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Pension theft proving toxic to Illinois Democrats.

July 27, 2014


Republican Bruce Rauner holds a 12 point lead over Democrat Pat Squeezy Quinn in the polls.

Illinois’ Attorney General Lisa Madigan has always been thought of as unbeatable.

Daughter of State Democratic Party Chairman and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, Lisa was considered a possible challenger to Quinn or a lock on a future Senate seat.

But Democrat’s assault on public employee pensions is proving toxic. As is any relationship to the one who insisted on Senate Bill 1, Michael Madigan.

The same polls now show the once popular Attorney General below a 50% approval rating.

Always a dangerous place to be 3 months before an election.

The same poll shows support for honoring pension promises is overwhelming.

One question asked whether the person surveyed would be more or less likely to vote for someone whose “Father is Illinois Speaker of the House and as Attorney General has rarely pursued political corruption cases.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, 60 percent said that would make them less likely or not likely at all to vote for the candidate, and only 13 percent said it would make them somewhat more likely to vote for her.

As for pensions?

Illinois is deeply in debt which of the following do you believe is most responsible for the hugh debt: Public employee Pensions; state tax and fee increases; Political corruption or failed political leadership?

23% Public employee Pensions
11% State Tax/Fee increases
29% Political corruption
29% Failed political leadership
8% Don’t Know

Only one quarter of the voters that were asked blamed pensions. Nearly 70% blamed unfair taxes, corruption and a failure of leadership.

Do you support pension reform that would include a reduction in benefits to public employees?
24% Yes
70% No
6% Don’t Know

An ethnic slur.

July 27, 2014

A few days ago, in my continuing sadness about what is happening in Gaza, I posted on Twitter.

“One Palestinian child is killed every hour in Gaza.”

People all over the world have taken to the streets to call for an end to Israel’s military assault on what is the prison called Gaza.

I am part of that.

A blogger who writes anonymously at South Bronx Teacher (I won’t provide a link), chose to reply to my tweet with name-calling.

“Self-hating Jew.”

I am Jewish.

I am not an observant one.

I come from a family of religious Jews, a rabbi and a cantor. I also come from a family of socialist Jews and progressive secular Jews.

They are all a part of me.

Be clear about this also. The term self-hating Jew is an ethnic slur.

He might as well have called me a kike.

It would not have been the first time I was called that.

Historically the slur “self-hating Jew” refers to court Jews.  It has roots in the anti-semitic image of Jews as money-changers and bankers for European kings and monarchs.

I earned this slur by opposing the killing fields of Gaza.

Sunday reads.

July 27, 2014


Young Lords Way. Photo. El Museo del Barrio

Eugene Robinson. Israel is acting as if it is free of moral responsibilities.

NYSUT was against Common Core before they were for it. What happened?

Connecticut’s charter school scandal.

From Rethinking Schools. New Orleans after Katerina. Colonialism. Not Reform.

Free Gaza. Chicago yesterday.

The article originally appeared in the September 29, 1979, issue of The Nation.

I met Martin Luther King Jr. before I met Andrew Young. I know that Andy and I met only because of Martin. Andy was, in my mind, and not because he ever so described himself, Martin’s “right-hand man.” He was present—absolutely present. He saw what was happening. He took upon himself his responsibility for knowing’what he knew, and for seeing what he saw. I have heard Andy attempt to describe himself only once: when he was trying to clarify something about me, to someone else. So, I learned, one particular evening, what his Christian ministry meant to him. Let me spell that out a little.

The text comes from the New Testament, ‘Matthew 25:40: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I am in the strenuous and far from dull position of having news to deliver to the Western world—for example: black is not a synonym for slave. Do not, I counsel you, attempt to defend yourselves against this stunning, unwieldy and undesired message. You will hear it again: indeed, this is the only message the Western world is likely to be hearing from here on out.

I put it in this somewhat astringent fashion because it is necessary, and because I speak, now, as the grandson of a slave, a direct descendant of a born-again Christian. My conversion, as Countee Cullen puts it, came high-priced/I belong to Jesus Christ. I am also speaking as an ex-minister of the Gospel, and therefore, as one of the born again. I was instructed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit those in prison. I am far indeed from my youth, and from my father’s house, but I have not forgotten these instructions, and I pray upon my soul that I never will. The people who call themselves “born again” today have simply become members of the richest, most exclusive private club in the world, a club that the man from Galilee could not possibly hope—or wish—to enter.

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. That is a hard saying. It is hard to live with that. It is a merciless description of our responsibility for one another. It is that hard light under which one makes the moral choice. That the Western world has forgotten that such a thing as the moral choice exists, my history, my flesh, and my soul bear witiness. So, if I may say so, does the predicament into which the world’s most celebrated born-again Christian has managed to hurl Mr. Andrew Young.

Let us not belabor the obvious truth that what the Western world calls an “energy” crisis ineptly disguises what happens when you can no longer control markets, are chained to your colonies (instead of vice versa), are running out of slaves (and can’t trust those you think you still have), can’t, upon rigorously sober reflection, really send the Marines, or the Royal Navy, anywhere, or risk a global war, have no alIies—only business partners, or “satellites”—and have broken every promise you ever made, anywhere, to anyone. I know what I am talking about: my grandfather never got the promised “forty acres, and a mule,” the Indians who survived that holocaust are either on reservations or dying in the streets, and not a single treaty between the United States and the Indian was ever honored. That is quite a record.

Jews and Palestinians know of broken promises. From the time of the Balfour Declaration (during World War I) Palestine was under five British mandates, and England promised the land back and forth to the Arabs or the Jews, depending on which horse seemed to be in the lead. The Zionists—as distinguished from the people known as Jews—using, as someone put it, the “available political machinery,’’ i.e., colonialism, e.g., the British Empire—promised the British that, if the territory were given to them, the British Empire would be safe forever.,

But absolutely no one cared about the Jews, and it is worth observing that non-Jewish Zionists are very frequently anti-Semitic. The white Americans responsible for sending black slaves to Liberia (where they are still slaving for the Firestone Rubber Plantation) did not do this to set them free. They despised them, and they wanted to get rid of them. Lincoln’s intention was not to “free” the slaves but to “destabilize” the Confederate Government by giving their slaves reason to “defect.” The Emancipation Proclamation freed, precisely, those slaves who were not under the authority of the President of what could not yet be insured as a Union.

It has always astounded me that no one appears to be able to make the connection between Franco’s Spain, for example, and the Spanish Inquisition; the role of the Christian church or—to be brutally precise, the Catholic Church—in the history of Europe, and the fate of the Jews; and the role of the Jews in Christendom and the discovery of America. For the discovery of America coincided with the Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Does no one see the connection between The Merchant of Venice and The Pawnbroker? In both of these works, as though no time had passed, the Jew is portrayed as doing the Christian’s usurious dirty work. The-first white man ever was the Jewish manager arrived to collect the rent, and he collected the rent because he did not own the building. I never, in fact, saw any of the people who owned any of the buildings in which we scrubbed and uffered for so long, until I was a grown man and famous. None of them were Jews.

And I was not stupid: the grocer and the druggist were Jews, for example, and they were very very nice to me, and to us. The cops were white. The city was white. The threat was white, and God was white, Not for even a single split second in my life did the despicable, utterly cowardly accusatioi that “the Jews killed Christ’’ reverberate. I knew a murderer when I saw one, and the people who were trying to kilI me were not Jews.

But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests. This is what is becoming clear (I must say that it was always clear to me). The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of “divide and rule” and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years.

Finally: there is absolutely—repeat: absolutely—no hope of establishing peace in what Europe so arrogantly calls the Middle East (how in the world would Europe know? having so dismally failed to find a passage to India) without dealing with the Palestinians. The collapse of the Shah of Iran not only revealed the depth of the pious Carter’s concern for “human rights,” it also revealed who supplied oil to Israel, and to whom Israel supplied arms. It happened to be, to spell it out, white South Africa.

Well. The Jew, in America, is a white man. He has to be, since I am a black man, and, as he supposes, his only protection against the fate which drove him to America. But he is still doing the Christian’s dirty work, and black men know it.

My friend, Mr. Andrew Young, out of tremendous love and courage, and with a silent, irreproachable, indescribable nobility, has attempted to ward off a holocaust, and I proclaim him a hero, betrayed by cowards.

James Baldwin September 29, 1979

Illinois pension Plan B must be raising revenue. Tax the rich.

July 26, 2014


Mike Madigan and John Cullerton.

There is now broad acceptance of the fact – following the Illinois Supreme Court 6-1 ruling in Kanerva v. Weems - that the pension theft Senate Bill 1 will go down in flames.

Most of the discussion is now focused on what will be Plan B.

In an extraordinary piece of political puffery in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, John McCarron paints a heroic picture of Senate President John Cullerton.

McCarron is a former employee for the Trib and now does freelance.

What makes Cullerton so great to McCarron?

Even though President Cullerton knew SB1 was unconstitutional, he voted for it anyway. And got the Senate Democratic Caucus to vote for it.

In Illinois, that is what is called a profile in courage.

If you recall, Cullerton had worked out a deal with the coalition of state public employee unions (We Are One), and came up with SB 2404.

SB 2404 cut pension benefits, but not as much as what Speaker Madigan wanted. Cullerton was gambling that the Court might agree to less a violation of the pension protection clause rather than a full frontal attack on it.

Kanerva suggests that Cullerton was wrong.

Then there was a stand-off, with the Senate voting for SB2404 and Madigan’s House voting for SB1. That was back in May.

By December, Democrats had mostly united around SB1 and a full frontal on the pension protection clause.

I opposed SB 2404 as well as SB1. So did the Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA). So did a number of other pension activists and bloggers.

IRTA promised they would take either bill to court.

We argued that any compromise of the pension protection clause would open the door for further pension cuts later.

For this we were attacked by apologists for the union leadership as union-haters.

Let me be clear that nobody in the union leadership called us that. The campaign of attacks and name-calling – Facebook posts and monumentally long emails – came from a small group of their alleged defenders.

These apologists argued that it was far too dangerous to go to the court to defend the explicit language of the Illinois Constitution. Instead we should rely on cutting a back room deal with Illinois’ Democratic leaders.

Not even in Illinois would that be considered a smart strategy for the unions.

McCarron speculates now that the state’s union leaders  - once the Supremes rule SB1 illegal – have no incentive to bargain another SB 2404.

I hope that is true.

But I’m not so sure.

We have been and can be our own worst enemies.

There is no doubt that the state’s political leadership – Democrat and Republican, Quinn or Rauner – would rather come up with another attempt at pension theft, or amend the state’s constitution, removing the pension protection clause.

This will fail.

At some point they must face the facts as we have consistently argued them.

It’s not a pension problem.

It’s a revenue problem.

Rahm Emanuel and the fugitive in Pakistan.

July 26, 2014


The line in the Sun-Times story was very carefully constructed.

He is not accused of any wrongdoing involving his City Hall job.

He is Amer Ahmad, the fugitive money launderer and racketeer now hiding in Pakistan.

And former comptroller for Mayor Rahm.

Not accused is not the same as saying he didn’t do anything.

I have never been accused of stealing that Mad Magazine from a Rexall Drugstore in LA when I was nine years old.

It doesn’t mean I didn’t do it.

“Dr.” Terrence P. Carter has never been formally accused of including a doctorate from Stanford University on his resume while working for CPS and the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) while in Chicago. But given what came out when he applied for the superintendent’s job in New London, Connecticut, it might be a good idea for somebody to check the file.

From the Sun-Times:

Federal prosecutors are seeking to extradite Amer Ahmad, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former City Hall comptroller, from Pakistan, where Ahmad fled — using a fake passport — after pleading guilty last year to public corruption charges in Ohio.

Ahmad, 39, has admitted in Pakistani court that he forged documents to flea to his parents’ homeland. He remains jailed in the city of Lahore.


The “affidavit in support of extradition of Amer Ahmad” filed Wednesday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Squires notes that Pakistan has agreed to extradite individuals convicted of bribery under a 1935 treaty between the U.S. and United Kingdom. Ahmad pleaded guilty to “federal program bribery” and money laundering charges in December stemming from a previous job as Ohio’s deputy state treasurer.


Shortly before he was indicted last summer, Ahmad abruptly resigned his $165,000-a-year job in Emanuel’s administration. He is not accused of any wrongdoing involving his City Hall job.

He had been living in Chicago with his wife and children before going on the lam in the spring. He was arrested in Pakistan in April with a fake Mexican passport, a forged Pakistani visa and thousands of dollars in cash in an apparent attempt to avoid U.S. prison time.

This was the guy Rahm chose to watch the City’s money.

I have to laugh when people tell me that someone like Karen Lewis doesn’t have the experience to run a city.

Nobody from Interpol is trying to extradite anybody from her CTU staff on federal bribery charges because they’re hiding in Pakistan on forged documents.

Keeping retirement weird. Last weekend in July.

July 26, 2014


First, a shout out to my granddaughter Lucy who turns 11 years old today.

Happy birthday, Lucy!

This last weekend in July is kind of a restart for me.

Between 8 days in Denver for the NEA Representative Assembly, where my careful eating went all to hell, and a bout with tendonitis in my knee, which cut back on my exercise program, I put on some pounds.

But I have recovered from the tendonitis. Now that I am back to workouts with Trainer Mike – and back to eating as I should – the pounds have started to come off again.

I hurt the day after each training session. Like I did when I first started.

Back to ice packs.

The day-after pain is a great motivator not to slack off.

Tomorrow our IEA Retired chapter – the Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (S.O.R.E) is having a picnic. We are being joined by members of AFSCME retiree Sub-Chapter 161.

I know what you are thinking. Retiree picnic?


There will be no shuffleboard at our S.O.R.E. picnic.

Although my Brooklyn daughter-in-law informs me that shuffleboard is experiencing a revival among the hipsters of Brooklyn, which is where all things hip originate.

I will be bringing my bocce ball set, however.

And there will be the usual menu of dogs and burgers, brats and potato salad.

We’ve invited a few local politicians – most of whom we refused to endorse because they voted against our pension benefits.

But they are welcome to share a grilled dog. If they show up.

We are unhappy with their vote.

But we are adults and are not rude.

You are welcome to show up as well.

We will be at the Blue Star Memorial Woods in Glenview.

Shelter #2.

699 Lake Avenue.

Noon to 3PM.

Look for the SORE PICNIC signs.

I am making them this afternoon.

There is a chance of rain, but it won’t stop us.

Although the rain may cut into our Bocce Ball game.

Ten minute drawing. Chicago Transit Authority.

July 25, 2014



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