An internal review found [Chaka Patterson] had referred business to his old law firm, allowing it to charge up to $315 an hour above the county’s standard rate, according to an official and county records.
Patterson, a 49-year-old former partner at the Chicago offices of the global law firm Jones Day, became head of the county prosecutor’s office’s civil division in February just months after State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s 2016 election victory.
. . . . The issue of potential problems with law firms came up in a different context during the 2016 campaign after Foxx resigned from her job as chief of staff for County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to run for office. The Tribune reported that Foxx did consulting work for Power Rogers & Smith, a personal injury firm that had filed cases against the county. –Chicago Tribune
It is the second time in two weeks that referrals to high-priced law firms have led to resignations by top public officials.
The other recent case involved the head of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the top attorney there:
Claypool was accused of orchestrating a “full-blown cover-up” by the district inspector general, who called for the CEO’s ouster in a blistering report given to the school board Wednesday. ….
A report from CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler was scathing in its criticism of Claypool. The district CEO “repeatedly lied” during an ethics investigation involving the top CPS attorney [Ron Marmer], the report said.
Schuler on Friday said the latest upheaval at the district’s top ranks could have been avoided if Claypool agreed to remove General Counsel Ron Marmer from overseeing a contract with his former firm, Jenner & Block. CPS hired the firm, which was still making severance payments to Marmer, to manage a civil rights lawsuit against the state of Illinois that was ultimately dropped. –Chicago Tribune
Now that you know what kind of corruption an Inspector General can uncover, is it any surprise that the Chicago City Council refuses to allow any IG to investigate it?
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats
How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.
◆ Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign
The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.
The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.
◆ Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders
Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.
A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.
The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.
While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.
The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News
Comment: National news media have not reported this news.
◆ Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets
Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):
In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times
Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.
I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.
The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.
The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.
◆Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here(Reuters)
Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.
Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.
All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.
Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].
Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:
If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”
Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.
Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes? This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.
Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).
I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.
The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear a challenge to the so-called “fair share” fees public employee unions collect from non-members, posing a major threat to organized labor.
Unlike the past three times the court has considered similar cases, its five-member conservative majority appears poised to rule that workers opposed to union representation cannot be forced to pay for collective bargaining and other benefits. –USA Today
Comment: The Republicans really want to weaken the public unions, as Scott Walker’s campaign in Wisconsin showed.
The unions know it and uniformly support Democratic candidates.
The legal argument by conservative and moderate union members is that so much of what these unions do is inherently political that the members’ free-speech rights are trampled by forcing them to pay union dues as a compulsory aspect of working at, say, a public school or Department of Motor Vehicles.
My guess: Compulsory union fees will be ruled unconstitutional violations and national membership in public-employee unions will drop significantly, following the Wisconsin pattern.
The biggest impact will be on K-12 school policy in the states.
There will be a longer-term impact in other areas since weaker unions cannot stop the rise of autonomous busses or autonomous lawnmowers and floor cleaners, which will give cities and states more service for less money.
Stars now shying away from interviews after Jane Fonda mess
Megyn Kelly said on the first episode of her new NBC morning show, which aired Monday, that for years she’d “dreamed of hosting an uplifting show.”
But just three episodes in, her celebrity guests seem to find the show anything but uplifting. Kelly’s penchant for speaking her mind, regardless of how her words might be perceived, caused two of her celebrity guests to speak out against the host after their respective appearances.
The most recent was Jane Fonda, whom Kelly pressed to discuss her plastic surgery. –Washington Post
Comment: One problem is that Fox viewers think she “betrayed” her network and thus her “side.”
A second is that she was always better at hard-news interviews than soft-focus ones. But her new time slot is tailored for morning uplift, not hard news.
Third, some media critics have said that she is the kind of woman who appeals more to male viewers than female viewers. But the morning audience is heavily female.
NBC gave her bucket loads of cash and removed a steady program to give her a slot. They must be slashing their wrists.
A number of the state’s biggest cities, including Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, all of which are run by Democrats, joined a lawsuit against Texas seeking to strike down the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, in May.
In his ruling issued Wednesday evening, the judge, Orlando L. Garcia of United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction preventing the law from taking effect while the suit continues.
Judge Garcia appeared to block three provisions of the law, including one that stated that local government entities and officials may not “adopt, enforce or endorse” any policy limiting the enforcement of immigration laws. –New York Times
Comment: The case will move to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in NOLA, one of the most conservative.
The word “endorse” might well be a constitutional problem since it seems to block the First Amendment freedoms of local officials.
He reiterated his pledge to slash corporate tax rates and simplify individual taxes.
Comment: It’s important to remember that overhauling the tax code is much more difficult and complex than simply cutting taxes. Every one of those “loopholes” is there because a special interest lobbied for it and a Congressman pushed it through. They will not want to see those benefits erased. But erasing them is the only way to reform the overall code. That’s why it hasn’t been accomplished since Reagan.
When the United States chose to let Syria slide into chaos while simultaneously seeking to end the isolation of Iran with a nuclear deal, President Barack Obama thought he was avoiding trouble and giving Iran a chance to “get right with the world.”
But it turns out those blunders are still paying dividends for Iran, creating new dangers in the Middle East and threatening the hopes of the Trump administration. That was made clear this week when Yehya al-Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, announced in Gaza that the terror group had reconciled with Iran. –Jonathan Tobin, NY Post
A California Catholic school is facing a backlash from parents after officials took down some religious statues — including one of Mary and baby Jesus — over concerns that they were “alienating” prospective students.
The head of the San Domenico School in San Anselmo said parents of some prospective students who visited the campus – which was founded in 1850 and serves 671 students grades K-12 — expressed concern about the religious figures. –Fox News
Comment: Gee, I hope this doesn’t spread to the Vatican.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ The aftershocks of Charlottesville continue
The main story is the fallout from Pres. Trump’s initial failure to single out the instigators of the fatal attack. He has since issued a full-throated condemnation of the white nationalists, but not until he incurred serious political damage.
◆Kim Jong Un backs down from his threat to Guam. (Story here)
Comment: The Chinese probably told him he went too far, but we don’t know the next shoe to fall. Kim has not been seen recently, which may indicate another test is near. In any case, the main problem remains, and there is no indication yet that China intends to resolve it.
Henry Kissinger, writing an op-ed in the WSJ over the weekend, says the only solution lies in the US and China working out a joint plan to deal with North Korea. The incentive for China is that North Korea’s provocative behavior could lead to nuclear proliferation in the region, which would be very bad for China. (Op-ed in WSJ, subscription)
The need for the Democratic Party and the labor movement to take stock of their historically close alliance became clear after November’s election when Hillary Clinton’s support among union voters declined by 7 percentage points from 2012 when former President Barack Obama was re-elected.
For months, Democrats have been grappling with how to reconnect with the union and working class vote they once considered their base, prompting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lament after the election that “my party did not talk about what it always stood for.” –New York Times
Comment: For the party of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Steyer, and Keith Ellison to connect with workers, they will need to hire an anthropologist.
Comment: We won’t know the results (as opposed to the agendas) of the Putin and Xi meetings until the effects on the ground are seen, beginning next week. The fact that Putin and Trump met without advisors is interesting, too. It indicates how serious the leaks are. The US cannot trust anybody to be in room.
Comment on Silences at G20: This was supposed to be a showcase for German leader, Angela Merkel. She has been overshadowed by Putin, Xi, Trump, and rioters. Second, we have heard little so far about the shared challenges of Islamic terrorism and vast immigration flows from North Africa and the Middle East.
Comment: The signal is “the US can easily can incinerate you.” The problem is, if we launch a military attack, the North Koreans can kill large numbers in Seoul. Moreover, the Chinese might come in to prevent a Korea unified under American leadership.
There are no good US options here. My guess is that the US starts to up financial sanctions on all North Korean trading partners, including Chinese banks.
“For Secretary Tillerson to say that this issue will remain unresolved is disgraceful,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future.” –The Hill
Comment: Schumer is correct. This issue is not “unresolved.” His base loves it; it reinforces their view that Trump is illegitimate. But voters are interested in forward-looking solutions to real problems in the economy, foreign policy, etc. Schumer knows that, of course, but he has to toss red meat to the base.
The basic issue is an Obama-era law, replacing No Child Left Behind, that requires “ambitious” educational goals to meet federal standards. How much latitude will the Washington’s Dept. of Ed. give states to determine for themselves what it “ambitious”?
“It is mind-boggling that the department could decide that it’s going to challenge them on what’s ambitious,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who worked in the Education Department under President George W. Bush. He called the letter “directly in opposition to the rhetoric and the promises of DeVos.” –quoted in New York Times
Comment: Conservatives as well as liberals are concerned about this issue. They weren’t surprised by Washington’s heavy hand under Obama; they don’t expect it under DeVos and fear they may be getting it.
Alternative possibilities are that
Lower-level officials did this without DeVos’ approval (the person who wrote it is a Democratic advocate for charter schools, appointed by DeVos)
The Dept. is actually enforcing the law, as written, until Congress rewrites it
tackles everything from recess to teacher bonuses to testing. Backers called it “landmark” and “transformational” legislation, while critics said it will harm public schools and their most vulnerable students. . . . .
The measure includes the “schools of hope” provision [House Speaker Richard] Corcoran championed, which will use state money to lure high-performing charter schools to neighborhoods where students in traditional schools have struggled academically.
“These are kids who are being robbed of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “We want every single child to have an opportunity to get a world-class education.”
The bill’s provisions related to charter schools — privately run public institutions — have prompted some of the biggest outcry, with many educators and school advocates urging Scott to veto the bill because they think it will reduce funding for traditional public schools.
Comment: The bill was strongly opposed by teachers’ unions and other supporters of traditional public schools, strongly supported by proponents of charters and private schools.
[Comptroller Susana] Mendoza says a recent court order regarding money owed for Medicaid bills means mandated payments will eat up 100 percent of Illinois’ monthly revenue.
There would be no money left for so-called “discretionary” spending – a category that in Illinois includes school buses, domestic violence shelters and some ambulance services. –Associated Press
Comment: For years, the state spent lavishly on pensions for unionized state employees, who were so beloved by legislators that they actually wrote into the state constitution that pensions can never be reduced.
On those rare occasions when the Democrats and Republicans agreed on budget cuts, they were struck down by the courts because they reduced future pension benefits, which violates the constitution.
For years, the state has been deep blue, with House Majority Leader Mike Madigan (of Chicago) as the most powerful figure. Several years ago, a tough-minded Republican (Bruce Rauner) won the governorship, but he and Madigan have not been able to strike a deal.
Unlike Puerto Rico, Illinois and other US states cannot seek bankruptcy protection. But lots of city and state agencies can, and there is a real prospect that some will have to do so if the state cannot pay its share of their budget.
You can easily imagine what the D’s and R’s say. “The other side is intransigent, and what we need to do is (a) raise taxes or (b) cut services.” You can guess who says A and who says B. (The one quirk is that not all Republicans favor being hard on unionized state employees. In some downstate districts, they are vote in large numbers, often for Republicans.)
◆ “Put down you make-up kit, m’am, and come out of the beauty shop with your hands up.”
Got a call to do [First Lady] Lori Otter’s makeup for a commercial on location and I said…
“I would be more than happy to do it but her husband [Gov. Butch Otter, R] vetoed a bill to make it legal for me or any other makeup artist and stylist to do so. She will have to go to a salon or do it all herself.”
She added in the Facebook post: “That felt so damn good.” –FEE
Comment: Too many people need costly, time-consuming, irrelevant licenses.
Bureaucracies love imposing them. That’s what they live to do. Professionals already in the field often favor them to prevent competition.
So, who loses? Consumers lose, unless the licenses protect health and safety.
Licenses for commercial truck drivers and food handlers are obviously necessary. But many others are unnecessary or are saddled with lots of unnecessary classroom hours. They raise costs and force people to go to unlicensed or blackmarket providers–or do without.
Slate asks, “Did the singer-songwriter take portions of his Nobel lecture from SparkNotes?”
Sounds like their lawyer went over that headline, doesn’t it? Anyway, they note the following:
Across the 78 sentences in the lecture that Dylan spends describing Moby-Dick, even a cursory inspection reveals that more than a dozen of them appear to closely resemble lines from the SparkNotes site. And most of the key shared phrases in these passages (such as “Ahab’s lust for vengeance” in the above lines) do not appear in the novel Moby-Dick at all. –Slate
One of the great distinctions in life is between intelligent simplification and less-intelligent oversimplification.
I try hard to simplify without being simple minded, to cut to the heart of an issue after considering the data and different viewpoints.
With that prologue, here are my views on K-12 education policy. You’ll have to decide if they are useful simplifications or blockheaded oversimplications.
K-12 Schools Should
Be entirely about what’s best for students
What is good for the adults in the system is relevant only if it helps or harms children’s education
Compete with each other for students and thus for funding
There are several ways to do that; I don’t know whether one is better than another, so we should try multiple approaches to “letting the money follow the students.”
End-users always suffer in non-competitive systems since the suppliers have monopoly control–and exercise it for their own benefit. That’s true whether the end users are cable TV subscribers or school children.
Suppliers in such non-competitive systems reap the rewards and will fight hard to retain their privileged position. That means blocking competition, just as taxi companies tried to do with Uber and Lyft.
One result is that our current K-12 system doesn’t punish failure at the classroom, school, or system-wide level. It does too little to reward success at those levels, too.
We just keep handing out “participation trophies,” whether the performance is good or bad.
Give failing schools, bad principals, and poor teachers an opportunity to correct their problems, but give them a brief window to do it
An opportunity to fix mistakes is the fair thing to do
But allowing too much time leaves kids in bad classrooms
Face closure if they cannot correct problems; similarly, bad teachers and administrators should face dismissal, either because their individual performance is poor or because their school is closing.
If schools truly compete with each other and the money follows the students, then bad schools will face the same fate as bad restaurants.
The people who run each school know that and know their future depends on solving problems or preventing them in the first place. That gives the powerful incentives to manage effectively.
Teachers and administrators who are dismissed individually should have the same rights as employees at ExxonMobile or IBM. No more, no less. There should never, ever be anything like New York City’s “rubber rooms,” where bad teachers sit around, doing nothing, collecting salaries, all courtesy of the taxpayers and city officials who are more indebted to organized pressure from public-sector unions than disorganized disgust from parents.
Good teachers and administrators in failing schools should be given an opportunity to be rehired at other schools, but they should not be able to force out competent, existing employees at other schools because of seniority
Offer a full range of compensatory help for students who are poorly prepared to learn, lack adequate nutrition, or have disabilities
The public should continue to provide substantial extra funding for those in greatest need
There are basically two ways to identify bad schools
Experts evaluate test results and then decide which schools live or die
Parents evaluate test results and other information about the school (such as location and hours), then choose what they think is best for their children and their families
I prefer the latter, as long as the parents have access to test results and expert opinions.
The same people search out that information and advice when they buy cars, choose restaurants, rent apartments, or select colleges.
Parents would search out that information here, too, and lots of people would be eager to provide it.
We simply have to require schools make it publicly available.
If the school’s information is transparent, then parents can figure out what’s best for them and their kids, just as the do in selecting everything else they consume, including the most important things.
What’s good for me may not be best for you. If I lack good transportation, the school’s location may be crucial. If I sometimes have to work late unexpectedly, I may care about the after-school programs and flexibility in picking up kids. The key point is: I know my needs, you don’t, so give me the information and let me choose.
Beyond that, there are many important details. To take one: Since a school could fail financially in mid-year, leaving students in the lurch, it should be required to post a financial bond to ensure its students can always complete that year elsewhere.
To take another: I would allow a limited number of schools to restrict admission to very highly-qualified students, as magnet schools do now.
There might be other special schools for kids with special needs.
All other schools would be required to admit all students, subject to enrollment caps. If a particular school is overenrolled, local officials or voters would have to decide what rules would be used to cull the excess applicants.
I hope that’s a useful simplification, as opposed to a simple-minded one!