Horror Week and Trump Picks Mike Pence as His Vice Presidential Running Mate!

Dear Commons Community,

During this hellish week of news with the killing of innocents in Nice, a bloody aborted coup attempt in Turkey, and Newt Gingrich calling for loyalty tests of all Muslims, Donald Trump has picked Mike Pence (Republican Governor of Indiana) as his vice presidential running mate.  Mr. Trump’s choice came down to Pence, Chris Christie, and Newt Gingrich.  Of these three finalists, Pence was probably the best choice. 

Chris Christie has fallen very far from the can-do governor he once was in New Jersey.  After bridge-gate, his popularity plummeted in his home state.  On the Trump tour, he has looked more like a gofer than a political leader.  He also would have little appeal in much of the country outside of the northeast.

Newt Gingrich is a bitter ex-politician who is good in debates and a favorite with the Fox News crowd but his political future burned when he attempted to shut down the government when he was speaker of the house during the Clinton presidency.  Clinton called his bluff and the Republicans backed down and his House colleagues wanted Gingrich out. 

That leaves Mike Pence who is the best candidate that Trump has at this time.  It will be interesting to see how Pence gets along with Trump. The Huffington Post in a piece yesterday commented:

“Many have questioned how Pence will mesh with Trump, as speculation grew this week about the Indiana governor being tapped for the VP slot. Pence is pro-trade and pro-Iraq War, two positions that directly conflict with Trump’s campaign platform. And he didn’t even support Trump earlier this year.

Pence penned an op-ed in May ahead of the Indiana GOP primary, giving a half-hearted endorsement to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R). At the same time, he gave an interview in which he was careful to “particularly commend” Trump for “giving voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”

Not everyone bought Pence’s diplomatic approach, however.

The National Review’s Tim Alberta reported in April that longtime friends of Pence’s said the governor “loathes” Trump. Alberta stood by that reporting on Friday.”  

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Next week we have the Republican National Convention and right after there will be the Hillary watch as she decides who her running mate will be.



The Future of MOOCs:  Daphne Koller Interview!

Dear Commons Community,

The MOOC era to some degree has come and gone.  Or has it?  Daphne Koller, the founder of Coursera, gave an interview with The Chronicle of Education and discusses this question.   A transcript of the interview and the podcast is available.

I think Dr. Koller makes a number of interesting comments.  For instance, she readily admits that MOOCs were overhyped in their early days and are still trying to overcome their rocky start.  Second, she indicated that Coursera has 145 partners around the world.  She also indicated that MOOCs are being used in ten different languages and that there is a lot of interest in the international community especially those countries that have limited on-ground campuses and growing populations that want more higher education opportunities.  For me her most important comment about the future especially as applied to mainstream American higher education was that:

“ I [Koller] think what we learned is the extent to which, once you have learners or students who know their own mind, what they’re looking for is so very different than the kind of experience that we’ve been providing on campus. They’re looking for shorter, more-to-the-point modules of knowledge. “

For me the key phrase is “modules of knowledge”.  Coursera and other MOOC providers should think at least for the next 5-7 years about how to integrate their materials into existing academic programs.  In addition to full courses, MOOC providers should consider providing modules that faculty can blend into their courses.  In a sense, merge the pedagogical benefits of blended courses with the well-developed, cost-effective, access rich nature of MOOC material.

I am one of those who criticized the early deployment of MOOCs, however, they have a place in the future of higher education but the Daphne Kollers of the world need to figure out how to gracefully integrate their product into the mainstream.  Blending their material is the way to go.


NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Signs Legislation Providing Free Tampons in Public Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation making free menstrual products available in all New York City public schools, shelters and jails. The bill had passed with a unanimous vote by the City Council in June, after council member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland proposed it earlier this year. As reported in various media:

“There should be no stigma around something as fundamental as menstruation,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release. “These laws recognize that feminine hygiene products are a necessity ― not a luxury.”

The new laws will ensure free menstrual products are readily available in public school restrooms for 300,000 girls and 23,000 women in shelters, according to the Associated Press. While jails already provide free menstrual supplies, advocates say the supplies are inadequate. Under the new law, jails will have to offer feminine hygiene products to inmates immediately upon request.

“Students should be able to concentrate on their studies, New Yorkers in shelter should be able to focus on rebuilding their lives, and women in our Correction Department should be able to work toward rehabilitation and release without the indignity of inadequate access to tampons and pads,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The legislation makes New York City the first city in the nation to proactively guarantee access to menstrual hygiene products, according to the city council.

Tampons and pads can be unaffordable for many women, costing an estimated$18,000 over a lifetime. The new law is meant to reach low-income women and girls who need them the most.

“No young woman should face losing class time because she can’t afford or simply cannot access feminine hygiene products,” Ferreras-Copeland said in a release earlier this year. “Providing young women with pads and tampons in schools will help them stay focused on their learning and sends a message about value and respect for their bodies.”

The next victory for menstrual rights in New York is expected to come at the state level. In May, the NYS state legislature approved a bill to remove all taxes on menstrual products, according to the New York Times, and Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law later this year.”

All of this makes good practical sense. Congratulations to the NYC City Council and Mayor de Blasio for moving this forward.


More Colleges Moving to Amazon Cloud Computing for Learning Platforms!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article commenting on the recent International Society for Technology (ISTE) in Education conference held earlier this month. The big news was Amazon’s announcement of new cloud-based software for assisting teachers in finding course materials and developing lessons. However, the article goes to comment how Amazon is making great inroads into cloud-based learning platforms geared more for colleges and universities.

“In the past five years or so, more and more software that colleges use for online teaching and classroom management has moved to “the cloud,” meaning it is run from some far-off data center via the web rather than from servers controlled by a college. And these days most of those cloud systems are hosted by Amazon, through its Amazon Web Services, or AWS.

How did this sea change occur, and what are the implications for faculty and staff?
Cloud-based learning platforms are not new, but as recently as 10 years ago they were the exception. The norm for a learning-management system in higher education was for the institution to run the application in its own data center. In fact, colleges initially pushed back against the cloud trend, insisting that academic data never leave the campus for privacy reasons (Ferpa in particular) and for the concern about big tech companies using personal data in ways the colleges could not control.”

The article goes on to mention the advantages and disadvantages of cloud-based services. But the more important observation is that Amazon has done very well with Web-based services. By going after this market, it is no wonder that has it come to dominate it. Cloud-based learning platforms are surely the future. I was not aware that the future was coming so quickly.



Dallas Police Chief David Brown:  We Ask Police to Do Too Much!

David Brown

Dear Commons Community,

As Dallas and the country attempt to recover from the police shootings last week, the Dallas Police Chief, David Brown, emerged as a leader in helping us to understand the complexity of issues involved with race, poor communities, violence, and the police.  The Huffington Post published a recap of the press conference he gave on Monday.

“The chief, whose city lost five officers when a sniper opened fire and targeted police at a Black Lives Matter march last week, gave a press conference Monday about the state of affairs not only in his city, but in the nation. 

“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” he said. “Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve” noting issues including mental health, drug addiction, the large proportion of African-American single mothers, and failing schools. “Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

Brown, who has lost multiple family members to violence, including his son, who was shot and killed by police in 2010 after killing an officer and another victim, joined the Dallas Police Department in 1983 after seeing his neighborhood of Oak Cliff “deteriorate” from the crack cocaine epidemic, despite having not-so-positive interactions with law enforcement. 

“You stay away from the police in my old neighborhood. You get the police; you get in trouble,” he told the Dallas Observer earlier this year. Still, he was inspired by cops he saw in TV and movies. “I didn’t have any idea about what as a police officer you could do, but I thought that police officers help people. They come and they restore order. They put the disreputables in jail.” 

On Monday, he urged protesters who have spoken out demanding change in the wake of shootings of unarmed black men to be part of the solution. 

“Become a part of the solution,” he said. “Serve your communities. Don’t be a part of the problem. We’re hiring. We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in. We’ll put you in your neighborhood and we will help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.” 

Brown makes an important observation!  We ask a lot of police as well as some of our other public services in this country.


Rudy Giuliani Brings “His Trademark Brew of Disinformation” Regarding Race in America!

Dear Commons Communty,

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was interviewed on Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation and commented on the growing tensions between police and the African American community. He stated:

“If you want to protect black lives, then you’ve got to protect black lives not just against police.”

The former mayor said police killing black people “happens rarely although with tremendous attention,” and instead said the public should focus on black-on-black violence, “which happens every 14 hours in Chicago,” adding: “and we never hear from Black Lives Matter.”

Giuliani continued, saying African Americans need to teach their children about respecting the police and avoiding violence in their own communities.

“If I were a black father and I was concerned about the safety of my child, really concerned about it and not in a politically activist sense, I would say be very respectful to the police, most of them are good, some can be very bad and just be very careful,” he said. “I’d also say be very careful of those kids in the neighborhood, don’t get involved with them because son, there’s a 99 percent chance they’re going to kill you not the police.”

The New York Times editorial (see full text below) today calls out Giuliani for “bringing his trademark brew of poisonous disinformation to the discussion.”  Here is an excerpt:

“For a nation heartsick over the killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the ambush murders of officers by a gunman in Dallas, here comes Rudy Giuliani, bringing his trademark brew of poisonous disinformation to the discussion.

In his view, the problem is black gangs, murderous black children, the refusal of black protesters to look in the mirror at their “racist” selves, and black parents’ failure to teach their children to respect the police.

“What we’ve got to hear from the black community,” said Mr. Giuliani, in a Sunday morning talk-show appearance that seemed to double as a lecture to black America, “is how and what they are doing among themselves about the crime problem in the black community.” He added, “We wonder, do black lives matter, or only the very few black lives that are killed by white policemen?”

Here’s a better question: How, we wonder, will the country ever get beyond its stunted discourse about racialized violence when people like Mr. Giuliani continue to try to change the subject? Those who remember Mr. Giuliani as the hectoring mayor of New York know what he has to offer any conversation on race and violence — not a lot.”

As Mayor here in New York, Giuliani divided the City by the way he expressed himself regarding racial issues.  However, he played well then and continues to play well to the right wing, law and order side of the Republican Party.  Yesterday, Donald Trump declared he was “the law and order candidate”.



Rudy Giuliani’s Racial Myths

New York Times

The Editorial Board

July 11, 2016

For a nation heartsick over the killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the ambush murders of officers by a gunman in Dallas, here comes Rudolph Giuliani, bringing his trademark brew of poisonous disinformation to the discussion.

In his view, the problem is black gangs, murderous black children, the refusal of black protesters to look in the mirror at their “racist” selves, and black parents’ failure to teach their children to respect the police.

“What we’ve got to hear from the black community,” said Mr. Giuliani, in a Sunday morning talk-show appearance that seemed to double as a lecture to black America, “is how and what they are doing among themselves about the crime problem in the black community.” He added, “We wonder, do black lives matter, or only the very few black lives that are killed by white policemen?”

Here’s a better question: How, we wonder, will the country ever get beyond its stunted discourse about racialized violence when people like Mr. Giuliani continue to try to change the subject? Those who remember Mr. Giuliani as the hectoring mayor of New York know what he has to offer any conversation on race and violence — not a lot. In case you’re unconvinced, here is what Mr. Giuliani on Sunday said he would tell a young son, if he were black: “Be very careful of those kids in the neighborhood and don’t get involved with them because, son, there’s a 99 percent chance they’re going to kill you, not the police.”

Mr. Giuliani’s garbled, fictional statistic echoes a common right-wing talking point about the prevalence of “black on black” violence in America. Homicide data do show that black victims are most often killed by black assailants. (They also reveal that whites tend to be killed by whites.) This observation does not speak to the matter of racist policing and police brutality. Killings of the police have, mercifully, been on the decline during the Obama presidency. But unwarranted shootings by police officers remain a persistent problem, ignored for generations, exploding only now into the wider public consciousness because of bystander videos that reveal the blood-red truth.

Unnerved by black anger, Americans like Mr. Giuliani cling to false equivalencies. They have, for example, defamed the Black Lives Matter movement as a “war on cops.” (Tell that to the protesters in Dallas who smiled for photos with officers who were protecting their march.)

The debate is full of such untruths and misdirections. There is the colossal Texas lie, the one that says a “good guy with a gun” can always stop a bad guy with a gun (in Dallas, where some marchers and bystanders were armed, it took a bomb). There is Mr. Giuliani’s ludicrous suggestion that black people don’t know they need to be careful around cops, or somehow are complicit in their brutalizing. Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile, in a St. Paul suburb, were posing no threat when they were shot. (Far from being ignorant of the ways of the police, fearful black parents long ago learned to impart the advice that Mr. Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said she gave her son: “If you get stopped by the police, comply. Comply, comply, comply.”) Eric Garner, on Staten Island, was unarmed and outnumbered by the officers who swarmed and smothered him.

In 1999, when Mr. Giuliani was New York’s tough-on-crime mayor, Amadou Diallo reached for his wallet and was cut down in a hail of police bullets. Patrick Dorismond was minding his own business on a Manhattan street in 2000 when Mr. Giuliani’s undercover officers confronted him and shot him dead. In one of the disgraceful acts of his or any mayoralty, Mr. Giuliani smeared the victim’s reputation and released part of his juvenile police record, as if to suggest that he deserved to be murdered.

We can only hope that in the heat and anger of this wretched summer, Americans’ impulse to pull together is stronger than the divisiveness of race-baiting moralists. We hope, too, that the violence calls further attention to the tragedy of hypersegregated Chicago, whose South and West Sides are beset by gangs and drugs and generations of isolation and joblessness, and where the police have long had the power to harass and humiliate. But the victims of Chicago’s agonies have certainly done their part to try to end them. For years, black Chicagoans have denounced the violence, marched in the streets, pleaded with the authorities for help. Their struggle, like the one that raised the national alarm about unjust policing, deserves to be heard and truthfully confronted.


Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg Gives Interview on the Supreme Court!

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg

Dear Commons Community,

In an interview with the New York Times, Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg commented on the US Supreme Court and its past year.  She commented on her colleagues on the Court, what a good friend Antonin Scalia was although they differed ideologically on most of the cases before the Court; and several recent decisions.  Here is an excerpt:

“Justice Ginsburg, 83, said she would not leave her job “as long as I can do it full steam.” But she assessed what is at stake in the presidential election with the precision of an actuary, saying that Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer are no longer young.

“Kennedy is about to turn 80,” she said. “Breyer is going to turn 78.”

For the time being and under the circumstances, she said, the Supreme Court is doing what it can. She praised Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“He had a hard job,” Justice Ginsburg said. “I think he did it quite well.”

It was a credit to the eight-member court that it deadlocked only four times, she said, given the ideological divide between its liberal and conservative wings, both with four members.

One of the 4-4 ties, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, averted what would have been a severe blow to public unions had Justice Scalia participated. “This court couldn’t have done better than it did,” Justice Ginsburg said of the deadlock. When the case was argued in January, the majority seemed prepared to overrule a 1977 precedent that allowed public unions to charge nonmembers fees to pay for collective bargaining.

A second deadlock, in United States v. Texas, left in place a nationwide injunction blocking Mr. Obama’s plan to spare more than four million unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allow them to work. That was unfortunate, Justice Ginsburg said, but it could have been worse.

“Think what would have happened had Justice Scalia remained with us,” she said. Instead of a single sentence announcing the tie, she suggested, a five-justice majority would have issued a precedent-setting decision dealing a lasting setback to Mr. Obama and the immigrants he had tried to protect.

Justice Ginsburg noted that the case was in an early stage and could return to the Supreme Court. “By the time it gets back here, there will be nine justices,” she said.

She also assessed whether the court might have considered a narrow ruling rejecting the suit, brought by Texas and 25 other states, on the ground that they had not suffered the sort of direct and concrete injury that gave them standing to sue. Some of the chief justice’s writings suggested that he might have found the argument attractive.

“That would have been hard for me,” Justice Ginsburg said, “because I’ve been less rigid than some of my colleagues on questions of standing. There was a good argument to be made, but I would not have bought that argument because of the damage it could do” in other cases.

The big cases the court did decide, on abortion and affirmative action, were triumphs, Justice Ginsburg said. Both turned on Justice Kennedy’s vote. “I think he comes out as the great hero of this term,” Justice Ginsburg said.”

Justice Ginsburg provides a rare insider’s perspective on the Court and its personalities.  Worth a read.



Maureen Dowd:  The Clintons Contaminate Obama, Comey, Lynch and Others!

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd has a tough column today that calls out Bill and Hillary Clinton for their “selfish actions” and the fallout on President Obama, James Comey, Loretta Lynch, and State Department aides.  Here is an excerpt:

“In a mere 11 days, arrogant, selfish actions by the Clintons contaminated three of the purest brands in Washington — Barack Obama, James Comey and Loretta Lynch — and jeopardized the futures of Hillary’s most loyal aides.

It’s quaint, looking back at her appointment as secretary of state, how Obama tried to get Hillary without the shadiness. (Which is what we all want, of course.)

The president and his aides attempted to keep a rein on Clinton’s State Department — refusing to let her bring in her hit man, Sidney Blumenthal.

But in the end, Hillary’s goo got on Obama anyhow. On Tuesday, after Comey managed to make both Democrats and Republicans angry by indicting Clinton politically but not legally, Barry and Hillary flew to Charlotte, N.C., for their first joint campaign appearance.

Obama was left in the awkward position of vouching for Hillary’s “steady judgment” to run an angry, violent, jittery nation on the very day that his F.B.I. director lambasted her errant judgment on circumventing the State Department email system, making it clear that she had been lying to the American public for the last 16 months.

Comey, who was then yanked up to Capitol Hill for a hearing on Thursday, revealed that instead of no emails with classified information, as Hillary had insisted, there were 110, of those turned over to the State Department. Instead of Clinton’s assurances that the server in the basement in Chappaqua had never been breached, Comey said it was possible that hostile actors had hacked Clinton’s email account. Among the emails not given to State, he said at least three contained classified information.

Hillary had already compromised the president, who feels he needs her to cement his legacy. Obama angered F.B.I. agents when he was interviewed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last fall and undermined the bureau’s investigation by exonerating Hillary before the F.B.I. was done with its work, saying pre-emptively, “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”

Hillary willfully put herself above the rules — again — and a president, campaign and party are all left twisting themselves into pretzels defending her.

Obama aimed to have no shadows, but the Clintons operate in shadows.

After Bill Clinton crossed the tarmac in Phoenix to have a long chat with Lynch, the attorney general confessed that the ill-advised meeting had “cast a shadow” over her department’s investigation into his wife and that she would feel constrained to follow the recommendation of the F.B.I.

“I certainly wouldn’t do it again,” Lynch said, admitting it hit her “painfully” that she had made a mistake dancing with the Arkansas devil in the pale moonlight.

The meeting seemed even more suspect a week later, when The Times reported that Hillary might let Lynch stay on in a new Clinton administration.

The fallout from the email scandal has clouded the futures of longtime Hillary aides Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan, who were also deemed extremely careless by Comey for their handling of classified information. The Times reported that they could face tough questions as they seek security clearances for diplomatic or national security posts. (Not to mention remiss in not pushing back on Clinton about the private server.)

“You’ve got a situation here where the woman who would be in charge of setting national security policy as president has been deemed by the F.B.I. unsuitable to safeguard and handle classified information,” Bill Savarino, a Washington lawyer specializing in security clearances, told the Times.”

The column goes on to conclude that the American people are in the situation of being stuck between the Clintons and Donald Trump and:

“We’re resigned to the Clintons focusing on their viability and disregarding the consequences of their heedless actions on others. They’re always offering a Faustian deal. This year’s election bargain: Put up with our iniquities or get Trump’s short fingers on the nuclear button.

The Clintons work hard but don’t play by the rules. Imagine them in the White House with the benefit of low expectations.”

Sad, sad, sad!



Secretary of Labor Tom Perez Says More Collective Bargaining Will Save the Middle Class!

Dear Commons Community,

U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez said in an interview yesterday that more collective bargaining agreements are key to building a strong middle class.  Perez said he is optimistic about the continued positive trend in job growth after a massive 287,000 jobs were created in June. But he still thinks there’s lots of slack in the labor market that is holding back wage growth.   As reported by The Huffington Post, Peres said:

“One of the ways to boost wage growth is to unionize…

Perez participated in the discussions between Verizon and the Communications Workers of America back in May, which helped resolve a 40,000-worker strike

“Those are really good middle-class jobs,” he said of the Verizon workers’ jobs. “The more you strengthen collective bargaining, the more you strengthen the middle class. You get that through either unionization, or a workplace culture where workers have a strong voice at the table.”

At this stage in the economic recovery, the problem isn’t necessarily that unemployment is too high — it’s been below 5 percent for months — but that workers who do still have jobs aren’t seeing more in their paychecks. According to the latest jobs report, released Friday, average hourly wages grew just 2.6 percent over the last year.

Sluggish wage growth can be a sign that there is still room for improvement before employers really feel the market pushing them to pay workers more.

“That’s not nearly where I want it to be, it’s not where workers need it to be, but it’s headed in the right direction,” said Perez.

The overall strength of the economy also obscures some serious variation in unemployment rates when you break down the labor force by race. The unemployment rate is 4 percent for whites and 3.5 percent for Asians. By contrast, it is 8.6 percent for blacks and 5.8 percent for Latinos. 

This isn’t a new phenomenon: The unemployment rate has reflected structural racial inequality for years. However, Perez said these disparities could be reduced through both immigration reform and raising the federal minimum wage.”

Perez is saying something important here!


President Obama:  Killing of Innocents – An American Issue!

Dear Commons Community,

President Barack Obama addressed the outrage surrounding the fatal shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by police officers this week, calling the racial disparity in police killings an “American issue” that should concern all U.S. citizens.

“All of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings,” the president said in a speech that he delivered in the middle of the night from Warsaw, Poland, where he is attending a NATO summit. “These are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”

Sterling was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday after a 911 caller reported seeing a man with a gun. A day later, Castile was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer during a routine traffic stop. Both shootings were captured on video, immediately sparking outrage online.

Last night, there were protests and vigils all over the country by people of every race and ethnicity seeming to support President Obama’s plea.  However, at a protest in Dallas, snipers targeted and killed five police officers assigned to maintain the peace.

Something is terribly wrong in a society when the killing of innocents is so rampant. An American issue indeed!