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?