Searching diligently for the much-discussed sweet spot that lies somewhere between fundamental structural change and the world as it is—a “revolution” and the status quo ante, that long-ago time before Trump. Let’s see, is it here? No… Here? No… Maybe over there? Not there either. Oh, wait, there it is: It’s the status quo!
Mayor Pete: “I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump, with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950s, and Bernie Sanders with a nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960s.” Why does Mayor Pete hate the Black Freedom Movement? And Donald Trump’s nostalgia is way past the “social order of the 1950’s”—more like the social order of Mussolini’s Italy of the 1930’s.
I just finished reading Professor Joseph A. Buttigieg’s monumental biography of Antonio Gramsci, author of the dazzling Prison Notebooks, one of the most original and extraordinarily humanistic Marxist thinkers of his time, and head of the Italian Communist Party in the early Twentieth Century. Gramsci died in a Mussolini prison in 1937. Buttigieg’s translations and scholarly work on Gramsci have been praised by Edward Said, Terry Eagleton, Frederic Jameson, Gayatri Spivak, and a host of other Left intellectuals. The more frantic Mayor Pete’s red-baiting of Bernie becomes, the more I think of the life’s work of his late father Joseph, the former William R. Kenan Jr. Professor English at the University of Notre Dame, and how disappointed he would be. Mayor Pete is driving the train way beyond the “Unelectable Myth” deep into the territory of McCarthyite smears. Wake up, Mayor Pete!
KIM FOXX in her own words:
The people who want to keep talking about Jussie Smollett want to distract you from what’s actually going on: States Attorney Kim Foxx’s strong record of safety and criminal justice reform, her systematic work to separate serious crime that harms our community from nuisance and nonsense.
When you strip away Jussie Smollett’s notoriety as an up-and-coming celebrity, he was simply a first-time, non-violent offender, and this case was handled exactly the same way other first-time, low-level offender cases are handled. He forfeited a $10,000 bond and did community service. He didn’t “get away with it.”
During the time that Jussie Smollett headlines first swept the local and national media, the State’s Attorney’s Office took 10 murder trials to trial that resulted in verdicts of guilty.
In this—her first term in office—State’s Attorney Foxx has:
Led the nation in reversing the impact of the failed war on drugs by expunging over 1,000 low-level marijuana offenses with more to come…
Reduced the incarceration rate in Cook County by nearly 20% and diverted individuals to alternative treatment programs in record numbers…
Built a national model for conviction integrity, restoring public trust and vacating over 90 wrongful convictions…
Overseen a drop in violent crime and an increase in the conviction rate for violent offenses…
Built the most transparent prosecutor’s office in the country, providing unprecedented public access to how cases are handled by her office…
Transformed Cook County into a national model for fair and equitable bail reform…
The national criminal justice movement is on the line—if Foxx loses, criminal justice reform will be set back for a decade or more in Cook County and Illinois, and it will suffer nationally as well. Your vote matters to our future a lot more than Jussie Smollett matters to anything.
And, you can read more:
Chicago Reader: Why We Can’t Abandon Kim Foxx by Jane Sacks & Emma Ruby-Sachs
Chicago Sun-Times: Kim Foxx’s critics waste too much time on Jussie Smollett by Laura Washington
Chicago Tribune: Controversy in Jussie Smollett case illustrates divide along racial, class lines over Kim Foxx’s criminal justice reform efforts in Cook County by Lolly Bowean and Gregory Pratt
For release 2/27/20
BERNIE’S ASSAULT ON OUR CLICHÉ OF GREATNESS
By Robert C. Koehler
“Excuse me, occasionally it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy.”
I don’t think I’ve heard that much honesty from a mainstream-party presidential candidate in virtually half a century. And suddenly this race begins to matter in a way that seems like . . . oh my God, a return of democracy? Suddenly I don’t feel utterly marginalized as a voter, as an American, left with nothing but cynical despair as I wait to learn which “lesser evil” the Dems will serve up for me as a candidate.
The words are those of Bernie Sanders, of course, standing up to the red-baiting the moderators and some of the other candidates were slinging at him during the latest debate, trying their best to bring him down.
He went on: “That includes the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world — in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran.”
Well, yeah, but . . . we’re still the greatest country on the planet, right? I get why the corporate media hates Sanders and wants to get rid of him ASAP. The American political center (as it likes to call itself) has done a helluva job marginalizing the truth-wielding, anti-war, pro-empathy, pro-sanity wing of the American population ever since the early ’70s, in the wake of George McGovern’s shattering defeat by Nixon. Never again! The taming of the liberal agenda cleared the way for the Reagan domestic counter-revolution and the U.S. military’s recovery from Vietnam Syndrome and public distaste for war. But now that all this is settled and endless, profit-spewing war is quiet background noise . . .
Along comes Bernie Sanders, giving voice to ideas and realities that have long been declared taboo in American political discourse, certainly at the level of presidential politics. Could real change — what I like to think of as evolution — actually start claiming political traction again?
Sanders is leading in the polls and has won the early state caucuses and primaries, but there’s no telling if he’ll succeed in actually claiming the Democratic nomination or, my God, defeating the orange-haired one, much less pushing a progressive, peace- and environment-conscious agenda through Congress. But this much seems apparent right now: He’s beating — and, I hope, deconstructing — the centrist media.
These highly paid bouncers are so used to defining the political limits of the American spectator democracy — i.e., establishing the nature of reality (it’s a big horse race) — they are ever more contemptuous of someone like Sanders, not to mention the constituency for whom he speaks. A glaring example of this contempt was Chris Matthews’ idiotic blather on MSNBC last week, in the wake of Sanders’ big win in the Nevada caucus, managing in a twisted analogy to compare this victory to the Nazi invasion of France in 1940.
Well, it turns out Matthews hit himself in the head with his own hardball. His profoundly offensive analogy immediately generated a #FireChrisMatthews hashtag and he was forced to spew an apology in order to keep his job.
“Senator Sanders,” he said two days later on his show “Hardball,” “I’m sorry for comparing anything from that tragic era in which so many suffered, especially the Jewish people, to an elected result in which you were a well-deserved winner. This is going to be a hard-fought, heated campaign of ideas.”
The apology was accepted by the Sanders campaign, whose manager said “we hope to get fairer coverage going forward.” And maybe they actually will! But what’s worth pondering for a moment is the atmosphere behind the scenes at MSNBC, and throughout the corporate media, prior to Matthews’ remark. Sanders had relatives murdered in the Holocaust, for God’s sake, but how could such a stupid comment form in a pundit’s consciousness as a newsworthy observation about any candidate’s victory? The anti-Sanders, and therefore anti-progressive, atmosphere at MSNBC must have been wide open and uncontained.
And indeed, consider one of the primary lines of attack on Sanders, the democratic socialist, by the corporate media: red-baiting.
Red-baiting is a throwback to the unrestrained Cold War era, in the early ’50s — the McCarthy era, the HUAC era — when a grotesquely hypocritical moral righteousness gained sufficient governmental power to limit Americans’ freedom of speech and thought by poisoning certain political positions with the label “communist.” Has this era returned?
Sanders has been lambasted recently for such sins as saying something good about Fidel Castro, telling Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes”: “It’s unfair to simply say everything is bad, When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” Pundits have been trying desperately to tear Sanders to shreds over this outrage (and seem to have no memory of the mob-linked Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban leader overthrown by the Castro revolution).
The media has also made a point of reporting that Sanders has been briefed by U.S. intelligence that the Russians are attempting to help his campaign, seemingly because he’s the candidate least likely to defeat Trump. While the briefing occurred over a month ago, it only became news, reported by the Washington Post, the day before the Nevada caucus. Sanders’ response: “I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.”
And then there was the New York Times, throwing such poison seeds into the wind as “his support for the Sandinistas” — as though there weren’t legitimate reasons to support them and extreme controversy during the Reagan years about U.S. support for the anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua, known as the contras. And in the same paragraph, the Times seems to summon the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, informing America that Sanders had a “honeymoon in the Soviet Union.”
Can you imagine electing a president so arrogant he actually claims the right to think for himself and challenge U.S. foreign policy, past and present? A president who honeymooned under the Soviet moon?
As the media is pointing out, the cliché we deeply cherish — we’re good, they’re bad — is under assault in 2020.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1968, and still relevant today:
“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that—because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice—the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries . . . Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism… We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late.”
On the 125th anniversary of the great Frederick Douglass:
Remembering Malcolm X on the 55th Anniversary of his assassination—Thank you Malcolm X!
Former Governor Rod Blagojevich is back home in his north side house this morning, having been pardoned by the Criminal President.
I agree with Mayor Lightfoot.
“Blagojevich is a real touchstone for a lot of people of what is wrong in Illinois politics,” Lightfoot said, noting that the crimes for which Blagojevich was convicted were “very, very serious” and involved attempts to “monetize his public office.”
Meanwhile, while Blago is home with his wife and kids, the United States criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.
The mainstream media loves stories like Blago and Jussie Smollet. They do more to hide the country’s incarceration crisis than illustrate or analyze it.
Curtis Black in the Chicago Reporter:
The number of people sentenced to incarcerations declined 19% last year — dropping from 12,262 in 2017 to 9,941 in 2018 — while FBI statistics showed reports of violent crimes in Chicago dropped by 8%, according to the report from the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, Reclaim Chicago and the People’s Lobby.
The data reinforce “the case made by criminal justice reform advocates that incarceration is not the best strategy to improve public safety,” according to the report.
“In fact, the root causes of many crimes, including poverty and lack of mental health services or substance use treatment, go unaddressed or are made worse through prison sentences. Incarceration disrupts what little security and stability people have, hurting entire communities by separating parents from children, workers from employment and caregivers from the people who need them most.”
According to the report, a major factor in the decline in incarceration rates was Foxx’s decision shortly after taking office in December 2016 to raise the bar for felony retail theft charges from $300 to $1,000. Nearly 4,500 fewer felony retail theft charges were filed in Foxx’s first two years in office, compared to the previous two years.
The report uses information from a new data portal on felony charges released by Foxx’s office earlier this year.
Foxx also increased by 25% the number of people referred to diversion programs, where felony convictions are waived if individuals provide restitution or complete substance abuse treatment programs. In addition, she improved prosecutor training and gave front-line prosecutors greater discretion to negotiate plea deals and drop charges when “prosecution isn’t the best way to promote community health and safety,” according to the report.
It’s the third report by the three groups monitoring Foxx’s progress. Their report earlier this year recommended that felony drug cases could be reduced if prosecutors reviewed charges rather than allowing police officers to file them without review, as is now the case.
Overall, the new report shows that Foxx “is living up to her promises,” said Kristi Sanford of Reclaim Chicago. The state’s attorney’s office “is looking at what makes the community safer, instead of just throwing people in jail,” she said.
“If people have accepted responsibility for retail theft or drug possession, jailing them is not necessarily the best choice,” since it “makes it much harder for those individuals to stabilize their lives,” Sanford said.
The social media debate will continue for a few days about whether Blago should have served his full 14 year sentence.
But then hopefully he will go away.
But with nearly 3 million incarcerated people in the U.S. I’m hoping to reduce it by more than just one crooked ex-governor.
I’m voting for Kim Foxx.