The usually thoughtful liberal Gene Lyons goes over the top in his red-baiting tirade against Bernie Sanders (Saturday, June 4). Yes, Sanders flirted with Trotskyism at one point in his life, but he clearly evolved. For Lyons to say, “once a Trotskyite, always a fool,” and again “show me an American Trotskyite and I’ll show you a damned fool” belies the differing evolutions of numerous serious American thinkers.
Saul Bellow, one of the great novelists of the last century, was once a Trotskyist who turned liberal then moderately conservative; Irving Kristol, a founder of neoconservatism, had an even more drastic evolution — a total turnaround — while the late author and one-time Sun-Times columnist Michael Harrington moved from Trotskyism to traditional social democracy and founded the Democratic Socialists of America, which integrated itself into the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. (Sanders is also a member.) Similarly, Irving Howe — the critic, editor and author of “World of Our Fathers” — was also a Trotskyist who moved to social democracy.
Regardless of what you think of the directions taken by these and numerous other intellectuals who once were enamored of Trotsky’s ideas in his fight with Stalin, none can be considered “damned fools,” let alone “always” fools.
Don Rose, Lincoln Park

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CPS changed rules on charter schools

As the Chair of the Illinois State Charter School Commission, I am proud that we have become a respected and nationally recognized organization known for its rigorous, high-quality, transparent and professional authorizing practices. Since inception, we have approved only 10 percent of charter appeals.

Let me be very clear: After a rigorous and thorough review of the appeals filed by Amandla Charter School, Betty Shabazz International – Sizemore Campus and Bronzeville Lighthouse, the commission determined that the Chicago Public Schools violated the due process rights of each of the schools and did not follow Illinois Charter School law.  CPS changed charter school standards after the deadline that schools must be notified and blocked the schools from improving performance and meeting established standards.

For the first time in its history, the commission voted unanimously to grant the schools’ appeals. This decision was not influenced by anything except the fact that CPS changed the rules midstream, preventing fair evaluation and due process.

DeRonda Williams
Chair, Illinois State Charter School Commission

Ali was a ‘nice to guy to a stranger’

The obvious danger in meeting a public figure whom you have long idolized is that they will let you down; they’re only human, after all. But as Muhammad Ali had long been known as a man of the people, I decided to take the risk when invited in the early 1980s to a Harold Washington fundraiser, knowing Ali would be the featured attraction.

When he came through the door of the French Port restaurant on Clark Street, the flashbulbs popped and everyone wanted a piece of him, including yours truly, to whom he graciously allowed himself to be photographed with. But the best was yet to come. Perhaps 15 minutes into Ali’s appearance, there was a sudden vacuum where everyone around him had their attention drawn elsewhere — except for me. My heart pounding like a schoolboy’s, I knew this was my chance to say anything to him I wanted, anything. And like a dope I froze. Leave it to Ali to rescue my frozen tongue.

“How long you been in Chicago?” he asked conversationally.

“All my life,” I replied.

“I had to move,” Ali said. “Too cold.”

A few other brief words were exchanged, equally relaxed. And there you have the essence of Muhammad Ali, the most famous human on the planet, being a nice guy to a stranger, like we were having a beer on a bar stool.

Before I left the restaurant I stopped at his table, and, leaning in to him, said, “Sorry to interrupt you while you’re eating, champ. But before I leave I just have to know. How did you allow yourself to be nailed by that left hook of [Henry] Cooper’s?”

He put down his fork, cupped his mouth conspiratorially, and whispered, “I tripped over it.”

I went home on clouds. RIP, champ.

Rob Hirsh, West Ridge