislature gave then-Mayor Daley full authority over the schools, including the appointment of the board members who would hire the district's CEO. 

Almost a decade has passed since 87% of 80,000 Chicago residents voted in a non-binding referendum in 13% of the city’s precincts in favor of an elected school board. If surveys were taken today, support for an elected board probably wouldn't be quite that high. That's because the current board, hand-picked by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, is a far cry from the ones chosen by Daley and Rahm Emanuel in that it's not loaded with wealthy cronies, campaign donors, school closers, and privatizers. It is undoubtedly the most progressive and uncorrupt school board we've ever had in Chitown. It's also been almost a decade since a mayor hand-picked a schools chief who ended up in the penitentiary

But still, I think it's about time that invested parents and community members have more of a direct voice in running their schools. Chicago is currently the only district in the entire state that doesn't elect its school board. 

After all the years of failed attempts, I still favor an elected board but I'm not jumping for joy over the apparent passage of the current ERSB bill. In simple language, the bill sucks and I doubt it will fly for very long in its current form. 

First and foremost, it sucks because once passed, it won't take effect until 2025. Then in the 2026 general election, the 10 spots on the Board that were previously appointed by the mayor would be up for election to four-year terms beginning in January 2027, at which point the board would become fully elected. 

2027! That's long after many of our current pols and political players will even be around to be held accountable. State reps serve two-year terms in IL while state senators serve for four years.

This recalls the passage of the state's $15/hour minimum wage bill passed in 2019 with a six-year ramp-up. Hungry families and their children can't wait that long to put food on the table. 

So much can change in six years. Who knows what new crises or political splits will arise between now and then, or even if our vulnerable system of public education will remain intact in post-pandemic Chicago? 

It also sucks because a 21-member board, coming from 21 politically defined districts, is much too unwieldy, too politicized (in the bad sense of the word), and bureaucratic. Its size makes it too easy for big-monied, reactionary, anti-public-school political interests to influence the outcomes of small-turnout elections, as they are now doing in state after state. 

The bill sucks because it disenfranchises the thousands of immigrants who have children in CPS but are living here without official documentation. They won't be allowed to vote under the current bill. This in contrast to Chicago Local School Council elections where all parents, teachers, and community members are allowed to vote regardless of immigration status. In the current bill, teachers are forbidden to run for the board. On LSCs, they are guaranteed two seats on the council. 

There are lots more flaws in the current bill, and the funny thing is, everybody involved in the drafting and passage of the bill seems to recognize its shortcomings. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will sign the bill into law even while admitting that he favored a smaller board. 

Veteran progressive political activist Miguel del Valle, the current president of the Chicago Board of Education, said he’d campaigned publicly for an elected school board for a decade but couldn’t support a 21-person body. “We can’t have a school board that is twice as large as the largest elected school board in the country. Down the road, I could see dysfunction, stalemates, all kinds of issues."

Rep. Bob Rita voiced what some lawmakers were thinking: 

“I’m hoping that we’re not going to go forward and that this is going to be something that, down the line, we’re going to say our intentions were right and we did it wrong."

Lightfoot still sees "a path forward” after sponsor Rep. Delia Ramirez put a hold on the measure. Her procedural move temporarily prevents the bill from going to Gov. Pritzker’s desk, protects it from meddling opponents, and allows Lightfoot some time to talk with lawmakers about her concerns. 

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch says the bill could be on hold for a few weeks while the mayor works with lawmakers.

So why was there such a rush to pass it in its current dismal form? The answer, in short, is that the bill was originally drafted by the mayor's sworn political enemies like State Rep. Rob Martwick and the leaders of the CTU, who have never gotten over Lightfoot's landslide election victory over their chosen candidate, Toni Prechwinkle. For them, the important thing was dealing a political blow to the mayor. 

Reporters are referring to the bill's passage as "a defeat for the mayor." I don't see it that way. In the end, the bill will be the result of a compromise. The perception of the bill as being mainly a political football, rather than a benefit for the schools, speaks for itself. But no bill is going to succeed without negotiations and compromises with the mayor. 

The mayor's opponents may be jumping for joy right now, but I'm not. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Biden's anti-China pitch not going well at the G-7


As Biden preaches collective security and prosperity to the Group of Seven rich democracies, the European Union and NATO, he has to reckon that “the key threat is inside, it’s us. It’s not Russia, it’s not China, it’s not extremism, it’s not Afghanistan, it’s us.”
--  Charles Kupchan, Obama security advisor on European Affairs. 

Biden's call for a united front against China isn't going over well with everyone at the G-7 meeting, according to a report in today's WaPo.  
A senior U.S. official who spoke with reporters following a morning session largely devoted to China described like-mindedness about concerns over Chinese behavior but a difference of opinion about how to respond. He listed Britain, Canada and France as having quickly backed Biden’s view, but it was not immediately clear where the others stood.

The problem for Biden is that China remains Europe's second-largest trading partner, behind only the U.S. itself. Plus, Biden, despite his claim that "America is back," still has a tough road ahead when it comes to re-establishing the U.S. as a reliable partner.  

Biden's biggest problem is that despite his post-Trump popularity and high approval ratings, he's been unable to deliver on his own policy initiatives back home despite Democrat's control of the House and Senate.

Angela Merkel, who is skeptical of Biden's hard anti-China stance, doesn't want to risk Germany's export of millions of cars to China annually.

Even Japan, which has had a tense relationship with China going back to WWII, is still a close neighbor and trading partner and has also been wary.

And Italy signed a 2019 memorandum of understanding with China to join its “Belt and Road Initiative,” the sprawling infrastructure development project that the G-7 is now attempting to compete with. 

Biden's charge against China's Belt and Road -- that it "leaves poorer nations saddled with debt" -- could make cynics out of the most pollyannish Europeans. After all, hasn't it been the IMF and the World Bank that have become infamous for destabilizing national economies and forcing austerity on much of the world, including Europe? 

China's unbelievably rapid rise as an alternative to the IMF is winning them favor in much of the poorest countries in Asia and Africa. Plus China has done it without warring against other countries or imposing regime change on them. While the U.S. and wealthy European countries have just announced their willingness to distribute the Covid vaccine to the neediest countries, China has been far out on this.

Several of the G-7 countries are already deeply invested along with China in fighting global climate change. China was the first country to adopt a carbon-neutral pledge for 2060.

WaPo reports that, 

Britain and Italy are co-chairs of a major international climate conference later this year and seek China’s help to meet targets.

Biden could gain back some lost U.S. respectability at the G-7, especially since he's following in Trump's wake. But he will likely have to retreat on much of his hardline anti-China framework for the meeting.  

Friday, June 11, 2021

G-7 Cold Warriors gather in St. Ives


As I was Going to St. Ives
BY ANONYMOUS
As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

Answer: G7

Today the G7 summit begins in the tiny village of St. Ives in this corner of Cornwall – a holiday idyll fast resembling a military Green Zone – rumours are rife. Residents question environmental destruction, disruption and sheer astronomical cost of the summit - which will see world leaders ensconced in luxury hotels minutes from some of UK’s most deprived areas... This is a tourist resort that increasingly feels like an occupied enclave.
While Biden et al will be put up at the luxury Tregenna Castle (sea views, sub-tropical gardens, on-site golf course), the billets here do not appear to even come with their own toilets. Its communal loos all round. Ironically, perhaps, given this is thought to be a police or security base, only a few fields away is the site where thousands of Extinction Rebellion protestors will be camping. -- The Independent
Pres. Biden's G7 game plan calls for a Cold War united-front against China with the U.S. and U.K. at its center. Biden is relying on support for the plan coming from Boris Johnson. But its doubtful that other G7 members will play along and internal conflicts are bound to arise.

Johnson so far, seems quite willing to play along with the so-far evidence-free "lab-leak" story as part of the anti-China narrative. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin says the "vigorous hyping up" of the lab leak theory on the part of American politicians reminds him of the early 2000s when Americans were "hyping up the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction." -- Newsweek

Sounds about right to me.



Remember, it was Biden who previously referred to Johnson as, "a physical and emotional clone'" of Trump. In case you don't know where all this is heading in terms of politics here in the U.S., Biden blamed Johnson's Conservative Party winning a parliamentary majority on its rival Labour Party "moving too far left."

The current G7 meeting appears to represent a break from Trump's "America First" isolationism. But Biden's anti-China posturing and his call for sanctions and more barriers to Chinese trade echo Trump's trade war policies. It's a call for an unholy alliance that will be hard for the U.S. to sustain given that the European Union and China are two of the biggest traders in the world. China is now the EU's second-biggest trading partner behind the United States and the EU is China's biggest trading partner.

If there's a positive coming from the G7, it could be Biden's announcement that the U.S. and European countries are prepared to donate a billion doses to the poorest countries, hardest hit by the pandemic. But their motives are obvious.

AP reports that the well-funded global alliance has faced a slow start to its vaccination campaign, as richer nations have locked up billions of doses through contracts directly with drug manufacturers. As a result, the U.S. and wealthy European countries are now racing to catch up with China’s moves to establish itself as a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.

According to the New York Times
Last summer, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, heralded the promise of a Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine as a global public good. So far, he appears to be making good on that pledge. 
Maybe some benefits may yet come out of U.S.-China competition provided that the U.S. cold war push is somehow constrained.

Monday, June 7, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

R.I.P. 'CHUY' NEGRETE -- “He was an educator of the highest extreme,” James Edward Olmos said of the Chicago writer of corridos some called the ‘Chicano Woody Guthrie.’ “He would go to prisons. He would go to schools. He would go to universities.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) 

“One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping [Biden’s] new administration.” -- [I know this is a quote from last month. Just making a point.]

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez 

The Bush-appointed federal judge overturned California's long-standing ban on assault rifles after equating AR-15s with Swiss Army knives. “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez said in the ruling. -- Washington Post 

Carol Burris, Network for Public Education

It is easy to blame Betsy DeVos for giving a $26.6 million grant to a state whose charter sector has come under repeated fire for increasing segregation in an already segregated school system. Now the Biden administration and Secretary Miguel Cardona own the grant. Indeed, they own the whole flawed Charter Schools Program. -- Answer Sheet 

 Monica Martinez, associate professor of history at the University of Texas 

"Whether lessons about racial violence take place in classrooms or on historical markers, if you can teach people how to study how power worked 100 years ago, you are also teaching them how to study how power works today.” -- Washington Post

Carol Anderson is the author of White Rage 

For too long, the second amendment has been portrayed with a founding fathers aura swaddled in the stars and stripes...In other words, concerns about keeping enslaved Black people in check are the context and background to the second amendment. The same holds true for today. -- Guardian 

Monday, May 31, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

 Already there have been more global cases in 2021 than in all of 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Dr. Anthony Fauci 

“We don’t want to declare victory prematurely because we still have a ways to go." -- Guardian
Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Chicago school board member

"Turnaound is a relic..." -- Chalkbeat Chicago 

Rebecca Solnit

Stop glorifying ‘centrism’. It is an insidious bias favoring an unjust status quo. -- Guardian

Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, the bill's sponsor

“For years, folks were showing up to Chicago Police Board meetings for their civic duty and every citizen who showed up experienced a background check. That’s a violation of so many people’s rights.” -- -- Capitol Fax

Fred Klonsky

We live in a country where the state legislature must mandate play but congress doesn't need to approve a war. -- Tweet

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Trump Party confederates are still whistling 'Dixie'


Of course, the neo-confederate GOP leadership is opposed to another probe of their 1/6 attempted coup d'etat. To them, the coup wasn't a crime but rather a great success that will enable them to seize back the power they lost in the election in much the same way as their forebearers did it in 1861. D.T. is their Jefferson Davis. Like Trump, Davis never surrendered his white supremacist lost cause.

The final vote was 54-35, but Republicans withheld the votes necessary to bring the bill up for debate. Just six GOP senators joined with the Democrats today, leaving the measure short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.

According to the recent Reuters/Ipos poll, 53% of Republicans believe Trump, their party's nominee, is the “true president” now, compared to 3% of Democrats and 25% of all Americans. The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that 61% of Republicans believe the election was "stolen" from Trump. 

More to the point, the confederates not only believe it, but MAGA politicians are actively working to pass new restrictive voting laws in their states, laws they hope will enable them to limit the voting impact of the new Black/Latinx/immigrant majority and consolidate their ideological hold on millions of their followers while paving their way back into the majority in both houses in 2022 and into the White House in 2024. 

The neo-confederates are also using their power to impose restrictions on what teachers can or cannot teach about the history of slavery and racial discrimination. The've especially targeted the 1619 Curriculum and its creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, along with Critical Race Theory as wedge issues to spread fear and whip up a white backlash. 

The question is, how will Biden and the Democrats respond? How many concessions will Biden, Schumer and Pelosi make in the name of "bipartisanship"? 

Jefferson Davis was imprisoned after the Civil War, a fate that should await D.T. and his fellow neo-confederate leaders. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Delmarie Cobb offers her take on Chicago's press corps

Delmarie Cobb on Hitting Left radio in 2017. 

Veteran media and political consultant, Delmarie Cobb responded, in her recent newsletter, to Lori  Lightfoot's decision to give preferential interviews to journalists of color on Lightfoot's second anniversary as Mayor of Chicago. 

Cobb agrees with Lightfoot's assessment of the current predominantly-white City Hall press corps and then takes it to the next level. 

Yes, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a point about the predominantly white press corps. With the retirements of Charles Thomas of ABC/7 and Derrick Blakley of CBS/2, there is a small number of high profile, seasoned political reporters covering City Hall and Springfield for the mainstream media who are Black.

That still doesn’t address the near extinction of community media outlets and the role they play in nurturing and cultivating qualified journalists. It was the Chicago Defender that produced political journalists Vernon Jarrett and Lu Palmer. Currently, there are a number of working reporters in Chicago who got their start in the field thanks to Black newspapers.

Cobb's point is well taken. While local media workers and staff, along with Guild leaders, like the Tribune's Gregg Pratt, we're righteously outraged about the Alden hedge-funder's takeover of the Tribune Co. and even went begging for some benevolent billionaire to replace Alden,  they've been deadly silent for years about the takedown of community media outlets, especially those that were Black-owned. 

They were much more vocal and militant when it came to pushing back on Lightfoot's affirmative-action move, even joining in chorus with the likes of Tucker Carlson and Ted Cruz in their condemnation of supposed "reverse racism."

As the Alden hedge-funders dismantle the last of the city's remaining newspapers, it's worth recalling Ben Franklin's old dictum: Hang together or hang separately.

Monday, May 24, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES


The Biden administration set aside $4 billion to help minority farmers. White farmers, echoing some old-guard Chicago journalists, complain that leveling the playing field amounts to "reverse racism."

“We’re getting the short end,” said John Wesley Boyd Jr., a Virginia bean and grain farmer who is also the founder of the National Black Farmers Association. “Anytime in the United States, if there’s money for Blacks, those groups speak up and say how unfair it is. But it’s not unfair when they’re spitting on you when they’re calling you racial epithets when they’re tearing up your application.” -- NYT 
Columnist Laura Washington

Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor, frequently called out the media for the whiteness in the City Hall press room. -- Sun-Times

Tucker Carlson

"Equity is racism..." -- Fox News 

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media studies at UVA

What is at stake with Nikole Hannah-Jones being denied tenure?

...The 1619 project sparked a furious blowback from conservatives who don’t like to be reminded that Black people are allowed to tell the story of America as well and that history is always under revision as new knowledge emerges and new questions rise. -- Guardian

Father Michael Pfleger

After nearly 5 months of being removed from St. Sabina because of False Accusations, I am overjoyed to announce that the Archdiocese of Chicago has said " there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations "  I am being reinstated as Senior Pastor of  St Sabina. -- FB Post

Journalist Jamie Kalven on police complaint database

Kalven told aldermen that a city-run database would represent a “paradigm shift” in how the city discloses complaints against officers and “significantly reduce demands” on city staff charged with providing documents via the Freedom of Information Act. -- WTTW

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Mayor's round of interviews with journos provokes cries of ‘reverse racism’

Breaking... Lightfoot gives an exclusive interview to a young, Black, & critical journalist. And guess what? Chicago doesn’t crumble into the lake. 

Of all the attacks on Mayor Lori Lightfoot's challenge to the long-standing, embedded system of white-skin privilege in the ranks of City Hall reporters, there's one that creeped me out the most.

No, it wasn't NBC anchor Mary Ann Ahern's -- "Does [Mayor Lightfoot] think I’m racist?"

Nor was it Trib reporter and Guild Prez Greg Pratt's claim that political leaders shouldn't be allowed to choose who they give interviews to. Of course, that is complete nonsense. It's hard to think of a president, governor, senator, or Chicago mayor who hasn't chosen a journo to interview them. The Mayor's choice of a journalist of color over the traditionally white old City Hall guard was clearly making a point and a good point.

Pratt's pushback against Lightfoot's call for newsroom diversity put him on the same shaky ground with fellow Tribune columnist and Chicago's premier defender of whiteness, John Kass

In case anyone doubts Kass's premiership, check out  his faux-hip Twitter post calling Chicago's first Black, gay, and female mayor, "Mayor Wokeness." Ugh!

No, it wasn't even retired CBS newsman, Jay Levine, also writing in the Trib, who accused MLL of trying to "run the newsrooms." I can't imagine that there were many Black women running Levine's CBS newsrooms back in the day. Levine even claimed that the Mayor's directive was "unconstitutional." He could be proven right if his case against media affirmative action ever came up before the current Trump-packed SCOTUS. 

No one should have been surprised then when a rag-tag chorus of right-wing MAGAs and white supremacists, took the local's lead and chimed in on the issue. From Tucker Carlson ("Lightfoot is a 'Nazi' and a "monster") to Ted Cruz crying "reverse racism." I would expect nothing less from Trumpies. Remember it was Trump himself who used his Twitter feed to launch almost daily misogynistic and racist rants targeting mostly urban, Democratic, female mayors including Mayor Lightfoot.

Although I admit I was somewhat amazed at how Lightfoot's provocative interview offer even became national grist for the Fox News mill. Was it Carlson's folly or Lightfoot's intention? I would guess, the latter. 

Okay, back to my opening point. I admit that what really got to me was the headline on the Sun-Times editorial page with this old saw:

Lightfoot raises the right point about diversity in Chicago journalism — but in the wrong way.
How many times have I heard this mantra over the past 60 years? We support your cause, but not the way you -- protesters, unions, civil rights leaders, King, SNCC, Baker, Harold Washington, Panthers, Black Lives Matter... -- are going about it.  

OK then S-T, Tribune, Washington Post, and the rest of the local and national corporate media. If you don't like the Mayor's way show us your way. Where has it been?

OTHER VOICES:


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Weak local media coverage of the protests

Thousands march in Brooklyn

Why has there been so little press coverage in Chicago media, aside from the small obligatory news reports, on the large, downtown protests, calling for an end to the Israeli attack on Gaza? Could it be because the marchers were overwhelmingly Palestinian and Arab? Or that the large protests, while militant, were mainly peaceful and disciplined? 

It seems that unless there are violent confrontations with police or rioting at protests, editors are relegating coverage of anti-war demonstrations to small stories on back pages with little or no in-depth reporting. 

I was also dumbstruck by the national timid media response to Israel's missile attack which leveled the building that housed AP/Al Jazeera/BBC offices in Gaza. 

A fake news story in Business Insider and elsewhere, claimed that former Associated Press editor, Matt Friedman, had backed Israel’s claim that the Hamas did, in fact, have offices inside the building.  

The Israel Defense Forces claimed the building contained military-intelligence assets for Hamas, including "intel for attacks against Israel." But they offered no proof or hard evidence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was all over the Sunday news shows calling the building a "perfectly legitimate target," and "a tower of terror." 

The Insider reports:

But Matti Friedman, who worked as a reporter and editor at the AP's Jerusalem bureau from 2006 to 2011, contradicted his former employer on Sunday, tweeting: "A conversation with a friend who is intimately familiar with military decision-making right now suggests there were indeed Hamas offices there."

But then, Friedman tweets in response:

In my two essays from 2014, I gave multiple examples of the way news organizations like the AP had been compromised by Hamas in Gaza. Contrary to what I’ve seen attributed to me today, I didn’t write that Hamas operated out of the same building, and don’t know if that’s true.

I have no idea as to whether or not Hamas really had an office in the building. But even if they did, given the fact that Hamas is part of the existing government coalition supported by most Palestinian citizens of Gaza and the West Bank, Israel's rationale for its missile strike against the foreign press offices has rightfully drawn international condemnation

Monday, May 17, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES ...'Palestinian lives matter' -- Bernie Sanders

Israeli missiles destroy AP/Al Jazeera/BBC media offices in Gaza

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi

“Palestinians are at best third-class citizens in the nation of their birth. The idea that it’s even remotely controversial to call what Israel has imposed on Palestinians a form of apartheid is laughable.” -- Velshi

Peter Beinart, editor at large of Jewish Currents

"In our bones, Jews know that when you tell a people to forget its past you are not proposing peace. You are proposing extinction." -- Jewish Currents
Sen. Bernie Sanders

“[I]f the United States is going to be a credible voice on human rights on the global stage, we must uphold international standards of human rights consistently, even when it’s politically difficult. We must recognize that Palestinian rights matter. Palestinian lives matter.” -- New York Times Op-ed

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad 

“President Biden has the political power and moral authority to stop these injustices. We urge him to stand on the side of the victims and not the victimizer." -- Politico

 

Apartheid states aren’t democracies.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

15 years later, CPS reclaims Duncan's AUSL 'turnaround schools'.

Piccolo parents protest the takeover of their school by AUSL in 2012. (Katie Osgood pic) 

"Yet for all the public attention, AUSL's results have been mixed; many students have made considerable progress, but as a group they still lag well behind district averages ... with many ending up on par or even below comparable neighborhood schools."
-- Chicago Tribune, 2/6/2012

Yesterday, CPS announced that it was reclaiming the so-called "turnaround schools" which were handed over to the private management and teacher training company, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) in 2006. 

All I can say about this break from Arne Duncan's privatization "reforms" carried out under the banner of Renaissance 2010 and then rebranded as Race to the Top during his term as Sec. of Education, is -- it's about time. 

Lacking any research base and built on the false premise that private companies, hedge funders, and power philanthropists could best operate public institutions, AUSL's school takeover turned out to be an expensive and dismal flop.

AUSL was founded and run by Chicago venture capitalist Martin Koldyke, who used his connections and big campaign donations to become a powerhouse in the school turnaround business. Koldyke, a golf buddy of then-Mayor Daley, decided he could save the public school system by running it like a business. Koldyke's company, Frontenac, had been a big investor in for-profit colleges like DeVry and Rasmussen College.

Despite AUSL schools ranking at or near the bottom of the system, the company benefited from backing from Daley, and then from Rahm Emanuel. Rahm even selected a former AUSL top executive to oversee CPS' finances and named AUSL's previous board chairman, David Vitale, as president of the CPS Board of Education. With virtual control of the board and the central office, Koldyke was assured of a stable funding pipeline to his then 19 turnaround schools, even in the midst of a budget crisis when neighborhood schools were being starved of operating cash.

But as I pointed out here in 2012, 

 Chicago's turnarounds failed to meet even their own criteria of success and they paled in comparison to a large group of neighborhood schools being run more democratically with popularly-elected Local School Councils. More than 60 elementary-level high-poverty schools that have made school-based democracy a reality, out-achieved the top Turnaround School.
I still remember Duncan speaking to Dodge Elementary parents who were angry over his handing their school over to AUSL, without any input from the community, and promising them that they would be thrilled with his new Renaissance alternatives. 

WBEZ's Becky Vevea wrote at the time:

In 2008, Dodge was where then president-elect Barack Obama announced Duncan as his pick for Secretary of Education.

“He’s shut down failing schools and replaced their entire staffs, even when it was unpopular,” Obama said at the time. “This school right here, Dodge Renaissance Academy, is a perfect example. Since this school was revamped and reopened in 2003, the number of students meeting state standards has more than tripled.”

But fast forward another five years, turnarounds Dodge and Williams were closing their doors after being labeled as low-performing schools. And by 2013, CPS  had closed many of the schools Duncan had created.

Four years after it was opened CPS pulled the plug on “turnaround” school, Bethune Elementary. The Bethune staff had all been fired when AUSL took over. Duncan claimed that a "clean slate" would lead to better schools. He would go on to push that same baseless claim at the D.O.E., withholding federal funds from school districts unless they closed schools and fired teachers in mass.

Good move, CPS and Mayor Lightfoot in bringing these 31 schools back home to CPS and in taking steps to put the public back in public schooling. There's still a long way to go on that one.

Monday, May 10, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Day 5 of the march from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965. The struggle continues. 

Nina Perales, vice president of litigation with MALDEF
“This phrase ['purity of the ballot'] in a modern bill is racism’s calling card.” -- Washington Post.
Outgoing CPS CEO Janice Jackson
“Jackson is proud of her accomplishments and says to critics who say she could have done more: ‘If I could deal with hundreds of years of racism and a century of disinvestment in Black and Brown communities in Chicago in four years or seven years, then I’m Jesus Christ.’” -- Sun-Times 
Bill Gates on his meetings with Epstein
“Every meeting where I was with him were meetings with men. I was never at any parties or anything like that. He never donated any money to anything that I know about." -- Daily Beast
Gordon Brown, former British prime minister
“This is a manmade catastrophe. By our failure to extend vaccination more rapidly to every country, we are choosing who lives and who dies.” -- Guardian

 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Firing squads replacing lethal drugs as the weapons of choice in carrying out state murders in S.C.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” Lee told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.

To their credit, some pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, have refused to sell death-penalty states the drugs they need to carry out lethal injections. I can't be sure if their refusal stems from fear of legal action against them. Perhaps there's simply greater profitability in flooding the market with prescription opioids than there is in rarely used death injections. I don't know. 

But the lack of availability of lethal drugs has become the rationale behind a bill approved this week by the South Carolina State House. It calls for firing squads to be used alongside execution and injection to kill death row prisoners. The lack of drugs, they say, is a key reason the state has not executed anyone in 10 years. 

The bill appears almost certain to become law in the next few days, and is being lauded by Republicans, including Gov. Henry McMaster. Passage would make South Carolina the fourth state — along with Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah — in which death by firing squad is an option for the condemned.

The firing squad measure was proposed by State Senator Richard A. Harpootlian, a Democrat and former prosecutor, who drafted the firing squad bill, claiming that it was more humane than the electric chair. 

“It’s an extraordinarily gruesome, horrendous process,” Harpootlian said of electrocution, “where they essentially catch on fire and don’t die immediately.”

Hard to argue that point. But calling death by firing squad "humane" only shows the depths to which a society and a culture can sink, especially when it is led by a gang of fascists and white supremacists, as is the case with South Carolina. 

             ___________________________________________________

Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders. -- Albert Camus

People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty. -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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IN ARKANSAS... cries to end the death penalty have fallen on deaf ears. At any rate, they are far too late for Ledell Lee, a black man who was executed in 2017 for the murder of his Jacksonville neighbor, Debra Reese, in 1993, and who maintained his innocence up until his execution. Now recently-released evidence appears to confirm that another person probably committed the crime.

According to a report from the Innocence Project and ACLU, DNA from an unknown man who is not Ledell Lee was found on the handle of the murder weapon. That same DNA was also found on the bloody white shirt wrapped around the club. Five fingerprints taken from the crime scene were also tested. None belonged to Lee.

But that's the problem with the death penalty. There are no do-overs. 

P.S...At a news conference on Tuesday, cold-blooded, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended Lee’s execution. “It’s my duty to carry out the law,” he said, adding that “the fact is that the jury found him guilty based upon the information that they had.” 

Monday, May 3, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

CNN anchor, Jim Acosta calls "BS" on Fox

"That tale from the border didn't just border on BS, this was USDA Grade-A bullsh*t. -- Raw Story

Rick Ayers -- Capitalism is killing us

The big US and European pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna, hold patents on the counter-COVID vaccines and the accompanying formulas they’ve developed, keeping the processes of production under wraps. -- Medium

Sec. of State Anthony Blinken on Afghan pullout

 Just because our troops are coming home doesn't mean we're leaving. We're not. -- 60 Minutes

 Eric Goldstein on Israeli apartheid

To bring real change, we need to call the situation what it is: an oppressive and discriminatory system that shows no signs of going away, and that meets the legal definition of apartheid. -- Human Rights Watch
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves
On the penultimate day of the Confederate Heritage Month Gov. Reeves made a bold declaration: “There is not systemic racism in America.” -- Mississippi Free Press
Ali Velshi 
Arizona recently chose to out-source its rights and responsibilities to recount ballots to a private company run by a CEO who has been spreading the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen. -- MSNBC

Rebecca Solnit

Ideas put forth in the Green New Deal in 2019, seen as radical at the time, are now the kind of stuff President Biden routinely proposes in his infrastructure and jobs plans. -- Guardian

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Biden's Cold War mentality detracts from his progressive initiatives


We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century. -- Pres. Biden's address to Congress last night 

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. -- Pres. Eisenhower, 1953

That last quote is from Eisenhower's Chance For Peace speech in 1953.  It took the former 4-Star General to warn us against the country's exploding post-war military budget. But as the Cold War deepened during his administration, political pressures for increased military spending mounted. By the time he left office in 1961, he felt it necessary to warn of the military-industrial complex in his farewell address.

I was reminded of Ike's warning last night, listening to Pres. Biden couch all of his ambitious (but not adequate) $6-trillion post-pandemic infrastructure rebuilding and jobs programs in jingoist, America First,  anti-China, Cold War rhetoric. 

Biden called on Congress to invest in infrastructure, education, child care, civil rights, and science calling them programs that will allow the U.S. to win a competition with China. Like Trump, Biden is committed to a distinctly anti-China global strategy rooted in fears of American decline.

Yes, those investments are exactly what we need. But not for the sake of winning some mythical and dangerous global race to the top. Remember, that was Arne Duncan's rationale for pushing testing madness and school privatization when he was Obama's ed secretary. My 4-year-old granddaughter doesn't need to be prepared in pre-school to compete with 4-year-olds in China or Switzerland for global hegemony, thank you. 

It's this kind of thinking that has led to the global vaccine wars when international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic could have saved millions of lives and prevented the current catastrophe in India. 

It has also led Biden to push for a bloated Pentagon budget that's even larger than Trump's. The rationale behind the push has to do with illusory U.S. imperial ambitions to impose its will on other countries and engage in regime change when it can. These ambitions leave me even more skeptical about his planned withdrawal of the remaining troops in Afghanistan. Are they really being brought home or simply being redeployed for continuing conflict in the region? Does a redeployment mean a new buildup of American military power to confront China and Iran?

Yes, according to a report in today's NYT:

The Pentagon is looking to place troops near Afghanistan to track and attack militant groups if they threaten the United States. Possibilities in the region include Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but those countries are under the sway of Russia to one degree or another, Attack planes aboard aircraft carriers and long-range bombers flying from land bases along the Persian Gulf and even in the United States could strike insurgent fighters spotted by armed surveillance drones. 

Or is the China yellow-peril ("they're closing in on us") fearmongering simply being used as a way to appeal to resistant Trump Party members in a vain attempt to build "bipartisan" support for his new initiatives? If it is, it's a pipe dream. 

Biden recounted:

I also told President Xi that we will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo—Pacific just as we do with NATO in Europe – not to start conflict – but to prevent conflict." 

He failed to explain how putting U.S. warships in the South China Sea would prevent conflict rather than inevitably provoke a new one.  

China and other countries are closing in fast," warned Biden. "We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, and clean energy."

 Other countries "closing in" on us? What a myopic, paranoid, us-against-them view of the world.

Winning the 21st Century? What the hell does that even mean? Is the 21st Century a game? How do you know if you've won or lost? Who won the 20th?

Biden's guns-and-butter strategy is bound to bump heads with his progressive initiatives. That's too bad. They're worthwhile initiatives. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

 Multiple funeral pyres of those who died of COVID-19 burn in New Delhi.


Bill Gates

Directly asked during an interview with Sky News if he thought it "would be helpful" to have vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: "No." -- Salon

Moustafa Bayoumi

Officials talk about “catch and release” as if they are chatting about fish when they’re really talking about people’s lives. -- Guardian 

Simon Balto

A single guilty verdict or a single justice department investigation do not in and of themselves have the capacity to topple and replace violently oppressive systems that are generations in the making. -- Guardian

Paul Krugman

“Change is coming, whether we seek it or not.”
So declares a remarkable document titled “Preserving Coal Country,” released Monday by the United Mine Workers of America. -- NY Times

Labor attorney Thomas Geoghegan 

...described the NLRB process which hampered the Amazon workers union drive, as akin to a “bloodless bureaucratic death squad.”  -- Capital & Main

"We are not a match..."

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Real reform vs. sham reform

 


Some readers misread my previous post on MN's sham police reform as an indictment of reform efforts in general. That certainly wasn't my intention. I know there are some who maintain that police reform (and all reform) is a waste of time and "has never worked". I'm not one of them. As I pointed out in that piece, there are meaningless, lollipop reforms that are simply diversions, as well genuine, deep-going, comprehensive reforms that arise directly from people's struggle and are worthy of our support. Consider the current George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

While the racist and repressive character of our criminal justice system remains a constant, the movement in the streets, combined with strong and committed political leadership, can drive change and force constraints on racist policing. A good example is Newark, where cops did not fire a single shot during  calendar year 2020, and where the city didn’t pay a single dime to settle police brutality cases. That’s never happened, at least in the city’s modern history.

From 2015 to 2019, the Newark Police Department killed eight Black men, according to The Washington Post, more than any other department in the state. 

The changes in Newark were partly the result of strong leadership from Mayor Ras Baraka and from the constant pressure applied by the city's historically strong community and youth organizations. Newark is also operating under also a federally enforced consent decree. Under Baraka, the police have met with community groups, giving residents some control over law enforcement. Pressure from below, from the Black Lives Matter movement, has constrained police shootings. Meanwhile, serious crime in Newark has dropped by 40% in the last five years dispelling the notion that constraining the cops will increase crime.

Larry Hamm, long-time Newark community organizer and  head of the People’s Organization for Progress, points out:  “Police brutality is still a problem, but it’s fair to say the consent decree has had a real impact." Hamm was a protege of the late Amiri Baraka, the writer/activist who helped shape Newark's modern history.

Hamm and the POP want state lawmakers to pass a bill that would make civilian complaint review boards with subpoena power possible for all municipalities in New Jersey. He also called on state legislators to pass another bill that would make police disciplinary records public.

The Star-Ledger reports:

The reforms are the results of a federal consent decree, the billy club used by the Department of Justice after a long investigation concluded in 2014 revealed the rot that had infested the department for decades. It found a rogue department that tolerated widespread brutality and racism, with no accountability, and zero training on how to de-escalate confrontations with civilians.

Questions remain as to whether the reforms in Newark can hold. Cops are still using force against Black residents, and activists remain split on the future of public safety there. Newark is a majority-Black city with a poverty level above 63%. Black people are still disproportionately stopped, frisked, and arrested. The new year also brought Newark’s streak to an abrupt end. At 12:03 a.m. on January 1, 2021, plainclothes cops shot and killed Carl Dorsey, a 39-year-old father. The state’s attorney general is investigating the incident. 

But it's wrong to ignore or minimize the gains that have been made and the victories won, especially in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and a string of others. Yes, there's still a long, difficult road ahead but it's one worth taking. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Minnesota's move to keep cops from joining white supremacist groups misses the point.

What's wrong with this picture?

"Minnesota faces a moment of reckoning, where the interests and needs of many converge. The watershed events of the last year make it clear that communities of color cannot go on like this. Police officers also cannot go on like this."
-- Gov. Tim Walz

The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota's police licensing board (POST) has agreed to pursue new rules for law enforcement responses to protests and a ban on officers affiliating with white supremacist groups. 

But it seems to me that the proposed ban begs at least two important questions. The first being, why are the state's police departments so rife with white supremacists that such a ban is necessary? The second being, why are openly white supremacist and fascist groups even allowed to exist legally across the state (and nation)?

It seems pointless to recruit thousands of racists into a militarized police force, heavily arm them, point them mainly at communities of color, and then make unenforceable rules forbidding them to join outside racist groups. Like a host of other empty police reforms, this one only offers a diversion from the necessary and inevitable examination of the historic role of policing itself.

I'm also wondering if the proposed rules would bar cops from joining the state's Republican Party which has once again exposed its own white supremacist character in response to the police murders of George Floyd and Daunte Wright and the Derek Chauvin trial. Party leaders did everything they could to use the trial and the protests outside to attack civil rights icon, Rep. Maxine Waters rather than the murderers themselves. 

That's not to say, as some of my lefty friends do, that reform isn't possible. It is. For example, The comprehensive George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is certainly worth our support.

Side note ~ If such a rule was proposed here in Chicago, they'd have to start by barring cops from joining their own union, the FOP, clearly the number-one white supremacist organization in the state. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Benjamin Crump, civil rights attorney

“The outcome that we pray for and Derek Chauvin is for him to be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd, because we believe that could be a precedent,” Crump told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “Finally making America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. That means all of us - Black people, Hispanic people, Native people - all of us.” -- Guardian

Dr. David Williams
Dr. David Williams, Harvard public health professor 

“There are racial disparities in health in the United States. Over 200 Black people die prematurely every single day." -- 60 Minutes

John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua 

"China and the United States are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis." -- China-U.S. Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis

Eliot Cohen, Dean of SAIS at Johns Hopkins

In important aspects of foreign and national-security policy, the Biden administration is really the Trump administration but with civilized manners. -- The Atlantic

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Is anybody buying this oft-told tale?



Following the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Little Village on March 29th, CPD began spreading a story to local media alleging that a Chicago street gang was planning to avenge Toledo's death by murdering cops. Will this rumor be enough to legitimize Officer Eric Stillman's shooting of Toledo who had his hands up with no gun present at the moment he was gunned down.

In case the cops weren't already operating with a hair-trigger response mentality, CPD leaders immediately began issuing a “officer safety alerts” to street cops claiming that the department’s narcotics unit had learned that factions of the Latin Kings in the Ogden patrol district on the Southwest Side “were instructed by ranking members to shoot at unmarked Chicago police vehicles.”

They offered no evidence to back up this tale. Neither have any LK leaders been identified as part of the alleged conspiracy or charged. This was on April 3rd. Today is the 17th and still not one reported revenge shooting which leads me to believe the planted story was a load of FOP crap.

It's too soon to tell if the story is credible, you say. Give it time to see if any of these attacks actually occur.

Well actually, I have given it some time because this same story has been popping up after police shootings for years.

First, check out this NY Post story from Sept. 2020 where the FBI warns of a supposed plot by Chicago gangs to ambush cops.

Dozens of Chicago street gangs have made a pact to “shoot on-sight any cop that has a weapon drawn on any subject in public,” according to an FBI warning.

The FBI’s “Potential Activity Alert” warns that almost three dozen gangs have reached the agreement, including the Vice Lords, Black P Stones and Latin Kings, according to ABC7 Chicago, which obtained a copy.

Then there's this FOX News story from 2016

Leaders from three Chicago gangs reportedly met last week to discuss plans to kill police officers in response to the officer-involved shooting death of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal.

The Chicago Sun-Times, citing an alert issued to Chicago officers, reported Monday that the meeting took place on Thursday between the gangs Vice Lords, Black Disciples and Four Corner Hustlers.

According to the paper, the Four Corner Hustlers have “provided guns” and pinpointed a “sniper in place.” However, authorities are still unsure where the alleged sniper spot is placed. The gang is also funneling weapons to the other two gangs

 What is true is that dozens of cops have been shot in the line of duty. But so far there have been no verified links between any of those shootings and these alleged conspiracies. It's time to stop spreading these potentially deadly rumors.