Tommy Robinson Exploiting the Misery of the White Working Class

Last Monday, 13th May 2019, the great man at the Zelo Street blog put up an article explaining how Tommy Robinson was avoiding the more prosperous areas of northwest England to concentrate instead on the poorest, and those areas with the highest levels of depression. The virulent anti-Islam campaigner, late of the EDL, Pegida UK and the BNP, was avoiding towns like Crewe, Chester, Southport, Lancaster, Northwich, Winsford, Runcorn, St Helens, Ellesmere Port, Chorley, Wilmslow, Ashton-under-Lyne, and places like them. Instead, he was concentrating on towns like Brinnington, Birkenhead, Blackpool, Rochdale, Burnley, and Barrow-in-Furness.

Brinnington has the highest levels of clinical depression in the north and midlands. According to the Groaniad, it accounted for 23.6 per cent of all cases seen by GPs in the town. Four other areas with the highest levels of depression are in or near Birkenhead – Bidston Hill, Tranmere, Woodchurch and Birkenhead Central. Another two are in Fleetwood, near Blackpool. Robinson is due to visit that fair town, as well as Carlisle, which has another area with a very high incidence of depression. Three more areas are Rochdale, whose Heywood area Robinson was due to visit on Saturday. Robinson cancelled a visit to Blackburn, but turned up in Burnley, which has two of England’s most deprived towns near it. He also planned on visiting Barrow-in-Furness, which has an acute heroin problem.

Zelo Street concluded

And by pure coincidence, Stephen Lennon is favouring the area with a visit this week. All the while, The Great Man is waving his begging bowl, telling those amongst whom he comes that he needs their help. That they live on the margins of society, and he lives in the lap of luxury, does not seem to occur to those willing to cheer him on.

Living high on the hog while preying on misery. Welcome to the Tommy Tour.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/tommy-robinson-campaign-trades-on-misery.html

It’s not just that Robinson is exploiting the poverty and poor mental health afflicting the people of those towns, he’s also trying use their misery to distract them from the real economic and political causes of their problems. These areas have suffered from the decline of traditional industries, resulting in high unemployment rates. Which would also account for the massive rise in depression due to the lack of self-esteem, hopelessness and sheer despair. These are areas that have not been helped by the neoliberalism embraced and enthusiastically promoted by the Tories, the Lib Dems and Blairite Labour. Thatcher made it very clear that she did not believe in providing any help to failing industries or direct state interference in the economy. Failing companies were to be allowed to fail, on the grounds that state aid was inefficient and would prevent the operation of the market forces that would see new industries take off to provide work and prosperity.

This hasn’t happened. These areas are still poor and depressed. And it was situation made worse in the 1990s when the Tories decided to destroy whatever remained of the British mining industry. This was touted, again, as saving the country from supporting a failing and uneconomic industry, but the real reason was to destroy the NUM, which had overthrown Heath’s government in the 1970s.

But Conservative ideology prevents any discussion of the failings of private industry or the precious market forces, which the supporters of the free market are constantly telling us must be obeyed at all costs, and will ultimately bring back jobs and wealth. And so scapegoats must be found to explain why the free market isn’t working as it should, or to direct popular anger away the businessmen, think tanks and politicians pushing these policies. And so Fascists like Robinson accuse racial or religious minorities or outside groups of causing these problems. The Nazis made Jews synonymous with capitalism, and so claimed they had created a socialist Germany when they persecuted and murdered them. Capitalism, however, was retained and encouraged, although private industry was subject to a complex system of state planning. George Orwell described it as ‘the socialism of fools’. And right-wing populist politicians across the world, from Trump in America to the EDL, UKIP and the Brexit party in Britain are doing it today. Aided by mainstream Conservatives.

The right-wing press, and particularly the Heil and Speccie, have been telling their working class readers that their poor and underprivileged, not because of Tory policies that have decimated manufacturing industry and are destroying the NHS and welfare state for the profit of big business. No, it’s because high-spending Labour authorities and liberal ‘political correctness’ are deliberately diverting funding to undeserving groups, like Blacks, other ethnic minorities, gays and in the case of Tommy Robinson and his supporters, Scary Muslims.

The right have been doing this since Bacon’s Rebellion in 17th century. This was a revolt in Virginia where the slaves were joined by White indentured servants. The rebellion was put down, but to ensure that Blacks and poor Whites never united again to challenge the social hierarchy, laws were passed that separated Blacks from Whites, and gave Whites a higher social status. But crucially, these laws did not improve conditions for the indentured White servants. Materially, they gained nothing from these laws. Nevertheless, they had the psychological effect intended. From then on, White indentured servants didn’t make common cause with the slaves against their exploitation, or at least, not so much, because Blacks were now their social inferiors.

And it’s the same here. Robinson fully supports neoliberalism. Indeed, in his attack on a female academic at Liverpool John Moores University, he defended it against left-wing academics such as herself. He and his supporters offer precious little that will make the lives of ordinary working people better. The only thing they offer is more division and hatred.

There are issues with Islam, such as the continuing malign influence of the preachers of hate and the dangers of self-radicalisation for the young and disaffected through the internet. And authorities have targeted ethnic minorities for a greater proportion of aid because these groups are, or have been, more deprived, or have specific needs that can only be addressed through projects directed to them. Like the rape helpline for women from ethnic minorities, which Robinson so grossly misrepresented as deliberately excluding Whites and legitimising the assault of White women. It wasn’t the case, and his vile tweets about it resulted in the phone line having to be shut down because of the abusive calls they were receiving, thus depriving extremely vulnerable women of the help they needed.

Fortunately, Robinson’s tour of the northwest isn’t going as smoothly as he planned. A string of towns have made it clear that he is not welcome, there have been large counterprotests. And to cap it all, the internet platform, Stripe, that makes it possible for people to donate their hard earned cash to him, has thrown him off. Which makes it a bit more difficult for him to scrounge off the poor and misinformed.

Robinson poses as a member of the working class, defending them from the politically correct Left and militant Islam. He isn’t. He’s a very rich man, thanks to the money he’s been given by his followers. And he offers nothing to the working class except more neglect and poverty, but with racial hatred and suspicion added. He’s a disgrace.

This Thursday, those who really want to see working people’s lives improved should ignore him, and his lies about Europe and Muslims, and vote for somebody else instead.

Republican Justin Amash Gets What Top Democrats Don’t — It’s Time to Impeach Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 9:58pm in



Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., walks up the House steps for a vote in the Capitol on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Rep. Justin Amash walks up the House steps for a vote in the Capitol on May 9, 2019.

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP

Congratulations to Justin Amash! On Saturday, the representative from Michigan’s 3rd district became the first Republican member of Congress to call for impeachment, arguing that President Trump’s actions and behavior, as detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report, “meet the threshold” for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Amash, who is Palestinian American and a proud Tea Party libertarian, has clashed with the president and his GOP colleagues before, on a range of issues — from the war in Yemen to funding for the border wall to the Muslim ban. But his decision to declare his open support for impeachment is far and away the most dramatic and defiant moment of his political career.

Here’s the start of his tweetstorm on the Mueller report (and it’s very worth your time to read the whole thing).

The thin-skinned Trump was quick to denounce Amash on Sunday morning, calling him a “lightweight” and a “loser,” while again falsely claiming that the special counsel found no evidence of obstruction of justice. (Spoiler alert: The Mueller report contains at least 10 different explicit examples of Trumpian obstruction.)

Amash joins more than 900 former federal prosecutors, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, who believe Trump’s behavior, as outlined by Mueller, would have resulted in “multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice” were he a private citizen and not the president of the United States. Conservative law professor J.W. Verret, a former member of the Trump transition team, has written how the “elaborate pattern of obstruction” uncovered by the report is, at a minimum, enough “to get the impeachment process started.”

Plenty of liberals are asking why there aren’t more Republican members of Congress with the guts, eloquence, or honesty to say what Amash has said. It’s a good question. But a better, more relevant question is this: Why aren’t there more Democrats willing to say the same?

After all, the two most senior members of the House Democratic leadership — Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — as well as key Democratic committee chairs, such as Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff, have spent the past few weeks loudly and repeatedly throwing cold water on the idea of impeaching Trump. Pelosi has called impeachment “divisive” and “not worth it.” Hoyer, on the day the Mueller report was released and before he had even read it, said, “Going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point.” Last week, in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to defy congressional subpoenas, Nadler told CNBC: “I don’t want to make it sound as if we’re heading for impeachment. Probably we’re not.”

What is wrong with these people? Why are they so afraid of their own shadows? Pelosi told CNN after last November’s midterms that impeachment should be done in a “bipartisan way.” Well, Amash is a Republican and one of the most conservative members of the House. So it’s bipartisan now. In fact, a few other Republicans might throw their weight behind impeachment too — if Pelosi & Co. can be bothered to hold the hearings, make the case, and call a vote.

Some House Democrats worry that a failure to secure conviction in the GOP-controlled Senate, where they lack the requisite two-thirds majority, might cost them the 2020 presidential election by riling up the Trump base and boosting Republican turnout. Pelosi told an audience at Cornell University earlier this month that she believes Trump is “goading” Democrats to try to impeach him in order to help him “solidify his base” of supporters ahead of next November.

Sorry, this is absurd on so many levels. First, does anyone seriously believe that the petulant and touchy narcissist in the Oval Office wants to be impeached? That he wants to have his actions — and his finances! — pored over by House Democrats? That he wants his kids dragged in front of televised impeachment hearings? That he wants to be remembered by history as only the third president to ever be impeached by the House? Come. Off. It.

Second, the president’s cultish base needs no new excuses to get riled up and needs no solidifying. These are people who are still chanting “Lock her up!” at Trump rallies. The president’s approval ratings among Republicans, lest we forget, stands at 90 percent.

Third, the Democrats should worry less about the GOP base turning out next year and much more about their own. A big majority of the Democratic base wants to see Trump impeached. How is it bad politics to give them what they want?

Fourth, what happens over the next 18 months if they do nothing? Can they not see how there is a clear political cost to not impeaching him, too? Listen to Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor who served under presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr.:

Don’t believe her? Check out Trump’s own belligerent behavior since top congressional Democrats effectively took impeachment off the table. “My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on,” the president tweeted last week. “Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!”

Ludicrous charges of treason aside, Trump has also said it would be “appropriate” for him to speak to Attorney General William Barr about investigating his 2020 Democratic opponents. This is the direct and unsurprising result of immunizing this president from the impeachment process. This is what happens when House Democrats say it’s “not worth it.” Trump now sees himself as unchecked and unrestrained; able to say and do as he pleases. It is an age-old lesson: If you give the bully a pass, he doesn’t back off or calm down. He comes back to bully some more.

Congressional Democrats need to find their spines. This is a period of unprecedented danger for the republic, with a lawless and reckless president gearing up for the dirtiest of presidential campaigns, while committing impeachable offenses in front of our eyes on a near weekly basis.

Impeachment itself, as outlined in the Constitution, may have originally been designed as a political remedy to be used in “extraordinary circumstances,” but — to quote Amash — the risk right now is “not that Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct.”

On impeachment, therefore, and with apologies to Hillel the Elder, the only real question the Democrats need to ask themselves is: If not Trump, who, and if not now, when?

The post Republican Justin Amash Gets What Top Democrats Don’t — It’s Time to Impeach Trump appeared first on The Intercept.

The Definitive Guide for Cable Hosts, Bookers, and Editors to the Fraud and Failure that was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 9:44pm in



Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel leaves office Monday after two terms, and America might begin seeing a lot more of him after that. He’s already been shopping around for a cable news gig, meeting with executives at CNN and MSNBC, and is represented by his brother Ari’s talent agency. He’s been making the rounds of cable shows, dispensing advice about how Democrats need to focus on winning over Donald Trump’s base. He’s been taking up regular space in The Atlantic, Washington’s resting spot for chin-stroking thoughtfulness.

He’s even advised party leaders to “drive what I call a triangulation“ — using the term for the discredited strategy under which the Clinton administration (and a younger Rahm Emanuel) pursued punitive welfare reform and mandatory minimum sentences in order to win over Republican voters. He also famously advised grassroots party activists to “take a chill pill” following Trump’s election, while Emanuel unsuccessfully tried to find common ground with the new administration on infrastructure spending and on limiting police oversight in Chicago.

Emanuel appears to be “developing a new side gig: warning Democrats about the dangers of 21st Century progressivism,” criticizing newly-elected U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and “hoping there’s a demand for one last defender of the neoliberalism that defined his career — a voice to warn his party against the perils of socialism,” according to Chicago Magazine. This, despite the fact that six socialists were elected to the City Council in Chicago’s recent election.

Emanuel has a set of talking points to claim a variety of accomplishments for his mayoralty, and he’s even writing a book on “why mayors rule the world” — though one local pundit says the book “sounds more like a revisionist memoir about an egomaniac’s eight years in office building his personal brand and the fancy part of town while letting down struggling Chicagoans.”

Long known for his skill at attracting favorable media coverage, Emanuel seems to be doing quite well on that count. East and West Coast TV hosts from Fareed Zakaria to Bill Maher fawn over his tough-guy image and supposed strategic brilliance, but they never offer any reality checks.

So let’s do one. A national audience deserves to know what those of us in Chicago have already figured out: Emanuel’s mayoral administration is littered with failures and false claims, and the recent elections in Chicago represents a complete repudiation of the Emanuel years. The new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, was one of Emanuel’s foremost critics on police reform. Alderman Patrick O’Connor, Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, a 40-year incumbent, was one of several top mayoral allies who were defeated — in O’Connor’s case, by a young Latino Democratic socialist. Meanwhile, Emanuel’s finance committee chair is now facing federal corruption charges, and his zoning committee chair disappeared in December when word leaked that he wore a wire for the feds after coming under investigation himself.

And on a significant range of issues, Chicagoans are turning away from Emanuel’s initiatives.


Protesters with the Mental Health Movement stage a sit-in outside Mayor Emanuel’s office on Nov. 15, 2011.

Photo: M. Spencer Green/AP

Mental Health Crisis

The biggest controversy of Emanuel’s first year in office was his closing of half the city’s public mental health clinics, most of them on the South Side. While patients were supposed to be referred to the remaining six clinics, hundreds fell through the cracks. For months, protestors from the Mental Health Movement disrupted Emanuel’s public appearances; they sat outside the mayor’s office and occupied one of the clinics slated for closing. They probably succeeded in preventing Emanuel from closing the rest of the clinics in subsequent years.

But the first round of closings went through, and a study published a few years later by the Collaborative for Community Wellness found that Chicago’s Southwest Side had 0.17 licensed mental health clinicians per 1,000 residents, compared to 4.45 per 1,000 in the wealthy Near North Side.

As shootings skyrocketed in Chicago neighborhoods, the need for mental health services to reduce and prevent violence as well as assist survivors of trauma became a frequent refrain. Seven years after the closings, a few months after Emanuel announced he wouldn’t seek reelection, the City Council voted unanimously to establish a Public Mental Health Clinic Service Expansion Task Force to identify gaps in the city’s mental health services and “explore re-opening of mental health clinics.”

Environmental Crisis

In an austerity push during his first year in office, Emanuel eliminated the city’s Department of Environment. In typical Emanuel-style messaging — which is often just a little too clever — he said the point was to make environmental sustainability the goal of every department.

But the result has been a de-emphasis on environmental issues. Chicago’s recycling rate has remained abysmally low. In February, an analysis by the Better Government Association and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University revealed that the city now has half the number of environmental inspectors that it had eight years ago, and the number of annual inspections, not surprisingly, also fell by more than half. 


After citywide testing in Chicago found high levels of lead in the tap water in 2018, many residents installed water filter systems in their homes.

Photo: Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

“Hazardous material inspections fell by more than 90 percent between 2010 and 2018; air quality inspections plunged almost 70 percent; and solid waste inspections dropped by more than 60 percent,” BGA and Medill reported. The Emanuel administration issued less than one-third the number of environmental citations than the city did in the preceding seven years.

Then came a devastating environmental scandal. Emanuel had begun a series of increases to homeowners’ water and sewer fees — they’ve essentially doubled in subsequent years, with thousands of homeowners facing water shutoffs — to finance replacement of the city’s aging water mains. In 2013, the EPA warned that the work could increase lead levels in tap water by disturbing service lines to homes. (Due to the plumbers union’s clout with the Democratic machine, Chicago required that service lines connecting homes to the city’s water pipes be made of lead until the mid-1980s, decades after other cities had banned the toxic metal.)

For five years, the Emanuel administration insisted that lead levels in annual tests were safe. But in 2018, the Chicago Tribune revealed that lead levels were above federal health standards in 30 percent of homes where homeowners had requested tests after work was done.

Emanuel rejected demands that the city assist homeowners financially in replacing service lines, as other cities have done. And when aldermen sought hearings on whether the city was violating federal law by allowing unsafe levels of lead in its water, Emanuel’s floor leader O’Connor blocked them. Lightfoot and key aldermen now support reestablishing a separate environment department.

Education Crisis

It was on education that Emanuel tried — and failed — to make his bones as a tough, competent city manager and as a New Democrat willing to stand up to labor. It’s also an area where, judging from a recent article by Emanuel in The Atlantic, he now hopes to frame some kind of legacy as an “education mayor.”

On some major points in that article, he appears to be counting on the ignorance of non-Chicago readers. He discusses recognizing the importance of principal leadership as some kind of revelation. That’s rich, knowing that Chicago Public Schools’ biggest scandal during his administration ­— the one that sent CPS’s chief to federal prison — involved a principal training program that principals denounced as low-quality, pre-packaged, and generally irrelevant. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, nicknamed “B3″ by Emanuel, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to steering the $20 million no-bid contract through in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. (Byrd-Bennett’s successor, a longtime friend of Emanuel’s, would go on to resign after getting caught lying to ethics investigators.) Meanwhile, the head of the principals association says budgeting changes at CPS have handcuffed principals.

Similarly, Emanuel boasts of increased graduation rates without referring to local reporting showing that one factor in their rise was the introduction of alternative schools run by for-profit contractors, which operate as diploma mills for the most difficult students. They are often storefronts in strip malls, where students spend a few hours a day at “computer learning stations” compiling credits to meet graduation requirements that are lower than those in district-run schools. Also missing from his account is an investigation that showed graduation rates were artificially inflated by listing thousands of dropouts as “transfers.”


Members of the Kelly High School marching band drum line lead a protest on July 11, 2013, against funding and staff cuts to their neighborhood schools in Chicago.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

All the statistics Emanuel cites as signs of success cover up the hundreds of millions of dollars of budget cuts neighborhood schools have suffered under his watch. His article claims he’s learned the importance of wraparound services but ignores the drastic reduction in the number of counselors, social workers, and librarians he’s carried out. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of school librarians in CPS declined by two-thirds.

The best index of Emanuel’s failures — and of the failure of his mayorally appointed school board to provide meaningful oversight — is the fact that Chicago is now on the verge of rejecting mayoral control of schools and moving to an elected school board.

Emanuel campaigned in 2011 promising to expand charter schools, attacking the teachers union as the enemy of reform. Before he was even sworn in, he worked with a multimillionaire school reformer named Bruce Rauner to pass state legislation that raised the threshold for a Chicago teachers union strike vote. (In his brief career in investment banking, Emanuel had aided Rauner in a deal which earned his company a half-billion dollars, and the two were friends who vacationed together; but after Rauner was elected governor as a Republican in 2014, his budget brinksmanship, tying a settlement to his demands for anti-union legislation, added significantly to the fiscal woes of Chicago and its school system.) After he was elected, Emanuel’s school board used an obscure contract provision to cancel the teachers’ annual raise, claiming it was unaffordable — while diverting $58 million from CPS to the city budget to pay for past “security services.”

Emanuel’s outspoken hostility to teachers, reflecting corporate school reformers’ position that “teacher accountability” based on test scores was the key to school improvement, certainly helped union leadership win 90 percent approval in a strike vote. In the second year of his administration, Chicago schools experienced their first teachers strike in 25 years.

Emanuel has always claimed the issue was a longer school day, but in fact that question had been largely settled in a side agreement with the teachers union the summer before the strike, when CPS agreed to hire hundreds of art, music, and gym teachers so that additional time would include richer programming that had been cut at many Chicago schools. Emanuel also claims he won changes in teacher evaluation in the settlement. But the big issue was the proportion of teacher evaluations that would be based on test scores, and the contract set that proportion at the minimum established by a new state law. In fact, despite his best efforts to paint a prettier picture, the strike was a huge defeat for Emanuel.

The saga of Emanuel and his charter schools is even more sorry. In 2011, the two leading charter chains in Chicago were UNO, founded by a Latino community organization which had been brought into Mayor Richard J. Daley’s political fold, and the Noble Network. UNO’s chief executive, Juan Rangel, was the co-chair of Emanuel’s campaign committee and appeared frequently with the candidate. Five years later, Rangel paid a $10,000 fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that he’d defrauded investors by failing to disclose contracting irregularities. UNO had been accused of covering up the fact that it had awarded millions of dollars of building contracts to companies headed by two brothers of the group’s chief operating officer.

Emanuel’s romance with Noble didn’t turn out much better. In his first campaign, he inaccurately claimed Noble high schools were among the district’s top performers. And in his first year, he contributed his enthusiastic praise for the charter network to a video by an associate of Andrew Breitbart, hosted by Juan Williams of Fox News; it posited Noble as the exemplification of school choice and demonized the teachers union. Noble was later criticized for fundraising by means of fines charged to low-income families for minor student misconduct. After its founder was dumped in the wake of allegations of inappropriate conduct, a new chief executive dropped its trademark zero-tolerance dress code, which barred piercings, hair coloring and tattoos; she actually dyed her hair purple to symbolize the shift.

But there was a much bigger blow to Emanuel and the rest of the charter movement, which viewed the non-union schools as a means of undermining teachers unions. Charter teachers began organizing, and teachers at UNO – renamed Acero after the Rangel scandal – pulled off the first charter school teachers strike in U.S. history, winning significant salary improvements. Chicago is now the most heavily unionized charter school district in the country, and teachers at the 18 Noble schools, organizing as a chapter of the Chicago Teachers Union, are pressing management there to agree not to interfere in their organizing drive.


Members of the Chicago Teachers Union hold placards outside Chicago Public School headquarters on Sept. 13, 2012, the fourth day of their strike.

Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

After the 2012 strike, Emanuel’s biggest school policy fiasco was the mass closing of 50 schools in 2013, mostly in black neighborhoods. This cost him the support of many black voters and forced him into a runoff in the election two years later. Emanuel’s argument at the time, that the closings were necessary due to budget constraints and “underutilization,” have been parroted by local media, but activists and academics have pointed out that he opened more than 40 new charter schools in the same period. The most recent Chicago Teachers Union contract included a cap on new charters.

In 2015, parents and community activists staged a 34-day hunger strike that forced Emanuel to backtrack on one of the school closings, the phaseout of Dyett High School in Bronzeville on the South Side. (A leader of the hunger strike, Jeanette Taylor, was elected to the City Council in April.) Complaints of racism surrounding the school closings were validated in court last year, when a Cook County judge blocked the first school closing Emanuel had proposed since 2013, upholding a lawsuit by black parents charging it was racially discriminatory.

In a case of unfortunate timing for the mayor, at the time of the school closings, he proposed a $55 million subsidy for a basketball arena for DePaul University under the controversial Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, program — a program long criticized for diverting tax money from schools and other purposes into a mayoral slush fund to be awarded to favored developers. “The mayor says he has to close the schools because the city’s too broke to keep them open,” columnist Ben Joravasky observed in the Chicago Reader. “Of course, as broke as we are, there’s still $55 million lying around to buy up some land and hand it over to private entities that don’t need it.”

Housing Crisis

Emanuel came into office promising to reform TIF — which collects one-third of Chicago property taxes each year, totaling a half-billion dollars or so — but “he’s doubling down on it,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack, a leading mayoral critic. In Emanuel’s final City Council meeting in March, he pushed through $2 billion in TIF subsidies for two huge luxury developments, despite the fact that both candidates running to succeed him called for a delay in approval. One of those projects has been challenged in court by community and civil rights groups, arguing it’s a perversion of the TIF program (supposedly aimed at “blighted” communities) and a perpetuation of racially discriminatory development policies.

Emanuel has had signal success in attracting corporate headquarters, and his signature development projects — miles of bike lanes and a tourist-oriented riverfront project — have advanced Chicago’s standing as a “global city.” The neighborhoods haven’t fared as well, a fact demonstrated by the city’s ongoing loss of population; large numbers of African Americans in particular are moving to suburbs or other regions to escape poor schools and violent streets. Last year, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy accused Emanuel of carrying out a “strategic gentrification plan“ ethnically cleansing the city of black people. It’s a quite plausible charge: the largest demographic growth under Emanuel by far was among young people earning more than $100,000 a year. Meanwhile, economic development programs haven’t reached outlying communities: From 2010 to 2017, covering most of Emanuel’s two terms — a period of economic recovery — the unemployment rate for black Chicagoans fell just 0.4 percent, down to 17.2 percent. That’s more than double the national rate.

Initiative after initiative launched by Emanuel has failed to live up to his hype. When he passed an ordinance in March 2015 expanding affordable housing requirements for developers who get city assistance, he said it would create 1,200 affordable housing units and generate $90 million for two housing funds over the next five years. Two years later, the Chicago Tribune reported that the program had generated only 194 units and $9.2 million in funding. When a progressive alderman championed an affordable housing development in a traditionally segregated Northwest Side neighborhood and came under attacks featuring racially charged rhetoric, Emanuel refused to back the project and said residents opposing it “need to be heard.”

The mayor and his council allies blocked an ordinance that would have required transparency from the Chicago Housing Authority, which built huge cash reserves under Emanuel by slowing public housing renovation to a near halt and holding back housing vouchers. They also blocked an ordinance that would have limited the ability of individual aldermen to block affordable housing in their wards; historically, it’s been a tool for maintaining segregation. Emanuel made sure it remained in place.

Infrastructure Crisis

Another dud is Emanuel’s Chicago Infrastructure Trust: a “breakout strategy” unveiled amid huge fanfare in 2012, with claims that the mayor had lined up $1 billion in private financing for building and transportation projects that would create 30,000 jobs within three years. Two years later, its first project got underway, an energy retrofit of municipal buildings; but instead of a public-private partnership, it was financed with a traditional bank loan. Originally described as a $200 million project that would create 2,000 construction jobs, its scope was scaled back due to lack of investor interest. It ended up involving only $13 million in projects and creating just 108 jobs, according to the trust.

In 2017, the Sun Times reported that the trust “has yet to raise a dime of private financing for a single public works project,” and an unnamed city official was quoted saying, “There’s no excuse for the mayor to avoid closing down this thing that’s been a complete failure.” Instead, Emanuel has shifted the mission of the trust, an independent nonprofit whose board is appointed by the mayor, to procurement and contract management, tasks previously handled by city departments and the Public Building Commission. Its final act under his leadership was to select Elon Musk’s Boring Company to construct an express train to O’Hare Airport using “visionary” (and unproven) technology, a project that is now dead in the water.

Policing Crisis

While education controversies defined Emanuel’s first term, his second has been consumed with police scandals following the release of video that showed the official narrative about the police shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014 was a lie. Policing is one of the few failures of Emanuel’s tenure that has gotten national attention. Suffice it to say, it was even worse than it seemed. Indeed, it was the day before McDonald’s killer, Officer Jason Van Dyke, went on trial that Emanuel announced he would not seek a third term. (A jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder.)

Most recently, Emanuel has taken to the pages of the New York Times, which allowed him to rewrite history with a remarkably broad brush. The Chicago Tribune termed his op-ed a “revisionist history”; national police reform expert Sam Walker, of the University of Nebraska, told me it’s “a self-serving fairy tale.”

Virtually every point Emanuel makes is deceptive. He points to reductions in violent crime rates as proof of his success, but these followed huge spikes in crime rates, which are now returning to previous levels. He claims he’s achieved buy-in for reform by police officers without mentioning a lawsuit by the Fraternal Order of Police seeking to overturn the city’s new consent decree. He said he “allowed sergeants to exert more direct leadership.” In fact, the consent decree orders the city to require police supervisors to review use-of-force incidents and report misconduct, serious shortcomings highlighted by a 2017 Justice Department investigation; it also requires reducing the “span of control” to 10 officers for each sergeant, after the Justice Department found it ran as high as 1-to-35 in Chicago.

Emanuel even falsely reframes his notorious comment in 2015 that cops were being allowed to get “fetal.” He said, “I was clear that police officers would ‘go fetal’ if they weren’t included in the reform.” In fact, the original Washington Post report makes perfectly clear it was increased public scrutiny and accountability that Emanuel was referring to.

The biggest lie is the implication that Emanuel in any way provided leadership on police reform. An old-school, tough-on-crime politician – who played a key role in Clinton administration policies that ramped up mass incarceration – Emanuel resisted reform at every step of the way, including fighting against the release of the Laquan McDonald video. Even before that, his law department sought to overturn a court ruling that found the existence of a code of silence in the police department, and he backed up his superintendent when he promoted a lieutenant who had a long history of excessive force complaints.

Following the storm of protest unleashed by the video release, Emanuel opposed a federal investigation of the police department, opposed efforts to revamp the civilian police oversight authority and give it budgetary independence, failed to carry out a promise to establish a community oversight board, and resisted judicial oversight through a consent decree, seeking instead to cut a deal with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As the Chicago Tribune points out, that consent decree came about only because the state attorney general, “determined to block Emanuel’s end run, forced his hand with a lawsuit,” at which point “Emanuel finally got on board.”

Indeed, the candidate elected to succeed Emanuel was one of his sharpest critics throughout the process. Lori Lightfoot was Emanuel’s police board president and headed a mayoral task force which went far beyond Emanuel’s intentions in highlighting systemic racism and lack of accountability in the police department; over the following two years, Lightfoot repeatedly called out Emanuel for slow-walking reform. Certainly prospects for police reform in Chicago improve dramatically by Emanuel’s replacement.

If Rahm Emanuel starts showing up on your screens more frequently in coming months, the advice of many Chicagoans would be: “Don’t believe the hype.”


The post The Definitive Guide for Cable Hosts, Bookers, and Editors to the Fraud and Failure that was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared first on The Intercept.

On Taking the Good too Seriously

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 9:31pm in


Politics, Racism

Political liberals like John Rawls and Charles Larmore start from what they characterize as the 'fact' of pluralism, that is, the multiplicity of conceptions of the good that exist in modern democratic society. This leads to the 'liberal problem' of how to organize coexistence among people with different conceptions of the good. It is worth noting that they do not advocate pluralism because they believe diversity is particularly valuable, but rather because they consider it could not be eradicated without the use of state coercion. Theirs is a Lockean kind of thinking, based more on the reasons why pluralism should not be interfered with, than on recognition of its value....the central concern of such conceptions is the possibility of social unity under modern conditions in which there is a multiplicity of conflicting conceptions of the good life.--Chantal Mouffe (1993) "Politics and the Limits of Liberalism" in The Return of the Political, pp. 136-7.

Chantal Mouffe (recall; and here) is an astute critic of political liberalism, which is itself an evolving program, so her summary of it (even Rawls or Larmore) should not be accepted without hesitation. But I think she grasp here something central about the project: that it is motivated by the felt need to response to the existence of a plurality of conceptions of the good in modern states. The further underlying assumption is that such plurality is the central source of conflict and, if not checked, oppression. Mouffe interprets political liberalism as an attempt to privatize (and, thereby, contain) disagreement over conceptions of the good.  

Mouffe is critical of this strategy, alongside an ethics first conception of political life, because she thinks it makes political liberalism incapable of grasping the nature of political life and the constructions of collective identities that accompany them. But it is notable that she accepts the motivational premise of political liberalism that some conceptions of the good are perhaps incompatible with what what she calls "modern democracy;" she offers as an example "a religion like Islam" (132 in her (1991) "pluralism and modern democracy").* So, not unlike the proponents of political liberalism, Mouffe takes conceptions of the good as a central challenge to political life. I think she and the theorists of political liberalism take conceptions of the good way too seriously.

 To be sure Mouffe does not claim that it is impossible to "integrate" Islam into "modern democracy;" but with a nod to the "Rushdie Affair" she suggests "the problem is not easily solved." I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback by these remarks because in many ways Mouffe is, among those writing at the end of the cold war, the most perceptive about the forthcoming (and many of the present) challenges facing liberal democracies. She is very much worth re-reading for that reason alone.

One need not conceive of the Rushdie affair as a challenge of integrating islam into modern democracy.++ That Muslim citizens protested the publication of the novel was their right. Moreover, in quite a few liberal democracies at the time, freedom of speech was constrained by laws against blasphemy, and these laws have only been slowly removed (in the Netherlands as late as 2014).+ And such laws against blasphemy tend to be justified in terms of the state's compelling interest in maintaining public order and security. Hobbes and Spinoza would approve. (Interestingly, Rawls mentions this interest to justify the state's right to modestly regulate religious practices!) 

Such justifications are not silly: if folk go around offending each other's religion, one can expect trouble. (In fact, Hobbes would suggest (recall this post on Bejan's book) that even a regular stream of modest micro-aggression is a cause for concern.) This is so even if the state itself is truly neutral. I don't mean to be taken to suggest that we need laws against blasphemy; their use may be worse than the problem they aim to remedy. But we can't also ignore that their removal seems to have opened the door to steady stream of insults directed at Muslims in particular.

Let me return to the Rushdie affair. A line was crossed when 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie and, in addition, this fatwa had the (financial and political) backing of the state of Iran. Notice, however, that one can object to this on many grounds, including Iranian interference with other countries's domestic affairs, state sponsorship of killing citizens from other states, and for encouraging Muslim citizens to violate the laws of their nation, etc. Khomeini here acted the way generations of popes acted after Henry VIII  threw out the Catholic Church.

The Rushdie case says little about the possibilities of co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims in liberal democracy. In part, this is so because liberal democracies have tools to combat incitement to violence. When youthful citizens who are Muslim radicalize such that they incline toward (religiously justified) violence we should treat this as a signal that something is amiss with the laws, (policing, education, job-market, the prison system) practices, and environments these kids grow up in. (Recall this post on the significance of recognition.) It is a peculiar fact that in Europe, recently, many would-be-terrorists and Jihadis first were criminals. 

Some critics may think I am underestimating the problem. Surely, they will say, Islam is incompatible with the separation of Church and State? Before I answer that, it is worth noting a bias toward the United States; it is often forgotten that many other prosperous liberal democracies have an established Church (England, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Scotland). In quite a few other liberal democracies, church schools (including Muslim school) and even churches receive financial support (Germany, Netherlands, Norway, some Swiss cantons, etc.). While I  think it wiser to have firmer Church/State separation than we find in much of Europe, one should avoid state hostility toward religion (characteristic of France and those it inspires) for this has tendency to generate the wrong sort of anger, resentment, and alienation. What these European cases show is that the rule of law and social peace are compatible with state support of institutional religion, including Islam. 

I do not want to deny that some conceptions of the good are genuine obstacles to the functioning of liberal states, and that a few of these, if promoted by sufficient number of foreign enemies or citizens, threaten its survival. But as I said, this gives conceptions of the good too much motivational credit and mistakenly ignores not just other sources of sectarianism; but why these matters.

First, a useful reminder: a lot of separatist movements and (potential) civic unrest are rooted, for example, in linguistic and national/ethnic minorities or disparities in wealth. This is not to deny religion can't play an exacerbating role. But even in Northern Ireland, the problem wasn't caused by religious diversity, but by act of conquest and centuries of domination (in which religion became a marker of difference). Second, all kinds of political grievances may be presented as religious grievances, but this doesn't entail these can only be addressed or pacified in terms that would imply the religious encroachment on, or even take-over, of the state. It is not impossible (recall), in fact, that the flourishing of liberal democracies requires the presence of even illiberal religions. 

Third, Mouffe is right that even liberal democratic states presuppose some unity that constitutes a dividing line between its citizens and citizens of other states. But it is a mistake to conceive this unity in highly intellectual terms (as is characteristic of conceptions of the good). All states require is the diversity of latent dispositions toward such unity when the states' survival and the protection of citizens is at stake. This is why, when confronted with (say) acts of (Islamic terroriss), Muslim police-officers and medical first-responders are capable of great acts of heroism and sacrifice. (See also this post about Charlie Hebdo.)

But what if a fundamentally illiberal conception of the good captures the state? This is not a hypothetical question. But I find it peculiar this is exclusively associated with the dangers of political islam. I have noted that even under President Obama, the Unites States government allows itself systematic surveillance of its own citizens and extra-juridical execution of those deemed to close to enemies.

The current panic over Huawei is not a panic of spying on citizens, but only the spying of a foreign power. And this is telling: there would be little reason to worry about the dangers of a takeover by political islam (which is electorally far-fetched) of our liberal democracies if our states were less capable of doing local evil.

The liberal response to this is to get more serious about dissolving and retrenching the oppressive bits of state power. The response to President Trump's behavior is also telling: this is nearly exclusively focused on his character, as opposed to the dangerous powers accumulated in his office. The point is that modern democracies and the normative theorists of their future should spend less time worrying about symbolic markers of religion and the conceptions of the good that folk may invoke for their behavior; and more time ensuring that few of us are subject to violence and subordination from each other, and the state. 



*Political liberals, who tend to be more concerned about Christian opposition to abortion and gay-rights, tend to avoid singling out Islam in such a fashion. In TJ, Rawls presents his arguments in terms of the neutral 'religion' and 'theology.'

+I am not suggesting Rushdie's book ought to have been banned. Works of art and fiction may well be treated differently than mere direct speech acts.

++In this post I am ignoring the very interesting question how one should think about integration. My PhD student Lea Klarenbeek has taught me that most existing conceptions are fundamentally illiberal because they put the burdens of change on the weak and powerless.

Surveillance Britain: Police Using Massively Inaccurate Facial Recognition Technology on Ordinary Brits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 9:29pm in

Here’s another piece of news that should further worry anyone concerned that Britain is slowly sliding down the tubes towards a surveillance state. The rozzers have launched a pilot scheme for a facial recognition system. They’re testing it out by photographing the fizzogs of ordinary British citizens walking down the streets. And it’s already resulted in one extremely dubious arrest. One man didn’t want to be photographed by the cops, and so he hid his face. The rozzers then pounced and fined him for ‘disorderly conduct’. This was filmed by the Beeb’s Politics Live. It’s completely disgraceful. The man had committed no crime, except to protect his own privacy against the state.

Mike in his article on this points out that there have been a couple of incidents where attempts to compile information on ordinary members of the public have resulted in disastrous mistakes, or deeply worrying infringements of personal freedom. For example, there were the innocent people, who suddenly found themselves with criminal records when their prospective employers started making background checks. Many of them were wrongly left without jobs because of this. And then there’s the DNA genetic database scandal, in which genetic material obtained from the public has been kept by the police, some of which was then illegally passed on for use in genetic research.

Mike also shows how this technology is also massively inaccurate. It had a failure rate of 96 per cent in eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018 according to the Independent. The software gave false positives, wrongly identifying innocent people as crims. It was also deployed twice in a shopping centre outside Stratford last year, where it had a failure rate of 100 per cent. This resulted in people being wrongly identified, including a 14 year old Black schoolboy, who was fingerprinted. The cops also stopped people for covering their faces and wearing hoods, and one man was fined for doing so in  Romford. The Independent found that shoppers were unaware their photos were being taken, despite the rozzers’ claim that the tests were overt, and campaigners have said that it’s being rolled out by stealth.

But despite its dangers and massive inaccuracy, the scheme is being defended by the Tories. Police Minister Nick Hurd has said that the technology offers ‘real opportunities’, said we are not a surveillance state, and that they have no intention of becoming one, and so the new technology must be used in a way that is sensitive to their impact on privacy, and proportionate.

To which Mike comments

Fail. It’s not sensitive to privacy and its use isn’t proportionate. But the Tories – and the police – won’t withdraw it, so we can only conclude that we do – indeed – live in a police surveillance state.

Police state Britain: Failed facial recognition pilot leads to fine for disorderly conduct. WTF?

This is precisely the type of information gathering that Privacy International and other campaigners were warning about in the ’90s. When DNA evidence first began to be collected, there were fears that it would be used to set up a national DNA database. In one incident, all the men in a small town where a rape had been committed were asked to supply samples of their DNA. There were concerns about what would happen to it afterwards, and that the material would be retained, even though the men were innocent. There were also fears that the collection of such samples would go from being simple requests to demands, and that anyone who refused, would automatically come under suspicion, even though they may be innocent.

It also reminds of the way the police also started compiling records in the 1980s of people they considered suspicious, as revealed in the Beeb documentary, Secret State. Perfectly innocent people suddenly had police files opened on them and their movements recorded for reasons that reflected the prejudices of the cops, rather than anything they’d done. Like being punks. One teenage girl was marked down as a potential suspect simply because she was pregnant and there was no father.

I am also not surprised by the massive failure rate of the technology at the moment. It seems par for the course that any and all information technology adopted by the state should be seriously flawed. Like all the computer systems supplied to local authorities in the 1990s by outsourcing companies like Crapita.

Black people are particularly at risk from these systems. The I newspaper a few weeks ago reported on the concerns about the massive under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in the computer industry. Only four per cent of employees in one of the big American tech giants came from ethnic minorities. As a result, the pattern recognition system they developed misidentified Black people as gorillas. Which makes you wonder who programmed this wretched system. The Klan?

As for not becoming a surveillance society, privacy campaigners have warned repeatedly about the dangers of ‘function creep’. Once one innovation or strategy is adopted, other agencies will want to use it, and so it will expand. Also, other forms have surveillance have become normalised. There were serious concerns about the use of CCTV cameras when they first appeared. Alan Moore deliberately wrote them into his depiction of a Fascist Britain in the V for Vendetta comic. He thought at the time that this would really shock people. Niall Ferguson shared his fears. He was also alarmed at how ubiquitous CCTV cameras had become here after he returned from a visit to China. But he was also astonished at how his concerns were not shared by anyone else.

And with the campaign by the IT and automobile industries, I wonder how long it will be before we get the repressive police state and its robots described by the great SF writer Ray Bradbury in his short story, ‘The Pedestrian’. In this tale, a man is stopped by a robotic police car simply for taking a walk in the middle of the night.

It’s SF as the ‘literature of warning’. It’s not meant to be prophetic. But somehow that seems to be the future these technologies are leading to.

Nancy Pelosi is an able tactician, but a poor strategist. She will not save the Republic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 9:01pm in



Nancy Pelosi is an able tactician, but a poor strategist. She will not save the Republic A couple of years ago I read Andrew Roberts’ tome on Napoleon. As a schoolboy, Napoleon voraciously inhaled everything he could read about military conflict, including several then-recent books suggesting novel tactics. As a young general, he implemented those […]

Mike Presents Two Good Reasons Not to Vote Tory in these Elections

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 8:44pm in

With the European elections looming on Thursday, Mike today has presented two very good reasons why no decent, thinking person, should vote Conservative. Or rather, the Tories themselves have.

The first is Tory grandee Michael Heseltine. The former member of Thatcher’s and Major’s cabinets, who is an ardent pro-European, has said that he will not vote for the party of which he is such a prominent member because of its determination to take us out of the European Union, and because it is infected with extremism. I’ve no doubt this won’t surprise his detractors in the Tories, as Maggie herself once sneered at him as ‘a socialist’. He isn’t, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t exactly right in this instance. The Tories do want to take us out of Europe, and they are infected with extremism.

And the second reason exactly proves Heseltine’s point. It’s Boris Johnson, the man who would be Prime Minister. Or in his case, Chief Chump. BoJo has shown himself to be ruthlessly self-seeking, treacherous, conniving, mendacious, vain and massively incompetent. This is the man, who lied that leaving Europe would save the country £300 million + a year better off, and that this money would be spent on the NHS. Nothing of the sort has happened, and Boris was then forced to bluster about how it wasn’t a lie, and nothing was really promised when he plastered it all over the sides of buses. It was just an example, of what could be done with the money. Honest, guv’. And then when the issue of the EU came round again, he was trying to repeat the same lie. He also squandered millions of public money when he was mayor of London on three watercannon, which are illegal in mainland Britain, and so couldn’t be used. And then he wasted £65 million on the plans for a garden bridge that would never be built. This is the same man, who, when he was head of the Foreign Office, started to recited ‘The Road to Mandalay’ when being shown round Thailand’s holiest temple. And couldn’t work out why it might not be tactful when the British ambassador gently told him it wouldn’t be appropriate. The man, who went to Russia to cool tensions down with Putin’s government, and on his return made a speech stoking them back up again. And this is apart from the racism, the comments about ‘grinning pickanninies’ and the membership of the European Research Group. Who, jokingly, called themselves the ‘Grand Wizards’. But it wasn’t a reference to the rank in the Klan, no, honestly.

The fact that Boris sincerely wants to be Prime Minister shows exactly how far to the right it has lurched, and how utterly bereft of talent and integrity its leaders are. Don’t vote for them, in any election.

EU elections: Conservatives deliver two clear reasons NOT to vote for them

Sanctions On Iran Are Hitting Hezbollah

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 8:36pm in



Sanctions On Iran Are Hitting Hezbollah That is the top headline, upper right corner front page, of today’s Washington Post, a quite long article by Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous.  WaPo has been much criticized by Trump and his supporters for alleged “fake news” critical of his leaving the Iran nuclear deal while Iran was […]

The Cowardly State

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 5:53pm in



Having written about UK-scepticism this morning, and its causes, I thought it worth rolling out again my description of the state that we live in here in the UK. That is what I called The Cowardly State in my book The Courageous State. I described this in 2011 as follows:

Cameron and Osborne, with their allies Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander ….have become the apotheosis of something that has been thirty years in the making: they are the personification of what I call the cowardly state. The cowardly state in the UK is the creation of Margaret Thatcher, although its US version is of course the creation of Ronald Reagan. It was these two politicians who swept neoliberalism into the political arena in 1979 and 1980 respectively. Since then its progress has been continual: now it forms the consensus of thinking across the political divide within the UK, Europe and the US.

The economic crisis we are now facing is the legacy of Thatcher and Reagan because they introduced into government the neoliberal idea that whatever a politician does, however well-intentioned that action might be, they will always make matters worse in the economy. This is because government is never able, according to neoliberal thinking, to outperform the market, which will always, it says, allocate resources better and so increase human well-being more than government can.

That thinking is the reason why we have ended up with cowardly government. That is why in August 2011, when we had riots on streets of London we also had Conservative politicians on holiday, reluctant to return because they were quite sure that nothing they could do and no action they could take would make any difference to the outcome of the situation. What began as an economic idea has now swept across government as a whole: we have got a class of politicians who think that the only useful function for the power that they hold is to dismantle the state they have been elected to govern while transferring as many of its functions as possible to unelected businesses that have bankrolled their path to power.

I stand by that description. Things have got worse since then. And the result is the collapse of government as we have known it.

It's time to recreate a Courageous State.

On The Cusp Of War: Why Iran Won’t Fold

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 2:05pm in

Is Iran in the midst of a "strategic surge"?