Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Racism Hidden in Plain View

Racism Hidden in Plain View -


Racism Hidden in Plain View

 3 days ago | Updated 2 days ago

Robert Kuttner Co-founder and co-editor, 'The American Prospect'

One of the odd things about our era is that 50 years after the great civil rights era, ugly realities that the black community knows all too intimately are finally being recognized by the broader society. The question is whether constructive change will result.

The Sunday New York Times, based on its own exhaustive study of tens of thousands of traffic stops, reports that blacks are far more likely to be stopped, then arrested and sometimes brutalized, for minor traffic infractions than whites. The piece, focusing on the relatively moderate city of Greensboro, N.C., provides more detail than has ever been reported in a major press account. This was no surprise to the black community, which lives these realities daily.

Since Ferguson, the press has been paying more attention to the killings of young black men by police. The pattern is not new; only the intensified press coverage is.

The media has also been shining a belated spotlight on the fact that people of color are far more likely to be jailed for minor offenses for which whites generally are released in their own recognizance, or allowed to make modest bails.

We are also getting far more coverage of the racial disparities in who gets sentenced to prison for what crimes and for how long. This wasn't really "news" either. It just didn't get the attention it deserved.

To add insult to injury, it's shocking (and not entirely surprising) that as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, voting rights of African-Americans are being taken away by rightwing state governments, using the very techniques that the 1965 Act prohibited -- techniques that were legalized after the fact by a partisan Supreme Court.

In the South of the 1980s and 1990s, there were bi-racial voting coalitions that elected economically centrist and racially moderate governors and senators to statewide office, even in the Deep South. Bill Clinton of Arkansas was one such governor. Albert Gore, Jr. of Tennessee was one such senator.

Other racial moderates elected by coalitions of blacks and whites included Democratic governors Jim Hunt (1977-85; 1993-2001, Mike Easley (2001-2009) and Beverly Perdue (2009-2013) of North Carolina, Richard Riley of South Carolina (1979-87), Zell Miller (1991-1999) and Roy Barnes (1999-2003) of Georgia, and even Ray Mabus (1988-1992) and Ronnie Musgrove (2000-2004) in Mississippi -- not to mention several Democrats elected in more ambiguously southern places like Florida and Texas. And several senators as well.

Those days are just about gone. The Republican Party in the Deep South is a mostly white party and the Democrats mostly a black party. The GOP has successfully played the race card, and biracial governing coalitions are getting scarce.

Today, there are no Democratic governors in the 13 states of the old Confederacy (except for Virginia, which has had a huge influx of northerners), and a shrinking number of Democratic state legislators. To be sure, 2014 was a worse wipeout than usual for Democrats, but emblematic of a trend. 2012, when Barack Obama was re-elected, was also losing year for Democrats in the South.

It is increasingly looking as if the period of bi-racial coalition in the South was analogous to the brief window of statistical "integration" in the case of a town or neighborhood that is flipping from mostly white to mostly black. For about one generation, the moderate remnants of the once-dominant Democratic Party, people like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, could get elected statewide, by appealing to Yellow Dog Democrats (people who'd vote for a yellow dog running as a Democrat) and newly enfranchised blacks.

But then the South reverted to its mostly segregated and structurally racist self. Yellow Dog whites got entirely comfortable voting for Republicans.

The relevance of this bitter history is that the region of the nation -- the former Confederacy -- that most needs to come to terms with the racial realities finally being exposed and discussed nationally is in no political position to do so.

It's one thing to belatedly disown a symbol like the Confederate Flag. It's another to root out a pattern of police harassment that is deeply rooted in the ruling cultures of one city and town after another.

Not that the North has much to brag about. The Times piece on traffic stops showed that blacks were four times as likely to be arrested in traffic stops in North Carolina -- but that blacks relative to white were far more likely to be searched during traffic stops in Chicago than in Greensboro.

Not to be too pessimistic -- it's true that over the long term, the South is trending demographically more Democratic. But that assumes blacks will be allowed to vote.

So we have a huge disconnect between the realities being exposed and discussed nationally -- and the willingness of ruling elites, especially in the South, to discuss them.

What next? Just as demands for justice that bubbled up from the black community, (with support of decent whites) finally forced the nation to pay attention half a century ago, this must happen again. What's appalling is that as a nation we seem to take a step forward only to take a step back.

We are fighting battles that we thought we won in the 1960s. Structural racism still runs far deeper than the victories of a single generation.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The House science committee is worse than the Benghazi committee - Vox

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The House science committee is worse than the Benghazi committee

Updated by David Roberts on October 26, 2015, 1:19 p.m. ET @drvox

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"Are you now or have you ever been a climate scientist?"(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Last Thursday, the nation watched with a mix of amusement and horror as the House Benghazi committee spent 11 hours grilling Hillary Clinton on a bizarre farrago of issues, many of which bore only tangential connection to the Benghazi attack.

Over the past few weeks, the political narrative seems to have shifted from "Clinton in trouble" to "congressional witch hunt seeks to take down Clinton." Between McCarthy's accidental truth telling, an ex-staffer confirming the worst reportsabout the committee, and another House Republican conceding the obvious, it has become clear that the Benghazi committee is a thoroughly partisan political endeavor. Opinion has turned, but Republicans are trapped.

The thing is: The Benghazi committee is not even the worst committee in the House. I'd argue that the House science committee, under the chairmanship of Lamar Smith (R-TX), deserves that superlative for its open-ended, Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation's leading scientists and scientific institutions.

The science committee's modus operandi is similar to the Benghazi committee's — sweeping, catchall investigations, with no specific allegations of wrongdoing or clear rationale, searching through private documents for out-of-context bits and pieces to leak to the press, hoping to gain short-term political advantage — but it stands to do more lasting long-term damage.

In both cases, the investigations have continued long after all questions have been answered. (There were half a dozen probes into Benghazi before this one.) In both cases, the chair has drifted from inquiry to inquisition. But with Benghazi, the only threat is to the reputation of Hillary Clinton, who has the resources to defend herself. With the science committee, it is working scientists being intimidated, who often donot have the resources to defend themselves, and the threat is to the integrity of the scientific process in the US. It won't take much for scientists to get the message that research into politically contested topics is more hassle than it's worth.

This year, Smith was one of the committee chairs granted sweeping new subpoena powers by his fellow House Republicans, what one staffer called "exporting the Issa model." No longer is the chair required to consult with the ranking member before launching investigations or issuing subpoenas. A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "This change will inevitably [lead] to widespread abuses of power as Republicans infect the other committees with the poisonous process that Issa has so abused during his chairmanship."

That turned out to be pretty prescient, at least in the case of the science committee. No chair has taken to his new role with as much enthusiasm as Smith. Here are just three of his recent exploits.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)Smith asks for tips from Issa at a 2009 hearing on (no kidding) ACORN.

Hassling a scientist for unwelcome results

In June, a scientist named Thomas Karl, along with colleagues, published a peer-reviewed paper in the journal Science called "Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus." It cast doubt on the global warming "pause" that has become the latest cause célèbre for climate change, er,doubters.

That did not sit well with Smith, who is a doubter himself, like many of the Republicans on his committee and more than half of all House Republicans. And it was the subject of much heated attack in the denial-o-sphere.

So Smith has gone after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where Karl works as the director of the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). For a play-by-play, I recommend this scorching letter to Smith from committee ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

In it, she notes that Smith made three written requests for information about Karl's study, all of which NOAA responded to in writing and in personal briefings. "Moreover," she writes, "NOAA attempted to explain certain aspects of the methodology about which the Majority was apparently confused." (Imagine how that meeting went.)

Among Smith's repeated demands: access to the data and methods behind NOAA's work on climate. Except, as NOAA and Democratic members of the committee kept trying to explain, those data and methods are posted on the internet. Anyone can access them. Yet Republicans kept demanding them.

Unsatisfied with the total cooperation and untrammeled access his committee received, Smith issued a subpoena:

On October 13, the committee subpoenaed nearly seven years of internal deliberations and communications among scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including "all documents and communications" related to NOAA's measurement of our climate.

"All documents and communications" would presumably include emails, preliminary drafts, peer review comments, notes, audio recordings, and a treasure trove of other material. This would mean thousands upon thousands of records for employees to identify and go through and analyze for no clearly stated purpose.

NOAA was given two weeks to comply.

(Coincidentally, the very following day, longtime climate skeptic blogger Bob Tisdale published a long post calling into question the very adjustments to temperature data that were mentioned in Smith's subpoena.)

To be clear, Smith has not alleged any corruption, wrongdoing, or even bad science. He hasn't alleged anything. Nor has he offered any justification for why he needs access to NOAA internal communications. The new rules mean that he no longer has to explain or justify himself to anyone. He's just hoping to find something he can use.

Here's the most pointed part of Johnson's letter:

The baseless conflict you have created by issuing the October 13 subpoena is representative of a disturbing pattern in your use of Congressional power since your Chairmanship began. In the past two years and ten months that you have presided as Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology you have issued more subpoenas (six) than were issued in the prior 54 year history of the Committee. That prior Committee history is filled with extensive legitimate oversight concerning consequential events — oftentimes quite literally matters of life and death. Yet none of the prior eleven Chairs of our Committee exercised their authority with the degree of partisan brashness as is now the case in our Committee.

(Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) wants to know if you're being serious right now.

Hassling a scientist for unwelcome politics

Recently, political pressure on Exxon and the oil industry has been growing.

In May, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) gave a speech and penned an op-ed on the possibility of a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) case against the energy industry, arguing that the "parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking."

On September 1, a group of about 20 climate scientists sent a letter to President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and OSTP Director John Holdren recommending that they look into a RICO case. Holdren replied, deferring any legal decisions to the Department of Justice but writing that "the Administration shares the concern expressed in the letter about the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change."

On September 21, InsideClimate News published the first in what would become ablockbuster series of stories that made clear just how much Exxon knew about the dangers of climate change, and how soon, well before it spent millions of dollars deliberately obscuring the issue. In early October, the LA Times followed up with itsown investigation.

On October 15, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) wrote Lynchasking the Department of Justice to investigate whether the company violated the law. On October 20, Bernie Sanders joined the call for a federal investigation.

None of this sat well with Smith, either. So he's going after one of the scientists who signed the letter to Obama.

Apparently the letter was (inadvertently, the organization says) posted on the website of George Mason University's Institute of Global Environment and Society(IGES), a nonprofit research institution led by one of the scientists who signed the letter, Jagadish Shukla.

Science journalist Warren Cornwall tells what happened next:

The letter eventually came to the attention of outsiders, including science policy specialist Roger Pielke, Jr., of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Pielke, an active voice in debates over climate science and policy, called attention to the letter on Twitter, and also raised questions about IGES's finances. Soon, journalists, including several associated with conservative news outlets, were writing about the letter and IGES. The Daily Caller, for example, noted that "climate scientists asking Obama to prosecute skeptics got millions from U.S. taxpayers," in a 21 September story.

Smith got wind of this and sent Shukla a letter (citing the Daily Caller story) noting that "IGES appears to be almost fully funded by taxpayer money while simultaneously participating in partisan political activity by requesting a RICO investigation of companies and organizations that disagree with the Obama administration on climate change."

Here's what Smith demanded from IGES:

1. Preserve all e-mail, electronic documents, and data ("electronic records") created since January 1, 2009, that can be reasonably anticipated to be subject to a request for production by the Committee. ...

2. Exercise reasonable efforts to identify and notify current employees, former employees, contractors, and third party groups who may have access to such electronic records that they are to be preserved ...

Like the other scientists, Shukla signed the letter as a private citizen, not a representative of his organization. Yet "current employees, former employees, contractors, and third party groups" will now be hounded for electronic records back to 2009.

Now the whole mess has come to the attention of bottom feeder Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who spends his time hassling scientists with public records requests. He has now filed them with several universities that employ scientists who signed the letter.

Hassling a prestigious research organization for funding studies with funny names

For more than 60 years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported basic research in science and engineering. With a $7 billion budget, it is responsible for about 20 percent of the federal government's basic research spending.

The NSF "merit review" process is something of a legend, a multilayered process that sends each grant past a panel of independent scientists, researchers, and educators in the field, with scrupulous rules to avoid conflicts of interest. About 80 percent of applications fail to pass review; receiving an NSF grant is widely seen as a mark of prestige in the science world.

Crucially, the peer review is blind. The names of reviewers are never disclosed.

Republicans on the science committee believe they have discovered an important flaw in the process: Sometimes it awards grants to studies that sound funny.

Smith is convinced that NSF is wasting public money by funding these funny-sounding studies, which has led to a long and acrimonious fight between Republicans on the committee and committee Democrats, NSF's leadership, and much of the academic and research community.

(Said parties have engaged in a long and spirited exchange of correspondence, which you can read in full here.)

Smith is demanding that NSF turn over all the details — including internal communications and the names of reviewers — related to a growing list of grants that he thinks don't sound quite right. It's up to about 50 now, and as journalist Jeffrey Mervis explains, "the scientific community is scratching its head over how Smith compiled his list of questionable grants":

[T]he list is hard to characterize. One grant goes back to 2005, and 13 appear to have expired. The total amount of money awarded is about $26 million. The smallest grant, awarded in 2005, is $19,684 for a doctoral dissertation on "culture, change & chronic stress in lowland Bolivia." The largest, for $5.65 million, is for a project that aims to use innovative education methods to educate Arctic communities about climate change and related issues.

If you do the math, $26 million represents about 0.37 percent of NSF's budget.

Smith demanded that all files related to these grants be sent to his House offices. NSF leadership pushed back, which led to this absurd scene:

Four times this past summer, in a spare room on the top floor of the headquarters of the National Science Foundation (NSF) outside of Washington, D.C., two congressional staffers spent hours poring over material relating to 20 research projects that NSF has funded over the past decade. Each folder contained confidential information that included the initial application, reviewer comments on its merit, correspondence between program officers and principal investigators, and any other information that had helped NSF decide to fund the project.

No one knows what Smith and his staffers are looking for, because they won't say. It's difficult to imagine what staffers think they will learn from rifling through these documents, or why they think the judgments they come to in a few hours will improve upon NSF's peer review process. All they can hope to find is fodder for more press releases.

(NSF)France Córdova being sworn in as NSF director, with no inkling of what she's in for.

What's clear is that Smith's unilateral use of subpoena power has forced the NSF to compromise the longstanding confidentiality of its review process. It has sent letters to several universities that employ grantees, explaining that it had no choice but to turn over documents. But the damage is already being done. The trust the foundation has built among the scientific community over the past 60 years is in jeopardy.

In another damning letter to her counterpart, Rep. Johnson says:

The plain truth is that there are no credible allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse associated with these 20 awards. The only issue with them appears to be that you, personally, think that the grants sound wasteful based on your understanding of their titles and purpose. Seeking to substitute your judgment for the determinations of NSF's merit review process is the antithesis of the successful principles our nation has relied on to make our research investment decisions. The path you are going down risks becoming a textbook example of political judgment trumping expert judgment.

She goes on to note that on September 16, Fox News carried a story about one of the grants that contained a quote from Smith disparaging it, along with two pieces of information that could only have been gleaned from the confidential materials involved in the grant.

To summarize: The chair of a House committee is using his newly expanded subpoena power to go fishing through the work of the NSF, forcing it to breach its storied confidentiality, searching for bits and pieces of decontextualized information that can be leaked to right-wing media to make the executive branch look bad, on behalf of an ideological quest to cut research funding.

Worse than the Benghazi committee

The science committee, Fox News, the Daily Caller, climate deniers, CEI — at this point, it's all one partisan operation, sharing information and strategies.

Republican radicalization has already laid waste to many of the written and unwritten rules that once governed American politics. The use of congressional committees as tools of partisan intimidation is only a chapter in that grim story.

But the science committee is going after individual scientists, who rarely have the resources on hand to defend themselves from unexpected political attack. It is doing so without any rationale related to the constitutional exercise of its oversight powers — not with a false rationale, but without any stated rationale, no allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse — in service of an effort to suppress inconvenient scientific results and score partisan political points against the executive branch.

The federal government is an enormous supporter of scientific research, to the country's great and enduring benefit, though that support is now under sustained attack. If such funding comes with strings, with the threat that the wrong inquiry or results could bring down a congressional inquisition, researchers are likely to shy away from controversial subjects. The effects on the US scientific community, and on America's reputation as a leader in science, could be dire, lingering on well past the 2016 election.

Video: A small sample of the Benghazi hearing

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Gap between minorities and police widening, FBI boss says in Chicago

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Gap between minorities and police widening, FBI boss says in Chicago

FBI Director James Comey, shown Oct. 22, 2015, in Washington, said during his Chicago address that law enforcement and the communities they serve are "arcing away from each other." (Jim Watson / AFP-Getty Images)

Lolly BoweanContact ReporterChicago Tribune

FBI boss calls for frank conversations on race, crime and the justice system

The gap between communities of color and the police who are assigned to protect them has widened in recent years, FBI Director James Comey said Friday in Chicago.

And the only way to restore the trust between African-Americans and other racial minorities and the police is to begin holding frank, open conversations about race, crime and the justice system as well as to address the breakdown in that relationship, he said.

"One of the hardest things to talk about in America is race," Comey said. "We have to get past that and talk ... and listen."

"I imagine two lines: One line is law enforcement, the other line is the communities that we serve and protect, especially communities of color," he said. "What I see is those two lines arcing away from each other, at an increasing rate."

Comey, in town for the Conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, spoke to law students, faculty, staff and some police officers at the University of Chicago Law School, which he graduated from in 1985.

Comey's remarks on the tense relationship between blacks and the police comes at a time of increased scrutiny of the use of force by police, particularly after a number of high-profile cases across the country in which unarmed blacks were killed.

Comey said he has noticed that violent crime in black communities has increased this year at the same time that trust in law enforcement has decreased. He said he has spoken to police leaders across the country who have offered various theories for the rise: increase in heroin use, violent offenders getting out of prison, access to weapons.

A tale of 3 cities: LA and NYC outpace Chicago in curbing violence

But he has his own theory.

"Maybe something in policing has changed," Comey said. "In today's YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?"

Comey, who comes from a law enforcement family, said he has spoken to police officers who feel "under siege" and say it's affecting their work.

His remarks echoed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's recent comment blaming rising violence in Chicago and elsewhere on police officers becoming "fetal" out of concern that their actions would get them in trouble.

Comey pushed back against activists who blame the drug policies of the 1990s for massively incarcerating black males. He also took to task the idea that black men "disappeared" from their communities by being imprisoned.

Instead, he said, police aggressively made arrests and prosecutors like him came down hard on criminals in order to return drug infested African-American communities back to healthy neighborhoods.

Wisconsin graduation gap between white and black is largest in U.S.

"That work added up to a very large number of people in jail, especially young men of color," he said. "But then there were a very large number of young men of color involved in criminal activity in America's cities and in America's most desperate neighborhoods."

At the same time, Comey said part of the conversation about race and police has to address the disparities. And the problem of drug addiction has to be addressed if communities are ever to change.

"Yes, it is true that young men of color have long been dramatically overrepresented among both homicide victims and killers," he said. "But it is also true that white people buy and use most of the drugs in this country — and the white peoples' demand for drugs drives the drug trade that is destroying black neighborhoods. It's a problem our society simply must not drive around."

Comey, who has led the FBI for more than two years, told students that when he attended the University of Chicago, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, he regarded the South Side as his community.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Barbara Byrd Bennett: In The Room And Nothing To Show For It - Bean Soup TimesBean Soup Times

by Delmarie Cobb

My mother used to say, "How can white folk lose when whites are for whites and blacks are for whites. They can't lose."

If ever there was an example, it's disgraced former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett. She willingly allowed herself to be a tool of the white power structure. Everyone knows the Cleveland native was hired as CEO to be the black face to close 49 of the city's neighborhood public schools in predominantly African American communities, the same as her predecessor—Jean Claude Brizard. Both of them were hired because they're black and had no local ties to the South and West Sides of the city.

This method of using black people to fool, control or harm other black people is nothing new. For centuries, the relationship between our nation's white power structure and black people continues to be, "I can buy me a black person." Instead of buying us from atop an auction block, today, they buy us to do their bidding with jobs, contracts or a title.

I call it the "In The Room Syndrome." Some of us are so happy to be in the room rubbing shoulders with the rich and/or powerful, after being denied access for so long, that we will do whatever it takes to maintain our spot. Now, I realize that everyone has to put food on his or her table, but it should not be at the expense of those who need an advocate the most.

When the Walter H. Dyett High School protestors ended their hunger strike, earlier this month, some observers and detractors admonished them for not doing a "happy dance" when the administration announced the shuttered building would reopen as a neighborhood school. Never mind that no one from CPS ever talked to the protestors about the school's future.

For five years, some of the protestors diligently worked in tandem with the University of Illinois and community residents to create a 500-page plan for Dyett to remain an open enrollment, public high school specializing in Global Leadership and Green Technology. Instead, in what is being promoted as a compromise, the last neighborhood high school in Bronzeville will re-open with an arts curriculum.

Hunger striker and Bronzeville resident Cathy Dale said, "We want to create a world-class institution that's sustainable."

In other words, prepare the new Dyett students in the areas of the economy where experts predict growth for sustainable employment. Something former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke agrees is needed to help working families share in the nation's prosperity.

"We need better training and skills to get people prepared so they can compete in the global economy," said Bernanke on "ABC This Week."

In yet another compromise, the University of Chicago and Sinai Health System announced construction of a Level 1 Trauma Center at Holy Cross Hospital on the city's Southwest Side. This agreement is the result of years of protests by a myriad of groups–doctors, students, activists and residents.

It's another example of Chicagoans pushing back against the white power structure that purports to know what's best for black and brown residents who live in a trauma desert even though they are the disproportionate victims of traumatic incidents. Again, no one from the city sat down with the protestors to say, "How do we work together to ensure this collaboration best addresses the needs of our city?"

The admission of guilt by Barbara Byrd Bennett managed to knock off another city appointee from the headlines. Since Superintendent Garry McCarthy assumed leadership of the Chicago Police Department hundreds of people have been killed and thousands shot.

In what has become a rare sight, the City Council Black Caucus held a news conference calling for McCarthy's dismissal. Both he and the mayor rebuffed the black aldermen's demand.

"My focus…and I want everyone's focus…is on gangs and guns, not on Garry," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

For each of these examples, there were black people defending the status quo. Some even reprimanded protestors for daring to challenge the city's white power structure.

Just six months ago, Emanuel told black Chicagoans he would listen, if only we would re-elect him. So far, he has said NO to an elected school board, NO to the Dyett protestors, NO to the City Council Black Caucus and ignored the trauma center activists.

In an 1857 speech former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." He was foretelling the role of blacks in the Civil War. The most famous line from the speech is, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

With freedom comes responsibility. The responsibility to know your worth and to make the white power structure work to improve your quality of life, not maintain the status quo—no matter what color the face is looking at you.

Barbara Byrd Bennett didn't betray us by herself. She had help. She was not alone in the room.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Iraq veteran on Roseland murder scene: 'Terrorists, right here.'

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Iraq veteran on Roseland murder scene: 'Terrorists, right here.'

Titania McCain in front of her home in the 10600 block of South Prairie Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

 (Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune)

Megan CrepeauContact ReporterChicago Tribune

Beat #0512, 3:45 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 18

A man in a red hoodie sobbed into a cellphone as he walked away from the homicide scene on the 10600 block of South Prairie Avenue in the Roseland neighborhood on the Far South Side.

"I'm sorry, uncle," he said with tears on his face. "I don't know what I'm gonna do without him."

His cousin was dead in a car up the block; he had been shot after attending a nearby party.

Titania McCain came out in her bathrobe to make sure her car didn't have any bullet holes.

The gunshots woke her up, she said, and she didn't know what happened. Nor did she expect this to happen on the block of small brick houses.

"It's scary. I've been to Saudi. I've been to Iraq. I've laid at home safe and sound and …"

Her voice trailed off.

McCain, an Army veteran who retired in 2011, said she was stationed in Iraq from 2006 to 2007. She said she'd never seen anything like the shooting scene on her doorstep.

She knew some people were insulted by the nickname "Chiraq," she said, but not her.

"The name doesn't offend me because it's accurate," she said. "Terrorists, right here. People walking around killing people."

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'A parent might wonder, how long has my baby been out there? That sticks on their heart'

Megan Crepeau

Andrew Holmes got to the corner of 98th and Peoria streets just 20 minutes after an 18-year-old was shot dead there. He stood at the edge of the crime scene in a suit and tie, waiting for mourners to arrive.

"This is a little odd because there's no family members out here," Holmes said. The community activist works with Chicago Survivors, a support network for families of homicide victims.

He kept looking over his shoulder down 98th Street.

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Video: 'This is where I pay my mortgage every month'

John J. Kim

Beat 2533, 8 p.m. Sept. 30

The woman was close to the officer's face, kept from getting any nearer by yellow crime tape wrapped around a tree near where two people had been shot in North Austin Wednesday night.

"This is where I pay my mortgage every month," she said, shaking her finger at the officer. "This is crazy.

"Every day they come over and shoot.  Every day.  Every night.  Ev-er-y night.  They come here and just shoot. They just shoot. They don't care. They just shoot."

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Early morning shooting in Uptown: 'There's a magnet here'

Megan CrepeauChicago Tribune

Beat 1914, 6:40 a.m. Sept. 27

Every morning for six months, Gary Rashkow and Garry Werderitch have had coffee at the McDonald's on the corner of Wilson Avenue and Sheridan Road.

They met at a nearby shelter. Werderitch has since moved to a new one that lets him sleep in on weekends, so he was running late Sunday morning.

Rashkow was waiting for him outside the McDonald's when two people were shot in the parking lot.

"Someone gets out (of a car), opens fire at the van and took off around the corner," he said, gesturing at the crime scene.

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'Call my wife. Tell my kids I love them. Call my wife.'

Alexandra ChachkevitchChicago Tribune

Beat 0932, 10:40 p.m. Sept. 27

The family barbecue in Back of the Yards was breaking up. Parents gathered up their children as the hosts rolled away the grill and started putting away leftovers.

"It was winding down," said Ralph Johnson, 35, who said his barbecue usually draws 40 to 50 relatives. "There was a lotta kids here, a lotta people."

Johnson said he just stepped inside the house, carrying a bowl of greens, around 10:40 p.m. Sunday when he heard about 15 gunshots.  "I thought they were shooting at the door," he said.

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'I'm not afraid of nobody, but a bullet don't have no name on it'

Dawn Rhodes and Grace WongChicago Tribune

Beat 0934, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 24

Mikaila Holyfield lives on a block of modest single-family homes and apartment buildings in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.  

Just down the street is the Urban Family Food and Market, a small store where her children like to buy snacks. And where five people were shot Thursday evening.

"I trust my daughter to go to the store and get her chips. Now I'm scared for my kids to go outside," said Holyfield, 27. "I'm not afraid of nobody, but a bullet don't have no name on it.

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Shooting outside a 7-Eleven: 'I think they said his name is Alex. He was just here'

Alexandra Chachkevitch

Beat 0813, 1:45 a.m. Sept. 22

Esmeralda stared at the police officers and detectives from inside the 7-Eleven at 59th and Pulaski.

Blue lights strobed the intersection, cordoned off by red tape around the spot where a 21-year-old man was shot in the head around 12:50 a.m. Tuesday.  Blood darkened a small part of the white crosswalk.

A man in a neon safety vest parked his car in the 7-Eleven parking lot and walked inside.

"Do you know how long ago this happened?" the man asked Esmeralda, a cashier at the 7-Eleven who didn't want her last name printed.

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'I've got blood all over'

Megan CrepeauChicago Tribune

Beat #0232, 2:30 a.m. Sept. 20

The woman bleeding on the curb moaned something incomprehensible and rolled on to her side, exposing the dark gash on her head.

"You've got to stay on the board," a uniformed first responder said as he moved her gently onto her back.

Twenty-five minutes earlier, she and five others had been in a Chevrolet Tracker when it was caught in the crossfire of a shooting.

The Tracker lost control and rolled on its side near 57th Street and LaSalle Street, where it stayed as more emergency workers began to swarm the intersection.

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Byrd-Bennett, Solomon tricked the city's elite in Supes fraud - Miller - Crain's Chicago Business

Education has become a lucrative profit-making enterprise during the national "reforms" of the past 15 years

Friday, October 16, 2015

Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Point taken x2

We've been operating the main functions of the state with a string of IOUs since July 1st, asking non-profits to continue providing services and make payroll with only the vaguest of assurances that they will get paid someday.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Second City Cop- Double Standard Much Rahm?


Double Standard Much Rahm?

Remember, you're "fetal," you're scared, you're second-guessing yourself.

Rahm, on the other hand, is not:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office was more involved in a $20.5 million school contract with a now-indicted consultant than previously disclosed, public records indicate, but his administration has refused to release hundreds of emails that could provide a deeper understanding of how the deal came to be.

Emanuel and his aides have maintained that the mayor's office had nothing to do with the contract to provide leadership training for principals that is at the center of a federal bribery indictment against ex-schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the consulting firm where she once worked.

When asked in April if his administration had any role at all in the SUPES contract, Emanuel told reporters, "No, you obviously know that by all the information available. And so the answer to that is no."

Yet the mayor's office and schools officials have been in an ongoing struggle with the Tribune over reporters' public records requests that could bear directly on the controversy, withholding many emails for months before releasing them, several so heavily redacted that little more than the subject line and addresses remain.

You will wear cameras, you will ride with cameras, you will have any cell phone video of your actions dissected and analyzed to the merest recorded electron.

Rahm, however, will fight for his privacy in court:
Illinois law says government officials' emails about taxpayer business are public records for all to see. But what if they're sent from private accounts or personal cellphones?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel argues those are not for public consumption. The Chicago Tribune claims they are, and took the matter to court last month. Gov. Bruce Rauner had his own dust-up this summer over an aide's private emails, and the practice cost a University of Illinois chancellor her job in August.

The issue, once limited to scattered consternations over politicians playing fast and loose with new technology, is pervasive this year, beginning with revelations about Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct business while she was U.S. secretary of state — a case that spurred a lawsuit by The Associated Press.

Public-access advocates insist Illinois law is clear, and the state's attorney general and appellate court weighed in just two years ago, declaring that public business is public record — no matter how it's conducted.

So we can expect Lisa Madigan to back up her ruling by supporting the Tribune lawsuit?

Labels: city politics


Kadner: The mayor who failed Chicago's children - Daily Southtown

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Kadner: The mayor who failed Chicago's children

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett at a press conference in Chicago.

 (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

Phil Kadner

Guilty plea of former schools chief an indictment of Mayor Emanuel

I'm tired of elected officials appointing inept, corrupt officials to run things and then refusing to accept responsibility for the result.

The latest case in point, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former chief of the Chicago Public Schools, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to award a no-bid contract worth $23 million to a consulting firm to train public school principles and other administrators. She was appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who back in 2012 referred to her as "the best and brightest."

Byrd-Bennett, 66, a former employee with SUPES Academy, a Wilmette-based education consulting firm, allegedly negotiated a 10 percent kickback from the company in exchange for getting its contract approved by the CPS board of education.

Emanuel said his staff asked "hard questions" before the deal got done, but the fact is the contract was awarded.

Remember, Byrd-Bennett's appointment came at a time when the city had closed public schools due to a financial crisis. There were ongoing bitter disputes between teachers, the school board and the mayor himself. That's all politics and I don't mean to dismiss such stuff because it can have an impact far beyond the walls of City Hall and board rooms. Almost forgotten, however, is that all this stuff is about the kids.

Thousands of Chicago school children are getting a second-rate education and have been for decades. Reform after reform have produced only marginal improvements that seem huge by Chicago standards, but would be unacceptable in most suburban public school systems.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett hug after Bennett's speech at a press conference in 2014.

 (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

The mayor of Chicago may have no more important task than making sure the city's children get a quality education that at minimum gives them a shot at a decent paying job after graduation and at best qualifies them for college if that's their goal. Mayor Richard M. Daley demanded that responsibility when he asked the state Legislature for authority to control the public schools. He got it. But with that authority comes a responsibility to making public education a top priority of City Hall.

Time after time we have seen presidents, governors, and mayors absolve themselves and blame subordinates for major mistakes, judgment errors and corruption.

They may say, "I accept the blame," and even apologize, but what they really mean is, "Forget I had anything to do with that now that I have publicly said I made a mistake."

In any organization as large as a government bureaucracy, there are going to be some idiots, jerks, and morons and a few of these are going to end up running departments. Some are going to try to line their own pockets. Illinois has seen more than its share of public officials who seem to believe their first duty is to line their pockets, or those of their close friends and political associates.

No one can place an estimate on the price of corruption in this state, but it's safe to say it has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

But there is a cost greater than the financial price and that goes to the core belief that government can be entrusted with the public's safety. That means protecting the public health, making the streets safe and ensuring that our children, when placed in the care of public officials, will be properly taken care of by educators.

An argument can be made that the City of Chicago has failed so abysmally in almost each of these areas that it has lost any ability to claim it represents the people of Chicago.

But in no area are its failures so complete as in its inability to provide a quality public education to each and every child in Chicago.

That failure is not Emanuel's alone, but he is merely the latest in a long line of mayors who has escaped accountability. Ask yourself some simple questions and I think you will understand the magnitude of this problem.

Is there no connection at all between the street gangs that dominate Chicago's poorest communities and the failure of public education? Is there no relationship between the quality of schools and the apparent cold blooded murders that take place on the city's streets? And the last, is not so much a question as a fact, "Is there no connection between the large number of Chicago children who end up in the state's prisons, Cook County Jail and criminal courtrooms?"

A mayor brings an NFL draft to Chicago or a major corporation announces it is relocating from the suburbs to downtown and Emanuel holds a news conference so he can boast of his success. But the fact is that each day his decisions have had catastrophic consequences for the children whose lives are in his hands.

As for Byrd-Bennett, this is a scandal any rookie reporter could have seen coming.

No-bid contracts immediately raise red flags and set off sirens of alarm. A no-bid contract worth $20 million with a former employer of the CEO of the Chicago school system should have alerted the mayor that something really bad was going on that needed his immediate attention.

The mayor contends that his staff did their best to alert school board members that something was amiss. I have visions of the robot in the TV series "Lost in Space" saying, "Danger, Will Robinson, danger!" That's funny, makes you laugh, but isn't very effective. I suppose the mayor could say he trusted the school board and CEO to do the right thing. But his judgment was terribly bad once again and that claim once more ignores the fact that the mayor of the city is in essence the ultimate authority here. At the very least, he could have held a news conference denouncing the deal before it was done and, at most, he could have asked for Byrd-Bennett's resignation citing her poor judgment.

Anyone who has ever witnessed the relationship between consultants, school boards and school superintendents can tell you there is good reason to question the relationships, which are often incestuous. Schools hire consultants to find new superintendents, they hire consultants to train administrators and teachers, they hire consultants before purchasing health insurance plans for employees and to study school construction plans, to name a few.

I have seen consultants hired to review the work of other consultants when project costs spiraled out of control. Everyone ended up getting paid, with taxpayers' money. And it is not unusual at all for school superintendents to be hired as consultants after they're fired, or leave their posts voluntarily.

Byrd-Bennett allegedly was promised a job back at SUPES if she ever lost her $250,000 post as the Chicago Public Schools chief.

As she left a federal courtroom following her guilty plea, Byrd-Bennett apologized to the children of Chicago. I doubt anyone thought her tearful acknowledgment of wrongdoing was genuine. If she had not been caught, she would still be getting her kickbacks while collecting a fat paycheck. Emanuel's claims that he cares about the Chicago kids strike me as being just as disingenuous.

Don't blame me, he's really saying. Put the blame on the former schools chief, the former school board members and the consulting firm. Forget that when it comes to the City of Chicago, I am the guy in charge, until there's reason to applaud.

Listen, I understand that being the mayor of Chicago right now is a tough job. There are obstacles that perhaps no man of good will can overcome.

But finding an honest, hard-working, decent person to run the school system really shouldn't be among those challenges. If a mayor can't do that, he doesn't deserve to hold office.


Byrd-Bennett co-defendants plead not guilty in kickback scheme


Ex-CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleads guilty, tearfully apologizes to students


After Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who's next?

Copyright © 2015, Daily Southtown

Barbara Byrd-Bennett Rahm Emanuel Chicago Public Schools Opinion Chicago City HallRichard M. Daley

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by Taboola