Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If Chicago could vote, Claypool wouldn't have been CEO in first place.

Marching through the rain yesterday through Chicago Loop. 
Visitors in town yesterday from the west coast were awed by this city's political life. First by the march for immigrant rights and Fight For15 march they encountered on their drive in and second, by the vote of "no confidence" in schools CEO Forrest Claypool, they read about this morning.

The conversation made me recall the reasons I left the warmth, smog, the earthquakes and my beloved Dodgers in L.A. for the frozen winter tundra and steamy summers of the Windy City back in 1968 and then again in 1975.

Yes, I explained, if you miss the protest today, stick around. There will be another tomorrow. This is a vibrant political and cultural community, a union town and a sanctuary city. It was here that candidate Trump met his first major sign of mass resistance, turned a fled the city.

I've grown to love Chicago.

If Chicago could vote, Claypool would not be here. 

THE 99% VOTE OF CTU MEMBERS sent another powerful message both to the mayor and city and state officials, that Chicago teachers are a force to be reckoned with and that his hand-picked CEO has no juice as far as they are concerned.

The vote may give the mayor the excuse he's been looking for to get rid of this, his 3rd CEO and the 7th so far under mayor control began under Daley. We recall how Rahm Emanuel's second CEO, J.C. Brizard was hired after suffering his own vote of no-confidence back in his previous district of Rochester. Rahm and the Civic Committee must have taken that vote as a feather in Brizard's cap and a sign that he wouldn't be afraid to put the hammer down on the CTU and be a buffer for the mayor against political blow-back.

The result was Brizard's botched handling of the 2012 teachers strike leading to Rahm tossing him under the bus and J.C. himself getting back-stabbed by his own former friend and colleague, Barbara Byrd-Bennett. BBB was slipped in through the back elevator to replace Brizard in the contract negotiations. She then went on to close 50 schools four years ago this month. Then she committed fraud, bilking the city's school children out of millions.

She's on her way to prison. Claypool look like he's toast. But we will have to wait til the next election to get rid of Rahm Emanuel.

How will this vote of no confidence play out is anybody's guess. But it's already a win for the CTU, another show of unity in the face of Gov. Rauner's drastic budget cuts and the mayor's own failure to respond beyond making teachers bare the burden of the funding crisis.

It's also an indication of the mass support needed to end the budget crisis and win the right to an elected school board Chicago. If citizens could elect our school board here, Claypool wouldn't have been here in the first place.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An important fair housing victory in Chicago yesterday

I was part of the large crowd that packed the City Council chambers yesterday in support of Ald. John Arena's affordable  housing initiative in his 45th Ward. In past hearings, we've been out-organized by fear-mongering and (yes, I'll say it) racist groups who have spread fear of  an "invasion" of  renters, war veterans, people with disabilities, immigrants and people of color.

In this case, the fear mongering was led by John Garrido, who lost twice to Arena in previous elections and neighboring 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano. Garrido's forces have been organized into Northwest Side Unite and the Northwest Side GOP Club. Another local group, the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, which opposes the project, has a longtime policy of opposing up-zoning in the area. The opposition gets it money from Liberty Principles, a right-wing PAC funded by Dan Proft. 

Their arguments at yesterday's Zoning Committee hearing, often began with the disclaimer, "I'm not a racist..." A dead giveaway. And then there are some who claimed they would support the project if it was reduced to only four stories. Others claimed they were defending "local control" of their Jefferson Park, Addison Park and Portage Park neighborhoods against the "outsiders" from other areas of the city, bent on stirring up trouble. It's a tactic right out of Saul Alinsky's playbook and a reason I never bought into his model of community organizing. Ironically, Alinsky's book, Rules For Radicals, is the featured book for GOP Club's May reading group. 

Ald. John Arena talks with supporters 
The developer of the building at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. has agreed to make 20 of the apartments fully wheelchair accessible. Another 20 will be reserved for veterans. But if the height or number of apartments were reduced, the set-aside apartments would become unafordable.

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law warned the city’s Law Department that rejection of the project could be viewed as fair housing discrimination under federal civil rights laws.

Open and mixed income housing has always been more than a local ward issue in Chicago, often referred to as the most segregated city in the nation (see video below). This was clear to progressive groups like the Chicago Housing Initiative and Access Living who provided most of the troops at yesterday's hearing.

The hearing itself was almost painfully democratic, with speakers from both sides holding forth from two in the afternoon, into the early evening. But the final vote in support of Arena's plan was unanimous.

An important victory.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Teacher Patrick J. Kearney
You’ve now been the Secretary of Education for a few months and I have to say, we’ve moved from being freaked out to understanding that you are who we thought you were. -- Open Letter to Betsy DeVos
Kellyanne Conway after defending Trump
"I need to take a shower." -- Morning Joe
Anderson Cooper to Jeffrey Lord
 'If he took a dump on his desk, you'd defend it'. -- CNN
Trump to Russian officials
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off...I’m not under investigation.” -- New York Times
Trump to reporters in Saudi Arabia
“One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment, because nobody makes it like the United States.” -- Washington Post 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In L.A. another blow to public education

In the most expensive school board election in history, billionaire Eli Broad just bought himself a school system.

Insuring, for the first time, a pro-charter board majority, Nick Melvoin, the candidate of the charter industry, beat Steve Zimmer, 57-43% and Charter teacher Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez beat Imelda Padilla, 51-48%.

 At least $14 million was spent, most of it by the Broad-led charter forces to defeat Zimmer. In the two districts, only 75,000 people voted. 

In the 2013 elections, candidates supporting keeping public schools public, were able to overcome the big-money assault on board elections. But this time the flood of campaign spending was overwhelming.

With millions in his war chest, Melvoin was able to run an effective, but dirty campaign against Zimmer, who was backed by the teachers union. He falsely accused Zimmer of responsibility for the iPad debacle, which was in fact the pet project of corrupt former LAUSD superintendent John Deasy, a supporter of Melvoin. Deasy currently works for billionaire Eli Broad, who has proposed to put half the students in Los Angeles in privately-run charter schools.

As we work to pass elected school board legislation here in Chicago and put an end to the mayor's one-man control of the schools, the L.A. election should serve as a warning. There needs to be caps on board election spending. Otherwise it's too easy for corporate "reformers" and privatizers to buy CPS. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rahm's great ideas

Rahm considering taxing "high net-worth individuals". What a concept! 
Just to prove that I'm not a Rahm hater, I'll give a SmallTalk salute to two things the mayor said this week.

The first was meant as a warning to fellow Democrat bigwigs. Stop focusing so much on Trump and start fighting for middle-class and working families.
Emanuel is worried. He thinks everyone in Washington is too focused on the crazy around Trump to see what’s actually going on — and what’s not... “Talking to ourselves and persuading ourselves,” Emanuel said, “is not going to be the way you get to a majority.” (Politico)
Of course, he then went on and spent the rest of the interview talking about Trump.

But then this:
“I think there are certain things we as a party wandered off from as it relates to being a party that fought for hard working families." (The Hill
Okay, so that's one thing. Here's the other:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel may seek new taxes on downtown businesses, “high net-worth individuals” or both to dig the Chicago Public Schools out of a $596 million hole without state help, City Hall sources said Monday. Sources said the new taxes Emanuel is exploring would raise $400 million to $600 million in annual revenue. (Sun-Times)
Wow, what a concept! Making the super-rich and the giant corporations pay their fair share of taxes. I tell you, the man's a genius. Why didn't we think of that?

Oh wait a minute. We did.

As a matter of fact, it was almost three years ago to the day that CTU Prez Karen Lewis proposed a "LaSalle Street" tax to help get the schools and the retirees pension fund out of debt.

Then, in 2015, it was the people's mayoral candidate, Chuy Garcia calling for a "financial transaction tax". 

As you might remember, both calls were met with great disdain by City Hall, the city's newspapers, and of course, by the business sector. The state legislature went so far as to knowingly pass an unconstitutional pension-theft bill rather than reform the tax code so that the wealthiest paid their fair share.

But that's all in the past. This week, with the rest of the school year hanging in the balance, with the city council demanding an explanation, and with the governor still holding the state's school budget hostage, Rahm came up with a stroke of brilliance.

Tax the rich. Of course it's just an idea. But still...

Monday, May 15, 2017


"President Trump, please don't fire Sean Spicer"-- CNN

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to Howard University students
 “You are graduating into a very different time than it was when you arrived a few short years ago,” said Harris, a graduate of Howard. “We have a fight ahead. It’s a fight to determine what kind of country we will be. And it’s a fight to determine whether we are willing to stand up for our deepest values.” -- Washington Post
Carl Bernstein
"It's a different dynamic than we've ever had to deal with before. Richard Nixon was a criminal president. Donald Trump is a president with whom there is grave question about his fitness and ability to conduct the office of the president -- and that's going hand-in-hand with the possible coverup into collusion with a foreign power." -- 
 NYU Prof. Nouriel Roubini ("Dr. Doom")
"Now, the biggest elephant in the room is the United States," Roubini argued that the "biggest uncertainty in the world and biggest tail risk comes from the economic, foreign and security policies of the Trump administration." -- CNN
Henry Scott Wallace
Nonsense, my grandfather said in that speech: We Americans “are no more a master race than the Nazis.” -- American Fascism, in 1944 and Today (NYT)
 Donald Trump at Liberty University
“In America we do not worship government, we worship God.”  -- The Atlantic

Thursday, May 11, 2017

B-CU students turn their backs on DeVos

Less than a week after Pres. Trump threatened to cut off funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), his ed secretary, Betsy DeVos was invited to Bethune-Cookman  to deliver the commencement speech. At her side, hoping to run interference, was Trump cheerleader and "highest ranking" African-American in the White House, Omarosa Manigault.

The outcome was predictable. Both Manigault and DeVos were greeted with a chorus of boos which continued throughout DeVos' speech even as B-CU administrators threatened to withhold the graduates' diplomas if they kept it up. The more they threatened, the louder grew the jeers.

Much of the students' anger was directed at B-CU Pres. Edison Jackson who has jumped into bed with Trump in hopes of winning favor and getting some alms for his beleaguered school.

Trump has tried to make the case that HBCUs are "unconstitutional" and discriminatory against whites. Two nights later, after a storm of criticism, the White House "walked back" the threat in a statement that declared the president’s “unwavering support” for such schools.

Back in February, DeVos caught hell for her ignorant description of HBCUs as "real pioneers" of "school choice" rather a righteous a response to Jim Crow and blacks being excluded from all-white colleges and universities. Yes, you guessed it. Another walk-back. She even misspelled the name of W.E.B. DuBois in her statement.

DeVos opened her speech with this:
 “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.”
This has been a theme over the past few months as campuses from UC Berkeley to the Univ. of Chicago have been overrun with gaggle of highly-paid or powerfully-positioned, racist or neo-fascist speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. When students or community activists turn out to peacefully protest, they are accused of being "disrespectful" or denying them their right of free speech. The very people who monopolize the media and who tightly control the reins of power, try and play the victims. DeVos is a great example.

DeVos didn't come to Bethune-Cookman to have a dialogue with the students. She was there for a political photo-op, carrying water for Donald Trump and a regime which has total, 24/7 access to mainstream media. It's the black students whose voices have been silenced. But not this time.

The day before her speech members of the B-CU community delivered a petition that had been signed by over 50,000 people requesting DeVos’ removal as commencement speaker.

She closed her speech by warning students not to join the "chorus of conflict" and to face her regime's assault "with a mindset of grace."
“You don’t send your graduating class out into the world like this,” said Tyler Durrant, a 2017 graduating senior at Bethune-Cookman University, to The Daily Beast. “Commencement is a monologue and not a dialogue, and that is one of the most important things we’re trying to bring to light here. After she speaks, we won’t speak.”
People are outraged, said Fed Ingram, vice president of the Florida Education Association and a graduate of the school. Ninety percent of students who attend Bethune-Cookman were educated in public schools, he said. “This is a woman who throughout her ‘career’ has condemned public schools, has said these are dead-end schools.”

A side note... AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten who has been supportive of DeVos' school visits and has been critical of anti-DeVos protesters, nothing to say about the Bethuse-Cookman student protest. Her comment to the Washington post was critical of "choice" without mention of DeVos.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Tuesday, “The kids have worked really hard at a historically black college without the resources they need to get an education in a school that was created because of segregation and discrimination.” The choice movement grew out of segregation, she said. “Those of us who are neither students nor alums are just a megaphone,” she said, for that message.