Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode 82. Bill Ayers talks with us about Arne Duncan’s latest book.


We cracked on Arne Duncan’s view of the world for most of the hour-long Hitting Left show today.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Or you can listen here to the MixCloud version which includes the music from the show.

There is no need for me to repeat it all. You can read the book yourself and then listen to our conversation.

This is Bill’s third time on Hitting Left.

Not only is he an old friend, he was my professor in grad school at UIC.

Like much of the original architecture at the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois, the College of education is housed in a ugly style of design known as brutalism.

Perfect name.

The classrooms are bunker-like, warm and inviting as storage lockers.

For one class, Bill had us meet in a common room that had couches and lounge chairs rather than in a regular cinder block classroom. As one of his weekly assignments he had one student start the class by teaching us how to do something we would never learn in school.

The assignment had a serious point: We should think of curriculum broadly and recognize the value of the out-of-school curriculum as well as the in-school curriculum.

Plus, some weeks it was fun.

One week we were all sitting cross-legged on the floor while a student showed us how to string beads.

It was then that the Dean walked past, stopped, backed up and looked into the room.

Shaking his head, he announced that he had spent his career trying to convince people that colleges of ed were more than places where people learned how to string beads.

And now, here we were.

I think he was being funny and I was hoping the meaning of the activity was not lost on him.

But who knows?

It wasn’t lost on me.

Mayor Daley and the torturer, Jon Burge.

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In the case of Jon Burge, what did Daley know and when did he know it?

How ironic is the announcement of a possible third Mayor Daley and the death of Chicago police Commander Jon Burge happening in the same week.

We have discussed the monster Jon Burge on our Hitting Left radio show and podcast.

In September of 2017 we talked about it with the great people’s lawyer and dogged pursuer of justice in the Burge case, Flint Taylor.

More recently we had as a guest, one of Burge’s victims, Ronald Kitchens. 

Some have taken pleasure in the news of Burge’s passing. And certainly his many victims shed no tears.

The full story of Jon Burge should not be buried with his body.

There are still questions that remain. They are questions that Attorney Flint Taylor and others seeking justice have tried to find the answers to.

The questions involve the role of Richard M. Daley in the cover-up of Burge’s crimes.

Daley was Cook County state’s attorney at the time.

Acting like a former Mafia Don avoiding justice by claiming illness, Daley has managed to avoid being legally deposed on what he knew about Burge and when did he know it.

Former assistant Cook County state’s attorney (and later state’s attorney himself) Dick Divine has stated that Daley knew about reports of Burge’s torture tactics.

Former police superintendent under Daley, Richard Brzeczek, has stated he was never asked to investigate Burge by Daley.

Taylor told us on our show that Daley’s role in all this was an open secret to members of the Chicago Police Department.

With another Daley in the Chicago Mayor’s race, now is a good time to press forward on getting justice by exposing the systematic and racist use of torture by members of the Chicago Police Department and Daley’s role.

And it raises questions about whether another Daley as Mayor is what we want.

Sixteen shots.

Jason Van Dyke.
Cook County Medical Examiner Ponni Arunkumar took the stand and explained Laquan McDonald’s injuries to jurors.
“There were 16 gunshot wounds to the body of Laquan McDonald,” Arunkumar said early in her testimony.
Prosecutors displayed graphic photos of McDonald’s body throughout her testimony — some that actually showed multiple gunshot wounds at once. Another showed the incision where his chest had been cut open. Prosecutors also showed X-rays.
1. A graze wound on the left side of his scalp. Arunkumar said McDonald was alive for this gunshot wound.
2. A gunshot wound to the left side of the base of McDonald’s neck. A bullet was recovered from his body.
3. A gunshot wound to the left side of McDonald’s chest and close to the second gunshot wound. It left his body through the back of his left arm.
4. A gunshot wound to the right side of McDonald’s chest. A bullet was recovered from his body.
5. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s left elbow, which exited the body.
6. A gunshot wound to the back of McDonald’s right upper arm, which exited the body.
7 A gunshot wound to the back of McDonald’s left forearm, which exited the body.
8. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s right upper thigh. The bullet traveled to his left upper leg, where it was recovered.
9. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s left upper back, which exited his body.
10. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s left elbow, close to the fifth gunshot wound. This one also exited his body.
11. A gunshot wound to the back of McDonald’s right upper arm. It exited his body through the right upper back.
12. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s right upper forearm. A bullet was recovered from his body.
13. A gunshot wound to the back of McDonald’s right forearm. A bullet was recovered from his body.
14. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s right hand. Bullet fragments were recovered from his body.
15. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s lower right back. A bullet was recovered from his body.
16. A gunshot wound to McDonald’s right upper thigh. It exited McDonald’s body through the back of his right upper thigh.

Lies, lies everywhere. Arne Duncan’s book and the failure to hold himself accountable.


On this Friday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers radio show/podcast we will be talking about the current state of school reform both here in Chicago and nationally.

We were going to spend some time on Arne Duncan’s latest book about his tenure as Chicago schools’ CEO and then as Secretary of Education.

We even invited him to join us.

Through a spokesman, he declined.

UIC Professor (retired) Bill Ayers will be in studio.

I read his book. It’s short but not exactly a page turner.

His first chapter is called “Lies, Lies Everywhere,” which is very appropriate for this book.

I don’t want to ruin it for you but in this novella the protagonist did nothing wrong. He was never in doubt about his plans for fixing what we all broke.

And Duncan provides no quantitative data to prove it.

That was surprising to me.

Here was a guy who argued most enthusiastically for data driven decision making and data based accountability.

And then it ends up that there is none to be found in the far-from-epic story he weaves of battling the unions and suburban moms.

Nothing. Not even one bar chart or spreadsheet. No evidence other than his say so.

Not that I believe quantitative data alone tells the whole story.

But you can’t just make stuff up and claim everything you did worked and only failed when the evil forces allied against your vision of change were able to block you.

As I read chapter after chapter about Race to the Top I kept thinking about his decision to use federal funding to force states to evaluate teachers based on individual student performance on high stakes tests.

In Illinois, the results were disastrous.

It resulted in the legislature passing the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) in hopes of the state getting a piece of the Race to the Top money.

In the end, Illinois got peanuts and teachers got the shaft.

And apparently, nobody will be held accountable for that.

Our show is Friday at 11am. 105.5fm in Chicago. Download the Lumpen Radio app for internet listening. Or listen to the Podcast on wifi or download.

#Believe Women


Workers’ public pension contributions are up. Employer contributions are down. Illinois (surprise!) is the worst in the nation.

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Pensions and Investments (Yes. I read this shit) reports that the average funding ratio of the 100 largest U.S. public pension systems slipped to 71.9% in fiscal year 2017, the lowest since 2005.

The funding ratio describes the pension systems’ liability, what is owed, the unfunded portion of the pension systems.

There are essentially three sources of revenue into a pension system. There is the employee contribution. There is the employer contribution. And there is the return on investment.

Nationally, pensions have received increases in two of those areas and have received less funding in one of those areas.

Shall we guess?


Investments showed a median 13.22% return for fiscal 2017, compared to 1.25% in fiscal 2016. Five-year annualized returns were also up in 2017, at 9.1%, compared to 7.29% the previous year, while 10-year returns of 5.55% came close to the 5.7% notched in fiscal 2016.

Contributions were up as well, driven entirely on the employee side. In fiscal 2017, employee and employer contributions totaled $143.7 billion, up 1.2% from the previous year. Employer contributions for 2017 dipped 2% from the previous year, to $99.2 billion, while employee contributions rose 9.14%, to $44.5 billion. 

Illinois is the worst of the worst, according to P&I.

At the bottom of the list are state and municipal plans in Illinois, including the three plans overseen by the $17.6 billion Illinois State Board of Investment and the Chicago Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund. Those plans are the Illinois General Assembly Retirement System, the Illinois Judges’ Retirement System and Illinois State Employees’ Retirement System, which had funding ratios of 14.9%, 35.6% and 35.5%, respectively, as of June 30, 2017, the most recent data available. The $4.5 billion Chicago Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund had a funding ratio of 27.4% as of Dec. 31, 2017.

Illinois’ Teacher Retirement System is funded at about 40% with Tier 1 employees making a 9% contribution every paycheck.