Archives for category: Justice

Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction in Washington State, published this excellent letter to the Democratic candidates.

It overflows with wisdom and common sense.

An Open Letter to the Biden-Harris Ticket:

Mr. Vice President and Senator Harris, there is so much at stake with this year’s presidential election, including the very foundation of our country’s democracy – the future of our public education system. Led by Betsy DeVos and fueled by years of education privateers, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has been an utter failure in advancing student learning, racial equity, and gender equity over the last four years. Under DeVos, the USDOE has jeopardized the financial future of too many young adults and actively worked against civil rights protections for our most vulnerable students.

As Washington State’s elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, I have worked with leaders across the state to build bipartisan coalitions to improve student achievement, but this same bipartisanship and student-centric approach have been elusive under the DeVos regime. It will take federal leadership working alongside state education policy leaders to move us past an inefficient and deficit-based system.

What follows are ten critical steps necessary for a Biden/Harris administration to build the foundation for a truly equitable and outstanding American education system.

1)
Grant a national waiver of all federally mandated tests required under the Every Student Succeeds Act until Congress has an opportunity to amend the law. This will save billions of dollars and allow us to refocus resources on assessments that illuminate student growth and learning, are delivered locally, and are aligned to requirements that are properly situated at the state or local level, not the federal government. The USDOE should review and approve each state’s education assessment framework, but it is time to put the evaluation of learning back in the classroom with meaningful standards, trained professionals, and culturally responsive instructional practices.

2)
Deliver legislation to Congress to scale up the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – a far more cost-effective method of actually determining the overall education progress of states with a real opportunity to finally understand performance differences between the states. This assessment is already funded and supported by the USDOE. It is inefficient and costly to have a federally funded assessment of student progress and have 50 states and territories maintaining their own costly assessments. This proposal would save billions from the current system, and with robust sample sizes, can identify critical supports needed to close opportunity gaps for students furthest from educational justice.

3)
Invest in the teaching profession by diversifying the workforce, including establishing high-quality residencies for teacher candidates and early career teachers, and providing funds for ongoing meaningful educator training. Additionally, building educator capacity should focus on integration of social-emotional learning into instruction, anti-racist and student-centered teaching practices, and authentic family engagement. It is past time to shift away from destructive federal policies that force schools and educators to dwell on student deficits, as defined by federally mandated tests, instead of lifting up the unique contribution of every learner and every educator.

4)
Immediately deliver a budget request to Congress that triples the federal budget for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) from $13 billion to $40 billion. Congress and the USDOE have never fulfilled their obligation to this essential civil rights policy. One in seven students has a qualifying disability and these students deserve every accommodation necessary to fully engage in inclusive and least restrictive learning environments.

5)
By Executive Order, immediately suspend any federal dollars used to support school voucher programs. Require the USDOE to undertake a national examination of voucher systems, and require each state that uses vouchers to conduct third-party evaluation, with a USDOE review, that examines the effects of school voucher systems on school segregation, specifically the segregation of students of color and students with disabilities.

6)
Affirm that all federal funds are eligible to support DACA students and all migrant students. Make clear through executive order and USDOE rule that basic education rights for ALL students is a function of their residency, not their citizenship status. U.S. schools should focus on teaching and learning for ALL students, and the administration should ensure authorities overseeing immigration policy and citizenship status are upholding support of DACA and migrant students’ rights.

7)
Immediately reverse the USDOE’s recent rule change related to Title IX. This rule, promoted by Betsy DeVos, weakens protections for victims of sexual assault and retraumatizes them with forced cross-examinations by their perpetrators.

8)
Create a 10-year on-ramp with federal financial support to allow every school district in the United States to develop, implement, and evaluate dual-language programs for each of their students. The U.S. is linguistically diverse – this is an asset that should be celebrated, rather than viewed as a deficit! Every dollar spent on assessments for English language proficiency should be invested in high-quality dual language programs. We are losing a global battle for talent, and our students do not compete effectively in a global labor market because they lack bilingualism. Every student in the U.S. should learn two or more languages – as most of the world does – and this begins most effectively in early learning programs and early elementary school.

9)
Deliver an initial budget request to Congress of $100 billion to close the digital divide and invest in tribal lands by building out broadband connectivity in rural and remote communities. Make K-12 schools, indigenous communities, and reservation lands the highest priorities for “last mile” infrastructure. Our tribal communities are sovereign nations trapped by our failed national infrastructure. Tribal youth experience one of the largest opportunity gaps in the nation, and broadband can play a massive role in this powerful opportunity for equity.

10)
Provide every United States high school graduate two years of equivalent tuition to a public community or technical college through an education savings account. Students can use these funds for full associate degrees or industry recognized credentials, or use the funds as a universal baseline of financial assistance as they attend four-year colleges and universities.

Strengthening America’s education system should be the top priority for a Biden/Harris Administration. It does not mean expanding the control or scope of the USDOE, but rather putting the proper budget and policy levers in place that empower states and local school districts to close opportunity gaps, develop diverse pathways to graduation, and once again recognize the needs of individual students, employers, and the larger economy.

America’s future rests on its commitment to each and every learner in a high-quality accessible public education system that sees race, language, and individual student interests as strengths and assets upon which we develop the greatest and most innovative nation the world has ever known.

Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Two of the nation’s leading education experts ponder the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Espinoza decision. Bruce D. Baker of Rutgers University is a school finance expert. Preston C. Green III of the University of Connecticut specializes in education law.

I confess that I was relieved that the Espinoza decision was limited in scope. I was afraid that the religious zealots on the Court might sweep away all barriers to public funding of religious schools. It did not. But Baker and Green persuade me that I was wrong, that Espinoza was another step towards breaking down the Wall of Separation between church and state and should be viewed with alarm.

I urge you to read their analysis of where we are going, how it involves not only vouchers but charter schools, and what states must do to protect public schools.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, makes an urgent appeal to save the life of his former student Julius Jones.

He writes:

I just watched the rebroadcast of ABC’s “20 20” documentary, “The Last Defense,” about my former student, Julius Jones, who is on Death Row even though he’s probably innocent. It was an abridged version that left time to update the case’s developments over the last two years. It refuted the claims at a recent press conference by Oklahoma Attorney General Robert Hunter that the evidence still says that Jones murdered Paul Howell in front of his children, while carjacking his Suburban. (I also appeared in the documentary.)

As I will explain, there is no hard evidence that Jones committed the crime, and there is plenty of evidence that my other former student, Chris “Westside” Jordan shot Mr. Howell. Closing a documentary which revealed glaring miscarriages of justice, the producer, Scott Budrick says, “I don’t think there is anyone … who can say Julius Jones received a fair trial.”

The criminal justice system has always been torn between the ideal that the defendant is “innocent until proven guilty,” and the prosecutors’ real world commitment to winning. Individual district attorneys operate in a system where 90% or more of cases must be settled with a plea bargain. If fairness was the overriding principle, too many defendants would go to trial and the system would be overwhelmed.

The juxtaposition of A.G. Hunter’s attack on the “Justice for Julius” movement and “The Last Defense,” with the outrages revealed in the documentary, leads me back to the belief that district attorneys like the late “Cowboy Bob” Macy are a huge problem. The even bigger problem isn’t the individual prosecutors, but how the system creates a law enforcement culture where winning is the priority.

For instance, A.G. Hunter has been very effective in presenting the case, as it existed in 2002, against Jones. There is nothing wrong with Hunter visiting with the Howell family and, like the defendants repeatedly have, saying that the family’s suffering must be acknowledged. And trial attorneys routinely cross that line with emotional arguments personalizing the case, as opposed to presenting evidence in a balanced manner.

However, Hunter went too far when he told the press conference, “I’m here today as an advocate for the late Paul Howell and his family … They are the victims in this case, make no mistake about it, and the pain of their loss is revisited with each misguided public appeal on Mr. Jones’ behalf.”

Then Hunter skillfully repeated the evidence that was presented to the jury and subsequent appeals judges. As the defense acknowledged, if that was all that was known about the horrific murder, a guilty verdict would be understandable. The problem is that the attorney general, being a loyal team member, ignores the large body of evidence that has been discovered and compiled over the last decade.

Moreover, Hunter released the trial transcript, but he didn’t seek to release the evidence which mattered the most – the prosecution’s trial record file.

And that leads to the reason why Jones is on Death Row. The high-profile investigation was guided by two police informants, who were both facing long sentences for other crimes.

The experienced prosecutors skillfully appealed to the jurors’ emotions. I doubt the district attorney’s office was surprised to hear the jury foreman tell “20 20” that, in a case like that one, you “go with your heart more than anything else.” The juror trusted “what you felt in your gut.” When delivering the verdict, the juror “felt right.”

Jones and his attorneys had always admitted that he had not been perfect, and he had committed nonviolent offences. But Hunter said that Jones’ “criminal history was replete with the use and threat of violence: armed robbery, carjackings, assault.”

Jones had not been charged with such crimes, and the D.A. never proved these cases against Jones in court. Instead, they were brought up in the sentencing phase where the state can simply say that Jones did this, he did that, without proof. This is because such claims do not need to have been proven. It is a typical tactic that prosecutors use to frighten juries into imposing the death penalty. If the State had the evidence of violent offenses, the defense asks, why didn’t it file charges back in 1999? Twenty-one years later the A.G. is throwing this out there, trying to make it stick.

The State eventually agreed to a DNA test of a bandanna that was found wrapped around the apparent murder weapon in the Jones’ family home. A.G. Hunter argues that “the major component of the DNA profile matched Jones.” But, Dr. Eli Shapiro did a more complete and nuanced analysis. Seven of the 21 genetic markers were found to be consistent with Jones’ DNA. The Jones defense notes that the finding doesn’t “constitute a match under law enforcement standards.” Moreover, no saliva DNA was found on the bandanna, as would be expected after the gunman shouted into it as the eyewitness testified to at trial.

The biggest problem with the State’s claim is that Jordan came by the Jones’ house the day after the murder, said he was locked out of his grandmother’s house, and spent the night sleeping upstairs where he could have easily planted the bandanna and the gun. And when the police searched the Jones’ house, Jordan was in a police car outside, so he could direct them toward the evidence.

In other words, had all of this DNA evidence been presented at trial, it would not have incriminated Jones in a trial where he was considered “innocent until proven guilty.”

“The Last Defense” includes statements by his public defender, who was inexperienced in murder trials and who acknowledged that he did a “terrible job” of cross examining Chris Jordan, who repeatedly contradicted himself when fingering Julius as the murderer.

The jury did not hear statements by two inmates who said that co-defendant Jordan bragged about the killing and the deal he made to get out of prison in 15 years. Jordon, in fact, was released 15 years into his 30 year sentence.

Neither did the defense attorney call Jones’ family to the stand even though they would have testified that he was visiting their home until about 9:30, the time when the murder was committed in Edmond. His current attorneys explain:

Julius’s trial lawyers claim in sworn affidavits in 2004 that they delegated the investigation of the alibi to an investigator who was untrained and unqualified. This investigator never provided written or taped notes of his supposed alibi investigation

Neither did the Jones defense do an adequate job of distinguishing between Jones, who was photographed just before and just after the murder with close-cropped hair. The witness, Megan Tobey, testified that the shooter had “a half an inch to an inch” of hair sticking out of the bandanna. This is crucial because Jones had close-cropped hair that didn’t fit such a description. Hunter indicates that the defense claimed that the witness said the shooter had “cornrows.” But the Jones defense position is:

She did not testify, as the AG’s Statement misrepresents, that the shooter did not have braids or corn rows. Ms. Tobey also specifically affirmed that the shooter had hair sticking out from both sides and about a half an inch.

Moreover, the defense attorney did not stress the point of how important that testimony was in terms of incriminating Jordan, not Jones.

Finally, at least one juror heard a fellow juror say, “Well, they should just take that n—– out back, shoot him and bury him under the jail.” The juror told the judge about the comments the following day, but the juror was not removed, supposedly because the judge was not told that the N-word was used.

As I rethink the Julius Jones case, and the district attorney’s response, I recall the 1980s when I was a legal historian and when violence in Oklahoma City was so much worse than we could imagine today. Back then, I was one of many who was cautiously optimistic when Bob Macy took office.

My research had focused on Oklahoma County from the 1960s to the 1990s. Clearly, the War on Drugs undermined the progress which I had witnessed. Despite my intense involvement with the inner city, and seeing many abuses of power, it never occurred to me that law enforcement in 1999 could resemble the brutality of 1969. I’m now shocked that today’s prosecutors, who in my experience want to distance themselves from the corrupt violence of Jim Crow Oklahoma, are still refusing to break with the system of the past which deprived Julius Jones of a fair trial.

During either era, however, the publicity that accompanies capital crimes means that death penalty cases bring out the worst in the system. But, this is not 1999 or 2002 when Jones faced trial. We now know far more about the facts regarding that horrible murder and biased prosecution. Because of longstanding practices and the 1980s and 1990s “reforms,” designed to get tougher on crime by undermining defendants’ rights, no jurors, and few or no judges, have looked at the whole story. Julius Jones’ life now depends on the Pardon and Parole Board and the Governor, and whether a majority will commit to justice for Julius, taking a step toward a criminal justice system worthy of our democracy.

The following article appeared in the Grio and was co-authored by Dr. Andre Perry, Jitu Brown, Keron Blair, Richard Fowler, Stacy Davis Gates and Tiffany Dena Loftin.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and now Rayshard Brooks — all Black people whose lives and purposes were snuffed out by White Supremacy. These four slain Americans were fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, and one-time students of our nation’s public education system.

If we acknowledge the truth about the systemic racism in our country, we must also acknowledge the impact that racism has on our children and their classrooms. For us, #BlackLivesMatter is more than just a hashtag or social media post. #BlackLivesMatter is a policy doctrine that should govern how we think about safety, health care, the economy and certainly our nation’s public schools.

For Black lives to matter, we must reconstitute our nation’s classrooms and ensure that they are places that push back against the epidemic of racism and anti-Blackness. Its symptoms include under-resourced school buildings, oversized classrooms, over-policing, less access to necessary protections, lack of opportunity, and disinvestment.

Together, we — parents, students, community, educators and our local unions — believe we can cure anti-Blackness in our children’s classrooms

Here are the 10 things we can do today to combat anti-Blackness and racism for the sake of our babies and their neighborhood public schools:

1. Our school curricula must be culturally relevant, responsive and designed to prepare Black students for a future as global citizens. We must move away from rote memorization for standardized testing to teaching and critical thinking. Forget Columbus and talk about the role colonialism and capitalism played in structuring our nation and the modern world. Incorporating ethnic studies, with an emphasis on the Black experience as a conduit to addressing other marginalized groups, is critical. That way, more people will be familiar with key concepts — such as the building of our economy on exploitation and extraction (through slavery, Jim Crow, labor suppression, mass incarceration and criminalization). This will allow future generations to see the power dynamic created by policing and how it evolved by protecting wealthy business interests and oppressing Black bodies, enslaved and as they exist today.

2. We need smaller class sizes. Black parents have been demanding this for decades. Smaller class sizes allow for more individualized attention to each student. As we return to schools in an ongoing pandemic, small classes will be critical to keeping students physically and mentally healthy while they academically progress.

3. School safety can no longer mean school police and security staff. We know by now that most Black children are justifiably terrified by the police. Research affirms that police presence in schools leads to harsher punishment disproportionately affecting Black students — regardless of the severity or frequency of the behavior. For far too long, misguided leaders have depended on police in our public schools as a form of discipline. It is time for that to change. Our students deserve to learn in safe, loving and welcoming environments. Law enforcement officials walking the hallways of America’s schools only stoke fear.

4. We must recruit and support Black educators. When schools undergo major changes, Black educators are deliberately shut out. Disregarding their institutional, classroom and community knowledge has crippled generations of students and harmed our community. Everyone, from cafeteria workers to bus drivers, should have the tools to support our students, especially those experiencing disproportionate levels of trauma. By supporting our most vulnerable kids and families, school staff can improve the climate for the entire community. Salaries, working conditions and the protected right to organize must reflect the high level of commitment required to be an anti-racist educator.

5. It’s time for serious investment in school infrastructure and technology. Too many Black children attend schools where the walls are crumbling, there is lead in the water and heating and cooling are in disrepair. We want playgrounds, libraries and digital devices for every child. We want broadband internet to be a public utility, free or subsidized for families that can’t afford it.

6. Our schools and communities can no longer be turned over to private interests through vouchers, charters, education savings accounts, commercial tech platforms and other schemes used to syphon off public monies for private profit. Privatization hurts Black students and communities by excluding the neediest students, stealing funds that would otherwise support the 90+ % of kids enrolled in neighborhood public schools, and requiring those schools to further cut budgets and services for the vast majority of students. Black communities are tired of false and destructive choices of others. Our tax dollars are controlled by somebody else who’s eager to make a profit, escape our communities, and starve our people as they push an anti-Black agenda.

7. Schools serving Black students need more resources, not less. COVID-19 has laid bare the disproportionate health vulnerabilities facing Black people. The same vulnerabilities exist in public education. For decades, Black students, parents and educators have suffered from educational neglect and discrimination in public schooling. This suffering must end today. It starts by building bigger budgets for our neighborhood public schools. In order to learn at the same level as their white counterparts, our kids need more nurses, guidance counselors, paraeducators, social workers, mentors, and enrichment opportunities. These critical supports cost money. Equity demands that more public school dollars should flow to our most vulnerable students and their classrooms.

8. We need sustainable community schools. Many of these elements (greater community control, parental engagement and support, wraparound services, challenging and culturally relevant academics and enrichment) come together in the sustainable community school model. The Journey for Justice Alliance has suggested following Maryland’s lead by turning any school receiving Title I funds into a sustainable community school — neighborhood public schools that bring together many partners to provide a range of supports and opportunities to children, youth, families and communities.

9. We must eliminate standardized testing. Based in racist ideology, these tests are biased against Black students and contribute to the evil myth of anti-Blackness mentioned above. They are used to rank, sort and deprive Black children of everything, from access to advanced coursework to a chance to study with the best teachers. Standardized tests are the excuse decision-makers use to stigmatize Black neighborhood schools with misleading grades before targeting them for closure, privatization and disinvestment — despite obvious student need. Meanwhile, schools serving children with the privilege these tests measure are rewarded. The children’s privilege, and that of the school, also gets compounded.

These ideas are not new. Folks have been waging campaigns to gain these wins for a long time. They are worth restating at this moment, and they are certainly worth fighting for. Let us take to the streets with these demands in hand to make a new world possible

Authors:

Dr. Andre Perry – fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings

Jitu Brown – National Director of Journey for Justice

Keron Blair – Executive Director for the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools

Richard Fowler – Fox News Contributor/National Syndicated Radio Host

Stacy Davis Gates – Executive Vice President for the Chicago Teachers Union

Tiffany Dena Loftin – Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division

I had two recent contacts with Andre Perry, and I fell in love with him. I’m no threat to his wife because I’m 82 and married.

We met for the first time on this Zoom conversation.

As you will see, he is candid, honest, open, smart, and charming. I don’t always fall for guys just because they have a great smile, but Andre surprised me.

I thought he would be super-serious but he wasn’t.

He talked about his childhood. He talked about his life as a charter leader in New Orleans. He talked about his disaffection with the white reformers and philanthropists who thought that what the schools of New Orleans needed most was to fire black teachers and staff.

The second contact I had with Andre was reading his new book, Know Your Price.

I got to know Andre by reading his book.

More important, I got Andre’s message about seeing the world through a different lens.

We grew up in very different circumstances. I had two parents and a nuclear family. He had a different kind of family, a loving family.

What you will learn from his book is to see the world differently.

That’s a gift.

What you will see is a man who thinks for himself, without regard to orthodoxy.

Watch our conversation. Watch me become charmed by this brilliant young man.

Buy his book and you too will be transformed.

While many primary races are too close to call, due to large numbers of uncounted absentee ballots, Jamaal Bowman scored a decisive upset in his race to replace veteran Cingresman Elliot Engel, chair of the House Foreigh affairs Committee.

Jamaal is/was a middle school principal who was active in the opt out movement. He received the endorsement of AOC, Sanders, Warren, and many others, including me.

Here is the speech he gave when his victory appeared certain.

Jamaal will be a strong, clear, and informed voice for the voiceless in Congress.

The Washington Post published a statement endorsed by 89 individuals who served in the U.S. Department of Defense.


President Trump continues to use inflammatory language as many Americans protest the unlawful death of George Floyd and the unjust treatment of black Americans by our justice system. As the protests have grown, so has the intensity of the president’s rhetoric. He has gone so far as to make a shocking promise: to send active-duty members of the U.S. military to “dominate” protesters in cities throughout the country — with or without the consent of local mayors or state governors.


On Monday, the president previewed his approach on the streets of Washington. He had 1,600 troops from around the country transported to the D.C. area, and placed them on alert, as an unnamed Pentagon official put it, “to ensure faster employment if necessary.” As part of the show of force that Trump demanded, military helicopters made low-level passes over peaceful protesters — a military tactic sometimes used to disperse enemy combatants — scattering debris and broken glass among the crowd. He also had a force, including members of the National Guard and federal officers, that used flash-bang grenades, pepper spray and, according to eyewitness accounts, rubber bullets to drive lawful protesters, as well as members of the media and clergy, away from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. All so he could hold a politically motivated photo op there with members of his team, including, inappropriately, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Looting and violence are unacceptable acts, and perpetrators should be arrested and duly tried under the law. But as Monday’s actions near the White House demonstrated, those committing such acts are largely on the margins of the vast majority of predominantly peaceful protests. While several past presidents have called on our armed services to provide additional aid to law enforcement in times of national crisis — among them Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — these presidents used the military to protect the rights of Americans, not to violate them.


As former leaders in the Defense Department — civilian and military, Republican, Democrat and independent — we all took an oath upon assuming office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as did the president and all members of the military, a fact that Gen. Milley pointed out in a recent memorandum to members of the armed forces. We are alarmed at how the president is betraying this oath by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.


President Trump has given governors a stark choice: either end the protests that continue to demand equal justice under our laws, or expect that he will send active-duty military units into their states. While the Insurrection Act gives the president the legal authority to do so, this authority has been invoked only in the most extreme conditions when state or local authorities were overwhelmed and were unable to safeguard the rule of law. Historically, as Secretary Esper has pointed out, it has rightly been seen as a tool of last resort.


Beyond being unnecessary, using our military to quell protests across the country would also be unwise. This is not the mission our armed forces signed up for: They signed up to fight our nation’s enemies and to secure — not infringe upon — the rights and freedoms of their fellow Americans. In addition, putting our servicemen and women in the middle of politically charged domestic unrest risks undermining the apolitical nature of the military that is so essential to our democracy. It also risks diminishing Americans’ trust in our military — and thus America’s security — for years to come.


As defense leaders who share a deep commitment to the Constitution, to freedom and justice for all Americans, and to the extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our nation, we call on the president to immediately end his plans to send active-duty military personnel into cities as agents of law enforcement, or to employ them or any another military or police forces in ways that undermine the constitutional rights of Americans. The members of our military are always ready to serve in our nation’s defense. But they must never be used to violate the rights of those they are sworn to protect.


Leon E. Panetta, former defense secretary


Chuck Hagel, former defense secretary


Ashton B. Carter, former defense secretary


William S. Cohen, former defense secretary


Sasha Baker, former deputy chief of staff to the defense secretary


Donna Barbisch, retired major general in the U.S. Army


Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to the defense secretary
Jeffrey P. Bialos, former deputy under secretary of defense for industrial affairs


Susanna V. Blume, former deputy chief of staff to the deputy defense secretary


Ian Brzezinski, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO


Gabe Camarillo, former assistant secretary of the Air Force


Kurt M. Campbell, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Asia and the Pacific


Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Rebecca Bill Chavez, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Western hemisphere affairs
Derek Chollet, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs


Dan Christman, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


James Clapper, former under secretary of defense for intelligence and director of national intelligence


Eliot A. Cohen, former member of planning staff for the defense department and former member of the Defense Policy Board


Erin Conaton, former under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness


John Conger, former principal deputy under secretary of defense


Peter S. Cooke, retired major general of the U.S. Army Reserve


Richard Danzig, former secretary of the U.S. Navy


Janine Davidson, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy


Robert L. Deitz, former general counsel at the National Security Agency


Abraham M. Denmark, former deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia


Michael B. Donley, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force


John W. Douglass, retired brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy


Raymond F. DuBois, former acting under secretary of the U.S. Army


Eric Edelman, former under secretary of defense for policy


Eric Fanning, former secretary of the U.S. Army


Evelyn N. Farkas, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Michèle A. Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy


Nelson M. Ford, former under secretary of the U.S. Army
Alice Friend, former principal director for African affairs in the office of the under defense secretary for policy


John A. Gans Jr., former speechwriter for the defense secretary


Sherri Goodman, former deputy under secretary of defense for environmental security


André Gudger, former deputy assistant defense secretary for manufacturing and industrial base policy


Robert Hale, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller


Michael V. Hayden, retired general in the U.S. Air Force and former director of the National Security Agency and CIA


Mark Hertling, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe


Kathleen H. Hicks, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy


Deborah Lee James, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force


John P. Jumper, retired general of the U.S. Air Force and former chief of staff of the Air Force


Colin H. Kahl, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Middle East policy


Mara E. Karlin, former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy and force development


Frank Kendall, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


Susan Koch, former deputy assistant defense secretary for threat-reduction policy


Ken Krieg, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


J. William Leonard, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security and information operations


Steven J. Lepper, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force


George Little, former Pentagon press secretary


William J. Lynn III, former deputy defense secretary


Ray Mabus, former secretary of the U.S. Navy and former governor of Mississippi


Kelly Magsamen, former principal deputy assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs


Carlos E. Martinez, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force Reserve


Michael McCord, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller


Chris Mellon, former deputy assistant defense secretary for intelligence


James N. Miller, former under secretary of defense for policy


Edward T. Morehouse Jr., former principal deputy assistant defense secretary and former acting assistant defense secretary for operational energy plans and programs


Jamie Morin, former director of cost assessment and program evaluation at the Defense Department and former acting under secretary of the U.S. Air Force


Jennifer M. O’Connor, former general counsel of the Defense Department


Sean O’Keefe, former secretary of the U.S. Navy


Dave Oliver, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


Robert B. Pirie, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy
John Plumb, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy


Eric Rosenbach, former assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and global security


Deborah Rosenblum, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for counternarcotics


Todd Rosenblum, acting assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs


Tommy Ross, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security cooperation


Henry J. Schweiter, former deputy assistant defense secretary


David B. Shear, former assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs


Amy E. Searight, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia


Vikram J. Singh, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia


Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to the vice president and former principal director for Europe and NATO policy


Paula Thornhill, retired brigadier general of the Air Force and former principal director for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs


Jim Townsend, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO policy


Sandy Vershbow, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs


Michael Vickers, former under secretary of defense for intelligence


Celeste Wallander, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Andrew Weber, former assistant defense secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs


William F. Wechsler, former deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and combating terrorism


Doug Wilson, former assistant defense secretary for public affairs


Anne A. Witkowsky, former deputy assistant defense secretary for stability and humanitarian affairs


Douglas Wise, former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency


Daniel P. Woodward, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force
Margaret H. Woodward, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force


Carl Woog, former deputy assistant to the defense secretary for communications


Robert O. Work, former deputy defense secretary


Dov S. Zakheim, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller

Robert Kuttner is editor of The American Prospect. He writes a blog called Kuttner on Tap.

If You Can Stand It, a Little More Optimism.

Now we find out what America is made of. And what we see, a week after George Floyd’s police lynching, is this:

Protests are continuing and they are increasingly peaceful, except for police violence. Protest leaders are working with local governments to contain both police rampages on the one hand and provocations and opportunistic looting on the other.

More than at any time since the civil rights era of the 1960s, white America has some compassion for pent-up black frustrations. A majority of Americans approve of the demonstrations and reject police violence. And 55 percent of white Americans tell pollsters that black anger is fully justified.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps revealing what he is made of, and his own support keeps dropping. And Joe Biden has found his inner Bobby Kennedy and made his best speech ever. I don’t care who wrote it; Biden gave it.

The focus of the election, increasingly, will be Trump’s callous and opportunistic use of a crisis that required healing. He is setting himself up for a landslide repudiation, well beyond the Republican margin of theft.

Also encouraging is the united response of governors and mayors. Trump may have the power on paper to call in the Army and the National Guard. But that is no match for the combined power of an aroused citizenry and resistant local officials. His troops can’t occupy the whole country by force.

We will see more mass demonstrations. They will be peaceful except for the efforts of rogue cops and Trump’s storm troopers to inject violence. And by fall, the consequence will be a mass revulsion against Trump.

As Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, one of America’s finest, wrote in concluding an eloquent New York Times op-ed piece:

“Let us vote against state-sanctioned violence, vitriolic discourse and the violation of human rights. In memory of George Floyd and all the other innocent black lives that have been taken in the recent and distant past, let us commit to registering black people, especially black men, to vote.”

America is stronger, better, wiser than Trump. And America will survive Trump. Then the real work can begin.

Teresa Hanafin writes the “Fast Forward” column for the Boston Globe:

 

The biggest story that is still reverberating today isn’t Bernie Sanders’ victory in the New Hampshire primary, or Pete Buttigieg’s close second-place finish, or Amy Klobuchar’sremarkable rise, or the surprising slide of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

No, it’s Trump’s stunning, deliberate, and unprecedented insertion of presidential power, politics, and favoritism into our judicial system.

Look, we all know there’s plenty of injustice in the justice system. Look at the decades-long practice of imposing far harsher sentences on those convicted of using or distributing crack cocaine vs. cocaine in powder form. Those using crack cocaine tended to be Black, while powder cocaine was the preferred drug of white people. What a coincidence!

That’s an example of systemic disparities that many are working to change. (The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the cocaine penalties’ differences.)

Trump used the power of the presidency to put his stubby thumb on the scales of justice to benefit a close ally and longtime friend.

Trump’s demand that the sentence recommended by federal prosecutors for his good buddy Roger Stone be reduced is astonishing enough. But adding to the impropriety was the fact that AG William Barr and top Justice Department officials jumped when Trump interfered, declaring that they would change the prosecutors’ recommendation to a lighter sentence for the president’s friend because, well, that’s what you do when you’re in the tank.

The whole stinking mess caused all four prosecutors to resign from the case — and one quit the Justice Department altogether.

To recap: Stone is a longtime political adviser to Trump, who used him during the 2016 campaign as a conduit to WikiLeaks, which had more than 19,000 e-mails that had been stolen from the servers of the Democratic National Committee. He tried to use Stone to get a heads-up when WikiLeaks was going to release e-mails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

It was special counsel Robert Mueller who charged Stone last year. There were seven charges, all felonies: five counts of lying to investigators, one count of obstructing Congress (specifically, the House Intelligence Committee), and one count of tampering with a witness (in both the House inquiry and Mueller’s investigation).

A jury found Stone guilty of all seven charges. As is customary, the probation department then came up with a recommended sentence — 7 to 9 years in prison — and the prosecutors agreed.

They argued that Stone’s conduct was exceptionally egregious because the House and Mueller probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election were critical to our electoral system, and because of the danger to our democracy posed by foreign meddling.

But the bulk of the prison time prosecutors requested was related to Stone’s witness tampering because it involved threats of physical violence to his longtime associate, Randy Credico, after Credico indicated that he would cooperate with the House committee. Stone and Credico both said the threats were jokes, but the jury didn’t believe them.

Stone’s defense attorneys say federal guidelines call for a sentence of 15 to 21 months, and they are asking for probation. Prosecutors say their enhanced sentence request because of the threatened violence is in keeping with federal guidelines. As I’m sure you know, prosecutors often overreach when asking for sentences, and defense attorneys always downplay the offenses.

After Trump’s interference, the Justice Department announced that it would take the rare step of changing its prosecutors’ recommendation. DOJ officials ended up submitting a statement to the judge without a sentence recommendation, but asked her to impose a lighter sentence.

Yes, these are the prosecutors asking the judge to go easy on a convicted felon.

So it’s up to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who could impose a lesser sentence or a harsher sentence. Or she could demand that the Justice Department explain why it changed the original recommendation, and ask the prosecutors who resigned why they did so.

Unsurprisingly, Trump already has attacked Jackson. He also declared that Stone should not have been found guilty — a nice trashing of the system of trial by jury — and should never have even been charged with anything because only Trump’s political opponents are supposed to be investigated and locked up.

Now congressional Democrats are demanding that the DOJ inspector general — who is independent of the department — investigate. House Democrats may also call Barr to Capitol Hill to explain his actions.

Please remember how critical it is to our democracy that justice be administered fairly and independent of influence. Imagine if one of your kids were arrested with a friend for say, drug use, but the parents of your child’s friend were chummy with the mayor, who gets the local prosecutors to drop the charges against that kid. But your kid gets jail time because you’re not buddies with the mayor. Would you shrug your shoulders the way congressional Republicans are?

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,           
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;       
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,  
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,      
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

James Russell Lowell wrote these words before the Civil War. it is a stanza from a poem called “The Present Crisis.” Today it speaks to the Republicans in the Senate who are tasked with deciding whether a president may be impeached for pressuring a foreign government to announce an investigation into a political rival to benefit his re-election, whether a president may lie and insult and ridicule at will, and whether a president may refuse to allow members of his Administration to testify, to turn over documents, or to respond to Congressional subpoenas, thus obstructing Justice.

This is the poem in full.

The Present Crisis

James Russell Lowell – 1819-1891

When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast 
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,         
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb 
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime        
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.               

Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro;      
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,         
Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart,           
And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart.    

So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,        
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,          
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God  
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,        
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.        

For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,   
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;  
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame        
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;—           
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.   

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,           
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;       
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,  
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,      
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.    

Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,   
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?       
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong,      
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng           
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.        

Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,          
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion’s sea;           
Not an ear in court or market for the low, foreboding cry    
Of those Crises, God’s stern winnowers, from whose feet earth’s chaff must fly;    
Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath passed by.          

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record          
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;           
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—        
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,  
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.      

We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,           
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,       
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din, 
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—     
“They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.”     

Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,  
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,       
Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,
Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;—    
Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?     

Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;  
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,    
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,          
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.  

Count me o’er earth’s chosen heroes,—they were souls that stood alone,     
While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,    
Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline      
To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
By one man’s plain truth to manhood and to God’s supreme design.  

By the light of burning heretics Christ’s bleeding feet I track,          
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,    
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned    
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.

For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr stands,      
On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,    
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return      
To glean up the scattered ashes into History’s golden urn.      

‘Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves        
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers’ graves,         
Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;—     
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?        
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that made Plymouth Rock sublime?           

They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,    
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past’s;
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,     
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee      
The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea.         

They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,        
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom’s new-lit altar-fires;           
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away    
To light up the martyr-fagots round the prophets of to-day?  

New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;         
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;     
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,           
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea, 
Nor attempt the Future’s portal with the Past’s blood-rusted key.