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Chicago - The Walking Dead?

Fri, 2016-12-02 17:37
Chicago is lost. Where's the outrage? Where is the disgust? Since the 2015 Thanksgiving Eve release of the Laquan McDonald killing video and subsequent Black Friday protests (#LaquanMcDonald #BlackFriday #BlackChristmas) we have experienced an increase in the mayhem and madness of murders and attempted murders (shootings) - 700+ & 4000+ respectively. My wife and her friend were caught in the crossfire of an urban battle Saturday afternoon, November 26, 2016. Thankfully they were only bruised up from scrambling under her car in sheer fright to avoid being shot. A few days before an unarmed 19 year old black man named Kajuan Raye was shot in the back and killed by a Chicago police sergeant without even the exchange of gunfire. Illinois Congressman Danny Davis' grandson Jovan Wilson was murdered in his own house by two black teenagers. I can hear Marvin Gaye's dulcet tones in the ether crying out, "What's going on?"

'The Walking Dead'. One of the most popular TV shows worldwide broadcasts a gory, violent, cannibalistic vision of a zombie apocalypse. Wow! This show is not only a fictional imagining of the world's end but moreso a brilliant metaphor depicting human nature travailing against human extinction. Is this TV show emulating the travail of violence that's 'going on' in Chicago? Is all this violence the byproduct of our common human nature fighting against human extinction? Human extinction in Chicago?

Yes human extinction - human beings are being extinguished in Chicago especially black humans. If you are black and live outside the confines of mainstream America you by default experience what Martin Luther King called, "a gnawing sense of nobodyness." We are the historically devalued and disenfranchised.

This hyper-violence bleeds from what I would describe as an intentional,targeted 'Urban Darwinism'. The engineering of socio-economic necessity that demands the existence of an underclass as configured by a pigmentocracy.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a response to America's pigmentocracy. Black Life is a historically profound subset of all life. No victimology framework here, just facts.

I need as many of us as possible to become outraged, disgusted and ready to act. Remember the words of Dr. King, "If one is not free, all are not free." So how do we break the back of evil and governmental oppression? How do we liberate children, families, men & women generationally imprisoned and incarcerated? Our outrage and disgust must be converted into fair, rigorous and compassionate governance and community.

The apocalyptic violence of The Walking Dead de-classes humanity. No one is safe or immune from an inhuman existence/death. It's time for all of Chicago to wake up and shed our veneers of class, privilege and locative superiority (SouthSide, WestSide, NorthSide etc.). Chicago's illicit gun and drug flow are not by accident. Self-preservation is instincive so help yourself by helping other. Action plans forthcoming... @gslivingston #thevoiceofaction #gsl

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Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez To Boycott Trump's Inauguration Over 'Hatred, Bigotry'

Fri, 2016-12-02 14:00

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Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Friday that he plans to boycott President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration next month, arguing the Republican has given no indication he’ll pivot from the racial divisiveness that defined his campaign.

Citing the many offensive things Trump said about Latinos throughout the campaign, as well as his anti-immigration proposals like building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Gutiérrez said he could not bring himself to attend the inauguration. 

“He started his campaign by saying that Mexicans were murderers, rapists, by criminalizing our community,” Gutiérrez said in an interview with CNN. “When he said Mexicans, I mean in the parlance of American politics he meant Latinos, and criminalized us all.”

“I’m not going to this inauguration,” the congressman continued. “I can’t go to this inauguration, because he continues to spew hatred, bigotry and prejudice even after he said he was going to bring us all together. He was going to unify us, but he’s not.”

Gutiérrez said he and his wife will instead attend one of the protests that will be held in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day. 

Gutiérrez, who has served in Congress since 1993, also spoke out last month against Trump nominating Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as U.S. attorney general. 

“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” he wrote in a statement. 

The congressman is one of several Democrats urging President Barack Obama to protect young undocumented people from the threat of deportation under the Trump administration

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Vote Recount V. The Media Consensus

Thu, 2016-12-01 15:53
The impatience across much of the media is palpable.


Oh, groan. That's not going to change the election results. The consensus "truth" writhing just below the surface of the mainstream, eyeball-rolling disapproval of Jill Stein's call for and financing of a presidential vote recount in Wisconsin (and perhaps in Pennsylvania and Michigan) is that the political and media consensus has already established who the next president is. Like it or not.

And "election integrity" is apparently set in stone, here in America, the oldest democracy on the planet. We took care of that a long time ago. No matter that touch-screen voting is unverifiable and absurdly vulnerable to hacking and the struggle for power brings out the worst in people. No matter that the Republican Party -- the political party that lost the vote but won the election -- has a long history of passing voter suppression laws aimed at non-white Americans. The federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down one such law in North Carolina, for instance, accused state legislators of targeting African-Americans "with almost surgical precision."

Nonetheless, in mainstream media land, questioning the results of a presidential election has a sort of unpatriotic stench to it, almost like burning the flag. Once agreement congeals and the winner is declared, that's it. The election's over and it's time to move on.

To which I say: "Jebbie says we got it! Jebbie says we got it!"

These are the words that George W. Bush's first cousin, John Prescott Ellis, uttered 16 years ago -- in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2000 -- while he was serving as the election anchorman for Fox News during its coverage of the Bush-Gore election. Ellis, who was a freelance Republican political adviser, had been on the phone throughout the night with both George and Jeb Bush, according to an account of the incident at History Commons, and shortly after 2 a.m. had discussed the state of the Florida vote with Jeb. The vote was excruciatingly close and considered by everyone else as still too close to call, but the two cousins determined otherwise in their phone chat.

Ellis announced Jeb's victory declaration to his coverage team and, within minutes, Fox News declared Bush the winner of the election. What happened next, as noted in the History Commons account, remains painfully disturbing: "The other networks hurriedly, and inaccurately, follow suit."

Bush's lead was miniscule and dropping, but the other network executives, fearing their coverage would look wimpy, jumped on the bandwagon one by one and joined Fox in declaring Bush the winner.

The Associated Press refused to make the call, pointing out that Bush's lead was steadily dwindling. "But the television broadcasts drive the story," the History Commons explained. "Network pundits immediately begin dissecting Bush's 'victory' and speculating as to why Gore 'lost.'"

The effect of this was to turn Al Gore -- winner, like Hillary Clinton, of the popular vote -- into a sore loser, to the extent that he challenged the highly controversial and questionable Florida vote totals.

In other words, the American president is essentially determined every four years by a sort of quick-draw consensus of corporate media conglomerates, not by a cautiously precise hand count of the votes that have been cast -- votes that, in any case, only partially represent the will of the American electorate, thanks to ongoing voter suppression that trims the American electorate to suit the wishes of those in power.

The Green Party-driven vote recount in Wisconsin and perhaps elsewhere, while hardly addressing all the problems assailing our democracy, at least challenges the bogus consensus by which the president is currently determined and acknowledges the ideal that every vote counts and every vote matters.

Indeed, the value of every vote ought to matter more than who wins and who loses. And mandatory, routine recounts might waylay the entertainment spectacle of election night, turning it into something with deeper purpose and significance than, say, the last game of the World Series. In a real democracy, voting and governing are not separate entities but a manifestation of the ongoing partnership between the people and their chosen leaders.

And "the people" means everyone. As Greg Palast notes on Truthout, "just as poor areas get the worst schools and hospitals, they also get the worst voting machines.

"The key is an ugly statistic not taught in third grade civics class: According to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will be disqualified as 'spoiled' is 900 percent more likely if you're black than if you're white."

The Green Party recount would re-examine "spoiled" and discarded ballots along with those that were counted. Perhaps there's a lack of election-night excitement to such work, at least from the perspective of a TV channel executive, but I'd rather have a functioning democracy.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at or visit his website at


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Donald Trump's No. 2 Commerce Pick Has A Thin Resume And A Fat Wallet

Wed, 2016-11-30 16:23

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate 47-year-old Todd Ricketts, the youngest son of billionaire TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, to be his deputy secretary of commerce.

“Todd Ricketts is an immensely successful businessman with unparalleled knowledge of the finance industry,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday. Ricketts has “years of hands-on experience in the finance industry,” the statement said, and “like President-elect Trump, Mr. Ricketts will use this knowledge to fix the broken Washington D.C. system.”

According to his professional biography, Ricketts spent his “career as an entrepreneur and investor in the securities industry working at the New York City-based NASDAQ start-up, Knight Securities.” 

But Ricketts only worked there for 14 months, a spokeswoman for the company told The Huffington Post, from September 1997 to November 1998. And as for Ricketts’ career as “an immensely successful businessman,” it appears to consist of a defunct eco-tourism venture and a local bike shop that Ricketts bought a few years ago to save it from going out of business

Here’s how Ricketts describes himself on the website of the bike shop, Higher Gear:

As Trump staffs his administration, he is prioritizing hiring people he considers to be fellow “outsiders,” many of whom have little experience in government and have spent their careers in the private sector. In this sense, Ricketts fits neatly within Trump’s overall hiring strategy. But one year of working in finance after college doesn’t quite fit the definition of a “career.”

HuffPost asked the Trump team to clarify the basis for Trump’s claim that Ricketts has an “unparalleled knowledge of the finance industry.” We also reached out to a Ricketts spokesman for a more complete resume for the future deputy secretary of Commerce. Neither of them have responded.

But while Ricketts may lack the typical qualifications for such a high post, members of his family were major financial supporters of Trump’s campaign.

The Candidate Of Last Resort

Long before the Ricketts family sided with Trump, however, they bankrolled Our Principles PAC, a major anti-Trump super PAC, which ran ads this spring painting Trump as a misogynist.

After Trump won the GOP nomination, the family abandoned its anti-Trump effort and Todd Ricketts even co-hosted a fundraiser for Trump in September. That same month, Todd Ricketts’ father, Joe Ricketts, gave $1 million to a pro-Trump group ― one of the single largest individual donations to Trump’s election effort.

Now, by joining the Trump administration, Todd Ricketts will burnish more than just his own resume. He’ll also solidify his family’s status as one of the most influential conservative political families in the nation.

And for the Ricketts family, securing an elevated position in national politics is a project that’s been in the works for years, starting in the early years of the Obama administration, with patriarch Joe Ricketts’ decision to bankroll a series of conservative PACs.

By 2012, the elder Ricketts commissioned a provocative ― and race-baiting ― multi-million dollar attack plan against Barack Obamaleaked documents showed. The strategy was to imply that the president had tricked Americans into believing he was a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.” After the attack plan made news in May of that year, Joe Ricketts distanced himself from it; but a few months later, in August, an anti-Obama documentary came out that Ricketts had partly financed. It was called “2016: Obama’s America.”

Tom Ricketts, the eldest of the four siblings, is an experienced entrepreneur who runs the family’s businesses, but who is less involved in politics than his two middle siblings, Pete and Laura. 

After pouring almost $12 million of his own money into a failed 2006 bid for a Nebraska senate seat, Pete Ricketts spent another $2 million in a successful 2014 bid to win the Nebraska governor’s race.

Laura Ricketts, the family’s lone liberal, has become an increasingly influential Democratic donor during the Obama era. She is also the first openly gay person to co-own a major league baseball team.

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A Thankless Job

If the Senate confirms Todd Ricketts, he will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the Commerce Department’s 38,000 employees and its $6 billion budget. He will also be the first person in nearly 20 years to hold the post without having earned an advanced degree. Ricketts graduated from Loyola University in 1993 with a degree in economics, but he dropped out of business school soon after. 

Ricketts himself readily admits that he’s not academically inclined. “I took two years off after high school. When I didn’t go to college, my dad said I had to get two full-time jobs,” Ricketts said in a 2010 episode of “Undercover Boss,” a reality TV show. “That was the incentive to go to college.”

In the show, Ricketts went undercover at the Cubs baseball operation to better understand the business and the family’s employees. But he was fired on his very first day. 

So what was Ricketts doing for the nearly two decades between his job at Knight Securities and his nomination for a very high-level job at the Commerce Department?

Publicly available sources show that in 2002, Ricketts co-founded a now defunct eco-tourism company,, with his wife and sister. Below is Todd Ricketts’ bio from the site:

In 2009, Todd helped to save a local bike shop in Chicago’s Wilmette neighborhood from shutting down by buying it after the owner passed away. 

That same year, Ricketts, his father and his siblings all acquired the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Soon after, Todd and his three siblings, Tom, Laura and Pete, all joined the board of trustees, comprised today of the four Ricketts siblings and one representative of the Chicago Tribune company.

In addition to the Cubs board, Todd Ricketts sits on the corporate board of TD Ameritrade, the company his father started. These board positions constitute a major part of Todd’s resume.

Boards like these tend to meet only four times a year, however, although trustees can be given responsibilities to manage between meetings. The same goes for the two nonprofit boards that Ricketts serves on, the National World War II Museum and Opportunity Education. Ricketts also has a weekly conference call with his siblings about the Cubs, he said in 2010.

An Uncertain Agency 

Politically speaking, it’s unclear exactly where Ricketts fits into the Trump administration. Trump’s populist rhetoric and protectionist trade policies are at odds with some of the most important work done by the Department of Commerce: helping big American companies do business overseas. And some of Trump’s top advisors have called for the wholesale elimination of Commerce, calling it “the department of corporate welfare.”

Still, Ricketts sounds excited about his new job. “Advancing practical policies that promote economic opportunity is critical to making America great again,” he said in the transition statement Wednesday. “I’m eager to begin this important work ... which will improve the lives of all Americans.”

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What One Of America's 'Most Talented Kids' Is Up To A Decade After His TV Debut

Tue, 2016-11-29 11:02

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A “corny” joke started it all for a young Dante Brown.

The Chicago native was 5 years old when he caught the attention of Jay Leno during an open mic audition to find America’s most talented, hilarious children. The search brought Dante (and two other children) to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2005, where he got a lesson in joke-telling from Leno. Dante’s joke of choice, he admits 11 years later, was a silly joke that his mom had found in a book.

What do you call a cheese that’s not yours? Nacho cheese! 

Silly or not, the boy sold it. “I set that joke up to be like one of the funniest jokes ever,” Dante, now 16, tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”

After his lesson with Leno, Dante took to the “Oprah Show” stage ready to crack up the live audience ― but it wasn’t just his joke-telling that charmed the crowd. Dante’s impromptu dance moves made him one of the more memorable kids to appear on the talk show. “It was kind of like ‘the robot,’” Dante says of his dancing. “When I go back and watch the clip, it makes me laugh. I laugh at myself all the time.” 

Though Dante’s entertainment career may have started with jokes and dancing, it has since transformed into serious acting. In 2015, Dante had a starring guest role in a high-profile episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as a teen who assaults a transgender girl. 

“I had a whole ‘Law & Order’ episode to myself, called ‘Transgender Bridge,’” Dante says. “It was like the biggest episode of the season ― most watched.”

Shortly after that, Dante was asked to audition for the role of Damon Wayans’ son in the FOX television series “Lethal Weapon,” which made him ecstatic.

“When I got the role, I was going crazy. My dad was going nuts, my mom was going nuts, my little brother was going nuts, because we all knew how big of a franchise it was,” Dante says. “Just to be in the same room with Damon Wayans was a big thing to me because he’s like one of my childhood heroes.”

As Dante continues to pursue not only acting, but also rapping and producing, he says he has one message for those just beginning to take notice.

“Stay tuned, there’s more to come,” Dante smiles. “Keep your eyes open.”

Another talented kid’s update:

At 11, this child prodigy sold paintings for $100,000. Here’s her life today at 30.

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Go Against the Flow: Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company

Mon, 2016-11-28 15:48
Claire Lew is the CEO of Know Your Company, a software tool that helps companies with 25 to 75 employees overcome growing pains. Her mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Her software, Know Your Company, helps do this for over 12,000 people in over 15 countries at companies like Airbnb and Kickstarter.

When have you gone against the flow in your career?

Oh sheesh, I feel like I'm going against the flow all the time! When I first got out of college, I turned down two job offers to go start a company with my friends. A few years later, I was at another early-stage company and decided to quit my job there to strike out on my own with 10 months of savings and a desire to solve the problem of feedback in the workplace.

Today, I continue to go against the flow of what you "normally see" with Know Your Company. Our approach to growth and pricing is weird. We're a bootstrapped company that's generated over $700,000 with two people in a little over two years... all on a one-time pricing model. If you want to use Know Your Company, it's $100 per employee - and that's it. You get to use the software for life. There are no recurring charges. We do this because we believe a company should get feedback from its employees for life. Not for just a few months, or for however long it's convenient to do so. So our pricing model encourages a CEO to see getting feedback in this way - as a long-term commitment. It's definitely different than what you typically see in the software industry. But it works for us.

What advice would you give to employees who want to give their CEO feedback but aren't sure how?

About four years ago, I was an employee in this exact situation - I wanted to give my boss feedback but had no clue how. I've been there. It's so frustrating. You want to say something, but you don't feel comfortable and you're wondering if all the trouble to do it is worth it. In fact, this is the reason I started my own consulting practice, which led me to become the CEO of Know Your Company!

Here are some of the lessons I've learned both personally and through the work we do with our customers. (1) First, schedule a time to speak with your CEO. (2) As you start the meeting, ask for feedback about yourself. When you focus on yourself first, you show vulnerability and help the CEO let his or her guard down. (3) Be clear that you have the company's best interests in mind. (4) Finally tell your CEO that your feedback is your point of view, and it's not coming from anyone else or a group of people at your company. (5) And then breathe. Relax. You've put your opinion out into the world using a sincere approach. Be open to the answers you receive.

You work with more than 200 CEOs and business owners on company feedback and transparency. What's been the most surprising CEO blindspot you've seen?

Across the two-and-half-years worth of data we've collected, we've seen the most common blindspot CEOs have is their employees feel they could be contributing more. In fact, when asked through Know Your Company, 75% of employees said, "Yes, there's an area outside my current role where I feel I could be contributing." This runs completely opposite to a common belief that many CEOs have, which is "My employees are too busy!" Now, your employees may very well feel slammed... However, this doesn't mean they aren't open to learning new skills or taking on projects that help them grow personally and professionally. This is an important insight for CEOs because it demonstrates the untapped potential your team has - something CEOs are always looking to find!

What advice would you give to CEOs to avoid blindspots?

Ask questions. There are two ways CEOs ask questions that will yield meaningful feedback. One thing you can do is ask your team for advice, instead of for feedback. People love to give advice, as opposed to feedback, which can feel intimidating and critical. For example, saying something like "I'd love to get your advice on how we should prepare for the upcoming client meeting" lets teams know their CEOs don't have all of the answers and everyone has a chance to help shape the direction of the company. Second, CEOs should ask specific questions. When you ask general, broad questions like "How are things going?" you're guaranteed to get a general, broad response. Instead ask something like, "What's one thing in the past week we could've done better?" Employees will give you much more actionable, specific feedback.

What drives you? How do you measure success for yourself?

Helping people. That's what drives me day in and day out. I know what it's like to live this problem firsthand, as an employee. The feeling that you don't have a voice at your company, or that whatever you say is futile is an incredible source of unhappiness. So helping employees not feel this way, and helping CEOs solve this problem and create better environments is what motivates me.

Check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at or

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Public Library Reports Hate Crimes Against Muslims In Graffitied Books

Mon, 2016-11-28 10:59

Books are discussed as emblems for openness, ports in rocky political storms.

So, when librarians at the Evanston Public Library in Illinois discovered that some of their books ― copies of the Quran and other Islam-centered titles ― had been vandalized, they issued a statement and opened an investigation.

In a copy of Opening the Qur’an: Introducing Islam’s Holy Book by Walter H. Wagner, a swastika was drawn in pencil along with the words, “bullshit hatred cover to cover.” It appears that the book, along with the others that were discovered to contain hate speech, hadn’t been checked out since 2014 or 2015.

Evanston librarian Lorena Neal wrote in a Facebook post last week:

Evanstonians like to think we are safe in a bubble of tolerance, but none of us can afford to pretend that we are not affected by the hatred that surrounds us now. None of us can afford to sit this out, to hope it goes away, and leaves us untouched.

Libraries ― of course ― are far from the only institutions impacted by a surge of post-election hate crimes. The New York Times reported that 2015 saw a 67 percent increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims from the previous year, and Southern Poverty Law Center reported over 700 incidents since the election, most of them occurring within the first three days after. Most of those hate crimes reported were committed in K-12 schools, businesses and universities. 

In response, students and teachers have banded together to declare their schools sanctuaries; musical groups have ventured to do the same. Hopefully, going forward, libraries can be seen as sanctuaries, too ― safe spaces where everyone is welcome to visit, learn and grow. 

H/T Melville House

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Why Did Kajuan Raye Run If He Was Not Guilty?

Sat, 2016-11-26 16:12

This is the question that white people love to ask. Because surely if Kajuan was innocent he would’ve just stood there, explained he did nothing wrong, the police would’ve realized he did nothing wrong, and then all parties would’ve gone peacefully on their merry ways. Unfortunately, this is not the way the system of policing works for many people of color.

When I was in high school, my bored friends and I would frequently do dumb things to pass the time. One of the dumbest things we enjoyed doing was running from the cops. We were fit 17 and 18-year-old kids full of boredom, white privilege, and a strong sense of invincibility.

A group of us went to a local park, called the police from a pay phone and told the dispatcher that there was a fight in the park. To ensure a sense of urgency during the phone call we would yell and smash glass bottles in the background. We would then wait the short amount of time that it would take to see a cop car pulling up before taking off running. We knew the area well and also believed we could not be caught and we never were.

Now is this the reason Kajuan Raye ran? Maybe, but it’s not likely

Having taught in Chicago Public Schools for ten years, I’ve heard many, many stories from my students about the police harassing them, far too often, for no reason. In my first year teaching, one of my students came to my 1st period class crying. This 15-year-old kid told me how the police came speeding up on him while he was walking to school. They urgently got out of their cars cursing with their guns drawn. They made him lay in the snow before eventually realizing he was not who they were looking for. He was simply walking to school.

So did Kajuan run out of fear of police harassment? Maybe.

Maybe he ran because he was aware that Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray died while in police custody. Maybe he ran because Chicago still operates Homan Square, a secret detention site used to torture our own citizens and he was in fear of being taken to a place like that.

Or maybe he ran because he was aware that in Chicago alone, Rekia Boyd was murdered by a cop for no reason other than being outside at night, Bettie Jones was murdered by a cop for no other reason than opening her door and Joshua Beal was murdered by a cop because he was blocking a fire lane.

Maybe these are the reasons he ran.

Regardless of why he ran, we know that the police were called because of reports of a battery that happened relatively close to where Kajuan Raye happened to be waiting for the bus. Kajaun ran. A cop said Kajaun pointed a gun at him, twice. The cop shot him in the back and killed him.

Yet no gun has been found.

So instead of asking why he ran, instead of digging through a teenager’s Facebook profile to imply that he deserved to die, maybe ask why did the police shoot a kid for running? Why did the officer lie about the gun? What is the name of the officer who did this?

These are the questions we should be asking.

But because Kajuan is Black and was killed by the police, we instead look for any and every possible way to justify his death.

Thankfully I’m not dead from running from the police when I was younger. Kajaun Raye who did less than I did, should not be dead either.

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New Cook County jobs program: A Band-Aid fix for a gaping wound

Wed, 2016-11-23 20:19
Young people in Chicago's toughest neighborhoods are stuck.

The public schools are in shambles. Kids drop out instead of graduating. If they do graduate, they're unlikely to get into college. They probably can't find a good job, either.

That means they're likely unemployed long term, perhaps scraping by on welfare. Too many of them cycle in and out of the criminal justice system.

The problems of poverty and unemployment are complex, and no quick or easy fixes exist. But politicians have aggravated these problems through misguided education and economic policies.

Yet instead of reversing those policy missteps and proposing fresh ways to improve education and economic growth, politicians offer Band-Aid fixes in the form of jobs programs. In the latest iteration of this approach, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wants to address the problem of youth unemployment in two struggling Chicago neighborhoods. Preckwinkle and the county board are planning to target 300 16-24-year-olds in Austin and Back of the Yards, aiming to get them jobs or into career training. Funding will come from the county's public safety grant program, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. But the problem Preckwinkle and the board are attempting to solve runs much deeper than what a jobs program can fix, and is, in fact, a byproduct of city and county officials pursuing bad policies.

Few jobs, bad schools, no hope

In Austin, 57 percent of 20-24-year-olds don't have a job. And in New City - where Back of the Yards is located - 52 percent of 20-24-year-olds are unemployed. Poor communities like this one have been hit especially hard by Chicago's failing schools and anti-jobs taxes and regulations, which make it difficult for blue-collar, entry-level jobs to take root.

For example, although a high school diploma is needed for many higher-paying blue-collar jobs, just 1 in 4 Austin residents have one.

That makes getting a foot in the door tough, especially in a weak jobs market.

Austin isn't the only neighborhood hurt by failing schools. Citywide, more than 25 percent of Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, students don't graduate within five years.

In the fall after graduation, the most common situation for CPS students with very low college qualifications was to be neither working nor in school, researchers at The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research concluded in a 2013 study. "Those who do enroll in postsecondary education are unlikely to persist, and those who find work are substantially underemployed," authors wrote.

These kinds of educational outcomes bring sobering consequences. The dropout-to-prison pipeline is all too real. Four in five Illinois prisoners didn't graduate high school; less than 10 percent had some undergraduate experience; and only 1.4 percent graduated college. And 50 percent of these prisoners come from Cook County.

Bad policies created this cycle, and a $1 million won't fix it

In addition to the fact that Chicago's failing schools leave young people unprepared to take advantage of job opportunities that do exist, there is also a shortage of any kind of jobs for young people in the city's poorer neighborhoods. Businesses aren't setting up shop in and around Chicago's toughest communities because Chicago makes it extraordinarily hard for them to do so. A Home Run Inn restaurant that could have employed young people living in Austin never got off the ground after the city hiked its minimum wage in 2014.

The same thing happened on the South Side, where businesses have shuttered or cut back on hiring. Reps for a Panera Bread in the Beverly neighborhood cited the city's increase to the minimum wage as the reason it left the neighborhood. Another Beverly staple, Rainbow Cone, announced it would have to cut in half the number of students it hires.

On top of the minimum wage, across Illinois businesses also pay high payroll taxes and the region's highest costs for unemployment insurance and workers' compensation.

The city doesn't just make it expensive to hire workers - it also makes it hard for businesses to set up, period. A report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation showed that Chicago is a "dystopian nightmare" for anyone looking to open a professional services business. Chicago ranks third-to-last among major U.S. cities on the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.

Blue-collar workers who used to find jobs in factories on the South and West sides are out of luck, as manufacturing employers have fled the city in droves. That trend is in keeping with the state of Illinois as a whole, which has lost 8,500 factory jobs just since September, coming to a loss of 43 jobs a day.

More money won't fix Chicago's jobs climate

"They say the best way to stop a bullet is with a job," said County Board Member Richard Boykin.

That sentiment is absolutely correct. And in Chicago, where more young people have been killed since 2008 than in any other major city, according to the Chicago Reporter, young people need jobs now more than ever.

But artificially creating jobs for a handful of young people won't solve the long-term problem of whole communities being unable to find work.

Whole neighborhoods of kids are being left behind in Chicago. Issues this big won't go away because well-meaning city officials pop in every so often to throw money at the problem.

Chicago's young people deserve more than a pittance - aldermen owe them serious introspection. It's time to admit the city's approach has failed - and it's time the men and women running Chicago step up with new solutions.

A million dollars doesn't give students the option for innovation in education. It doesn't give parents a choice to get their children out of failing schools and into schools that work for their family. It doesn't address the core tax and regulatory issues driving out the businesses that create the jobs these young people desperately need.

Cook County officials were onto something when they homed in on the need for more work among the city's young adults. But their approach does nothing to address the foundational, structural problems that prevent jobs from taking root here in the first place.

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In Trump's America, Comedy Clubs Are Becoming Less And Less Funny

Wed, 2016-11-23 14:11

One night last month, improv player Peter Kim took the stage at the legendary Second City theatre in Chicago with the other members of his acclaimed comedy troupe for what was supposed to be just another fun night of laughs. 

It would turn out to be anything but. During the show, the cast, which often involves audience members in their skits, asked a woman in the crowd to name something that annoyed her, “like getting stuck in traffic.”

But the answer that rang loudest didn’t come from the woman. It came from another man in the audience, who was seated next to a Hispanic couple. “Sitting too close to a Mexican!” he shouted, before requesting a high-five from a friend.  

I think that this moment of Donald Trump has resulted in a few people feeling more license to shout out crude remarks and behave crudely.
Second City CEO Andrew Alexander

The incident shook Kim, so much so that he decided he’d had enough. Over the preceding year, hecklers had become an increasing problem for him and his fellow comedians, spewing racist, misogynistic and homophobic language during shows.

In an essay for Vox, Kim recalled “a man dragging his wife out of the theater while yelling ‘fucking liberals can go to hell!’” Another time a man called him a faggot while Kim was exiting the stage. Then there was the incident when an audience member yelled, “Don’t clap for him,” while Kim was dressed in full drag. That doesn’t even include all the times people from the audience heckled him for being Asian.

And so, Kim decided to call it quits. Three other members of the show left around the same time, too. Two members of management also quit, and another member of management took a leave of absence. 

A Second City spokeswoman declined to comment about the departures when reached by The Huffington Post, but Andrew Alexander, the club’s CEO and producer, told Chicagoist that while multiple factors helped explain the departures, antagonistic, conservative-leaning crowds were a large factor. 

“Over the last six months, we’ve seen a much higher level of audience verbal shout-outs; and sometimes those have become racist,” Alexander said. “In 44 years of this work, I’ve never seen anything like it. The audience seems to feel like they have license in very unpleasant ways.”

He added, “I think that this moment of Donald Trump has resulted in a few people feeling more license to shout out crude remarks and behave crudely.”

The situation at Second City may seem extreme, but it appears to be far from unique. Comedy clubs in the lead-up to the election (and now in its wake) have presented a unique breeding ground for conflict. After all, there are very few, if any other, public spheres in modern American life in which conservative Americans pay money to sit in a room as left-leaning comics discuss the state of the world. Add in alcohol, and the possibility for conflict only heightens.

Amy Schumer talks with a Donald Trump supporter

In the last two months, two separate incidents involving prominent liberal comedians and their conservative audiences have made national news. On Oct. 16 in Tampa, Florida, approximately two hundred audience members violently booed and then walked out of an Amy Schumer show after she criticized Trump, asking,  “Do you get worried at all with how impulsive he is, that he gets so fired up from ‘Saturday Night Live’ doing a skit on him?” 

Just under a month later and only days after Trump’s election, Wanda Sykes took the stage at Boston’s TD Garden for a fundraiser on behalf of The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care. But the situation quickly turned ugly once she joked that Trump was not the country’s first “racist, sexist, homophobic president,” leading to unmistakeable and loud boos from the audience. 

“Fuck you, motherfuckers, fuck all of y’all.” “Fuck you, you, you ... How can you say he’s not racist? ‘Grab them by the pussy’? How can you say he’s not sexist? You can you say he’s not racist? How can you say he’s not homophobic?” (Sykes later noted in a Facebook post that the audience “cheered and applauded” at the end of her set when Sykes’ wife ran on stage and gave her a kiss.)

Wanda Sykes faces off against an antagonistic crowd in Boston

News of those two incidents has been widely circulated. But they appear to be far from the only examples of comedy clubs becoming increasingly tense in recent months. Former “SNL” star Darrell Hammond told HuffPost that a number of pro-Trump audience members “were just screaming” at a recent show. 

At a post-election show in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Nov. 11, a set by another former “SNL” cast member, Tim Meadows, came to a deflating end after a heckling Trump supporter got into it with a security guard.

The scene at comedy clubs mirrors what has transpired more generally since Trump’s election. Between Nov. 9 and Nov. 18, the Southern Poverty Law Center received word of more than 700 incidents of hateful incidents of harassment. In New York, NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said there has been a 31 percent increase in hate crimes in the city in 2016 compared to this time in 2015. 

It’s definitely an aggressive time to be a comedian.
Comedian Todd Masterson

“Since the election, we’ve seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump’s election,” said Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen. “The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats.”

Todd Masterson, a Los Angeles–based comedian, said that while he personally hasn’t witnessed an uptick in heckling Trump supporters since the election, he has noticed a change onstage and behind the bar. “Straight, bro-y dudes,” he said, suddenly feel emboldened to return to political incorrectness. “One guy was like, ‘Oh, I can tell rape jokes again,’” said Masterson. At a comedy night he performs at in Los Angeles, a pro-Trump bartender also told the producers of the show that they “can’t do any anti-Trump material,” he said. 

Added Masterson, “It’s definitely an aggressive time to be a comedian.”

But the aggression isn’t limited solely to Trump supporters, according to Marcella Arguello, a Latina comedian in Los Angeles. “I thought that conservative people would be a problem,” she said. “What I’m getting is very sensitive liberal audiences.”

At a recent show, Arguello said, she was doing a bit about the safety pins that Americans began to wear after the election in solidarity with marginalized peoples. Part of the bit involves imagining her immigrant mother, who is not aware of the fad, being harassed by a man wearing a safety pin at Target. But she wasn’t able to finish her joke before another woman in the crowd who appeared to also be Latina spoke up. 

“She was like, ‘You shouldn’t be letting these people laugh at immigrants not having access to the internet,” Arguello said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me right now?’” Arguello, who admitted she doesn’t deal well with hecklers, then jokingly asked if the heckler wanted to fight. 

The anger shows no signs of dying anytime soon. But the show will go on. And so, Peter Kim, the comedian who left Second City last month, told the Chicago Reader this week that he was returning to Second City for a new show based entirely on working with the crowd. 

“I wanted to be in the same place where the same people might come so I could have a chance to talk back and shut down hecklers if they have hate speech,” he said. “I think the key story is that these hateful people were out there anyway. It’s not specific to Second City — clearly, after the election you see them coming out in droves.”

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Millennials Are Loading Up On Their Vegetables

Tue, 2016-11-22 17:52

It’s no secret that most Americans do a pretty lousy job when it comes to following mom’s advice to eat their vegetables.

In fact, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 10 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of two to three cups of vegetables per day. That means many of us aren’t getting enough of key nutrients, like potassium and dietary fiber, and vitamins that keep us healthy.

But that statistic appears likely to change in the near future, according to a new analysis released this month by the NPD Group, a market research firm.

According to the firm’s research, consumers under the age of 40 are eating 52 percent more fresh vegetables and 59 percent more frozen vegetables than they were a decade ago. Conversely, the boomer generation — aged 60 and up — is eating 30 percent less fresh vegetables, as well as 4 percent less frozen vegetables, over the same time frame.

David Portalatin, vice president and food consumption industry analyst at NPD, said the data is a sign that younger generations of eaters are “turning back the clock” when it comes to the food they eat.

Millennials, he said, appear to prefer food that is fresh and often local or in season instead of the fast food and packaged convenience foods that began to proliferate at the time their parents’ generation — today’s boomers — were themselves thirty-somethings.

“The younger generation is taking a different look at these things,” Portalatin told The Huffington Post. “What’s old is new again.”

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related... + articlesList=56152560e4b021e856d2ed58,56cf69aae4b03260bf7610fe,56b4b6fbe4b08069c7a6df3e,560acca1e4b0dd85030959b4

The analysis is based off data from the firm’s National Eating Trends food and beverage tracker, which aggregates data from a nationally representative group of panelists who self-report everything they eat and drink using a web-based journal. The latest findings from the tracker were recently published in the firm’s Eating Patterns in America industry report.

And even though the data depends on self-reported consumption patterns, which aren’t always the most reliable, Portalatin believes these numbers are no fluke.

Over the firm’s 30 years of tracking eating patterns, Portalatin explained, vegetable consumption has increased with age, and he sees no reason that will change with the cauliflower-obsessed millennial crowd. The firm is forecasting that fresh vegetable consumption will increase another 10 percent overall over the next several years.

Even if that forecast holds, Americans have a ways to go toward improving their diets.

Portalatin pointed out that we’re still eating far fewer vegetables overall than we were 25 years ago, and these less-healthy eating patterns are often established from a young age. Currently, for example, the vegetable that U.S. toddlers are most likely to eat is a french fry.

But at least it’s a start.


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

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A Pocket Dictionary For Conservatives Who Don't Understand Liberals

Tue, 2016-11-22 15:32

After months of political debate in which neither side seemed even slightly capable of understanding the other ― despite high-volume use of Merriam-Webster ― one small but mighty publication decided the time had come to intervene.

Recently, The Point, a philosophical magazine based in Chicago, kicked off “The Crisis of Language Project,” a crowdsourced initiative to Make Words Mean Something Again.

“When we heard Kanye West describe Donald Trump’s speaking style as ‘very futuristic,’” writes the team at The Point, “we knew we could no longer stand idly by.” Honestly, same. But what could be done, in this confusing yet galvanizing time?

As it happens, The Point had a specific response in mind, rooted in an entire presidential campaign’s worth of meaning-free rhetoric that left the two sides, liberal and conservative, talking past each other. “The Crisis of Language Project” is billed as a desperately needed initiative to “assemble a pocket dictionary. This phrasebook,” The Point explains, “will help us express ourselves effectively and understand each other with ease, no matter our political differences.”  

In an email to The Huffington Post, the publication’s editor, Jon Baskin, affirmed that “the individual entries in the dictionary are meant to be funny, but the point of the project itself is dead serious.” 

In a time when, as the project’s introduction notes, writer George Saunders argues we have “become ‘two separate ideological countries ... speaking different languages,’” a dictionary seems like the perfect solution. How else are we to understand each other?

Then again, when the differing definitions have less to do with simple ignorance and more to do with ideological combativeness, the obstacles seem daunting. If Politifact and Merriam-Webster couldn’t provide Americans with a shared set of facts and definitions, does a phrasebook assembled by a highbrow literary journal really stand a chance at disrupting the fog of partisan division in a post-Trump’s election America? 

The Point is soliciting definitions, both on their website and via Twitter (using the hashtag #langcrisis), but have also provided some telling examples:

America: i) previously great. ii) already great. iii) never great.

Economics: the opposite of race. “Actually, ~ explains everything.”

Electoral college: i) body designed to ensure less prominent regions have a voice in the election of the president and thus mitigate geographical inequality. ii) conservative conspiracy to destroy America. iii) liberal conspiracy to destroy America.

By offering partisan-tinged definitions for each loaded term, the phrasebook does plenty to comment on the depth of the language divide between different parties. The internet is defined as the “greatest force of democratization since the Second World War” and, alternatively, “bubble.” Baskin told HuffPost that the project came about in response to how “others in the (broadly speaking) liberal space, instead of seeing the election as a chance to re-examine the way they were communicating about their ideas, seemed to be doubling down on political vocabularies that many find moralistic and alienating.”

However, the sharp juxtapositions of The Point’s definitions also cast a bit of a mocking tone on the less factually based definitions ― which only reifies the current level of disdain between factions who see each other as intellectually bankrupt. And by offering no clear bridge between those definitions, it risks codifying, rather than ameliorating, the immense contradictions in terms between the left and right.

Then again, who has any idea what will really fix the exploded middle ground between those sides?

“Our hope,” Baskin told HuffPost, “is that people will have fun participating in the project, but also that it will genuinely cause them to reflect on the way they (we) are all using words when we talk about politics right now.”

Maybe projects like this one, which The Point terms “A Race to Save American Discourse,” will really help save American discourse. Or, at the least, they’ll bluntly and eloquently shed light on just how isolated from each other we have become.

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Trump, Rauner on Similar Wavelength With Public Workers

Tue, 2016-11-22 10:38

Gov. Bruce Rauner famously spent the 2016 election season refusing to endorse, disavow or even say the name Donald Trump.

Yet unlike some Republicans who rebuked or refused to fully embrace the Republican candidate, Rauner never drew Trump's ire or the insults ("loser," "boring," "dumb guy with no clue") Trump hurled frequently at those he believed slighted him during the campaign.

Three days after Trump's victory, Rauner said he and the president-elect had a "good, good, positive conversation" and that he anticipated "good relations" with the new administration.

Now, as Trump's nascent administration takes shape and the policies of a Trump presidency begin to emerge, there are signs that Trump and Rauner may have similar views on the workers their respective governments employ.

In a Nov. 21 story headlined "Trump has a plan for government workers. They're not going to like it," the Washington Post reports that the Trump administration -- aided by a Republican Congress -- plans to enact at the federal level many of the changes that Rauner and his allies have advocated for Illinois:
President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are drawing up plans to take on the government bureaucracy they have long railed against, by eroding job protections and grinding down benefits that federal workers have received for a generation.

Hiring freezes, an end to automatic raises, a green light to fire poor performers, a ban on union business on the government's dime and less generous pensions -- these are the contours of the blueprint emerging under Republican control of Washington in January.

These changes were once unthinkable to federal employees, their unions and their supporters in Congress. But Trump's election as an outsider promising to shake up a system he told voters is awash in "waste, fraud and abuse" has conservatives optimistic that they could do now what Republicans have been unable to do in the 133 years since the modern civil service was created.
This news comes less than a week after Rauner won an Illinois Labor Relations Board decision that, ultimately, likely will allow him to impose his terms on the largest union of state employees for its pending four-year contract. Rauner plans to lengthen to work-week to 40 hours from 37.5, change pay policy for holidays, require higher employee contributions for health care, end "fair share" fee paycheck deductions, among many other changes.

One big difference, of course, is that Rauner is forbidden by the Illinois Constitution from reducing pension benefits.

The greatest parallel with Illinois is a plan described by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in which defined-benefit pensions for new federal employees would be eliminated and replaced with a savings system similar to  401(k) plans offered in the private sector. The Post reports:
He said the model would be his home state, which six years ago replaced the defined benefit pensions that have disappeared at most private companies with a defined contribution plan for new state and municipal workers.
Rauner and conservative advocacy groups like the Illinois Policy Institute consistently have argued that defined-benefit pension plans are unsustainable and should be scrapped. Decades of underfunding of the state's five pension systems has created an unfunded liability just shy of $130 billion that must be made up over the next 39 years.

Early in his governorship, Rauner tried unsuccessfully to weaken Illinois unions by eliminating "fair share" fees that non-union members who work under union-bargained contracts pay to cover the union's administrative costs. He first signed an executive order to end the fees but Attorney General Lisa Madigan said it violated the state constitution. He then filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit that almost certainly would have ended fair share fees nationwide had Justice Antonin Scalia -- a likely favorable vote for the plaintiffs -- not died before an opinion was issued.

Trump should expect no such obstacles in taking on unions, according to the Post:
The promises go hand in hand with Trump's promise to shrink the size and reach of government, from eliminating some agencies outright to lifting regulations and running the bureaucracy with fewer people.

(Trump adviser Newt) Gingrich said the Trump administration probably would look for guidance from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who stripped public employee unions of most of their collective-bargaining rights and forced workers to pay more into their pensions and for health care in what became a bitter political fight.
Scott Walker as spiritual guide on union dealings. Where have we heard that before?

Recommended: What if Cupich and Davis called for a city-state summit?

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The U.S. Elections: End Of Empire? A View From Haiti

Mon, 2016-11-21 16:19
Wednesday on campus was a discussion aimed at addressing the issue of safety for our most vulnerable students: people of color, especially Black students, Muslims, and undocumented students (who, at NIU, mostly come from Mexico), as well as women and LGBTQI individuals.

Why now?

This past weekend, an African American male was accosted by a group of four white men in a pickup truck with a Confederate flag. A firearm was visible.

These are by no means limited to NIU. There was a "daily lynching list" at University of Pennsylvania. A University of Michigan student, a Muslim woman, was threatened to be set on fire if she didn't take off her hijab.

These acts of intimidation and climate of fear begin at an early age.

Sociology and Latino Studies professor Simon Weffer's 7-year-old daughter was quaking, worried about her grandmother being deported. History and Southeast Asian Studies professor Trude Jacobsen's 6-year-old son, fair skinned and blue eyed, was so afraid he would be found out as a Muslim and bullied, that he stayed home from school.

Often dismissed as "micro-aggressions," Weffer's Ohio State colleague Koritha Mitchell instead calls them "know-your-place" aggressions.

And the consequence is deadly: NIU alumni Sara Briseno reported eight suicides among Chicago's undocumented community so far.

There is a movement on my campus, with a large and active undocumented student population, to declare it a sanctuary, like 31 cities across the country.

Many people were surprised at the results of last week's election. In hindsight, the signs were there to be seen, in plain sight. Many, either because they were paying attention or being targeted, were not surprised. Weffer noted that "if you chose to ignore them, then that's a choice you made."

Education was brought up as a key solution to combat violence and hate.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education noted that this election was an attack on the profession. Again, this has been a long time coming. Budgets for education, both K-12 and higher education, have seen steady decline since the 1980s, while funding on prisons, military, and police have gone up.

This is part of neoliberal "restructuring" of our economy, meaning that many in formerly unionized white working class found their jobs overseas. Anxious, and emasculated, they turned on the Democrats even as Obama saved GM from closure. Losing Michigan, just as Michael Moore had predicted, particularly stung, with a margin of 11,612 votes, or .3 percent.

Paul Christian Namphy calculated that if 119,167 people -- .1 percent of ballots cast -- from 12 counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had turned out to vote, the way they did in 2012, Clinton would have won with 278 electoral votes.

As of Tuesday, a week after the election, four million ballots in California have still not been counted. In other words, Clinton has likely won the popular vote by two million votes.

While the Democratic establishment would like to pin the blame on the Bern-Outs, Clinton's inability to inspire urban voters could have been predicted: establishment Democrats have failed the working class, urban communities, African Americans, among others, taking their loyalty for granted while courting Wall Street.

Florida is another story. On election night, some commentators were sanguine about Trump's lead, pointing out that much of the vote in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties hadn't been counted yet. As urban areas, it was assumed that Clinton, a Democrat, would carry them by a wide margin. Florida's 29 electoral votes were the biggest prize of all other swing states.

And yet, as Miami-Dade and Broward's tally came in, it failed to push the needle in favor of Clinton, who lost the state by 128,863 votes.

What happened?

A story broke on Election Day with a bold headline: "Haiti's Revenge: Haitian Americans in a Position to Exact Revenge on Clintons by Delivering Florida to Trump."

This was from right-wing Breitbart News, which published a story about Clinton's brother cleaning up on a mining contract in Haiti as Clinton was Secretary of State and Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy, co-chair of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission.

While Haiti never surfaced as an issue within the presidential debates, Trump fanned the anger at the "King and Queen of Haiti" on several occasions, exaggerating facts. Haiti's 2010 earthquake was to be an opportunity to "Build Back Better" according to Bill Clinton. Almost seven years later, it is clear that Haiti was not.

As OAS Special Representative Ricardo Seitenfus documents, Secretary of State Clinton played a heavy hand in reversing Haiti's 2010 elections, paving the way for carnival singer Michel Martelly, a.k.a. "Sweet Micky," to be elected President.

Surprising his critics because of his inexperience, Martelly proved to be a political force, opening the doors for the return of deposed dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. The $16 billion in aid and reconstruction occurred under his -- and the Clintons' -- watch, a boon for politically-connected foreign businesses with interests in gold mining, tourism, and offshore apparel manufacturing.

Ever a performer, Martelly played also to the U.S.' nemesis in the hemisphere. Venezuela. A member of the late president Hugo Chavez' PetroCaribe program, Haiti borrowed almost 1.6 billion dollars from Venezuela during Martelly's presidency, providing cheap gas and highly touted, low value cash assistance programs to low-income urban constituencies, political patronage.

With the backing of the U.S., European Union, and the Organization for American States, Martelly's government organized elections. These institutions pre-emptively certified them, despite the fact that an independent commission found massive fraud. This paved the way for an interim President, Jocelerme Privert. Elections are scheduled for Sunday.

I was in Haiti for the Haitian Studies Association on Wednesday. Like every people, Haitians are a diverse group with a wide range of opinions. Many have been closely following the U.S. elections. Leading up to the election many people expressed their reservations about Clinton given their role in the aid.

Following the result, several pointed out that Trump is our reckoning as a people.

One of my colleagues, who asked to not be named, said: "it's only fitting. You gave us Micky [President Martelly]. We gave you back Trump."

Again, Haitian people have diverse perspectives, but a message I got from many was that the racism and misogyny, the violence, is our responsibility. And while it has finally come home to roost, this is what U.S. policies have been fomenting overseas.

The parallels -- the vigilante violence, the scapegoating, the registry of people not deemed "American" enough because of their religion -- between right now and 1933 Germany are too sobering not to be noticed.

Seen from outside the U.S., however, this descent into fascism is, again, not surprising. Caribbean intellectuals like Oliver Cox and C.L.R. James, who discovered that they were not British during the first world war, were not surprised with the Nazi regime, as it was a logical extension of colonialism based on slavery and white supremacy.

More broadly, the historical and anthropological record show that empires often descend into fascism during their final decline.

Whether this is the end of empire, and whether there are alternatives, is up for we the people to decide.

Mark Schuller is Associate Professor of at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d'Ethnologie, l'Université d'État d'Haïti. Schuller's research on NGOs, globalization, disasters, and gender in Haiti has been published in thirty book chapters and peer-reviewed articles. Schuller is the author or co-editor of seven books, including Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti and co-director / co-producer of documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy. Recipient of the Margaret Mead Award, Schuller is active in several solidarity efforts.

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Chicago Citibank Branch Blockaded By Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

Sat, 2016-11-19 15:57

Roughly 30 Chicagoans blockaded a Citibank branch on North Clark Street today to demand Citigroup divest from the Dakota Access pipeline. It’s part of a flurry of nationwide actions targeting pipeline investors.

Part of the group remained inside the bank, blocking business for two hours until they were arrested. The branch appeared to remain closed for the day after the protest ended. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation delivered a letter to Citigroup, which stated in part:

Not only is this pipeline going over the burial ground of my ancestors, it will also be constructed under the Missouri River and Mississippi River. Since the year 2000, there have been at least 370 known pipeline accidents in the Unites States. The People that live in and around Cannonball, ND where the pipeline is proposed to cross the Missouri River rely on the River as a source for clean water. We do not need another pipeline disaster. You should not do business with this conglomerate of oil companies that could potentially dissolve the moment oil prices go down or the moment they decide to go bankrupt to avoid paying for an oil spill disaster.

The primary builder, Enbridge Energy, did their best to keep the Dakota Access pipeline quiet during the regulatory approval process in Illinois. But it’s no longer a secret thanks to the historic gathering of water protectors along the proposed pipeline site in North Dakota. People across Illinois are now mobilizing against a pipeline that would cross the Mississippi River and end at downstate Patoka.

Brave #NoDAPL supporters have maintained the shutdown. #NoDAPLchi

— Kelly Hayes (@MsKellyMHayes) November 19, 2016

In addition to several large rallies in Chicago, southern and central Illinois residents closer to the pipeline’s path have been gathering in opposition over the last several weeks. It’s likely that blockades like the one at Citibank will spread to more cities.

Enbridge is learning that even if a company quietly sneaks a pipeline through the regulatory process and finishes most of the project, it can still be held up and defeated at the 11th hour. Only a fool would invest in new fossil fuel pipelines after the stand at Standing Rock.

Citibank still shutdown. #NoDAPL #NoDAPL

— Kelly Hayes (@MsKellyMHayes) November 19, 2016

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The Value Of The Anti-Trump Post-Election Protests

Fri, 2016-11-18 07:57
The right and some on the left have derided the large post-election protests against Trump's election. What both sets of critiques share is a failure to listen to any of the protesters, except through the media filters that they in other circumstances frequently deride as inaccurate.

The right said, "You lost, stop whining, suck it up," and in yet another Trumpian flight of fancy said that the demonstrators were paid to be there. Some older leftists mimicked this by wrongly assuming that the huge crowds of protesters were mainly disappointed Clinton supporters, and so stayed away.

To say that these fact-deprived observations from afar are incorrect is an understatement. At Chicago's night after election protest, there was a sea of homemade signs in the 10,000-strong crowd, with nary a rightwards pointing "H" arrow or other symbol of affinity to Clinton.

At an impromptu speak out in the streets shortly before we took Lake Shore Drive, two 15-year-old girls said, with disgust in their voices, "This isn't about Clinton!" They and other protesters spoke in raw emotion in anger against a country which had just put an overtly racist, misogynist, Klan-endorsed sociopath in the White House. As one sign put it, "The voices of our abusers are now the president."

The protesters I met were worried about yet more mass deportations, more physical attacks on and discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, blacks, LGBTQs, and more attacks on the right of women to control their own bodies for abortion and against sexual assaults.

They held little, if any, affection for the Democratic Party and Clinton. Many introduced themselves as or held signs indicating they were undocumented youth. They knew of the 2 million+ deported by Obama because some of them personally knew the families broken up by same. They knew the litany of names of black victims of police violence under our Democratic Party mayor (even if they didn't know he was a Hillary delegate).

The median age of the demonstration was probably early 20s, with probably 90% of the thousands under 25 years old. Precisely a key demographic that Clintonites lamented for months that they'd been unable to reach, despite baiting about "Bernie Bros," guilt tripping about casting a "feminist" vote for Clinton despite misogynist Gulf State monarchies giving millions to her Foundation, etc.

To those who say, why didn't they protest before the election? I can say that many thousands of youth, many of them too young to vote, did just that. In Chicago last March, many thousands, primarily youth of color, outnumbered Trump supporters at the University of Illinois Forum, effectively shutting down the Trump rally scheduled for there. Again, no Hillary signs in evidence, and yes, a number of Bernie signs, but the core and overwhelming majority of the protest were youth of color not connected to any campaign.

Historic Antecedents

Seated in my Midwest perch back in November 2008, I initially made similar complaints about post-election protests versus the Mormon Church following the passage of California's anti-LGBT Proposition 8. Too little, too late, I said. Where were the protests before the election when they could have influenced the vote? (In my defense, my bitterness was prompted by all the usual NGOs actively discouraging pre-election protests against the Mormon Church, something they shared with Midwestern liberal organizations who frowned upon and opposed demonstrations against the then more-rabidly anti-LGBT Catholic hierarchy.)

A true history of how equal marriage rights was won would show that those 2008 post-election protests against the Mormon Church were critical to putting the religious bigots on the defensive, thus paving the way for our eventual victory. We lost the vote, but won the war, because we didn't take our defeat lying down.

2016 isn't the first time that two widely loathed major presidential party candidates faced off against each other. An even more apt analogy to this year's election was birthed right here in Chicago, just three blocks away from our demonstration that took over Lake Shore Drive last Wednesday night. At least as viewed from the lens of politically engaged youth, the 1968 candidates were as fiercely hated.

That year in front of the Hilton Hotel, Chicago Police under the direction of then-Mayor Richard J. Daley consciously attacked and bloodied dozens of demonstrators protesting the United States' wholesale slaughter in Southeast Asia. This attack at the service of the Democrats led to a sea-change of opinion among a layer of radicalizing youth, many of whom swore off allegiance to the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate.

In response to the wantonly illegal violence by the authorities (with no legal consequences for the police and generals - sound familiar?), young civilians and people in the armed forces stopped up their game, making the country ungovernable. Having lost faith in established institutions, including both political parties, they relied on their own efforts to make change.

This led to one of the greatest eras of rapid social progress for equal rights in our history. In concert with movements around the world, youth forced the newly-elected, aggressively racist, sexist, homophobic warmongering President Nixon to begin winding down their war on Southeast Asia, enacting affirmative action, food stamps, and clean air and clean water laws.

Nixon, unlike Trump, was a far-right ideologue, and yet he was forced to do all these things counter to his ideology, because a movement in the streets, combined with active resistance, forced him to.

Perhaps the Most Important Antecedent

The disaffection from both major parties by a sector of politically conscious white youth in 1968 was preceded more than a decade earlier by black youth involved in the then-emerging Civil Rights Movement. Black elders, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s father, were as firmly emeshed in the Republican Party then as today's black elders are in the Democrats.

King, Jr. and many of his peers saw that the "Party of Lincoln" had done nothing for blacks for many, many decades. Combined with the Democrats' role as the party of slavery and Dixiecrat segregation, they were alienated from both parties. Suspicious of both and subject to neither, they threatened both with what power they could muster.

The great 1963 March on Washington today is mainly remembered for its soaring rhetoric. Intentional historical amnesia leaves out that it was a march that the Kennedy White House worked assiduously to get cancelled (though they were successful in censoring John Lewis's speech). Arguably it was this relative political independence, combined with the first great mass outpouring of blacks and allies in the nation's capital, which led to the landmark mid-1960s civil rights legislation.

The great unknown is what, if any, organizational expression(s) the current widespread disgust with the two major parties will take, and if these organization(s) will be able to extend the current flurry of protests into a heighted and sustained wave of activism which has been a crucial ingredient to previous periods of accelerated social justice.

In Chicago at least, many Black Lives Matters activists have a healthy disgust for and independence from the Democrats (it helps having someone as thoroughly loathsome as Rahm for mayor). And many radical immigrant rights activists will not soon forget Obama's mass deportations.

Many Bernie activists know the nomination was stolen from them, and will hopefully draw deeper, systemic conclusions about their standard-bearer's quixotic campaign to take the party from the neo-liberals. And some will probably attempt a new electoral left formation, while others will attempt to ramp up the Green Party from its poor showing, at least in the presidential race.

Few electoral activists of any stripe, though, I believe have learned the lessons about how to run a truly Eugene Debs-style campaign that doesn't breed illusions in the system that they purport to overthrow.

At the very least, the large demonstrations combined with the widespread disgust with both parties presents I believe a rare opportunity for the left: Finally, for the first time in my adult lifetime, there is the possibility of building a sustained movement independent of both parties.

I hope we take advantage of it.

Andy Thayer's previous post-election article can be found here. He can be reached at

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Killing Chicago's Finest: Something Else Happened the Day the Cubs Won the World Series

Tue, 2016-11-15 08:10

On November 2nd, 2016, the world lost a good natured, empathetic and heroic person. This happened on a day in Chicago history that will live in infamy not because a hero was ruthlessly murdered, but because of a baseball game where dozens of new Chicago heroes were born. The names Rizzo, Lester, Arrieta and Maddon become household names, while the name Gregory Wong doesn't even make the Chicago Tribune, Sun Times, WGN, CLTV or anything Chicago online. You see, Gregory "Greg" Wong, a Chicago WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) taxi driver, was not glued to his TV or waiting outside the bars in Wrigleyville. He was doing what most other people on that day, at that time, would never do. During the historic game 7 of the glorious Chicago Cubs' run to World Series Champion, Greg Wong was driving a passenger with a disability, a passenger that specifically requested his services and often relied on his services, home. Greg ventured to a neighborhood he frequented, in a dangerous Chicago area, to do what he does best. Help people. Numerous people with disabilities relied on Greg every day and if Chicago had more drivers like Greg, even more people with disabilities would have had the invaluable service and access to their community that Greg's customer base did.
On that momentous day in Chicago, Greg became another murder statistic in the crime riddled city of Chicago. As soon as I heard of Greg's senseless murder, my excitement for the city and its new heroes quickly turned to pain, hurt and anger. The next day I woke up scanning our local newspapers and online publications for word and information about Greg's murder but I found nothing. Only a sentence that said a man was shot and pronounced dead at the scene on the west side of Chicago. No name, no face, just a sentence. I promised myself that Greg would not die in the vanity of our city's finest moment but that I, his so called "boss", would devote as much time as I could to finding Greg's name in the paper. Unfortunately, the Champions parade and city pride were so overflowing that nobody wanted to talk about the reality of our city. Now, thanks to Ariana Huffington, I've taken matters into my own hands.
Here's the reality: we still live in a place that's so unsafe that the best taxi drivers, those who voluntarily drive WAV taxis, are not able to serve the people that rely so much on their service. You see, Greg was in that unsafe neighborhood because he was the best. Only the best go to the unsafe neighborhoods without asking. They go where we send them and they do what 90% of other cab drivers would never do. They enter these less than desirable, dangerous neighborhoods without question because they are the best. All WAV taxi drivers in Chicago are on the cusp of a revolutionary change that is currently only happening in Chicago but will hopefully spread across the nation. They are on the frontlines of creating a society where people with disabilities have equal access to "on-demand" transportation. No more waiting hours or days for an accessible ride. These drivers, these people, make a difference and to see them murdered in our streets, while serving our community members, makes me want to do one thing: cry.

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Soda Is About To Get Pricier For Another 5 Million Americans

Fri, 2016-11-11 14:12

Big Soda just had a really tough week.

First, voters in Boulder, Colorado, and in three cities in California approved new local taxes on soda on Election Day. Then, on Thursday, the board of commissioners in Illinois’ Cook County ― which includes Chicago ― moved to approve a tax of 1 cent per ounce on soda and other sugary beverages.

The tax, set to take effect July 1, will affect all 5.2 million residents of Cook County, the largest jurisdiction to pass a soda tax thus far.

Cook County’s move completes a five-for-five sweep for soda tax advocates this week.

Advocates say the taxes will reduce consumption of sugary drinks and slash health care costs associated with heart disease, obesity and diabetes. At the same time, supporters say, the new taxes will raise revenue for struggling municipalities, like Cook County, that need to balance their budgets.

In a statement, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the projected revenue from the soda tax — an estimated $224 million per year — “will allow us to avoid damaging cuts in the funding for public health and public safety” and should play “a positive role in important health issues that impact many of our residents.”

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who fought unsuccessfully for a citywide soda “ban” and bankrolled tax proponents’ efforts in other cities, issued a similar statement, calling the vote “a major victory for American public health ― and a very encouraging sign of things to come.”

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An analysis released this week from Harvard researchers used a complex, peer-reviewed computer model to estimate that the tax will save $222 million in health care costs over the next 10 years, if Cook County residents shift away from sugary drinks as expected. The model also estimates that by the end of 2025, 37,000 fewer people will be obese as a result of the tax.

Jim Krieger, executive director of the nonprofit group Healthy Foods America, which supported the Harvard research on the Cook County tax, said the evidence is clear that such taxes will be an effective public health tool.

“The bottom line is that the taxes are working exactly as predicted,” Krieger said. “We know we have the facts on our side.”

The American Beverage Association, an industry trade group whose members include Coca-Cola and Pepsi, is skeptical of these claims. The group has spent millions of dollars fighting various soda taxes, such as the one approved by voters in Berkeley, California, in 2014, and another introduced in Philadelphia earlier this year.

Pointing to the minimal existing research on the effects of a soda tax implemented in Mexico in 2014, the ABA argues that such legislation has only a negligible impact on soda consumption levels and has the effect of reducing people’s calorie intake by just six calories per day.

“That’s not even measurable on a bathroom scale,” William Dermody Jr., ABA’s vice president of policy, told The Huffington Post last month.

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In response to such criticism, Krieger argues that the public health benefits will take some time to manifest, because issues like diabetes and obesity develop slowly over time. The World Health Organization made a similar argument in a report that last month called for a 20 percent increase in the cost of sugary drinks like soda in order to reduce obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

“[The ABA] are fighting a losing battle and they’re behind history at this point,” Krieger said. “Fundamentally, what it represents is a lack of knowledge and scientific sophistication. It’s a silly statement that shows they don’t understand the basic science of evaluating the impact of a sugary drink tax.”

Meanwhile, proponents of future soda tax measures appear to have momentum on their side.

Krieger said his organization has already been in touch with several cities and states this week that are interested in bringing similar taxes to their communities.

On Thursday, one of those cities revealed its plans. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales announced that he and other city councilors will propose a soda tax of 2 cents per ounce in order to fund expanded early childhood education opportunities in the city.

For its part, the ABA stated this week that it disagrees with the soda tax advancements, and that it remains focused on helping people reduce their calorie and sugar intake through the association’s Balance Calories Initiative.

“We’re driving this change across America, including communities with the highest rates of obesity,” the group’s statement read. “It’s the hard work necessary for true and lasting change.”

Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

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The White Supremacy Portrayed After Joshua Beal's Death In Mount Greenwood Makes Democracy Unsafe

Thu, 2016-11-10 21:45

Many of us took part in an action of the Democratic process on Tuesday, when we voted in the presidential election. Peacefully protesting is another tool able to be used in Democratic societies.

Yet in the neighborhood of Mount Greenwood, Chicago, this tool of the protest is under the threat of violence at such intense levels that people cannot practice it. After the death of Joshua Beal last Saturday, people upset with the circumstances surrounding his death have protested in the days that followed. Many of these protesters were called racial slurs and were witness to signs calling them animals.

Racist signs befitting 1950's Mississippi carried earlier today by white Mt Greenwood residents in support of #JoshuaBeal's murder by CPD

— BLMChicago (@BLMChi) November 7, 2016

On Tuesday there was a protest in Mount Greenwood and the Chicago Police Department tried to encourage the protesters to leave the neighborhood on a bus for their own safety.

A well-known Catholic priest Father Pfleger, who was participating with the protesters, was told by the police, “We’ve got to get you out of here, they hate you and I don’t think we can protect you.”

The students who lead and organize Black Lives Matter Youth had planned a teach in downtown about what happened to Joshua Beal as well as a racial incident that happened at Marist High School in Mount Greenwood this week. After the teach in, they planned to travel to Mount Greenwood to protest. The day before this protest the students parents were contacted by CPS and told, “White supremacist groups are threatening to kill students on site”.

These group of high school students have also received many more racist and derogatory messages. This should not be surprising.

Last week I wrote an article that detailed the history of racism over the years in Mount Greenwood, titled “What Mount Greenwood’s Reaction to Joshua Beal’s Death says about White Chicago”.

Since that post was published I have received the following messages via social media:

“POS Race Baiter”

“Black people don’t think you’re cool STFU”

“You’re a pedophile”

“You are a disgrace”

“I bet you identify as black”

“Where do you live?”

“You’re racist”

“You’re not white”

“I pity you”

“You’re brain dead”

“Why do you hate white people?”

“I dare you to walk around Cabrini Green all by yourself”

“Shame on you”

“Liberal nut job teacher”

“A CPS teacher and a wanker”

“You’re not credible you work for CPS”

“You probably think Rahm is a good guy too”

Clearly based on these responses, many people in Mount Greenwood feel like I am not representing their community fairly. One person asked me, “Have you been to Mount Greenwood?” I honestly must say I have not. I don’t need to go there to get to know the community. I was raised in a predominately white community. I know as a white person that I have the privilege to feel safe and respected in a community like that. My whiteness allows me to be accepted wherever I go.

The blatant racism of Mount Greenwood is the issue. Mount Greenwood has many examples of historical racism. Add in the recent racist actions and the threats of violence on protesters who want to practice their Democratic right to protest, further proves that what I wrote last week is accurate.

Surely not everyone in Mount Greenwood is racist, but unless as a white resident of that community you are helping stop your uncle, aunt, cousin, brother, sister, neighbor, etc. from being racist, then you carry the blame of racism as well.

Whether you agree or not with the message of the protestors they have the right to protest without having their lives threatened and/or made to feel like we are all living in the 1950’s.

Mount Greenwood, your racism is showing.

It is time to call out the racism.

People you know are proudly portraying it.

Threatening kids, making racist signs, using racial slurs, and cheering when you pass the location place where someone was killed is sick, and as a white person I refuse to accept your hate quietly.

This is footage from Chicago where the #WhiteSupremacyMatters protesters were CELEBRATING the execution of a Black man named #JoshuaBeal

— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) November 8, 2016

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Speaker Madigan's Deputy: We're In The Same Boat

Thu, 2016-11-10 11:43
By Madeleine Doubek

OK, deep breath in. Deep breath out. Now that we got that nasty election out of our systems, there's a veto session in Springfield starting next week. House Speaker Mike Madigan, Gov. Bruce Rauner and everyone will shake hands and get to work saving our universities, needy people, health care, roads and all that, right?

Former state Sen. Matt Murphy, a state budget expert who now is working as a lobbyist, said Chicago's precarious school funding and other budget strains might be the only pressure on Chicago Democrats to get something done any time soon. "I don't know how many more times they can go to the well of borrowing or using TIF (tax increment financing) funds to pay their bills."

Because Democrats still will hold majorities in both the House and Senate when the new General Assembly is sworn in in January, they retain just as much say over what gets done or doesn't. So beyond the expected posturing, what's the outlook?

I checked in with Democratic state Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook for some nitty gritty guidance. Nekritz is a pension expert, 14-year year veteran and the House Assistant Majority Leader.

You can read Doubek's Q&A with Nekritz here.

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