Settler Colonialism in Chicago: A Living Atlas – The city of Chicago was built upon the settler colonial dispossession of Indigenous peoples and lands. That history of conflict, violence, and struggle continues into the present. Read More at Rampant
Chicago Brings The Solidarity
Chicago’s streets were a sea of union red last Friday for a day of action to protest the austerity policies of Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner.
I’m proud to have joined twenty thousand souls at the Thompson Center that day. What struck me, once again, was the broad support and solidarity in this movement. It wasn’t just teachers, or students, or parents, or union folks. We were joined by activists from Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ community, immigrant rights groups, neighborhood and community organizations and so many more. It’s always an inspiration to see.
Here are some great photos of the day from Bob Simpson.
You can also read this report from Gala M. Pierce: Striking for the city we deserve | SocialistWorker.org
Torture and Humiliation in Illinois
Abu Ghraib Comes Home
An elite Illinois Department of Corrections tactical unit called “Orange Crush” traveled from prison to prison, humiliating and terrorizing hundreds of Illinois inmates, according to a class-action lawsuit now before a federal District Court. They forced prisoners to march naked in single-file, tight formations, causing men’s genitals to press against the buttocks of men in front of them. They called the exercise “nuts-to-butts.”
The Belleville News Democrat reports.
Members of the tactical unit begin the tactic by running onto a prison tier when female guards are sometimes also present, “whooping,” banging on metal tables and shouting to prisoners: “Get butt-naked.”
The guards do this, according to the lawsuit, while dressed in orange fatigues, wearing helmets, carrying clubs and chanting “Punish the inmate. Punish the inmate.”
The prisons cited in the lawsuit are Menard, Illinois River, Big Muddy and Lawrence. It alleges multiple violations of the Prison Rape Elimination Act national standards, along with beatings, stress positions and other abuses reminiscent of Abu Ghraib.
Let’s call this what it is: state-sanctioned torture. The perpetrators, including the officials of IDOC under whose direction they operated, should all be behind bars themselves.
Read More: Lawsuit: ‘Orange Crush’ guard unit terrorized, humiliated Southern Illinois inmates | Belleville News-Democrat
News and Commentary
From Around the Web – 18 February 2016
Turkey v Islamic State v the Kurds: What’s going on? – BBC News – Although military affiliates of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) have been some of the most stalwart and effective opponents of Daesh (the Islamic State), Turkey has chosen to focus their efforts on destroying the Kurdish freedom movement. The United States’ support of these efforts is unconscionable. This article from BBC News from a few months ago gives a decent overview of the situation.
Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era | The Guardian – French Economist Thomas Piketty writes that the Vermont senator’s success so far demonstrates the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections.
Bernie Sanders’ Phantom Movement – Chris Hedges – Truthdig – Hedges argues that no movement or political revolution will ever be built within the confines of the Democratic Party. And the repeated failure of the American left to grasp the duplicitous game being played by the political elites has effectively neutered it as a political force.
China’s currency reserves plunged in January – BBC News – China still has the world’s biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings. But that has declined by $420 billion over six months and stands at the lowest level in nearly four years. This is the most underreported and significant economic news of 2016, thus far.
Can the U.S. escape the slump? | SocialistWorker.org – Lee Sustar looks at the prospects for the U.S. economy amid global instability.
Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation | The Intercept – Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman report that there is a coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment is succeeding.
The end of capitalism has begun | Books | The Guardian – Paul Mason posits that Capitalism will not be abolished by forced-march techniques, but by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviors.
More money for Wall Street, more problems for Chicago’s schools | Chicago Reader – From Ben Joravsky: “It seems the mayor and his council allies remain defiantly determined to waste money, raise taxes, and plunge Chicago Public Schools into bankruptcy.”
EFF to Support Apple in Encryption Battle | Electronic Frontier Foundation – “For the first time, the government is requesting Apple write brand new code that eliminates key features of iPhone security—security features that protect us all. Essentially, the government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone. And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”
Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 – Forbes – Drew Hansen, writing for that hotbed of Socialist thought, Forbes, says that corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.
Myths About Teacher Pensions
Pensions providing secure and stable retirements for teachers, administrators, and public school personnel are under attack. Here are the facts about pensions, from the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund.
Source: Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago
Solutions Ignored in Illinois Budget Battle
125 leaders and policy wonks from 63 non-profit, community organizing and labor organizations came together on June 29 to deliberate over a series of proposals for revenue solutions to Illinois’s budget shortfall. Simon Swartzman reports for In These Times that some of the most obvious solutions (with revenues totaling as much as $9 billion) are not even being considered in Springfield.
Those assembled heard several revenue proposals. The first focused on tax hikes aimed on wealthy individuals, including a proposed progressive income tax (estimated at raising up to $2.4 billion for the state), a commuter tax ($300 million) and a luxury sales tax (between $553 million and almost $2 billion, depending on services taxed). A second proposal focused on corporate accountability, including a proposed end to corporate tax loopholes ($334 million), raising corporate income taxes ($770 million), a fee for “bad businesses” that pay low wages ($2.2 billion), a moratorium on corporate handouts and subsidies ($564 million) and reforming Chicago’s tax increment financing program ($457 million in annual revenue in the city). Proposed banking and financial industry reforms included a financial transaction tax and an end to predatory deals with banks for public financing such as the interest rate swaps Bank of America has arranged with the Chicago Public Schools.
Source: “We Need to Stop Being Nice”: IL Labor, Community Activists Push Progressive Budget Crisis Solutions – Working In These Times
Flag in Chains
Nick Walsh presents a three-part story about a significant public controversy related to the Vietnam War that happened in my home town of Decatur, Illinois. Using sources from the archives of the Decatur Herald and Review, the Decatur Tribune, Millikin University’s Decaturian, and recent interviews with the one of the controversy’s key figures, Walsh covers how the situation developed, how the public and authorities reacted, and how the court case surrounding the exhibit of Flag in Chains unfolded. I remember the anger of these times fairly vividly. It seemed as if everyone in our community was forced to choose sides.
By using their talents to confront the issues of their time, artists take on a certain amount of risk if their perspectives are contestable in the court of public opinion. While not directly about the Vietnam War, the story of “Flag in Chains” reflects sentiments and convictions rooted in the national discourse of that era. Decatur residents were sporadic in giving their opinions about the war throughout its duration. However, public debate reached a crescendo in 1969, as emotions stemming from the war were channeled into dialogue surrounding a controversial legal case that involved the owner of the Decatur Herald and the Daily Review and a Millikin University art professor. This collision of patriotism and free expression provides a glimpse into the conscience of Decatur residents during the Vietnam War.
Here are links to all three parts of Walsh’s report.
Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 1) | RE:DECATUR
Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 2) | RE:DECATUR
Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 3) | RE:DECATUR
Pensions and Chicago’s Credit Crisis
There needs to be a discussion of how to solve these problems without hurting our pensioners and workers.
What happens when you’ve been kicking the fiscal can down the road for years, but the road suddenly hits a dead end? That’s what Chicago – and the state of Illinois – are about to find out.
Read More: How Illinois’ Pension Debt Blew Up Chicago’s Credit – ProPublica
Turnaround Means Go Backwards
According to a study by Illinois Economic Policy Institute and University of Illinois, if the six counties surrounding Chicago passed right to work laws, “The economy would shrink by 1.3 billion, state and local tax revenues would be reduced by $80 million… racial and gender inequality would both increase, and the number of workplace injuries and fatalities would rise.”
Read More: A Response to Governor Rauner’s Flawed “Turnaround Agenda” by David Madsen (Presented to The Naperville City Council on April 21st, 2015).