Republican Candidates Debate Last Night!

Dear Commons Community,

Last night, ABC News hosted another debate with the Republican candidates for the presidential nomination.  Video highlights and a good summary of the debate are available at a Huffington Post website.

Most of the candidates took aim at front-runner Newt Gingrich but he was able to hold his own.  One account has declared that “Mitt Romney is now officially in trouble”.  A New York Times piece indicated that the debate is now forcing the Democrats to shift their focus to Mr. Gingrich as he becomes a more serious contender for the nomination — and for the right to challenge President Obama next year.

Romney came out on the short end of most of his exchanges with the former speaker of the House. And to make matters worse, he committed a major gaffe that hurt his own prospects. During an exchange with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney proposed a $10,000. bet over whether Perry had accurately quoted from Romney’s book.  It reinforced the image of Romney as a wealthy businessman who is out of touch with regular Americans.

Good theater!





So Much to Blog About IV – 30 Major Companies Paid More for Lobbying than Taxes; The For-Profit Colleges Averted Obama’s Get Tough Financial Aid Policies; Fox Business News Declares the Muppets Are Communists!!!

Dear Commons Community,

Another day of news in which there is just too much happening.

First,  a New York Times article reports that by employing a plethora of tax-dodging techniques, 30 multi-million dollar American corporations expended more money lobbying Congress than they paid in federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010, ultimately spending approximately $400,000 every day — including weekends — during that three-year period to lobby lawmakers and influence political elections, according to a new report from the non-partisan Public Campaign.

Second,  Angelina Delgado (Baruch College) sent this piece to me.  Last year, the Obama administration vowed to stop for-profit colleges from luring students with false promises. In an opening volley that shook the $30 billion industry, officials proposed new restrictions to cut off the huge flow of federal aid to unfit programs. But after a ferocious response that administration officials called one of the most intense they had seen, the Education Department  produced a much-weakened final plan that almost certainly will have far less impact as it goes into effect next year.  The educational-industrial complex continues to thrive in the Obama administration.

Third, the Huffington Post reported that Fox Business declared media war when Eric Bolling did a segment characterizing the Muppets as communists.  On the network’s “Follow the Money” program, host Bolling went McCarthy on the new, Disney-released film, “The Muppets,” insisting that its storyline featuring an evil oil baron made it the latest example of Hollywood’s so called liberal agenda.  Bolling, who took issue with the baron’s name, Tex Richman, was joined by Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center, who was uninhibited with his criticism.

“It’s amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message,” he said.

You judge.  See the video below.



Donald Trump Gets No Respect!

Dear Commons Community,

This has been a bad week for Donald Trump.  First, he wanted to host a Republican presidential primary debate later this month.  Unfortunately all of the candidates except Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum declined his invitation. Second, he has asked President Barack Obama to call him to discuss the country’s issues but the President also declined the Donald’s invitation.  Jay DeDapper (BUZZ:60) has  a good analysis of the latter.  See the video above.


The Gingrich Tragedy – David Brooks’ Column!!

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks’ column in the New York Times is on the money in analyzing Newt Gingrich’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.  Brooks, a conservative, sees Gingrich as loyal to the conservative cause but his personality would be a disaster for the Republicans. For example on the plus side:

“He [Gingrich] talks about using government in energetic but limited ways to increase growth, dynamism and social mobility…. The opportunity society calls not for a laissez-faire society in which the economic world is a neutral jungle of purely random individual behavior, but for forceful government intervention on behalf of growth and opportunity.”

On the negative side:

“Gingrich was perfectly content to belly up to the Freddie Mac trough and then invent a Hamiltonian rational to justify his own greed… He seems to have understood that a moderate Republican like himself can win so long as he adopts a bombastic style when taking on the liberal elites. Most people just want somebody who can articulate their hatreds, and Gingrich is demagogically happy to play the role”

Brooks’ conclusion:

“As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated. “

I agree!  Run, Newt, Run!!



Michele Bachmann with Young Gay Activist – Video!

Dear Commons Community,

The youtube video above is making the rounds showing  Michele Bachmann talking with a young activist named Elijah in South Carolina.

As seen in the video, the Republican candidate greeted the soft-spoken 8-year-old and his mother at a book signing for her book “Core of Conviction: My Story,” which was released last month.

The boy’s words are a bit hard to hear.   “My mommy — Miss Bachmann, my mommy’s gay but she doesn’t need fixing,” Elijah said to Bachmann, after some coaxing from his mother.


70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor!!!!

Dear Commons Community,

Seventy years ago, at dawn on December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese warplanes laid waste to the United States Pacific Fleet.  The “date which will live in infamy” was the turning point of  World War II, which had been raging for more than two years.  The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed five U.S. Navy battleships, along with 188 aircraft, one minelayer, and three destroyers and inflicted over 4,000 casualties.

In today’s New York Times, there is quite an interesting op-ed piece by the historian, Ian W. Toll, which provides insight into the Japanese admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto, who planned the attack. Toll includes background on his experience including spending two years at Harvard and time as the Japanese naval attaché in Washington, D.C.   While he masterminded the attack on Pearl Harbor,  he also persistently warned his government not to enter into a fight with the United States.

“Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto foresaw that the struggle would become a prolonged war of attrition that Japan could not hope to win. For a year or so, he said, Japan might overrun locally weak Allied forces — but after that, its war economy would stagger and its densely built wood-and-paper cities would suffer ruinous air raids. Against such odds, Yamamoto could “see little hope of success in any ordinary strategy.” His Pearl Harbor operation, he confessed, was “conceived in desperation.” It would be an all-or-nothing gambit, a throw of the dice: “We should do our best to decide the fate of the war on the very first day.”

Toll concludes:

“He [Yamamoto]was one of the few Japanese leaders of his generation who found the moral courage to tell the truth — that waging war against the United States would invite a national catastrophe.”



College Leaders Meet With Obama to Discuss Costs, Productivity and Blended Learning!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting that in a private meeting on Monday, President Barack Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan met with a dozen college presidents, mostly from public institutions, and leaders of two nonprofit education organizations, about how to curb the rising cost of college and improve graduation rates.   Participants agreed  that everyone understood that additional financing for education would be scarce in the coming years, making it crucial to improve affordability and graduation rates through innovation, including online learning.  Financial aid procedures, linking K-12 and higher education, and making more creative uses of technology could help stem the rise in tuition.  Of particular interest were quotes from several of the presidents on blended learning:

“If we’re going to address the 37 million adults with some college and no degree, we can’t just tweak the existing model,” said Robert W. Mendenhall of Western Governors University, an online nonprofit university. “Mostly in higher education, technology is an add-on cost that doesn’t change the model at all. We need to fundamentally change the faculty role, and use technology to do the teaching.”

Larry D. Shinn, the president of Berea College, did not disagree. “We’re structured in a 19th-century model, but I think we all know now that blended learning, combining technology and classroom learning, can let us educate for less cost,” he said. “The question is how we get there from here.”

“The key message was a challenge to us to question all our strongly held assumptions, including getting our faculty to think differently about teaching,” said Jared L. Cohon, the president of Carnegie Mellon University, which has developed online classes that provide instructors real-time information about each student’s progress. “I personally get very uncomfortable when people start talking about replacing faculty with technology,” he said, “But I do think technology can help us educate more students faster and better.”

My opinion is that we should emphasize the quality of blended learning models rather than simply as the  way to save money.   Any savings are welcome but quality of teaching and learning first!!!




Where Our High Schools Fall Short!!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times editorial today draws attention to the fact that  many high school graduates are not ready to do college-level work.  I have commented on this issue several times on this blog.  It is a sad commentary that students [and their parents] are under the impression that because they have a high school diploma, they are ready for college.  The editorial uses the programs at CUNY as good examples of the need for serious investment in remediation to give these students a chance.  The long term solution involves the” need to strengthen the curriculum, build a more robust teacher training program and add programs so that more students can reach the college-readiness goal.”  This rightfully goes beyond simple, quick-fix measures of teaching to tests and using credit recovery to move students through to high school graduation.  We here at CUNY also need to be vigilant that we not be coerce by city or state governing officials to lower  our standards and to move these students through the higher education system.


Weekend Wrap-Up of Republican Primary Contenders!

Dear Commons Community,

This weekend saw a number of major developments in the Republican Presidential Primary race.

First, Herman Cain suspended his nomination yesterday stating that allegations about sexual harassment and affairs were taking a toll on him and his family.

Second, Michelle Bachman revealed that she met her husband Marcus at college and in a vision, God told her to marry him.

Third, Newt Gingrich after attacking poor kids who do not work, is the subject of a Maureen Dowd column wherein she states:

“His [Gingrich’s] mind is a jumble, an amateurish mess lacking impulse control. He plays air guitar with ideas, producing air ideas. He ejaculates concepts, notions and theories that are as inconsistent as his behavior.

He didn’t get whiplash being a serial adulterer while impeaching another serial adulterer, a lobbyist for Freddie Mac while attacking Freddie Mac, a self-professed fiscal conservative with a whopping Tiffany’s credit line, and an anti-Communist Army brat who supported the Vietnam War but dodged it.”

Only in America!



Obama Administration Urges Colleges to Get Creative on Matters of Diversity!

Dear Commons Community,

According to an article in today’s New York Times, the Obama administration is urging colleges and universities to get creative in improving racial diversity at their campuses, and  throwing out a Bush-era interpretation of recent  U.S Supreme Court rulings that limited affirmative action in admissions.  The article states:

“The new guidelines issued by the Departments of Justice and Education replaced a 2008 document that essentially warned colleges and universities against considering race at all. Instead, the guidelines focus on the wiggle room in the court decisions involving the University of Michigan, suggesting that institutions use other criteria — students’ socioeconomic profiles, residential instability, the hardships they have overcome — that are often proxies for race. Schools could even grant preferences to students from certain schools selected for, among other things, their racial composition, the new document says.

“Post-secondary institutions can voluntarily consider race to further the compelling interest of achieving diversity,” reads the 10-page guide sent to thousands of college admissions officials on Friday afternoon. In some cases, it says, “race can be outcome determinative.”

The administration issued a parallel 14-page outline on Friday for the nation’s 17,000 public school districts, explaining what government lawyers consider to be acceptable ways that educators can seek to reduce racial segregation, which has been increasing nationwide.

The two documents, issued as the presidential campaign heats up and as the Supreme Court considers whether to hear a new affirmative action case, were designed to give educators a clear administration interpretation of three high court cases that, since 2003, have limited the use of race in admissions, zoning and other school policies. “