Archives for the month of: June, 2020

NPR has the story. Intelligence officials included information about the Russian determination to put a bounty on Coalition forces in his daily briefing report.

However, they made a mistake. They put the ominous story in the president’s daily intelligence briefing, which is written. The president doesn’t read. They should have given the information to Fox & Friends. Then he would have noticed.

The New York Times reports that members of Congress want intelligence officials to explain the claims that Russia paid a bounty to Afghan militants to kill soldiers who are American or other Coalition forces.

Trump denies that he was briefed. Is it credible that such an important development would not be transmitted to the president?

Democrats and Republicans in Congress demanded on Monday that American intelligence agencies promptly share with lawmakers what they know about a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, and threatened to retaliate against the Kremlin.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, each requested that all lawmakers be briefed on the matter and for C.I.A. and other intelligence officials to explain how President Trump was informed of intelligence collected about the plot. Mr. Trump has said he was not made aware of an intelligence assessment about the plot; officials have said that it was briefed to the highest levels of the White House and appeared in the president’s daily intelligence brief.

“Congress and the country need answers now,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, wrote in a letter to John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director. “Congress needs to know what the intelligence community knows about this significant threat to American troops and our allies and what options are available to hold Russia accountable.”

In the Republican-controlled Senate, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he had asked for information as well and expected to know more on the matter “in the coming days.”

“We’ve known for a long time that Putin is a thug and a murderer, and if these allegations are true, I will work with President Trump on a strong response,” he said in a statement. “My No. 1 priority is the safety of our troops. Right now, though, we need answers.”

The C.I.A. declined to comment on Ms. Pelosi’s request.

Members of Congress were caught off guard on Friday when The New York Times first reported that American intelligence had found that a Russian military intelligence unit had secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants in exchange for killing American troops and their allies in Afghanistan. National Security Council officials met in March to discuss the intelligence, but the White House has taken no known action in response.

The Times further reported on Sunday that American intelligences officers and Special Operations forces in the country had informed their superiors of the suspected Russian plot as early as January, after a large amount of American cash was seized in a raid on a Taliban outpost.

American officials believed that the death of at least one U.S. service member was tied to the bounties, and they are reviewing other combat casualties in search of other potential victims, officials familiar with the matter have said.

The White House has not challenged that the intelligence assessment exists, or that the National Security Council held an interagency meeting about it in late March.

But Mr. Trump and his press secretary, Kaleigh McEnany, have both claimed that he was not briefed on the intelligence report. Mr. Trump said in a tweet late Sunday that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me” or Vice President Mike Pence.

Lawmakers were left uncertain what to believe, and even members of Mr. Trump’s party sounded uneasy on Monday when asked about the president’s statements.

Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Trump’s tweet suggesting he had not been made aware of the reports was “a very concerning statement.”

“Anything with any hint of credibility that would endanger our service members, much less put a bounty on their lives, to me should have been briefed immediately to the commander in chief and a plan to deal with that situation,” he said.

Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the Supreme Court’s four liberal justices to strike down a Louisiana law that would have severely restricted access to abortion.

The Washington Post reports:

The Supreme Court on Monday provided a victory for abortion rights activists, striking down a restrictive Louisiana law that would have left the state with only one abortion clinic.


Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court’s liberals in the 5 to 4 decision. It was a blow to conservatives who had hoped for a dramatic change in the court’s abortion jurisprudence in the first case heard by a court reinforced by President Trump’s two conservative appointees.


Instead, Roberts said the Louisiana law could not stand given the court’s 2016 decision to to overturn a similar Texas law in 2016.
“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” Roberts wrote in concurring with the decision. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”


Roberts ‘s vote was all the more striking because he dissented in the Texas case. He said he continues “believe that the [Texas] case was wrongly decided.” But he said the question was whether to “adhere to it in the present case.”


It was perhaps the most dramatic example of Roberts’s new role as the pivotal member of the court, and indicated that while he supports restrictions on abortion, he is unready at this point to overhaul the court’s jurisprudence supporting the right of a woman to choose the procedure.

A side note: in states where protestors have refused to wear face masks, some have chanted, “My body, my choice!”

Ironic. Do the anti-maskers support abortion rights?

Dark money—anonymous donors—are pouring money into primary campaigns. The main donor is the Oklahoma Federation of Children, the state affiliate of Betsy DeVos’ American Federation of Children. Never in history has there been a Secretary of Education with her own political PAC.

Barbara Veltri is a teacher educator at Northern Arizona University. She has mentored TFA corps members, and she wrote a book about TFA.

In this essay, she notes that Doug Ducey, Republican Governor of Arizona and a favorite of Charles Joch, is an avid supporter of Trump, school choice, and TFA.

She writes:

Tara Kini, wrote, “We’re hearing a lot of conflicting scenarios and projections related to the teacher workforce come fall. On the one hand, there is a fear of massive layoffs precipitated by the Cov-19 recession and state budget cuts. On the other, there are projections of staffing shortages and state budget cuts. (June 25, 2020).

We have been here before.

In 2012, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that in fiscal year 2013, 35 states were spending less than they did during the recession. Since 2009, more than 200,000 teacher jobs vanished and in spite of teacher movements, states were still not back to pre-recession spending levels of a decade ago, which prompted national Teachers’ Movements and voter initiative to support K-12 teachers.

According to NEA job survey data from my state, Arizona teachers’ starting salaries at $30,404 in 2010 ranked 35th in the nation. Then, even veteran teachers in hard-to-staff assignments, such as special education faced reduced-in-force measures, while novice teachers without focused special needs training, were hired. Then, Arizona paid finder’s fees for Teach For America Teachers of more than 1.5 million dollars (noted on IRS Form 990 over the years 2010-2013).

And now, amid the rising temperatures and Cov-19 numbers, Governor Doug Ducey, who served on Teach For America’s Regional Board of Directors, announced in the Arizona Education Grant on Wednesday, “$500,000 for Teach For America to provide tutoring to students needing extra help.”

This when Wallet Hub (2019) ranked Arizona’s pupil-to-teacher ratio, the worst in the nation.

This when Arizona educators earn less than peers in 48 other states, yet pivoted immediately to prepare, present, and teach to support their students.

The Governor’s Education Grant also includes $700,000 for leadership and $1million for micro grants, that leave open too many questions as to just who will benefit from these funds.

Policies minimized educators in a state that has prioritized and legislated millions of dollars in funding directed towards Teach For America, over the last two decades, with friends in high places. In 2016, Wendy Kopp the founder of TFA was the commencement speaker at Arizona State University.

The Dean of The College of Education serves as a TFA Regional Board Member member. Ms. Kopp addressed the Arizona Legislature and Arizona Chamber of Commerce who overwhelmingly support her initiatives and corps member teachers.

The education non-profit reported:
$1,329,197 on lobbying (TFA IRS 990, 2019) ‘for direct contact with legislators, their staffs, government officials or a legislative body,” (Schedule C, IRS Form 990, 2017, pg. 3);
$45, 222, 433 in government grants (IRS 990, 2016, Part VII, p. 9);
$11, 255, 064 in Publicly Traded Securities/Non-Cash Contributions (IRS 990, 2017, line 9 p. 94) and $9,259 in crypto currency (Average sale price, line, 28).

The non-profit reports, “Program Service Revenue,” in the amount of $23, 415, 992 (Form 990, 2017, line 2A):

“Teach for America has contractual agreements with various school districts across the United States of America to recruit, select, train, and place corps members to teach within their school districts. Teach for America recognizes revenue related to these contractual agreement as earned, that is when the corps member is placed.”

These ‘program service fees’ are ‘finders’ fees’ that schools and districts pay to TFA (up front and in full), even if novice corps members leave their placement any time prior to their two-year commitment. And, Districts pay each TFA corps member’s salary and benefits.

Annie E. posed the question eight years ago, in a May 8, 2012 blog post, “So, is TFA’s mission still about education? If it is, then why take money from huge foundations and corporations whose missions are clearly not about education?”

But there’s more to this….

In a recent interview with CNBC, Merck CEO, Kenneth Frazier shared how he had the opportunity, as a black youth in Philadelphia’s inner city, to “change his life trajectory.”
He boarded a bus and rode 30 miles to the suburbs where he received a rigorous opportunity to learn from lifelong teachers and interact with peers who lived in middle-class and affluent professional neighborhoods.

A lightbulb went on for me at that moment.

As someone who researched, met, mentored and learned from TFA teachers and their students, I recognized that instead of the opportunity for schooling to change his life’s trajectory, corporations, lobbyists, universities, media, philanthropists and policymakers (who I term The CLUMPP Network) opted instead to jointly support, through financing, marketing, in-kind donations (i.e. office space), in-state tuition, and even taxpayer funded AmeriCorps stipends, a Caucasian, female’s undergraduate sociologist thesis in 1989 that she reworked with diligence, focus, and good intent.

The education initiatives that supported black and brown children moving out of high-poverty community schools, as Mr. Frazier experienced, instead brought in, recent college grads who knew nothing about education, weren’t trained, might’ve been idealistic, didn’t stay, uprooted veterans’ local knowledge of the community, but kept poor children of color, exactly where corporations and policymakers wanted them – in schools that were underfunded, with scripted teaching, constant assessments, police presence in schools, no frills curriculum, limited resources for arts, music, sports and, not removed from the realities of systemic poverty.

I chronicled my ethnographer’s notes from their teaching field, over consecutive years.
Then, in the middle of all of financial and environmental crisis when teachers lost jobs, not only was TFA hired, but Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and others (as noted on TFA tax returns) paid millions of dollars each in finder’s fees to bring TFA novices in (and out) over multiple years – while the kids, and their communities were effected by innovation.

It didn’t matter which tag line: One Day All Children, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, or Every Child Succeeds – the trajectory for poor kids, no matter how many competitions or standardized tests, didn’t match the learning that Kenneth Frazier experienced.

And the reason is this – unlike the educational policies of the 60s that transported a young Kenneth Frazier, from his Philly inner city neighborhood to the suburbs, where he notes that he received a quality education that “paved the way for my admittance to Penn State University (undergraduate degree) and then Harvard law school,” three decades of young people who just happened to be born poor, black or brown, were/are recipients of another social experiment that not only made segregation popular, but profitable – charter schools.

Policies kept poor children of color localized in their communities as suburban communities, fell back on residency requirements and real estate pricing to maintain an us vs. them mindset.

In Stamford, Connecticut my kids were transported, by bus, to a public elementary magnet school, surrounded by “the projects.” The arts and critical thinking curriculum and admissions policy: 50% majority/50% minority; 50% male/ 50% female (with siblings automatically accepted) was supported by community buy-in and integrated schools. The by-product – from a young age, kids learn from and befriend kids from different religions, ethnicities, social class, and race.

So what happened?

From 1990-2020 we saw a systemic attempt to control who gets to be schooled where and by whom. And with limited opportunity for kids to interact, learn, befriend and grow up with children other than themselves, in public schools, the system promotes and finances policies that separate us and keep kids living and learning, within limited societal structures and neighborhoods by bringing in young outsiders and paying for that service.

Over the last two decades, policies embraced by both sides of the political spectrum, advanced homeschooling, tax credits for religious schools, charter schools, encouraged a police presence within low-income schools and limited financial opportunities for programs that benefitted my kids, and Merck CEO Frazier.

The result: The alignment of the “CLUMPP” network of which, TFA was/remains the cog in the wheel that moves and advances an agenda that is predetermined and particularized to keep poor children of color from leaving where they were born, to be schooled in the suburbs.

To taxpayers, teachers and parents across the other 40 U.S. states whose Governors are appropriating pandemic education support dollars…. Examine the funding and think Teachers, not TFA.

This study should be no surprise. When students of color are exposed to police killings, their grades and graduation rates decline. It seems likely that being exposed to such traumatic events would depress the academic motivation of all students, whatever their race or ethnicity. Witnessing or hearing about a murder in one’s surroundings must be a traumatic experience.

William Barr wrote an unsolicited memo before he was appointed to his current position as Attorney General. It was intended to discredit the Mueller investigation. It sets forth an expansive view of the powers of the president and supports Trump’s view that the president is above the law. As Trump put it, “the president can do whatever he wants.” Barr agrees.

To learn more about the Barr memo, read the following reviews of it.

This commentary by the ACLU links to the memo.

This analysis by Neil Kinkopf of the University of Georgia School of Law highlights this startling passage:

I would like to focus attention…on the ramifications of Mueller’s theory of the President’s constitutional powers for the rest of the government. Those ramifications are vast and proceed from the memo’s most jaw-dropping passage: “Constitutionally, it is wrong to conceive of the President as simply the highest officer within the Executive branch hierarchy. He alone is the Executive branch.”

Barr rejects the fundamental idea of checks and balances. He rejects the principle that no one is above the law. He asserts that the president is.

He is pushing out or firing prosecutors who are independent, like Geoffrey Berman in New York.

Under Barr’s leadership, the rule of law is being eroded. This should concern us all, regardless of party.

Vicki Cobb is an award-winning science writer. She has written more than 90 science books, mostly for children, which means she is good at explaining complex ideas.

She explains here how the coronavirus works and what it is.

@StanleyKrute shared this story on Twitter, about Rabbi Michael Beals of Delaware and Senator Joe Biden.

About 16 years ago, as a rabbi new to Delaware, Rabbi Beals officiated at the memorial service for an elderly woman, Mrs. Greenhouse. She didn’t have much in the way of worldly goods. She lived in a very small apartment in a high-rise building. Rabbi Beals led a prayer minyan that was conducted in the basement of her building because her apartment was too small to accommodate 10 people.

As the prayer commenced, the door opened and a man quietly entered.

From the tweet:

Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened; who walks in but Sen. Joe Biden, head lowered, all by himself.

I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.

Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service.

At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone else’s mind: “Sen. Biden — what are you doing here?”

He said to me: “Back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign.

Because that’s what she could afford. And every six years, when I’d run for reelection, she’d give another $18. She did it her whole life. I’m here to show my respect and gratitude.”

Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith — its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in “to life, to life, l’chayim!” But it’s also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.

There were no news outlets at our service that day — no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room.

Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character.

He came to that service because he’s a mensch.

And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country — we need a mensch.

I know this is such a simple, small story. But I tell it to as many people as will listen to me.

Character.

The Washington Post reported today:

In the hours before President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, his campaign directed the removal of thousands of “Do Not Sit Here, Please!” stickers from seats in the arena that were intended to establish social distance between rallygoers, according to video and photos obtained by The Washington Post and a person familiar with the event.

The removal contradicted instructions from the management of the BOK Center, the 19,000-seat arena in downtown Tulsa where Trump held his rally on June 20. At the time, coronavirus cases were rising sharply in Tulsa County, and Trump faced intense criticism for convening a large crowd for an indoor political rally, his first such event since the start of the pandemic.

As part of its safety plan, arena management had purchased 12,000 do-not-sit stickers for Trump’s rally, intended to keep people apart by leaving open seats between attendees. On the day of the rally, event staff had already affixed them on nearly every other seat in the arena when Trump’s campaign told event management to stop and then began removing the stickers, hours before the president’s arrival, according to a person familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

In a video clip obtained by The Washington Post, two men — one in a suit and one wearing a badge and a face mask — can be seen pulling stickers off seats in a section of the arena. It is unclear who those two men are. When Trump took the stage on Saturday evening, the crowd was clustered together and attendees were not leaving empty seats between themselves.
The actions by Trump’s campaign were first reported Friday by Billboard Magazine.
As rally preparations were underway, Trump’s campaign staff intervened with the venue manager, ASM Global, and told them to stop labeling seats in this way, Doug Thornton, executive vice president of ASM Global, told the magazine.

“They also told us that they didn’t want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue,” Thornton said. “The campaign went through and removed the stickers.”