Random thoughts. WikiLeaks and the Democrats’ Rahm problem.


In 2014 we got the chance to look inside the Clinton White House with the release of a memo from Rahm Emanuel to the President. The memo shows Rahm telling Bill Clinton to increase deportations and mimic Richard Nixon as a law and order politician.

Donald Trump has picked up on the same Nixonian law and order theme for his anti-immigrant election campaign.


Rahm’s law and order memo.

“The GOP Congress wants to fight the immigration issue out on government benefits. You want to take it to them on the workplace. The INS should be directed to expand the VIS to key industries, beyond meat-packers and poultry. Halfway through your term you want to claim a number of industries free of illegal immigrants,” wrote Rahm.

“This is great!,” responded Bill Clinton.

One of the emails released by WikiLeaks this week shows that Rahm’s immigrant problem came up in the early days of the Obama administration.

Obama was considering Rahm as Chief of Staff.

White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Munoz criticized Emanuel as a potential pick.

“So I hate to bug you with anything else knowing how much must be going on, but the Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff rumor is circulating like wildfire,” Munoz wrote in an email to President Barack Obama’s campaign that was forwarded to Podesta. “Folks know how explosive that would be in my part of the world, no?”


Obama ignored the advice and selected Rahm as his first Chief of Staff.

It turned out to be a bad choice. Rahm was said to be a divisive element among Obama’s White House staff. It has been widely reported that many among Obama’s people were happy to see him leave and run for Mayor. None more than Michelle Obama.

The Sun-Times reports that the Clinton campaign appears confident of victory enough to bring Rahm out in public. It appears part of the plan to rehabilitate the Mayor in preparation for a possible third term.

With this guy, I think that may be premature.

Rahm has handed Trump a dog whistle.


The tragedy of Chicago gun violence and systematic police misconduct is one felt by Chicago citizens every day.

Every decent person in this city wants to find a way to end it and is disgusted watching Donald Trump use our city’s name as a dog whistle to his racist base of voters.

He can thank Rahm, and we can blame Rahm, for that.

And now Rahm has handed Trump another gift.

Rahm’s refusal to bargain a pay raise for the teachers in our public schools has provoked a strike deadline for October 11th.

Less than four weeks before the general election thirty thousand striking teachers in their red shirts, marching down La Salle Street will make every evening news show and hourly on cable.

Trump has no chance of taking Illinois.

But Chicago, run by a Clinton Democrat, has become a Trump racist dog whistle. Chicago is the message Trump whispers behind closed doors and at his pep rallies.

He snuck into Chicago yesterday without announcing his schedule to speak to a pro-Trump gathering of Polish Americans and then ran to the safety of the Chicago suburbs.

It was the first time he stepped foot in this city since we ran him out forcing him to cancel an appearance months ago.

His message:

Hillary Democrats can’t govern. 

Hillary can’t be pleased. And Senate Democrat Tammy Duckworth, locked in a close race with Mark Kirk and key to a Democratic majority in the Senate, must be pulling her hair out.

The vote to strike on October 11th is not irreversible.

And Rahm has the money to settle it.

I’m betting Hillary wants it settled.

WBEZ’s Sarah Karp and Becky Vevea report this morning:

The teachers union presented a clear path for Mayor Rahm Emanuel that could avert a strike: Release more Tax Increment Finance funds to Chicago Public Schools. TIFs are special taxing districts that are used for economic development.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey called the TIF fund a “slush fund for the mayor that supports wealthy developers.” The union has argued that some of that money could be used for teacher salaries and also to restore some positions closed due to budget cuts.

Rahm miraculously came up with the money to hire a thousand cops.

Without an across the board salary increase, up to 8,000 veteran teachers, members of the union, will receive no step and lane increase at all and no raise.

The morning news is good for Hillary.

The New York Times election forecast has her as a 71% favorite.

For the first time in weeks, Nate Silver has her as a better than 60% favorite.

But that all may change October 11th.

Rahm has gone from the F word to the B word.


Ben Joravsky is right, of course.

My guess is that somewhere in the back of their minds Rahm and Rauner and Walker have concluded it’s easier to fight a union of women than it is to take on a union of men.

You could say that Rahm started out as mayor screaming the F word at CTU President Karen Lewis. This time in these negotiations he is adding the B word. Teacher pension threats and underfunding at both the city and state level have always have their greatest impact on women. In the city, a huge percentage of retired teachers are African American women.

Teacher contracts and teacher pensions are women’s issues.

Teacher pension rights are women’s rights.

Not only women. But a significant number.

Before I retired I worked as a K-5 art teacher in Park Ridge District 64. The high school district that included Maine South was a separate district with a separate union local, separate school board, separate collective bargaining agreement with a separate salary schedule.

When we sat down to bargain with our board the first thing we would do is draw up a list of comparable districts to compare salaries.

The board always fought us on including the high school districts.

Maine South’s salary schedule was much higher than ours.

Same town. Same tax base.

More male employees in the high school district.

Rahm’s response to the Chicago Teachers Union’s  one year CBA offer is “F*#k you B#*%H.”

Same as its ever been.

Republicans and Democrats combine to destroy my city and state.


I fly to Orlando tomorrow for the annual meeting of the National Education Association.

God only knows what I will return to when I come back on July 7th.

The Democratic Party Mayor of Chicago and the Republican Governor of Illinois are playing tag-team destroyers of the city and the state respectively.

Yesterday negotiators for the Chicago Teachers Union left the bargaining session with Rahm’s hand-picked board of education and said they had nothing.

“We are clear that CPS is broke on purpose and their fiscal crisis, though of their own making, is real,” said CTU President Karen Lewis at a press conference standing with her large team of negotiators.

“That is why we are negotiating for meaningful solutions to the corporate-sponsored policies that make our jobs difficult. This isn’t about money, this is about standing up for what is right in pedagogy and for what is right for our students and their families.

“We want the autonomy to properly grade and an end to countless, unnecessary testing; more counselors, nurses, social workers and other clinicians in our school buildings to help students deal with environmental stresses (such as poverty, homelessness and violence that hinder learning); and we want the cuts to special education to end. The Board refuses to even discuss progressive revenue options that are available to provide long-term solutions to their self-created fiscal crisis. Why? If they are cash strapped, then why won’t they look into these options at all?”

The Mayor’s board will not even consider non-salary proposals that improve the learning conditions of Chicago’s public school students who are mostly poor and children of color.

Lewis said the CTU would return to the bargaining table.

But with without a change in the bargaining position of the Mayoral controlled school board, the future looks bleak and a strike seems inevitable.

Meanwhile Governor Private Equity has vetoed the legislature’s budget bills, moving the state closer to a total shut-down.

And a lock-out of public employees.

Tens of thousands of the state’s neediest will face a ton of hurt. Many already have as funding to state-funded social service agencies and organizations have seen their state support disappear.

The Governor is holding a gun to the head of the legislature to pass law that is aimed squarely at the rights of unionized public workers.

Without agreeing to his anti-union agenda, no budget will get passed him.

City of Chicago employees and retirees: Rahm’s budget will cost you plenty.


You may have missed it on Friday when Rahm released his budget promises because an alderman went off message and said property taxes would go up no matter what. That made the headlines.

But Rahm’s real message is that city employees and retirees will carry the burden of budget mismanagement.

The five core principals (sic) to reform include:

• Slow the growth of pension costs by reforming the cost of living formula. In the agreements for three pensions funds reached last year, we worked with organized labor to shift cost of living adjustments from a formula based on compound interest to a simple interest approach. This means that retirees will continue to see an increase in their pension payments each year, but at a somewhat slower growth rate tied to inflation. Our pension reform agreements have also included a series of one-year freezes of cost of living adjustments that allow the funds to catch their breath.

• Maintain the current retirement age for public employees. Though retirement age is a common reform pushed by governments across the country, Rahm believes that our hard-working public servants have planned on retiring and are entitled to the security that they have depended upon for years.

• Gradually increase employee contributions. While we will ask taxpayers to pay more, we also ask current employees to pay a little extra towards their retirements. In the reforms we worked with labor to pass last year, active employees contribute an average of roughly $300 a year more towards their retirements. This same commitment from the employees of the remaining three funds will make a significant contribution toward the solvency of their funds.

• Protect retirees with lower pension income. To ensure we protect those struggling to make ends meet, we exempted retirees with annuities of $22,000 a year or less from certain cost of living formulas. We must continue to protect this segment of retirees in future agreements.

• Phase in funding increases. We must restructure pension payments in a way that allows the City’s taxpayers to ease into making the required payments. Just as we’re asking employees to increase their contribution slowly and steadily over time, we would ask the same of taxpayers. After decades of politicians kicking the can down the road and underfunding public employee pensions, we cannot ask taxpayers to bear the burden of a massive balloon payment all in one year. This shock would decimate the city’s budget and the Chicago economy.

If you read it and miss anything about taxing Rahm’s wealthy friends, it is not a reading problem.

It isn’t there.

Rahm screams at mental health activists, “YOU’RE GONNA RESPECT ME!”

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.44.58 AM

Photo montage of Rahm at Wicker Park incident: Kenzo Shibata.

– By Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle as posted on the Mental Health Movement’s Facebook page.

Mental Health Movement members Debbie Delgado and Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle just confronted Rahm face-to-face about his mental health clinic closures. Rahm was about to address a small room of developers and residents at the Wicker Park field-house. 3 years after he closed half of Chicago’s public mental health clinics, he may have thought the issue had gone away. But then Debbie, sitting in the front row, a few feet from the mayor, stood up to tell her story. She told of losing her son to gun violence.

She told him how her other son was holding him as he died. She told about how the city’s Northwest Mental Health Clinic in Logan Square saved their lives, helped her and her son deal with the PTSD and depression.

Then she asked why he took that clinic away from her. Why he closed a clinic and now a bar sits in that space. Why he closed five other mental health clinics. Why he thought she would be able to travel an extra hour past three cemeteries to get to the clinic she was supposed to be transferred to without having an anxiety attack on the way. Why he has left her with no options. Why he has left her with her son closed in, barely leaving the house anymore, refusing to see a new therapist since Rahm Emanuel took away their clinic.

After trying to keep his cool, he told us that he would speak to us after the event in a separate room. There, we saw the Real Rahm.

Now off camera, Rahm’s voice raised, his demeanor changed, in no time he was shouting in Matt’s face, nose-to-nose “YOU’RE GONNA RESPECT ME!”

He corrected Rahm’s faulty statistics, saying that no, psychiatric services were not expanded, that in fact the city cut $2.3 million by closing 6 clinics and only redistributed $500,000 of that to private clinics and that those clinics have only seen a couple hundred additional people, whereas 3,000 people are unaccounted for since he announced the closure of those mental health clinics.

The Real Rahm accused Debbie and Matt of “creating a circus in there,” to which we responded that two close friends – Mental Health Movement heros Jeannette Hanson and Helen Morley – had lost their lives because of his decision to close their clinics, that there is nothing humorous to us about what we did in there, that we had tried since months before the clinic closures to meet with him, that Helen (who was looking at Rahm from Debbie’s t-shirt) had shouted to him “If you close my clinic I will die” only to die a month after he ignored those shouts.

When Rahm told Debbie he is going to have the new Commissioner of Public Health personally find her a new mental health clinic to go to, she said “this isn’t about me, this is about all of us, about the movement, about the south and west sides of the city that don’t have mental health now. Don’t try to just fix my situation, re-open all of our clinics.”

He had his PR guy take our number and left, unable to respond. This is the Real Rahm. Calm and collected in public, raging angry and self-defensive behind closed doors.

The only people in the room were two PR staff, two body guards, us and the man that closed half of Chicago’s public mental health clinics – Rahm Emanuel.

During his White House days Rahm got no endorsement from Michelle Obama.


It is no secret she didn’t like him much.

With $30 million in his campaign’s bank account but polling well shy of his needed 50% plus one to avoid a run-off, Rahm Emanuel has turned to his old boss, President Obama for a radio ad.

It will be surprising if First Lady Michelle Obama will be in it.

It is well documented that she doesn’t like The Mayor.

From a 2012 Tribune article:

Washington politics tends to require meticulous planning, but Emanuel appeared to be winging it — focusing on day-to-day concerns at the expense of the long-term, according to the book by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor.

There was no set agenda during Emanuel’s 7:30 a.m. meetings for top staffers, according to Kantor, who wrote that, “it often seemed driven by what was in the newspaper that morning.”

“Even Emanuel’s allies admitted his style was scattered: ‘schizophrenia’ as one said. His philosophy was to put a ‘point on the board’ meaning some small advance or victory, each day, to eventually win the match,” Kantor writes.

The book’s portrayal of Emanuel stands in contrast to the controlled and calibrated image he has tried to project in his opening months as mayor.

Emanuel is not the focus of “The Obamas,” a book about the first couple’s first years in the White House, but he plays an significant supporting role.

On paper, everyone in the West Wing reported to Emanuel, who reported to the president. In reality, Kantor writes, there were several power centers competing for access and influence, including Emanuel,Vice President Joe Biden, and senior advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett.

After the midterm elections in 2010, it was clear Obama “needed a more traditional structure, with a streamlined decision-making process flowing through a chief of staff who had true authority,” according to the book.

One of Obama’s first major decisions was tapping Emanuel as chief of staff. Unlike his boss, Emanuel was combative, unafraid to push or even insult, Kantor writes.

“Emanuel was restless, sly, casually abusive, and almost always willing to cut a deal,” according to the book. “He could yell at you and eat a brownie off your plate at the same time.”

Emanuel, however, had learned lessons during his time in President Bill Clinton’s White House: “Avoid symbolic issues and ideological battles.” Hillary Clinton also taught him another one: “Stay out of the first lady’s way.”

Emanuel did not always appear to heed that when it came to Michelle Obama. There were occasions when he’d make a commitment on the first lady’s behalf without consulting her first.

The first lady also had her doubts about Emanuel. The two were philosophical and temperamental contrasts who had almost no bond, Kantor writes, and their relationship was “distant and awkward from the beginning.”

Rahm says “status quo is unacceptable” and brings back the ghosts of Daley and Duncan.


Million dollar board member Deborah Quazzo sits on the mayoral appointed school board.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave his campaign education talk to a private group yesterday. The attendance by invite only included invites to Jonah Edelman’s Stand for Children.

Rahm held it at the Cultural Center. The choice of location is ironic because his plans for CPS schools, if re-elected, have very little to do with culture.

I’ll get to that topic in a moment.


If elected to a second term, Mayor Rahm Emanuel promises that within three years the graduation rate will go up by 15 points to 85 percent, the number of preschool classrooms will triple to 300 and the senior year of high school will be redesigned to include internships and 6,000 students taking City College classes to earn college credit.

Emanuel also plans to bring back Freshman Connection, a program that was designed to help incoming ninth-graders acclimate to high school; and give principals at good schools freedom from some district mandates. Both these ideas were in place under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Make that Daley AND Arne Duncan.

Dusting off Daley and Duncan’s school ideas coming from The Man that attacked the Chicago Teachers Union as standing for the status quo?

That’s not status quo. That is raising the dead.

Emanuel told the crowd, which included advocates from organizations such as Stand for Illinois, that closing schools was something he did not want to do, but that he needed to get students out of failing schools. Further, he said the debate should not be between charters and neighborhood schools, but rather between quality and lack of quality in any school. He did not say whether or how many charter schools he will open in the next term, nor did he say whether he will close more schools.


Rahm should tell the students this morning as they walk through sub-zero temperatures past their former – but now shuttered or sold – neighborhood schools that he didn’t really want to close their 50 schools.

Raise Your Hand’s Wendy Katten points out that among other things Rahm has done to Chicago schools is failing to fund the arts. Only 47% of CPS students have more than 2 hours of Art a week.

Even for the 47%, the bar for “having art” is set pretty low.

That is the irony of holding his selective admission announcement at the Cultural Center.

It should be no surprise to readers that I get comments from lots of trolls. Most I trash.

Yesterday I received a couple from two different trolls who attacked me for having been an art teacher prior to retirment.

“Gee Freedie, you get a 100,000 pension for K1-3 Art????? No wonder you took the job as union pres,” wrote one.

$100,000 pension? What year?

Another troll accused me of “most likely in your case grading rudimentary stick figure drawings of which you obviously and unbelievably made a career of teaching!”

That those who hate public schools and hate public school teachers also hate and hold the Arts in contempt should not surprise anyone.

If the Arts were nothing more than drawing stick figures – if the Arts had no more value or meaning than that – why would they and Rahm keep it away from schools that serve poor students and away from schools that serve students of color?

You can bet that something has value when only the rich are guaranteed to get it.

Keeping retirement weird. Dr. Emanuel’s views are interesting. Mayor Emanuel’s policies are devastating.


Dr. Emanuel and Mayor Emanuel.

Last week I came across the article in Atlantic by Dr. Ezkekial Emanuel about his desire to die at 75.

Dr. Emanuel is a bio-ethicist and influential health adviser to President Barack Obama

As a 66-year old pension-receiving retiree on Medicare, I have a new-found interest in the topic of aging and in the issues facing those of us who are much closer to the end of things than the start.

I am no longer middle-aged. For that to be true I would need to live to be 135.

At the time that I read Dr. Emanuel’s piece I was not aware that he is one of The Mayor’s brothers.

Dr. Emanuel’s stated his thesis clearly: “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” 

He doesn’t advocate suicide. In fact he opposes euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. He also supports a single-payer health-care system.

However he argues that, in general, things get bad after 75 and he will take no medical steps to extend his life.

This means colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out—and before 75. If I were diagnosed with cancer now, at 57, I would probably be treated, unless the prognosis was very poor. But 65 will be my last colonoscopy. No screening for prostate cancer at any age. (When a urologist gave me a PSA test even after I said I wasn’t interested and called me with the results, I hung up before he could tell me. He ordered the test for himself, I told him, not for me.) After 75, if I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment. Similarly, no cardiac stress test. No pacemaker and certainly no implantable defibrillator. No heart-valve replacement or bypass surgery. If I develop emphysema or some similar disease that involves frequent exacerbations that would, normally, land me in the hospital, I will accept treatment to ameliorate the discomfort caused by the feeling of suffocation, but will refuse to be hauled off.

And while he makes clear that this is a personal decision on his part, I think he is making a social argument about the value of  life after 75.

It is an interesting read, although I kept thinking to myself, the guy is 57.

Let’s see what he says in twenty years.

I also think family discussions about end-of-life decisions – about what are our expectations as we get older – are important to have.

There is rarely a time when I get together with my retired colleagues when quality-of-life as a part of aging is not part of the conversation.

A friend described it the other day as the organ recital.

What parts of the body are working well. Which are not.

Our lives can be a struggle as we age.

Yet many struggle with health issues who are younger than 75.

Some far younger.

My mom was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer at 62. She lived 15 more years fighting it, but not consumed by it.

At 66 I have become a devoted member of a gym. With a trainer. I joined at first with the belief that it would help me live longer, having suffered a heart attack at 52.

I am a regular at the gym now because it makes me feel better – now. It is not delayed gratification. I have less aches and pains. I can lift my leg up to tie my shoe laces without grabbing the hem of my pants. I can bend down to pick a penny off the ground without groaning. I can ride my bike. I wake without back pain. I am off – with my doctor’s blessing – most of the medications I was on while I was still working. My weight is way down to healthier levels. Although I can still work on that.

I am pretty sure that I disagree with Dr. Emanuel’s view about life past 75.

But the views of The Mayor’s brother apparently caused some concerns for Rahm. They caused enough election-year concern that Rahm had his press flak send an email to reporters about it yesterday.

“The mayor personally disagrees with his brother’s view on dying at 75, but he also believes it’s important to look at what Zeke was really exploring, which is how to live a full life – and that’s a question worth asking,” Kelley Quinn, the mayor’s communications director, wrote in an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Of course, he and [younger brother] Ari also told him not to worry, because they’re going to kill him at 70 anyway.”

I imagine that the last line was supposed to be a joke.

Ari Emanuel, you remember, is the Hollywood agent who does most of the million dollar fundraising among his clients for Rahm’s campaigns. Ari is reported to be the obnoxious character, Ari Gold, that Jeremy Piven played in the HBO series, Entourage.

Why would The Mayor be worried about the medical views of his bio-ethicist brother?

Perhaps it is because he has just cut retiree health insurance for thousands of city public employees.

Last week a federal court refused to stop The Mayor from ending promised city subsidies to health insurance for retirees.

Nearly 25,000 current retirees will be affected.

Many over 75.

Dr. Emanuel’s think-piece on aging is interesting to read.

But Mayor Emanuel’s polices towards those who are aging are devastating.