Friday, January 20, 2017

Global anti-Trump protests

Brit protesters hang banner across the Thames. 
"It’s growing by the day," says Politico's Natasha Korecki in Illinois Playbook. She's talking, of course, about Saturday's Women's Marches in D.C. and cities around the country.

Here in Chicago, 24,000 people have RSVP’d on social media for the rally in Chicago. Organizers are expecting more than 200,000 in Washington D.C. while New York City and L.A. are likely to attract some 70,000 each.

Actually, now more than 50,000 are expected to turn out in Chicago. I'll make it 50,001.

SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to the students at Glenbard East H.S. who have organized an anti-Trump walkout. They're also publishing The Glenbard Underground. Don't miss.

Chicago Public School students will walk out after their 7th period classes and head to the Resist Trump rally in Daley Plaza at 3:00pm.
CHICAGO (1/20) - The Chicago Students Union has coordinated a walkout across Chicago Public Schools today after 7th period to demonstrate to the Trump administration that the students of Chicago are prepared to defend their schools and communities.The nomination of vastly unqualified cabinet members like Betsy DeVos and the President's promises to deport their undocumented brothers and sisters has sparked widespread resistance. 
Following the walkout, students will head to the Chicago Movement for the 99%'s "ResistTrump" rally in Daley Plaza at 3:00pm. Sabah Hussain, a student activist, will give a speech at 4:10.
Email: chicagostudentsunion@gmail.comTwitter: @StudentUnionChiFacebook: Chicago Students Union

'NO TO TRUMP' shouted around the globe...In Buenos Aires,  a women's march is due to take place - one of hundreds planned across the world to coincide with the main marches in Washington D.C.

The “Marcha Solidaria de Mujeres: EdiciĆ³n Buenos Aires” will start in the neighborhood of Palermo at Plaza Intendente Seeber, near the U.S. embassy.
“We wish to make known that hateful and divisive speech and actions are not acceptable from anyone, and even less from our elected governors. We wish to announce our support for minority groups whose rights and safety are threatened by the policies and principles of this new administration in the U.S.,” organizers said of the event via Facebook.
“No to Global Trumpism” took place in Berlin, where protesters held a sign “Mr. President, Walls Divide. Build Bridges,” next to the remains of the Berlin Wall. Similar protests were expected in Paris, Madrid, Brussels and Prague.

While we take to the streets in cities around the world, the wealthiest and most powerful of the global elites sip their Cabernet at Davos in the Swiss Alps and try to come up with a response to the rise of global Trumpism, populism, and neo-fascism. It's really all about keeping the world in one piece long enough for them to spend their money.

There was even a panel on "Middle Class Anger".
“I want to be loud and clear: populism scares me,” Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio said. “The No. 1 issue economically as a market participant is how populism manifests itself over the next year or two.”
George Will in the NYT:
It has been well-said that Davos is where billionaires tell millionaires what the middle class feels.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trump's bikers on security. A 'wall of meat' or load of B.S.?

DT is counting on a right-wing biker battalion to pull security duty at his inauguration. He imagines a horde of thousands of "Bikers for Trump" are rolling into D.C. at this very moment, to save him from what he imagines as an assault from the half-million angry, but peaceful protesters expected at the Women's March on Washington.

Chris Cox, the founder of “Bikers for Trump,” promised “Fox & Friends” on Sunday that the group will attend the inauguration and will form a “wall of meat” if necessary, signaling that biker gangs would try to stop protesters attempting to disrupt the swearing-in ceremony.

It's a neo-fascist wet dream.

This from MediaMatters:

During the Chairman’s Global Dinner pre-inauguration event, President-elect Donald Trump bragged about the “record crowds coming” to celebrate his inauguration, including a group called “bikers for Trump.” Trump regaled his audience with tales of photos showing thousands of bikers purportedly making their way to Washington D.C., a fake news story uncovered by BuzzFeed hours before Trump went on stage.
I saw the bikers for Trump. Boy, they had a scene today. I don't know if I'd want to ride one of those, but they do like me. That's like additional security with those guys. They're rough... And they had a scene today where they had helicopters flying over a highway someplace in this country and they had thousands of those guys coming into town. 
And Trump even had the pictures to prove it. Only...
This picture and many others being tweeted to intimidate protesters, turned out to be fakes. This one, unrelated to Trump's inauguration, was published on a blog in 2013 about how to ride safely in large groups.

Rape, murder! / It's just a shot away / It's just a shot away

Not to say that there won't be some right-wing bikers coming to the inauguration. But before hiring them to do security, Trump would do well to talk to Mick Jagger and the Stones who have some experience in this area, dating back to their 1969 Gimme Shelter concert at Altamont, CA. The Rolling Stones’ management put the Hells Angels in charge of security and paid them in beer.

Big mistake... four fans died including one who was stabbed by the bikers. The resulting melee was captured in the 1970 film, Gimme Shelter.

I'm sure Team Trump and the Secret Service will come up with a better security plan. But these days, you can't be too sure.

Monday, January 16, 2017


Congressman John Lewis’s bestselling graphic novel March: Book One was inspired by a 56-year-old comic, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, that helped spawn the Civil Rights Movement. 
Rep. John Lewis
It doesn’t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may be, how he may speak to you... We need someone as attorney general who’s going to look out for all of us, and not just for some of us. -- Democracy Now
Jean-Marie Guehenno, CEO of International Crisis Group
"Regardless of how you view Trump and his positions, his election has led to a deep, deep sense of uncertainty and that will cast a long shadow over Davos." -- Business Insider
Singer Jennifer Holliday not going
“I was honestly just thinking that I wanted my voice to be a healing and unifying force for hope through music to help our deeply polarized country… Regretfully, I did not take into consideration that my performing for the concert would actually instead be taken as a political act against my own personal beliefs and be mistaken for support of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.” -- Raw Story
Dem consultant Robert Shrum: Hillary's going
“She will have a stiff upper lip.” -- Guardian

Friday, January 13, 2017

Participatory Democracy: When voting is not enough.

Democracy is not a sport where the two teams do battle every few years and we as spectators cheer our team on, hoping for the best and then watching the post-game show on cable. We're told, the best we can hop for in this case, is a "peaceful transition" of power  -- to the new oligarchs.

On the contrary, participatory democracy requires a citizenry that is both active and educated, with the courage to stand up for its rights and freedoms regardless of which party is in power. It's a 24-7 job. That doesn't mean of course, that we neglect the ballot. But you can only win at the ballot box that which you are willing to fight for and defend on your block, in your school, workplace, and in the community.

Case in point... in 2015 Chicagoans overwhelmingly voted for a referendum supported by the teachers union, calling for an elected School Board and an end the mayor's autocratic rule over the public schools.

An elected school board bill passed the IL House in March in bipartisan fashion, by a 110-4 vote. But the measure was blocked by an unholy alliance between Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Rauner and Senate Pres. John Cullerton, who never allowed the bill to come to a needed vote in the IL Senate. You'll notice that two of the three blockers are Democrats.

From DNAinfo:
With the 100th Illinois General Assembly sworn in Wednesday, state Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Jefferson Park) vowed to reintroduce the bill "immediately" and begin working to bring it to a vote in the Senate.
Martwick has said the lack of an elected School Board has "eliminated democracy in Chicago."
The fallout... Today, the mayor's hand-picked, self-interested board basically spit on the recently-signed teachers collective-bargaining agreement and imposed a 4-day, unpaid "furlough" on teachers and staff.

CTU responds:
“It’s the second year in a row they shortened the school year and cut our pay,” said Jesse Sharkey, the union’s vice president, angry that CPS leaders still won’t seek new revenue sources. Sharkey said the days off were to allow teachers to complete grades at the end of each quarter, work he assumes will still have to be finished and handed in.
“I’m hearing hearing from teachers who are outraged because they see this as a reduction of pay without a reduction of work,” he said. “We’re looking into whether it’s wage theft.”
No point in looking into it. Wage theft it is. Question is how will the CTU respond? Bigger question is, how will we force a senate vote on an elected board?

Last point... Donald Trump's victory, albeit with a massive loss in the popular election, followed by shrinking poll ratings, and Republican control of congress, necessitates an electoral strategy for the upcoming 2018 and 2020 elections. But it also calls for mass actions in the streets and in our communities, beginning with mass protests at Trump's inauguration.

Voting is not enough. #Resist

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Not buying the Pritzker library union bashing story

Pritzker School Loses Librarian And Union Blocks Parents From Helping Out -- DNAinfo headline

From the headline, one might think that Pritzker school librarian was lost, maybe wandering the library archives somewhere or buried under a pile of books. One might also think that the CTU, weapons in hand, were somehow fighting off parent volunteers who wanted to help out in the school. Both assumptions would be wrong.

The story gained national attention after Pritzker parent, Michael Hendershot, who is also a lawyer (I'm guessing with little time to work pro-bono in the school library), wrote an angry, and a little more ideological op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal with the headline: The Library Lockout at Our Elementary School. 

Actually, the school's newly-hired librarian wasn't lost. Like hundreds of other Chicago teachers and educational professionals and para-professionals, she was fired after the 20th day of school because Pritzker's enrollment was lower than projected. In a city that was once the center of the national small-schools movement,  schools are now being punished, closed or consolidated for being small. In 2012, the Mayor and his criminal sidekick, CEO Byrd-Bennett, closed 50 neighborhood schools, nearly all in the black community, for "underutilization".

The state's schools have been operating without a school budget for the past two years. Gov. Rauner has been holding the budget hostage, hoping to leverage his signature for a pound of flesh, meaning a cut in retiree pensions, the elimination of teacher collective-bargaining rights, and more privatization of school services.

There are currently hundreds of Chicago public schools operating without properly-staffed libraries, school nurses, special-ed paras or school social workers. Librarians are vital to the functioning of any school. If wealthy, mainly-whte suburban schools did away with librarians, replacing them with untrained, unpaid volunteers, there would be a parent revolt.

From DNAinfo:
Rachel Lessem, a member of the local school council at Pritzker, said each student used to have an hour of library a week, where they learned how to research, how to use databases and how to access other sources of information. The students had homework and grades in library as well
In Chicago's two-tier, racially re-segregated school system, libraries and librarians are considered fluff, wasteful add-ons that are the first to go in times of crisis.

School principals, like Pritzker's Joenile Albert-Reese are increasingly being forced to choose between cutting classroom teachers (increasing class size) or librarians, school nurses or field trips. Hopefully, now with Troy LaRaviere leading the Chicago Principals Assoc., more principals will find the courage to stand up to the cuts and defend their schools against these assaults. In this case it was the librarian.

In the meantime, all the teachers and staff have going for them is the CTU. When Pritzker union rep, Kevin Hough filed a grievance after Albert-Reese tried to run the library with unpaid parent volunteers, a clear violation of the district's collective bargaining agreement, the shit hit the fan. Now the union is being blamed for "locking out" students and parents from the library.

Ronnie Reese, a union spokesman, issued the following statement:
“Sadly, budget cuts and the lack of revenue for Chicago’s public schools continue to affect basic services for our students, but per the Agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education, bargaining unit work cannot be delegated to non-bargaining unit volunteers. The [union] has offered and continues to offer its full support to the Pritzker Elementary Local School Council in organizing and advocating for restoration of lost funding and its librarian position."
The notion of a library run by unpaid volunteers or a teacherless classroom is a wet dream for corporate "reformers" and efficiency mongers like former Asst. Ed Secretary Peter Cunningham who has spent most of the past two days bashing the union over the supposed lock-out of Pritzker parents.

Cunningham, like Hendershot, puts the blame for the crisis on greedy teachers who won a small pay increase and are trying to protect their pensions "at the expense of students".

He tries to come off as a parent advocate while playing off Pritzker's parents against the teachers. But those who have followed Cunningham since he left Arne Duncan's D.O.E., remember how hard he  and Duncan  bashed the tens of thousands of parents who dared opt-out of the nation's testing madness. His posturing as an advocate for parents is laughable.

Another bit of irony... The school is named after the late Chicago billionaire A.N. Pritzker. The Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt Hotel chain, is one of the city's most powerful families and notoriously anti-union. Penny Pritzker, now Obama's Commerce Secretary, was previously hand-picked by Rahm to sit on the school board. She voted for the mass school closings.

The irony is that if the Pritzkers and the other city oligarchs paid their fair share of taxes, Pritzker Elementary would still have its librarian and then some.

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Former Peltier prosecutor calls for his release. 
Author Yaa Gyasi ("Homegoing")
 The history of America has involved figuring out new ways to subjugate black people since the beginning. In this post-election in-between space, as Donald Trump takes over, we are wondering what fresh hell may be about to be devised. -- Guardian
James Reynolds, former U.S. attorney involved in the case against Leonard Peltier
“I just thought that it was time. With all the circumstances that have gone down, both good and bad, it was maybe time for the president to grant clemency and to end the justice part of the case.” -- Free Speech Radio News
Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes
Streep  noted that one "performance" stood out this year: that of Donald Trump when he publicly mocked The New York Times' Serge Kovaleski, a disabled reporter.
"There was nothing good about it, but it did its job. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can't get it out my head because it wasn’t in a movie; it was in real life. That instinct to humiliate when it's modeled by someone in a public platform, it filters down into everyone's life because it gives permission for others to do the same." 
"Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."
Rep. Katherine Clark (MA)
"After discussions with hundreds of my constituents, I do not feel that I can contribute to the normalization of the president-elect's divisive rhetoric by participating in the inauguration." -- Ward Room 
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL)
"I could not look at my wife, my daughters or my grandson in the eye if I sat there and attended as if everything that candidate Donald Trump had said about women, Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims ... is OK or erased from my memory." -- Ward Room 
Rudi Giuliani
 “President-elect Trump is going to be the best thing that ever happened for school choice and the charter school movement. Donald is going to create incentives that promote and open more charter schools. It’s a priority.” -- American Prospect 
Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education
The fundamental problem with the free-market model for education is that schools are not groceries. -- L.A. Times 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

U.S. schools get a C on Quality Counts Report. Here's why.

Massachusetts defends schools from privatization. Ranks #1 in Quality Counts.
Edweek's annual Quality Counts report gives the nation's increasingly two-tier school system a letter grade C, as it almost always does. Thirty years of corporate-style school reform under both Democratic and Republican regimes hasn't moved the needle very much.

My problem with the report is that,in reality, there is no national school system or one set of standards for them to be graded on. This will be increasingly so during the Betsy DeVos era.  So Edweek creates its own, as well as its own grading metrics. 

As you can tell, I'm skeptical. What they've done here, as most of these studies do (without a mention of race or poverty, by the way) is to throw together into one pot the nations's wealthy schools with those with concentrated poverty, as if they were all one thing that could be graded on the same rubric. If the nation's wealthiest schools were separated out, they would likely get an A grade, using Edweek's indices. Resource-starved, racially isolated schools with high concentrations of children living in poverty would likely get an F. Mush them all together and you inevitably wind up with a C.

Here are the indices they use:
• The Chance-for-Success Index uses a cradle-to-career perspective to examine the role of education in promoting positive outcomes throughout an individual’s lifetime.
• The school finance analysis evaluates spending on education and equity in funding across districts within a state.
• The K-12 Achievement Index, last updated in 2016, scores states on current academic performance, change over time, and poverty-based gaps.
A case could also be made for giving an F for having a highly segregated, two-tier public education system in the first place.

When the study looks at schools on a state level, it's more compelling. While the national grade is always a C, there's slightly more mobility and variance in state grades. Massachusetts, for all its social inequality, is still a wealthy state and spends more on public ed and early childhood ed, has strong teacher unions, and generally defends its public sector against privatization with a cap on charter school expansion. So as expected, Massachusetts takes first place among the states for the third year in a row, with aB grade (A- in Chance for Success).

At the bottom, as you might expect, sits Mississippi with a limited safety net, itslegacy of segregation and Jim Crow, the highest concentrations of poverty in the country, few dollars spent on public ed and no teacher unions allowed.

You don't need much of a study to figure how this will turn out. Rich will get richer.  The poor will be taken over or privatized