03/18/2015 archive

Second City

GOP plutocrat gallops to Rahm Emanuel’s rescue: What Kenneth Griffin’s support says about “Mayor 1%”

by Luke Brinker, Salon

Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015 12:28 PM EST

It’s little wonder, then, that Emanuel has earned the moniker “Mayor 1%.” So we should be little surprised when we read in the Chicago Sun-Times that Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire CEO of the hedge fund Citadel, has just infused the pro-Emanuel PAC Chicago Forward with a cool half million in cash – on top of the $250,000 he contributed to Emanuel’s campaign shortly after Garcia forced him into the runoff?

A primer on Griffin: With an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion, the 46-year-old is one of the Republican Party’s most generous megadonors. During the 2014 election cycle, Griffin and his wife Anne contributed $3.6 million to GOP candidates and outside groups for federal elections and precisely zero (0) to Democratic candidates and groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (The hedge funder does not hedge.) Additionally, Griffin lavished $8 million on Rauner’s campaign fund after he ousted Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, in what the Sun-Times reports was a bid to boost Rauner ahead of his battles with the Democratic state legislature.

“One thing Rahm, Rauner and Griffin have in common is that they understand that money doesn’t just talk, it shouts,” Kristen Crowell, the executive director of United Working Families, said in a statement to Salon. “You see it in the disinvestment in our schools, parks and core services, as public dollars get funneled to politically connected downtown developers and education profiteers.” United Working Families is the Chicago-based sister organization of the national Working Families Party.

Rahm Emanuel’s Housing Agency Sitting On Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars With Massive Waitlist

Kim Bellware, Huffington Post

03/18/2015 8:02 am EDT

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s housing agency has been pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from a fund earmarked for its affordable housing program and using the money instead to boost its pension, purchase government debt and build up a staggering cash reserve.

The decision to hoard cash while tens of thousands of families are in need of housing appears to be a strange one only if the goal is to find housing for the people the agency is supposed to serve. Yet developers, bar and restaurant owners and other interests who want to see the city of Chicago continue to gentrify have little interest in assisting the poor, black and brown single moms who populate the waitlist. Instead, they’d prefer the women and their children leave the city and find housing somewhere in the distant suburbs or beyond. The trend was underway before Emanuel took office, with the 2010 census finding 182,000 fewer African-Americans living in the city than a decade before, when Chicago began demolishing its public housing.

The CHA gets tens of millions each year for apartments it controls but leaves vacant. One of the CHA’s larger sites, Lathrop Homes, has a staggering vacancy rate despite the fact that the most recent November 2014 housing lottery saw more than 282,000 applicants. Lathrop Homes has 925 units, but according to longtime resident and co-chairman of the Lathrop Leadership Group, Miguel Suarez, only about 150 of them are occupied today.

“In 2000, CHA froze all leasing in Lathrop with the promise that in 2001, they would start rehabbing,” Suarez told HuffPost. “And of course, that never happened.”

Suarez said that by 2007, developers still hadn’t made improvements, though roughly 45 families were still living on the north end of the site. Shortly after, those remaining families were moved to the south end of the site and CHA “went in and boarded all of the north end up.”

Suarez, who has lived in Lathrop Homes for 25 years and is a chairman for the residents’ leadership team, said some families left after years of what he characterized as neglect by CHA.

“There are apartments that have mold issues, leakage from the outside, and things of that nature,” Suarez said. “When I first moved in, it was totally different: [Lathrop Homes] was fully occupied. Along [North Hoyne Avenue] had a canopy of trees. It was beautiful. Somewhere along the line they got rid of it. Ladies had their flower gardens up front, vegetables in the back. People would even hang their laundry.”

“It was a very different thing — it was a true community,” Suarez noted.

But as the surrounding neighborhoods of Bucktown, Lincoln Park and Roscoe Village hit new levels of prosperity, Suarez called the situation with Lathrop Homes “gentrification at its worst.”

“It’s no secret that today, Lathrop Homes is on some of the most valuable property in the city,” Suarez said. “For developers to come in and say, ‘We want to make this a revitalized community,” well, it already is. They want to move the current residents out to give this property to people with greater means.”

Suarez said that knowing the agency is sitting on hundreds of millions of unspent dollars while Lathrop deteriorates is a clear sign of the city’s priorities. “Knowing very well that CHA has $400-some-odd million stashed, knowing that money is there, and seeing that Lathrop Homes has had no major rehab done to it, it’s evident that the CHA as a whole is not willing to make these units [livable] that could be made available,” he said.

“Not true and they knew it”: What Rahm Emanuel’s Wall Street craze cost Chicago

by David Dayen, Salon

Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 06:14 AM EST

The city of Chicago and its public school system could recoup potentially billions of dollars in overpayments from complicated, unjust deals inked with Wall Street banks, if they pursued legal action or demanded enforcement from federal regulators. But Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor, has refused to chase this opportunity, despite the city’s drastic fiscal outlook and the effect on citizens. By contrast, his opponent in the April 7 mayoral run-off election, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, appears far more likely to take action against a powerful financial sector Emanuel has relied on for campaign contributions.

A growing group of public interest activists, lawyers and experts believe that Wall Street violated securities laws by failing to disclose risks on these instruments. “The banks made a fundamental representation, that it was a cheaper way to borrow,” said Brad Miller, a former Congressman and Of Counsel at Grais and Ellsworth, who has focused on these deals. “That was not true and they knew it.”

Chicago was a serial user of this type of exotic borrowing. The Chicago Tribune found that between 2003 and 2007, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) issued $1 billion in auction-rate securities, more than the entire state of California. Goldman Sachs wrote in a letter to CPS that the deals had “no downside.” But over the life of the auction-rate securities, CPS will pay $100 million more than they would have on fixed-rate bonds.

That’s just a sliver of what Chicago financed with Wall Street. “The Tribune investigation was on auction-rate securities,” said Saqib Bhatti, director of the Roosevelt Institute’s ReFund America Project. “There are only four of those. CPS has 10 or 12 other swaps, and the city of Chicago has 25 more.” Banks like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Deutsche Bank made the deals with the city.

ReFund America estimates that the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools have already paid $1.2 billion on swaps, and roughly $106 million annually since 2008. For context, last year Chicago closed nearly 50 schools in underserved areas, for a total savings of only $25 million a year.

Emanuel has publicly stated that it’s simply too late to recoup any money from bad swap deals, because “there’s a thing called a contract.” Of course, Bhatti and his colleagues allege there was a breach of contract, which can trigger legal remedies. In addition, “the same administration so quick to say a contract’s a contract was quick to throw the teachers’ contract out the window when they had a chance,” Bhatti said, referring to a bruising 2012 city teacher’s strike and Emanuel’s proposal to cut retirement benefits. “To them, a deal’s a deal except when it’s not.”

And then there’s the issue of Emanuel’s ties to Wall Street. Investment bankers, including those managing city pension funds, have delivered millions of dollars to Emanuel’s re-election campaign. While the Mayor’s office insisted Emanuel would pursue any opportunities to save taxpayers money, highlighting an ordinance to protect tenants in bank-owned foreclosed properties, advocates frustrated by the inaction on swaps remain skeptical. “This requires taking on the most powerful interest group in the country, which has been an enormous support for Rahm,” Brad Miller said.

Rahm Emanuel Fails to Show Up for Meeting with Families of Victims Killed by Chicago Police

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Tuesday March 17, 2015 10:07 am

Over a week ago, on March 5, families of loved ones killed by Chicago police officers held a press conference and demanded a meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They requested that he address the issue of police violence. His office scheduled a meeting for March 16 in the early afternoon. However, when multiple families impacted by police violence came to his office for the meeting, they found out he was going to be a no show.

“He couldn’t take out a mere hour out of his day to come talk to us. That’s unexcusable,” community activist and director of Christianaire, William Calloway, said. “Rahm Emanuel does not have our vote in the African American community and we’re going to stand together. We’re going to band together. And we’re going to make sure that man does not get re-elected come April 7.”

“I came here today to see Rahm Emanuel and he coward out and didn’t show up.,” Dorothy Holmes, mother of Ron Johnson, who was killed by police on October 12, 2014. “How do you figure he’s here for the people? He can’t even face us. And I’m not the only one feeling like he backed out on us. So, if he can’t face us, why should we vote him in office?”

Raising A Generation Of Ignoramuses

New York Hedge Funds Pour Millions of Dollars into Cuomo-Led Bid to Expand Charter Schools

Democracy Now

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Education “reformers'” new big lie: Charter schools become even more disastrous

by Jeff Bryant, Salon

Monday, Mar 2, 2015 08:30 AM EDT

Rather than directly address what ails struggling public schools, policy leaders increasingly claim that giving parents more choice about where they send their children to school – and letting that parent choice determine the funding of schools – will create a market mechanism that leaves the most competent schools remaining “in business” while incompetent schools eventually close.

Coupled with more “choice” are demands to increase the numbers of unregulated charter schools, especially those operated by private management firms that now have come to dominate roughly half the charter sector.

As schools lose more and more students to the charter schools, parents then “vote with their feet,” choice advocates argue, and the market will “work.”

In Ohio, for instance, a recent investigation into charter schools by state auditors found evidence of fraud that made North Carolina’s pale in comparison. The privately operated schools get nearly $6,000 in taxpayer money for every student they enroll, but half the charter schools the auditor looked at had “significantly lower” attendance than what they claimed in state funding.

One charter school in Youngstown had no students at all, having sent the kids home for the day at 12:30 in the afternoon.

This form of charter school fraud is so widespread, according to an article in Education Week, many states now employ “‘mystery’ or ‘secret shopper’ services used in retail” that pose as inquiring parents to call charter schools to ensure they’re educating the students they say they are.

Enrollment inflation is not the only form of fraud charter schools practice. In Missouri, a federal judge recently fingered a nationwide chain of charter schools, Imagine, for “self-dealing” in a lease agreement that allowed it to fleece a local charter school of over a million dollars.

“The facts of the case mirror arrangements in Ohio and other states,” the reporter noted, “where Imagine schools pay exorbitant rent to an Imagine subsidiary, SchoolHouse Finance. The high lease payments leave little money for classroom instruction and help explain the poor academic records of Imagine schools in both states.”

A charter school manager in Michigan is about to go on trial for steering nearly a million dollars in public funds targeted to renovate his charter school into his own bank account.

In Washington, which was late to the game of charters and choice, the state’s first charter school is already under investigation for financial and academic issues.

Investigators in the District of Columbia, recently uncovered a charter school operator who “funneled $13 million of public money into a private company for personal gain.”

A recent report from the Center for Popular Democracy looked at charter school finances in Illinois and found “$13.1 million in fraud by charter school officials … Because of the lack of transparency and necessary oversight, total fraud is estimated at $27.7 million in 2014 alone.”

One example the CPD report cited was of a charter operator in Chicago who used charter school funds amounting to more than $250,000 to purchase personal items from luxury department stores, including $2,000 on hair care and cosmetic products and $5,800 for jewelry.

While charter school operations continue to waste public money on scandals and fraud – all in the name of “choice” – newly enacted school vouchers divert more public school dollars to private schools.

In parts of Ohio, “the state-sponsored voucher program has increased or even doubled enrollment at some private schools.”

In Indiana, which has the largest taxpayer-funded school voucher program in the country, according to a local source, virtually all of the participating schools, 97 percent, are religiously affiliated private schools.

In Louisiana, over a third of students using voucher funds to attend private schools are enrolled schools “doing such a poor job of educating them that the schools have been barred from taking new voucher students.”

In parts of Wisconsin, “private schools accepting vouchers receive more money per student than public school districts do for students attending through open enrollment.”

2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Play Ins Day 2

It’s hard to characterize any of these results as upsets.  Manhattan was a mild favorite and lost, Old Miss a mild favorite who won.  Tonight (and every night for that matter) we will continue with teams I don’t root for since UConn (defending Champions) didn’t make the cut and sentimental favorite Syracuse is under a 5 year NCAA penalty with Jim Boeheim scheduled to retire in 3.

He was no damn good anyway, his players could never hit the clutch free throws.  Besides, it was Daryl Gross’s, the AD’s, fault.

So the only team I’m rooting for is State (Michigan duh) and they’re not that good.

Last Night’s Results

Score Seed Team Record Score Seed Team Record Region
64 16 Manhattan 19 – 14 74 16 * Hampton 17 – 17 Mid-West
94 11 * Mississippi 20 – 12 90 11 BYU 25 – 9 West

Tonight’s Matchups-

Time Channel Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
6:40 True 16 North Florida 23 – 11 16 Robert Morris 19 – 14 South
9:30 True 11 Dayton 25 – 8 11 Boise State 25 – 8 East

Tomorrow is the real deal and you might find this interactive analysis of upsets from The Guardian instructive.

Oh and the NCAA are still greedy bastards.

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville- I Hear You Knocking

She’s done nothing but rap on the table and tell us all that this is her house for days now. She tried to throw Dad out yesterday. I’m going to guess that was because Cleetus wasn’t available. When my father went into the kitchen she smiled at me and confided that she might just take off her shoe and sneak up and hit him with it. Once again, I reminded her that she’d better keep those shoes on her feet if she’d liked to keep them. She took umbrage, oh yes, deep umbrage at that. Like that bothers me, heh!

I had to go out yesterday, and while she will usually nap in the afternoon, it was as if she knew and got a sudden burst of energy. I had to wake my poor father to come downstairs and sit with her while Cleetus and I went to Dan’s school for a meeting. I thought for sure he would have gotten her to lay down by the time we had returned, but no dice. How the hell does she keep going? She’s up by five or six every morning. She allows Cleetus to get her coffee and light her a smoke–then she begins to spew venom at him. Just part of her daily routine. He’s always sweet to her, but the ’40’s style gun moll that lives inside her sometimes can’t wait to let him know that she’ll fix him, all right. I think we all know by now that she “knows a guy.”

This morning after an hour of the table slamming and carrying on I said, “Ma, for Christ’s sake, we know it’s your house, could you please stop pounding the table?” She was outraged. “Why? Why should I?”–say it with me now–“THIS IS MY HOUSE!!!” Oh boy. “Yeah, Ma, I know, but my head is killing me, I got a headache, could you tell me it’s your house without pounding for a bit?” No….no, apparently not. In fact, I could go to hell. Well- shit, Mom, some days feels like I’m already there. But that’s just the bad pain days.

There’s been too many bad days in a row lately. I need a break. It doesn’t look like I’m likely to get one, but poker night is coming, so at least there’s that.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Heater Digby Parton: “Radicals of a different sort”: How the reactionary right is plotting to steal the White House

Conservatives sincerely believe the nation is better off if certain people are making decisions and those people are qualified by the fact that they have money and property. As founder John Jay is said to have quipped, “the owners of the country ought to be the ones to run it.” But inconveniently for them, we do have a democracy and today the GOP is facing a serious demographic challenge, which makes it almost imperative that they find a way to stop Hispanics, young people and African-Americans from voting in big numbers or they simply will not be able to win national elections. One might expect them to take a second look at that ideology and see if maybe it could use some revision for the 21st century, but that’s a problem too. This ideology, which confers “freedom” in degrees commensurate with how much money you have, is fundamental to their beliefs and is not easily changed.

Fifty years ago brave civil rights activists in the streets and a president and other officials who knew the moment for change had arrived put justice and equality ahead of a property owner’s right to discriminate and the state’s right to deny the vote to their citizens. It was a radical move, necessitating a serious challenge to federalism. Unfortunately, the story did not end there. Millhiser reminds us at the end of his piece that Johnson and company may have been radicals in their time but today the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts overturned much of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and Sen. Rand Paul, who lugubriously proclaims that liberty is never harder for him than when his philosophical integrity forces him to support the constitutional rights of racist property owners over everyone else’s, is running for president.

Those people are radicals of a different sort and they stand ready to overturn and subvert progress wherever they find it.

Jess Zimmerman: Our relationship with the internet will always be inseparable from commerce

The commerce aspect of the web is inscribed in its DNA: “www” and “.com” go together in our minds, no matter what’s in the middle. Even with new and upcoming options like .republican, .party, .sucks and .wang (none of which I am making up), the extension .com, originally “commercial,” will always mean “the internet” for anyone born in the last four decades.

The history of online commerce is the history of the web in miniature, because everything we do online is commerce of a sort. We pay for our wishes in money or attention or data – but we always pay.

The web first made it slightly easier to find what we desired, whether that was goods or information or social connection. By connecting with people who wanted the same things we wanted, we could share hints and leads and tips more widely than ever before. Then it became much easier, even without the middleman; now, it is nearly effortless to find something to buy or something to know. One cost, at the risk of sounding like a scold, was loss of value. The precious became commonplace – for goods, but also for interpersonal connections and knowledge.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel: Martin O’Malley sounds like he’s running

At a moment when everybody in Washington is talking about e-mails, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley (D) wants to talk about Wall Street reform. Indeed, while Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail address at the State Department has created a media frenzy and overshadowed other issues, the past week brought additional news in the Democratic primary: O’Malley is almost certainly running for president. And he’s determined to make his voice heard despite some pundits dismissing his ability to mount a “credible” challenge to Clinton for the party’s nomination.

The swirl of controversy surrounding Clinton has not only called her inevitability into question but also given much of the media an excuse to focus on optics rather than policy coverage, which is just one of the reasons O’Malley’s emergence is a positive development. A contested Democratic primary will be good for the country, good for the party, good for democracy and good for driving issues that might otherwise be ignored into the election.

Michelle Chen: Immigrant Workers Are Being Deported for Getting Injured on the Job

Leopoldo Zumaya stumbled while pruning a tree in 2004 and fell into a legal black hole. The apple picker’s broken leg got him promptly booted out of his work camp. And though he fought for the compensation he was entitled to, ultimately he received only a fraction of what a worker with immigration papers could have gotten under Pennsylvania state law.

According to Zumaya’s legal testimony, “The insurance company refused to pay for my workers’ compensation benefits when they found out from my employer that I was undocumented.” Without adequate workers’ compensation coverage or other benefits, he stated, “I have not been able to see a doctor, receive medication or undergo physical therapy.”

Like many products of the global economy, the undocumented immigrants who work in every US industry are treated like disposable goods, tossed away once worn out or damaged. But before an international commission this week, workers showed the scars that can’t be wiped away: the uncompensated damage wrought under a legal regime that renders them invisible.

Katie McDonough: Ambivalent about kids or terrified of going broke? What our lack of paid family leave means for young people

The United States is among the only advanced economies in the world without a paid leave policy in place. President Obama signed a memorandum in January directing federal agencies to allow workers to take up to six weeks paid leave, and called on Congress to follow suit. But with Republicans threatening to block the confirmation of Loretta Lynch over an antiabortion amendment and writing bizarre letters to foreign governments, timely congressional action on paid leave is more of a drug hallucination than viable agenda item.

Congress remains at peak disaster, leaving the possibility of paid leave for American workers largely with the states. Which brings us to New York. Despite widespread public and bipartisan political support for some version of the policy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that the issue is more window dressing than anything. According to Cuomo, state lawmakers just don’t have the “appetite” for it.

The Breakfast Club (Die, Winter, Die)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo 807561379_e6771a7c8e_zps7668d00e.jpg

This Day in History

Russian cosmonaut first man to walk in space; Singer John Philips of The Mamas and The Papas died of heart failure at a hospital in Los Angeles.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

What if we’re on the right path but headed the wrong way?

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III, Some Assembly Required

America’s Flawed Obsession with Assassination by Drone

Andrew Cockburn, the editor of Harper‘s magazine, sat down with “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart to discuss his new book Kill Chain: The Rise of High-Tech Assassins,” that exams America’s flawed obsession with high tech ways to assassinate people with drones.  

You can read an excerpt from his book at Counterpunch.

On This Day In History March 18

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 18 is the 77th day of the year (78th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 288 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1766, the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act

After four months of widespread protest in America, the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act, a taxation measure enacted to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. However, the same day, Parliament passed the Declaratory Acts, asserting that the British government had free and total legislative power over the colonies.

The Stamp Act of 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London and carrying an embossed revenue stamp. These printed materials were legal documents, magazines, newspapers and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies. Like previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money. The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America after the British victory in the Seven Years’ War. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense.

The Stamp Act met great resistance in the colonies. The colonies sent no representatives to Parliament, and therefore had no influence over what taxes were raised, how they were levied, or how they would be spent. Many colonists considered it a violation of their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent, consent that only the colonial legislatures could grant. Colonial assemblies sent petitions and protests. The Stamp Act Congress held in New York City, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure, also petitioned Parliament and the King. Local protest groups, led by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence that created a loose coalition that extended from New England to Georgia. Protests and demonstrations initiated by the Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive as the masses became involved. Very soon all stamp tax distributors were intimidated into resigning their commissions, and the tax was never effectively collected.

Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies. British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the colonies were threatened by colonial economic problems exacerbated by the tax, also pressured Parliament. The Act was repealed on March 18, 1766 as a matter of expedience, but Parliament affirmed its power to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever” by also passing the Declaratory Act. This incident increased the colonists’ concerns about the intent of the British Parliament that helped the growing movement that became the American Revolution.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Opera)

Poo Mountain

Larry has left no clue, not even on Twitter, what the heck tonightly’s subject is.  Thanks for nothing Larry.


Jim and Artie would not approve

This Week’s Guests-

When last we saw Amanda Seyfried, Cosette was pledged to Marius, Eponine was dead, and Jean Valjean was dying to be welcomed in heaven by Anne Hathaway and pretty much the whole massive body count of Paris.

Remember Rule #3 of Opera– “Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.”

She’s a big fan of taxidermy (eew) with a baby horse, a fox, an owl, a moose, a goat, a hybrid deer, and butterflies in her collection.  She’s probably on to talk about Ted 2, another in a long list of movies I will never watch except by accident.

Andrew Cockburn’s 2 part web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.