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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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Election Morning Reflections On Why The Dems Couldn't Beat Someone As Disgusting As Donald Trump

Thu, 2016-11-10 10:06
Some preliminary thoughts on the Democrats' failure to beat someone as loathsome as Donald Trump:

1) Insider Democrats did all they could to tilt the scales (Wasserman Schultz, Donna Brazile, et al) to nominate the most out-spokenly neo-liberal candidate ever. Though I wasn't a Bernie supporter, leading Democrats chose to ignore how their candidate was the least able to defeat anyone in the Republican field -- Wall Street had their candidate, and they were with her, and everyone in the Dems' base just had to suck it up.

In 2008, Obama and Clinton did their best to out anti-NAFTA each other in the Ohio and other rust belt primaries, and despite evidence to the contrary, hope-against-hope, many working class people believed them. Eight years later the evidence was too glaring to ignore -- Goldman Sachs speeches, Clinton Fdn pay-to-play, TPP, etc., and for good, and demonstrably bad reasons, white working class voters deserted the Democrats. Any wonder why Trump swept the rust belt?

2) The last two years have, with good reason, seen an explosion of fury against racist police murders -- with most of the mayors covering for the cops being Dems of the Rahm Emanuel variety. So is it any wonder that Dems couldn't more motivate urban areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio to offset the white, rural racist vote?

3) As a political junky I've tried to engage as many people of as many different backgrounds as possible to find out their views on the election. Despite many months of conversations, I have yet to have had a face-to-face discussion with anyone who was enthusiastically FOR Clinton. The enthusiasm of her many supporters always went the other way -- AGAINST the bigotry of Trump, and "yes she's got faults, but Trump is SO horrible."

This was seen in the largest, truly motivated group of Clinton voters -- Latinos. After a record 2 million deportations of the undocumented under an incumbent Democrat, Latinos swept to the polls not in an act of pro-Clinton allegiance, but in anti-racist disgust against Trump.

3) The United States has always been much more racist and otherwise bigoted than most liberals congratulated themselves about after the 2008 victory of President Obama. The 2008 election should have been an FDR vs. Herbert Hoover cake-walk victory. We had by far the worst recession since the Great Depression (that year's October surprise) and yet the incumbent party only narrowly lost?

The explanation should have been clear at the time -- the only reason it was close at all was because the challenger was a black man, and racist America largely wasn't ready to accept a black man as president despite the disaster that was the was the incumbent party.

Seven years later and most working class incomes are just beginning to recover to the pre-Great Recession levels, and that's not even accounting for the fact that real working class incomes have lost enormous ground since the early 1970s. Enter a racist bloviator who blames that declining income on all the usual scapegoats, and adds in some phony anti-Wall Street populism for good measure.

Just about the only solace the Dems should take from this is that the next recession will likely occur during a Trump first term, and it will likely not be a "usual" recession, but a really bad one that will hurt all working class people enormously.

Here's why: We already have one of the longest (and weakest) economic expansions in history. The next recession will probably be unusually savage because the usual stimulators for moderating such recessions -- lowering interest rates and deficit spending -- are already largely tapped out. The savage effects of the next recession will not only be accentuated by a governing party that loathes U.S. cities and their residents.

The incumbent party, in this case the Republicans, will be blamed for it, just as the Democrats have been blamed for the failure of the current anemic expansion to make a real difference in most working class people's incomes.

But don't expect the Democrats to offer the sort of truly paradigm-altering programs we saw during the Great Depression -- unless forced to by massive opposition to BOTH parties from the ground up. Things like the three general strikes in 1934. Things like the occupations of all major workplaces and the formation of the mass, industrial unions in the immediate few years thereafter that forced the creation of America's first social safety net after many previous decades' failures.

Rather than tinker around the edges with phony "help the homeless" vouchers, token job-training programs and other such neoliberal nonsense that is common currency today, massive public works programs put millions to work, massive construction of affordable housing put people in homes, and rights like the 8 hour day and Social Security pensions for the elderly were won.

All of the promises of the early New Deal years began to go down the toilet when the independent left largely threw its lot in with Democrats in the 1936 election and thereafter. With the onset of WWII, McCarthyism and then the more severe recessions beginning in the 1970s, Democratic politicians increasingly attacked their own base. The same was seen after the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, when the remnants of those movements threw their lot in with the Democrats in the 1970s.

Unlike some Bernie supporters, I do not see that even the most robust New Deal style programs will even begin to solve the most fundamental, anti-human, anti-planet problems of capitalism. They will at best ameliorate them.

But this side of overthrowing capitalism, widespread amelioration is a better alternative to the far more savage results we saw during the 1930s in other countries. And for that we need to re-learn the lessons of the struggles of the 1930s, and how BOTH major parties were at the core of the problems, and not the solutions.

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Stop Telling Me To Keep Fighting. Today Is About Rage.

Wed, 2016-11-09 11:50

Did you wake up with swollen eyes this morning? I did.

America is worse off today than it has been at any other point in my lifetime, because voters elected a pumpkin whose insides have been rotted by hate, bigotry and megalomania.

They want him to run this country.

It’s depressing to see how a corrupt circus of an electoral process helped elevate Trump, but institutions continually let us down. It’s most physically gutting to think about how little respect Trump voters ― actual people behind you in the grocery line or beside you on the subway ― have for women, immigrants, Muslims, black people, LGBTQ people, Jews, Sikhs, people with disabilities, or anyone who doesn’t believe white men should have total power once again.  

If that doesn’t make your veins pop, your eyes well up, and your hands reach for something to set on fire, please check your pulse.

America is worse off today than it has been at any other point in my lifetime, because voters elected a pumpkin whose insides have been rotted by hate, bigotry and megalomania.

A Trump presidency ― still can’t actually believe I’m writing those words ― is the greatest political assault on human decency I’ve ever witnessed, and we should all feel terrified.

Yet today, many people will tell you to ignore your emotions. They’ll tell you to stay positive, to keep fighting the good fight, to you know, donate to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. You should be productive! Don’t despair.

They’ll remind you of historical battles and the need to never quit. If you have the impulse to leave the country, they’ll tell you to dig your heels in. After all, you can’t change things by running away.

They are right that we need to double down on fighting the prejudice, sexism and xenophobia that led to Trump’s election. But not today.

Today, we should mourn. Grieve. Scream. Bawl. Lose your fucking shit in any way that doesn’t endanger others.

After a tragedy of this scale, we don’t need to return to the field like an injured athlete who refuses to stop playing. We need a time out to process that an evil undercurrent has become our main political pipeline. Trump’s election means many more Americans than expected hate your gender, your religion, your culture. You.

We should be angry or sad or hysterical or whatever. I can’t tell you how to feel, but feel something.

Trump’s election is a big fat reminder that many people in this country would rather elect a man who brags about sexual assault than the first female president.

This isn’t some exercise in futility. By indulging our emotions for at least a day, we’ll become stronger fighters. Sorry for the therapist speak, but when people refuse to process trauma, it haunts their daily lives. Instead of channeling their feelings into actions, they walk around in a bitter haze. We need clear strategists, not would-be activists consumed by hate because they refused to punch a pillow or melt into a puddle of tears post-election.  

Being angry now will motivate us later. When we exist in progressive bubbles that reinforce our beliefs, it’s easy to be apathetic. For many, the election results were a shock because the journalists we read and the friends we love have been repeating for 19 months that Trump is a monster. Wake up call! As minorities already know, we don’t live in a woke feminist paradise just because Beyonce exists.

Trump’s election is a big fat reminder that many people in this country would rather elect a man who brags about sexual assault than the first female president. They would rather elect a man who wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country than acknowledge the reality that white men are the most common perpetrators of terrorist attacks. They voted for a man who wants to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, yet depends on foreign workers and illegal immigrants to run his resorts and build his towers.   

Being angry now will motivate us later. When we exist in progressive bubbles that reinforce our beliefs, it’s easy to be apathetic.

In the end, this man wasn’t laughed off the stage. He will be led to the Oval Office. If that makes you angry, take the day, the week or the month to feel upset. Don’t come up with productive solutions or optimistic outlooks. Just stew in these dumpster fire election results and when you’re ready, help fix this broken country.

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Tammy Duckworth Takes Back Obama's Illinois Senate Seat For Democrats

Tue, 2016-11-08 19:04

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WASHINGTON ― Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) won Tuesday night’s U.S. Senate race against Sen. Mark Kirk (R), restoring a seat to Democrats that had once been held by Barack Obama.

An Iraq War veteran and two-term congresswoman, Duckworth will be the second Asian-American senator and the first female senator to have seen combat. She’s also the second woman in Illinois’ history to become a senator. The first, Carol Moseley Braun, served from 1993 to 1999.

Duckworth’s victory also means both of the state’s senators are now Democrats.

Duckworth had been leading in the polls for months, but Kirk, a Navy veteran and former congressman, didn’t make things easier on himself.

He made a distasteful comment about Duckworth’s Thai heritage during an October debate, which resulted in the Human Rights Campaign and a gun safety group dropping their endorsements of him. He inflated his military record, continuing a bizarre pattern of doing so even though his record stands on its own. The Republican senator also changed his mind four times on whom he was endorsing for president, leaving it up in the air less than two weeks before elections.

Both candidates have remarkable personal stories. Duckworth is a war hero; as an Army pilot in Iraq, she helped land a helicopter in 2004 after it had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, despite injuries that led to her legs being amputated and one of her arms being damaged. She was awarded a Purple Heart. Kirk was a Navy intelligence officer before getting elected to Congress. He survived a stroke in 2012, and after rehab, he continued to serve in the Senate.

Duckworth got a special assist from Obama on the campaign trail. He joined her at an October fundraiser in Chicago that people paid between $1,000 and $13,000 to attend. Top donors got access to a VIP reception and could have their picture taken with the president.

“She is going to be a great senator for Illinois,” Obama told attendees. “I cannot think of a better person to represent this state that I love.”

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94-Year-Old Cubs Fan Votes Democratic For The First Time Since The '40s

Tue, 2016-11-08 12:16

Two long streaks have come to an end for 94-year-old Lorenz Koch.

Last week, the Chicago native’s beloved Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Then, Koch voted for a Democrat for the first time in 68 years, casting his ballot for Hillary Clinton over Republican nominee Donald Trump.

I think he’s a danger,” Koch told the New York Daily News. “I don’t think he’s a man I would like in charge of our boys. He’s too impulsive and sticks his foot in his mouth regularly.”

The last Democrat whom Koch voted for was the ultimately victorious Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential race, he told the News. 

Koch’s daughter, Marianne, 61, said her dad had given the matter some consideration.

“He said that he wanted to vote for a person who has integrity and who was a good person, and that’s why he had to vote for Hillary,” she told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.

The World War II veteran, who now lives in Walnut Creek, California, told his daughter that he snuck into a game during the Cubs’ pennant run in 1945 ― their last appearance in the World Series until this year. And now he has witnessed his Cubbies capture a championship that had eluded them for over a century. 

“It’s about time,” he told the Daily News.

Hillary Clinton and Harry Truman might have told Koch the same thing. 

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Reject the Trump-Rauner agenda on Tuesday

Tue, 2016-11-08 06:43
As a high school English teacher, I've taught my students to read carefully, think critically, and write persuasively. They learn that arguments must be based on good evidence, convincingly explained.
Governor Bruce Rauner seems to believe this concept doesn't apply to him.
While dodging reporters' questions about why he is still one of the few Republican leaders to support Donald Trump after his racist comments and boastful admission of sexual assault, Rauner deflected and said he's focused on governing, an unconvincing claim given Illinois still doesn't have a budget under his watch.
"This is the silly season. I don't pay any attention," Rauner crowed.
He also stated that he's "not too involved in local races."
As any of my freshmen could prove in a few paragraphs, the evidence shows that this is laughably false.
The Governor and two billionaire friends have spent nearly $50 million to advance his unpopular political agenda in the state House and Senate. Some of this money has been filtered through various channels to fund GOP candidates or fake newspapers with biased articles mailed directly to voters. This propaganda is currently under state and federal investigation.
$50 million. And we're supposed to accept that Rauner is "not too involved in local races"?
That's an easy claim to debunk, but the bigger question for Rauner is why not admit to the obvious?
Why say you're not invested in politics when you clearly are? What's the real motive of the Governor in the Carhartt Halloween costume?
The answer can be found in his own words. Rauner said Scott Walker of Wisconsin was his role model and his primary focus would be limiting the voice of teachers (though he prefers to call us "union bosses.")
He later told an editorial board that "crisis creates leverage to change ... and we've got to use that leverage of the crisis to force structural change." And lo and behold, by tying a variety of irresponsible proposals to budget negotiations, he created that very crisis.
Rauner has demonstrated that until he gets his way, he will continue to block funding for low-income students, breast cancer patients, children with autism, and our colleges and universities (resulting in higher tuition and lower enrollment). The list goes on.
The good news is that Illinois voters are smarter than Rauner thinks.
When the Governor attempted to push so-called "right-to-work" zones through dozens of city councils and county boards, his Turnaround Agenda failed miserably. Recent polling shows low approval ratings for the Governor across the state. And many of his hand-picked candidates aren't gaining the momentum he hoped his money would buy.
These Rauner picks - like Sara Jimenez, Avery Bourne, Norine Hammond, and Reggie Phillips - are loyal allies of the Governor. They've repeatedly voted against bills to fund higher education and tuition grants for low-income families, creating economic uncertainty in our communities and for students trying to pursue their college dreams. And, incredibly,they've opposed asking the wealthiest Illinoisans merely to pay their fair share to better fund our schools.
As we approach Election Day, I'd ask my fellow citizens to do what my students do every day: think critically. Be skeptical of these Illinois Republicans' empty claims. The evidence shows convincingly that despite what they say, they support the Trump-Rauner agenda and are willing to make life harder for everyday working families.
Let's reject this bleak vision as we head to the polls.

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Illinois Early Voting Sees Record Number of Ballots Cast

Mon, 2016-11-07 20:28
By Kevin Hoffman

The number of Illinoisans who voted early, before Election Day, has reached record levels.

As of Monday morning -- the last day of early voting -- 1.267 million voters had cast their ballots statewide. When vote by mail and grace period ballots are included, that figure is about 1.6 million, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

Between VBM, EV and grace we've had 1.6m votes already cast, if you assume total statewide will be 5.2 - 5.5m then ~ 30% have voted already.

-- IL Election Data (@ILElectionData) November 7, 2016

In Chicago, the in-person early voting tally topped 286,000, easily breaking the previous record set in the 2008 presidential election when early votes in President Barack Obama's hometown totaled a little more than 260,000.

Early voting, which began on Sept. 29, also reached a new high in suburban Cook County, where more than 320,000 people had cast their ballots, compared to 228,695 in the 2012 presidential election and 226,084 in 2008.

The record number of Illinoisans casting ballots ahead of Election Day has been attributed in large part to an extended voting period, longer polling hours and heightened interest in the presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Scott Kennedy, who runs the website Illinois Elections Data, said in an email "convenience, availability and the opportunity to put the election behind you all combine to increase the appeal of early voting."

While there is some consensus early voting is favoring Democrats on the ballot, Kennedy said he isn't certain one party is benefitting over the other considering an estimated 30 percent of vote came early.

"Beyond just the raw totals of how many early voters there are it's important to know who is voting early, the campaigns have this information in their voter files but us laypeople don't have that granular detail so it's hard to say for sure," Kennedy said.

"I think the increase in participation has more to do with convenience than necessarily an indication of high voter enthusiasm and it's inconclusive whether either party is the beneficiary, but the areas of the state with the greatest population density tend to have the most early voting locations and those areas typically favor Democrats," he added.

Kevin Lampe, executive vice president of Kurth Lampe, a Democratic public affairs firm, said he wasn't impressed with the GOP's ground game in the Chicago suburbs, and believes Democrats have done a much better job at targeting and motivating voters.

Lampe also thinks people are underestimating women voters, noting the ballot is dominated by female candidates.

"Female voters are flexing their political muscle and rightfully so," Lampe said. "The era of the white male is over."

But early voting isn't the only thing seeing historic numbers in Illinois.

As of Monday, total voter registration stood at 8.028 million, and that figure likely will increase as residents can register to vote through Election Day under the state's new same-day voter registration law.

In late October, voter registration surpassed the previous record of 7.789 million voters who were registered in the 2008 general election.

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Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter Clash After Man Fatally Shot By Chicago Police

Mon, 2016-11-07 14:44

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CHICAGO ― The police shooting of a black man on Saturday in a historically heavily segregated Chicago neighborhood, home to a significant portion of the city’s police officers, sparked tense protests on Sunday between police supporters and anti-police-brutality protesters.

Joshua Beal, a 25-year-old father of two from Indianapolis, was in Chicago to serve as a pall bearer in his cousin’s funeral when he was killed by an off-duty police officer. The next day, an estimated 200 pro-police demonstrators showed up to drown out the press conference of roughly 20 people calling for police accountability and protesting on Beal’s behalf. 

Some of the counter-protesters hurled racial slurs at Beal’s supporters and yelled “go home!” 

Iggy Rucker, who numbered among the small group of people protesting to support Beal, told The Huffington Post by phone that some in the pro-police crowed called him racial slurs and “monkey” and told him to “get a job.”

“Being part of the scene made me feel like I was back in the ‘60s,” Rucker said.

CPD has now encircled the dozen or so black protesters, from the hundreds of others shouting at them.

— Joe Ward (@JayDubWard) November 6, 2016

Police and bystanders have conflicting narratives of what happened in the moments leading up to Beal’s fatal shooting.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson characterized the situation, which occurred around 3 p.m. Saturday in the South Side neighborhood of Mt. Greenwood, as a “road rage” incident that escalated into a shooting. 

In a statement, CPD said Beal’s vehicle, as part of the funeral procession, was stopped in traffic in front of a firehouse, illegally blocking a fire lane. This led to a “verbal and physical altercation” after an off-duty firefighter confronted the passengers about blocking the lane, prompting them to exit the car, police said. An off-duty police officer at a nearby business joined the scene, while a third official, a uniformed sergeant on his way to work, also pulled over at the stop and drew his weapon.

The argument escalated until officers fired on Beal, who police claim was holding a gun that he refused to drop. 

Warning: This video has disturbing audio.

Family members and bystanders who saw police shoot Beal, who later died at an area hospital, say the scene unfolded very differently.

Cordney Boxley, who identified herself as Beal’s younger sister, told the Chicago Tribune that a motorist ― who she believes was an officer ― cut her off amid the funeral procession and then tried to run her younger sister off the road as she drove in a separate car.

Boxley said both the motorist and the family members in the funeral procession got out of their cars to confront one another. The driver Boxley said cut her off got back inside his car only to emerge and then “just started shooting.”

Bullets hit the windshield of the car Beal was in, prompting him to grab his gun. Family said Beal was licensed for concealed carry and never fired at officers. Police said they were testing the weapon to see if it had been discharged.

During the protest the next afternoon, between 10 and 20 protesters returned to the scene where Beal was shot to call for the police to be held accountable for what they decried as an unjust shooting.

“How is it every time the Chicago police encounters a black person, they manage to use deadly force?” one protester said in a video shared by DNAinfo Chicago. “If this had been a white person, they’d manage to de-escalate and do respectful engagement.”

The video shows a small circle of protesters trying to speak to news crews as their voices are nearly drowned out by an estimated 200 pro-police demonstrators who used a bullhorn to shout “stop shooting cops” and sing the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Being part of the scene made me feel like I was back in ‘60s."
Iggy Rucker, anti-police brutality protester

In a blog post for The Huffington Post, Chicago Public School teacher Dave Steiber noted that Mt. Greenwood has a troubling history when it comes to racism and exclusion of black people, dating back to the 1960s, when more than 70 residents picketed a school where 11 black children had transferred.

Dee Williams, who stood in solidarity with the Beal supporters, said by phone that the demonstration “was like being followed by a lynch mob.”

“It reminded me of footage I’d seen of white protesters attacking freedom riders in the South,” she added.  

Williams, who is white, said the counter-protest crowd was mostly men. Several people told her they were cops or family members of cops, Williams said, adding that many of them shouted support of CPD and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. 

CPD said the officer involved in the shooting has been placed on 30-day administrative leave, per department protocol when an officer fatally shoots someone. 

As the department promises an investigation, Williams said a coalition of groups like Black Lives Matter Chicago and the Revolution Club of Chicago hope to get support of local religious groups and others. 

She noted a few young Mt. Greenwood residents knew some of the counter-protesters but joined the demonstrations supporting Beal instead. “They said ‘we know some of the people from this crowd and we’re not going to stand for it.’” 

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What the Illinois Comptroller Race Results Could Mean for State Budget Crisis

Mon, 2016-11-07 12:06

No analysis of the race for Illinois comptroller is complete without the term "proxy war."

It's a term Illinois voters have heard and experienced many times over the decades, as Republican and Democratic party leaders of the Illinois House and Senate pour money into the campaigns of their members to fend off challenges from the other party. Sometimes a candidate's legislative leader funds 90 percent or more of his or her campaign. This is a practice that good-government types, like me, don't like because it creates officeholders who know that their election depends on keeping the boss happy.

But in legislative races, "proxy war" is a bit of an abstract concept. There's no guarantee that a lawmaker will be completely compliant with his or her party leader once elected. And sometimes those party leaders know that forcing candidate A to vote a certain way will doom him/her back home in the next election.

At the moment, there are 110 Democrats and 67 Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly. That's a lot of cats for the four legislative leaders to herd, and the process can be chaotic.

When we use the term "proxy war" in the race for Illinois comptroller between Republican incumbent Leslie Geissler Munger and Democratic challenger Susana Mendoza, however, it's a precise description of what we're getting. Make no mistake: The result of this race will have a direct effect on how effective Bruce Rauner will be as governor for the next two years and how effective House Speaker Michael Madigan will be in blunting Rauner's agenda.

To understand why, you have to look back to the summer of 2015, when Rauner and Madigan were just getting warmed up in what soon would become an intractable standoff over how to address the state's many financial woes. And you have to look to the Illinois State Constitution of 1970, which was written to ensure that a prolonged budget crisis like the one we've had for 16 months now never would happen.

The state constitution is explicit that no taxpayer dollars can be spent without the General Assembly and the governor signing off on spending them. This way, the lawmakers we elect locally in the legislative branch and the governor we elect statewide to lead the executive branch both must have a hand in spending tax money.

Thus, when Budget Year 2015 ended on July 1, 2015, and there was no state budget in place, we braced for a government "shutdown." That's because the greatest and most immediate effect of having no state budget is the halt of paychecks for most state employees. If government really did shut down, public pressure would be immense on the governor and Legislature to reach agreement on a budget.

Within a week of the end of FY 2015, Attorney General Lisa Madigan successfully sued in Cook County Circuit Court to halt the comptroller's office from issuing paychecks without authorization from a state budget.

"I absolutely want State employees to be paid their full wages. But the Illinois Constitution and case law are clear: The State cannot pay employees without a budget. The judge's order reaffirms this. It remains up to the Governor and the Legislature to enact a state budget to allow for necessary government operations and programs to continue," Madigan said in a statement issued July 7, 2015.

But a day later, a lawsuit in St. Clair County brought by the state's largest union of state employees, AFSCME Council 31, argued that the comptroller's office would violate labor contracts if it did not issue paychecks. Though the comptroller's office was the defendant in this case -- and represented by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office -- representatives of Comptroller Munger argued on the plaintiffs' side. The governor's office, too, was on the union's side.

Ultimately, the St. Clair County judge ruled in the union's favor. Madigan tried to get an expedited appeal from the Illinois Supreme Court on both cases, but the court refused. Madigan's office opted against what would have been a lengthy appeals process through the lower courts, so state employees have been paid ever since.

So even as higher education funding has crumbled and the sick, elderly and disabled have seen vital services disappear, most of state government functions as normal. In a recent survey by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, two-thirds of Illinoisans said they felt no effect of the budget crisis.

(Of course, they're going to feel it eventually, as the state is racking up historically high debt because there is no budget to control spending. All sides concede that taxes eventually will have to go up to pay for it. But that's another chapter.)

This broad appearance of normalcy in state government operation is essential for Rauner. It has allowed him to hold firm on his position that he won't negotiate on the budget -- and the tax increases he says must come with it -- until Democrats pass parts of his reform agenda.

Now, back to the comptroller's race.

If Munger is re-elected, she'll continue the deft job of prioritizing the state's bill-paying that her office has been doing for the last 16 months. Thus, those Illinoisans reflected in the Simon Poll probably will continue to perceive the budget crisis as no crisis at all. And Rauner, without the immense pressure of, for example, drivers enraged because drivers license facilities are closed, can continue to hold fast on his "no reforms, no budget negotiations" stance.

If Mendoza is elected, it'll be another story. She's unlikely to facilitate Rauner's strategy. If you've followed this campaign, you know that Mendoza has criticized Rauner for not doing his job by failing to enact a budget. She's labeled Munger as Rauner's enabler.

Munger has been vocal in publicizing the state's deteriorating fiscal position. But her criticism consistently has been framed to promote Rauner's call for business and political reforms in the process of passing a complete state budget.

And here's another twist: In a decision last March in a union lawsuit over unpaid raises by the state, the Illinois Supreme Court made a statement that affirmed the attorney general's stance from the previous summer that state employees should not be paid without authorization from a state budget.

The court cites "a well-defined and dominant public policy under which multiyear collective bargaining agreements are subject to the appropriation power of the State, a power which may only be exercised by the General Assembly." That means the union's argument in the St. Clair County lawsuit in July 2015 was invalid. The comptroller would not violate union employment contracts because they're governed by the state constitution's appropriations clause (defined in Section 2(b) at this link.)

Essentially, that decision vindicates the attorney general's arguments in the Cook County and St. Clair County lawsuits from July 2015. Now, however, the attorney general's office doesn't appear eager to reopen the matter and seek to halt state employee paychecks.

In April, the office told me the matter was "under review." When I asked again last week, the status remained the same.

When I asked Mendoza's campaign if as comptroller she would use the new case to seek a halt to state paychecks, the campaign sent this statement: "

The Comptroller is obliged to follow the Constitution and any court orders entered by federal or state judges, but the Comptroller does not have the authority to go to court to enforce those laws. The Illinois Constitution gives that power to the Attorney General. To be clear, the Attorney General, not the Comptroller, has the constitutional authority to serve as the legal officer of the State of Illinois.

It should be noted that the last time the the attorney general attempted to represent the comptroller, the comptroller testified against the attorney general.

Bruce Rauner and Michael Madigan probably never will run against each other in any electoral race. But the 2016 comptroller's contest comes awfully close.

Recommended: Donald Trump no marksman when aiming at Chicago gun laws

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What Mount Greenwood's Reaction To Joshua Beal's Death Says About White Chicago

Sun, 2016-11-06 17:54

Joshua Beal, who was in Chicago for a funeral, was killed Saturday by a Chicago police sergeant. The reason an off-duty police officer felt the need to start waving his gun around and pointing it at a lot of different people is baffling. To see the video, click here.

I, however, don’t want to focus on the killing itself ― I want to focus on the reaction of white people. Specifically in Mount Greenwood, where the incident occurred. Last night, hours after his death, while people gathered to support Josh’s family, some residents of Mount Greenwood came out of their homes with Blue Lives Matter flags to apparently show that Black people are not welcome in Mount Greenwood. Instead of letting people grieve the loss of a life, these white residents thought it appropriate to call them names and tell them to leave “their” neighborhood. To see this video click here.

It would be easy to write that group of flag-waving people off as not representative of the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, but unfortunately that neighborhood has a very long history of trying to stay white while keeping Black people out.

It was a common saying for Black Chicagoans who lived in the Morgan Park, Beverly, and Roseland areas in the ‘90s to say, “Don’t go west of Western,” because you would be venturing into Mount Greenwood.

While white Chicago likes to try to cover up our racism, Mount Greenwood has historically been a neighborhood that flaunts racism more openly.

Are all white people in Mount Greenwood blatantly racist? Hopefully not, but because of its past, not being racist in Mount Greenwood is difficult. It is tough to not be racist as a white person in America, period, but some places like Mount Greenwood make it harder than others.

Here is a brief history of Mount Greenwood’s racist past:

In 1968, the Chicago Tribune published an article about how 11 Black elementary students wanted to attend an elementary school in Mount Greenwood. White parents protested the fact that Black students would be going to “their” school.

In 1992 the New York Times wrote an article about the feeling the white residents of Mount Greenwood had about Black people. One of the quotes among many that stuck out was:

“I don’t mind them, but I don’t want them living next to me,” said Peggy O’Connor, a waitress and wife of a police officer. “I don’t want to be too close to them. I think they’ve been whining too long, and I’m sick of it.”

Also in 1992, the Chicago Reader wrote about how the residents of Mount Greenwood did not want a new magnet high school built in their community. Some of the reasons that people cited of why they didn’t want students from other schools to come to this new school is because, “you have felons in that school,” referring to the schools in other communities, and they didn’t want “more noisy, littering, grass-stomping students.” The residents perpetuated stereotypes of black people being lazy, criminal, loud and messy.

In 2008, seven of the Black students who had integrated that Mount Greenwood elementary school in 1968 returned for their 40th elementary reunion. They were greeted with a Swastika on the door of the school and people across the street telling them to “go back to your old school.”

In 2010, on a community blog, someone described a scene in which a group of white teenagers on a summer evening started chasing people and yelling, “all sp*cs and ni**ers out of the fu**ing park!”

In 2014 at McNally’s, a bar in Mount Greenwood, a police offIcer could be heard saying, “There are too many Black people in here.”

Also in 2014, racist graffiti was found in six different locations in the area, including the N-word being spray painted onto vehicles.

The reason for this history lesson is because as a white person I know we love to try to pretend that racism does not exist or it is something that is over with. The tragic murder of another Black person by a police officer and the reactions of the community to the death show us once again that racism is alive and well.

The options are simple as white people. We can work to change the system of policing by admitting there is a problem with it. Once we admit the system of policing has a problem, we can then work to fix it. This option would benefit our whole society. People of color wouldn’t need to fear the police, the police would feel safer, and then white people wouldn’t have to hear as much about racism.

The other option is we can get defensive, chant “Blue Lives Matter,” wave the American flag when someone is killed, call Black people names, wear Confederate flag shirts, and just continue the systems that let policing and white supremacy operate unchecked in our city and country.

Clearly by these videos, far too many people are choosing my second option...

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Man Who Predicted Cubs Win In 1993 Yearbook Finally Speaks

Fri, 2016-11-04 20:05

As a psychic, Michael Lee is batting 1.000.

Back in 1993, Lee predicted in his yearbook picture that the Chicago Cubs would win the 2016 World Series, adding, “You heard it here first.”  

The yearbook photo went viral after the Cubs made it to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

But Lee, now a 41-year-old software engineer living in the Chicago suburbs, kept a low profile by design.

“My attitude was, ‘You have to play the games,’” he told The Huffington Post. “I didn’t want to be a distraction. The players shouldn’t be asked about my prediction.”

Ah yes, the prediction. It may have been printed in the yearbook 23 years ago, but Lee said it actually came to him in a dream in 1983.

“I saw the words, ‘Cubs World Champions 2016’ on the Wrigley Field sign and I heard Harry Caray calling home runs,” he said.

Lee may have predicted it, but he actually forgot about it until former classmate Marcos Meza reminded him, according to WGN TV.

“When [Lee and I] connected on Facebook in 2009 I sent him the photo and told him we were nearing 2016. He posted the photo of his prediction on August 8th,” Meza told the station. “After my Dodgers lost it was time for me to make this go viral and BeLEEve in the Cubs for 2016.”

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Lee had hoped that the prediction might come true last year when they almost fulfilled a prediction made in 1989’s “Back To The Future II.”

“When it didn’t happen,” he said, “I thought maybe they’ll do it next year.”

Lee tried to put the prediction out of his mind during the games, but had a good feeling during the rain delay during Game 7.

“Going into the 10th inning, I thought this might be good for the Cubs since they were deeper,” he said.

Once the 108-year drought was ended, Lee said his phone practically broke because so many people were calling to congratulate him.

“I’ve never texted so many people at once,” he laughed. “My brothers, Dad and I were happy.”

Lee couldn’t have predicted the media interest in him after his Cubs prediction came true. He’s skeptical that people can predict the future to begin with.

“I think this is really a very extreme coincidence,” he said. “Does it blow my mind? A little.”

Although Lee could rest on his laurels, and possibly never buy another beer in his life thanks to grateful Cubs fans, he’s trying to use his newfound fame for good.

Lee is marketing a line of T-shirts featuring his now-famous yearbook photo and the phrase “You Heard It Here First”

He says he plans to donate proceeds to charities that focus on stomping out bullying.

“They won’t stop it by themselves,” he said, “but it will give funding to defray this activity and maybe quell that behavior.”

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Cubs Win!

Fri, 2016-11-04 17:34

No more "wait 'til next year!" Kiss goodbye the "Billy Goat Curse" forever. No longer are they the "Lovable Losers." That's right! The Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in the 10th inning of the 7th game of the World Series to end a championship drought that lasted 108 years. It's truly unbelievable.

Both teams were great and are great. It is the Cubs that proved the greatest. Down in the Series 3-1, they battled back to force the greatest game seven possible. As the Cubs fans are celebrating wildly, there is heartbreak in Cleveland. This loss will hurt for a while.

In 1997 I was coaching nine players on the Cleveland Indians. We were also in the seventh and final game of the World Series. The Indians were poised to win their first world title since 1948. In the 9th inning with the Indians winning, a team official escorted me from the stands into the locker room to get ready for the festivities. Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser yells for me to take off my sport coat. He said, "You'll get champagne all over it."

As we watched the TV monitors, all in the room knew victory belonged to Cleveland. With one of the best closers in the game (Jose Mesa) on the mound, losing was unfathomable. TV broadcaster Jim Gray approached and wanted to interview me just after the game. The champagne arrived. The 30-pound Commissioner's Trophy was strategically placed in the room. Microphones and cable wires were everywhere. Lockers were covered in plastic. The celebration was about to arrive.

And then in the bottom of the 11th inning, Edgar Renteria singled home Crag Counsell to give the Florida Marlins the title. In an instant the champagne disappeared. The plastic was removed from the lockers and the microphones and cables were shuttled to the opposing locker room. Players and fans alike felt the shoulda', coulda' and woulda' deep loss.

Jim Gray? I never saw him again.

Watching last night's 7th game was "déjà vu all over again" as Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once stated. It was definitely surreal.

Now there is a new world champion and the Chicago Cubs (my hometown of 40 years) have done the unthinkable. Even suffering Cubs' fans still believe it's all a dream.

This past spring I was in Mesa, Arizona to watch the Cubs launch their season. There was electricity in the air. All teams and their fans are excited before the season officially begins. This was different. The positive vibe was incredible. Belief was gone. It had been transformed into a higher place. Expectancy was gone. It went the way of belief. As I ate a Chicago hotdog the feeling in the stadium was one of "knowing." The players knew. The fans knew.

Now the world knows.
The Chicago Cubs are World Champions!

Is there a learning moment from this World Series? For one, "it's not over until it's over." The real take-away, however, is anything and everything is possible. With "free will" you can craft a dream in the privacy of your mind. By adding a relentless pursuit of excellence with positive doses of discipline, focus, confidence, calm and fun, this mental movie of future success can be turned into reality.

A victory like this says, "Good fortune favors the bold." The Cubs were bold in their play and their resolve. They were bold in their commitment to one vision. They were bold in their purpose and intention.

"Let's go Cubbies!" is topping the charts in the Windy City.

Stay in the Zone Chicago!

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I Feel Terrible For Chicago Cubs Fans, And For Good Reason

Fri, 2016-11-04 16:48
I'm happy for the Chicago Cubs. Winning the World Series is an incredible feat.

I'm less happy for Cubs fans.

I know this is easy to say (and perhaps ridiculous) coming from a fan of the New York Yankees, but with the winning of the World Series, the Cubs fans have lost their identity.

Prior to their World Series victory, the Cubs were a much admired, historically snake-bitten franchise that couldn't win a championship. They were cursed. Their curse had a name and a backstory. Despite the 108 years of ineptitude, Cubs fans stuck by their team and year after year rooted for the seemingly impossible dream. Cubs fans were admired. Revered. Respected.

But now their team has won. The curse is broken. Their identity as the most diehard, most faithful, and most downtrodden fans in America is gone. They are now fans of just another team who has won the World Series, and they did it with one of the highest team salaries in baseball.

Higher than the Yankees, in fact.

They are now just another big budget team who wins championships.

I know. I'm a Yankees fan. I have not waited 108 years for my team to win a championship. I have no right to argue that the Cubs should continue to lose for generations for the sake of identity. For me, it's been seven years and counting between championships, though to a Yankees fan, it's starting to feel like 108.

But that's my identity. I'm a fan of a team who pays enormous sums of money in the biggest and brightest city in America in order to win championships at all costs. We are the evil empire, and we have embraced that identity. We're supposed to outspend your team. We're supposed to be loud and obnoxious. You're supposed to hate the Yankees and despise their fans.

We get it. And we love it.

But the Cubs?

They aren't supposed to spend more money than the New York Yankees in order to win a championship. In fact, they beat a team in the bottom third of payroll in the league in order to win their title. They spent more than twice as much on their 25-man roster this year than the Indians.

The Cubs have become this year's version of the New York Yankees.

And while Cubs fans are rightfully celebrating today, I wonder how they will feel in a couple years. I have a handful of friends who are Red Sox diehards who have admitted to me that they loved their team more before they won the World Series. After three big budget World Series victories in ten years and the second highest payroll in baseball this year, they acknowledge that their identity and brand is gone. Their diehard status is no longer diehard. They are now the fans of a team that wins World Series championships every now and then.

They have become average. Just a bunch of ordinary fans of a successful baseball team. They might as well cheer for the Marlins. Or the Blue Jays. Or the Chicago White Sox, who won the championship ten years ago.

Just like that other Chicago team that wins championships.

Sometimes it's more meaningful and memorable to be the underdog. Sometimes it's better to be perpetually disappointed and relentlessly faithful in the face of adversity than to be occasionally euphoric, especially when everyone else around you is occasionally euphoric.

I know. This sounds terrible coming from a Yankees fan, but we're supposed to be terrible.

I wish you the best, Cubs fans. I'm happy for you today, but I suspect that I won't be thinking about you and rooting for you very much in the future.

You're just not that special anymore.

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