April 9, 2020

Thunderous applause for Bernie, from Naomi and Noam




And Naomi Klein says exactly why.

Here are some mostly quoted, partly paraphrased and clipped remarks from her interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now this morning (starting at 03:41):

She mainly wishes to express her HUGE gratitude to Sanders and everyone involved in his campaign who opened up the window to what is possible politically ...

More than anything else, what the campaign did is HELP US FIND EACH OTHER. And he did this not just now but also in 2016, where he really broke the spell of the Reagan era — that spell that has lasted for four decades, that told people who believed that this system that was funneling so much wealth upwards and spreading insecurity, precariousness and poverty and pollution for everybody else, everybody who saw that system and thought there was something deeply wrong with it ... what the Sanders campaign did is tell us that we had been lied to ... the organizing wove this amazing web and we were able to find each other and find that we were many and they were few.

Sanders was so correct in zeroing in on the conspiracy of lowered expectations ... He said to the American public:  if you don’t believe that you deserve universal healthcare, you’re not going to get it, if you don’t believe that you deserve a safe planet, you’re not going to get it.

You can simultaneously win the battle of ideas and still believe that you will never actually win, that you are still a weak minority, that you will still be destroyed by the forces of establishment power and money.  And that, I think, is the real generational divide that Bernie was also speaking to in his address ... the “younger” voters were starting to believe they could actually win ... they understood that the intellectual project of neo-liberalism was bankrupt ... and these words like “Democratic Socialist” were not as scary anymore.  In fact, they had become appealing.

For the older generation ... when Bernie’s opponents raised the specter of the Red scare that would be used against him, that was incredibly triggering, terrifying ... Progressive voters who agreed with Bernie could not believe that he could win, where younger voters did believe that he could win. And that was the most important generational divide.

The way this pandemic is playing out is further opening up that window of what is politically possible, indeed what is necessary for people’s survival. And yes, support for Medicare for All is surging, as well as support for other kinds of programs like Housing for All, that were always at the center of the Sanders campaign.

We are seeing that it is possible to clean the air ... but we don’t want to clean the air by brutal crash. We want to clean the air by craft ...  People are seeing this, and being radicalized by this, and demanding policies that were at the center of the Sanders campaign

But during times of crisis, people are also risk-averse ... What we need to be focused on right now is winning those policies for a kind of people’s bailout ... and we need to be focused on beating Donald Trump.

In the next few months, we are still able to make ourselves heard in sending a very clear message to Congress that people are enraged by this bailout, and the fact that these meager strings that were attached to the corporate bailout were immediately snipped by the Trump administration in terms of oversight ... watchdogs ... giving Mnuchin the ability to override that oversight.

I think that the battle, when it comes to disaster capitalism in this corporate free-for-all under cover of pandemic, that that battle was lost when the rescue for people was bundled together with the corporate bailout. The demand we need to make on lawmakers right now is to keep those things separate.

The fact is:  there is power right now, there’s power from the working people who are holding the world together ... we’re seeing a wave of job action from these workers who understand themselves to be so essential despite decades of having their labor belittled by those in power.  That was one of the great strengths of the Sanders campaign, that he always recognized the power of those essential workers ... people who recognized Sanders as their champion from the very beginning.  Let’s trust them, and let’s do everything we can to augment their political power.
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URZihNBsnjA
Amy continues with a bit of video from Noam Chomsky :  “If Trump is re-elected, it will be
It’s common to say now that the Sanders campaign failed.  I think that’s a mistake. I think it was an extraordinary success. Completed shifted the arena of debate and discussion that were unthinkable a couple of years ago are now right in the middle of attention.

Full interview with him on Democracy Now Friday.

March 13, 2020

Collective shock and Naomi Klein — again


I wrote about Naomi Klein and her book The Shock Doctrine for the first time twelve years ago, relating it to Hurricane Katrina. That was the natural disaster that was bound to trigger corporate takeovers, in that case, public education.

The quote I put into that post is equally relevant today:
That is how the shock doctrine works: the original disaster ... puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. ... Shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect. (p.17)
In the corpocratic state we live in today, a natural disaster like this unique virus has already given us:

        1. Chaotic social behavior, including fear of travel, famine, congregating, and personal space
        2. Extraordinary, sometimes inexplicably far-reaching governmental directives (e.g., shut-downs)
        3. Huge financial reactions (the crash)
        4. Severe cuts to individual livelihoods and businesses
        5. Political maneuvering and strategies to capitalize on the instability

In other words, a perfectly shocked society that is ripe for giving up things it would otherwise fiercely protect.

Trump has always wanted to shut the borders to certain kinds of people, and the virus is perfect for going in that direction. He also called for a big tax cut a couple of weeks ago.  According to an MPN report, the Bank Policy Institute recommended “that the Federal Reserve lower capital requirements to zero. This would mean banks could lend an unlimited amount without having any assets or wealth to back it up.” That’s fun.

Marie Solis, reporting in VICE, also makes the connection to theory of disaster capitalism:
History is a chronicle of “shocks”—the shocks of wars, natural disasters, and economic crises—and their aftermath. This aftermath is characterized by “disaster capitalism,” calculated, free-market “solutions” to crises that exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities. ...

Trump has proposed a $700 billion stimulus package that would include cuts to payroll taxes (which would devastate Social Security) and provide assistance to industries that will lose business as a result of the pandemic. “They’re not doing this because they think it’s the most effective way to alleviate suffering during a pandemic—they have these ideas lying around that they now see an opportunity to implement,” Klein said.
She either quotes or paraphrases Klein when she also says: “This combination of forces has delivered a maximum shock. It’s going to be exploited to bail out industries that are at the heart of most extreme crises that we face, like the climate crisis: the airline industry, the gas and oil industry, the cruise industry—they want to prop all of this up.”

And I believe the super-corporate Democratic machine is also enjoying the chaos, offering Biden up to the electorate to keep the entire upper strata of the country financially very happy and selling the lower 99% the idea that it’s much safer to keep the status quo (= Obama years) than try for real reforms that might actually help people.

More and more links are cropping up about Klein’s shock doctrine theory.

Inequality: “The 2008 financial collapse would vividly illustrate the dynamics Klein so powerfully described. The Wall Street giants whose reckless and even criminal behavior ushered in that crisis ended up, after the dust settled, even bigger and more powerful than before the crisis began.”

Daily Kos: “And this COVID-19 crisis is yet another example of how the government bails out the rich, while everyone else suffers.”

Related post in EdNotes, quoting Farhad Manjoo in the Times: "... this is America, and forgetting working people is just what we do."

Hopefully the country will get a grip and realize that the proverbial rug is ready to be pulled out from underneath them in so many regressive socio-economic ways.





March 1, 2020

Bernie: "We believe in ED-U-CA-TION."

A short post this time to mention that the Sanders platform is more than just tuition-free higher education and student debt forgiveness.


At a rally in Columbia, SC, two days ago, Sanders made these points, starting around 11:50.
We believe that all of our kids — and this is a national issue ... regardless of the income of their families, deserve a high-quality public education.

We’re going to triple funding for Title I schools.

I don’t know about triple, but Title I schools need a ton of services they just aren’t getting, from special ed services, to school nurses and health positions, social workers, food, meaningful before-and after-school programs, equipment and supplies, you name it.
In America, teachers should be focussed on teaching ... and that is why we’re going to fight to make sure all teachers in America receive at least $60,000 a year in salary. 
Other than after-school or mentoring programs, they shouldn’t need to take on additional non-related jobs, like the teacher he spoke to in South Carolina who drives an Uber and waitresses on the side.

(I have to interject here that I’m not crazy about filling positions with under-qualified post-grads and giving them the same salary as certified teachers. There was too much of that going on when I retired in 2011 and maybe still is. I mean, six weeks summer training after getting a BA? That’s just unjustifiable. We aren’t paying for babysitters, we’re paying for skilled workers. Apprentice teachers — interns, or whatever you want to call them — should get one salary, certified teachers should get another. Salaries shouldn’t be equal if the training isn’t equal, much less the experience.

The Education platform is on his website with a lot more details: read it here.  It also lists:
  • Combat racial discrimination and school segregation (though I don’t know how you can stop school segregation AND have local schools without rebuilding cities)
  • End the unaccountable profit-motive of charter schools (Yeah!  Actually, his platform specifically states he’d like to ban for-profit charter schools and have a moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion).  “WE DO NOT NEED TWO SCHOOL SYSTEMS.”
  • Expand collective bargaining rights
  • Better fund special education
  • Protect the rights of students from harassment, discrimination, and violence
  • Rebuild, modernize, and green our nation’s schools.
I love, love, love this platform, which reads like a What’s Wrong with Public Education in the Year 2020, and I can’t think why advocating these things isn’t just a no-brainer for anyone running for public office.

Medicare for All and the Sanders stance on public education is nothing less than a win-win for the entire country.

February 28, 2020

Taking their fight to the streets — kinda

It’s good to see there’s some other ways to get your message out. You don’t always have to get out the bullhorn and pound the pavement at City Hall.  Innovation is good, going national with it is even better.

In these two video clips we hear about two teachers from the Midwest, one speaking through a comedian’s playbook, the other in a public resignation up close and personal in front of a Des Moines school board.

Black reading the teacher’s letter in his rant
Lewis Black is known for his rants, but also for sharing the letters he gets that bring attention to the absurdities of the country we’re living in.

In this clip, he reads an email he got from a middle school science teacher in Des Moines who wants people to stop taking elections for granted.
Citing specifics, the teacher (I think it’s a guy, but can’t make out his name from the video) says he arrives an hour or two before school starts, only to see 50–60 students dropped off as early as 7 a.m.  Why? It’s childcare by default.
Some haven’t eaten, so the school feeds them. Why? Wages too damn low for so many people.

When he leaves school at 5 or 6, kids stop to ask him for food. They should have gone home at 3:25.

No pencils. The school organizes pencil drives to replenish the no.2s the kids can’t write with because there aren’t any.

There’s no funding for up-to-date technology or the arts.
Next to zero health services.
Quality after-school programs slashed and cut.
Quality textbooks, not either.
Field trips?  Hah. Can’t afford them unless a teacher applies for a grant to hire a bus. A grant!
TEACHER: "We have to take responsibility to elect people who actually care about the young people in our schools, and will fund our schools.  Yes, F-U-N-D them.  Stop trying to apply Walmart economics to our school system.”
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Opposing a new contract offer, this teacher throws in her resignation at a school board meeting.
Amanda Coffmann resigning from
a Kansas MS, courtesy NowThisNews
TEACHER:
[to the Board:] “You aren’t listening ... The kids and I deserve better ... I could accept this contract, smile, and stay silent about the lies the district perpetuates about its teachers, but that doesn’t mean I should ... Disrespect in an uneven power dynamic is bullying. When we see bullying, we must stand up and call it out.”

[to her kids:] “Please don’t see my empty doorway as a sign that I’ve abandoned you or that I don’t care ... I will always be your biggest advocate.”

[to the Board:] “There will be no clarifying questions. I don’t answer to you anymore.”
I count my blessings I don’t have to answer to the Bloomberg/Klein regime of ed deform anymore. What destruction their corporate ideologies brought to us in classrooms, school buildings, local neighborhoods. Much, of course, needed to be fixed, that’s always the case with public funding, but I blame those particular men for such bad, bad use of what monies were available, so grossly and unevenly applied citywide.

February 26, 2020

Bloomberg in last night's debate:
"I treated teachers right."


Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!

This is really too much.  Let’s take a look at what this guy really think about teachers.

Revised ......

Ednotes posts Leonie Haimson’s recent piece in the Indypendent, “Michael Bloomberg’s disastrous public education policy
Bloomberg embodied an aggressive free-market ideology with policies that were contrary to research and hugely disruptive — in the worst sense of the word. Far from the benevolent, pragmatic centrist his campaign likes to portray,  Bloomberg and his chancellors reigned over NYC public schools for 12 years with an iron fist, autocratically imposing destructive reforms with little concern for how they upended the lives of communities, students and teachers.
[Leonie refers to an “explosive video” of Bloomberg here.]
And I don’t know how I missed this one the other day, but more critique in the Indypendent from NYC teacher Julie Cavanagh:A Teacher’s Story: How Bloomberg wreaked havoc on my ‘A-rated’ public school” (Feb 2020)
Yet all that offered no immunity when our school became one of the first targets for a “co-location,” installing a charter school in the same building as a public school. This wasn’t just any charter school. It was an education corporation run by Spencer Robertson, the son of hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson. The elder Robertson had donated generously to Bloomberg’s education initiatives and was, like the mayor, a national player in promoting the corporate school “reform” agenda — pushing high-stakes testing, closing public schools, co-locating charters with well-performing schools and attacking teachers’ unions, while cutting funding to our public schools.
Bloomberg: “If I had my way, I’d dump half of NYC’s Teachers”, subtitle:  “Mayor stuns many at MIT speech, says he’d greatly enlarge class size, too“ (CBS reporting, Dec 2011)
“Education is very much, I’ve always thought, just like the real estate business. Real estate business, there are three things that matter: location, location, location is the old joke,” Bloomberg said. “Well in education, it is: quality of teacher, quality of teacher, quality of teacher. And I would, if I had the ability – which nobody does really – to just design a system and say, ‘ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do,’ you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”
Leonie Haimson and Diane Ravitch: “The education of Michael Bloomberg“ (May 2013)
Unfortunately, his claims of closing the achievement gap proved misleading. On the reliable national assessment known as the NAEP, there had been no significant increase in scores or narrowing of the gap since 2003, when the mayor’s policies were first imposed. In 2010, the state Education Department finally admitted what observers had long suspected: that the state exams had become overly predictable and that scoring well had grown easier over time. After New York State acknowledged that test score inflation had occurred, scores across the state were recalibrated and declined dramatically. The achievement gap was revealed to be as wide as it had been before Bloomberg implemented his policies. The black-white test proficiency gap in eighth-grade reading actually increased.
Dr. Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc:  “Mike Bloomberg’s education ‘reforms’ would be a disaster for public schools”  (Feb 2020)
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.
Barbie Latza Nadeau: “Michael Bloomberg once compared Teachers Union to the National Rifle Association“ (Feb 2020)
Former New York mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg has long been a vocal critic of the National Rifle Association, which he has called both “shameful” and “dangerous.” ... In a video of remarks Bloomberg made while still mayor of New York, obtained by Politico, he can be heard likening the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York City teachers union to the NRA.
Jake Jacobs: “How Bloomberg trashed public education in New York” (Feb 2020)
New York City teachers are vocal critics of Bloomberg, who not only used public money for school privatization but usurped the power of elected community school boards as the state granted Bloomberg “mayoral control” of New York City schools in 2002.
     Bloomberg proceeded to appoint corporate attorney Joel Klein as head of New York City’s education department. Klein began a “test-and-punish” regime, which led to the closure of 150 schools and earned him an 80 percent disapproval rating with teachers.
And of course read ANYTHING in these blogs — including mine — during the Bloomberg years:
Ednotesonline
NYC Educator
Chaz
Pissed Off     
South Bronx School
ICEUFT blog
Class Size Matters
NYC Public School Parents
etc.
     etc.
          etc.

February 23, 2020

Bernie gets it, our union leaders just ... won’t

Here’s the reasons many union workers want to see Medicare for All happen:
1.  They have coverage through their job, but their friends and relatives don’t.

2.  They worry what happens if they lose their jobs.
See Buzzfeed a few days ago:  Members of Nevada’s Largest Union Defied Their Leadership
3.  With healthcare discussions off the table, union leaders can negotiate for other things. As Bernie said this week (as per Common Dreams a week ago):
“Many, many unions throughout this country ... absolutely understand that we’ve got to move to Medicare for All ... and the reason is ...  they spend half of their time arguing against cutbacks for the healthcare that they have.

“When everybody in America has comprehensive healthcare ... unions can then negotiate for higher wages, better working conditions, better pensions.” 
4.  Some ed activists speculate that union admin jobs could be eliminated if healthcare administration were to migrate to a government platform.
Regarding this last point, the UFT Welfare Fund handles some of our health coverage, the parts that are supplemental to the city’s plans. It says on its website that it’s a “unilaterally operated trust fund” administered by a 5-person board of union trustees. An executive director and an unspecified number of staffers take care of its day-to-day operations. (I’ve been reminded more than once that these are patronage jobs.)

Here’s a paragraph on the board’s powers that probably very few in the rank-and-file ever knew about, including myself:


So, not only are our jobs, working conditions, and pensions intertwined with our coverage, but some of that coverage — bartered away for lower wages and quite a few regressive working conditions — could easily be modified or taken away altogether. That’s rather unsettling.

This tying of healthcare to jobs has got to stop.

Back in October I posted a list of unions backing Medicare for All, and Sanders lists a bunch of union endorsements on his website, claiming in the last debate he’s got more of them than any other candidate. Several of the unions listed are teachers: American Federation of Teachers, United Teachers LA, United Teachers Richmond, and Washington Teachers.  The UFT is not one of them.

Some reporters suggest that the Medicare for All debate is “fracturing organized labor, sometimes pitting unions against Democratic candidates that vie for their support” (here).
It’s a discussion at every single bargaining table, in every single union shop, every single time it’s open enrollment and people see their costs going up,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a vocal single-payer advocate and one of a number of union officials who spoke to the divide.
But what they seem to be missing is absolutely addressed in the proposed legislation:
When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.  Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.
                                    — from Bernie’s website on “Workplace Democracy
I’m glad the culinary workers and others local union members are speaking out against their leadership’s resistance.

I don’t see much of a shift yet, but two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if Bernie had the wind at his back to take three states in a row.

February 17, 2020

American healthcare —
our own brand of Sophie's choices


Revised somewhat below, but see also Ednotes, where Norm talks about healthcare and the unions. We all have to keep digging into that issue.

...........................................

I was wondering when John Oliver would get around to explaining Medicare for All, and here he is a couple of days ago.

I appreciate his joking around, don't get me wrong. But, he makes some serious points about the simply fabulous choices we'd have to give up if we go for single-payer.

The current "choices" in our system are actually quite dire if you happen to live in the wrong state, or have a pre-existing condition, or just don't make enough money to cover the bills.

Oliver's examples (starting around 14:00) are grotesque and should never be allowed:


1.  Should you call an ambulance in a serious emergency or get a friend to drive you?

2.  Which hospital are you going to head for, the one in your plan or the closer one?  And what will you do if the doctor on duty is not in your plan?

That's where he says: "You can get fucked by taking an ambulance, you can get fucked by going to the wrong hospital, or you can get fucked by going to the right hospital but getting the wrong surgeon...." 

3.  How about which medication will you choose, the one that'll keep your faulty heart from totally giving out or the diabetes that'll take longer to kill you?

That's where he says:  "A humane health system should not require people to pick their favorite organ." 

I've heard of other choices people are making every day: 
Which bills to pay, food or prescription drugs?
Which job to take, the one with healthcare, or the one I really want? 
Which state should I live in to get the best coverage?
How about this for Sophie's choice: Should I help pay the meds for one of my adult children over another?

All in all, that's where I agree with Oliver when he says the American system is truly "the Kama Sutra of healthcare."


So many choices, but all the wrong kinds.

January 29, 2020

Spoiler alert! Informational post

Public Citizen’s Texas billboard
Advocacy groups like Public Citizen work pretty arduously towards to change the healthcare delivery system in this country, even when we’re not paying much attention to them.

Every once in a while, though, like in the Jan/Feb issue of News, they tell you exactly what they’ve been doing and invite people — of course — to jump on board.

Here’s their prongs:
  • Encouraging local governments to pass resolutions for M4A (update)
  • Creating citizen petitions (sign now)
  • Pushing for House hearings
  • Collecting co-sponsors for the M4A Act (118 to date, more than half of the Democratic caucus)
  • Advertising and informing (billboards, graphics, videos, etc.)
  • Setting up webinars/virtual town halls (full list here
  • Calling press conferences and sending tipsheets to reporters
  • Publishing reports and analyses, e.g., “Fever Pitch: Surge in Opposition Lobbying” (June 2019) and “The Case for Medicare-for-All” (Feb 2019)
  • Organizing public statements

And three they didn’t mention in the article:

Town hall includes Reps. Pressley and Omar and Public Citizen’s
Medicare for All campaign director Melinda St. Louis

Webinar speakers include Richard Master (founder of Business for M4A) and
research prof Jeannette Wicks-Lim (U. of Amherst Political Economy Research Inst.)

Webinar speakers include Rep. Pamila Jayapal and dr. Sanjeev Sriram (aka Dr. America)


I like the way they’re spending my donations.


January 28, 2020

Where is everybody?


It's a month or two since I started fighting in the streets  ... 


and expected many more compatriots by this time.  
But alas, not yet.

Westchester County people, get it together!  
Here, I'll make it easier for you ....




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