#BlackEdChat: In 2020, We Must Demand a Black Education Agenda

We don't need candidates talking education business as usual - we need policymakers protecting Black youth from hostile systems

#BlackEdChat | by Christina Laster in TheRoot.com

for more analysis, listen to Reality Check on WURD today at 4pm ET, streamed live at WURDradio.com, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

As a Black woman, mother and grandmother, the words I want to hear from presidential candidates on “public education” are this: How do we innovate for, build true academic progress around and save trapped Black students from dysfunctional education systems?

Full stop.

Instead, what I’ve heard as candidates discuss education on the campaign trail — like what they did last month during a major forum on the topic — is that Democratic presidential “hopefuls” are eager to just carry out business as usual.

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Now, here we are in 2020, and there are still few signs the “leaders” of the education conversation are really prioritizing it. Amid all the ambitious talk of wealth tax increases, funding formula fixes, teacher and para-educator pay increases, student debt loan reductions, fully funded IDEA, Title I tripling, universal pre-K, and CTE pathways, we haven’t yet heard candidates share a plan that eliminates present inequities and race-based disparities. We have learned, however, that candidates are paying little attention to Black children, K through 12, trapped inside toxic buildings, school-to-prison pipelines and worsening achievement gaps—with no plans to remedy that list and more anytime soon.

It’s true that we need a public education conversation. But, you can’t have that conversation by ignoring America’s very destructive Black student crisis. Maybe we’d have one if we considered or included the voice of Black parents who know all about that. Instead, no one is sounding alarms about National Assessment of Educational Progress 12th Grade Reading Level Assessments showing just 17 percent of Black high school seniors at or above reading proficiency — the lowest of any demographic group. Or how Black 8th graders remain dead last in mathematics proficiency scores behind all their racial peers.

Missing from the education conversation are plans, policies and models that punish teachers, schools and districts that disproportionately target Black students for that kind of curriculum or for excessive suspension and expulsion. Also missing is a plan to identify and create policies that protect Black youth from the daily attacks they face in a hostile public school system.

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Is It Time For the Courts To Weigh In On Mitch McConnell?

The Senate Majority Leader has effectively dismantled the Constitution. Maybe the Courts could fix that.

Dr. G.S. Potter | Contributing Editor

for more analysis, listen to Reality Check on WURD today at 4pm ET, streamed live at WURDradio.com, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

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Mitch McConnell has made a career out of dismantling the Constitution.

He is so proficient in his work, in fact, that he has successfully upended the shape of the Senate itself, as well as its relationship with both the Executive and Judicial Branches.

Take his work on the Supreme Court, for example.

There is still a viscerally acerbic response felt by many when the name Merrick Garland resurfaces. Mitch McConnell infamously ripped apart the elationship between Congress and the Supreme Court when he refused to bring President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to the floor. Adding insult to injury, he blamed Obama for blocking Merrick’s hearing by saying that President Obama nominated him …

not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for the purpose of the election.

Or see his work in Congress.

McConnell has refused to bring over 300 bills to the Senate floor - 275 of which were bipartisan. There’s a picture of them below. In just a couple of years, Senate Majority Leader McConnell was able to grind 2 of the 3 branches of government to a halt. And he wouldn’t stop there.

In the final play of his hat trick, Mitch McConnell openly stated that in relation to the Senate impeachment trial …

Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.

Keep in mind there are Senate impeachment rules. All Members of the Senate take the following oath …

I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be,) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of _______, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: so help me God.

And there you have it. Every Constitutional thread holding together the balance of powers between the three branches of government have been burned and broken by Mitch McConnell. And while all eyes are on the threat that is coming from the White House, we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of the bigger threat that is Mitch McConnell.

More than that: we need to get McConnell out of office.

Of course, he is up for re-election this year, and Democrats are attempting to unseat him with a fairly credible candidate in former Marine veteran Amy McGrath: she’s already raised an impressive $9 million and is expected to raise more. But, can we count on that? McConnell is an extremely formidable campaigner in Kentucky.

There is also a Constitutionally outlined process by which a Senator can be impeached; however, without control of the Senate, it is unlikely that the Democrats would be able to successfully impeach the Senate Majority Leader.

There is, however, another way to prevent McConnell from further damaging the Constitution without going through Congress, though. We can take him to court.

This isn’t the first time that traitors to the Constitution occupied the highest ranks of the government. After the Civil War, legislation was passed to ensure that those who committed acts of rebellion against the Constitution while in office would be unable to re-occupy their seat.

More specifically, Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment reads:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

What this means is that Mitch McConnell can be brought to court under the Fourteenth Amendment for engaging in insurrection against the Constitution. And if the courts rule against McConnell, he will not be able to seek re-election in 2020. Or ever.

A Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has led a violence-free, but successful insurrection against the Constitution of the United States. And he has dealt it significant damage.

It will take a member of the government to take a stand and launch a case against McConnell for his action of insurrection against the Constitution of the United States. It will take a circuit court system that hasn’t been packed with MAGA picked judges to find him guilty. And it will take a legal team willing to go the distance against McConnell and the Trump Administration to get the job done before the next election.

With the Senate and the White House currently in collaboration, though, it might be time to have the courts weigh in.

Did Trump Kill Soleimani To Win John Bolton’s Loyalty Back?

Bolton did just get the war with Iran that he's always wanted

Dr. G.S. Potter | Contributing Editor

for more analysis, listen to Reality Check on WURD today at 4pm ET, streamed live at WURDradio.com, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

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When President Trump ordered airstrikes which killed Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani, of course Jon Bolton was watching. The murder of Soleimani prompted counter-strikes by the Iranian military, summoned bipartisan denouncements from both Democrats and Republicans alike, and motivated the person described as, possibly, being the most feared man in the White House to tweet congratulations and support …

Three days after John Bolton tweeted out his support for the White House’s attack on Iran, he then issued a statement on his website reading:

I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.

Just a day later, Trump began publicly laying the groundwork for Bolton’s supposed ignorance. On January 7th, Trump stated on camera that (per Axios):

… former national security adviser John Bolton ‘would know nothing about what we’re talking about’ if he testified in the Senate impeachment trial, adding that it will be ‘up to the lawyers’ and the Senate to decide whether he appears.

While current analysis of Trump’s attack on Iran focus on the geopolitical and national security ramifications that we now face, there is one threat that has escaped the attention of the mainstream media: Trump may have killed Soleimani in exchange for John Bolton’s loyalty through the impeachment trial.

Bolton, two days after Iran staged its ballistic missile strike against U.S. military assets in Iraq, could appear ready to accept that offer as we see here …

Don’t forget: Bolton is a notorious “war hawk” that has been relentlessly pushing the barrels of war in the direction of Iran for decades. As one of the people “in the room” for Trump’s infamous call with Ukrainian minister Volodymyr Zelensky, Bolton has the power to turn the tables of the impeachment trial entirely.

Not wanting to leaving anything to chance, Trump needs Bolton’s loyalty throughout the impeachment trial if he is to successfully carry through both impeachment and the 2020 Election. Bolton needs nothing. He wants war with Iran. And he just got it.

If Donald Trump did negotiate a quid pro quo with John Bolton that includes an attack on Iran in exchange for loyalty during the Senate impeachment trial, Americans should know about it. And we should be prepared to respond in 2020.

The State of (Q4) Dollars in the 2020 Democratic Primary

A quick top-of-2020 look at how much money candidates raised at the bottom of 2019 ...

Publisher’s Riff

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If you didn’t hear by now, Democratic presidential candidates reported their fundraising totals for the 4th and last quarter of 2019. Here’s how they made out (a simple breakdown per Axios

And, per MorningConsult’s average of polling, here’s a quick look at the state of the race pre-early primaries …

Notably, Bernie Sanders is consistently #1 in the fundraising race, but he’s consistently 2nd place in most polling. Pete Buttigieg is consistently 4th place in polling, but 2nd place in fundraising. Joe Biden, however, has maintained a consistent 1st place lead in most polls, while 3rd place in fundraising for Q3. Hence, fundraising prowess doesn’t necessarily correspond with polling performance or vice versa.

Momentum From Q3 to Q4 (2019)

Here’s how these same candidates performed from Q3 to Q4 …

  1. Bernie Sanders: +23.2%

  2. Pete Buttigieg: +28.6%

  3. Joe Biden: +44.6%

  4. Elizabeth Warren: -14.7%

  5. Andrew Yang: +66.7%

  6. Amy Klobuchar: +137.5%

  7. Cory Booker: +10%

  8. Tulsi Gabbard: +13.3%

Out of all eight candidates, Elizabeth Warren (-14%) is the only one who experienced a decrease in fundraising - and a rather substantial one - between Q3 and Q4. Tulsi Gabbard (+13%) showed a slight bump, with Cory Booker (+10%) following with the smallest bump in terms.

Amy Klobuchar (+137.5%) showed the largest surge with the highest increase in fundraising, followed by Andrew Yang (+66.7%) and then Joe Biden (+44.6%). Klobuchar’s momentum is definitely a result of standout performances in recent debates.

How Much "War" We Talking About?

Viewing recent U.S. airstrike on key Iranian military figures through a political lense

Publisher’s Riff

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There is an understandably high level of anxiety around what happens next after the assassination-by-drone of General Qasim Suleimani, arguably the most powerful military commander in Iran and definitely the most influential in the region.

Let’s first establish that we’re not headed for World War III - because we already went through that. That was the multi-front/multi-continental/global “War on Terror” response to 9/11, plus invasions and subsequent occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan. Not that it will happen in this case, but World War IV would be next.

Most will worry deeply or imagine a World War scenario, especially since there are few - if any - cooler heads in the White House (and if you’re Black Twitter, you’ll find ways to laugh about it). Managing that anxiousness as events unfold will be important and necessary. One way of doing that is by focusing less on whether or not the United States and Iran engage in full-blown, all-armies-deployed kinetic warfare and more on the political and economic calculus behind every decision being made from here on out. Some factors to consider …

Conventional … or Not

It is very likely, especially now, that tensions and conflict will escalate in the Middle East in a big way. However, it is also a high probability that we won’t see a full-scale conventional war between these nations for practical reasons. For one: Iran’s military, while large in terms of manpower, is technologically ill-equipped to take on the very advanced U.S. military. As this Military Times analysis notes …

Iran's military forces total roughly 545,000 active personnel and 350,000 reserve personnel, including about 125,000 men within the IRGC, according to the Strauss Center at the University of Texas, Austin. But while its total force strength is quite large, the quality is limited by an inability to purchase Western technology and severe economic sanctions.

However, Iran is in a position to compensate that lack of kinetic “quality” by being creative and using what they have, as noted in the National Interest …

Iran pursues a deterrent-based military doctrine premised on three types of capabilities: an expansive ballistic missile arsenal, asymmetric naval warfare (particularly the threat of closing down the Strait of Hormuz), and ties to non-state militant groups.

Iran has already shown the U.S. how much damage it can inflict through non-conventional means. How the Trump administration responds depends on how much appetite it has for those kinds of casualties and how much appetite it supposes the American public has for that kind of warfare. Typically, when conflicts aren’t decisive and conducted in an asymmetrical or “guerilla-style” manner, the American public becomes much more anxious. Of course, war always go sideways. It’s an unpredictable business and a sequence of contained strikes could expand into something much larger.

Political Factors

The big question is how much does the current political environment shape this conflict and the decisions made here on out. What makes the Trump administration’s decision suspect is the political timing. Any form of war with Iran, of course, helps shift the narrative away from the stain of impeachment while prompting Senate Republicans to engineer a very short, swift Senate trial. It’s important to watch his approval ratings (per FiveThirtyEight) …

There is a major election coming up that he will want to win at all costs, particularly as he’s engaged in what amounts to unprecedented stress testing of the Constitution. He may already be worried about displayed splits within his White evangelical base. His very White voting base, overall, is shrinking, as the Wall Street Journal notes recently …

Working-class, white voters are projected to decline by 2.3 percentage points nationally as a share of eligible voters, compared with the last election, because they are older and therefore dying at a faster rate than are Democratic groups. As those voters pass on, they are most likely to be replaced by those from minority groups or young, white voters with college degrees—groups that lean Democratic. That means Mr. Trump will have to coax more votes from a shrinking base—or else find more votes in other parts of the electorate.

Or, simply, just suppress and purge millions of voters systematically as Republicans have already been doing.

In addition, he did say this about President Obama before the 2012 election …

This worries historian Michael Beschloss, author of Presidents of War who just discussed this with Vox, quite presciently, only days before the assassination strike …

My point is that the door is open, especially if you have a president who dominates both houses [of Congress], and possibly even if he only dominates one.

What the whole history of this shows is that presidents fabricate incidents that are counterfeit to get us into war. They can get us into war to improve their own popularity, and they know that’s a very quick way of getting your numbers up and winning elections.

Donald Trump himself, in 2011, tweeted repeatedly that Barack Obama would get us into a war to get reelected. Now, I think that’s a very dangerous thing in the mind of a president to connect war with winning elections.

Trump and his advisors may be also keeping in mind that, historically, wartime presidents always win re-election, as historian Ron Feinman points out

James Madison, the War of 1812, reelected in 1812
Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, reelected in 1864
Woodrow Wilson, World War I, not at war but nearing it, reelected in 1916
Franklin D. Roosevelt, World War II, not at war but nearing it, reelected in 1940, and then at war, reelected in 1944.
Lyndon B. Johnson, using the Vietnam War issue through the Gulf of Tonkin, elected in 1964
Richard Nixon, Vietnam War, reelected in 1972
George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, reelected in 2004

This list does not include James K. Polk, who chose not to run for reelection AFTER the end of the Mexican War in 1848; William McKinley, reelected AFTER the Spanish American War’s end, in 1900; Harry Truman, who chose not to run in 1952 during the Korean War; Lyndon B. Johnson, who chose not to run during the Vietnam War in 1968; and George H. W. Bush, who was triumphant during the Persian Gulf War, but then lost 18 months later for reelection in 1992, due to the bad economy and the candidacy of Ross Perot helping Bill Clinton to win in a three way race.

We could, perhaps, include Barack Obama on that list since, technically, he was still overseeing the War in Afghanistan during the 2012 election - even though it wasn’t as prominently featured in the public discourse at the time.

Economic Factors

Iran clearly isn’t in a position, economically, to take on a major war, as BBC shows here

Iran's GDP growth rate (November 2019)

Is the United States? It depends on how war is perceived in this context: as an economic drain or as an economic boost. Keep in mind that U.S. GDP has been quietly sliding and weaker under Trump than Obama …

GDP growth chart

Nor is the stock market under Trump performing as well as it did under Obama and George W. Bush …

The manufacturing sector, a key indicator, has notably weakened due to the tariff clash with China, reports Business Insider

A key gauge of US manufacturing activity dropped to its weakest level since the global financial crisis in December as a tit-for-tat trade dispute between the Trump administration and China dragged on.

The Institute for Supply Management said on Friday that its index fell to 47.2 last month, a low not seen since June 2009, as new orders and production both weakened sharply. Economists had expected the index would come in at 49. Readings below 50 indicate contraction.

"This is a seriously weak report, and we see little chance of a sustained near-term recovery," said Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Or, could there be rather cynical thinking inside the White House that a war carries both political and economic benefits. Interestingly enough, economist Tyler Cowen poses this argument back in 2014, “The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth” …

Counterintuitive though it may sound, the greater peacefulness of the world may make the attainment of higher rates of economic growth less urgent and thus less likely. This view does not claim that fighting wars improves economies, as of course the actual conflict brings death and destruction. The claim is also distinct from the Keynesian argument that preparing for war lifts government spending and puts people to work. Rather, the very possibility of war focuses the attention of governments on getting some basic decisions right — whether investing in science or simply liberalizing the economy. Such focus ends up improving a nation’s longer-run prospects.

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