Indigenous Peoples Day Sunday.

Courtesy of Indigenous Peoples Day Arizona.

This week’s drawings.


This week’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers Podcast.

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Veteran Africa activist and educator, Prexy Nesbitt.

“They want everything done for them.”

Teaching Donald map skills.

Illinois’ school funding bill was sold as providing equity. But it gives favors to the rich and private schools and breaks the public bank.

Obama cried. 

Will the looney wing of the Illinois Repugs let the Democrats off the hook?

“I love Alabama.”

It’s kind of like Mom won a Noble Prize for peace.

Keeping retirement weird. My first day of work union recruitment speech and Janus.

Keeping retirement weird. My first day of work union recruitment speech and Janus.

Mark Janus.

Let me start by saying that I worked at a lot of different private sector jobs – not counting the jobs I had when I was a teenager – before becoming a career teacher at 38 years of age.

By “private sector,” I mean factory jobs: tire maker, welder, building truck trailers, assembly line vending machines, bicycles and steel.

Every one of them was a union job. Because of that I got a pretty good salary and health insurance that most importantly paid for the births of my children.

I have no experience in organizing a union where there was none. I know those who did, so I know it ain’t easy.

Before this year is out the United States Supreme Court will rule in favor of Mark Janus, a child-support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Springfield. He’s the named plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Illinois American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 in which his anti-union backers argue that it violates his rights to compel him, as a condition of his employment to pay for his benefits bargained by his union.

Janus replaces Friedrichs. When Antonin Scalia bought the farm, the court split evenly over the Friedrichs case, allowing a lower court ruling to stand preserving agency fees and fair share.

Trump added the right-wing Neil Gorsuch to the court and now the union goose is cooked.

When I first got a job as a teacher in the medium sized suburban Chicago school district where I ended up teaching for three decades, I wanted to join the teachers union. I asked around if anybody knew who the building’s union rep was. Nobody could tell me. I knew that my dues were being taken out of my check and that I had signed something when I first got hired. But like most new teachers, I was so happy to get a job that I didn’t pay much attention to what I was signing. Apparently there was a union membership form in there among the paper work. That’s how I became a member of the National Education Association.

By the time I got active in the local things had changed. Our local president got us time to meet with all the new-hires during orientation and we made a pitch. With fare share and agency laws in effect in Illinois, the amount equal to union dues had to be paid by each teacher anyway.  We bargained on their behalf and enforced the contract on their behalf whether they were members or not.

But we wanted them to join and be members. Active members. Members who voted in union elections. Who served on union committees. Who ran to be un-paid union officers. Who voted for or against the contract we bargained. Who would fill a bus to Springfield on Lobby Day.

In all the years we did this, nobody ever refused to join.

But I’m not going to try and fool you. Take away fare share. Take away agency fees. The number of actual members will go down.  Some people will always take something for free and let others foot the bill.

In the end this will drive down salaries and working conditions for everyone. That’s the idea.

I try not to be cynical but I’m too old not to be a realist.

And that is why Governor Rauner and the Illinois Policy Institute found someone to file this suit.

I don’t know what the teachers unions are going to do when the SCOTUS rules against them. It is hard for me to imagine that the current crop of leaders have the fire in their bellies to come up with a fighting strategy.

Some think the union will survive by offering better member benefits, like life insurance.

Some argue that having a union with only the members who actively choose to join and pay dues will make for a stronger union anyway.

I don’t think so.

I think what will have to happen is that the young teachers and other public employee workers will have to do what I never had to do.

Figure out a way to organize a union as if there was none. I know those who did, so I know it ain’t easy.

But they did it.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #35. A convo with Prexy Nesbitt about Africa.

Maybe if the President was listening to Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers he would know the difference between what he called Nambia and a real place named Namibia.

Jamie Trecker, our long-time producer and Lumpen Radio station manager finally quit for real. He’s been threatening for months. But the guy is too dedicated to the station so that he would only leave if someone capable could be found to replace him.

We were joined today by Jerry Salgado who will now produce the show.

We were also joined by long-time friend and activist Prexy Nesbitt.

I reminded Prexy that we first met at meetings over on North Avenue at the offices of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. This would have been back in the late seventies. We were both much younger men back then.

We were organizing to bring busloads of people to New York’s Madison Square Garden to support those in Puerto Rico who were struggling against the effects of colonialism.

And here we are again in 2017, still seeing the impact of colonialism on Puerto Rico following the devastation brought on my Hurricane Maria.

Prexy’s main work over the past 40 years has been supporting the liberation movements in Africa, particularly South Africa.

Things have certainly changed over the past 40 years and Prexy is quite critical of the current South African regime.

But not without hope and excitement about the youth movement in South Africa today.

You can hear and download the episode here.

It’s kind of like Mom won a Noble Prize for peace.

Women Strike for Peace. Los Angeles. 1960.

I thought about Mom this morning when I woke up and read that The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize, a recognition of its efforts to avoid nuclear conflict.

Mom was a peace activist. She was a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Women’s Strike for Peace and spent her last years fighting to ban the bomb.

She passed that gene on. As a teenager I helped form the first student chapter of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE). We organized a couple of hundred L.A. high school students in a march down Wilshire Boulevard in 1964.

The idea of getting rid of nuclear weapons in the age of Trump may seem hopeless to many people.

Apparently it does not seem hopeless to the Nobel Committee. They have made some dumb choices for the Peace Prize in the past.

Not this year.

Banning nuclear weapons never seemed impossible to Mom.

To me neither.

What other choice is there?



Puerto Rico’s Vieques. The solitude of a bombing range.

A pile of military vehicle parts and mortar shells burns on the former U.S. Naval training range on Vieques Island off Puerto Rico. Photo: Atlantic Magazine
Donald Trump tossing paper towels to residents of Puerto Rico, survivors of Hurricane Maria, was just one of the many bizarre but most recent images that the President has provided since taking office.

It was like he was trying awkwardly to shoot hoops.

Nobody but the President believes that the hurricane recovery has been going well. There are parts of the island where the full impact of the disaster is still to be assessed.

The New York Times reported this morning about the smaller Puerto Rican island of Vieques:

Solitude used to be an allure of life on this island apart from an island. Fish shacks served grouper pulled straight from the sea. Wild horses roamed the twisting roads. Tourists flocked to the beaches and glowing bays of an area left undeveloped for decades when it was a Navy bombing range.

Read that last sentence again.

“…left undeveloped for decades when it was a Navy bombing range.”

That’s the thing about Navy bombing ranges. They tend to go undeveloped.

For over 60 years, until 2003, Vieques was off limits, even to Puerto Ricans, because the Navy used the island as a practice bombing target.

The disdain President Trump has shown Puerto Rico by his slow response, his insult to San Juan’s Mayor tossed at her like paper towel rolls and his concern that humanitarian aid has thrown his budget out of whack; this all has a history.

The colonial status of Puerto Rico meant that opposition to using the beautiful island as a bombing target was ignored by the U.S. government for over half a century.

Not without deadly consequences.

For over 60 years, the U.S. Navy used the small island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, as a bombing range and site for military-training exercises. Then the island got sick. Thousands of residents have alleged that the military’s activities caused illnesses. With a population around 9,000, Vieques is home to some of the highest sickness rates in the Caribbean. According to Cruz María Nazario, an epidemiologist at the University of Puerto Rico’s Graduate School of Public Health, people who live in Vieques are eight times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease and seven times more likely to die of diabetes than others in Puerto Rico, where the prevalence of those diseases rivals U.S. rates. Cancer rates on the island are higher than those in any other Puerto Rican municipality.

The Navy eventually conceded to using heavy metals and toxic chemicals like depleted uranium and Agent Orange on the island, but denied any link between their presence and the health conditions of the people who live there. To this day, it is unclear what exactly caused the current conditions in Vieques. It’s a health crisis with a cause that’s almost impossible to prove: The government requires a particular standard of causal evidence before it will administer relief. Yet independent groups cannot necessarily provide that proof because the federal government still owns the land previously occupied by the military and controls access to it.

Conflicting studies by local scientists and the U.S. government have offered different explanations for Vieques’s sickness. Until 1997, data on the matter was scarce. That year, Nazario and a nonprofit civic organization noticed a high incidence of cancer cases in Vieques and filed a public grievance against the Department of Health. Soon after, the agency published a study showing that the prevalence of cancer in Vieques was 27 percent higher than in the rest of Puerto Rico. “For the first time, the excess of cancer in Vieques was acknowledged,” said Jorge Colón, a chemistry professor at the University of Puerto Rico known for his work advising several grassroots organizations in Vieques. The study recommended that the Department of Health carry out a public-health assessment of environmental conditions on the island.

The deadly destruction of Hurricane Maria is the latest disaster to hit Vieques. It includes the continuing disaster of colonial status. 

“I love Alabama.”

Jackson, Mississippi Mayor, Chowke Antar Lumumba.

On last week’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers (download at my brother and I got into a short cross talk at the beginning of the show about the primary win for Roy Moore in Alabama.

Moore is the looney right-winger that beat the establishment Republican who Trump endorsed, appropriately named Luther Strange.

At the final campaign rally for Strange, Trump screamed, “I love Alabama!” Trump followed this by calling African American National Football League players, “sons-of-bitches” for taking a knee during the National Anthem.

Anyway, you know the story.

What you may not have heard is about the other Alabama.

The one Trump does not love so much.

In Birmingham, which is 73% African American, voters just elected a progressive Bernie-backed candidate, Randall Woodfin. Earlier, Woodfin beat the incumbent establishment Democrat in the first round of voting for mayor.

While Woodfin backed Hillary in the presidential primaries, he was backed by Bernie’s electoral organization, Our Revolution, in his run for Mayor of Birmingham.

This follows by a few months the election of radical Chokwe Lumumba, Jr. as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.

Another African American progressive is a strong possibility as the next mayor of Atlanta.

Three southern cities. Three major electoral wins.

Stuff is happening in the South.

And Trump is not lovin’ it.

Coming up on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.


This coming Friday we are looking forward to our conversation with long-time activist Prexy Nesbitt. Prexy has has deep knowledge of and ties to South Africa.

On Friday, October 13, my brother Mike will be with old friend Gabe Lyon. I go back with Gabe when, working with Project Exploration, she came to talk science with our school’s students. Her latest project is No Small Plans, a 144-page color graphic novel that follows the neighborhood adventures of teens in Chicago’s past, present and future as they wrestle with what it will take to design the city they want, need and deserve.

On October 20 we will be sitting down with Charles Thomas, veteran Chicago political reporter. Thomas worked for years at the local Chicago ABC television station before retiring last March following a singular career as the African American reporter in that position covering the political beat.

October 27th our guest will be Peter Kuttner. In addition to being an old friend of the Klonsky brothers, for over 40 years Peter Kuttner has worked in mainstream and alternative media. He began his career in 1965 working for WTTW, Chicago’s Public Television station. In the 60’s as he became politically active, joined Newsreel, a documentary collective working with the Peace, Black Power, and Women’s Movements.

Joining Peter in studio will be Floyd Webb, associate producer of the award winning Julie Dash Film, Daughters of the Dust(US 1992); local producer of the American Masters film, The World of Nat King Cole (2006); producer and director of music videos, short documentaries, and 3D animations project.

Webb has also worked with filmmakers such as John Akomfrah, St. Clair Bourne, Jean Pierre Bekolo and Spike Lee doing research and production work on documentary, commercials, drama and short films.

We will have a discussion of independent and radical film-making back in the day and now.

Tune in on November 10th when David Stoval and Josh Radinsky will be with us. Both David and John are professors at the University of Illinois at Chicago and we will be talking education and schools.

Remember that Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers is broadcast live every Friday at 11AM and rebroadcast Sundays at 7PM. In Chicago it can be found at 105.5fm. It is live streamed on and podcast at and iTunes. It can also be heart on MixCloud.