On the nature of civility.

Protesting the killing of Antwon Rose. Crossing the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh.

I suppose there is a kind of professional solidarity when it comes to presidential press secretaries.

After Sarah Huckabee Sanders was tossed out of the Red Hen restaurant in northern Virginia last week we were subjected to dozens of press lectures on the nature of civility and the demise of western civilization because Sarah didn’t get to order her Mexican food.

By the way, a Mexican restaurant called Red Hen? Trust me. I have twenty great Mexican restaurants within ten square blocks of my house and none would call themselves anything like Red Hen.

When Sanders gets thrown out of a Mexican place in Logan Square it will be called El Heredero, El Habanero or El Cid.

Joining the finger waggers and explainers of civil behavior were former presidential communications people David Axelrod and Ari Fleisher.

Technically, David Axelrod wasn’t the press secretary for Obama. He was more of a general communications guy.  He saw the Red Hen episode as not only bad behavior but as a win for Trump.

And George Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer gave Axelrod a high five.

And added:

Don’t screw with press secretaries. It doesn’t matter which Party, they stick together when it comes to restaurant service.

Maybe they are worried that if one gets thrown out of a restaurant, where will the practice of throwing out press secretaries end?

What they may not know, because unlike me they don’t have friends who have worked in restaurant kitchens, is that when people like that show up, and the line cooks find out, all kinds of weird shit will end up in the food.

I knew a cook in a fancy River North restaurant where former Alderman Fast Eddie Vrdolyak used to have lunch back in the day when he was trying to block Mayor Harold Washington’s reform agenda. She would hock a loogie into anything he ordered.

This goes on all the time. Huckabee was actually lucky she didn’t get served.

What world do these people live in? Public shaming public officials is not anything new. Although Axelrod is a Chicagoan, he clearly has never been to a Cubs game when any politician shows up.

They get booed. Loudly. Not civil.

But here is my point.

Go to Axelrod’s and Fleisher’s tweets.

Search for Antwon Rose.

Antwon Rose is the young African American teenager who was shot in the back by Pittsburg police officer the other day

You will find no tweets by Axelrod or Fleisher about Antwon Rose.

No lectures on the nature of civility when it comes to shooting young African American men in the back.

Not even a word of condolence.

Stephen Miller’s “constructive controversy.” Riling up the base cuts both ways. Updated.

Trump’s fascist brain, Stephen Miller.

Trump and Paul Ryan have announced today that there will be a bill tomorrow ending their no tolerance practice of separating immigrant families. No tolerance includes placing infants and children with Downs Syndrome in cages with mattresses on the floor and mylar blankets.

Let’s see what happens.

(Updated: Since originally posting this, Trump has signed an executive order requiring the indefinite detention of immigrant families, while claiming to end the separation of families.)

The practice is so outrageous that the thought anyone would need an explanation as to why is impossible for me to wrap my head around.

Don’t put babies in cages? Really? Someone needs an explanation for this?

But for Trump’s creepy brain, Stephen Miller, this has nothing to do with babies or families. It is an election strategy.

Like Reagan’s Southern Strategy. Rile up the white racist base and you win.

Miller calls it “constructive controversy.”

For Miller, a sociopathic racist who would be the classic loner if he hadn’t been recruited to the Trump White House staff of policy advisers, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose the battle over the specifics of immigration.

The Wall. Separating families. None of it matters. If you keep the issue of immigration front and center, it is a win-win for Trump because it riles up his base of white racists.

Trump’s margin of victory – not the popular vote – was less than a hundred thousands voters in three midwest states. He lost the popular vote mostly due (Wait for it now. No. Not the Russians.) Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton incompetence.

I have another theory about “constructive controversy.”

I think it riles up another base.


Call if the decency base. The basic-sense-of-justice-base. The don’t-put-babies-in-cages base.

Those who picked up on a few days notice and drove from Chicago and New York to Texas to see what they could do.

Those who wouldn’t let the head of Homeland Security eat in a DC restaurant without disruption last night.

She chose a Mexican restaurant with no sense of irony.

The thousands that will be in the streets the next few days.

Those who will vote in November.

Riled up plenty.

Miller wants constructive controversy.

He’s got it now.

Trump and Sessions fight to preserve affirmative action for rich white boys.


Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be in a public fight over Russia and Clinton, but they are agreed on one thing for sure.

They want to preserve the affirmative action programs that get rich white boys into colleges and universities even when those rich white boys are clearly underperformers.

Like Jared Kushner.

Apparently Kushner can’t even write his own press release without his father-in-law’s help.

A November, 2016 article in ProPublica documents how Kushner and other rich white boys get into Harvard without meeting even the most basic requirements, rich and white being quite enough thank you very much.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

To preserve this rich white boy affirmative action program, Jeff Session’s Department of Education has set up a special office to go after genuine affirmative action programs that help students who are poor and students of color get a university opportunity.

The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.

The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, “intentional race-based discrimination,” cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses.

Supporters and critics of the project said it was clearly targeting admissions programs that can give members of generally disadvantaged groups, like black and Latino students, an edge over other applicants with comparable or higher test scores.

Trump and Sessions believe a program like that should only be available to rich white boys like Jared Kushner.

Keeping retirement weird. Racist bullying? Skokie’s kids are alright.

What should be the response of administration and the police to a racist physical threat made on social media by a student at a high school campus?

Students at Niles North High School in Chicago’s suburb of Skokie decided the response was insufficient.

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 8.02.33 AM

Hundreds of students staged a walkout when a racist threat from one of Niles North student was circulated on Snapchat.

Students at Niles North High School in north suburban Skokie walked out of class Friday afternoon to protest what they believed was a lack of discipline for a student who posted a racist message on social media.

School officials said they are still investigating the incident; information that the student received a one-day suspension was inaccurate, they said.

Earlier Friday morning, students at the school participated in an organized walkout in the morning with the encouragement of school officials in honor of Stand Against Racism Day, a national event sponsored by the YWCA, School District 219 said in a statement.

Later in the afternoon, some students staged an additional, unannounced walkout, school officials said.

“We came together in unity to show that together, we can organize against inequity, racism and other forms of injustice,” the students said in a statement provided by District 219. “We the students have the power to elicit change. We are the future and we are committed to continue to work toward equity at Niles North.”

The second walkout of the day was related to an incident on social media earlier in the week.

School officials said a student had posted a photo of a BB gun on Snapchat with a racist comment. The school notified the Skokie Police Department, which investigated and found that the post “did not pose a direct threat to the school.”

A screenshot of the student’s Snapchat post was included in a story about the incident on patch.com. On the photo are the words: “If youre a n—– I pull the trigger”

Did not pose a direct threat to the school?

Could the authorities miss the point by a longer shot?

I was thinking about Skokie the other day. Thirty years ago it was a town with mainly Jewish residents, including members of my own family. Many of Skokie’s Jews were survivors of the Nazi Death camps, what Sean Spicer called Holcaust Centers.

In 1977 the American Nazi Party provoked the Jews of Skokie by announcing they would march through the town.

The reason I was thinking about it are the similar provocations by the Alt.Right fascists and confrontations in Berkeley, California.

The racist and homophobe Anne Coulter was scheduled to speak at Cal last week. “The best thing you can do is ignore them,” students and protesters were told.

How does ignoring racism and the racists make them go away?

I remembered that they made a made-for-TV movie about the Nazis in Skokie.

Good for the students at Niles North.

They didn’t need a lecture from adults on how to respond to racist bullying.

They are peaceful and non-violent, but they are holding the adult authorities to account.

The kids are alright.

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


Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony in Rochester,  New York.

Donald Trump made a reference to Susan B. Anthony at a White House thing, ending Women’s History Month.

Some in the press pointed out that there are only 4 women cabinet members in the Trump White House. That’s not the problem. The problem is Trump despises women and he and his Party are enacting stuff that will hurt women, particularly poor women and women of color.

“Have you heard of Susan B. Anthony?” he asked a White House gathering of women.

What a jerk.

Did one of his people slip card with Susan B. Anthony’s name to him just before his appearance? Maybe he thinks she is still alive, like he thought Frederick Douglass is still alive?

Does he know that the radical feminist Anthony and Frederick Douglass were close friends?

Does he know that Anthony was an outspoken abolitionist?

That Susan B. Anthony collaborated with Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad?

That Anthony and Douglass are buried not far from each other in the same cemetery in Rochester, New York?

That there is a statue in a Rochester park of the two of them together? It is called “Let’s Have Tea.” They are sitting together face-to-face with a table between them set with a teapot, two cups, and two books.

Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 into a Quaker family full of activist traditions. Anthony traveled and campaigned for the abolition of slavery and women’s rights.

On more than one occasion Anthony gave a speech challenging white people to oppose slavery. She painted a picture of slavery for her white audiences.

“Let us feel that it is our own children,” she said, “ruthlessly torn from our yearning mother hearts, sold on the auction block to the highest bidder. ‘Make the slave their neighbor, and love him as oneself’,” she admonished, quoting Matthew 22:30.

“We are bound up with the slave-holder in his guilt,” Anthony would tell her white audiences.

Douglass and Anthony met in 1845 while he was on a speaking tour.

In 1847 Douglass and his wife, Anna, moved to Rochester, where their home became one of the stops on the Underground Railroad.

In 1848 Frederick Douglass attended the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls and wrote about it in his paper, The North Star.

“All that distinguishes man as an intelligent and account able being, is equally true of woman; and if that government is only just which governs by the free consent of the governed, there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the exercise of the elective franchise, or a hand in making and administering the laws of the land.”

The Douglass and Anthony friendship was seriously tested when it came to suffrage for former slaves and women under the Civil Rights Bill of 1866.

Neither African Americans nor women could vote.

Anthony proposed universal suffrage and opposed Black men being given suffrage before women.

The 15th Amendment guaranteed all citizens the right to vote, regardless of race, but did not include voting rights for women.

Douglass tried to persuade his friend to support its ratification.

“When women because they are women are dragged from their homes and hung upon lampposts, . . . then they will have the urgency to obtain the ballot.” Asked if that was not also true about Black women, he responded, “Yes, but not because she is a woman but because she is black.”

The amendment was ratified in 1870.

Anthony, although arrested for voting in 1872, died before she could do so legally.

Does Trump know Susan B. Anthony?

This morning students at Swarthmore College are sitting-in, demanding that the administration divest in fossil fuel.

Swarthmore students protest. Vietnam in the 70s. South African apartheid in the 80s. Today, for the environment.

Dear Anne Lowry,

Despite the landslide victory in the referendum earlier this week and the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, the Board and administration have refused to engage with students on divestment. A few hours after the referendum results were announced, President Smith and Board Chair Spock emailed the campus reiterating the Board’s 2015 decision not to divest, citing the College’s investment guidelines adopted after it divested from apartheid South Africa in 1991 that the “Investment Committee manages the endowment to yield the best long term financial results, rather than to pursue other social objectives.”

We are deeply disappointed that the Board refuses to engage with the student body on this important issue. That is why, tomorrow (2/24), students are staging a sit-in to hold the Board accountable and to demand that it take students’ voices seriously.

Will you join us tomorrow in demanding accountability and action from the Board? Attached are detailed instructions for how you can help by calling and emailing the administration while students sit-in on campus.

This is not the first time that students have gotten a “no” from the Board. The anti-apartheid divestment campaign spanned eleven long years: eleven years of being ignored, sidestepped, and rejected by the Board. Despite the Board rejecting divestment four times, students and faculty persisted, taking increasingly escalated action, and in 1989 the Board committed to a plan to divest from apartheid.

Due to student and faculty efforts, the Board stood on the right side of history. Now, as the Trump administration partners with the fossil fuel industry to push disastrous climate policies that threaten millions of people and our futures, we need our Board to take a stand for justice once again. And we are confident that if we stand together as a community, we will win. 

Will you join us in sending this powerful message to the Board by calling and emailing tomorrow?


Abby Saul ’19 and September Porras ’20

We have been here before. 75 years ago today, FDR signed Executive Order 9066.

In the summer of 2011 we were on a road trip through beautiful western Wyoming.

Jackson Hole. The Tetons. Yellowstone.

We drove back through the eastern part of the state so that we could stop for a day in Cheyenne for the rodeo.

I desperately needed an excuse to wear my white Stetson hat that I had purchased in Fort Worth a few years earlier at an NEA Representative Assembly in Dallas.

There are not many opportunities to wear a white Stetson hat in Chicago.

That part of the west is not called big sky country for nothing. Eastern Wyoming is mostly flat with a few outcroppings, one of which is Heart Mountain.

We drove along the interstate through miles of open prairie until we came upon markers for the Heart Mountain internment camp.

During World War II 14,000 Japanese, some American citizens and some non-citizen immigrants, were rounded up and moved to Heart Mountain, Wyoming based on FDR’s  Executive Order 9066. Photos: Fred Klonsky

Today, February 19th, marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, when 150,000 Japanese and Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up, their property confiscated and forced into concentration camps scattered across the western states.

The only reason for their incarceration was their nationality and the nationality of their ancestors. They had committed no crimes.

Only 75 years ago.

Listen to Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers on the radio.