Bloomberg and How the Teachers’ Revolt Was Disappeared Down the Memory Hole

It’s always an interesting exercise to see what gets disappeared down the memory hole. Less than two years ago, in state after state, blue, purple, and red, teachers shut down state capitols and forced serious concessions. Yet now, Democratic-aligned pundits, not to mention a fair number of Democratic politicians support Bloomberg, or at least are very Bloomberg-curious. But Bloomberg isn’t going to build on that fervor, he would quench it (boldface mine):

Nominating Michael Bloomberg would be a disaster for public schools – and for the Democrats’ chances at beating Donald Trump in 2020. Because when it comes to education policy, it is virtually impossible to tell the two billionaire politicians apart.

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.”

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”.

According to corporate education reformers, our country’s education crisis is produced not by systematic underfunding and social inequality, but rather by the inherent inefficiencies of the public sector, intransigent unions and bad teachers. Bloomberg has often been shockingly direct in expressing his contempt for teachers. In 2011, during a speech at MIT, he suggested that if he could have it his way, he’d “weed out all the bad” New York City educators by cutting “the number of teachers in half”. He insisted that coupling these cuts with doubling class sizes would be “a good deal for the students”.

But electability something something.

Related: For people wondering why Booker never caught fire, his support of charter schools cost him big. In terms of affect, tone, and overall message, Booker would be a natural ally of teachers unions, but they just won’t get that excited about someone who is a charter school advocate–and that cost him early momentum. You can’t piss off one of the last Democratic-aligned/leaning mass movements left.

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Links 2/25/20

Links for you. Science:

Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro
In The Fight Against COVID-19, Labs Look To Create Coronavirus Antibodies
First Ebola, Now Coronavirus. Why an Omaha Hospital Gets the Toughest Cases.
Methane is a hard-hitting greenhouse gas. Now scientists say we’ve dramatically underestimated how much we’re emitting
The EPA is about to change a rule cutting mercury pollution. The industry doesn’t want it.


Garbage Language: Why do corporations speak the way they do?
My building used a rent control loophole. Here’s what happened. (for me, concerns about rent control are overblown because it’s so easy to evade)
To Tackle Inequality, We Need To Start Talking About Where Wealth Comes From
A 26-Year-Old Progressive May Defeat One of Congress’ Most Conservative Democrats
How conservatives learned to wield power inside Facebook
Sanders Comes To Save Capitalism, Not Destroy It (again, he’s just a New Dealer for the 21st century)
In New York City, Homeless is Where the Heart is
Something in the Air (too big to be clean)
We Arab Americans and Muslims Are Voting for Bernie. Because He’s Jewish
Can Dupont Underground Survive Financial Woes and Government Foot-Dragging?
Klobuchar Is in Fourth Place, and Her Policies Are Shockingly Conservative
Where Has This Elizabeth Warren Been? (and how long will it last?)
The regional transit proposals that predated Metro, from express buses to monorails
Judge Who Ended Stop-and-Frisk Slams Bloomberg on Past Attempt to ‘Scare Me’
Florida Republican Party Facebook Pages Managed From Turkmenistan
Metro’s ‘Nervous System’ Breakdown
Poverty Is All About Personal Stress, Not Laziness (he’s not wrong, but the Dirty Fucking Hippies have been making this point since the advent of ‘welfare reform’ in the 1990s)
Infamous NYPD Transit Cop Gives Secret Testimony About Racist Policing Practices
Mexico City Is Proposing to Build One of the World’s Largest Urban Parks
The Rise and Fall of Danchi, Japan’s Largest Social Housing Experiment
Medicare For All Will Help Improve The Lives Of Black Women (interesting where it was published)

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There’s More to Healthcare than Bending Cost Curves Like Beckham

One of my concerns, among several, about the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., as well as our ability to mitigate the damage from an outbreak, is our crappy healthcare system. There are too many assholes who view healthcare as a completely private problem: you might die from a lack of insulin, but I won’t. The problem is that completely breaks down with an infectious disease, as this case from Miami, FL, illustrates (boldface mine):

After returning to Miami last month from a work trip in China, Osmel Martinez Azcue found himself in a frightening position: he was developing flu-like symptoms, just as coronavirus was ravaging the country he had visited.

Under normal circumstances, Azcue said he would have gone to CVS for over-the-counter medicine and fought the flu on his own, but this time was different. As health officials stressed preparedness and vigilance for the respiratory illness, Azcue felt it was his responsibility to his family and his community to get tested for novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

He went to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he said he was placed in a closed-off room. Nurses in protective white suits sprayed some kind of disinfectant smoke under the door before entering, Azcue said. Then hospital staff members told him he’d need a CT scan to screen for coronavirus, but Azcue said he asked for a flu test first.

“This will be out of my pocket,” Azcue, who has a very limited insurance plan, recalled saying. “Let’s start with the blood test, and if I test positive, just discharge me.”

Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened. He had the flu, not the deadly virus that has infected tens of thousands of people, mostly in China, and killed at least 2,239 as of Friday’s update by the World Health Organization.

But two weeks later, Azcue got unwelcome news in the form of a notice from his insurance company about a claim for $3,270.

In 2018, President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back Affordable Care Act regulations and allowed so-called “junk plans” in the market. Consumers mistakenly assume that the plans with lower monthly costs will be better than no insurance at all in case of a medical catastrophe, but often the plans aren’t very different from going without insurance altogether.

Hospital officials at Jackson told the Miami Herald that, based on his insurance, Azcue would only be responsible for $1,400 of that bill, but Azcue said he heard from his insurer that he would also have to provide additional documentation: three years of medical records to prove that the flu he got didn’t relate to a preexisting condition.

People already avoid medical care they need because they can’t afford. For non-communicable diseases, that’s horrible, but it doesn’t directly affect others. Now, people will avoid seeking medical attention because they can’t afford to pay for it. To say that neo-liberal market incentives fail in this situation would be an understatement. Between Trump’s narcissism–and narcissists will desperately latch onto any scintilla of good news (e.g., ‘some coronaviruses become less infectious in warmer weather’), until they fail and them blame everyone but themselves–and general incompetence rivaling that of ‘Heckuva job, Browine’, this will likely be our status if we get hit hard by COVID-19:

If the WHO’s worst predictions come true, the United States of America may be faced with controlling a pandemic while the national leader, an expert in no discernible field outside of reactionary trolling and surrounded by loyalists and sycophants who know truthful dissent means defenestration, devotes at least as much energy to further dismantling an already broken healthcare system as he does to public health and the general welfare.

If COVID-19 hits us hard, we can only hope von Bismarck’s adage ‘God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America’ holds. Hopefully, Trump will stay out of the way and not politicize this, but I’m not optimistic about that, to say the least, especially given his behavior to date.

Posted in Healthcare, Public Health, Viruses | 1 Comment

Links 2/24/20

Links for you. Science:

Here’s what coronavirus does to the body
The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2
Working In Science Was A Brutal Education. That’s Why I Left.
747s Carrying Americans Exposed To Coronavirus Used New Quarantine Box For Infected Flyers (looks better than coach though…)
Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins


The Hidden History of Sanders’s Plot to Primary Obama (“In the end, most of the caucus took the position that Sanders voiced, opposing the chained Consumer Price Index, and Obama relented and dropped the idea.”)
Simple Stories (yup)
Give Nonstates Full Congressional Representation
Why Elizabeth Warren Got Dropped From A Poll Question About General Election Matchups (this was a raw deal, and a bad decision)
The Whitelaw gave black people a place to stay when other hotels turned them away
The American Health Care System Costs Four Times More Than Canada’s Single-Payer System (and the Public Option Won’t Help)
She’s Earning $82,000 But Doubts She Can Afford Kids In Arlington
A Virginia GOP Official Carried a Rifle Outside an Alexandria Politician’s Home This Weekend
Bloomberg: The ‘Democrat’ Who Treated Minorities as Inherently Criminal
Here’s Why Mike Bloomberg Is So Rich
The Lessons of the Culinary Union Health Care Fight
There Is a Case for Bloomberg. It’s Just Bleak As Hell.
Has the wooden skyscraper revolution finally arrived?
Fox Has Been “More Fair”: Why Bernie’s Team Has Had It With MSNBC
This Obscure Foundation Helped Fund The Alt-Right
What is the ‘boogaloo?’ How online calls for a violent uprising are hitting the mainstream
She pushed Trump to exit the Paris climate agreement and roll back environmental rules. And she’s returning to EPA as chief of staff.
Bloomberg Vetoed 2003 Bill Expanding Rape Victims’ Access To Emergency Contraception
Mike Bloomberg Compared the AARP to the NRA
Full ‘Medical Records’ for Trump and Clinton? That’s Fiction (some 2016 context for a recent primary kerfuffle)
Boston harbor brings ashore a new enemy: Rising seas

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Faith in Polls Not Seen

One of the weird things about the electability debate in the Democratic primary is that it seems utterly divorced from polling data. In particular, the argument is that Sanders can’t win, even though polls have him as competitive, if not more competitive, than other Democrats. Somehow, the belief–the polls not seen–is that there will be a killer ad, a One Neat Trick That Will Destroy Sanders.

Does Sanders have weaknesses? Sure, though I think it’s harder to depress low-attachment, likely Democratic voters with Sanders as the nominee than with many other candidates. And there are third rails in U.S. politics, such as being perceived as a Social Security cutter–but we have decades of support for that hypothesis.

Will pointing out that Sanders is a ‘socialist‘–something he already freely admits to–the devastating body blow that some think it will be? It might be, but we’re also overestimating the role of advertising. Clinton wasn’t sunk by One Neat Trick, but by decades of negative attacks. All of the attacks revolved around a theme of her being dishonest, shady, on the make, so the attacks (and the Comey fuckup) fed into an extremely well established narrative. That seems different than pointing out something Sanders freely acknowledges. I could be very wrong, but to be wrong, that means Trump et alia have to be able to seriously ding Sanders. Those arguing this might be correct, but so many making this case have been wrong before, often many times.

So I fall back on the data: the race will be very close regardless of who the nominee is.

Posted in Democrats, Polling | Leave a comment

Links 2/23/20

Links for you. Science:

Predicting antimicrobial resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa with machine learning‐enabled molecular diagnostics
Opinion: Reproducibility failures are essential to scientific inquiry
Meet the Plethodonts: Lungless Salamanders of Roy’s Redwoods
How do we test for coronavirus, anyway?
Clades of huge phages from across Earth’s ecosystems


If Trump Wins In November, We’ll Know Who To Blame
Seven Questions for Mike Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg Puts Democrats in Moral Peril
The Struggle to Mend America’s Rural Roads
Giant And Safeway Workers Are Considering Striking At 280 D.C.-Area Stores
Mike Bloomberg is the Donald Trump of Democrats. If we vote him in, we sacrifice everything we stand for
Pete Buttigieg is America’s Macron — and that’s not a good thing
The Trumpian Liberalism of Michael Bloomberg
Trump Is Going to Cheat: How should Democrats fight against a president who has no moral or legal compass?
Another Demise of a Storied Business at the Hands of Private Equity: Fairway
When Bloomberg News’s Reporting on China Was Challenged, Bloomberg Tried to Ruin Me for Speaking Out
Mike Bloomberg is not the lesser of two evils
The Woman Behind Elizabeth Warren’s Foreign Policy
How Private Equity Ruined a Beloved Grocery Chain
Why D.C.’s Mayor Endorsed Michael Bloomberg (Bowser has to be careful: if some news organization like ProPublica decides to really investigate her, she’s in a ton of trouble)
Michael Bloomberg Isn’t a Smug Technocratic Centrist. He’s Something Far Worse
Joe Biden Championed the Iraq War. Will That Come Back to Haunt Him Now?
If the Democrats nominate Mike Bloomberg, we’re facing four more years of Trump. Don’t get suckered, Democrats: Of any current candidate, Bloomberg would be the easiest for Trump to beat (dunno, but it’s as good as any other speculative fiction about electability)
Respectable Racism: Only backward savages in Russia have oligarchs. Civilized Americans have “rich guys.”
The Astros Cheating Scandal Has Only Gotten Nuttier
Pardon Closes the Book on Michael Milken’s Case but Can’t Rewrite It

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Two Bloomberg Tales

While presidential candidate Bloomberg’s record is being extensively discussed, it’s worth remembering the less sexy, somewhat forgotten, but equally bad parts of his tenure, since they reveal quite a bit about what kind of president he would be (hint: indefensible).

Despite his claims to technocratic competence, like many who seize this mantle, he often was incompetent. During the snowstorm of 2010, he couldn’t get the streets cleared, and people couldn’t get heating fuel or reach the hospital. A two-year old died. Yes, snowstorms are challenging, but other mayors were able to get the streets cleared after 48 hours–and Bloomberg had three terms to figure out how to do this. Bloomberg had decided to appoint as Deputy Mayor of Operations (the person who would oversee things like snow removal) a Republican ideologue whose primary qualification was busting unions, as opposed to actually running things. In addition, Bloomberg continued to lay off city employees to the point where snowplows weren’t being used because there weren’t enough workers to drive them.

Heckuva job, Bloomie.

But we can move from incompetence to greed-based malice. During Bloomberg’s tenure, he decided to protect the real estate industry from new rules to reduce lead poisoning. He argued the rules were fine, and blamed the parents of the effected kids for poor house cleaning skills. In one meeting, he then argued that “lead poisoning rates used to be even higher and how Neanderthals adapted to it.” The city’s Housing Authority would cease testing for lead altogether, ultimately leading to the state declaring an emergency in public housing due to lead contamination.

When people say Bloomberg is a Republican, this is why: his behavior has been par for the course for Republicans.

As I’ve noted before, Trump will attack Democrats from the left, not to convince moderates or conservatives, but to lower enthusiasm among Democrats (and thus turnout). Having to defend Bloomberg’s record will make defending Biden’s record appear trivial. We knew who Bloomberg was, and we know what kind of person he is. A Bloomberg candidacy would be a disaster, and, even were he to win, a Bloomberg presidency not much better.

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