Thursday, April 30, 2020

Unpacking the 'data-driven' war against COVID-19

“We are way ahead on testing. We are the best in the world on testing. We’ve tested much more than anybody else, times two — or every country combined. We’ve tested more than every country combined.” -- Trump, remarks at the White House, April 28, 2020
The good news this morning is that Hong Kong and South Korea, two places among the hardest hit by the virus, are reporting zero new COVID-19 cases. This the result social distancing, mask wearing and of quick conducted widespread testing and contact tracing of new infections to halt the virus's spread.

Contrast that with the U.S. where coronavirus infections have soared past the million mark with more than 60,000 reported deaths. The U.S. has far more COVID-19 cases than any other country. Spain, which has around 50 million people compared with some 332 million in the U.S., has 232,128 cases. Italy, which has a population of around 62 million people, has 201,505 cases. China, where the outbreak began, is reporting fewer than 84,000 cases. Those numbers are as of Tuesday afternoon.

The World Health Organization warned the world of the virus in early January and declared a public emergency on January 30th. On that day, Trump said, "we think we have it very well under control".  All through January, February, and March, Trump minimized the threat. His tweet on March 9th likened the virus to the common flu. Two days later, the WHO declared a global pandemic. It wasn't until March 13th that DT declared a national emergency. That was six weeks after the WHO had declared a public emergency.

I say reported cases because of the likelihood that there may be severe undercounting. For example, the number of COVID-19 cases in L.A. County may be as much 50 times greater than the official count, according to preliminary results from a new study by the University of Southern California.

The good news is that if the USC study is accurate and in reality we’re identifying only one in 50 infections, that would make COVID-19 a lot less deadly than previously believed, while also making it a lot more contagious (and asymptomatic “silent carriers” a lot more widespread). That would also call for a paradigm shift in how to combat the virus.

The problem of course is that data collection, like testing itself, has become a political tool rather than a scientific one. Trump is now claiming that we have more than adequate testing and that the U.S. will soon be running "5 million" tests per day and that would explaim the discovery of a million cases.

But as WaPo's Glenn Kessler points out,
Trump is trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Many countries with significant case loads are testing, often at greater rates than the United States. The United States has such a huge case load because it failed to ramp up testing at the speed of other countries, so the virus spread silently before Trump finally took the problem seriously and advocated mitigation and social distancing efforts.
Having 1 million cases of covid-19 is nothing to brag about, but Trump still finds a way.
Those of us educators, who've had to deal with decades of school reform, can easily understand this phenomena. We are all too familiar with the way testing and data collection have been misused to promote political ambitions while tracking and sorting children and punishing teachers and schools.

Monday, April 27, 2020


San Juan Mayor Says 'No One' in Puerto Rico Has Received a COVID-19 Stimulus Check
Shia Kapos
It was an insurgence but "it's not quite" a Council War.
"There are multiple divisions in this Council. It's not pro or anti mayor," former Ald. Dick Simpson told Playbook. He would know. He was there for the 1980s Council Wars. "Mayor Lightfoot has the majority and is likely to keep the majority." --  -- IL Playbook
Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Biden
“I'd be fooling myself if I thought Joe Biden would embrace Medicare for All. But I do think there’s room for him to move much more than he has so far,” said Jayapal, who is the lead author of the House’s single-payer bill and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. -- Politico
Former Bush speechwriter David Frum 
President Trump is a "psychological coward" and is "heading toward a historic political defeat — one that will likely take the Republican Senate down with him." -- MSNBC
Tyson Foods board chairman John Tyson
"The food supply chain is breaking." -- CNN
V.P. Mike Pence (Note to myself: Revisit this quote on June 1)
 “I believe by early June we’re going to see our nation largely past this epidemic...I think honestly, if you look at the trends today, that I think by Memorial Day weekend we will have this coronavirus epidemic behind us,”  -- Bloomberg
Robert Reich 
The Covid-19 pandemic is putting the deepening class divide in America into stark relief. Four new classes are emerging: The remotes, the essentials, the unpaid, and the forgotten. -- Guardian
Ilhan Omar & Leah Hunt-Hendrix
Now is not the time for retrenchment into isolationism. It is time to reimagine what it means to lead, and how we might work together as a global community. -- Guardian
San Juan Mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz
'No One' in Puerto Rico Has Received a COVID-19 Stimulus Check. “The problem is that the support goes to the higher levels of government, and doesn’t reach the people that it’s supposed to reach.” -- Time

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

What did Bloomberg buy for $1B? Not much.

Food for thought...

Michael Bloomberg tried to buy the election. He spent more than $1B on his failed presidential run. To put that in perspective, that's more than the combined campaign expenditures of every Democratic running in 2020.

He used his money to entice campaign workers across the country with promises of a paying job through the November election, regardless of whether he ultimately won the nomination or not. But Bloomberg reneged on that promise, scrapping plans to form his own super PAC and eventually transferring millions instead to the DNC.

His main purpose in running was to leverage his power against the left. Some even speculated that had Sanders won the primary, Bloomberg would have run as an independent or 3rd-party candidate. But now that he's dropped out and with Joe Biden as the apparent candidate, it doesn't appear that all the spending has bought him any more leverage within the party than he had before.

Evidence? Biden's team is now meeting with the AOC/Sanders team, not Bloomberg, to try and resolve their differences enough to win the Sanders base to support the Democrats. The reason? They have troops in the field and Bloomberg doesn't. And without that base, Biden has little chance of winning in November.

Whether those meetings will produce anything substantive in the way of pushing the campaign leftward is anyone's guess. Up to this point, Biden and the DNC have seemed to be worried more about the threat from it's left-wing than from Trump and the Republicans. But it's worth a try if only to save the campaign from another devastating loss a la 2016.

But for those who think that money is all you need to win, think again.

Sanders, who ended his campaign more than a month after Bloomberg's and notched more wins than the former New York City mayor, spent a total of $198.5 million on his campaign through the end of March.

Biden has not yet filed his campaign finance report covering March, but through the end of April, the former vice president spent just under $76 million on his campaign.

As for Bloomberg, the former stop-and-frisk mayor of New York, it appears that few care anymore what he thinks.

Monday, April 20, 2020


I'm in prison in New York. Many are sick with Covid-19 – and I fear for our safety." -- Rikers prisoner James Johnson

N.Y. Prisoner James Johnson
Everyone here at Rikers is sick, and we can’t get treatment. I want people to know that the conditions are terrible – we need help. -- Guardian
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
“It’s not just about this boding well for progressives,” she said. “It’s about us having a goddamn planet to live on in 10 years or in 20 years. It’s about making sure that babies don’t get put in a cage again. It’s about making sure that we end the scourge of mass incarceration.” -- Guardian
Bernie Sanders
"Let me be very clear: If we are serious about building a political revolution — and continuing our fight for economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice — we need people like Alexandria, Ilhan, and Rashida representing our progressive values in Congress." -- The Hill
Joe Biden joins Trump in China blame game
His campaign released a new ad that will air in battleground states this month accusing President Trump of being "soft on China." When Trump rolled over for the Chinese, he took their word for it. -- RCP
Noam Chomsky
 So, blame the World Health Organization, blame China, claim that the World Health Organization has insidious relations with China, is practically working for them. And that sells to a population that’s been deeply indoctrinated for a long time, way back to the Chinese Exclusion Acts in the 19th century, to say, “Yeah, those yellow barbarians are coming over to destroy us.” That’s almost instinctive. -- Democracy Now

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The legacy of the '60s freedom movement

I was fortunate to be invited to take part in a zoom discussion the other night on  "The Black Freedom Movement Then and Now: Organizing Traditions" with veterans of SNCC and lots of younger, mainly black activists. There was lots of talk about lessons learned from the '60s, including how the Freedom Movement benefited from the election of so many local black elected officials, especially mayors.

But I didn't hear one mention of Joe Biden.

That's not to say that these activists and organizers aren't concerned with the national elections or that Biden's support base doesn't include black voters. It does. In fact, if Biden is successful in defeating Trump in November, he will owe his success primarily to a large turnout of African-American voters, especially from the urban centers of battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where Democrats lost the election in 2016.

I mention this only to show the disconnect between the SNCC tradition of organizing, which was community-based, and that of some current left and socialist activists who seem to be totally wrapped up in the debate about whether or not to endorse Biden and the Democrats.

In previous posts and continually on our Hitting Left radio show, I have been clear about my own willingness to support any Democratic nominee running against Trump, including Biden. This despite his record of antipathy towards the left and progressivism in general, his threats to veto any Medicare-for-all legislation if he's elected, his weak stand on climate change, and his history of support for imperialist wars abroad and mass incarceration here at home.

That's because, in my view, Trump and Trumpism represent the most reactionary political force in the world today and the most immediate and serious threat to peace and human freedom in the post-WWII era.

Tactically, I'm taking my cues mainly from leading progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders who, to one degree or another, are supporting Biden's election as a way of defeating Trump and pushing forward our progressive agenda.

AOC, whose team is currently meeting with Biden's to try and push that agenda forward, points out:
"We have to live in the reality of those choices even if many people would be 'uncomfortable' with that. It's for me personally very important to be in solidarity with the families that I represent in supporting Joe Biden in November." 
Last week, some 60's SDS members issued a public letter in response to a tweet by the DSA stating that they weren't endorsing Biden.

The letter was addressed to today's "New Left." I've been asked by some friends and younger activists why I didn't sign the letter. (I was the national secretary of SDS in 1968).

In a nutshell, I didn't sign it because I didn't like its patronizing tone and I don't agree with its non-struggle approach towards Biden and the DNC.

I also don't think the exclusively-white group of signers should have designated themselves as the representative of the '60s New Left, which often rightfully took leadership and inspiration from SNCC and the Black Freedom Movement. There's nothing drawn from our own experiences as young radicals in the '60s that shapes this didactic warning to DSA'ers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

AOC and Sanders point the way for lefties

There’s this talk about unity as this kind of vague, kumbaya, kind of term. Unity and unifying isn’t a feeling, it’s a process. -- AOC
There's no need for us to create crises. There's plenty of them to go around. Some occur naturally and others are man-made or politically manufactured. No matter how much we all yearn for a return to "normalcy" the storms will keep rolling in.

Among the questions facing millions of those of us hardest hit by this crisis, as we to race to November, is which forces are capable of leading the way out of the coronavirus crisis and of building a coalition capable of toppling Trump and Trumpism? While sectarian and divisive practices are holding back some on the left, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders continue to point the way forward in these hard times.

Aside from identifying the main issues for the moment at hand, like healthcare for all, economic justice, a Green New Deal, and racial equality -- AOC and Bernie are modeling for young activists, good tactical leadership. How to unite and struggle at the same time. They are also finding new ways to keep the struggle alive under impossible conditions, while Democratic Party regulars have generally stayed hidden in quarantine. 

Bernie's endorsement of Joe Biden is a case in point. It enables Bernie and his large base of mostly-young activists to maintain their focus on defeating Trump while at the same time, continue to push those issues while the public is laser-focused on politics. Bernie has made it clear that his support for Biden is conditional and must continually be renegotiated. 
“It’s no great secret Joe that you and I have our differences, and we are not going to paper them over. That’s real,” Sanders said. “But I hope that these task forces will come together, utilizing the best minds and people in your campaign and in my campaign, to work out real solutions to these very, very important problems.” 
There are many young people, including African-American and Latinx activists who are simply not going to vote for Biden or vote period. Many for good reason. They have been given little reason to trust the electoral system, Biden or the party's leadership which has rarely reached out to them or given voice to their issues. Ocasio-Cortez probably comes closest to doing that of any seated politician.

While supporting Biden, AOC goes even farther than Bernie in making clear that her base of voters wants more than just a pat on the head from Democrats.
There’s also this idea that if we all just support the nominee that voters will come along as well. I’ve flagged, very early, two patterns that I saw [among Biden’s campaign], which is underperformance among Latinos and young people, both of which are very important demographics in November. And so, I don’t think this conversation about changes that need to be made is one about throwing the progressive wing of the party a couple of bones — I think this is about how we can win.
I guess the thing that bothered me the most about DSA's tweet announcing their non-endorsement wasn't that their members aren't supporting Biden (most probably are) but that the message said nothing else. No alternative.

Nobody cares about an endorsement or lack of one. AOC supports the Democratic nominee against Trump without offering an official endorsement.

But this statement more or less places them on the sidelines of a major battle being waged within the Democratic Party, not just by AOC and Bernie, but by thousands of young activists and people of color who have committed themselves to defeating Trump but who are looking for more. Now, they've painted themselves in a corner with the worst consequence being irrelevancy in the months ahead. 

Monday, April 13, 2020


Cook County Jail is now the national epicenter for COVID-19.
Prof. Marc Lamont Hill 
Easter calls us to remember the plight of the prisoner. Because of his political activism and message of social justice, Jesus was declared an enemy of the Roman State and sentenced to the death penalty...The story of Jesus is a reminder to challenge state authority, question unjust laws, and offer humanizing mercy to the prisoner. -- Ebony
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on her support for Biden
I don’t think this conversation about changes that need to be made is one about throwing the progressive wing of the party a couple of bones — I think this is about how we can win. -- New York Times
Chris Wallace, responds to Trump
"One of us has a daddy problem, and it’s not me." -- The Hill
Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin 
“Wisconsin has a long pattern of this … Time after time, they have acted to disenfranchise people to make it tougher and tougher to vote.” -- MSNBC
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert.
Earlier social distancing measures 'obviously' would have saved more lives. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken," Fauci said. "Sometimes, it's not. But ... it is what it is. We are where we are right now." -- NBC

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Looking back on Chicago's great 2001 Boeing tax giveaway

Chicago Theater welcomed Boeing in 2001. 

It's been nearly 20 years since Boeing Corp. pulled one of the great hustles on the people of Chicago with help from then-Mayor Richard Daley and Gov. George Ryan. While many of us protested the deal that brought Boeing's headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, we couldn't stop the huge corporate tax giveaway that would become the norm for cities and states competing with each other for corporate investments.

Families of Boeing 737 MAX crash victims protest. 
Boeing promised to bring 500 high-paying jobs to Chicago and claimed that the combined executive pay would trickle down and create even more jobs and small businesses. This in exchange for $60 million in tax breaks for the huge military defense contractor. Their promise wasn't worth the paper it was written on.
Gov. Ryan even claimed at the time that the move would bring Illinois more than prestige. "It will pay huge dividends, producing a 100-to-1 return on the state's investment", he said.
It didn't. 

Boeing's former CEO Tom Condit explained in 2001 and later, the headquarters move was made to create psychological distance between the corporate leadership and the manufacturing sites on the ground.
There also was a suspicion that the corporate and political climate of Chicago — its more conservative, business-friendly bent; its expensive steakhouses where macho titans of industry could talk over cigars and scotch — would better suit the taste and personality of men like Boeing’s then-president, Harry Stonecipher.
From their airy perch in Chicago, Boeing’s leaders could — and did — make steely decisions about where to locate work or where to make layoffs at a safe remove from the people affected on the ground.
 The BGA's Alejandra Cancino, writes this week in Crain's, that the Boeing deal,
...laid down a marker for megadeals to come that opened the public purse in the name of economic development. Since then, states and cities have engaged in an escalating bidding war for jobs and bragging rights, with the promise of future economic riches as bait. 
A new massive $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package signed by Trump includes billions of dollars in loan guarantees for Boeing, in financial peril before the pandemic because of the grounding of its faulty 737 Max aircraft. By that and other incentive measures, the price tag for the 2001 Boeing deal might seem puny. 
As would the failed offer of $2 billion in tax incentives then-Mayor Emanuel and Gov. Rauner made to Amazon in exchange for a promised "50,000 new high-paying jobs." That deal fell through but it's one that Gov. Pritzker appeared ready to pursue again in 2019 when Rahm was still mayor.

With Rahm and Rauner gone and more important things for Mayor Lightfoot to focus on, I doubt he'll pursue it now.

Side Note -- I would call the two Boeing 737 Max crashes, which killed 346 men, women and children, a case of criminal neglect and malfeasance and wonder why none of those top execs have been dragged from their "airy perch" in Chicago and carted off to prison?

Monday, April 6, 2020


When Jonathan Bailey returns home from his job at an Amazon warehouse, he puts everything he was wearing in a plastic garbage bag. ... New York Times
John Iadarola, host of The Damage Report
Coronavirus is the election. Trump has a vision for how to respond to it. We can see that vision playing out as the death toll rises. Is Joe Biden seriously going to simply surrender the discussion around this virus to Trump without a fight? How could he possibly imagine the American people will replace Trump with someone who plans to fight COVID-19 with politeness? -- The Hill
Osita Nwanevu
Trump is deeply vulnerable now. But the Biden campaign will not prevail unless that vulnerability is actually exploited. If Biden isn’t going to offer a bold vision for America’s future beyond this crisis, he could at least fulfill the promise his campaign made to the Democratic electorate—that this election would be a real fight, and one Biden could win. -- New Republic
R.I.P. kicker Tom Dempsey
“The owners make the rules,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010, “and my favorite saying about owners is, ‘If you threw them a jockstrap, they’d put it on as a nose guard.’ They don’t know a damn thing about football.” -- Washington Post
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
 "This [ventilators from China and Oregon] is a big deal, and it's going to make a significant difference," Cuomo said, calling the redistribution of ventilators a key to saving more lives in New York and across the globe...“We’re all in the same battle here.” -- USA Today

Sunday, April 5, 2020

When Trump asks, 'What have you got to lose?'

Trump in Michigan to African-American voters in 2016: "Vote for me. What the hell have you got to lose?" 
“What do you have to lose? Take it,” says Trump.. Try it, if you’d like.” -- 
D.T. at yesterday's press conference.
These days he's singing that same tune to coronavirus patients. Can you believe it? He's become a pitchman for an untested, unapproved drug, hydroxychloroquine to fearful victims and their families, by telling them they "have nothing to lose." Even drugs fully tested and approved by the FDA are required to warn users of any dangerous side effects.

With no proven treatment for the coronavirus, many doctors and hospitals in the United States have already been giving hydroxychloroquine to patients, reasoning that it might help and probably will not hurt because it appears to be relatively safe. But that all remains to be seen. We already know that it's not considered safe for people with abnormal heart rhythms and could lead to a stroke.

It's not that doctors shouldn't consider its use in a desperate or life-saving situation or that hydroxychloroquine is snake oilGov. Andrew Cuomo last month said healthcare providers in the state would be using the drug in combination with the antibiotic Zithromax, or azithromycin, for some last-ditch cases, based on potentially promising research here and in other countries.

Rather it's this obscene situation where the president of the United States, a proven liar and grifter, is serving as a medicine show pitchman for the big pharmaceutical companies like Bayer. 

He has ordered the government to purchase millions of doses of the malaria drug and put them into an emergency stockpile even though it has not been approved for COVID-19 treatment. The artificially created demand for hydroxychloroquine as an anti-corona drug is making it more difficult for rheumatoid arthritis, malaria, and lupus patients, whose survival depends on hydroxychloroquine, to get the drug. 
 “They should look at the lupus thing. I don’t know what it says, but there’s a rumor out there that because it takes care of lupus very effectively as I understand it, and it’s a, you know, a drug that’s used for lupus. So there’s a study out there that says people that have lupus haven’t been catching this virus. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.” -- D.T.
NIAID Director Anthony Fauci says there's no meaningful evidence to date on hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19. Any evidence so far is "anecdotal." At yesterday's press conference, Trump blocked him from speaking about the efficacy of the drug. 

"Nothing to lose"? Remember, that was the same line he pedaled to black voters in 2016. He ended up with only 8% of the black vote.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Biden sightings

Biden campaign has a new podcast. Is that it?
With only 7 months to go in the campaign, it's not so much that Joe Biden has disappeared into a shell. It's that the DNC has chosen not to directly take on Donald Trump. That task has been entirely left up to governors and mayors in states and cities hit hardest by the coronavirus and the accompanying failure of federal support.

The daily press conferences held by IL Gov. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lightfoot, have been hard-hitting and effective and offer a model to Democratic Party leaders on how to mobilize public support in these difficult times for organizers and campaigners.

Yesterday's was the best, with Lightfoot delivering a strong kick in the butt to Jared Kushner after he stunned state and city leaders with his comment that "the federal stockpile (of medical equipment) was it’s supposed to be our stockpile... not supposed to be the states’ stockpiles that they then use.”

There have been a few Biden sightings in the past week. One in particular caught my eye. It was reported in yesterday's Military Times where Biden was quoted as being critical of the Pentagon's decision to fire Capt. Brett Crozier, the heroic commander of the nuclear aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt who first warned about the spread of COVID on his ship.
“Navy leadership sent a chilling message about speaking truth to power,” Biden tweeted Friday. “The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump administration, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors.”
Good for you Joe.

But there was the paragraph further down in the article that caused my stomach to turn.
Biden has suspended most campaigning since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in America last month, but has said in recent days he will speak with Trump about the federal response to the pandemic.
Speak with Trump? Biden and the Democrats had better un-suspend the campaign. start speaking directly to voters (especially in battleground states) and move into attack mode, especially over the issues of how the Republicans are (or aren't) responding to the COVID crisis. Thousands, and possibly millions of lives hang in the balance.

Trump continues his domination of the media as expected. But the Biden camp has at least begun to stir with the launching of a new 2020 campaign podcast. That all well and good. But if that's all they've got, we're likely in for a repeat of 2016.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Like a bad penny, Vallas turns up again in Chicago.

Bad penny.

Paul Vallas is like that proverbial bad penny. He always turns up, uninvited. When he does, he's usually part of the problem rather than the solution.

The bad penny turned up again this week in Chicago in the midst of the city's battle with COVID to offer us his unsolicited budgeting advice in a Tribune op-ed. Vallas decided to take a public backhanded swipe at Mayor Lightfoot's management of the city's crisis budget (she's "disingenuous") and offer advice on how best to put the city on a "wartime financial plan."

As if he had a clue.

In the year since her election, and especially during this, the worst crisis to befall our city since the Great Fire, the mayor has gained high marks and become Chicago's acknowledged and highly regarded leader while Vallas has sunk into political obscurity.

This from the mayor:
“Unfortunately, some people are desperate to be relevant,” Lightfoot said. “The suggestion that somehow our city budget is in tatters, as Mr. Vallas dramatically suggests, it's just foolish.”
When I say, the bad penny turned up again, I mean, it seems like I've written this "we thought we were done with Vallas" post several times before.

After all, he ran against Lightfoot for mayor on these ideas a year ago and the voters heard them loud and clear. He placed ninth out of fourteen candidates, receiving 5.43% of the votes cast. He also ran for mayor against Rahm Emanuel and was crushed. He ran for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois in 2014 with then-incumbent Governor Pat Quinn and was soundly beaten, leading to the election of Bruce Rauner and Evelyn Sanguinetti (who???)

Vallas has left a trail of tears from teachers and parents in his wake as he's moved as the corporate reformers' hired gun from Chicago, to Philly, to New Orleans and Bridgeport (with stops in Haiti and Chile), privatizing school districts and busting unions.

Remember, this is also the guy who left Philly's school budget in absolute shambles. It was there that he hooked up with Barbara Byrd-Bennett's criminal conspirators Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas to form their illicit Synesi consulting group, the group behind the SUPES scandal. How he escaped going to prison with them is still a mystery to me. Why anyone would solicit or accept his advice, especially under current conditions is another one.

Up until this point, no one has as far as I can tell.