My best blog posts of 2017.

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Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue about Susan B. Anthony or Frederick Douglass.

What they just did to the Illinois teacher pension system.

Park Ridge District 64 board member calls Women’s March, “screeching vaginas.”

Retired teacher Lee Talley and the crooked Lincoln-Way superintendent, Lawrence Wyllie.

Pritzker Family Foundation gets huge returns for their “investment” in Pay for Success social impact bonds. Profits for the reduction of special ed services.

There will never be enough bad teachers to satisfy some people (The Chicago Tribune).

Keeping Retirement Weird. Senator Biss’ view on pension theft seems to have changed. Activism works.

When Chris Kennedy shredded the first amendment.

“Contracts, like hearts, are meant to be broken.” -Ray Kroc.

Teacher union collective bargaining is about the money and so much more.

Joan Kramer.

Puerto Rico’s urgency, the cruelty of Donald Trump and colonial history.

Keeping retirement real. Ed Rosenthal. More Socrates than Robert’s Rules.

Finger painting as fun, learning and an act of resistance.

Retired teachers are killing your puppies! And eating them!

 

No rubles for old men.

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You will forgive me if I remain skeptical of this whole story about Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election by buying ads on Facebook.

I’m not skeptical about Russian meddling anymore than I doubt Israeli or Saudi meddling in our elections.

That is one of the prices we pay for Citizens United. Who knows where all that secret bundled campaign money comes from?

We don’t know who the domestic billionaires who fund campaigns are and we don’t know who the foreign ones are. Like capitalism in general, election meddling is a global affair.

I don’t have any doubts about U.S. meddling in other countries’ elections.

The U.S. has more than just meddled. I believe we have had a policy of regime change now and again.

But watching U.S. Senators like Diane Feinstein wagging her finger at the Big Five internet companies made me more than a little concerned.

My first concern on the one hand is that the internet has now turned into a thing run basically by five multi-billion dollar monopolies that function as a kind of Big Brother. They can all sit at a single table and be lectured to by the likes of Senator Al Franken.

Have you ever tried to talk to somebody at Facebook?

Unlike network television, the internet remains mainly unregulated by the government. To the degree that it remains open and accessible to all, it should remain unregulated.

Any government regulations should be aimed at breaking up monopoly power, not restricting access with the excuse that the Russians may have bought a Facebook ad with rubles or posted on Twitter as a phony organization.

Yesterday the radio station that hosts our Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers radio show celebrated its first birthday. Because it broadcasts as a licensed radio station, it falls under the rules of the FCC.

We can’t say dirty words.

As a non-profit community station we can’t plug or promote certain things.

We live with those rules in order to preserve the incredible value of this important Chicago community asset.

Unlike the radio show, on this blog I can say pretty much what I please, But behind it is always the shadow of the giant monopolies that have quickly gained control of the internet.

Can they shut me down? Of course they can.

But I remain skeptical and concerned that those in Washington will use this stuff about rubles and Russians to stifle what still remains of the wide-open web of our early days.

 

Fred Klonsky on Live from the Heartland.

Video from my appearance last week.

From my friends at Live from the Heartland:

We will once again be broadcasting each week from the Heartland Cafe, Starting this Saturday, August 5. 9-10 am in Heartland’s Red Line Room, 7006 N. Glenwood.

Join the Live audience for Good food, coffee, chatter and entertainment.

Our guests this week: Mark Cleveland – Native American musician, JD Randol—Political analyst, James Fotopoulos—Filmmaker, Tim Kubart—Children’s ‘HOME’ Grammy winner.

Lots more at livefromtheheartland.com

Intermittent blogging. Back home again in L.A.

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Photo credit: Silverlake. Fred Klonsky

I’m taking a couple of days off from blogging.

The Klonsky Brothers are hitting the left coast for a couple of days.

We’re staying in Santa Monica.

We’re catching a Dodger game.

I’m seeing old high school buddies.

It’s June in Southern California.

That means it is cloudy in the morning but the sun breaks through about noon.

We will be back in time for Friday’s 11AM radio show with our in-studio guest,  Lumpen Radio’s own Ed Marszewski.

 

A welcome back letter from a Chicago friend.

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So Fred,

Like a bad parody of Terminator, we seem to be living in the Rise of the Business Titan. Rahm, with his millions he made in investment banking, is Chicago’s mayor; Rauner, with his many more millions he made by taking advantage of tax and bankruptcy laws to buy and sell companies at tremendous personal gain while screwing the people who worked at his “investments”; and now Trump, the ultimate business titan who has billions (or does he, we have no idea really) and makes money just by lending his name to big buildings and REALLY screwing the people who work for him.

Why do we all so badly want business titans to lead us?

Business is about profit, yes? Make as much as you can. Business is at its best when it gives back to their society alongside taking profit, recognizing that the long-term health of the cities around them is best for the long-term health of the business. But business, in the end, is about making money.

And making money isn’t bad. I want my company to make tons of money, so I get big raises and a bigger pension. No profit, no job for me.

But when did we all get fooled into thinking that governments should be run as businesses? Governments aren’t businesses!

We all pool our money, in theory based on our ability to pay, and then we SPEND IT ALL ON OURSELVES for things we need. Right? We don’t want a profit. We want police, roads, security when we’re old and can’t work, or if we get very sick. We want schools that are good no matter where we live, and the best people possible teaching our kids. And it’s a lot of responsibility to manage all that money, so we look to hire people to manage that money who can be trusted to spend it wisely…on US!!! And anyone the government hires in our communities to build the roads and teach the kids and keep us safe should be paid well, because they’ll turn right around and spend their pay where they live. And basic economics is that the best people will go for the best paying jobs.

Am I crazy?

Why do we think business titans are more qualified to do something that goes against everything they’ve learned to do to be successful? Having a zero balance at the end of the year, because you gave all the money away, isn’t the standard of success for a business. But it’s exactly what we want from our government. Sure, we want governments to have some savings for emergencies. But that’s it. Otherwise, I want the benefits I’m paying taxes for.

What do business people do? They lower pay for anyone but themselves, cut services from where there will be the least impact to their income stream and popularity (the poor and politically unconnected) — even though that’s where we need to focus the most to make the city healthier — and take care of the people who’ll take care of them later. Will some politicians do the same thing even if they’re not business people? Sure, but they’re doing those things for for a future payout by businesses, they got bought, like we’re finding out about Richie Daley.

Business people like Rahm, Rauner and Trump don’t respect contracts (just change it later if it’s not working for you), workers rights (lowers profit), or even the laws (just sue to change them until you win, or disregard them until someone sues you).

How do we change the conversation from “running government like a business is good” to running government for the benefit of the people? Do we need term limits to get rid of the Madigans of this world, so they stop buying voters for generations? Do we start demanding, right now, 100% disclosure of every government document? How do we get control of our government back from the idea that our taxes are meant for the personal friends of the politicians? Or that business titans have any idea how to change their DNA and spend all the money, so we ALL can have nice things?

Just some things I’m thinking about. And you’re a good listener. And welcome back home.

Top posts of 2016.

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Outside Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Two of my most popular blog posts in 2016 simply provided information. A list of school layoffs at CPS had over 51,000 hits. And a post providing information about how to donate money and supplies to Standing Rock had 20,000 visitors.

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A Chicago taxpayer talks about the possible teachers strike (October 3, 2016).

I have a lot of friends across the country, and something is about to happen in Chicago that will get national attention: a strike in our public school system. This likely will be brought up by Trump or Clinton at some point. The circumstances that got us to another teachers’ strike are complex. Before someone highjacks the issue on the national stage, I thought it’d be worth a relatively short explanation.

Illinois state school board votes to move special ed funding to charter schools (January 9th, 2016).

The Illinois State Board of Education Wednesday unanimously moved to change the way the state sends special education money to school districts, aiming to increase base funding to poor districts with the resources that are currently available.

ISBE is proposing to take an entire $300 million special education line item, Funding for Children Requiring Special Education Services, and distribute it thru the General State Aid formulas.

This means all schools will lose special ed funding while some schools gain significant General State Aid funding.

Teachers back to school but not back to Staples (August 15, 2015. First published in 2015, but was the 5th most popular post in 2016 as well)

Teachers! We need your help and we need it now! As you may know, the US Postal Service—very like public education itself–is being attacked on many fronts, by privatizers, union-busters, those who would dismantle an essential public service out of greed, ideology and contempt for the everyday people our work serves.

Right now, the biggest assault is the attempted hijacking of the Postal Service by the Staples office supply megachain, with the complicity of top USPS management. Every Staples outlet in the country is opening a little fake post office, staffed not by postal workers but Staples employees: minimum wage, hours held under 25 week to avoid paying benefits, no training and massive turnover, no record check. The result will be shorter hours at real POs, more mishandled mail, fewer postal workers and eventual post office closings.

The CPS layoffs. We are a target and it’s bad management practice (August 6, 2015)

I always have to explain to visitors that there is an everywhere except Chicago rule in the state of Illinois.

When I taught and was a union leader in Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb, if the district was going to lay-off a teacher due to low-enrollment or budget issues, they needed to do it 45 working days before the end of the school year. This is state law.

The law gives teachers time to find other employment and it prevents massive disruption. The kind we are seeing now with 1000 CPS employees fired a month before school begins.

But in 1995 the law was changed by an amendatory act that excluded Chicago teachers and CPS from that protection. It is the same law that keeps us from having an elected school board even though every other district in Illinois has an elected board.

Keeping retirement weird. Rahm screws city retirees on their health care. (September 24, 2016).

Here is the skinny.

The City of Chicago is offering exactly zero dollars to city retirees to help subsidize health care.

Zero.

Members of all four retirement plans will have to come up with $1400 for single coverage, $2600 for couples and $3600 for family coverage.

A month.

No subsidies.

Mayor Rahm gloats. Nobody screws workers like he has (December 22, 2016).

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A good friend of mine worked for the City of Chicago for 30 years and retired a few years ago. He now must pay over $30,000 a year for health insurance for his family because the Mayor cut off his pension health care benefit.

In one of the private emails that Rahm Emanuel was forced to release as a result of a Better Government Association law suit, the Mayor gloats  about the pain he is visiting on thousands of Chicago public employees.

Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Eduction. She funded my stalker, Ben Velderman. November 18, 2016).

Back in 2011, a year before my retirement, my school district received a FOIA request from Ben Velderman and the Michigan-based Education Action Group for all my work emails and my personnel file.

Which they got.

Creepy guy. I referred to him as “my stalker.”

I wrote about it here.

I only bring it up now because the EAG was funded with money by the wing-nut DeVos family.

Betsy DeVos is a member of the family which has given tons of bucks to anti-public education groups and causes, including those who engage in extremist union bashing. Included among those receiving DeVos family funding was the Education Action Group.

 

The longest night of the year.

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Good morning.

We have just finished the longest night of the year.

There is a story on the Better Government Association site about how the CPS board of education is blocking the Inspector General’s investigation into kickbacks involving Forest Claypool, CPS attorney  Ronald Marmer and the high-powered law firm of Jenner & Block.

This problem is pervasive, and it needs to be addressed.

In 2013, members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus and other aldermen attempted to do just that. The caucus introduced a series of municipal code revisions attempting to clarify and strengthen the OIG’s role. Some were ultimately adopted, but many were left to wither and die in the Council’s Rules Committee. Among them was a proposal that would permit independent subpoena enforcement, as well as an ordinance that would address attorney-client privilege as it relates to the OIG’s work.

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Charter shill Peter Cunningham was not happy with my post yesterday.

The truth is I didn’t notice, but it was no fault of my hearing loss.

It was because it didn’t happen. As Cunningham himself admits in a followup tweet.

As someone who worked in a senior position at Arne Duncan’s Department of Education for years Cunningham knows full well that what he calls a defense of unions  (Look Peter, it’s either a “union shop” or it’s not) is a Right to Work position.

If union membership is “not required” either the teacher is receiving the benefits of a bargained contract without paying their share for representation, or they  are working outside the collective bargaining agreement, which undermines the union.

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Forbes reports that seniors are finding their Social Security checks garnished for unpaid student loans, leaving those over 65 in poverty.

As of September 2015, 114,000 Americans who were 50 and older had their Social Security benefits reduced to offset defaulted student loans, according to the report. Since 2002, that figure has increased by 440%.

 Typically, a borrower 50 and older had about $140 in Social Security income taken out each month. However, it is important to note that those whose checks were garnished are in default—meaning they haven’t made a payment on their student loans in at least a year, according to the GAO.

Although the government has the ability to garnish Social Security checks (up to 15% of an individual’s benefits—a figure that hasn’t been adjusted for current living costs), some congressional Democrats—like Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts—believe the government’s tactics to do so have become too aggressive, setting its sites on those who will never be able to repay