Linda Katehi Resigns as Chancellor of the U of California – Davis!

Dear Commons Community,

After months of negotiation with University officials, Linda Katehi resigned this past Tuesday as Chancellor of the U of California – Davis.. As reported by Reuters:

“The embattled chancellor of the University of California, Davis resigned after allegations the school spent $175,000 to quash negative internet posts prompted an ethics probe.

Linda Katehi was placed on administrative leave in April, just days after the Sacramento Bee newspaper published documents it said showed the university paid consultants at least $175,000 to combat negative posts about the school and Katehi after campus police pepper-sprayed student protesters in 2011.

In the wake of the news, the Office of UC President Janet Napolitano launched an investigation on the social media allegations and other issues, including the employment of Katehi’s immediate family members at the campus.

A redacted copy of the report provided by the university system said Katehi misled and potentially lied to Napolitano and the public by saying she was not involved with the social media campaign.

The report also said that while there was no evidence of nepotism with regard to the hiring of her son and daughter-in-law at the school, Katehi did not strictly adhere to university policy on the matter.

Napolitano’s office said the investigation “found the chancellor had exercised poor judgment, not been candid with University leadership, and violated multiple University policies.”

Katehi also faced questions over her acceptance of paid seats on the boards of DeVry Education Group and textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons.

Katehi, who had been chancellor since 2009, apologized in a letter to students in March for her role at DeVry, saying it violated UC policy and that she had resigned the seat. She said her time between 2011 and 2014 on the board of John Wiley & Sons, however, did comply with university policy.

Melinda Guzman, an attorney for Katehi, said the investigation found “no policy violations in the areas of alleged nepotism, conflicts, financial mismanagement of funds or personal gain.”

Guzman told Reuters Katehi would return to her position on the faculty as a distinguished professor in the college of engineering and keep the title of chancellor emeritus.

Video showing seated student protesters being pepper-sprayed by campus police came to symbolize law enforcement aggression against anti-Wall Street protesters. School officials agreed in September 2012 to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed over the actions.”

Finally this sad saga comes to an end!



David Ignatius Opinion Piece:  Brave New World of Robots and Lost Jobs!

Dear Commons Community,

If we can sift through much of the mud during the current presidential campaign, one of the really important issues is jobs and unemployment/underemployment.  Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in their economic policy proposal this week focused on what they would do if elected to create meaningful, well-paying jobs.  David Ignatius, opinion writer for the Washington Post, had a piece yesterday stating that the real employment issue for many workers in the not too distant future is automation and robots replacing workers on a large scale. Here is an excerpt.

“Job insecurity is a central theme of the 2016 campaign, fueling popular anger about trade deals and immigration. But economists warn that much bigger job losses are ahead in the United States — driven not by foreign competition but by advancing technology.

A look at the numbers suggests that the country is having the wrong economic debate this year. Employment security won’t come from renegotiating trade deals, as Donald Trump said in a speech Monday in Detroit, or rebuilding infrastructure, as Hillary Clinton argued in Warren, Mich., on Thursday. These are palliatives.

The deeper problem facing the United States is how to provide meaningful work and good wages for the tens of millions of truck drivers, accountants, factory workers and office clerks whose jobs will disappear in coming years because of robots, driverless vehicles and “machine learning” systems.

The political debate needs to engage the taboo topic of guaranteeing economic security to families — through a universal basic income, or a greatly expanded earned-income tax credit, or a 1930s-style plan for public-works employment. Ranting about bad trade deals won’t begin to address the problem.

The “automation bomb” could destroy 45 percent of the work activities currently performed in the United States, representing about $2 trillion in annual wages, according to a study last year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. We’ve seen only the beginning of this change, they warned. Currently, only 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated, but 60 percent of occupations could soon see machines doing 30 percent or more of the work.

The McKinsey analysts sharpened their argument in a paper released last month. Their estimates, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data covering more than 800 occupations, draw a shocking picture of the future. In manufacturing, 59 percent of activities could be automated, and that includes “90 percent of what welders, cutters, solderers and brazers do.” In food service and accommodations, 73 percent of the work could be performed by machines. In retailing, 53 percent of current jobs could be lost.

White-collar workers may imagine that they’re safe, but that’s wishful thinking. If computers can be programmed to understand speech as well as humans do, 66 percent of jobs in finance and insurance could be replaced, the most recent report says.”

In October, I have a new book coming out, Online Education Policy and Practice: The Past, Present, and Future of the Digital University, in which I speculate on the very same issue as applied to college teaching.  In two of the chapters on the future, it is likely that much of what we (faculty) do, will eventually be phased out or at least significantly augmented by computer software.  The tricky part of this is not whether it will happen but when – 10, 20, 30 or more years from now?


Khizr Khan Implores John McCain to Renounce Donald Trump!

Dear Commons Community,

Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father and Muslim American who emerged as one of Donald Trump’s most compelling critics during the Democratic National Convention, is now calling on Republicans to pull their support for the presidential nominee over his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Earlier this week,  he appealed directly to one GOP lawmaker in particular: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).  As reported in The Huffington Post:

“I implore Senator McCain … I continue to implore all of the good Republicans who either support or are going to vote for their party’s candidate, this will be a historic moment in the Republican Party,” Khan said in an interview with Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS.

“If you publicly rebuked him, you will look back and you will stand tall in front of the nation and you will say you were not for this, we were for [a] better America,” he said.

Khan, whose son, Humayun, was a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq while protecting his troops, is a big fan of McCain’s. He called the Arizona senator “my and my family’s hero” and said one of the last talks he had with his son was about McCain’s book, Why Courage Matters.

How can McCain say no to this guy?

McCain campaign spokeswoman Lorna Romero declined to comment on whether the senator would un-endorse Trump. Instead, she pointed to a lengthy statement he put out last week praising the Khan family and dismissing Trump’s proposed ban.”

Khizr Khan is not going away quitely as I am sure Donald Trump and his campaign staff would hope.


University of Texas Memorial Service on the 50th Anniversary of the Clock Tower Sniper Shootings!

Texas Clock Tower

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week, the University of Texas held a memorial service of the sniper shooting that occurred fifty years ago during which forty-one people were shot and sixteen were killed.  The sniper was Charles Whitman, a former Eagle Scout and Marine, who suffered serious mental problems after his mother left his father in March 1966. As reported by Reuters:

“The University of Texas on Monday held its first memorial of a shooting rampage half a century ago that left 16 people dead, with a survivor of the massacre leading a procession across the field where she was hit by the sniper and her unborn child was killed.

Claire Wilson James walked past the spot where, at age 18, she spent nearly 90 minutes on the pavement in the hot sun next to her slain boyfriend on Aug. 1, 1966. The Texas tower shooting – so-named because the gunman fired from the university’s clock tower – is regarded as the first U.S. mass shooting in a public space and sent shockwaves across the country.

The 50th anniversary coincides with the start of a new law in Texas that allows concealed handgun license holders 21 and older to bring pistols into more places on the campuses of public colleges in the state, including classrooms.

Republican lawmakers who pushed through the “campus carry” law have said it could prevent another mass shooting. Critics see it as a wrong-headed approach that could spark more killing.

The University of Texas at Austin tried to keep campus-carry start separate from the memorial. University President Gregory Fenves said the ceremony was long overdue.

The school did not know how to respond in the aftermath of the shooting, with many thinking the best response was to not talk about it and carry on. Shooting survivors banded together a few years ago and pushed for the memorial.

At the memorial, held in the shadow of the tower, Fenves said that for many survivors, “There will never be relief from the pain and the scars you live with that have also scarred this great university.”

In 1966, Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old former Marine brought a cache of weapons to the tower’s observation deck, about 250 feet (76 meters) in the air, picking off people for blocks.

For the memorial, the university stopped the clock in the tower at 11:48 a.m., the time Whitman began his sniper attack.”



New York Times Editorial:  Further into the Muck with Mr. Trump!

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump ignited another firestorm yesterday by alluding that gun owners should consider shooting Hillary Clinton.  In response, Joe Scarborough (MSNBC – Morning Joe) and himself a conservative Republican wrote:  “A bloody line has been crossed that cannot be ignored. At long last, Donald Trump has left the Republican Party few options but to act decisively and get this political train wreck off the tracks before something terrible happens.”  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren had a zinger of a retort to Trump’s comment and tweeted “Trump makes death threats because he is a pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl”. The New York Times editorial this morning calls for Republicans to repudiate Trump for the sake of decency.  Below is the editorial:



Further into the Muck with Mr. Trump! 


Three months from the presidential election, and one day after his running mate promised “specific policy proposals for how we rebuild this country at home and abroad,” Americans find themselves asking whether Donald Trump has called for the assassination of Hillary Clinton.

On Tuesday at a rally in North Carolina, Mr. Trump falsely charged, as he has before, that “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment.” Then he added: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Directly behind him, a supporter’s jaw dropped. Afterward, Mr. Trump’s campaign issued an utterly mystifying statement about the “power of unification,” suggesting that Mr. Trump was referring to the political power of Second Amendment supporters, and was not advocating violence. The National Rifle Association, which has endorsed Mr. Trump, concurred with his statement on Supreme Court justices and did not specifically address the rest of his remarks.

Was it a threat? Mr. Trump’s campaign has been marked by extraordinarily combative rhetoric. At another rally, he said he would like to punch a protester in the face and see him leave “on a stretcher.” His supporters have shouted “kill her” when he mentions Mrs. Clinton. The Republican convention heard cries of “lock her up.” A New Hampshire delegate, Al Baldasaro, called for Mrs. Clinton to “be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

That comment wound up on the Secret Service’s radar. Mr. Trump’s comment should as well.

Seldom, if ever, have Americans been exposed to a candidate so willing to descend to the depths of bigotry and intolerance as Mr. Trump. That he would make Tuesday’s comment amid sinking poll numbers and a wave of Republican defections suggests that when bathed in the adulation of a crowd, Mr. Trump is unable to control himself.

Just eight years ago, Senator John McCain of Arizona, then the Republican presidential nominee, told a man at a town hall session who said he was “scared” of an Obama presidency that Mr. Obama “is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared as president of the United States.”

Twenty minutes later, a woman told Mr. McCain that she couldn’t trust Mr. Obama because “he’s an Arab.” “No ma’am,” Mr. McCain replied. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.”

Republicans would do well to summon the integrity that Mr. McCain showed in 2008, and not just to give some sense of decency to this ugly campaign. The time has come for Republicans — including Mr. McCain — to repudiate Mr. Trump once and for all.


North Carolina to Experiment with $500. Tuition at Three Campuses!

Dear Commons Community,

North Carolina will carried out a college-affordability experiment that has drawn both praise and criticism for its ambition: $500 tuition per semester for in-state students. The experiment has been approved for funding starting in fall 2018. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“At a time when the average published cost of in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges nationwide is nearing $10,000 annually, many see the college affordability measure, dubbed “NC Promise,” as a bold move. Others support the legislation’s stated purpose — keeping a lid on college costs and student debt — but remain skeptical that the legislature has the best interests of the university system at heart. In recent years, UNC leaders have clashed at times with conservative lawmakers keen on shaking up public higher education.

In May, Tom Apodaca, a Republican state senator who retired last month, introduced the bill. Initially it would have lowered tuition to $500 at five UNC campuses. That draft stirred widespread concern because it seemed to single out minority-serving institutions and included no language about additional state money to make up for lost tuition revenue. The loss of tens of millions of dollars could have led to financial turmoil at several universities that were already strapped for cash.

System officials say most of those concerns were mitigated in the final version, which was written into the state budget that Gov. Pat McCrory signed last month.

Starting in the fall of 2018, $500 in-state tuition will go into effect at three campuses — the predominantly white Western Carolina University, the historically black Elizabeth City State University, and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, a historically American Indian institution — and the state will provide the system with up to $40 million each year to fill the revenue gap. Per-semester tuition for out-of-state students will drop to $2,500, from between $7,000 and $8,000. And new students at other UNC campuses will pay a fixed tuition rate if they graduate within four years.

Leaders of the affected campuses say that the tuition plan has many more pros — first and foremost, making college more affordable — than cons. “We three are ecstatic,” said Robin G. Cummings, Pembroke’s chancellor, of himself and his colleagues. The institutions are geographically spaced out across the state, and lawmakers who backed the bill touted the convenience of $500 public-college tuition within 150 miles for each state resident…

The actual cost of a semester at these campuses will not become $500.

The $500 figure does not cover non-tuition expenses like fees, room, and board. At Western Carolina, for instance, an academic year costs around $17,000 for undergraduate students living on campus with a meal plan. While tuition in the fall of 2018 will drop by about 75 percent from its current level, cost of attendance will remain around $14,000, said David O. Belcher, the chancellor, in an email.”

North Carolina is taking a step in the right direction to make college more affordable. It appears committed to the funding side of the new program. There will likely be logistical kinks to work out.


New York Times Exposes Brookings and Think Tanks as Corporate Influence Peddlers!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a featured article today that exposes the Brookings Institution and other “think tanks” as tools of corporations seeking government influence.  Think tanks, which position themselves as “universities without students,” have power in government policy debates because they are seen as researchers independent of moneyed interests. But in the chase for funds, think tanks are pushing agendas important to corporate donors, at times blurring the line between researchers and lobbyists. And they are doing so while reaping the benefits of their tax-exempt status, sometimes without disclosing their connections to corporate interests.  The article references  Senator Elizabeth Warren commenting that  “some think tanks engage in “thinly disguised lobbying” to influence lawmakers”.  It has been well known that some think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Manhattan Institute have their own political agendas, the Times focus on The Brookings Institute which was generally seen as non-partisan, broadens the scope of think tank influence peddling.  Here is an excerpt:

“Thousands of pages of internal memos and confidential correspondence between Brookings and other donors — like JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank; K.K.R., the global investment firm; Microsoft, the software giant; and Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate — show that financial support often came with assurances from Brookings that it would provide “donation benefits,” including setting up events featuring corporate executives with government officials, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting

Similar arrangements exist at many think tanks. On issues as varied as military sales to foreign countries, international trade, highway management systems and real estate development, think tanks have frequently become vehicles for corporate influence and branding campaigns.”

The article is a well-done and well-documented expose of the role of think tanks in the seamy side of Washington, state, and local politics.



Nicholas Kristoph:  Clinton’s Fibs vs. Trump’s Huge Lies!

Dear Commons Community,

As the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump move into high gear, the media is having a field day on the veracity of each candidate.  A recent CBS News poll found that 34 percent of registered voters say Clinton is honest and trustworthy compared with 36 percent for Trump.  New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristoph compares the two candidates and comes to the conclusion that what Hillary does is the norm for most politicians while Trump is “off the charts” with his lying.  Here is an excerpt:

“One persistent narrative in American politics is that Hillary Clinton is a slippery, compulsive liar while Donald Trump is a gutsy truth-teller..

Yet the idea that they are even in the same league is preposterous. If deception were a sport, Trump would be the Olympic gold medalist; Clinton would be an honorable mention at her local Y.

One metric comes from independent fact-checking websites…PolitiFact had found 27 percent of Clinton’s statements that it had looked into were mostly false or worse, compared with 70 percent of Trump’s. It said 2 percent of Clinton’s statements it had reviewed were egregious “pants on fire” lies, compared with 19 percent of Trump’s. So Trump has nine times the share of flat-out lies as Clinton.

Likewise, The Washington Post Fact-Checker has awarded its worst ranking, Four Pinocchios, to 16 percent of Clinton’s statements that it checked and to 64 percent of Trump’s.

“Essentially, Clinton is in the norm for a typical politician,” says Glenn Kessler, who runs Fact-Checker, while Trump “is just off the charts. There’s never been anyone like him, at least in the six years I have been doing this.”

Kristoph then provides a number of examples for each candidate;  Clinton (email server, Benghazi) and Trump (the Iraq War, fund raising for veterans, seeing Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attack).  His conclusion:

“In short, Clinton is about average for a politician in dissembling, while Trump is a world champion who is pathological in his dishonesty.” 


Media Matters:  Fox News, Donald Trump and the Economy!

Dear Commons Community,

It is no secret that Fox News and Donald Trump are in a cozy relationship regarding his presidential candidacy. With the exception of the blip of a falling out over his treatment of Megyn Kelly during one of the Republican primary debates earlier this year, the rest of the Fox News crowd have been fawning over The Donald’s every word.  When it comes to economic news, Fox News has aired 175 segments in the past six months, and Donald Trump has been a guest for over 20 percent of them.  An analysis of prime-time weekday cable news coverage of the economy released by nonprofit watchdog Media Matters yesterday stated:

“According to Media Matters’ ongoing quarterly analyses of prime-time weekday cable news coverage of the economy, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was by far the most frequently featured guest during economic news segments in the first half of 2016. Trump used an apparent standing invitation for interviews from Fox News to fill the airwaves with misleading claims about the supposedly poor state of the economy, while dubiously promising to boost economic growth and job creation through trickle-down tax cuts and restrictions on free trade.

In the first and second quarters of 2016, Trump has been a featured guest during a cable prime-time segment focused on economic news and policy 40 times. Trump’s presence on television dwarfed appearances by Sen. Ted Cruz (20) and Gov. John Kasich (10) — his rivals for the GOP nomination — as well as Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (9) and Hillary Clinton (4).

Fox hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity have come under heavy scrutiny for the lavish amount of airtime they give Trump. Hannity has served as the poster boy of Fox News’ embrace of the GOP nominee, leading to him being ridiculed as a Trump “fanboy” for his fawning over the candidate. O’Reilly’s softball interviews have also been seen as embarrassing for the network, leading to accusations that Fox News lacks journalistic integrity and is merely backing Trump to boost ratings. New York magazine correspondent Gabe Sherman reported on May 17 that, “According to one Fox News producer, the channel’s ratings dip whenever an anti-Trump segment airs.”

It is taken for granted by most media observers that Fox News’ “fair and balanced” reporting has a pro-Trump slant as it would for any Republican presidential candidate.  Kudos to Media Matters for doing the analysis.


FBI Director James Comey Reiterates His Decision on Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email Server!

Dear Commons Community,

The presidential campaign has seen a number of story lines that just won’t go away.  One of them is Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email server during her time as secretary of state.  Fox News, for instance, raises the issue at least a dozen times a day.  A Congressional Committee asked FBI Director, James Comey, to clarify his decision and Comey defended his decision to forgo a criminal case against Hillary Clinton,  As reported by The Huffington Post:

“Comey stated he’d cleared Clinton from potential prosecution over her use of a private email server, saying her actions were “extremely careless” but that no “reasonable” prosecutor would pursue the case. Attorney General Loretta Lynch agreed with him on Wednesday. Comey’s most damning finding was that Clinton had more than 100 classified messages on her system, including eight that were deemed “top secret.”

Almost immediately after the announcement, Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) called Thursday’s hearing on the issue.

“We’re here because we’re mystified and confused by the fact pattern you laid out,” Chaffetz said. He added that based on Comey’s facts, if an “average Joe” had done what Clinton did, “they’d be in handcuffs.”

But Comey repeatedly stood by his estimation that there was no case against Clinton under the Espionage Act, which has only been used once in similar circumstances ― ineffectively ― in 99 years…

The FBI director also vigorously rejected suggestions that the White House, the Department of Justice and the FBI had somehow coordinated last week’s events, which included former President Bill Clinton’s meeting with Lynch last Monday, the FBI’s interview of Hillary Clinton on Saturday, and Comey and Lynch’s subsequent announcements…

Several Republicans pointed to those events, but only Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) managed to spark a hint of anger from Comey by bringing up the Tony-winning dance moves in the Broadway show “Hamilton” to insinuate that the FBI and Department of Justice had coordinated the decision.

“It almost looks like a choreography,” Mica said, after asking Comey if he’d seen the Broadway musical. Mica also asked the FBI director to turn over any relevant communications he’d had with the attorney general or Department of Justice for the last 30 days, saying he didn’t know how to explain the chain of events to people in his local cafe who saw them as evidence of collusion to clear Clinton.

“Look me in the eye, and listen to what I’m about to say,” Comey retorted. “I did not coordinate that with anyone ― the White House, the Department of Justice. Nobody outside the FBI family had any idea what I was about to say. I’d say that under oath, I’d stand by that.”

The article provides further particulars on Comey’s decision.  For most of Clinton’s supporters, it is a non-issue.  For her detractors, it is high treason.