Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Study Finds Fracking Fluid From 2007 Kentucky Spill May Have Killed Threatened Fish Species

A joint study from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released Wednesday found that a fracking fluid spill in Kentucky in 2007 likely caused the widespread death of several types of fish.

Nami Resources Company, a London, Ky.-based oil and gas exploration company, spilled fracking fluid from four well sites into the Acorn Fork Creek in southeastern Kentucky in May and June 2007. Not long after, nearly all the aquatic life -- including at least two fish from a threatened species -- in the part of the stream near the spill died. Chemicals released during the spill included hydrochloric acid.

Alan Grayson On Syria Strike: 'Nobody Wants This Except The Military-Industrial Complex'

WASHINGTON -- Citing his responsibility to represent the views of his constituents, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said Thursday that he can't support an attack on Syria that his voters strongly oppose.

"One thing that is perfectly clear to me in my district, and I think is true in many other districts from speaking to other members, is that there is no desire, no desire on the part of people to be the world's policeman," Grayson said on SiriusXM's "The Agenda with Ari Rabin-Havt," which aired Thursday morning. "For us to pick up this gauntlet even on the basis of unequivocal evidence of chemical warfare by the Syrian army, deliberately against its own people -- even if there were unequivocal evidence of that -- that's just not what people in my district want."

Eric Cantor Declined March On Washington Invitation To Meet With Oil Industry Lobby

When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declined to speak at the March on Washington 50th anniversary rally Wednesday, he was choosing instead to meet with a North Dakota oil and gas lobby group, The Washington Post reports.

According to the Grand Forks Herald, Cantor met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City, toured oil drilling sites and spoke with leaders of the energy industry in Williston on Wednesday.

Edward Snowden Impersonated NSA Officials: Report

Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked information on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, impersonated NSA officials in order to obtain files, NBC News reported Thursday.

While working for Booz Allen Hamilton, the technology consulting firm that contracted for the NSA, Snowden reportedly used his access as a system administrator to borrow the electronic identities of officials with higher security clearances via NSAnet, the agency's intranet. Snowden reportedly used the identities obtain 20,000 documents containing information on the agency's controversial programs

Nearly 20 Percent Of Scientists Contemplate Moving Overseas Due In Part To Sequestration

WASHINGTON -- New data compiled by a coalition of top scientific and medical research groups show that a large majority of scientists are receiving less federal help than they were three years ago, despite spending far more time writing grants in search of it. Nearly one-fifth of scientists are considering going overseas to continue their research because of the poor funding climate in America.

The study, which was spearheaded by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and will be formally released next week, is the latest to highlight the extent to which years of stagnant or declining budgets, made worse by sequestration, have damaged the world of science.

Three Cheers for the U.K. Parliament—and the British Public

Not before time, the public and its elected officials have taken a stand against the rush to bomb Syria—an action that could embroil the United States in a bloody civil war and lead us down a path to goodness knows where. The public in question turned out to be the British, but no matter. All popular movements have to start someplace. Now it’s up to the American people and their representatives to demand a similar pause for reflection and political debate.

What Has Changed Since Lehman Failed?

A week from Sunday, it will be five years since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, sparking the biggest financial crisis since the nineteen-thirties and a seven-hundred-billion-dollar bank bailout. In a recent interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin, of the Times and CNBC, Hank Paulson, the man who, as Treasury Secretary, was primarily responsible for the rescue of Wall Street, expressed outrage—or at least misgivings—about the fact that many of the bankers whom the taxpayers rescued promptly turned around and gave themselves huge bonuses. “To say I was disappointed is an understatement,” Paulson said. “My view has nothing to do with legality and everything to do with what was right, and everything to do with just a colossal lack of self-awareness as to how they were viewed by the American public.”

Why Obama's March on Washington Anniversary Speech Ticked Off Some Black People

In May, President Barack Obama gave a commencement address at the historically black Morehouse College—Martin Luther King, Jr.'s alma mater—that was criticized by many black progressives as condescending for its focus on personal responsibility. He told the young graduates that "there's no longer any room for excuses" and that "whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured—and overcame." In response, The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, "Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of 'all America,' but he also is singularly the scold of 'black America.'"

John McAfee, Anti-Virus Software Mogul: Canada Not Safe From Government Spying

MONTRÉAL - American software mogul John McAfee appears relaxed at a downtown restaurant as he digs into a bowl of poutine, but says even the safe haven of Canada isn't immune from government spying.

"Your Canadian government has all of the facilities that the American government has, no more, no less," he says, in light of recent leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Israeli Official Says Government Orders 'Limited' Call-Up Of Reservists In Anticipation Of Possible Attack By Syria

JERUSALEM — Israel ordered a special call-up of reserve troops Wednesday as nervous citizens lined up at gas-mask distribution centers, preparing for possible hostilities with Syria.

With the U.S. threatening to attack Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, Israel fears that Syria may respond by firing missiles at Israel, a close American ally. While Israeli officials sought to distance themselves from Syria's standoff with the West and believe the chances of a Syrian strike remain slim, people were clearly preparing for the possibility.

'Disappearing Palestine' Ads On TransLink Anger Jewish Groups

VANCOUVER - A controversial ad campaign on Vancouver's transit system showing the territory of Palestine shrinking into the state of Israel will run in other Canadian cities this fall, says the coalition behind the images.

"We do know that in other Canadian cities, for example in Toronto and in Calgary, there will be ads" running sometime this fall sponsored by advocates in those cities, said Charlotte Kates, a spokeswoman for seven Vancouver-based groups calling themselves the Palestine Awareness Coalition.

Steve King Compares Unemployed Americans To Children Who Refuse To Do Chores

During a Monday appearance in South Carolina, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) voiced his displeasure with the "100 million people [who are] "simply not in the workforce," calling on unemployed Americans to "step up."

(Watch a video of Rep. King's remarks, originally posted by Raw Story, above)

At a meeting in Charleston organized by Mallory Factor, King attributed rampant unemployment to many Americans' unwillingness to work, drawing an analogy between the unemployed and lazy children, according to Red Alert Politics.

Robocalls investigator ‘suspected that others were involved’, document alleges

An Elections Canada investigator alleges in court documents that he suspected Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona was not the only person involved in misleading robocalls to voters in Guelph, Ont.

Sona, who worked as director of communications to Marty Burke, the Conservative candidate in Guelph, is the only person charged over automated calls that directed hundreds of voters to the wrong polling station on election day in May 2011.

His defence counsel is expected in court Thursday morning in Guelph for a pretrial hearing.

New Alberta Pipeline Safety Review Demanded By Coalition Of 54 Groups

CALGARY - Calls mounted Wednesday for Alberta's auditor general to review pipeline safety in the province as a coalition of 54 public interest groups demanded Premier Alison Redford bring in the provincial watchdog.

The organizations were also critical of a report last week that found room for improvement when it comes to regulating pipelines near water, but took a generally favourable view of Alberta's existing rules.

Neocons Push Obama to Go Beyond a Punitive Strike in Syria

The drums of war are beating, as various news reports state that President Barack Obama and his European allies are close to launching some sort of military attack against Syria. But one question is how big the bang will be. The White House has signaled that whatever comes will be strictly a punitive strike in retaliation for the Assad regime's presumed use of chemical weapons against civilians. It will not be an action aimed at toppling Bashar al-Assad or changing the overall strategic dynamic of the ongoing civil war in Syria. The supposed goal is to deter Assad from resorting to chemical weapons again. Foreign policy experts disagree—of course—on whether any assault of this nature would achieve that end, and such an action could have unintended consequences (say, a host of dead civilians) that might render it not a clear-cut success. But the band of neocons that led the United States into the Iraq War have quickly moved to seize on the administration's inclination to mount a punitive strike in order to draw the nation further into the conflict in Syria.

Black Parents Need to Get It Together, Says Former Tea Party Congressman Sued Over Child Support

Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, an event organized by a badass gay activist and keynoted by Martin Luther King Jr.'s (copyrighted) "I Have a Dream" speech. It's a time for reflection on where the United States has been and where it's headed.

Unless you're former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.).

Walsh, a tea partier elected in the conservative wave of 2010, has reinvented himself as a talk radio host after getting trounced last fall by Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth. On Wednesday, Walsh celebrated King's legacy by drafting a list of problems he believes afflict African Americans, such as an unwillingness to take responsibility for their own lives, and a total dependency on "the government plantation":

Free Abortions on Demand Without Apology

When did so many feminists get polite on abortion? I cannot take hearing another pundit insist that only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s work is providing abortions or that some women need birth control for “medical” reasons. Tiptoeing around the issue is exhausting, and it’s certainly not doing women any favors.

It’s time resuscitate the old rallying cry for “free abortions on demand without apology.” It may not be a popular message but it’s absolutely necessary. After all, the opposition doesn’t have nearly as many caveats. They’re fighting for earlier and earlier bans on abortions, pushing for no exceptions for rape and incest, fighting against birth control coverage—even insisting that they have the right to threaten abortion providers. The all-out strategy is working; since 2010, more than fifty abortion clinics have stopped providing services.

Shouting Disrupts Vigil For Murdered Transgender Woman Islan Nettles

NEW YORK -- On Tuesday night, hundreds turned out for a vigil in honor of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman who died after an attack just blocks from the park where family, friends and LGBT advocates gathered in her memory.

Nettles, who was pursuing a career in fashion, was walking Aug. 17 with a transgender friend when they encountered several men who shouted transphobic and homophobic slurs, and beat them. Nettles died in the hospital several days later. The police are currently investigating the case as a hate crime, according to The New York Times.

For The First Time Ever, Combined GDP Of Poor Countries Exceeds That Of Rich Ones


For the first time ever, the combined gross domestic product of emerging and developing markets, adjusted for purchasing price parity, has eclipsed the combined measure of advanced economies. Purchasing price parity—or PPP for short—adjusts for the relative cost of comparable goods in different economic markets.

Ask Congress About Syria

Whom should President Obama ask before he bombs Syria? One of the answers being bandied about is nobody but his own conscience, and some generals who will tell him how to do it. An Op-Ed in today’s Times tells him not to mind various laws and treaties, or rather the lack of applicable ones. Maybe the awful pictures from Ghouta are telling him the same thing; not getting anyone outside White House meeting rooms, or at the other end of a secure phone line, to put his or her name down might be natural, even instinctive, but it is not what the moment demands. There have been calls for the President to reconvene Congress and put this one before them, and such calls are right. It might even help the Administration figure out what, exactly, it hopes to accomplish by shooting missiles in the general direction of Damascus.

Court dismisses First Nations challenge against Canada-China FIPA

A British Columbia First Nation's challenge against the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) has been dismissed by the federal court.

The Hupacasath First Nation says the federal government failed to meet its constitutional duty to consult with the community before signing the trade agreement and that the FIPA is a violation of their rights to self government.

NYPD Secretly Designated Entire Mosques As Terrorism Organizations

NEW YORK -- The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen "terrorism enterprise investigations" into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Obama: Syrian Government Behind Chemical Weapons Attack, No Decision On Action

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared unequivocally that the United States has "concluded" that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians. Yet U.S. intelligence officials say questions remain about whether the attack could be linked to Syrian President Bashar Assad or high officials in his government.

Stephen Harper’s lone gunman defence wobbles

OTTAWA—In his bid to survive the Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy affair, Stephen Harper has clung assiduously to the lone gunman theory.

Harper has repeated that mantra time and again — his former chief of staff cut a $90,000 cheque to the disgraced former Conservative senator on his own, without the prime minister’s knowledge.

The best way to destabilize the Harper argument is to involve as many others players as possible, making it appear to be a conspiracy in the Prime Minister’s Office and beyond, making it increasingly impossible for Canadians to believe this elaborate operation could have unfolded without Harper knowing what was happening in his own office.

Harper seeks to blame Indigenous women for their own disappearance

Canada's shameful colonial history as it relates to Indigenous peoples and women specifically is not well known by the public at large. The most horrific of Canada's abuses against Indigenous peoples are not taught in schools. Even public discussion around issues like genocide have been censored by successive federal governments, and most notably by Harper's Conservatives. Recently, the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights refused to use the term "genocide" to describe Canada's laws, policies and actions towards Indigenous peoples which led to millions of deaths. The reason?: because that term was not acceptable to the federal government and the museum is after all, a Crown corporation.

When did supporting the troops become synonymous with liking hockey?

There was a time when the idea of military pomp at a Canadian sporting event would have seemed absurdly out of place -- that was an American thing. Oh, how the times have changed.

These days, when you settle in to watch the Jets beat the Leafs on Saturday night, you do so understanding that there will almost inevitably be some kind of military spectacle on display. Maybe soldiers will rappel from the rafters to thunderous applause. Maybe there will be a moment of silence for our fallen heroes. Maybe Don Cherry will take us on an unscheduled trip to Kandahar in a jocular salute to the boys who are maintaining their team loyalties even while they keep us safe over there.

But wait -- over where? Keeping us safe from whom? Doesn't it matter?

Alison Lee Says Alison Redford Not Listening To Sexual Abuse Victims

A 15-year-old teen, who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, says she was snubbed by Premier Alison Redford when trying to talk about victims' issues.

Alison Lee says she met Redford in Lethbridge Saturday, during a stop on the premier’s Building Alberta tour.

"I was going to meet the premier and I was pretty excited about it because I had a really important question for her," said Lee in a video posted on YouTube.

The teen asked Redford if the government planned to fund the Little Warriors organization and the Be Brave Ranch-- a camp which would provide a 30-day program designed to counsel and assist victims.

David Cameron is gagging charities, Labour claims

David Cameron is to come under fire on Wednesday over the government's plans to curb spending on political campaigns by charities and other groups.

The shadow leader of the Commons, Angela Eagle, will accuse the government of seeking to gag charities in the piece of legislation called the transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration bill.

Facebook Transparency Report Reveals Government Info Requests On Canadians

Facebook has released its first-ever Transparency Report, breaking down government requests for data on users according to country.

There were 192 requests from Canadian government agencies in the first half of 2013, the social site said in its report, relating to 219 Facebook accounts.

Of those requests, Facebook was required by law to hand over data in 44 per cent of cases. The company did not break down what sorts of requests they were, or to what investigations they related.

New Homes Bigger Than Ever Before As Fed Policies Benefit Rich

The housing bubble is back, baby! At least for the rich, anyway -- another sign of how Fed policies have most directly helped the wealthy by pumping up markets.

Those garish McMansions that were a feature of the pre-pop housing bubble, the KFC Famous Bowl of residences, are back, and bigger than ever, the Wall Street Journal noted on Tuesday. New homes averaged 2,642 square feet in size in the second quarter, according to the Census Bureau, topping a record of 2,561 square feet in the first quarter of 2009. New-home prices, meanwhile, set record highs this Spring.

As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track That Could Prevent More Violence?

Britain is set to introduce a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Syria as the United States and allies gear up for expected strikes on the Assad regime. The resolution condemns the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical weapons and authorizes "necessary measures for protecting civilians." Russia and China are expected to issue a veto, raising the prospect that a U.S.-led bombing could come through NATO. The Obama administration says military action in Syria would be aimed at responding to chemical attacks, not seeking regime change, but critics say similar claims were made at the outset of the NATO intervention in Libya. "There is no military solution," says Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. "Extra assaults from the United States are going to make the situation worse, put Syrian civilians at greater risk, and not provide protection."

Author: --

Darryl Layne Woods, Chairman Of Bailed-Out Bank, Used Taxpayer Money To Buy Luxury Condo

Darryl Layne Woods, the chairman of Columbia, Mo.-based Mainstreet Bank, pleaded guilty on Monday to using bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to purchase a luxury condominium in 2009, U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson announced in a press release.

In January 2009, the bank received a cash infusion of more than $1 million from the federal government, the press release stated. Less than a month later, Woods spent more than $381,000 of those funds to purchase a seaside condo in Ft. Myers, Fla.

Taxpayer Dollars Paid A Third Of Richest Corporate CEOs: Report

WASHINGTON -- More than one-third of the nation's highest-paid CEOs from the past two decades led companies that were subsidized by American taxpayers, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank.

"Financial bailouts offer just one example of how a significant number of America's CEO pay leaders owe much of their good fortune to America's taxpayers," reads the report. "Government contracts offer another."

Federal Reserve Employees Afraid To Speak Put Financial System At Risk

WASHINGTON -- Regulators overseeing the nation’s largest financial institutions are distrustful of their bosses, afraid to speak out, and feeling isolated, according to a confidential survey this year of Federal Reserve employees.

The findings from the April survey of roughly 400 employees, presented to Fed staff during multiple meetings in June and July and obtained by The Huffington Post, show a workforce that is demoralized, and an institution where teamwork is nonexistent, innovation and creativity are discouraged and employees feel underutilized.

NSA surveillance program violates the constitution, ACLU says

The National Security Agency's mass tracking and collection of Americans' phone call data violates the constitution, has a chilling effect on first amendment rights and should be halted, accord to a court motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday.

In a detailed, legal critique of the NSA programme, the ACLU warned that such long-term surveillance "permits the government to assemble a richly detailed profile of every person living in the United States and to draw a comprehensive map of their associations with one another."

Gay Veterans' Spouses Still Can't Get Benefits

WASHINGTON -- Gay spouses of military veterans are not able to obtain the benefits given to straight couples even despite the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, an Obama administration official said in a letter released Tuesday.

Federal benefits granted to military spouses include disability and survivor benefits and joint burial at a veteran's cemetery. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki wrote in an Aug. 14 letter that because these benefits are governed by Title 38, which defines spouses as members of the opposite sex, the spouses of gay veterans could not receive them.

HR 347 'Trespass Bill' Criminalizes Protest

As I write this op-ed, I primp for the mirror -- looking for the most flattering pose -- for my mug shot. Now, don't get the wrong impression; I haven't been arrested and charged with a federal felony -- yet. Nor is the preparation done in anticipation of a guest stint on "America's Next Top Model" -- but as a common sense reaction to Obama's predictable signing of the latest assault on the Bill of Rights -- namely -- H.R. 347 (and it's companion senate bill S. 1794); aka the "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011." Sounding more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds landscaping -- this bill, better known to those in the DC beltway as the 'Trespass Bill' -- potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S. a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Anti-Protest Law Passes Nearly Unanimously And Is Signed By The President

So I have some great news folks! The Republicans and the Democrats in Congress and the White House FINALLY came together and agreed on something. This is HUGE. These guys disagree on EVERYTHING! Getting them to see eye-to-eye is like getting the Jews and the Palestinians to do a trust fall together. Or getting Eskimos and polar bears to play Jenga.

I'm referring to the bill H.R. 347 that was signed by President Obama the other day, passed unanimously in the Senate, and 388-3 in the House. That's nearly EVERY SINGLE lawmaker. The last time they agreed that closely on something, it was a bill raising monthly Congressional pay to include a box of Ding Dongs, two erotic cakes featuring Bonanza star Pernell Roberts, and a gentle yet inquisitive prostate exam every Tuesday.

Syrian rebels used Sarin nerve gas, not Assad’s regime: U.N. official

Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation, a senior U.N. diplomat said Monday.

Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels seeking to oust Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.

This Black, Gay, Badass Pacifist Mastermind of the March on Washington Is Finally Getting His Due

Bayard Rustin was for years one of the least known and celebrated major players in the civil rights movement. Now Martin Luther King Jr.'s trusted adviser—the black, gay, "badass" pacifist who organized the March on Washington—is finally getting his due 50 years after the landmark demonstration.

Rustin, born in Pennsylvania in 1912 and raised by his grandfather and his Quaker grandmother—who, along with Mahatma Gandhi, influenced his philosophy of pacifism—had his hand in several major moments in a fight for equality that would span his entire life. He helped organize and participated in the first freedom ride, 1947’s "Journey of Reconciliation" (for which he and several other participants were jailed and put in a chain gang). In the 1950s, he advised, strategized, and raised money behind the scenes for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, helping to direct King's rise to national prominence. He's also credited with honing the King's nonviolent strategy. Later, Rustin was the mastermind of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (now simply known as the March on Washington), organizing it in just two months. But Rustin was kept in the shadows by the homophobia of both his enemies (segregationist Strom Thurmond used Rustin's sexuality to denigrate the movement) and his allies.

Paintings Of Vladimir Putin In Lingerie Seized From Russia's Museum Of Power

ST PETERSBURG, Russia, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Police seized a painting of Russia's president and prime minister in women's underwear from a gallery in St Petersburg, saying the satirical display had broken unspecified laws.

The officers also removed a picture of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, his torso covered in tattoos, and two others poking fun at lawmakers who have backed legislation banning so-called gay propaganda, gallery staff said.

Rahm Emanuel's Minority-Bashing School Closings Go Forward

Today was the first day of school in Chicago—and a profound setback for Chicago’s forces of decency. Fifty fewer schools will be in operation this term, with 2,113 fewer staffers, a colossal injustice I’ve written about here and here and here and here. The school closings are going forward because ten days ago Federal District Judge John Z. Lee denied the attempt to get a preliminary injunction to prevent it. A week before that ruling, I spoke with one of the lawyers who brought the suit, Thomas Geoghegan, for my monthly interview series at Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park—where I and my audience deepened our sense of just how mad and malign Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s schools agenda truly is.

You might know Geoghegan for his classic public-policy memoirs like Which Side Are You On? and his most recent, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life; or his quixotic run to win the congressional seat vacated when Rahm Emanuel became Barack Obama’s chief of staff, which The Nation endorsed. Our conversation at the Co-op—a public version of dialogues we’ve been having regularly over dinner and drinks for over a decade now—was, like so much of Tom’s discourse, heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measure.

We spoke on August 10, the day after Judge Lee declined to certify Geoghegan’s plaintiffs as a class, a harbinger of the preliminary-injunction denial to come—heartbreaking, because his arguments sounded damned well open-and-shut to my audience and me. The Americans with Disability Act specifies quite clearly that school systems, when moving disabled children, have to proactively provide opportunities for the kids and their parents to meet with “Individual Education Plan” teams to devise specific measures to ease the transition. The Chicago school board didn’t even try—it just called up befuddled parents to ask, as Geoghegan put it, “Anything you want?” And when these parents—overwhelmingly poor and harried, understandably inexpert in the intricacies of special-education best-practices—didn’t have anything specific to offer, the board considered its work done. One of Geoghegan’s expert witnesses, the woman in charge of special education of the Indianapolis school system, said the whole thing was pretty much totally nuts.

The suit also tried another angle. In 2003 Governor Rod Blagojavich (who actually did some good things) signed a state civil rights statute that allowed private plaintiffs to bring claims of disparate racial impact against entities like boards of education without having to prove discriminatory intent—a provision that used to be in federal law until the Supreme Court struck it down in the 1990s. Explained Geoghegan, 88 percent of the affected kids in the receiving schools are African-American, but African-American kids make up only 40.5 percent of students in the system. Pretty damned disparate.

Of course, the Chicago Public Schools had an explanation for that, of a sort: they argued that black kids were being helped by being moved. Actually, they made several arguments—changing them around each time the last was debunked. First it was that they needed to close schools to help with the system’s budget deficit, freeing up resources for instruction. But most of the money they claim to be saving (savings disputed in themselves) is being spent on moving kids, not instruction. And, Geoghegan points out, “After a year, that money goes into the general pot to aid kids in the system.” Look at the system’s plans, and it turns out “the board is going to use some of this money to build schools on the North Side”—the white North Side, in other words. It basically amounts to stealing from poor black kids to give to more affluent white ones.

The system’s second argument is that the schools that kids are being moved into are academically superior to the ones they’re leaving. Well, there is a word in legal jargon for what that claim represents in this case. That word is: bullshit. In their pleadings, Geoghegan’s team pointed out that only seven of the schools are arguably better academically than the ones kids are coming from; some are worse. In fact, the very act of moving kids under such circumstance basically cannot improve their educations. “What’s extraordinary about this is that the study of the Consortium of School Research at the University of Chicago stated that these school closings don’t do students any good but in the long term don’t do any harm,” Geoghegan told my bookstore audience. “The RAND study, which came out in 2012…says that they do do long-term harm, unless the children go to academically superior schools.”

You see the problem, even if a federal judge did not.

CPS’s third argument is yet more dubious. Between 2001 and 2012, leading up to this year’s closing, they closed some seventy-four schools. Back then, they said they were closing “failing schools.” But “now they’ve backed off from that notion of failing schools, which was always a little bit bogus to begin with because, Why are those failing more than any others? It was [empirically] indefensible.” (For instance, at one of the closed schools, Guggenheim, which I wrote about here, one-third of the students were homeless. Geoghegan relayed his suspicion to Chicago homelessness experts: maybe some kids counted as “homeless” were, say, doubling up at the home of an aunt. He heard back, “No! No! Those kids who are doubling up with the aunt aren’t counted as homeless. They’re, like, homeless homeless. Like, they don’t know where they’re going to be every night.” What does it mean to say a school serving a population like that, because of its poor test scores, is “failing”?)

So it was they settled upon the argument that the closing schools were “underutilized.”

Which argument one of Tom’s heroic plaintiffs, a woman named Sharise McDaniel, had already demolished on its face. McDaniel is the parent of a child at a school called George Manierre Elementary, which is by the former Carbini-Green housing projects. The advantages of Manierre for its black, impoverished population—it’s across the street from the Marshall Field Homes, where hundreds of the school’s kids live, making the commute rather safe indeed; also, the building is grand and gorgeous—and the disadvantages of moving them—the receiving school is a mile away, across a treacherous gang boundary—were brilliantly reported by the education reporter Linda Lutton for Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ. Manierre, however, with its gorgeous building, happens to be quite close to a bevy of luxurious condominiums where affluent white families live, and whose children go to overcrowded Lincoln Elementary.

McDaniel and her cadre of parents presented a solution at a community meeting. They learned that the supposedly strapped school board was paying hefty money to rent space for the Lincoln kids at DePaul University. The mothers proposed that, if Manierre was indeed underutilized, Lincoln kids could move into their second floor; Manierre kids could stay on the first floor, and—Geoghegan got a mixture of laughs and groans when he reported this one—“they would have separate entrances so they wouldn’t have to see each other!”

A win-win solution—if the point really was filling underutilized schools, and not, say, emptying out a desirable building of undesirable Chicagoans, the better for Rahm Emanuel to serve his affluent constituency.

So at the trial, Geoghegan asked the system’s number-two administrator, a mountebank named Tim Cawley, “‘Why not move the children from Lincoln Elementary into Manierre?’ I’m not going to quote his answer…but the effect of it was, ‘You don’t know how disruptive that is!’ ”

He earned a roar of laughter from our audience at that. Laughing to keep from crying.

The system denies that it’s placing such kids under physical risk. And yet it plans to spend $7 million a year on a “safe passage” system to protect them. Geoghegan now turns indignant: “The children are going under guard, though gang territory, another one or two or more miles to their new schools. For a worse education experience on all counts…there’s this trauma, not only of all this displacement, [but of] losing all your teachers because they’re all being laid off…. What’s the payoff for this? There is no payoff for it. And the board has no basis to believe these closings are doing any good for the children.”

And yet the judge ruled there was no proof kids “would suffer substantial harm as a result of the school closures.”

So what’s the inspiring part? The solidarity. Noted Geoghegan in our Q&A, “It’s interesting how many middle class white parents have been radicalized by this. They didn’t start that way. But the more they deal with the board, the more they realize that, with the minority children on the South and West Sides, they’re fighting the same battle against a really dysfunctional bureaucracy which just does not work.”

Original Article
Author: Rick Perlstein 

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