The Sunday Times.

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This week’s podcast features Bill Iacullo, president the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143 in conversation about privatization at CPS and progressive political strategists Joanna Klonsky and Brian Sleet. Next week our guests will be Diane Ravitch and Kevin Coval.


It was 1964 and we were walking home from Fairfax High School down Melrose and on a pole was a flyer for Chuck Berry performing at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Chuck Berry!

Man, we had to go. We could afford only the cheapest seats in the 3,000 seat theater, but when we got there the place was nearly empty. A few hundred at most. We all moved down to the front and Chuck Berry put on a show with as much energy as if he were playing a full house at the Hollywood Bowl.

And we danced in the aisles. 

-Fred Klonsky



Is anyone left at Goldman Sachs?

President Donald Trump has selected yet another Goldman Sachs executive to fill a senior role in his administration, naming the firm’s current managing director, James Donovan, to serve as deputy Treasury secretary.

Donovan would be the sixth member of Trump’s team with ties to Goldman, which was once described as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Donovan’s now-boss, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, also worked at the investment bank. National Economic Council director Gary Cohn; White House senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Powell; and chief strategist Steve Bannon also formerly held positions within the very institution that Trump pointed to on the campaign trail as a symbol of Wall Street corruption and greed. Jay Clayton, Trump’s nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was a Goldman Sachs attorney. Common Dreams



But eliminating the NEA would also have a very real cost. Its grants are bestowed to all 50 states in the nation, in all congressional districts. Forty percent of the NEA’s budget goes directly to states to spend for themselves, with the proviso that they match the funds dollar for dollar via their own arts agencies—encouraging a further investment in the arts at the state level. Just as significantly, 65 percent of the NEA’s direct grants go to small and medium-sized arts groups, keeping the arts alive in rural and underserved communities. It’s here where the agency’s elimination would be most keenly felt, at organizations largely ignored by private donors, but which bring the arts to audiences including veterans and schoolchildren, often in impoverished neighborhoods. The Atlantic




They insisted Williams sign a pledge that he would no longer solicit listings in North Beverly. He refused.

“The beliefs about us was that I was some kind of animal,” said Williams, who said some families feared for their safety when black homeowners moved in. Others worried home values would plummet.

The result was broken windows at Williams’ office and home in Beverly. An anonymous complaint was even filed with the U.S. Justice Department, which Williams believes was meant to tie up his business affairs for months.

In 1975, someone even detonated a bomb outside his front door. The Defender reported that the bomb exploded between 11 and 11:30 p.m., breaking windows and causing “several hundred dollars’ worth of damage.”

Joanne Williams and their three children were asleep when the bomb went off. Williams’ eldest son, Mike, arrived home five minutes after the blast. A few minutes earlier and his “head might have been blown off,” Williams said at the time.

“At that point, I decided to fight back,” Williams said. “I was kind of a little, short fella, where if you slap me, I’m going to slap you back.” DNAinfo




Keeping retirement weird. Escalating the war on the poor families, kids and the elderly.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney parsing words after cutting grants for food for the hungry.

David Brooks wants Trump to unleash Steve Bannon.

As I read Brooks (so you don’t have to and throw up your breakfast) I kept visualizing unleashing Ulysses.

He would more than likely crap in a neighbor’s yard.

Maybe that’s what Brooks means.

The Trib’s Mary Schmich thinks we’re making too big a deal about the cuts to Meals on Wheels and parrots the Mulvaney line.

See. Technically they are not cutting Meals on Wheels. It is not a federal program. They are cutting the block grants to states that may or may not already fund food to the homebound and elderly and hungry kids. So, it is not fair to say we are cutting that particular program.

Mulvaney defends cutting breakfast programs for kids because there is no evidence that they do better in school as a result.  Our society’s responsibility to feed hungry kids frozen french toast sticks and tater tots because they are hungry is not reason enough.

We want measurable results. How do you measure hunger, after all?

If you can’t weigh it, count it, measure it and show an economic return, what is the point?

There has been a bi-partisan war on the poor since Ronald Reagan. Maybe earlier. But let’s start there.

The Trump budget is a major escalation of the continuing bi-partisan war on the poor.

Consider a NY Times editorial in 1981 when Reagan was president.

Poor people, especially those able and willing to go to school and to work, will suffer from the cuts that have already gone into effect. Consider the changes Congress has approved in Aid to Families with Dependent Children. It has lowered the amount and duration of permissible outside earnings and slashed the allowances for work-related expenses like child care. Think what effects those changes are likely to have; encouraging poor parents to take jobs is not among them.

If the Administration persists in trying to wring so many more billions out of domestic spending, it has essentially three options. It could force still more working poor out of social programs by outlawing, not merely curtailing, outside earnings. It could reduce benefit levels by compelling recipients to put up some cash for food stamps or health care expenses. Or it could try to thrust more of the burden onto state and local governments.

The implications of these alternatives are obvious – and ominous. The new eligibility rules have already forced 11 percent of the 3.9 million families off welfare and reduced benefits for an additional 279,000. Does anyone really think the relief rolls contain many thousands more, even worse off, who are capable of surviving without help? Or that many Medicaid recipients could pay some health care costs? And if Washington lays off even more of the burden onto lower levels of government, it will be left with the cruel choice between raising taxes and lowering benefits.

Recall Bill Clinton’s ending welfare as we know it.

A 2016 Atlantic story:

Today, in large part because of welfare reform, the safety net—the set of government efforts to come to the aid of the country’s citizens when they are down on their luck, much of which has existed since the Great Depression—is thin and getting thinner. And this thinning goes beyond welfare, which gives needy families cash support: On April 1, between 500,000 and one million childless adults will lose access to food stamps (officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). This is the belated consequence of a rule that was part of Clinton’s welfare reform, which stipulated that childless adults can only receive three months of food stamps if they aren’t employed at least 20 hours a week or in a training program. For years states received waivers for the rule, but in many states, governors have chosen not to ask for extensions for this year.

If passed, Trump’s war on the poor will make matters infinitely worse for most of us.

If the GOP Congress tweaks it, it will still be bad.

It will be a major escalation of a bi-partisan war that has been waged on poor families, kids and the elderly for decades.


Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers Episode #7

A local school board election in Park Ridge. Conflicts and convergences.


Disgraced Park Ridge school board member, Dr. Dathan Paterno.

Park Ridge, where I taught for three decades, is having a school board election.

They can. Although the Illinois House is debating the issue as we speak, we Chicagoans still can’t elect our school board.

Why can’t we? I suspect it has something to do with the color of most of our citizens. As a loyal troll of this blog constantly reminds me, I tend to think race is a constant issue in Chicago.

Anyway, back to Park Ridge’s school board election. There are four open seats to be filled by the voters in April.

Park Ridge school board elections have small turnouts.  That is why a white racist and misogynist like Dr. Dathan Paterno can get elected. Remember the good doctor? He was forced to resign from the Park Ridge board a few months ago after he tweeted that the millions of women who marched against Trump a day after the inauguration were 300 pound screeching vaginas.

The little town of Park Ridge, Illinois made it to the national press when the story broke.

The story about Paterno’s screeching vagina tweets broke in January. But Paterno has been tweeting stuff like that since way before he was elected to the board by a couple of thousand voters four years ago. I posted about his vile tweets way back when, trying to draw attention to the woman-hating racist on the school board.

One lesson here is that having the right to elect a school board is not enough. Then we have to elect good folks.

Nobody on the school board who sat next to him at meetings every two weeks seemed to care about the racist and male supremacist in their midst. For nearly four years. That is not my definition of good folks.

Like any community there are good and bad people in Park Ridge. Over the years I knew some really good members of the school board.

I also remember the school board member – Joe Baldi, I think his name was – who during one negotiating session, leaned across the table and told me, “Fred. What you need to know is that we see teachers as just another cost to be contained.”

I recall one year we were on strike in a cold November and community folks would bring donuts and hot coffee to the picket lines. On the other hand, the wife of a school board member physically threatened – literally chased after her while swearing at her – our former union president right out on the street in front of where we were bargaining.

It takes a village, but some in the village might be your looney aunt.

Now some locals are outraged because the husbands of three Park Ridge teachers are running for some of the open seats.

Because if you’re married to a teacher it’s a conflict of interest to be on a school board.

I don’t see the conflict. It seems like a good fit to me.

These watchdogs who object to a spouse of a teacher being on the board have no problem with the likes of Joe Baldi and Dr. Dathan Paterno.

See, I would have thought that being a racist and a misogynist was a conflict of interest for someone sitting on a school board.

Or someone who sees teachers only in terms of their cost.

But the voters will make that choice in April.

In Chicago we are forced to have a board with bankers, lawyers and those who run companies who do business with the board. No conflict of interest there.


Monsanto’s fake science.


-By John Dillon

Fake News is one thing; but “fake scientific research” is quite another.

The first we can heatedly argue; the latter will put an end to us.

Enter stage right, Monsanto.

It appears that Monsanto Corporation, a company that has cornered the world market in providing herbicides, insecticides, and questionable genetic modifications, has worked for decades to produce falsified “research papers” that were ghost written by executives and officials and then handed over to legitimate scientists for editing?

Why?  In order later to affix their names on the documents as supportive of false findings; when in fact, they were only asked to edit a section or paragraph here and there for clarification, appropriate attributions, sentence construction, etc.

Despite all the “evidence” produced over the years by Monsanto, the state of California has decided to list glyphosate – the chief active ingredient in Roundup herbicide –  as a likely carcinogen.  This follows the same designation given by the World Health organization in March of 2015.

One trillion, four hundred million tons of Roundup are used on crops and lawns across the world annually; the United States consumes nearly 20% of the herbicide: 280 million pounds per year.

As the CEO Hugh Grant notes in his company’s letter to shareholders this last year, “From the Earth’s deepest roots to its highest satellites, we are more connected than ever to our planet and the food it produces. At Monsanto, we believe these connections hold the key to unlocking positive potential for growers and consumers.”

And a positive potential for profits as well.  The company’s revenues exceed $15 billion annually.

Read the entire post here.

Bargain Grande. All foam. Can’t mess with our TRS.

rauner blago

Rauner approval at Blago-levels.

I call what Rauner wants to pass in exchange for signing a state budget a Bargain Grande  -like something you would get from Starbucks except all foam and no espresso.

With voter approval ratings approaching Blago-levels and disapproval numbers looking more like the temperature I was feeling in Sarasota yesterday (60), The Ruiner has all but abandoned his Turnaround Agenda from two years ago.

He is now down to begging Emanuel and the legislature to let him cut pensions in exchange for $215 million to CPS’s pension debt.

Emanuel gets excited at the mention of cutting retiree pensions so he is open to it. But who cares what Emanuel is open to doing?

I believe it was Sue Sadlowski Garza who said on our radio show, Hitting Left, that even those who support the mayor don’t want to be seen with him.

Last week he threatened to cut state subsidies to the retiree health insurance.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that any reduction in public employee benefits is a violation of the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

The court held in Kanerva v. Weems that, under the Illinois State Constitution’s pension clause, any benefit of an Illinois retirement system “cannot be diminished or impaired,” with no exceptions for health benefits.

Sorry Charlie. Threaten all you like, but the subsidies will remain or the court will order it.

Same goes for the Rauner/Cullerton/Radogno pension bill that the Governor wants in exchange for the $215 million to CPS.

The pension reform offers a a choice of two diminishments. If it happens, the court will rule as it has consistently done.

They can’t do it.

And then there is Rauner’s third brilliant idea: A third tier of retirees. New hires wold go into a group that gets no defined benefit. They would receive a defined contribution annuity.

You know who would do well under a state pension system that is constructed around three tiers, one that includes current retirees and most current employees, one that includes some current employees and another that would be for future employees?

Tell you kids to study bookkeeping. That would be the growth industry.

A bookkeeping nightmare doesn’t begin to describe it.

I’m still waiting for those tier two teachers to hit retirement age and the state discovers they owe millions for violating federal Social Security safe harbor rules which requires a state pension be at least as good as what the employee would receive from Social Security.

Joanna Klonsky, Brian Sleet, Bill Iacullo, Kevin Coval and Diane Ravitch. Coming up on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

Over the next two weeks Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers has a heavy line up.

Friday, March 17th our guests will be Chicago progressive political activists and strategists Joanna Klonsky and Brian Sleet along with Bill Iacullo, President of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143-143b and Chief Engineer at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago.

On March 24th we will be talking with poet Kevin Coval. Kevin’s book, A People’s History of Chicago, has just been released.

Also on March 24th my brother Mike Klonsky will have a conversation with education historian and corporate education reform critic Diane Ravitch.

Hitting Left can be heard live on Fridays at 11AM on on 105.5FM and live streaming.

A few hours later it is available on MixCloud.

You can download the podcast version of each show from Liberated Syndication and iTunes.

Past guests have included the head of the Chicago Principals Association Troy LaRaviere, Israeli peace activist Yonatan Shipira, Progressive Alderman and dean of the city council’s Hispanic Caucus Ricardo Munoz, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, singer, songwriter, lawyer and activist Matt Farmer and 10th Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza.

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