The 15th anniversary of the Iraq War. And Wednesday’s special Hitting Left is about 1968 and the Rainbow Coalition.

2003. Chicago protests the Iraq War.

Fifteen years ago the United States invaded Iraq based on lies about connections to 9/11 and non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction.

That war led to the sending of troops to Afghanistan where the war still rages.

How many wars are we engaged in now? Five? Seven? Wars we don’t even know about.

War without end.

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On Wednesday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers we will be joined by Billy Che Brooks, Cha Cha Jimenz and Susan Klonsky to recall the Rainbow Coalition – The Black Panther Party, The Young Lords Organization and Students for a Democratic Society – and we will see what lessons can be learned for today’s movement. A special Wednesday live broadcast at noon, CDT. Streamed at and later on podcast at, iTunes and Spotify. Also available on Mixcloud.

Friday we will return to our regular time with a wrap-up of Today’s Illinois primary election and prospects for November.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #57. Jitu Brown and Kady McFadden.


We’ve known Jitu Brown for years. A long time social justice, schools and community activist, he’s expanding his efforts to other cities now.

It was just a few years ago we were at Dyett Hight School where Jitu and a dozen activists were engaged in a hunger strike to save the school.

Photo: Fred Klonsky

Why did it even need a hunger strike to save an open admissions neighborhood high school in Chicago?

The school was saved.

It says a lot about how the city’s powerful think and act when it comes to schools in communities of color that it took such extreme measures.

Now four more neighborhood high schools in the city’s Englewood neighborhood are set for closing.

But Jitu believes, as as many of us do, that the struggle is one about the city’s leadership. It is about the Mayor and the lack of an elected school board.

90% of Chicagoans support an elected school board. It has passed the Illinois House. It is being blocked by Rahm, Senate President John Cullerton and the Governor.

Kady McFadden’s work focuses on the environment. But she made headlines when she did a #MeToo on sexual harassment in Springfield.

Kady describes the everyday facts of life of women working in the culture of Springfield where a legislator will schedule a meeting with a female lobbyist or staffer for no other reason than to sexually harass them, and the gentleman’s agreement where even men who aren’t the harassers remain silent about those that are.

The podcast is here.

David Brooks hearts Chicago.

I am looking forward to the Friday edition of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers (11am CDT. 105.5fm. and podcast).

Our guests will be Kady McFadden, executive director of the Illinois Sierra Club. Kady has been in the news lately for speaking out about sexual harassment in Springfield, the Illinois capital.

She has also been in the thick of fighting to preserve the EPA from the Trumpsters.

Also joining us will be Jitu Brown. We’ve known Jitu for years. He was a leader in the successful fight to save Dyett High School from closing and is now fighting the closing of four community high schools in Englewood.

One of the things I want to ask Jitu Brown about is the recent column by the New York Times house conservative, David Brooks.

Full disclosure: I sometimes turn on Friday’s PBS News Hour just for the vision of watching David Brooks and Mark Shields commenting on the news. When the discussion turns, as it inevitably does, to something Trump has done, Brooks’ face will scrunch up as if Mark Shields has farted. His policy differences with Trump are less about substance and more about how common and distasteful Trump is. He yearns for the days when Republicans had William Buckley, summers in the Hamptons and ski trips to Gstadd – whereever the hell that is.

I am wondering what Jitu has to say about this week’s love letter to Rahm and CPS. 

The solutions to the nation’s problems already exist somewhere out in the country; we just do a terrible job of circulating them.

For example, if you want to learn how to improve city schools, look how Washington, New Orleans and Chicago are already doing it. Since 2011 the graduation rate at Chicago public schools has increased at nearly four times the national average, to 77.5 percent from 56.9 percent. The percentage of Chicago students going to two- or four-year colleges directly after graduation increased to 63 percent in 2015 from 50 percent in 2006.

Sean Reardon of Stanford compared changes in national test scores between third and eighth grade. He found that Chicago students were improving faster than students in any other major school district in the country. Chicago schools are cramming six years’ worth of education into five years of actual schooling.

These improvements are proof that demography is not destiny, that bad things happening in a neighborhood do not have to determine student outcomes.

How is Chicago doing it? Well, its test scores have been rising since 2003. Chicago has a rich civic culture, research support from places like the University of Chicago and a tradition of excellent leadership from school heads, from Arne Duncan to Janice Jackson, and the obsessive, energetic drive of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

I’m really interested in the theory of “cramming six years worth of education” into five years of “actual schooling.”

How do you measure “six years worth of education”? How do you “cram it” into five years of “actual schooling.”

What is actual schooling? As opposed to what?

Sounds like making a sausage.

Maybe Jitu has something to say about the reliability of CPS graduation rates. I remember that there were problems with the numbers in the past.

Tune in.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #55. Marie Newman.b

Our radio show/podcast is done in the Bridgeport neighborhood on Chicago’s south side.

Bridgeport is in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, an area represented by a Lipinski for about 40 years.

Old Bill Lipinski was a typical Machine Democrat who got elected term after term through connections and patronage voters.

Dan is a Chicago Democrat in a wing of the Party that has roots in the Dixiecrats. When some talk about returning the Democratic Party to its roots, I want to remind them that these Southern segregationists and their northern brethren are a part of those roots.

No where more true than in the Chicago Democratic Machine.

National attention has been focused on Marie Newman’s challenge to Democratic Party Congressman Dan Lipinski.

First of all, Chicago Democratic incumbent congressman are rarely challenged and they rarely loose.

Some, like Daniel Rostenkowski, go to jail. But they rarely lose.

The Illinois 3rd is not your daddy’s, or Dan’s daddy’s, 3rd district.

The demographics have changed and it is way more diverse than when Bill was in Congress.

Newman has won the support of a wide range of progressive forces within the Democratic Party, even as Marie herself suggests their are a dozen wings in the Party.

We were happy to have her as our guest.

You can listen to and download the podcast here.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #45. Floyd Webb and Susan Kerns join us to talk film, especially The Black Panther.

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The Academy Awards are given out a week from Sunday.

Mike and I thought it would be a good time to talk about movies.

We are joined by a returning guest, Floyd Webb, and by Dr. Susan Kerns who teaches film at Columbia College in Chicago.

What we ended up talking most about is not a movie that is even up for any Oscars. The Black Panther came out just a week ago and is not eligible for 2017 awards.

Rarely is a film a social event, a political event, a cultural event and an artistic event in the way The Black Panther movie is.

We didn’t plan on spending as much time on it as we did, but it made for a great discussion.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #53. Niketa Brar, Elizabeth Greer and Scott Smith on school closings.


Blue ribbons were wrapped around every flag pole as my brother and I pulled up to Bridgeport Coffee for our pre-show production meeting.

Later in the day there would be a wake for Chicago Police Commander Paul Brauer who was shot and killed in downtown Chicago last week.

Commander Brauer’s home is in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

Chicago and American violence couldn’t help but be a theme on the fifty-third episode of Hitting Left.

Mike had recently posted a blog piece which drew a solid line between the killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado nearly twenty years ago and this week’s tragedy in Florida.

So much to talk about.

Too many guns.

Too much political cowardice.

Too much money from the NRA.

Schools that are too big where a troubled student can get lost or slip between the cracks.

And even when they are known by their classmates to be troubled and identified by teachers.

Then what?

I can only shake my head at the reaction from Trump and other politicians who want to shift the blame, offer prayers and little in the way of action.

And then there is the violence being perpetrated on Chicago’s public schools and public schools students by bureaucratic decisions with little in the way of transparency or community voice.

Racism and segregation.

And isn’t that violence in another form?

With Elizabeth Greer, LSC President at the National Teachers Academy, school and community activist Niketa Brar and Scott Smith of the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #52. Marijka Stoll, Crystal Laura and Bill Ayers.

My bro came by to pick me up a little early today because Chicago got hit over night by a bit show storm.

Not as big as they predicted. They never are. Or so it seems.

About ten inches had fallen. Schools are closed. People took public transportation or stayed home.

So the expressway to our Bridgeport studio was wide open and we arrived at Bridgeport Coffee two hours before show time.

Jamie trusts me now with a key to the studio, but of course I forgot it.

“Don’t f up,” are Jamie’s three most commonly used words to me now that I am producing the show.

And I always do.

F up, that is.

Marijka Stoll called us at Bridgeport Coffee because she got to the studio early too. We ordered her and her mom, Marja, some coffee and found Jamie shoveling the snow in front of Co-Prosperity Sphere. I didn’t need the key after all.

Marijka is a University of Chicago alum and active with the University of Chicago students, faculty and alumni protesting the school’s invite to Steve Bannon.

Bill Ayers knows something about protests and knows something about being denied free speech on college campuses. It was interesting to hear his take on all this.

Did you know that the current Democratic Party candidate for Governor, Chris Kennedy, blocked emeritus status to Bill when he retired as professor from UIC? Kennedy was head of the board of trustees for the university at the time.

Petty guy, that Kennedy.

Bill and Crystal Laura were in studio to talk about their new book (authored with Rick Ayers), You Can’t Fire the Bad Ones!” And 18 other myths about teachers, teacher unions and public education.

And my bro shared a report that the latest scientific research suggest that drinking more coffee will cause us to live longer.

I will live forever.

The podcast is here.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #51. Anne Shaw.

We had a chance to talk with Anne Shaw on a Wednesday episode of Hitting Left.

Anne is running for an Illinois House seat.

She has a good story to tell and she’s a solid progressive.

Born in Atlanta to immigrant parents, she works as a civil rights attorney in Chicago.

Mention names like Madigan and Berrios and she lets out a groan.

She speaks proudly of the time she got into Rahm’s face and challenged Alderman Proco Joe Moreno.

She lost that one, but as I recall, Moreno only avoided a run-off by one percent of the vote.

At the start of the show we have some cross talk about JB Pritzker’s latest troubles, Jeanne Ives being a moderate in today’s Republican Party (there’s a self-admitted Nazi running as the Republican candidate in the 3rd congressional district), and the Democrats caving once again on DACA.

Don’t miss the part of the show when I tell the story of Anne Klonsky dirty dancing with Bettye Lavette.

Friday we are back to our regular time at 11am. 105.5fm.

Bill Ayers, Crystal Lara and Marijka Stoll are our in-studio guests.

Wednesday’s show with Anne Shaw is here.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #50. Chicago’s Eddie Balchowsky. The one-armed piano player and fascist fighter.

In the 80s it was not unusual for me to take a seat at the counter at Sophie’s Busy Bee Polish restaurant in Wicker Park and have some eggs and hash browns for breakfast.

In the back kitchen, which you could see from the counter, Polish ladies in hair nets would be preparing the pierogi and meatloaf for lunch.

Old guys would be yelling across the counter to each other about sports or politics or both.

Among the guys was Eddie Balchowsky.

Eating his breakfast with his one arm.

Eddie once accompanied Paul Robeson at a concert in the middle of the fighting during the Spanish Civil War against fascism.

When Eddie came home from the war, categorized by the government as a pre-mature anti-fascist, addicted to pain killers, painting and playing the piano, he became a Chicago fixture.

Jeff Balch and Isaac Brosilow never met Eddie.

Jeff discovered him exploring his family’s roots.

Isaac discovered him through his exploration of Jewish Left-wing and socialist politics.

Here is the show.



Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers celebrates one year on the air on Friday.

ONE year

Join my brother and me Friday at 11am and celebrate our one year of weekly broadcast and podcast from the Lumpen Radio studio at Co-Prosperity Sphere in the always sunny neighborhood of Bridgeport on Chicago’s south side.

Tomorrow we will be talking about the week’s events.

We also be talking about the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War by remembering Chicago artist, poet, raconteur, one-armed pianist and veteran of the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Eddie Balchowsky. In studio with Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jeff Balch and Isaac Brosilow.