Archives for category: Lies

Vicki Cobb has written many science books for children.

She writes:

I write science books for children. People are confused about what science is.

Is it a body of knowledge?

Yes, one that has been growing incrementally and exponentially for the past 500 years.

How is this knowledge accumulated?

By experimental procedures that are verifiable by others and corrected by others.

It is produced by a community and is the original wiki. Why do some people distrust science?

Partly because much of it is non-intuitive or counter intuitive.

Why should we believe that the earth circles the sun, when it looks like the heavens circles us? What is its value that no other discipline has? It predicts with accuracy.

It doesn’t need to be believed in. For those who are questioning our faith in science when it comes to the course of this pandemic, they may be dead before they learn that they are wrong.

The Daily Howler covers the media. In this post, it points to the daily dose of propaganda meant to distract and impress the public, when the government is in fact lying. The lying is facilitated by media protocols that encourage deference to the authorities. That’s why you seldom see a White House reporter say simply, “but that’s not true” or “that’s not what you said last week.”

Consider the way Commander Trump, and the media suits, have brought us our own North Korea.

If we were the rational animal, everyone would have realized, long ago, that something seems to be badly wrong with Commander Trump. Everyone would have taken the unfortunate measure of such statements as this:
“You have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be close to zero.”
The commander said that on February 26. Yesterday, one month later, the actual number was at least 82,000. It was likely much greater than that.

In a rational world, it would have clear, a long time ago, that something was and is wrong with our bold commander.

There may be an issue of mental health. There may be an issue of cognitive impairment. There may be illness and impairment. But this would have been clear long ago.

In a rational world, rational people would have discussed these obvious possibilities. In our world, press corps elites declared that we mustn’t conduct such discussions.

We can finally taste the fruits of such conduct. We’ve ended up, all this week, watching North Korean TV.

What happens in North Korean TV? In our version of the system, useless elites find the craziest person in the society and put him on prime-time TV. They do it day after day after day.

The cases of coronavirus in the U.S. passed 100,000 in Friday, the most of any country in the world. But don’t worry. It’s all under control. The craziest person in our society said so.

This evening the New York Times published a story about a Trump’s repeated lies, boasts, and ignorance about the pandemic. The story did not include a Trump’s assertion yesterday on the Sean Hannity show that governors were inflating their need for ventilators, followed by orders to GM and Ford to start producing ventilators. One day he proclaims there is no crisis. The next day he responds to the crisis. Confusion? Distraction? Ignorance?

Linda Qiu writes:

Hours after the United States became the nation with the largest number of reported coronavirus cases on Thursday, President Trump appeared on Fox News and expressed doubt about shortages of medical supplies, boasted about the country’s testing capacity, and criticized his predecessor’s response to an earlier outbreak of a different disease.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said, alluding to a request by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. . The president made the statement in spite of government reports predicting shortages in a severe pandemic — and he reversed course on Friday morning, calling for urgent steps to produce more ventilators.

Speaking on Fox on Thursday, Mr. Trump suggested wrongly that because of his early travel restrictions on China, “a lot of the people decided to go to Italy instead” — though Italy had issued a more wide-ranging ban on travel from China and done so earlier than the United States. And at a White House briefing on Friday, he wrongly said he was the “first one” to impose restrictions on China. North Korea, for one, imposed restrictions 10 days before the United States.

He misleadingly claimed again on Friday that “we’ve tested now more than anybody.” In terms of raw numbers, the United States has tested more people for the coronavirus than Italy and South Korea but still lags behind in tests per capita.

And he continued to falsely claim that the Obama administration “acted very, very late” during the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 and 2010.

These falsehoods, like dozens of others from the president since January, demonstrate some core tenets of how Mr. Trump has tried to spin his response to the coronavirus epidemic to his advantage. Here’s an overview.

Playing down the severity of the pandemic

When the first case of the virus was reported in the United States in January, Mr. Trump dismissed it as “one person coming in from China.” He said the situation was “under control” and “it’s going to be just fine” — despite a top official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention telling the public to “expect more cases.”

No matter how much the count of cases has grown, Mr. Trump has characterized it as low.

“We have very little problem in this country” with five cases, he said in late January.

More live coverage: Markets U.S. New York
He maintained the same dismissive tone on March 5, as the number of cases had grown by a factor of 25. “Only 129 cases,” he wrote on Twitter.

A day later, he falsely claimed that this was “lower than just about” any other country. (A number of developed countries like Australia, Britain and Canada as well as populous India had fewer reported cases at that point.)

By March 12, when the tally had again increased tenfold to over 1,200, the president argued that too was “very few cases” compared to other countries.

He has also misleadingly suggested numerous times that the coronavirus is no worse than the flu, saying on Friday, “You call it germ, you can call it a flu. You can call it a virus. You can call it many different names. I’m not sure anybody knows what it is.”

The mortality rate for coronavirus, however, is 10 times that of the flu and no vaccine or cure exists yet for the coronavirus.

In conflating the flu and the coronavirus, Mr. Trump repeatedly emphasized the annual number of deaths from the flu, and occasionally inflated his estimates. When he first made the comparison in February, he talked of flu deaths from “25,000 to 69,000.” In March, he cited a figure “as high as 100,000” in 1990.

The actual figure for the 1990 flu season was 33,000, and in the past decade, the flu has killed an estimated 12,000 to 61,000 thousand people each flu season in the United States. That’s so far higher than the death count for the virus in the United States, but below projections from the Centers for Disease and Prevention, which estimated that deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, could range from 200,000 to 1.7 million. As of Friday evening, more than 1,200 deaths in the United States have been linked to the coronavirus.

On the flip side, Mr. Trump inflated the mortality and infection rates of other deadly diseases as if to emphasize that the coronavirus pales in comparison. “The level of death with Ebola,” according to Mr. Trump, “was a virtual 100 percent.” (The average fatality rate is around 50 percent.) During the 1918 flu pandemic, “you had a 50/50 chance or very close of dying,” he said on Tuesday. (Estimates for the fatality rate for the 1918 flu are far below that.)

This week, as cities and states began locking down, stock markets tumbled and jobless claims hit record levels, Mr. Trump again played down the impact of the pandemic and said, with no evidence and contrary to available research, that a recession would be deadlier than the coronavirus.

Overstating potential treatments and policies

The president has also dispensed a steady stream of optimism when discussing countermeasures against the virus.

From later February to early March, Mr. Trump repeatedly promised that a vaccine would be available “relatively soon” despite being told by public health officials and pharmaceutical executives that the process would take 12 to 18 months. Later, he promoted treatments that were still unproven against the virus, and suggested that they were “approved” and available though they were not.

Outside of medical interventions, Mr. Trump has exaggerated his own policies and the contributions of the private sector in fighting the outbreak. For example, he imprecisely described a website developed by a company affiliated with Google, wrongly said that insurers were covering the cost of treatment for Covid-19 when they only agreed to waive co-payments for testing, and prematurely declared that automakers were making ventilators “right now.”

Often, he has touted his complete “shut down” or “closing” of the United States to visitors from affected countries (in some cases leading to confusion and chaos). But the restrictions he has imposed on travel from China, Iran and 26 countries in Europe do not amount to a ban or closure of the borders. Those restrictions do not apply to American citizens, permanent residents, their immediate families, or flight crews.

Not only were these restrictions total and absolute in Mr. Trump’s telling, they were also imposed on China “against the advice of a lot of professionals, and we turned out to be right.” His health and human services secretary, however, has previously said that the restrictions were imposed on the recommendations of career health officials. The Times has also reported that Mr. Trump was skeptical before deciding to back the restrictions at the urging of some aides.

Blaming others

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent test kits to states in February, some of which were flawed and produced inconclusive readings. Problems continued to grow as scientists and state officials warned about restrictions on who could be tested and the availability of tests overall. Facing criticism over testing and medical supplies, Mr. Trump instead shifted responsibility to a variety of others.

It was the Obama administration that “made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing,” he said on March 4. This was a misleading reference to draft guidance issued in 2014 on regulating laboratory-developed tests, one that was never finalized or enforceable. A law enacted in 2004 created the process and requirements for receiving authorization to use unapproved testing products in health emergencies.

The test distributed by the World Health Organization was never offered to the United States and was “a bad test,” according to Mr. Trump. It’s true that the United States typically designs and manufactures its own diagnostics, but there is no evidence that the W.H.O. test was unreliable.

As for the shortage of ventilators cited by Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Trump has misleadingly said that the governor declined to address the issue in 2015 when he “had the chance to buy, in 2015, 16,000 ventilators at a very low price and he turned it down.”

A 2015 report establishing New York’s guidelines on ventilator allocation estimated that, in the event of a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 flu, the state would “likely have a shortfall of 15,783 ventilators during peak demand.” But the report did not actually recommend increasing the stockpile and noted that purchasing more was not a cure-all solution as there would not be enough trained health care workers to operate them.

Rewriting history

Since the severity of the pandemic became apparent, the president has defended his earlier claims through false statements and revisionism.

He has denied saying things he said. Pressed on Tuesday about his pronouncements in March that testing was “perfect,” Mr. Trump said he had been simply referring to the conversation he had in July with the president of Ukraine that ultimately led to the House impeaching him. In fact, he had said “the tests are all perfect” like the phone call.

He has compared his government’s response to the current coronavirus pandemic (“one of the best”) favorably to the Obama administration’s response to the H1N1 epidemic of 2009 to 2010 (“a full scale disaster”). In doing so, Mr. Trump has falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama did not declare the epidemic an emergency until thousands had died (a public health emergency was declared days before the first reported death in the United States) and falsely said the previous administration “didn’t do testing” (they did).

At times, Mr. Trump has marveled at the scale of the pandemic, arguing that “nobody would ever believe a thing like that’s possible” and that it “snuck up on us.”

There have been a number of warnings about both a generic worldwide pandemic and the coronavirus specifically. A 2019 government report said that “the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large scale outbreak of a contagious disease.” A simulation conducted last year by the Department of Health and Human Services modeled an outbreak of a rapidly spreading virus. And top government officials began sounding the alarms about the coronavirus in early January.

Despite his history of false and misleading remarks, Mr. Trump has also asserted, “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

A story in the Washington Post today. Trump’s lies could kill many people because scientists are not believed.

In the one month since the first U.S. coronavirus death, America has become a country of uncertainty.
New cases of infection and casualties continue multiplying. New York and Louisiana hospitals are grappling with a flood of patients that threatens to overwhelm their health-care systems. Meanwhile, the president and political conservatives are increasingly agitating to end drastic restrictions meant to buy time and save lives.
Running beneath it all, in a continuous loop through our national psyche, are basic questions leaders are struggling to answer: When can we safely lift these quarantines? How many people could die if we do it too early? Just how dangerous will this pandemic turn out to be? And what exactly should be our next step?
This is why epidemiology exists. Its practitioners use math and scientific principles to understand disease, project its consequences, and figure out ways to survive and overcome it. Their models are not meant to be crystal balls predicting exact numbers or dates. They forecast how diseases will spread under different conditions. And their models allow policymakers to foresee challenges, understand trend lines and make the best decisions for the public good.

But one factor many modelers failed to predict was how politicized their work would become in the era of President Trump, and how that in turn could affect their models.
In recent days, a growing contingent of Trump supporters have pushed the narrative that health experts are part of a deep-state plot to hurt Trump’s reelection efforts by damaging the economy and keeping the United States shut down as long as possible. Trump himself pushed this idea in the early days of the outbreak, calling warnings on coronavirus a kind of “hoax” meant to undermine him.

The notion is deeply troubling, say leading health experts, because what the country does next and how many people die depend largely on what evidence U.S. leaders and the public use to inform their decisions. Epidemiologists worry their research — intended to avert massive deaths in situations exactly like this pandemic — will be dismissed by federal leaders when it is needed most.

Jennifer Senior has been one of my favorite writers for many years. Her columns are always incisive and intelligent.

She is now an opinion writer for the New York Times. In this column, she expresses the extreme frustration I feel whenever I watch Trump speak to the press, surrounded always by people chosen for their obeisance and loyalty.

She writes about a recent press conference. A friend who used to work on Wall Street told me that the market was rising that day, but as soon as Trump began boasting and misleading, the stock market dropped 1,000 points.

What Trump makes clear in this time of national and international crisis is that he is utterly incapable of empathy or compassion. Whatever the topic, he demands adulation.

Senior writes:

In a time of global emergency, we need calm, directness and, above all, hard facts. Only the opposite is on offer from the Trump White House. It is therefore time to call the president’s news conferences for what they are: propaganda.

We may as well be watching newsreels approved by the Soviet Politburo. We’re witnessing the falsification of history in real time. When Donald Trump, under the guise of social distancing, told the White House press corps on Thursday that he ought to get rid of 75 to 80 percent of them — reserving the privilege only for those he liked — it may have been chilling, but it wasn’t surprising. He wants to thin out their ranks until there’s only Pravda in the room.

Sometimes, I stare at Deborah Birx during these briefings and I wonder if she understands that this is the footage historians will be looking at 100 years from now — the president rambling on incoherently, vainly, angrily, deceitfully, while she watches, her face stiff with the strangled horror of a bride enduring an inappropriate toast.

If the public wants factual news briefings, they need to tune in to those who are giving them: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose addresses appear with English subtitles on Deutsche Welle. They should start following the many civic-minded epidemiologists and virologists and contagion experts on Twitter, like Harvard’s Marc Lipsitch and Yale’s Nicholas Christakis, whose threads have been invaluable primers in a time of awful confusion.

These are people with a high tolerance for uncertainty. It’s the president’s incapacity to tolerate it — combined with his bottomless need to self-flatter and preserve his political power — that leads, so often, to his spectacular fits of deception and misdirection. At his Thursday news conference, a discussion of chloroquine and other experimental therapies formed the core of his remarks, when those drugs and therapies are untested and unproven and, in some cases, won’t be ready for several months, as NBC’s Peter Alexander pointed out the following day.

“What do you say to Americans who are scared?” Alexander pressed.

“I say that you’re a terrible reporter,” Trump answered.

Only a liar — and a weak man with delusions of competence — would be so unnerved by the facts.

Compare this to Cuomo, who takes questions at his news conferences calmly and systematically — and, more to the point, has a substantive response when asked the same questions about anxiety. He hears it. He relates to it. He says it’s real.

“People are in a small apartment, they’re in a house, they’re worried, they’re anxious. Just, be mindful of that,” the governor said Friday. “Those three-word sentences can make all the difference: ‘I miss you.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘I’m thinking about you.’ ‘I wish I was there with you.’ ‘I’m sorry you’re going through this.’ ‘I’m sorry we’re going through this.’”

On Friday, Cuomo said something else that was quite striking, as he was issuing his executive order for nonessential workers in New York to stay home, other than to run errands or exercise outside. “If someone wants to blame someone or complain about someone, blame me,” he said. “There is no one else who is responsible for this decision.”

Cuomo is nothing if not politically shrewd. He knows full well how this comment compares to Mr. Trump’s “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

But telling the media that they’re peddling fake news is straight from the playbook of the political gangsters of the last century. So many of Trump’s moves are.

Having each of his cabinet members fulsomely thank him for his leadership and congratulate him for his “farsightedness” before each of their remarks: Check. Making sure each one stays on a message, even if that message has nothing to do with his or her purview: Check.

(Alex Azar may have been the worst offender, speaking Friday to the urgency of closing the southern border. He’s the secretary of health and human services, not homeland security. Yet he was parroting Trump’s message about the coronavirus, one specifically tailored to the base: We’re keeping brown immigrants from spreading it.)

How about Orwellian doublespeak? Ooooooh, check. Trump and his team are continually deploying words and phrases that disguise a reality that suggests the opposite. Vice President Mike Pence talks about a “strong and seamless” partnership with the states, when at the same time Mr. Trump is trolling the states, telling Cuomo to get his own respirators.

Pence speaks relentlessly of a “whole-of-government approach,” when in fact the government is hollowed out — defunded to fight pandemics, denuded of experts — and broken in shards, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sidelined in this fight, and the president’s task force now mutely competing with a shadow group run by the president’s son-in-law.

On Friday, Trump said he cherished journalism, and his secretary of state complained about disinformation on Twitter. There are simply too many two-plus-two-is-five moments to count.

But most dangerous of all is Trump’s insistence that things are fine, or will be shortly, that they’ll be stronger and better and greater than ever. We don’t have any evidence that this is true, and the president finds any suggestion to the contrary quite rude. When a journalist pointed out to him on Thursday that the economy had all but ground to halt, Trump cut him off.

“What’s the rest of your question?” he snapped. “We know that. Everybody in the room knows that.”

Here’s the truth: Things might be hard — unfathomably hard — for months, perhaps even north of a year. Anyone who’s reading or listening to other sources of news besides the president knows that. It takes sensitivity and strength and intelligence to speak truthfully to the public about imminent hardship, the prospect of enduring pain.

So I listen to Justin Trudeau, a sci-fi experience, a dispatch from an alternate universe that prioritizes the needs and anxieties of the middle class. He speaks about concerns: The kids will be all right. There’ll be food. You won’t be booted out of your home. Not how our president is speaking right now, but it’s a road map for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 to follow.

And I listen to Cuomo, who says the same thing. His news conference on Friday was about the practical things, knowing the entire state — country, globe — had just taken a precipitous slide down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with food, shelter and safety now topmost on many people’s minds. No one can evict you for 90 days. We’re getting hospital beds. We’re recruiting doctors and nurses in training to fight this fight, and we’re coaxing medical professionals out of retirement.

Then he spoke from the heart. One of his daughters was in quarantine. “To tell you the truth, I had some of the best conversations with her that I’ve ever had,” Cuomo said. She was alone for two weeks. “We talked about things in depth that we didn’t have time to talk about in the past,” he continued, “or we didn’t have the courage or the strength to talk about in the past — feelings I had, about mistakes I had made along the way that I wanted to express my regret and talk through with her.”

He was expressing fallibility. Imagine that.

Valerie Strauss wrote a stunning dissection of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s lies to Congress in her recent testimony.

Was she lying because of ignorance or a desire to mislead the public? She lied about charter wait lists, about progress over time on NAEP scores, and about the failure of the federal Charter Schools Program, which spends $440 million to launch new charters, entirely at DeVos’ discretion.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/07/betsy-devoss-problem-with-numbers/

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has a problem with numbers. As in, she sometimes cites numbers that just aren’t accurate.

DeVos, of course, is hardly the only government official to cite inaccurate numbers to make a point, but that’s no reason not to point it out when she does — and she did during two appearances in the last week before congressional committees when defending the Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget.

Let’s look at a few examples from her testimony.

One misleading figure that gets repeated, and not just by DeVos, is this: There are 1 million students on waiting lists at charter schools throughout the country. DeVos uses the statistic to show there is enormous demand for charters — which are publicly funded but privately operated — but not enough schools to accept all children who want to go. That, the argument goes, is why charter expansion should be encouraged.

To be sure, some charter schools are indeed in high demand and do have long waiting lists. But on some of the lists, there are duplicates, children who are already in other schools and other issues.

The 1 million figure was first cited in 2013 when the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools first made the claim. That alliance is led by Nina Rees, who worked for former vice president Richard B. Cheney. The alliance quickly revised the number it cited — to a minimum of 520,000 when it acknowledged that students were on duplicate lists.

In 2014, Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University, and Kevin Welner, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and founder of the National Education Policy Center, wrote a policy brief titled “Wait, Wait, Don’t Mislead Me,” which gave nine evidence-based reasons the waiting list numbers from the charter alliance should not be believed. These include no external verification, the same students on multiple lists and students who were never removed from waiting lists after lengthy periods.

In 2016, WGBH in Boston came to the same conclusion when it investigated charter waiting list numbers used to justify lifting the cap on charters. There were students on waiting lists who were happily enrolled in another school, with no desire to leave. Citizens for Public Schools found the waiting list for Boston Public Schools and Boston charter schools to be comparable. Ultimately, voters rejected a statewide referendum to lift the cap on charter.

And yet DeVos used that debunked number when defending her budget before Congress.

DeVos also talked about scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as NAEP. It’s often referred to as “the nation’s report card” or the “gold standard” in student assessment because it is seen as the most consistent, nationally representative measure of U.S. student achievement since the 1990s and because it is supposed to be able to assess what students “know and can do….”

NAEP scores are eagerly anticipated as evidence that schools are — or are not — making progress, and DeVos says, on this score, they aren’t.

According to DeVos, there has been no growth on NAEP scores in the last 20 years. She said the federal government has spent “over a trillion dollars at the federal level to close the achievement gap in the last 40 years” but “that achievement gap has not closed one bit.”

Not exactly.

According to Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, the achievement gaps between white and black students and white and Hispanic students have been narrowing for decades — although unsteadily….

The gaps are still large, to be sure, but to say they haven’t budged is just not accurate.

The source of DeVos’s statement that $1 trillion has been spent over 40 years to close the achievement gap is unclear. The Education Department did not respond to a query about it.

During testimony last week before a House appropriations subcommittee, DeVos had an exchange with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) about charter schools in which, again, she tossed out questionable numbers.

As I reported here (https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/02/28/four-especially-testy-moments-when-betsy-devos-testified-capitol-hill/ ), Pocan raised the issue of fraud in the federal Charter Schools Program, which has approved $3.3 billion for the expansion of charter schools since 1994. Forty percent of operating charter schools were created with money from the program.

Pocan referred to two reports about problems with that program released last year by a nonprofit advocacy group, the Network for Public Education, which was co-founded by education historian and public schools advocate Diane Ravitch.

One report said the program had wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed because of poor management or other reasons. The other report focused on hundreds of millions of dollars spent on charter schools that got federal funding but never opened. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/03/25/report-us-government-wasted-up-billion-charter-schools-still-fails-adequately-monitor-grants/)

When Pocan referred to the 2019 reports, DeVos said they had been “debunked,” which Pocan noted was not true.

She also essentially denied there were problems with the program, saying the percentage of charter schools that received federal funding and closed was tiny. She instead attributed the assertions to “propaganda from an individual who has it in for charter schools.” (It is unclear to whom she was referring. But if she meant Ravitch, whom she has criticized before, she may not have known that who does indeed oppose charter schools — did not write the reports, which you can read about here and here.)

As it turns out, some of the facts she disputed from the reports came from her own letter to Congress, an audit report of the Education Department’s Office of Inspector General, Texas newspapers and other reports from her department.

Pocan told DeVos the Texas-based IDEA charter school chain had received more than $200 million from the federal Charter Schools Program. He then noted that IDEA had planned to spend millions of dollars to lease a private jet before backing off following bad publicity, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for luxury box seats at San Antonio Spurs games. He also mentioned that IDEA board members were selling and brokering property to the charter chain they governed. (Tom Torkelson, chief executive of IDEA, publicly apologized for “really dumb and unhelpful” financial decisions.)

Pocan asked DeVos if she thought charter schools that receive federal funding should be allowed to use that money to purchase private jets, and she responded by saying it was a “hypothetical question” and that “there is no funding going to charter schools that would even address something like that.”

Actually, it was not hypothetical. The excesses of the IDEA charter chain described by Pocan were reported in the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Monitor and other news organizations and occurred during the years the chain was receiving grants from the federal Charter Schools Program.

In 2017, DeVos’s Education Department gave IDEA a grant of $67.2 million — even though it had not completed two other five-year grants. The next year, the department gave IDEA another grant for nearly $117 million.

Pocan continued, saying “the same group” — IDEA — had given incomplete and inaccurate information to the department during a three-year period. DeVos responded by saying, “Everything you are citing is debunked, ridiculous.” Pocan was citing an audit report by DeVos’s own Office of Inspector General.

At one point, DeVos circled back to the Network for Public Education reports and added that “the report that you referenced has been totally debunked as propaganda, fewer than 2 percent of schools didn’t open.” Later in the conversation with Pocan, she dropped that percentage to 1.5 percent.

That percentage was wildly different from the one included in a letter she wrote to Congress on June 28, 2019. That letter, signed by DeVos, states: “Since 2001, of the 5,265 charter schools that have received funding through a State entity or directly from the Department, 634 did not open and are unlikely to open in the future.”

If you do the math, you will come up with 12 percent. The two Network for Public Education reports came up with a similar percentage — a little over 11 percent.

Throughout the discussion, DeVos denied that 40 percent of the charter schools funded by the Charter Schools Program either opened and then closed or never opened at all. She said the 40 percent figure “was nothing but propaganda.”

As noted above, in her letter to Congress, DeVos said 5,265 schools had received funding through Charter School Program grants.

According to the 2019 Charter School Program Overview (see slide 8), 3,138 charter schools funded by the Charter Schools Program during the same time period were open in 2016-2017. That means 2,127 schools never opened or closed — which represents 40.4 percent of all charters funded from active grants during those years.

Voters favored candidates endorsed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles for all four contested seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District board.

Two of the UTLA candidates, both incumbents–Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna–won outright with a majority.

Two are leading their races but heading for a run-off.

To read the latest results, go to this website and scroll to the bottom for school board races.

George McKenna (pro-public education) ran unopposed and received 100% of the vote.

Jackie Goldberg (pro-public education) was the target of hate mail sent to voters in her district but she forcefully rebutted them and was leading with 55.62% of the vote.

Scott Schmerelson (pro-public education) was the target of vicious anti-Semitic flyers, was leading with 42.13%, compared to the runner-up with 20.258%. There will be a runoff.

Patricia Castellanos (pro-public education) held 26.21% of the vote, followed by Tanya Ortiz Franklin with 23.83% of the vote. There will be a runoff. There were three other candidates running for the seat in this district.

The final vote will not be released until all the absentee and mail-in ballots have been counted.

The pro-public education slate has a good chance of retaining a 4-3 majority on the board if they win the runoffs, despite the millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of scurrilous flyers distributed by the charter industry. The biggest spender in the election was billionaire Bill Bloomfield, who lives in Manhattan Beach, not Los Angeles, and has frequently donated to Republican candidates.

Here is UTLA’s reaction:

Huge night for UTLA: Goldberg & McKenna win; Schmerelson & Castellanos in first place, advance to runoffs

LOS ANGELES — Facing outsized spending by the charter lobby and billionaire privatizers, UTLA educators and parents scored big wins in the LAUSD School Board races by early Wednesday morning. Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna easily won reelection to their seats, and Scott Schmerelson and Patricia Castellanos placed first and fought off demeaning smear campaigns to advance to the November 2020 runoffs.

UTLA ran the most robust ground game in our history, proving the power of people versus money. While the charter lobby put hate ads in the mail, we put people in the streets, walking and talking to voters. Hundreds of UTLA members worked more than 1,000 neighborhood and precinct walks alongside our parent and community allies, reaching more than 20,000 voters. On average, when we talked to a voter, 8 out of 10 times they committed to supporting our candidates. Our member texting campaign reached an additional 100,000 people who vote by absentee ballot.

“We ran an impressive and positive ground game, fueled by the passion and enthusiasm of teachers and parents who believe in public education,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “The charter lobby’s hateful, vitriolic attack ads can’t match the impact of a teacher at the door, talking one-on-one to a voter. Since our strike and through this election, our communities are waking up to the billionaire attacks on our democracy and our public schools.”

Fries Elementary parent Alicia Baltazar spent multiple weekends walking precincts and phone banking for Patricia Castellanos.

“Like with the strike, I felt the support of the community and I had great conversations with voters,” Baltazar said. “But it was really disturbing to watch the charter lobby and a few wealthy individuals spend millions to fight the candidates supported by teachers and parents. Why couldn’t they send that money to our schools instead?”

The California Charter Schools Association and billionaires like Bill Bloomfield funneled more than $6.2 million into the race against UTLA’s endorsed candidates, making it the most expensive primary school board race in US history. That money funded an aggressive mail campaign that hit new lows, including a series of racist, sexist, and ageist ads.

The charter industry came hard in this election because they suffered a series of losses in the aftermath of our strike, including increased public criticism of unregulated charter expansion and notable policy losses, such as our contract win on co-location and AB 1505, the first serious charter regulation in decades.

In the Democratic U.S. Presidential race, Bernie Sanders won the California primary. UTLA was an early supporter of his campaign, and this week Bernie weighed in on our School Board fight, tweeting support to his 10 million followers and endorsing Patricia Castellanos.

Now, the work continues to secure a general election win for Castellanos and Schmerelson in November. We will double down on the positive work from this campaign for the next election and beyond. The school board wins give us momentum in current reopener contract bargaining and propel us onto the next steps of our three-year path: protecting healthcare in bargaining to begin this fall and winning the School Board runoffs and the Schools & Communities First funding measure in November 2020.

“We continue our fight not just to reject the billionaire agenda — the politics of fear, hate and oppression — but to build a massive movement to reinvest in public education for the schools our students deserve, said UTLA President-Elect Cecily Myart-Cruz.”

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UTLA, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union local, is proud to represent more than 35,000 teachers and health & human services professionals in district and charter schools in LAUSD.

By now, the California Charter Schools Association knows that they are harming public schools, where 80-90% of California’s students are educated.

By now, the CCSA knows that charter schools do not get higher test scores than public schools.

By now, they know that their industry is rife with corruption and fraud, and some of its leaders are serving jail time or on the lam.

By now, they know that charters do not have a secret sauce.

By now, they know that all they fight for is survival and power.

But they are pouring millions into the four contested seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District races, hoping to regain control so they can continue to do the bidding of Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill Bloomfield.

Here is the latest from the LA Education Examiner in the closing days of the campaign. 

See here for the money dump in the closing days of the campaign, with nearly one million going to a charter candidate running against Scott Schmerelson.

Here is Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times, reporting on the ugly smear campaign against Scott Schmerelson. 

Charter supporters are angry at Schmerelson, first because he supports public schools, but also because he revealed that more than 80% of the LA charters have vacancies.

Blume writes:

A million-dollar attack campaign is underway portraying Los Angeles school board member Scott Schmerelson as greedy, corrupt and determined to score fast cash by exposing children to deadly vaping and McDonald’s French fries.

One mailer — which included a cartoonish image of Schmerelson, who is Jewish, bedecked with a gold dollar-sign chain and holding a cigar and fistful of cash — came under fire as anti-Semitic and its use was halted.

Behind the surge of negative mailers in this West San Fernando Valley board district is an intense effort by charter school supporters to defeat Schmerelson and elect Marilyn Koziatek, a district parent who works at a local charter school managing community outreach efforts.

The pivotal race could tip the board majority toward the protection and expansion of charter schools, which enroll about 1 in 5 district students. Charter advocates are especially concerned about a new law that will soon give school boards more authority to reject new charters.

Blume reports that the charter industry has stopped sending out its antiSemitic image of Schmerelson but that’s a meaningless gesture since it was already sent out in a mass mailing.

 

Teresa Hanafin writes the daily Fast Forward in the Boston Globe.

She writes today:

Trump heads home from India this morning, leaving behind his usual trail of exaggerations, misinformation, and dodgy answers. Prime Minister Narendra Modiplayed it smart, following the lead of other world leaders who have figured out that over-the-top flattery and ostentatious displays appeal to the man-child, who then will gushingly praise the host who put on the show for him.

Modi has centralized power in his office, reduced the authority of the judiciary, investigated organizations that criticize him (and charged some leaders with sedition), and cut funding for anti-poverty programs, health initiatives, and education.

No wonder that Trump called him “incredible,” “very calm,” “very strong” and “very tough.”

A few items:

Trump: Modi wants religious freedom in India and is working very hard on that.
Truth: Modi is actually working very hard on making life miserable for India’s 200 million Muslims, a move that’s popular with many of the country’s majority Hindus.

He stripped statehood and autonomy from Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, arrested some of its leaders, and shut off Internet access. (Trump would like to do that in Massachusetts. Or New York. Or California.)

He pushed citizenship tests in the state of Assam, where the official government lists conveniently left off most Bengali Muslims (whom his home minister calls “termites”). Now he wants all Indians to prove they are Indians, and he’s building huge detention complexes to house those who can’t. And there will be many; it’s pretty difficult to track down a birth certificate when you can’t read. If you even had one to begin with.

Most recently, he got Parliament to enact a law that provides a fast-track path to citizenship for migrants from three countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. There are two caveats, however: You have to have entered India before 2014, and you have to practice one of six religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. Notice something missing? That’s right — Islam.

This has caused massive protests and riots in India. In fact, not far from where Trump was speaking in Delhi, a violent clash between Hindus and Muslims left 11 people dead.

Modi has even had history books rewritten to exclude Muslim leaders, and rarely punishes Hindu mobs who lynch Muslims.

Modi apparently has forgotten — actually, is deliberately ignoring — the expressed intent of founders Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru to build an India that is a secular and democratic republic, a country in which citizens are not defined by faith and civil liberties are extended to all.

Trump: “Under Prime Minister Modi, for the first time in history, every village in India now has access to electricity.”
Truth: Um, no. About 99 million people, or 7 percent of India’s population, still live in the dark.

Trump: “We have the greatest economy ever in the history of the United States.”
Truth: We don’t. GDP has been higher many times in the past, the proportion of Americans with a job has been higher in the past, and wages have risen faster in the past.

Same old, same old.

 

A front group for the California Charter Schools lobby, which calls itself “Families and Teachers United,” released a flyer that attacked school board member Scott Schmerelson, a pro-public school member of the LAUSD school board and well-qualified educator. Schmerelson has been endorsed by every Democratic club in Los Angeles.

The scurrilous flyer accuses him of investing in mutual funds that include products that are harmful to children (tobacco). Anyone whose pension is invested in large mutual funds knows that individual shareholders do not choose the stocks in the fund’s portfolio. My own pension fund includes companies I find abhorrent and there’s nothing I can do about it.

The flyer accuses Schmerelson of “double dipping” because he collects a pension for his decades of service as an educator in the LAUSD schools and a salary as a board member, like other board members.The flyer does not mention that board salaries were increased in 2017 based on the recommendation of an independent commission.

Should he give up his well-earned pension? Of course not! Should he refuse to take the same salary as other board members? Of course not!

Who paid for this vile, lying, unethical anti-Semitic ad?

Ad paid for by Families and Teachers United, sponsored by California Charter Schools Association Advocates. Committee major funding from
Charter Public Schools PAC
Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.
Funding details at http://www.fppc.ca.gov.

This may be the most expensive school board election in LA history, even though the billionaires have no ideas other than charter schools. None.

Who are they? Blogger Sara Roos names names. 

How about full public disclosure of the income and investments of the billionaires who fund the CCSSA?

Sara declined to reproduce the flyer, so as not to give more visibility to this trash.

Methinks the charter billionaires  are angry at Scott for telling the public that more than 80% of LA’s charters have empty seats.

Schmerelson, a man of unblemished integrity, responded to the anti-Semitic flyer with a statement denouncing the depths to which the charter lobby is willing to sink. He notes that the group that produced the flyers by the billionaire Waltons and Reed Hastings.

The election is March 3 but early  voting has started.  VOTE  FOR SCOTT SCHMERELSON!

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