Sunday, September 29, 2013

What is "Development" anyway?

Early yesterday (Saturday) morning an article was tweeted into my timeline with the description:
Vice lord drug dealer gets a city grant with help from an Alderman for a LIQUOR STORE. Because, Chicago. WTF
— Jeff Johnson (@Jeff_Johnson27)
While everything in this tweet is true, I have to say I came away with a different headline in my head from the article. No one is more cynical than I regarding Chicago Aldermen/women but I didn’t think Ald. Deborah Graham really came off that bad. Yes, she did help get a liquor store in an area that didn’t want it-but did want business-and yes the owner was a current/former gang leader/drug dealer. And yes, you’ll be shocked, shocked, that said current/former gang leader/drug dealer gave her financial contributions. But, in fairness to Graham, Frederick “Juicy” Sims clearly put some effort into hiding his background and worked around the restrictions typically put on felons in a typical way, he had a friend sign key forms.
It’s easy to rip the Graham for this but liquor stores are business-and Sims emphasized the “grocery” aspect of his store, eliminating “food deserts” is an explicit goal of the Mayor, and other as well. Having somebody front for your business is time-honored tradition in Chicago too, it’s common practice in building contracts when preferential treatment is given to minorities/woman to have somebody’s wife suddenly be the owner. As for the vetting process, well let’s remember that the comptroller of the city was hired after a conversation with two lawyers. While he was under federal bribery probe. 
This last point is important, there’s too much media attention paid to relatively small-fish corruption and not enough to the big fish. Big fish would be the tight nexus of corporations that walk in and out of City Hall, securing contracts for millions for stuff most people didn’t even know existed. Why does Lois Scott still have a job? It’s clear that her chief objective is to loot city hall,  she is “a specialist in public-private partnerships”. In other words, she’s an expert in taking public money, our money, and funneling it to private corporations. Which she happens have a stake in. What was the attempt to privatize Midway but a giant hand-out to the preferred corporate friends of the Mayor? Gee, it’s hard to follow why the mayor has millions in his campaign fund, when he doesn’t even have a challenger. 
But to get back to the Austin neighborhood the article did present the current dilemma of “development” for low-income neighborhoods, or any neighborhoods for that matter. As detailed by Richard Florida the so-called “recovery” has been very uneven, with most significant growth occurring in low-wage jobs, in some places, this has been nearly all of the job growth. The fact is, nobody really *knows* how to create economic growth, or the jobs that are the essential element. If it was easy, we’d have done it already.
The article detailed the projects the city tried to kickstart, but didn’t take, probably at least in part because of the poor quality of the applicants. But of course in a neighborhood like Austin I’m sure the attitude is take what you can get. But there are real questions here, how do you decide what to fund, how to fund, and what is the role of the community?
In my mind there are two issues here, one, what are best practices to “develop” areas, especially low-income, and two, what about the TIFs themselves which are the primary method of economic development in Chicago. I got into a bit of a conversation on twitter about this (read the storify version here, there is a great visual by @grantfoss). To sum it up, TIFs or no TIFs development has always concentrated on the downtown/Loop business district, to the general detriment of everybody else. It’s really the same old story, the transfer of money/services from the 99% to the 1%. But the current economic model is so in thrall with the “job creators” that it is taken for granted that corporate handouts are the only way to go, and hope there is enough of a “trickle down” effect to keep everybody else from starving. 
A person in the article states that the city has “no plan for Austin” but to be perfectly fair here, does the city have a “plan” for anywhere? It is truly amazing, to think in a city like Chicago, with some of the finest universities in the world, a vibrant non-profit community, and many active neighborhood associations, what passes for “development” is whatever hare-brained idea a corporate led-board came up with, usually led by the usual suspects. We need to expand the idea of “development”-how can we use the resources we have to create better opportunities for the most people? Is it possible to have true public-private partnerships when it comes to investment or *puts armor on* should the city invest and manage directly in some instances? Yes, that “increases” government but are the endless checks written to “consultants” really better? It’s not an accident these processes are opaque, that in spite of this being the digital age there is little transparency in any aspect of city, county, and state government. That is not by accident, the further you keep key information from the masses the less they will be involved. 
Just because it’s *always been that way* doesn’t mean it always has to be. While silly people are fond of comparing Chicago to Detroit, they are very different places. We have great wealth, both literally and figuratively. The question is how can we harness it to serve the people, the 99%, versus the 1%.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

On Syria and “doing something”

So over a year after the civil conflict in Syria began the Obama administration feels it must “use force” because a “red line has been crossed” and wants to engage in “limited surgical strikes”.

There isn’t any question that Assad is awful, that millions of people are suffering, directly and indirectly. But the situation in Syria is a civil war, and in the history of the world civil wars are ugly, and they ultimately have to be determined by the people themselves, not decided by outside forces who have little knowledge or interest. Even if the Obama administration had a good grasp of the situation, which is questionable, it is quite likely bombing will likely have little effect, except to make things worse. It could actually strengthen the Assad regime-as no middle east country supports it, and may actually make things harder for the opposition forces. And than there are those opposition forces themselves, a mix of Syrian nationalists, Islamic radicals, and at least a few Al Queda people, fueled by money from the Gulf states. There are substantial minority populations, Christians among them, who genuinely fear what may occur if Assad is gone.

As pointed out in this excellent summary the Obama administration does not have any real plans to limit the use of chemical weapons-which of course we have turned a blind eye to before, see the Iran-Iraq war, Fullujah, and doesn't even necessarily want to get rid of Assad. Also on the use of chemical weapons there is evidence that US intelligence knew beforehand the possibility of an attack, and made no attempt to warn the revolutionary forces.  

As people ask, is there anything else we can do beside bomb, there is little coverage to the point-covered in the previously cited post-that US has never taken diplomacy seriously. This is in large part because it refuses to acknowledge Iran. The media has given little, if any, coverage to the idea that in fact diplomacy might have a shot if the Obama administration really got down to it, engaged ALL the regional players (not just the ones they like), and insisted they come up with something. The Obama administration could also commit to increased support for refugees and support to countries such as Turkey and Jordan who are supporting refugees and have suffered affects of the war. For a non-American power centered perspective this interview with Noam Chomsky by a Syrian, on Syria is worth a read. (Note the interview is in June, and may predate the Obama administration's decision to support the rebels). 

Although the language is of "limited strikes" the AUMF as written clearly allows for expansion. While twitter was split yesterday between monarchists who felt it was offensive that the president had to "ask" for the military action, and others who were happy he did so, there was less focus on why the president did so. It would appear the most likely reason the president did was so if and when he calls for bombing Iran, the support is there.  

In short, bombing Syria really has no other purpose than to achieve certain American objectives that will not help the Syrian people, and probably strengthen the worst elements of the opposition. It should not be supported. 
The Green Party Shadow Cabinet has issued a statement against military intervention.
On August 28th a march and rally was held in downtown Chicago, in support of a CPAC-a community
 police accountability board. The crimes of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are many, and like other politically-supported institutions NO justice has been done for its many victims of torture, forced confessions, and violence. On the same day as the CPAC rally there was a protest in front of the Chicago Board of Education (CBE) in protest the devastating cuts to public schools. Aside from restoring cuts, the central demand by the education protesters is an . . . elected school board to protest the rubber stamp of Mayor polices that is the current school board.

While the country contemplates military involvement in another middle east conflict, regarding other peoples' suffering, and "democracy" let's remember the suffering here, at home, and reflect on the lack of democracy here.

While the focus of the CPAC rally was of course the police it is important to remember that the CPD do not act alone, ultimately all that they do is supported by political officials we elect. This includes, but is not limited to former Mayor Daley and current Cook County state's attorney Anita Alverez. When the time comes to hold all to account, these pubic officials need to held to the exact standard, higher even, than those who committed the heinous acts. Because had these
officials at any time spoke up about the crimes committed, they could have stopped. But they didn't and they don't, so the injustice goes on. There are big elections before '16, including the Mayor's race in 2015, but anybody serious but stopping police crime need to try to un-elect Anita Alverez.
This banner, on it the names of victims of Chicago police torture, stretched about halfway around Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago
Reminder that is about a SYSTEM that is failing many, especially people of color
Many groups out to support CPAC

ALEC comes to town

Protestors in front of the Palmer House, Chicago, IL
ALEC is supported by large corporations to encourage legislatures to pass corporate-friendly legislation
Cutting pensions is prime goal of ALEC and the corporations that support them

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

General Meeting Today Tuesday July 16th, 2013


There will be a general meeting of the Lincoln Square - Northcenter - Lakeview Green Party today at the Lincoln-Belmont Library 1659 W Melrose St, Chicago, IL at 6pm. All are welcome to attend.

WHERE: Lincoln-Belmont Library 1659 W Melrose St, Chicago, IL (side conference room)
WHEN: 6pm
WHO: Anyone interested in progressive politics

Edit: Corrected address of library

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On Capital and the State, Thoughts Post-Socialism 2013

When you go to a conference for all you see and do, typically a few things stand out. One was a woman in a t-shirt that said “Texas Socialist” which coming in the midst of Texas’s attempts to limit women’s choices have made me think more about reproductive issues. But the most important line came in a panel on urban violence and poverty, when the speaker stated:

“Poverty is a part of capitalism, it’s not an exception.”

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chicago Pride 2013

So much fun to march in the Pride Parade today! It was a beautiful day and with the recent Supreme Court decisions people are more excited than usual. It was great to get cheers and hear a least a few people yell "I love the Green Party!" We love you too-COME JOIN US! Another world is possible, but you have try to make it possible.
As great as the momentum towards equality is, SSM is still not legal in Illinois. Why? Well mainly because Mike Madigan didn't make it a priority, remember we have Democrat majorities in both the House and the Senate. In addition, LBGT populations still face significant discrimination in the workplace, so the fight goes on.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why Somebody, Anybody, Needs to Run for Mayor

This Salon article nicely sums up some of the most significant issues with the current mayor. I  appreciate that Salon has a national audience, and this article can play a role in a media counter-offensive that will hopefully arise post-Time cover.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

How Income Re-distribution Happens: the Local Version

That personal income has been steadily moving up for the 1%, and down for the 99%, for the past 20 years or so is not in doubt, by anybody. Most people think this is a bad thing, although you can always find a few social Darwin types around if you look for them. The real questions come about with how it happened and how to fix it.  These past few weeks in Chicago have been a demonstration of sorts of how this happens, specifically how public money that we all put in—and in fact the upper classes put proportionately less in—winds it way to the top.

Save Our Schools March day 2-North side

Moment of Prayer/silence in front of the Mayor's house

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Save Our Schools-West side march day one

We Do Not Need 50 of You to Say Yes

So every once in a while the Tribune gets it right and they did this week, pointing out the need for an independent body—an independent budget analysis office, something like a city GAO—to properly evaluate large financial deals struck by the city. Already it’s clear the new parking meter deal is bogus but it’s telling that, almost immediately after its release 24 aldermen praised it. Because the original deal was so good that there is really no need to read it right?
Although it was designed to be a check on executive power everybody knows the city council is a joke, with the exception of the Washington years the past thirty year or so the city council has been nothing but a rubber stamp on the mayor’s policies, whatever they may be, whoever the mayor may be.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Why You Need to be Against CIPSA

Last week the U.S House of Representatives passed CIPSA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, for the second time (288-127) despite a veto threat from the president. You can read the whole list of those who voted for it here but it includes Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley, of the 4th and 5th districts in Illinois. Groups included in the coalition against CIPSA included the ACLU and the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Examined and the Unexamined

By all accounts it has been quite a week. Most of the national attention has been focused on Boston, the bombings, the manhunt, the capture, and the questions of how, why, and what happens next. As rapid as events moved from posting pictures of the suspects to identifying them, the media's speculations moved just as quickly.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Michelle Obama visits Chicago

 The purpose of the visit and the talk was a focus on youth violence, and both FLOTUS's visit and talk made clear the neoliberal agenda.  She gave a very emotional speech, she identified with the people she was talking to, she was genuine in a way that most politicians could never be. She emphasized the importance of "opportunity" and "community". But what was not said is just as important-not a word on the school closings which will impact the very same communities which have the highest levels of violence. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What did you vote for anyway?

People who consider themselves progressive, possibly "left" if they vote, will usually vote Democratic. There is an idea that the Democratic party is the party of the working people, of the safety net--the anti-war party. This is not an accurate description of the Democratic party but many people who vote for it do so because there is "no alternative".

So the president's budget came out today. Did you vote for the "Grand Bargin"--where the 1% give up a tiny bit so everybody else can suffer for generations?

Did you vote for "deficit" reduction instead of increasing employment?
Did you vote for escalation of the drug war?
Did you vote for killing people remotely, without trial or jury-oh but it's only the really bad people.

It's very carefully run--well no, actually to turns out we've killed a lot people by drones-at this point no way to every know for sure-and in fact Obama has lied about it.

Well, if you voted for Obama, you voted for all of this. Is this what you wanted? Because if it wasn't, you need to vote for somebody else.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The problem with pipelines

The most obvious is, that they break, and the next thing you know your street is overrun with oil, oh wait a minute that’s not oil it’s something called “diluted bitumen”. Of course it looks a lot like oil but because it isn't *actually* oil that means Exxon doesn't have legal obligations post-clean up. As NPR noted this morning more then half the nation's pipelines were built before 1970. In the piece Debbie Hersman, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, stated that of the 20 pipeline accidents since 2000 "100 percent" were preventable.

Many details of the spill may never be known because since the initial video was taken the FAA was restricting flight access-guess whose in charge of that, yes, an Exxon employee. Well they did a respectable job with the Alaska spill right? Why would company like that need any oversight?
Time and time again there are awful consequences to our dependence on fossil fuels, time and time again it is presented as a necessary evil. It is not. We can choose a better future, at a minimum we can insist that the companies profit from altering our climate keep from killing us any more then they already are.
Although Arkansas and Canada seem far, the Enbridge company plans to have a pipeline running within 20 miles of Lake Michigan revamped to carry up to 700, 000 barrel a day.

Find more, and what you can do about it!

Enbridge 6B: Chicago's Keystone XL

WHERE: Lincoln Belmont Library 1659 W. Melrose
WHEN: Saturday April 6
TIME: 2:00p-3:30p
Sponsored by the Lincoln Square-North Center-Lakeview Green Party

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The media and the CPS closings

I don’t read Ben Joravsky or Mike Dumke as religiously as I used to-partly because I now get from other sources the information I used to only get from them, and partly because I could write the commentary myself at this point. For the same reason I don’t read Noam Chomsky as closely as I once did. So I didn't get to Mike Dumke's column right away this week: it features a brief interview with Toni Periwinkle.  Periwinkle is what passes for progressivism in Chicago these days—she seems honest, she does what she says or at least looks like it. She’s a sensible person pursuing sensible policies--for a politician she is popular and I would guess she has the highest approval rating of any elected official in Cook County.  In the interview she calls out a variety of city polices, including the CPS closings but I was most struck most her comments that she had been practically told-by somebody working in CPS administration--that there seemed to be a plan to weaken public schools. Here you have a elected--in a major leadership role—Democratic official stating what has been suggested by some as a conspiracy theory, that in Chicago you have a Democratic Mayor who is wants to destroy arguably the most important public program that a city runs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tar Sands Oil Threatens Lake Michigan

The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline may seem distant. As it turns out, the threat is very immediate for us – if Canadian company Enbridge gets its way toxic tar sands oil could be spilled into Lake Michigan, from which we draw our drinking water.

Monday, March 18, 2013

There is a plan

So CPS is going to close 80 schools—some of which have been very recent “turn-arounds” or are still undergoing renovations, displacing thousands of children. Some of kids have special needs that will make adjustment very difficult; many are in high crime areas where simply walking to a different place will be dangerous. Nearly all the schools are on the South and West side, the majority serves black students. CPS insisted this can all be managed—they just hired an outside firm (of course) to “manage logistics”, even though they can’t get manage communication regarding banning a book  What CPS considers “community” outreach would be funny if the results were not so tragic. These “community” hearings were packed with parents—you know the ones that can’t teach their kids anything—demanding their schools stay open. So it was truly amazing to hear Barbara Byrd Bennett state that, regarding school closings “Everybody got it that we really needed to close schools.”

To be perfectly fair, Mickey Mouse could head CPS; it would be the same thing. Everybody knows who is controlling the process, and everybody knows who really wants to decimate CPS.  It’s worth taking a trip down memory lane to remind us how things work.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How income redistribution happens part one—“Free” Trade

The mantra of Occupy was “we are the 99%”. The idea was simple, the vast majority of the population was not benefiting from the economy. Specifically, not benefiting from the measures taken after the financial meltdown of 2008, whereas the banks and their acolytes had. But how does the 1% become the 1% and how do we change it? Occupy did a great job of identifying the problem and mobilizing people but the non-hierarchical of the movement kept it from pushing particular policies.
Perhaps the anti-occupy movement could be personified by the Fix the Debt campaign. Fix the Debt is basically a group of CEOs masquerading as a public interest group. Their focus is on decreasing government, especially those pesky entitlements that people are so fond of, that is the social programs that for many people are the difference between a decent life and poverty, or poverty and the streets.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fracking in Illinois

Yes, fracking is coming to Illinois. The question is, will the companies get to do whatever they want or will they have to work for the privilege? Fracking, the process of extracting shale from the ground has become big business in the past 10 years, combining the promise of increased employment, economic activity, and increased use of natural gas. There is no question that regions where fracking has been going on have seen increased economic activity and a boom in job creation. On the other hand not everybody has done well by this, frequently land is taken by the owners—who frequently do not have “mineral  rights” and if you are in the area but do not want fracking on your land there is no guarantee you can do such a thing. Even if you can hold on to your land if you are surrounded by industry it’s really not any different.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Civil liberties tend to be an arcane kind of subject, sort of like home insurance coverage. You assume that if your house burned down that insurance will take care of it. You assume that if you were arrested you’d have that due process, right to a fair trail etc. Drone attacks? Oh those only happen to bad people, far away.  The US government is careful about targeted killings and you know WAR ON TERROR.  It’s just broken into the mainstream media in the past year or so that we have been killing people without any pretense of due process, some as young as sixteen years old.  These media reports have emphasized the supposed guilt of the person; it’s always a high-ranking “terrorist”. Drones and extra-judicial killings didn’t get as much play during the campaign in 2012 as it should have, partly because people don’t like to think about them but also because they were not a point of disagreement between the Democratic and Republican candidates.


So on Monday there was a vote in the city council regarding—school closures? Privatizing of Midway airport? A police accountability board? No, there was vote on regulation of energy drinks. The attempt to privatize Midway is underway, even though there is no official procedure for it at this time. What would you like to bet that, oh a month from now or so, a contract will be put before the City Council—it won’t go to the Rules committee—to vote on.  There will be promises of money, numbers, reality-based or not will be tossed out, it will be described as a “win-win” situation. What will not be discussed is what it could mean for the people who actually utilize Midway--the communities around it and the people who work there. More importantly there will be little talk of the consequences of the selling of the public space, the ongoing push by the mayor to transfer as much of public money into private hands.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Is there anybody out there?

It’s time for another really stupid idea from an elected official. A few weeks ago, it was some members of the city council complaining about Superintendent McCarthy’s  tenure, and that he “better show some results."Seriously, does anybody think that changing the police superintendent will change any dynamic in the streets?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why there is no trauma center at University of Chicago

So there was another protest on Saturday at University of Chicago regarding the University’s decision to open a $700 million its new “Center for Care and Discovery”, but no trauma center. There is no trauma center because we have a hospital-industrial complex that, while masquerading as pillars of the community and as a “non-profit”, makes a lot of money by catering to certain segments of the population. There is no trauma center because hospitals are not designed to serve their communities but to serve themselves.
If there was any doubt at all about just how hospitals work it was put to rest in the extensive article by Steve Brill. The piece is long but it’s not exactly War and Peace, and it really needs to be read.  Short take, hospitals charge whatever they want, unless it’s Medicare, and those who have the least coverage or none at all pay the most. (Medicaid is handled more like Medicare but because is run by the states individual experiences will differ widely). Republicans typically emphasize “free markets” but for a “free” market you need a definitive price and a level playing field, and there is no more rigged market then the medical field. On its website it’s stated that U of C has patient revenues of more then one billion and is “one of the largest providers of uncompensated care in Illinois and provides millions of dollars in unreimbursed care every year.” According to its Community Report it donates $237 million of its total operating revenues to programs and services. Which sounds like a lot of money until you find out that in 2011 U of C was ranked the 39th top grossing hospital at $3.3 billion in gross revenue.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How the system works

There was a very good piece in the New York Times regarding the “revolving door” in Washington D.C. That is the standard practice of former lawmakers (regulators as well) going from government to private sector work—usually directly related to issues they dealt when they worked for the government—back to government—wash, rinse, repeat.  It is so common for nearly every lawmaker to become a lobbyist after retiring from the House or the Senate that it’s not much of a news story—move along, nothing to see here.

Thoughts on “investment”

The word investment came up for me twice this last week, once in reference to Pre-K education in the State of the Union Speech and then again in a paper regarding decarceration from an “investment” point of view. Probably the most common definition of “investment” would be what came up first in my dictionary:
The investing of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The school closings

Via twitter, @sethlavin, 10 questions for CPS regarding the school closings:

1) You've estimated $500K in savings per closed school. Does this mean closing 100 schools solves only 5% of the $1B CPS budget deficit?
2) What data exist that shows closing underperforming schools results in academic gains for students?
3) You say we have a “utilization crisis.” What data shows that a school’s being “underutilized” hurts student achievement?
4) U of C says in 94% of cases kids from closed Chicago schools didn’t go to “academically strong” new schools. Will this be different?
5) Will you guarantee that no students from closed Level 3 schools will go to another Level 3 school?
6) You say CPS mishandled its last round of 10 closings. Will you share your analysis of what went wrong, and how this will be different?
7) Given that you included 5 of last year’s 10 turnaround schools on the new possible closings list, do you regret those turnarounds?
8) Will you present your plan for where kids from each closed school will go before deciding whether or not each school will close?
9) Have you hired management consultants to assist you in vetting schools for inclusion on the closings list? If so, who are they?
10) How many CPS staff members are currently working on transition plans for 5,792 students with IEPs that may be impacted by closings?

Don’t hold your breath for the answers, the amount of dialogue from CPS in regards to this issue would be hysterical if the consequences were not so dire. There are thousands of kids, families, and communities whose lives will be radically changed and you cannot even come to a community outreach meeting? The savings are also a joke, it would worth asking that if in the “savings” the future use of the buildings was considered. The Philadelphia experience would suggest that it’s a little more complicated. It hard not to see this action as anything else but an attempt to destroy public education as it has been know, and replace it with a public-private model. You know where the public puts in the money and the private takes it out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sometimes there is something you can do

If there is anything anybody can agree in Chicago, it’s that the parking meter deal that is the privatization of parking meters was the worst possible thing. So much happens in this city but mess with parking and ITS ON and it was thought to have played a role in Daley not seeking another term. Even if you are of the belief of privatization to earn the city money is a positive thing, ramming through a giant complex deal at the last minute should not be possible. You would think after all the fuss it kicked up the current mayor would be  more careful about this privatization of Midway Airport, and he is, talking about appointing a blue-ribbon panel to oversee the process.  But it shouldn’t be up to him, there should be a law.  Alderman Roderick Sawyer,of the 6th has drafted such a bill, among other things requiring a cost-benefit analysis for any project over $250,000. No brainer right? Even if you believe in selling public assets for profit you’d want to make sure you got the best deal for it right? Well apparently any oversight is too much oversight for Dick Mell, who will not let it out of committee. According to the Better Government Association  32 alderman support it, which last time I checked, makes it a majority. Nobody can be against something like this, the bill does not prevent any privatization from occurring it just requires some assessment. So I would encourage anybody and everybody to give Dick Mell a call, and ask him to let it come up for a vote.
Phone: 773-478-8040

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why a third party

I had a twitter exchange with a lefty-education writer/activist type who insisted that a third party is not viable. The exchange was in regards to the CTU and the Democratic Party, and that if the CTU was to leave the Democrat party the members would instantly vote them out, conservative leadership would be voted in and they would be stuck with a crappy pension deal. I do not pretend to know all the ins and outs of the CTU leadership or the relationships between CTU and elected officials, this maybe exactly true.
I was one those people once, who insisted that a third-party was a waste of time, and the risk of voting in ______________(place the Republican of your choice here) was such a risk to humanity that I had to vote for ______________(place Democrat of choice here). On a federal level what has that got me? Some very half-assed health-care expansion, some poor financial reform, and recent budget deal that raised taxes for most of the population but made sure that Goldman Sachs could offshore money.  Immigration reform is being discussed, never mind that there have been far more people deported by Obama then Bush.
On a local level we have a city and state that is run by the same corporation the Democrats.  The current mayor is as hostile to pubic schools and the teachers that work there as any Republican. He is pushing students out of schools by claiming they are “underutilized” and pushing charter schools—transfer of public money to private corporations—to the hilt.  Like all good capitalists his donors know the real money is from the government. This mayor has imposed the most regressive kinds of taxes such as a for water tax while making sure large corporations get their share, whether it’s straight out cash or through TIFs. Supposedly there is a city council to provide some checks and balances but under this mayor and the previous mayor almost every initiative/budget has been approved with hardly any discussion or public comment let alone denied.
 On the state level there is something of a competition on who can cut pensions more—the Democratic leader of the State senate or the Governor.  In fact on pensions there has probably been greater leadership by Republicans to fight Quinn and to provide leadership on changes. Unfortunately Republican leadership is really not in favor of such things, so for political reasons and philosophy these moves have been underplayed and not really supported.
It is true that making a third-party—developing the infrastructure, supporting candidates, challenging the status quo—is hard. It is made harder by the myriad of elections laws put in place precisely for this purpose. But I would argue that the largest barrier is the mentality that says there is no alternative. What has become increasingly clear is that elected officials are elected to represent the money issues that support them. This has always been true, but in the last twenty years or so the gap between what-is-good-for-business–is-good-for-the economy has grown tremendously. This can be seen in the large amounts of capital that corporations are holding on while unemployment remains at record highs. Automation, off shoring, productivity gains have all combined to make the worker less important then ever before.  At the same time budget austerity is all the rage, to put money into people whether it is stimulus for employment or social programs—Social Security, health care—is considered wasteful.
The best way to address this would be through political organization, a party that could knit small local groups together to push for changes that would benefit everybody, at the level of the city, state, or federal government.  Another major source for organization would be through unions. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome, then union leadership in this country can be considered insane.  If union leadership insists on devotion to a party that uses it for photo-ops and meetings, and then can’t be found to push essential legislation to strengthen unions then what is the point? 
The common refrain to this is to reform the Democratic Party from within, as if the Democratic Party is any less beholden to corporate interests then the Republican Party is. The city council is as good as any example of this—the so-called reform-members elected in the past few cycles have barely registered any level of dissent. It is ironic that of the two parties it would appear that is the Republican Party that tolerates dissent more then the Democrats. The Republicans have run candidates at varying levels of defiance to national leadership; it is acceptable in the Republican Party to outright defy leadership.  True, the most radical of these candidates did not win, but they did not have to influence the power structure. If you read the national rag sheets you know that even established Republican candidates worry about getting “primaried”. Strangely, even though the Democratic leaders and the White House have pushed policies—cutting Social Security, tax breaks for large corporations, tax hikes for the middle class—that the majority of people do not support, most Democrats appear safe.
This is what makes the possibility of third-party most promising, that by and large, most elected officials have disregarded their constituents. Plenty of Republicans would like to see greater transparency all the way around, from city contracts to police abuse payouts.  Not all conservatives are anti-union, especially the classic working-class white male, who thirty years ago belonged to a union. If union leadership cannot leave the democratic party then union membership needs to consider involving itself with local movements where immediate concerns can be expressed and acted on, and be pushed through by a third-party that is directly accountable to them. The other possibility is increasing membership in areas where unions have not had a presence, i.e. service jobs. This may be the most promising area, as the movements to unionize/organize these workers are political in nature but untraditional and therefore less beholden to traditional political traditions.
“If you cannot see the bars you cannot know you are in a cage”
There are more of us, people who live in this city, state, and country who are not benefiting from the current system then are. But we have to see the bars first before we can have transformative change. 

The types of justice in Chicago

Another day, another city of Chicago payment to a police victim .  It happens so often, and does not provoke more then an article or two that I guess after awhile one does not notice anymore. But really, where is the outrage? Why is spending close to $30 million on a FEW police abuse cases—and make no mistake, these were police abuse cases cases—ok? Why is there not a demand, from victims to those demanding budget austerity that this just stop?
So if you are a cop and have killed somebody you probably will still have a job, but if you are thirteen and got into a fight at school where the police happened to break it up, you are marked for life. It is incredibly onerous to expunge juvenile records, cases where the defendant was not charged or had to go to court, in other words, no harm was done.  Thanks to Anita Alvarez, she of victim-was-raped-after she-was-dead-fame, fought legislation that would have made it easier for victims to expunge their records.  This should not be a partisan issue, as public officials in charge of safety both the police department AND the attorney’s who work with them need to held accountable .

Thursday, February 7, 2013

CPS versus the people

There have been several CPS community meetings in the last few weeks; in theory CPS is supposed to listening to parents and make decisions with the commentary in mind.  CPS is insisting that many schools are underutilized and savings must come from closing schools—all the while charter schools are being opened up with a tremendous amount of state funding. As described on twitter these meeting are full, emotions run high, and the officials who run these meetings, (frequently not from CPS) come across as the nice lady at the ________(name irritating institution of your choice) who is pleasant but completely unhelpful. 
It’s apparent CPS has an agenda, and these meeting are more for show then for anything else.  And what better place to slowly destroy the public school system then in marginalized neighborhoods that are mainly brown and black. Almost by definition these neighborhoods will have lower test scores as they have access to fewer resources—this is the stick used to beat the public school system, so of course the community needs an “alternative”. If these public schools are so failing the community why are parents fighting so hard for them? It’s ironic with all the talk about the violence in Chicago, especially among the young, that CPS is so determined to take out schools. In some of these neighborhoods a school is one of the few safe spaces, and they are integral to the community. And don’t think the CPS agenda is only on the south and west side, it’s only a matter of time before schools on the north side are targeted, starting with the least community-supported.  CPS will work its way to the north side to close public schools with the same themes, underutilization, poor scores etc.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The choices we have

Yesterday there was a stir in the D.C. press pool regarding a leaked white paper from the administration. This paper puts on record that the USA through the executive branch has the right to kill anybody they want on the grounds of national security . . . because it says so. The Jay Carney stated drone attacks are “legal, ethical, and wise”. Is this what we have come to—the shining beacon of democracy can kill whoever it wants? And make no mistake, the way the logic is trending it is only a matter of time before it moves from Pakistan and Yemen to here. It is truly amazing that the president elected as the supposed antidote to Bush—surely why he won the Nobel Prize—has in fact presided over the largest expansion of extrajudicial killings (i.e. drone attacks and the like) in US history. And who is protesting this? The vast majority of elected Democrats and Republicans are ok with this.  The most strident complaints are from the Republicans, just like under Bush the most strident complaints about the War on Terror were from the Democrats. This is not about Obama, or any one president. It is about state power, whoever has it wants more of it, whoever doesn’t have it, want to lessen it. It is a system that needs to be changed and it is very hard to see how it could come from Democrats or Republicans.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The real crisis

As the jobs report on Friday indicated things are not getting worse but they are not getting better. The acute stage of bleeding in the economy has long been stopped, the slow drip of employment that is still hard to get, hard to keep, frequently temporary and still pays poorly is ongoing.  What will it take to make the people in (theory anyway) charge to decide that employment (growth) is the issue? There are noises from D.C. that maybe the deficit is not the thing to be focused on, and the push to change i.e. cut, Social Security has appeared to pass for now. But there remains a real job crisis most significantly in local government—city, state—employment. Where is the political will to take the impending defense cuts (i.e. sequester) and put them towards local stimulus?

How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive a Plague is a terrific documentary about ACT UP (currently streaming for free on netflix). ACT UP—AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power—was arguably the most successful grassroots organization ever. LBGT rights have advanced so rapidly in the past 10 years it is hard sometimes to remember what gay life was like in the early eighties. Much of the community life was underground; LBGT people faced tremendous discrimination in places like hospitals and so when gay men became sick with odd symptoms the medical system was close to respond.
Faced with their community literally dying in front of them, with hardly any support or treatment, and discrimination, ACT UP was formed. Through direct action they protested various venues, government and non-government, but more importantly they supported each other. They formed networks among themselves to determine treatment; they tried to solve their own problems by studying the research that was available and enlisted real researchers to help them and directly engaged with drug companies. As treatments became available they pushed for affordability. Watching the movie made me think about the power what committed people can accomplish, and where battles should be fought.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What really needs to be done to stop the violence

There were press conferences, hearings and a lot of hubbub in D.C. regarding potential laws restricting guns, particularly assault weapons, magazines, and background checks. Like many people I support laws that will put reasonable restriction on guns, just like I would support restrictions on any dangerous substance. But anybody who thinks any gun law by itself can curb the culture of violence is delusional. Chicago has been in the spotlight as homicide rates have been particularly high and the most recent tragic death of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who performed in the inauguration just highlight the issue more. Quite understanding @Prison Culture is well, irritated:
“If I see ONE MORE G.D tweet asking about what Chicago community members &  .orgs are doing to “end the violence,” I won’t be held responsible”.
  These include,,,, and many, many more.more. The problem?                          
“My point is that TONS of people and organizations are working every SINGLE day. . . Our young people are taking to the streets asking for trauma centers, fighting back against further criminalization in schools, asking for their fair share . . . “
There is a petition to ask President Obama to come to Chicago for the funeral of Pendleton. @Prison Culture asks
“ . . Also what is the President concretely bringing with him to the city on this trip? Will he (be) bringing more jobs with him for the Southside? Will he be intervening with Mayor 1% (to) insist that the dozens of Southside schools slated (for) closure be kept open? WHAT WILL HE BE BRINGING TO THE CONCRETELY FOR THE COMMUNITY? . . . So many of us who actually LIVE in this city want RESOURCES. You can keep the symbolism.”

Communities that have an economic base, where people have jobs, access to schools and resources do not have violence. While allocating of government dollars is often  presented as rob Peter-to-pay-Paul scenario—if more money is spent on the Southside does that mean less money on the Northside—we KNOW there is the money. What is often kept from us is where it goes and who actually gets it, and this hurts everybody. Until resources are fairly allocated, and not just siphoned off into non-development development i.e. TIFs or into the same corporate pockets, there will be violence.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Things I did not know about CPS until 1/28

Monday, 1/28, there was an outreach meeting by CPS regarding school closings at Truman College. First, CPS has a very particular definition regarding "open" meetings, apparently they do not include reporters. CPS officials themselves may attend such meetings--but they do not run them--according to my twitter feed there were some in attendance but the people who actually ran the meeting were outside consultants--Loren I think was the name. As has been pointed out by people across the political spectrum possibly the single most offensive aspect of CPS is that there is no plan. This was asked at the meeting and of course was not answered. Even with some of the leaked documents regarding school closings a month or so ago there appears to be no overall plan, no particular goals beyond getting as many charter schools as possible. As someone tweeted Monday night, they are not even trying.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Drone Attack in Yemen

I came across a Yemen-based blog yesterday with the headline

 "Dear Obama when a drone missile kills any child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda."

This is really not too hard to understand right? If you are wondering why they hate us . . .

So of course we need more.

Protest at University of Chicago

Last night led by Fearless Leading by Youth several organizations led a protest at University of Chicago demanding trauma care service on the South Side. It turns out you can get arrested faster on University of Chicago campus then you can get trauma care. Most hospitals operate as non-profits and their ability to operate is regulated by the state and their ability make money is largely dependent on state/federal services (Medicare and Medicaid). Therefore they must serve their community, especially when that community has such obvious trauma needs. Hospitals that operate as non-profits are generally taxed a very different rate, if at all, as compared to for-profit corporations. The logic behind this is that some of that money that might have gone to tax goes to charity care--however most hospitals are famous for not advertising this fact and U of C has a particular reputation as actively avoiding Medicaid patients. As the ACA is implemented in IL it is important that hospitals are held accountable to their communities. More info at occupied chicago tribune