Archives for the month of: February, 2020

If Senator Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, you can be sure that Trump will redbait  him on a daily basis. Sanders will be “red meat” for Trump’s ridicule. If you support Sanders, you will hate this column. Be forewarned.

For a preview of what lies ahead, read this column from the Washington Post by Megan McArdle.

The world of comic books, in which characters are constantly dying and being revived or reinvented for a new legion of fans, eventually had to invent a concept known as the “retcon” — short for “retroactive continuity.”
You’ll have noticed the phenomenon in film and television even if you never knew its name: “retconning” means altering an already-established past story line, to cover up growing plot holes or simply to free an author to craft a more enjoyable narrative in the present, one unhindered by the back catalogue.

The term has obvious applications to modern politics. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) looks increasingly likely to win the Democratic nomination, left-of-center people are anxious to downgrade Sanders’s self-described socialism into something more politically palatable — like Great Society liberalism, or perhaps, at maximum, a Nordic-style welfare state.

In this, they struggle with an inconveniently well-documented Early Bernie Sanders, with his calls to nationalize “utilities, banks and major industries,“ his kind words for left-wing dictatorships, and his “very strange honeymoon” in the U.S.S.R. — where he blasted U.S. foreign policy before returning home to say “Let’s take the strengths of both systems. … Let’s learn from each other.”

One should be forgiven almost any number of youthful flirtations with bad ideology. But Sanders was in his early 40s when he went gaga for Nicaragua’s brutal Sandinista regime, and 46 during his sojourn on the Volga. In February 2019, when he was refusing to describe Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro as a “dictator,” Sanders was 77.


Forty years seems enough cultivate skepticism about what you’re shown while visiting a Communist dictatorship.

And 77 is certainly old enough to have read the 2019 Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela, which noted that “polls had not met international standards of freedom and fairness,” and went on to state that no “independent government institutions remain today in Venezuela to act as a check on executive power. … The government has been repressing dissent through often-violent crackdowns.” All of which sounds positively dictatorial.

If that wasn’t enough, Sanders might have been convinced when Maduro started using military blockades to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching his own famine-stricken citizens.
Yes, by the September Democratic debate, Sanders had inched around to calling Maduro a “vicious tyrant,” but why was it such a struggle? No regime that is democratically accountable could undertake such a blockade, which is why Great Society Democrats and Nordic-style social democrats don’t hesitate to condemn the ones that do. That sort of reluctance occurs among people who still hanker for something much more radical than Western democracies are prepared to deliver — and can’t quite admit that their idealistic program has birthed yet another moral and economic catastrophe.

Thus, it’s unsurprising to find that Sanders remains considerably to the left of Europe’s moderate social democrats. Economist Ryan Bourne of the Cato Institute argues that even when you compare the current Sanders platform to the British Labour Party’s 2019 election manifesto, the former is more radical. Sanders wants government to absorb a much higher share of gross domestic product, intervene even more heavily in sectors such as health care, and attack capital more aggressively than Labour promised to do under Jeremy Corbyn — and the Corbyn agenda was broadly recognized as a leftward leap in a country whose politics are already well to the left of ours.

MIT economist Daron Acemoglu recently made similar points, tying them directly to Sanders’s claim that he just wants the United States to be more like Denmark or Sweden. As it happens, he says, Sweden once tried a version of Sanders’s proposals to transfer a sizable chunk of corporate ownership and managerial control to workers. This “workplace democracy,” an idea closely associated with democratic socialism, was eventually abandoned by those Nordic social democrats because it poisoned labor relations, and depressed both investment and productivity growth.

Sanders’s undeniable radicalism, and his equally undeniable popularity with an exceptionally motivated portion of the base, presents a problem for Democrats. Young Democrats may think socialism sounds swell, but affluent older suburbanites will balk at both the word and the policies it denotes. With the white working class flocking Trumpward, Democrats needs those suburbanites; just boosting youth turnout probably won’t be enough.

The obvious solution is to quietly persuade suburbanites that the Sanders socialism label is just personal branding, and either retcon his previous radicalism, or write a change of heart into his biography. One problem is that it’s not clear this change of heart actually occurred; a bigger problem is that Sanders appeals to younger voters precisely because “he’s been saying the same thing for 40 years.” But the biggest problem is that his defenders can’t erase the things he’s saying right now.

 

 

 

 

Matt Barnum and Alex Zimmerman of Chalkbeat report that a new study of Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy found that it increased the dropout rate, especially for black boys, who were most likely to be stopped and frisked.

Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc warn in the Guardian the Michael Bloomberg’s ideas about education would be a disaster for the nation. He is the only candidate whose ideas about education are in synch with those of Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and Arne Duncan. The authors are both supporting Bernie Sanders.

Affer persuading the legislature to give him total control of the city’s 1.1 million public school students, he hired three non-educators as city Chancellor. One of them, a publisher out of her depth, lasted 95 days.

Like Trump and his inept Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country. Education, in their view, should be run like a business.

While other establishment Democrats have begun changing their tune in response to the “Red for Ed” movement, Bloomberg’s campaign spokesman has made it clear that privatization will be a core message of his 2020 presidential run: “Mike has always supported charter schools, he opened a record number of charter schools as mayor of New York City, and he will champion the issue as president.”

Indeed, Bloomberg succeeded in massively expanding privately run but publicly funded charter schools during his term as mayor, increasing their number from 18 to 183. His controversial push to “increase school choice” closed over 100 schools in low-income communities and entrenched New York City’s education system as the most racially segregated in the country…

If anything, the main difference between Bloomberg and Trump is that the former has spent far more of his immense personal fortune to boost corporate “education reform” and local candidates driving this agenda. The New York Times reported last week that Bloomberg has spent millions to promote charters in the state of Louisiana alone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: Bloomberg’s foundation in 2018 announced its plan to spend $375m to promote charters, merit pay, and the sacking of “failing” teachers, among other reforms.

Bloomberg is also an active promoter of high stakes testing. Despite abundant evidence that an excessive testing regime does little to improve real educational achievement, Bloomberg has vociferously sung the praises of this system in op-eds such as Demand Better Schools, Not Fewer Tests. Accordingly, as mayor he fought for a merit pay system through which teachers’ salaries would be pegged to student test scores.Like Trump and DeVos, Bloomberg has also viciously attacked teacher unions and scapegoated educators. He spent much of his mayoral tenure fighting with the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which he compared to the National Rifle Association. As he put it, “if the UFT wants it, it ain’t good”.

Actually, Bloomberg has poured money into charter school campaigns across the country, not just in Louisiana. He donated big money to school board races in Los Angeles and a charter referendum in Massachusetts, among many other state and local races.. His daughter Emma is one of three billionaire board members of TFA’s political action arm, called Leadership for Educational Equity.

Though his Republican roots are less evident on some other issues, Bloomberg’s personal and political similarity to Trump will make it very hard for him to win in a general election. Trump’s base remains solid – we need a candidate who can increase turnout by energizing the Democratic base and involving new voters in the political process.

That’s why having Bloomberg as the Democratic party’s standard bearer would make defeating Trump exceedingly difficult. At a moment when a wave of successful teachers’ strikes has captured the imagination of millions and changed the national discussion on education, a Bloomberg nomination would be a sure-fire recipe for demoralizing educators and teachers’ unions, an indispensable bastion of organized labor and the Democratic base.

They conclude:

You can’t win in November without teachers. And nobody should expect educators to be won over to a billionaire who has spent much of his career and fortune demonizing them. If you want to save public schools and defeat Trump, Bloomberg is no choice at all.

Jeff Bryant writes in the Progressive about the Trump-DeVos budget and their plan to eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program, which incensed the charter industry. The charter industry was certain they had a friend in Betsy DeVos, how could she have abandoned them?

Bryant quotes me as saying that the far-right foundations and think tanks embraced charters thirty years ago because they were easier to sell to the public than vouchers. I was involved in three different conservative think tanks–the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force. I met with leaders of the voucher movement and the charter movement. Charters were easier to sell because they could be “called” public schools even when they were under private management. And, of course, the charter industry passed legislation in state after state labeling themselves as “public charter schools,” when it would be more accurate to say that they are privately managed schools with a government contract.

Charters were embraced by the right because they did not run the risk of losing in court as vouchers did (at that time). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the charter industry got its start, the courts would have never approved a full-blown voucher scheme (the courts did okay vouchers for Cleveland and Milwaukee, but those seemed to be special cases, since they were supposed to “save” poor black and brown children from “failing public schools.”) Now we know that vouchers did not work in Cleveland and Milwaukee, but that has not slowed the zeal of voucher advocates one iota. From the discussions that I listened in on in rightwing circles, the invocation of “saving poor black and brown children” was a propaganda ploy intended to win the support of liberal legislators. It was a hoax and it was a knowing hoax. And many liberals fell for it.

Bryant explores Trump’s lie during the State of the Union address about the Philadelphia student who was allegedly “trapped” in a “failing government school.” As we soon learned, the student had attended a private Christian Academy, then applied for and was accepted into one of the city’s most elite charter schools.

Bryant writes:

As The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed, Janiyfah Davis was enrolled in Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III (MaST III), which is part of a popular charter network in Philadelphia with a reputation for being “high performing.” But that designation is also deceptive.

A research study I co-authored with the Network for Public Education on the federal government’s charter school grant program—the program Trump now proposes to cut—spotlighted MaST I and MaST II schools in the network because of the multiple grants, totaling over $1.6 million, the schools received. 

We also found that—though the schools’ grant applications expressed a “vision” to provide access to high-level math and science courses to low income, special education, English language learners, and minority populations—the schools actually served disproportionately higher percentages of white students than Philadelphia district schools. 

Despite any indication that MaST III actually served the groups it purported to, DeVos awarded the school a grant of $1,345,000 in 2019. 

In other words, the MaST network is an example of how charter schools have rigged the game to claim the mantle of “high performing” by serving mostly non-disadvantaged students.

Yet as the charter school industry continues to pour huge sums of money into its advocacy and lobbying efforts, it does little to address, and arguably worsens, the pervasive inequality that is at the root of the nation’s education problems.

Indeed, as the reformers fretted over the elimination of the federal government’s charter school grants, they were completely silent on Trump axing programs that actually do address inequality, such as those that focus on migrant and homeless students, native Hawaiian and Alaskan students, rural education, after-school programs, and full-service community schools.

So sure, Trump lied during his State of the Union address about saving the educational destiny of a young African American girl in Philadelphia, but that lie exposed a much deeper one: That the political establishment, conservative and liberal alike, has been deceiving us about the goals of school choice—vouchers and charter schools—all along. It’s always been about turning education into a private enterprise. 

 

Two Wisconsin legislators published an opinion piece about the harm that school choice is doing to the state’s public schools.

Jon Erpenbach and Sondy Pope object to the way that vouchers have taken money away from public schools without the compose top of the governed.

It hasn’t been long since many Wisconsinites have had to vote on referendums to keep their public school doors open, and now in this new year, our schools continue to be underfunded. This spring 50 school districts will go to referendum, with 29 seeking $915 million in operating costs alone.

During last year’s budget deliberations, Gov. Tony Evers put forth a proposal that would have made significant investments in our public schools. Many of his ideas stemmed from the Republican controlled Blue Ribbon Commission on K-12 education. Unfortunately, the task force recommendations could not make it past the Republicans on the Joint Committee on Finance, including $10.1 million from sparsity aid for rural districts compared to the Governor’s plan. Senate District 27 lost $600,000 alone due to Republican rejections of their own recommendations, with 82 other districts statewide also losing funds.Fast forward to this year, andinstead of doing their jobs and convening for a special session to address the farm crisis, Republicans chose to hold a political rally to promote voucher schools.

Unfortunately, while taxpayers will be voting on referendums this April, voucher school operators are able to take $145.5 million from property taxpayers with zero transparency, oversight or ability to vote “no.”

On Jan. 8, 2020, Senator Bewley (D-Mason), Representative Considine (D-Baraboo), and both of us introduced Senate Bill 661 (SB 661), to prohibit the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from making reductions in the amount of state aid that is paid to school districts, unless the voters agree to the reductions by a referendum vote.

Under current law, school choice programs are able to drain funds away from public schools, and SB 661 would give power back to Wisconsinites to decide how they want their tax dollars spent.

A recent memo released by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows that vouchers caused $145 million in aid reduction to public schools. That amount is up 30% from last year, and this problem is only going to grow if it is not addressed. The trend in tax dollars going away from public schools towards unreliable voucher programs shows the decline to our education system at the expense of our taxpayers. Wisconsinites should have a choice in whether or not they want to fund two separate education programs, and that is why we introduced the bill to bring accountability back into the fold.

For-profit education is chipping away at our democracy with misinformation and misleading standards for education, with the approval of our current presidential administration. Wisconsin Democrats believe in doing what is best for our children, and unfortunately, forcing taxpayers to fund competing education systems will only hinder their future.

About 30 public schools in Broward County may close due to loss of students to charter schools.

The original purpose of charter schools was to collaborate with public schools, not to destroy them. Unfortunately, the charter industry is so well represented in the legislature that they have a distinctive edge over real public schools. The wife of the State Commissiomer of Educatuon Richard Corcoran runs a charter school.

About 30 Broward schools could close, combine with other schools or convert into a new type of facility as the school district looks for ways to deal with nearly half-empty campuses.

Many of these schools are in the southern part of the county, from Hollywood to Pembroke Pines, where thousands of students have left for charter schools. Others are in the Fort Lauderdale area and have struggled with factors such as low student performance, outdated facilities and aging neighborhoods…

Enrollment has dropped about 30,000 in the past 15 years, due mostly to charter schools and to a smaller degree private school vouchers. The demographics also have changed in Broward, where most growth is among adults without school-aged kids….

Broward considers a school to have insufficient enrollment if it has 70% percent or fewer students than it was built to serve. Many of these schools aren’t able to afford an art, music or physical education teacher or a media specialist to run the library. Several didn’t get musical instruments through the $800 million bond because they can’t afford to teach music.

Nearby charter schools are eagerly eying the buildings that might become available.

 

From Politico today:

Of all the Democratic candidates, Michael Bloomberg has the worst record on education. His education policies mirrored George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. He was fully invested in high-stakes testing, data-based decision-making, closing schools with low scores instead of helping them, opening new schools and then closing those schools, creating selective schools that chose students based on test scores, and opening scores of charter schools. He had sole control of the “Panel on Education Policy,” and warned its members that if they disagreed with him, they would be fired. When some disagreed about his blanket prohibition of “social promotion,” he summarily fired them. He hired three non-educators as chancellor to lead the system (one of them last 95 days). He tried and failed to hire business people and people from other other fields as principals. He stands for testing and privatization of public education. He has funded pro-privatization candidates in local and state school board races around the country.

SCOOP … MIKE BLOOMBERG is airing another national TV ad tying himself to closely BARACK OBAMA. This one is a 30-second spot entitled “Difference,” and it’s chock-full of imagery of BLOOMBERGand OBAMA. The timing of this ad is quite interesting, as it comes in the middle of a massive intraparty squabble between BLOOMBERGand Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (more about that in a second). BLOOMBERG has found plenty of ways to tie himself to OBAMA, the most popular Democrat in America. The 30-second ad

— SCRIPT: “[NARRATOR]: A great president and an effective mayor. Leadership that makes a difference. [OBAMA SPEAKING]: He’s been a leader throughout the country for the past 12 years, Mr. Michael Bloomberg is here. [NARRATOR]: Together they worked to combat gun violence, and again to improve education for every child. [OBAMA]: And I want to thank the mayor of this great city, Mayor Bloomberg, for his extraordinary leadership. And I share your determination to bring this country together to finally make progress for the American people.”

BLOOMBERG also has a new 30-second spot with Judge Judy. …

— LAT WITH THE NUMBERS: “Democratic presidential candidate Michael R. Bloomberg has spent more than $124 million on advertising in the 14 Super Tuesday states, well over 10 times what his top rivals have put into the contests that yield the biggest trove of delegates in a single day. The only other candidate to advertise across most of those states so far is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has spent just under $10 million on ads for the March 3 primaries.”

NEWS: BLOOMBERG has qualified for the NBC/MSNBC/Nevada Independent debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas. He’s indicated that he’ll do it, and a brand-new poll suggests that his advertising and publicity blitz has vaulted him into second place nationally.

THE POLL: SANDERS, 31 … BLOOMBERG, 19 … JOE BIDEN, 15 … ELIZABETH WARREN, 12 … AMY KLOBUCHAR, 9 … PETE BUTTIGIEG, 8. NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll

— BLOOMBERG’S DEBATE PREP, via Chris Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg: “Howard Wolfson, the veteran Democratic strategist who joined Bloomberg’s orbit in 2009 after working on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential race, is playing the role of Bernie Sanders; Julie Wood, Bloomberg’s national press secretary, is depicting Elizabeth Warren; and senior advisers Marc La Vorgna and Marcia Hale are stand-ins for Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, respectively. …

“Bloomberg is trying to hone a crisp and energetic appeal to voters that will contrast with Biden — another white, male septuagenarian on stage, according to advisers.”

THE BRAWL right now between BLOOMBERG and SANDERS seems to be the rare internecine fight that benefits everyone involved. It goes something like this: BLOOMBERG whacks BERNIE, delighting the Democratic Party’s large anti-Bernie wing. BERNIE then blasts out a fundraising email to his list of millions. He reminds his supporters that BLOOMBERG is a billionaire who palled around with TRUMP,and the left goes wild, but so do BLOOMBERG supporters, who say only a deep-pocketed billionaire willing to punch can take on the president.

Oklahoma has just experienced a fraud involving an online charter school called EPIC, which was accused of collecting money for ghost students and billing for excessive administrative overhead. It’s amazing how many of the big scandals in charter land involve the highly profitable online charters.

Now parents in Oklahoma are outraged that a new virtual charter obtained the names and addresses of their children. The charter is aligned to the Gulen movement.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has promised get to the bottom of this breach of student privacy.

Alex Pareene, staff writer at the New Republic, reminds us of Michael Bloomberg’s intolerance of dissent abd his casual disdain of civil liberties. He writes here about the mass arrests of people suspected of wanting to protest the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004. He mentions in passing the Occupy Wall Street protest, in which a ragtag group of protestors occupied a small private park near Wall Street, carried protest signs, gave speeches, and built their own library. For two months in 2011, the protest was peaceful but very visible. It contributed the phrase “the 99%” to our vocabulary, referring to vast wealth inequality. One evening, Bloomberg sent in riot police to sweep away Occupy Wall Street, arrest anyone who resisted, and throw their”library” of 5,500 books into a dumpster. One of my books was in that library, thrown into the trash;P, left to rot in the rain.

Pareene recalls Mayor Mike’s authoritarianism.

Over the course of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the New York Police Department arrested nearly 2,000 people at protests. The mass arrests were indiscriminate. Bystanders and journalists were among those hauled to a filthy bus depot terminal that served as a makeshift holding pen.

Hundreds of people were charged with minor crimes so that they could be kept in jail for the duration of the convention. A judge held the city in contempt of court for failing to abide by a state policy that gives people in jail the right to see a judge or be released within 24 hours. And the city lied about how long it took to process the fingerprints of its detainees. In the end, no serious charges were brought against anyone, because the entire point was to keep people off the streets while Bush and his friends enjoyed their parties, and to dissuade others from attempting any further disruption.

Even then, it was clear that the arrests were illegal. They were, as the civil rights attorney Norman Siegel put it at the time, “preventative detention.” The cops knew it, the city’s lawyers knew it even as they denied it, and the mayor knew it. I remember all this because I was there. I probably avoided arrest out of happenstance more than anything else. But most of the people who would go on to elect Michael Bloomberg to another two terms as mayor of New York City have probably forgotten the entire episode, because, like the mayor, they never really cared.

It took 10 years for the city to settle what the New York Civil Liberties Union described as “the largest protest settlement in history.” Bloomberg had been out of office for a few weeks when the settlement was announced. In his final term, he had used similar tactics against Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy and the 2004 RNC were special events, which, to Bloomberg and his defenders, justified the bulldozing of civil liberties. But his entire mayoralty was defined less by these mass displays of authoritarian force than by the everyday abuses his police committed against millions of New Yorkers of color as part of his police department’s stop-and-frisk policy. The NYCLU reports that the NYPD made more than five million “stops” during Bloomberg’s 12 years in office. The overwhelming majority of those targeted were black or Latino.

When a federal judge finally ruled the NYPD’s tactics unconstitutional, Bloomberg essentially threw a tantrum, accusing her of being anti-cop and insinuating that she would have blood on her hands once the murder rate crawled back up. (The bad old days will return if we ever take our foot off the necks of black New Yorkers is a common refrain in New York politics, and it’s one Bloomberg was happy to endorse while campaigning for his third term alongside his predecessor, one Rudy Giuliani.)…

Earlier this week, when audio resurfaced of Bloomberg defending racial profiling by police and lamenting that police “disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little,” his comments were treated as newly uncovered bombshells. But he said these things all the time—on the radio, on television, to newspaper reporters—for years.

Bloomberg said and did all these things because he is an authoritarian. He has explicitly argued that “our interpretation of the Constitution” will have to change to give citizens less privacy and the police more power to search and spy on them. In fact, he does not seem to believe that certain people have innate civil rights that the state must respect. If the NYPD wanted to spy on Muslims, even if they lived outside New York City, solely because of their religion or ethnicity, Michael Bloomberg thought it was a great idea. And as Jack Shafer recently pointed out, his dedication to ensuring submission began before he was an elected official—when he was the boss at a company notorious for its tyrannical treatment of employees.

Bloomberg’s three victorious mayoral election campaigns are depressing evidence that a substantial number of Americans are amenable to authoritarian politics and uninterested in protecting civil liberties. So long as the person overseeing the police state claimed to be surveilling people for their own good, it was easy to turn a blind eye, especially if the surveillance was concentrated in certain neighborhoods.