Monday, September 26, 2016

Support Strike!

Actively Support the Teachers’ Fight to Save Public Education

The Chicago teachers’ fight for a fair contract
 is not just their fight. All working people in          Graphic: Placards--
Chicago have the right to a society with the         Support the teachers,
highest quality public  education. To start with,    We Need An Elected
we need fully  funded education to                                    School Board        ensure the right to equal education for                Make the Rich Pay!
 children. The demands of the Chicago               Save Public Education
Teachers Union(CTU)       
 are steps to achieve this.  So their fight is our fight-- and we                        must actively support the teachers and school staff--spreading the facts, correcting lies from the media or other sources, going to teacher/staff rallies,  joining in their picket lines, etc.

On the other side of the fight are Mayor Emanuel and his appointed—not elected—Board of Education, which features people who serve the rich in various ways, including pouring money from the public schools into the pockets of those running the privately-owned charter schools, various contractors, and bankers.

In contract negotiations the Board of Education has refused to budge from their outrageous proposal  to cut teachers’ pay while pretending to provide raises. They are refusing to cut class sizes, to restore Special Education programs, to cut the tons of invalid so-called standardized tests, cut the unfair teacher evaluations based on the invalid student scores, or restore the needed counselors, nurses, aides, librarians and other needed staff, and art and music programs, or to bring back the more than a thousand teachers and staff who have been cut, and reopen closed neighborhood schools, etc.

The Board of Education tries to justify all these dirty moves by  claiming there is “no money available.” But the CTU presents facts which show the Board’s treasury is BROKE ON PURPOSE.  Ample money is, in fact, available from the rich--if we get ourselves well enough organized to fight and take it.
The Board of Education has long raised property taxes, which means taking money out of the pockets of people paying off bank loans on homes and people who rent. Why should the people pay while the rich maneuver to avoid paying taxes, or have large amounts of money available?

Notice what the facts show:                                                                                                                      
Two out of three corporations in Illinois pay NO income tax to the state.  
The wealthiest taxpayers do not pay as high a percentage of their wealth in taxes as the poorest and middle income wage earners. 
 Half of the property tax monies that are supposed to go to the schools now go to the mayoral slush fund known as TIFs (Tax Increment Financing districts). This means at least $250 million is diverted from our schools each year and to many projects for rich developers. Let’s get this money back for public education. 
The Board of Education is paying private vendors more to do the work that school employees have always done. CPS payments to vendors has gone up by $1.4 billion in the last ten years. 
● Board of Education members have refused to re-negotiate high-interest financing by banks thatcosts CPS $290 million a year
● City government is finding money to hire more police and provide police with tasers and body cameras while it says it cannot find money for the schools.

What else must be done, which the CTU is calling for?                                                                                                                       
● Stop the privatization of public education through charter schools, saving millions.                                                              
 ● CPS spends over $10 million each year for so-called “standardized tests,” which are notoriously invalid and mainly reflect the socio-economic status of the students. The tests and preparations for the tests waste hundreds of hours that should be spent for instruction. The PARCC tests, to be administered in elementary schools this year, push narrow Common Core standards and are designed to fail 70% of students, making them feel like “losers.”  
 Taking even a small tax ranging from a few cents to a few dollars from each financial deal at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Options exchange could raise over $12billion a year. This would go a long way toward fully funding public education.                                                                           
As well, we need to demand that the federal government provides more funds to the states and increases money for social programs, taking it from the 62 cents of every discretionary federal tax dollar that now goes to the Pentagon. This is an obscene amount—which now goes for lucrative contracts to military contractors and the maintenance of at least 800 military bases around the world. It’s not in the interests of working people to have more illegal and unjust wars for the benefit of banks and other corporations. We say--Money for Education, Not for War and War Preparations!

What is needed to enhance the quality of education for our students?                                                           
Reduce class sizes so teachers can more easily spot problems and provide the needed support for every student. 
Provide enriched programs to promote thinking on how to solve social problems, and for creative activity in arts, music, and drama; mastery of world languages, top notch physical education, libraries with librarians, and support from nurses, counselors and teacher aides.

This leaflet is from Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Teacher Sex Scandal

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia --  "Frankly speaking, I did not believe until the end the veracity of the accusations, when it was heard from a member of a teacher of our collective. I considered it basic blackmail and emotional fantasy. Time has shown that I should have acted on those signals promptly and severly,  and an investigation begun by protective legal organs, now I accept the truth. There is no doubt that the main victims were children drawn into forbidden relationships - they have suffered difficult treatable traumas. I feel an oppressive feeling of guilt for this immoral behaviour. I offer my         personal apology to everyone who has suffered from this case."

                We will uncover a full picture of what happened, where each person will accept responsibility - morally, humanely and legally, declared the director of school number 57 in Moscow, Sergei Mendelevich, who had resigned, only to be ordered to remain in his post, and then dismissed by the Education authorities, thus betraying a degree of         uncertainty about how best to react to recent events.

                The apology was  made as rising allegations of teacher abuse were  openly published by former school students on Internet sites such as facebook .

                 Those allegations are not just being made by one ex-student but numerous students, many  who don't even know each other.

                 The allegations have stunned parents, pupils and school teachers at School 57. The first reaction was disbelief, shock , and then anger.

                 It has led to a split in opinion with some officials for believing, others against as well as a petition to reinstate the Director, Sergei Mendelich.

                 School number 57 is not just any school. It is one of the top elite schools in Moscow. The ratings rank it the fourth best school in Moscow. It 's pupils are practically guaranteed access to Moscow's best universities and institutes.

                 The school has a reputation for academic excellence. However , recent revelations have tarnished the reputation of the school. Some people even believe the school might be closed down for good. But with 1000 school
students attending this would surely represent a rash and reckless reaction.

                 The tabloid press have had a field day publishing exerts from facebook in its front pages. It represents just mere lurid entertainment to boost sales.

                 Rumours of sexual misconduct at this school may have been circulating for years. However, they were never taken seriously. They were dismissed as being based on malice, phantasy or just gossip.

                 So what are the accuasations and how were they finally made?

                 A few months ago, a former teacher, Olga Nikolayenko, of school 57 , approached  a teacher Nadia Shapirova about an incident.

                 She informed her that she had heard 19 year old Rivekki  Hershovich inform her she had been the sex victim of a history teacher, Boris Markovich.

                 Olga stated that Rivka had been working as a volunteer at the centre of Adaptation for Teaching Refugee Children, while she had been the director there. She stated : " Once she came to me and told me what had happened to me at school. She told me that she wanted that those events would never in future happen to anyone. And there are more people who are ready to come forward to tell me what happened to them."  The concerned teachers then began their own investigation, consulting lawyers, and gathering the
statements of past victims over the years. In July 2016, they presented the results of their investigation to the director of school. He answered that the evidence was too insufficent  to make a case. Nevertheless, the history teacher was dismissed from his job for ' inexplicable reasons'.

                 In a public statement of Facebook , Rivekka stated: 'Over the last two years , from the beginning of the 11th form, I want  from  all my heart that nothing like this happens to me as it all seems a terrible dream."

                 Rivekka states she kept silent about those painful events because the history teacher told her if she spilled the beans, the school would be closed down.

                 After this public statement, a flood of revelations from ex-pupils arose.

                 The statements not only suggested one teacher but  several who had been working in the school. Statements were written about improper conduct in cinemas, dachas and even of abortions.

                  The teachers who had taken up the defence of the pupils, resigned in disgust at the weak reaction  of the school director over those allegations.

                  It is an indictment of the legal system that school students feel they have to publicise their cases in facebook sites in order to make an impact.

                  I myself have encountered students who came across teachers who refused to let them pass an exam unless they slept with the teacher or paid a bribe. Twenty years ago in Kishinev I met a medical student who told me: "I was told by my teacher, that I would not be allowed to pass the exam unless I slept with him or paid a fine. I chose the latter action." She felt she had no choice but to pay. Many of the victims seem helpless and powerless to take action in their defence. Most students of abuse prefer to forget it and just carry on. It takes great courage to raise those issues. Many of those cases go unpunished . They don't even see the light of day. In some British boarding schools those         incidents could go on for twenty years without anything happening.

                  Clearly a distance between teachers and pupils has to be maintained irrespective of whether school students appear to be adults or are on the threshold of adulthood. Teachers are here  to help not abuse or exploit pupils.  They should never lose sense of the exact  purpose of 
their mission in schools.

                  The school 57 scandal is an unwanted tragedy for all those concerned.

                   It is  avoidable if  teachers keep faith with a wider vision.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trump Book Review

New Trump Book Highlights the Absurd
By Jim Vail 

The Trump billion dollar smirk!
Someone compared the US presidential elections to American Idol where the candidates have to perform their song and dance routine and the one who makes it to the final round is the nominee of one of the two political parties.

The judges are the donors, today’s one percent who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars into various campaigns to determine who is allowed to enter the contest.

The winner this year is Mr. Donald Trump, who most of us did not expect to be a serious contender to represent the Republican Party. One of those who knew Trump was no joke and followed his antics for over 30 years was star investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. The former award-winning New York Times reporter wrote a fascinating book called The Making of Donald Trump, which covers everything from Trump mixing with the mob, impersonating himself, spreading lies and fighting lawsuits to become one of two people who will be our next president.

God help us!

You know you are reading a good book when the person living with you is worried about all the laughter and snickering coming out of you as you flip through the pages. I kept shaking my head and saying ‘no way’ repeatedly. Trump is one fascinating, if not brilliant and warped, egotistical con man, who proves the more you lie, the better your chances for success. This guy has got Mr. President written all over his smirk-filled face!

According to the book’s inside cover, Johnston has drawn on decades of interviews, financial records, court documents and public statements to give us “the most in-depth look yet at the man who would be president.”

The author reminds the reader in his introduction that Trump first ran on the Reform Party ticket in 2000 and told people he would be the first person to run for president and make a profit by giving ten speeches at motivational speaking events hosted by success profit Tony Robbins.

True to his brilliant investigatory skills, Johnston sticks to the facts and not the rhetoric that makes up most of the headlines and TV news reports covering today’s presidential race. He starts by mentioning what the word Trump means: a winning play by a card, to deceive or cheat or to forge, fabricate or invent. Yup – that’s our guy.

Johnston writes that Trump’s brilliance lies in how he manages public perception. “His wealth and public prominence are closely tied to his success in focusing the attention of journalists where he wants it and his skill in deflecting inquiries by law enforcement and people suing him for alleged civil fraud or failure to make payments.”

The beginning takes an interesting look at his father Fred, who Trump modeled himself after. His father cheated the government in building public housing for returning soldiers and hired bikini models to turn people’s attention away from his scandalous profit-driven activities.

His son’s clown-like antics never fail to amuse: “’I have to tell you about losers,’ he tells an audience. ‘I love losers because they make me feel so good about myself.’”
He recommends revenge as business policy and has been a party in more than 3,500 lawsuits. But amazingly no criminal convictions.

I would say that Trump’s dealings with the mafia and other criminal operators actually make him a qualified businessman because much of our economy is tied to both lawful and unlawful economic activities. For example, loan sharking was once the Italian mob’s domain, now it is a significant part of our major banks’ portfolios.

Trump made a lot of deals with the mob because those were the people you had to deal with in New York when it came to real estate and construction, or in Atlantic City when he opened his casinos. For example, Trump’s partner Roy Cohn, a notorious lawyer who worked with the mob and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, allowed his buildings to be built with secret deals to make sure there were no worker strikes despite hiring undocumented workers because the mob controlled the construction trade unions. In 1978 Trump hired mobbed-up construction firms to erect Trump Tower.

Trump’s foray into the casino business perfectly illustrates how corrupt our government regulators are. He persuaded the New Jersey attorney general to limit the investigation of his background, despite the promise to voters to do thorough criminal background checks so that Atlantic City would not become a mob-run Las Vegas East. His open association with the mafia should have disqualified him from running a casino. It did not.

Trump made an interesting run against the National Football League by filing an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL after he bought the New Jersey Generals in 1983 in the short-lived United States Football League. He charged, and rightly so, that the NFL had a monopoly on TV coverage of its games. (No different than the monopoly the Democrats and Republicans hold on our political system.) A jury agreed with Trump that the NFL engaged in criminal behavior that an appeals court said, “willfully acquired or maintained monopoly power in a market consisting of major-league professional football in the U.S.” They awarded the USFL damages of one dollar.

Even though Trump does business with drug dealers, he doesn’t smoke or drink, according to the book. Despite his flashy clothes and multi-million dollar real estate deals, he’s as cheap as hell. Amazingly, Trump could build skyscrapers in the middle of Manhattan, and hire undocumented workers, cheat them out of their pay and neglect basic safety precautions without attracting government job-safety inspectors. “Whenever Trump saw an opportunity to collect more money or to cut his costs by not paying people what they had earned, he did.”

The image of Mr. Trump takes front and center. At a time when Trump told journalists he was worth $3 billion, Johnston discovered he was actually in the red by almost $300 million. While he overstates his properties’ worth, he also understates or even hides debts, and underreports to the tax authorities the real value of assets. His disclosure report stated one of his properties was worth $50 million, but he told the tax authorities it was only worth $1 million. How good is Trump at the con game? He got Chase Manhattan – now JP Morgan Chase – to give him a mortgage on his Mar-a-Lago estate with no public record.

According to the book, Trump could not pay his casino bills in 1990. However, the Division of Game Enforcement (DGE), which should have gone after high-level offenders like Trump rather than little people stealing poker chips, stated the same argument our government made to bail out the big banks, a Trump bankruptcy would have resulted in a domino-effect chain of bankruptcies and destroyed the casino economy. Part of the deal was cutting Trump’s monthly allowance from $583,000 to only $450,000. Too big to fail or too full of it?

Eventually Trump filed for four bankruptcies that cost investors more than $1.5 billion.
“If government hadn’t saved him by taking his side against his bankers, we almost certainly would not be imagining the prospect of Donald Trump living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead, he would have drowned in a sea of red ink.”

Because this book takes such an interesting look into the American world of business and all its ugliness, this book review be a two-part series. The second part will take a look at Trump’s fake women, tax scams and how to evade the sales tax that make this con artist the quintessential businessman turned Republican presidential candidate.   


Monday, September 12, 2016

HOD Strike

Looks Like the Strike Is On
By Jim Vail

The last CTU teachers strike was in 2012.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) delegates voted on Wednesday to hold another strike vote in the schools the third week of September and from there plan to go on strike the beginning of October.
“We are not willing to go another month without a fair resolution of our contract,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told the House of Delegates (HOD) this week.
CTU President Karen Lewis told the media after the delegates meeting that she expects an even higher vote in favor of striking. The union said the vote is a formality to make sure everything is ready now that a hostile anti-union Republican governor is doing everything he can to make sure a strike will not happen.
Why will there be a strike?
“We want no cuts,” Lewis told reporters when asked the question.
The union says that the board wants to cut teachers’ pay by eliminating the 7% pension pickup over four years and doubling the costs of health care. This comes after the teachers have given up almost $2 billion in pay from teacher layoffs, furlough days, elimination of pay raises, and pension holidays, the CTU says.
While the mayor tells the public he has given the teachers a generous raise, the teachers see otherwise. The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) claim that they are offering raises over the four-year period in which the teachers will see a pay increase at the end of the proposed four-year contract.
“It’s a pay cut,” Lewis said. “They will double our health care costs and take away our 7 percent pension payment over four years.”
One reporter asked the union if a strike would not reverse the improvements the schools have made with increased graduation rates. The union said it should then reward teachers, not continue to demand cuts.
The teachers have mentioned that due to school cuts, some classes have over 40 students, while the normal class size is 20 in most suburban districts (the school where I teach has 41 students in the 8th grade class). At the heart of the debate is money. While the city claims it is broke, the facts show otherwise.
The CTU is demanding that they pass an ordinance in the City Council to release a surplus of roughly $300 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF), money that critics claim goes to subsidize wealthy developers at the expense of the schools.
“Our message to the parents is to call their aldermen and support the TIF ordinance to release the surplus funds,” Lewis said. “There is 24 percent more money in the TIFs, and CPS wants to cut 20 percent from the schools.”
There are currently over 30 aldermen who support the TIF surplus ordinance. However, Ald. Ed Burke has the power to bury the proposal in the city finance committee if he does not call hearings on it. While CPS chief Forrest Claypool claims he has cut central office, and had to lay off 1,000 teachers last month, a report in Substance News stated that the number of people working in the network offices that police the schools has doubled.
“Just one small example can be seen in the claim that the total number of people working in the school system’s so-called “Networks” is 160,” Substance editor George Schmidt wrote. “That number was in front of all the Board members in a pie chart in their budget. The actual number of people working in the “Networks” (which are basically sub districts) is more than 400, but what does a simple math error matter to those appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rule over the city’s more than 600 public and charter schools?”
Sarah Karp, a former journalist with Catalyst education magazine who broke the SUPES contract scandal that forced the former CPS chief to plead guilty to bribery, said that it is impossible to read the CPS budget. The union has argued that there are many sources of revenue, including retrieving the extra TIF money, implementing taxes on businesses and hotels and suing the banks that have profited off financial shenanigans that have cost the city millions.
The teachers will vote to authorize a strike on Sept. 21, 22 and 23 in the schools. The delegates then need to call a meeting to officially call a strike and the union must serve a 10-day notice before going out on strike.
“There’s never a good time to strike and there’s never a bad time to strike,” Lewis said. “We will listen to what our members have to say.”
The mayor has complained that the union is not bargaining in good faith behind closed doors. Lewis told reporters that she thinks negotiations should be public.
The CTU said at the HOD meeting that the board has made no new offers since last March.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hispanic Gangs

The Explosive Growth of Hispanic Gangs in Chicago Fueled Political and Police Corruption
By Jim Vail

We know that we live in one of the most violent cities in this country. We constantly see people being shot on the nightly news or read about in the paper.
While we know there are gangs all around us where there are drive-by shootings and graffiti spray painted on walls and garages, who are these gangs and how much do we know about them and the violence that erupts in their tracks.
The book ‘The Insane Chicago Way’ focuses on the secret history of Spanish Growth & Development (SGD) – an organization of Latino gangs founded in 1989 to create an organized crime syndicate modeled on the Italian Mafia. 
We looked at the history of black and white gangs in the first and second parts of our series on the book. This part will focus on the Hispanic gangs, a powerful force that represents the fastest-growing segment of our population.
According to author John Hagedorn, there are no good histories of Latino street gangs in Chicago. For the many Puerto Rican gangs of the sixties, the key issues were racism (manifested by lack of jobs, police violence and white gangs), power (expanding across neighborhoods), intergang violence, and growing interest in making money, following in the footsteps of the black gangs.
The Puerto Ricans began migrating to Chicago after World War II. Their history in Chicago is one of “displacement,” as they were pushed out of areas near UIC, to Lincoln Park (gentrified) to Humboldt Park where they stand today.
The Young Lords began as a Puerto Rican gang in the spirit of the 60s that tried to fashion themselves as revolutionaries modeled after the Black Panthers. They resisted gentrification, police brutality and racial hatred, and wanted to end poverty. The first riots in Chicago since 1919 took place on Division Street in 1966 when police shot a Puerto Rican youth. The Young Lords were tied to the Puerto Rican independence movement (FALN), which saw many active members go on to become prominent politicians. They eventually died out in the 1970s.
The Latin Kings, which is still the largest Latino gang in Chicago, formed its first section at Kedzie and Ohio, and became the first Latino gang to combine Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, North and South sides. They grew into having thousands of members in Chicago and later formed chapters across the country and even the world.
Their main rivals were the Latin Disciples and Spanish Cobras, who also expanded and absorbed smaller gangs. Out-of-control violence and the incarceration of nearly all of the most important gang leaders, along with the profit motive, became the principal factors in the eventual formation of Spanish Growth and Development (SGD).
The Spanish Cobras, according to Hagedorn, is the most important Latino gang in the formation of SGD, and like the C-Note$ white gang, the least is known about them. Like other gangs, they started out from several local gangs. One leader told the author that the Cobras hated the Young Lords and Kings because they were “sellouts” and “doing dirt for the white man.” “The Cobras always saw themselves as representing the salt of the earth, alienated and rejected, and resented the higher status of the Kings and the Young Lords.”
They studied how the Mafia did business and kept their organization relatively small and tight.
The 1970s became the most violent decade in Chicago’s history. The 1977 Puerto Rican Day Parade erupted into Latin King/Cobra violence. “Rather than targeting the police or the oppression of Puerto Ricans, the gangs were targeting one another.” Gang dynamics from the 1970s to the mid-1990s were controlled by incarcerated leadership, the book states.
While the Puerto Rican gangs made alliances on the North side, Mexican gangs made alliances on the Southside. The 2-6ers whose turf was on the west side of Little Village, had a bloody rivalry with the Latin Kings. The 2-6ers went from being a softball club to being a gang.
Since the 1960s the Maniac Latin Disciples (MLDs) have been the second-largest Latino street gang on the North Side after the Latin Kings. The broken home life story of Madeline Mendoza, who at sixteen shot and killed the Latin Kings Jimmy Cruz and Hector Reyes, is shocking. Montanez at age thirteen ran away from her Latin King stepfather, who had been raping and abusing her since she was eight. When she finally escaped, she joined the rival gang MLDs where her hatred of the Kings and her stepfather was stoked by the new gang. “She told me tearfully in Dwight Correctional Institution that when she pulled the trigger ‘it was her stepfather’ she wanted to kill, not Reyes or Cruz,” Hagedorn writes.
The MLDs had become the family for a young girl who knew only pain from her own. But this new “family” while encouraging her to kill, left her with no emotional or financial support, and as a juvenile she was sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for the killings.
The MLDs also had ties to politicians, like former Alderman Billy Ocasio, who had grown up around them, and they worked closely with machine power broker Richard Mell. Ald. Mell’s daughter Deb now serves as alderwoman after a close race against Roosevelt High School teacher Tim Meegan in the 33rd ward.
According to the book, in July 1980 46 MLDs were arrested, which at the time was the largest federal drug bust, running a $20,000-a-day drug business on the corner of Rockwell and Potomac, among other Humboldt Park spots.
There were three family factions made up of multiple Latino gangs within SGD: Insane (Cobras, C-Note$), Maniac Family (MLD) and Almighty (Simon City Royals, Harrison Gents). It was the hatred between the Cobras and Maniac Disciples that led to the formation and eventual downfall of the Spanish Growth and Development plan to form a coalition and halt the violence.
“These dynamics of power were the prime motivation of Latin Folks gangs, although these processes were almost completely unknown to police, academics, and other outsiders. Without understanding the three families’ will to power, much of gang behavior on the streets, especially violence, is simply incomprehensible.”
In order to really understand our violent city and the gangs that permeate it, one has to take a closer look into the politics that surrounds it. I wrote an earlier story about how aldermen and gangs work together. One way is the gangs help get aldermen elected.
Gangs and politics here go back to the beginning of the last century. Al Capone was wiping out Irish gangs like the O’Banions with his use of extreme violence (if you have family roots in this city you’ve heard the stories, such as Capone ripping out the tongue of a singer who worked in a rival night club). This would consolidate Italian gangs across Chicago and create a monopoly on Prohibition-era beer sales, author John Hagedorn writes in his book. Capone’s close relationship with Mayor William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson and the Republican Party kept Capone protected. “The super profits gained in Prohibition helped the Outfit (Mafia) fill the envelopes for politicians and helped it survive for almost a hundred years and running. The Outfit still is far and away the most important gang in Chicago history.”
Hagedorn claims that his fellow gang researchers neglect to investigate whether the systematic corruption of politicians and police that allowed the Mafia to thrive for so long is now being put into practice by current gangs.
The C-Note$, a white mafia-connected gang that helped form the Spanish Growth and Development (SGD) coalition, paid off politicians and infiltrated the Chicago Police Department (CPD). “In Chicago it was Hispanic, not African American gangs, that made the most of their corrupt opportunities.”
The Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO), a political action committee founded after Mayor Richard Daley II was first elected, was set up to buy off the Hispanic votes. This group represented rising Latino political power and corrupt influences in the machine. They worked with the machine to defeat reform-minded Latino politicians, such as Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (who lost to Mayor Emanuel in the last election), an ally of Harold Washington-inspired progressive coalition of blacks, Hispanics and liberal whites. The “Hired Truck” scandal which steered city contracts to politically connected firms and employed gang members, eventually led to the demise of HDO.
A political giant in the gang/machine nexus was powerhouse Alderman Richard Mell, who also is father-in-law to former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Mell, according to the book, had built firm connections to Latin Folks gangs through one of his aides, Raymond Rolon, a principal leader of the Maniac Latin Disciples. Rolon helped get Mell elected by intimidating voters and pulling down opponents’ campaign signs. “This is indistinguishable from how the Irish gangs or ‘social athletic clubs’ had bullied their way into political power.”
The Spanish Cobras were heavily campaigning for former Alderman Ray Suarez in the 31st ward.  Sal, the book’s inside source, says the Latin Kings have considerable political influence. “Whoever’s gonna run in their territory has to have their backing in order to get into office … Believe me, they’re very influential – I mean they got parents, their uncles, their friends.”
The new Daley/Emanuel machine differs from the old because it relies more on money from real estate and banks. Emanuel focused his election campaigns on mass advertising and social media. He did have paid volunteers to campaign, and I remember one telling me he didn’t believe in the neoliberal dream to privatize the city, he just wanted a job.
An important piece in the corruption between gangs and the politics is the police. While the Mafia bought off the top echelon of the police force, gangs today focus on the lower rung. The perfect case to illustrate this is police officer and gang specialist Joseph Miedzianowski.
As we mentioned in an earlier part of our series, gang and drug officers need to make deals with unsavory characters in order to get more unsavory guys.  One officer told Hagedorn that “everyone is doing it,” playing one gang drug dealer against another.
Enter Joe Miedzianowski, the poster child of police corruption. While piling up commendations for his busts of rival drug dealers, he saw how profitable it could be by playing the game he policed. The commended gangs tactical officer was robbing drug dealers and asking for a cut.
He built an alliance with the Imperial Gangsters and other Latin Folks gangs. By 1995 he was demanding $10,000 per month in protection payments from the various gangs. Then he got greedy. Suddenly he upped the price for protection to $22,000 per month. He became a drug kingpin himself, and that led to his downfall when the gangs began to tip off law enforcement. While Miedzianowski’s drug business goes back to the 1980s, the cops and their ‘code of silence’ assert they had no information on him before 1997. He eventually got a life sentence.
Then there is the real case that inspired the Chicago crime book The Second Life of Nick Mason written by best-selling author Steve Hamilton and slated to be a Hollywood movie (you can read our review at
In 2006, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office indicted members of the CPD Special Operations Section (SOS) for aggravated kidnapping, theft, burglary, armed violence, home invasion and false arrest. All committed by our top gang detective unit, the “elite” who did whatever was necessary to get the bad guys off the street. “The bad guys didn’t play by the rules, why should we?”
SOS leaders were given awards by former Police Superintendent Phil Cline in 2004. They were later found to have split $600,000 in drug money they appropriated for their own uses. SOS regularly raided houses for the C-Note$ and the gang in turn paid “bones” or bribes. According to Sal, the star source in the book, the C-Note$ had three of their people in SOS.
Another Chicago cop named Glenn Lewellen paid a drug-dealing informant approximately $800,000 for five years while running his narcotics operation in order to turn in his competitors. Paying for information is how federal agencies get convictions. “The amount of money paid to snitches should call the entire drug war into question.”    
“From the perspective of police officers, the war on drugs has created thousands of criminals selling illegal substances in an immense market. This gives police unprecedented discretion over whom they arrest, ignore or make deals with.”   
Next week the last part in our series on Chicago gangs from The Insane Chicago Way book will take a look at the ecstasy market and how one gang profited immensely from it.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Russian Classic Teacher Film

By Stephen Wilson

              WAIT UNTIL MONDAY

              I just caught the underground train on time before the doors loudly slammed shut. I found myself in unusual surroundings. The whole carriage, covered with posters, photos and art design, was devoted to the classic Soviet Film, 'Wait Until Monday'. I was surrounded by a surreal film review gliding along on rails where some passengers were gaping at the spectacle. It was clearly an attempt by the Moscow Metro to support the highest achievements of the Soviet Film industry. In recent days I have heard sarcastic comments that teachers should watch this film on September the first as it is a classic film depicting the hard  life of struggling Russian school teachers.

              The film, directed by Stranislav Rostotski, (1967),  is a classic melodrama depicting the dark night of the soul being experienced by a disillusioned Russian history teacher, Ilya Semenovich (played by Vyacheslav Tikhonov,) and his tense relations between two colleagues, Natalia Gorelva (Irina Pechenikova) and Svetlana Mikhailovich (Nina Menshkova). The history teacher, Ilya, is a strict, demanding and thoughtful teacher who starts to become sick and tired of his job. Not finding that his vision of teaching has come up to his high moral and spiritual demands, he decides to quit teaching.

              He believes this is most honorable thing to do. He thinks  continuing to teach will be to work in bad faith and hence hypocritical. So Ilya goes to his director who happens to be his old frontline comrade to hand in his notice.

              His old friend refuses, so Ilya asks for a vacation to recover from fatigue.

              When he asks for a holiday, his friend asks: "What is the matter? Is it the liver? Have you been taking the right vitamins?" He also asks: "You are not being crafty, are you? "In any case, the teacher has to work."

              Ilya comes to understand he is not always right in his relations with teachers and can be needlessly tactless. In one scene he enters the school staff  room and scolds a young Russian teacher for speaking bad Russian. The teacher storms out of the staff room and bursts into tears. Ilya makes amends by not only later apologising to the teacher but offering a bouquet of flowers to another  teacher on the anniversary of her teaching for twenty years.

              There is also tension between himself and a young Russian teacher of English who he secretly loves, but can't openly admit this. The young teacher, Natalia, is a novice at teaching who urgently needs his help as a mentor. In the end
he helps her, but he is not always approachable. When the Natalia states:

             "I have a lesson," hinting that she needs his aid, he coldly answers, "and I'm free" and walks away.

              One of the best scenes of the film is when a student secretly brings a raven into the classroom which creates chaos in the classroom as all the children run after it. The teacher offends the students with her rude English by saying:

              "Shut up", and "Get out of here", in an aggressive and angry tone. She also grabs the raven with a cloth and throws it out". "My mother says it is a sin to hurt a raven," complains  one protesting school student.

               The teacher fails to respond to a reasonable  question:

              " What is English for Voron?"

               Perhaps the scene with the raven is no accident. According  to much folklore, the arrival of a raven is seen as a bad omen of either impending troubles, or death.  Although her classmates boycott  her class, her colleague, Ilya, steps in to smooth things over.

               Part of the drama of the film is wondering what Ilya will finally do: will he hand in his notice, or soldier on?

               The film is superb because it has witty and thoughtful dialogue, a great talented cast, is beautifully shot and is never dull. There exists a pure simplicity about the film where the speech of the teachers never becomes long-drawn or reduced to stale  propaganda. Teachers are shown for what they  actually are: vulnerable, prone to misjudgment, and can put their foot in it. The film is also philosophical. The students are often set classroom tasks such as to write a composition in Russian on questions such as, "What is Happiness?" Not all the answers are welcomed by teachers.

                When one students writes about what she wants in life : 'I want to meet a man who loves children because I want to have two boys and two girls for peace. Then nobody  will feel lonely. Old people won't feel lonely." And those sentiments point to a deep theme of the film which is that many of the characters feel unhappiness arising  from the loneliness of not being understood.

                 For some reason the Russian literature teacher inexplicably scorns this school pupil's views and an argument follows.

                 One school student defines happiness as - 'When someone understands you'.

                 In one scene the history teacher points to the impotence of doing much research as well as writing dissertations by declaring: "You can rewrite a dissertation, but a soul is not paper!"

                 'Wait until Monday'  can be a tremendously moving film . Anyone who seriously suggests we should begin a custom where teachers watch it on the 1st September is neither  a crank or fool. It is a pity they don't make films like this anymore !