Cop unions and Black lives.

Demonstrators with St. Sabina Church in the Auburn Gresham community on the South Side hit the streets Wednesday evening to demand justice for Breonna Taylor. The church’s pastor, Rev. Michael Pfleger, poured fake “blood” onto the pavement to spell out the Louisville, Kentucky, police shooting victim’s name.

I blog and my activism is as a life-long union guy.

I have no patience for the role of cop unions like Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police and their privileged position. No other union has collective bargaining language that shields members from criminal prosecution. Only the cops.

Since the grand jury proceedings in the Breonna Taylor case are secret, it is not known what role the due process language of the Louisville cop contract served in protecting these guys.

Ryan Nichols is president of the local police union, the River City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 614.

What is known is that Nichols opposed the decision of the city of Louisville to pay $12 million to the family of Breonna Taylor and to implement numerous reforms in the police department to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.

In many cities, Chicago included, these and other needed reforms require changes in the collective bargaining agreement.

In a Chicago march last night to protest the failure to indict any cop for Breonna Taylor’s murder, Father Michael Phleger said, “March after march. Protest after protest. And nothing changes in America.”

“Today we learned that a person has no rights even in their own house,” he said about Taylor, who was fatally shot inside her home.

“Police are too protected in this country. When police do wrong they have to go to jail.”

At this moment Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is in negotiations with the Chicago Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. The head or the Chicago FOP is an open racist and Trump supporter.

On what planet should the Mayor of Chicago be forced to bargain reform of the police with the subject of the reforms?

I don’t care about bargaining salary or benefits with the cops. But so-called due process rules that require special treatment when cops engage in criminal behavior?

It makes no sense.

I’ve contacted my state representative Will Guzzardi about this. It would require state legislative action to remove criminal shield language as a subject of bargaining in the cop contract.

I’ve heard nothing back.

I’m not doxing Mrs. Barklow.

In my previous post I referred to a tv ad paid for by the billionaires who oppose a progressive state income tax.

The ad featured a Park Ridge senior named Phyllis Barklow who actually pays no income tax on her retirement income. No retirement income is taxed in Illinois.

Instead, because of our flat tax, seniors do pay high property and sales taxes because the state can’t meet current expenses on current revenue.

I received a number of comments to this blog that included the addresses and phone numbers to Mrs. Barklow’s two homes, one in Scottsdale, Arizona and her home in Park Ridge.

I don’t think the problem is Mrs. Barklow and I don’t allow doxing on this blog.

I won’t publish comments that contain someone’s home addresses and phone number.

Don’t target Mrs. Barklow. Call and contact your friends to vote yes on Fair Tax.

Mrs. Barklow of Park Ridge is wrong about the tax amendment.

Phyllis Barklow, from Park Ridge, retired and community volunteer, shows up on my tv screen every night. They’re in a negative ad about the Fair Tax constitutional amendment that will be on the top of the ballot when Illinois voting begins in a few weeks.

Although I taught school in Park Ridge for many years I don’t know Mrs. Barklow. I did have senior volunteers in my Art room. They get a property tax break for volunteering in Park Ridge, which I think is a good idea for other cities to copy.

Billionaire Ken Griffin and the other members of the billionaire boys club who are paying for these ads made a strange pick having Mrs. Barklow be the face of the campaign.

The state’s current flat tax means that teachers and first responders pay the same income tax rate as the billionaires.

I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with Mrs. Barklow’s face, but as an Illinois senior they pay no tax to the state on their retirement income.

A change to the constitution to create a graduated income would have no affect on their income tax bill at all.

Some have suggested changing that, but that is not what we are voting on.

In fact, nothing else in the state constitution will be changed. The pension protection clause won’t be changed. The legislature’s ability to raise or lower taxes won’t be changed.

On the other hand, it won’t solve everything. There will still be corporate tax loopholes for the corporations and the rich.

It won’t stop corporations like ComEd from bribing Springfield politicians.

It is a small but important tax reform that makes the rich pay a larger share of the state’s bills.

Mrs. Barklow is selling a pig in a poke in this ad.

The truth is that as a result of the flat tax, local school districts and municipalities have to tax more in property taxes and local sales taxes to make up the difference.

That’s actually a bigger tax burden on seniors like like Mrs. Barklow.

Check out Photoville in New York.

Go read the story in today’s New York Times about a photography exhibit that stretches across New York City’s five boroughs.

All of it outside. Safe to see. Wear a mask. Check it out if you are in or near New York.

Photoville is always a joyous jumble, embracing conceptual and narrative projects along with photojournalism. These are non-selling exhibits presented by the Photoville nonprofit itself and by numerous foundations, city agencies and educational, corporate and media partners (including The New York Times). This year’s presentation is a strong vintage: While meeting the many urgencies of this moment of acute, overlapping crises, it also opens up, in relevant ways, to wider views.

Here’s the website. Explore it. It has great resources for teachers and photographers and for those who enjoy photographs.

Among the photographs on display are those of the high school students of Leigh Klonsky, an Art teacher at public Eastside Community School in Manhattan.

I bring this to your attention with no humility. I am extremely proud of her and her students and appreciative of those who made these exhibitions possible.

Even after retiring from 30 years in the classroom, I can’t imagine the difficulties of teaching at this moment.

But I know that for most teachers the results are still worth it.

Republican hypocrisy and the system is rigged.

NBC’s marshmallow, Chuck Todd and Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso.

Watching the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd, interview Wyoming’s Republican Senator John Barrasso explain voting on a Supreme Court Justice a month ahead of the election, I was struck how even the usually compliant Todd seemed to be embarrassed by Barrasso’s transparent hypocrisy.

Barrasso represents a state that is the least populous and second most sparsely populated state in the country.

Yet his vote counts the same as a senator from California, the most populated state.

The senate is the House of Lords, a remnant of slavery and as undemocratic an institution as the electoral college and life-time appointment to the Supreme Court.

It is likely that Trump will send up Amy Coney Barrrett, a federal appeals court judge, to fill the seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett is an anti-abortion extremist.

I keep pointing out that when the white men who wrote the Constitution created the idea that Supreme Court appointments were for life, they thought that meant about ten years.

White men, the only ones who were allowed on the Court at the time, rarely lived past 50. Now the average lifespan is around 80. That’s 40 years on the court.

That’s about the length of time since the Bears last won a Superbowl.

Over the past 40 years the Court decided that burning the American flag was protected speech. They voted that same sex sex was legal and then later logically said the same thing about same sex marriage.

They ruled on climate change EPA regulations, gun ownership, Citizen’s United, and the Affordable Care Act.

Forty years is a long time.

Time enough for a lot of really bad rulings.

So, stopping the Trump appointment on the eve of a likely Democratic victory in the presidential election and control of the Senate is important.

I appreciate the take it to them attitude of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s not intimidated by the rules of parliamentary procedure or pleading to the spineless Susan Collins.

“Our reproductive rights are on the line. Our labor rights are on the line. Our right to healthcare is on the line. Labor and union protections are on the line. Our climate is on the line,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “With an early appointment, all of our rights—the rights that so many people died for, voting rights, reproductive rights, healthcare rights, all of those rights… are at risk with this appointment. So we need to make sure that we mobilize on an unprecedented scale to ensure that this vacancy is reserved for the next president.”

Howard Zinn and the Supreme Court.

Howard Zinn at arrivals for THE PEOPLE SPEAK Premiere Hosted by HISTORY, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Rose Theater, New York, NY November 19, 2009. Photo By: Rob Kim/Everett Collection

The late historian Howard Zinn was the target of a Red-baiting attack by Trump last week, although it is hard for me to believe that Trump even knew who Howard Zinn was.

Stephen Miller must have written the final solution of Trump’s speech.

Trump’s historical knowledge is so limited that it led them to think Frederick Douglass was still alive.

The attack on Zinn was in the context of Trump’s attempt to make law and order a campaign theme, blaming the silly idea that there is a a national Left-wing public school curriculum where cadres of history teachers are trained to encourage sedition.

All of it just hokum.

Howard Zinn wrote the powerful The Peoples History of the United States, which many history and social studies teachers use in their classrooms as an alternative to the mythology of the standard issue history texts

So, this morning I’m thinking about what Howard Zinn might say about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fight for the Supreme Court, even though Zinn died 10 years ago.

I’m certain they would want us to fight against a right-wing fascist take over of the Court and would encourage us to take the fight to the streets, to the ballot, on whatever level and with every tool we could muster.

The stakes in this fight are high.

It is not too much to say that lives hang in the balance.

I am also certain that Howard Zinn would use this opportunity to teach us some history of the Court, to give us some perspective, as they did in 2005 when writing about the John Roberts appointment as Chief Justice.

There is enormous hypocrisy surrounding the pious veneration of the Constitution and “the rule of law.” The Constitution, like the Bible, is infinitely flexible and is used to serve the political needs of the moment. When the country was in economic crisis and turmoil in the Thirties and capitalism needed to be saved from the anger of the poor and hungry and unemployed, the Supreme Court was willing to stretch to infinity the constitutional right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. It decided that the national government, desperate to regulate farm production, could tell a family farmer what to grow on his tiny piece of land.

When the Constitution gets in the way of a war, it is ignored. When the Supreme Court was faced, during Vietnam, with a suit by soldiers refusing to go, claiming that there had been no declaration of war by Congress, as the Constitution required, the soldiers could not get four Supreme Court justices to agree to even hear the case. When, during World War I, Congress ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech by passing legislation to prohibit criticism of the war, the imprisonment of dissenters under this law was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court, which included two presumably liberal and learned justices: Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis.

It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.

The distinction between law and justice is ignored by all those senators—Democrats and Republicans—who solemnly invoke as their highest concern “the rule of law.” The law can be just; it can be unjust. It does not deserve to inherit the ultimate authority of the divine right of the king.

The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than 12 hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance.

The Brown decision on school desegregation did not come from a sudden realization of the Supreme Court that this is what the 14th Amendment called for. After all, it was the same 14th Amendment that had been cited in the Plessy case upholding racial segregation. It was the initiative of brave families in the South—along with the fear by the government, obsessed with the Cold War, that it was losing the hearts and minds of colored people all over the world—that brought a sudden enlightenment to the Court.

The Supreme Court in 1883 had interpreted the 14th Amendment so that nongovernmental institutions—hotels, restaurants, etc.—could bar Black people. But after the sit-ins and arrests of thousands of Black people in the South in the early Sixties, the right to public accommodations was quietly given constitutional sanction in 1964 by the Court. It now interpreted the interstate commerce clause, whose wording had not changed since 1787, to mean that places of public accommodation could be regulated by Congressional action and be prohibited from discriminating.

Soon this would include barbershops, and I suggest it takes an ingenious interpretation to include barbershops in interstate commerce.

The right of a woman to an abortion did not depend on the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. It was won before that decision, all over the country, by grassroots agitation that forced states to recognize the right. If the American people, who by a great majority favor that right, insist on it, act on it, no Supreme Court decision can take it away.

The rights of working people, of women, of Black people have not depended on decisions of the courts. Like the other branches of the political system, the courts have recognized these rights only after citizens have engaged in direct action powerful enough to win these rights for themselves.

This is not to say that we should ignore the courts or the electoral campaigns. It can be useful to get one person rather than another on the Supreme Court, or in the presidency, or in Congress. The courts, win or lose, can be used to dramatize issues.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, four anti-war activists poured their own blood around the vestibule of a military recruiting center near Ithaca, New York, and were arrested. Charged in state court with criminal mischief and trespassing (charges well-suited to the American invaders of a certain Mideastern country), the St. Patrick’s Four spoke their hearts to the jury. Peter DeMott, a Vietnam veteran, described the brutality of war. Danny Burns explained why invading Iraq would violate the U.N. Charter, a treaty signed by the United States. Clare Grady spoke of her moral obligations as a Christian. Teresa Grady spoke to the jury as a mother, telling them that women and children were the chief victims of war, and that she cared about the children of Iraq. Nine of the 12 jurors voted to acquit them, and the judge declared a hung jury. (When the federal government retried them on felony conspiracy charges, a jury in September acquitted them of those and convicted them on lesser charges.)

Still, knowing the nature of the political and judicial system of this country, its inherent bias against the poor, against people of color, against dissidents, we cannot become dependent on the courts, or on our political leadership. Our culture—the media, the educational system—tries to crowd out of our political consciousness everything except who will be elected president and who will be on the Supreme Court, as if these are the most important decisions we make. They are not. They deflect us from the most important job citizens have, which is to bring democracy alive by organizing, protesting, engaging in acts of civil disobedience that shake up the system.

Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right wing.

The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Before the Law,” have always been a sham.

No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence—an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—be fulfilled.

Published in The Progressive • November 8, 2005

Illinois has taxed Black and Brown communities $4 billion more than it would have under a graduated income tax.

A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy explains how over the last 20 years, Illinois’ flat tax system has cost Black and Brown communities $4 billion more than it would have under a graduated income tax

It allowed the state’s highest-income (mostly white) households to pay $27 billion less in taxes.

The current flat tax means that the richest people in the state and the teacher, house maid and laborer all pay the same rate of income.

The November election in Illinois would allow us to vote for a system of progressive taxation. It requires 50% of eligible voters or 60% of those voting to pass.

The latest study from the ITEP demonstrates the basic racist nature of the current flat tax.

Says the ITEP report, “The state has the eighth-most regressive tax system in the nation. It made an ideal case study because Illinois voters on Election Day will decide on the Fair Tax, a ballot measure to amend the state’s constitution to move from a flat personal income tax (everyone pays the same rate) to a graduated personal income tax (the rate increases based on income). The analysis compares relative tax liabilities under the current flat tax rate system to what tax responsibility would have been under the proposed Fair Tax.”

The study examines the long-term effects of the flat tax on the racial wealth gap by looking at 20 years of data on personal income tax collections in Illinois.

In Illinois, if you are earning $21,800 a year you have 85.3 percent of their income post state and local taxes, according to the report. Families with income over $536,4000 keep 92.6 percent of theirs.

The flat tax makes income inequality even wider after taxes are paid.

Households in Black and Brown communities with income under $250,000 paid an additional $4 billion in taxes over 20 years than they would have under the Fair Tax.

That is $4 billion that the rich did not pay. Compounded over time, this effectively enriched the state’s top 3 percent (a majority of whom are white) by an additional $7.5 billion concludes the ITEP study.

The FOP refuses to bargain accountability. The Mayor stands her ground. The legislature evades.

FOP President John Catanzara.

Shia Kappos reports this morning that the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police met with Mayor Lightfoot’s team at the bargaining table.

The FOP remains the only city union (and I use the term union with great hesitation) refusing to come to a settlement on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the city.

It is no secret that the FOP President, John Catanzara, is nothing but a mouthpiece for Trump. Trump has made Chicago his punching bag during the current campaign with Catanzara cheering the guy on. His bullying of the Mayor is in line with the bully-boy tactics of Trump.

The Mayor wants to bargain police accountability. Catanzara refuses, threatening city council members and calling the Mayor a liar.

In a letter to the FOP, the Mayor stood her ground.

I hope she continues to.

But the shame of it is that the Mayor should not be forced into a position of bargaining police behavior.

I have often written that all due process language in the CBA between the FOP should be removed by statute as subjects of bargaining.

The idea that response to police abuse is bargained should offend every union member and supporter of collective bargaining.

No other union contract protects an employee from prosecution for criminal behavior.

The legislature would need to act to remove police accountability as a subject of collective bargaining.

Shamefully, it does not appear as if they will act any time soon.

Rahm’s CPS crook Gary Solomon gets sprung three years early from prison.

The Prison Policy Initiative reports, “the initial efforts to reduce jail populations have slowed, while the small drops in state prison populations are still too little to save lives.”

However, Gary Solomon, a criminal partner along with Tom Vranas and Rahm Emanuel’s CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, will leave prison three years early as a part of compassionate realease due to the coronavirus.

Both Vranas and Byrd-Bennett have already been released.

Solomon has been held at a minimum-security prison camp in Duluth, Minnesota.

Emanuel’s terms as mayor brought chaos to Chicago’s public schools, mass school closings, multiple comings and goings at the top and major corruption scandals.

Solomon’s involvement with Vranos and Byrd-Bennett being one of the biggest.

All three will be out of prison only five years after they were first charged.

Gary Solomon will be moved to home confinement.

According to Jon Seidel and Lauren FitzPatrick in the Chicago Sun-Times, home confinement will either mean a 2,700-square-foot stucco home in Wilmette that Solomon and his wife bought in 1997 or a spacious four-bedroom, three-fireplace lakehouse in Harbert, Michigan, yards from Lake Michigan, that the Solomons built and refinanced for $1.1 million in late 2013 — months after CPS awarded Solomon’s company a $20.5 million no-bid contract.

Rahm remains unindicted.