Anderson Cooper on Donald Trump’s Bullying Behavior!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, the number one media story was Donald Trump’s bullying behavior on Twitter of MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough after they criticized him on their program on Wednesday.  Anderson Cooper of CNN uses Trump’s own words to illustrate “how weak” the president is.  Here is an  excerpt from the CNN website.

“After Donald Trump on Thursday hurled insults at MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, CNN’s Anderson Cooper read some quotes about the office of the president.

“‘The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. The president is the spokesman for democracy and liberty. Isn’t it time we brought back the pomp and circumstance and the sense of awe for that office that we all held?’” Cooper quoted.

“The writer went on to say, ‘That means everyone in the administration should look and act professionally, especially the president.’” Cooper read. “The writer concludes, ‘Impressions matter.’” 

The book he was quoting: Trump’s 2015 campaign tome, Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again

Cooper then warned against normalizing Trump’s attacks. 

It’s not normal,” Cooper said. ”This is the most powerful man on the face of the entire planet. A man struggling to fulfill promises he’s made on health care reform and a whole host of other issues lashing out personally at a cable news anchor, making snide comments and allegations about her appearance.” 

Cooper said that adults apologize for “stupid things,” but Trump instead sends his spokespeople out to “do just the opposite.” 

He was referring to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ defense of Trump’s attacks, in which she said the president is “tough” and “fights fire with fire.”

“Donald Trump is many things, but tough is not one of them,” Cooper said, adding: 

“Tough is fighting for the health care reforms that he actually campaigned on. Tough is rising above insults and actually leading, What our president does is not a display of toughness. It’s a display of weakness of character, of thinness of skin.” 

Cooper also called out the people around Trump for allowing this behavior, including his wife, Melania Trump, who once vowed to make cyberbullying her central issue as first lady. “

Cooper has it right.  Trump’s behavior is similar to a weak, cowardly schoolyard bully who needs a good beating to learn how to relate to other people.


Amazon’s New Echo Show:  Next Step for Information Appliances!

Dear Commons Community,

The major tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Google, have been at war in trying to develop a new information appliance that would do a couple of things well and everyone would want in their homes.  Amazon just took another step in this direction with the announcement of the Echo Show.   While not fully there, you can see Amazon’s vision for the future of computing based on an Echo Show that will perform specific operations similar to other household appliances such as a toaster or blender.  Here is a review courtesy of  the New York Times:

“…the  information appliance is here, sitting on my kitchen counter.

It’s called the Echo Show, and it is the latest incarnation of the Echo, Amazon’s voice-controlled smart speaker that has become a surprise hit. The Echo Show is easy to describe; it’s an Echo with a screen, and you control it the same way you do any other Echo — by talking to Alexa, its cheery assistant. As my colleague Brian X. Chen wrote in his review, the Show is far from perfect; it has some bugs and you get the feeling that Amazon is still searching for a killer purpose for it.

But these are quibbles. The Echo Show is a remarkable machine, not just for what it is now but for the way it clarifies Amazon’s vision of the future of computing. It’s becoming the model for a new kind of communal, household computer…

One measure of the power of this vision is how quickly Amazon’s rivals are racing to copy it; both Apple and Google have their own takes on the Echo.

It’s questionable how far these rivals will get. Amazon’s business model, which depends on millions of households buying millions of goods, is uniquely suited to selling Echos at low prices, because Amazon is certain it can make money on the device from extra Amazon purchases. (The lowest-priced Echo, the Dot, sells for $50; the new Show, available to the public starting Wednesday, sells for $230, but you get $100 off if you buy two.)

What’s more, Amazon is far ahead. The Echo is much more useful than Google Home, which was released two years after Amazon’s device, and the Apple HomePod speaker will not ship until the end of the year. Given that lead, the Echo is beginning to look unstoppable. It is well on the way to becoming the operating system for suburbia.

I suspect you’re scoffing. The primary knock is that [the Echo Show] does not do a whole lot. This is also the main criticism of the Echo and, now, the Echo Show. These devices can’t do anything you can’t do on your phone, PC or tablet.

That’s true, but it also kind of misses the point. You can make toast in the oven, but you have a toaster because it’s designed to perform a specific task reliably and without any fuss.

That’s the point of the information appliance, too. There’s a whole lot the Echo Show won’t do. It won’t do email. It won’t do the web. It won’t play first-person shooters. It is emphatically, purposely not a general-purpose computer. But what it does do — play music and videos, make video calls, tell you the news, tell you the time and weather, and shop at Amazon — it does with such surpassing ease that it feels like a magic trick.

There are a few reasons for that. One is the Show’s unusual and quietly innovative interface.

Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices, told me that when the company was first designing the Show, it tried to use the same interface that it used for its tablet computers. But the team soon realized this didn’t work. For one thing, the Echo Show is designed to be used just with your voice — the screen adds extra information, but you have to look at it only when you specifically ask for visual information (such as when you want a video). A standard mobile operating system, which is heavily visual, just wouldn’t work.

Another reason a tablet interface wouldn’t have worked is that it felt too much like a computer, and one overriding design goal of the Echo and the Echo Show was to hide any relationship to anything computerlike.

The Show’s operating system, memory, storage and other specifications are completely hidden from users. The Echo does have a version of apps, known as “skills,” but they aren’t anything like smartphone apps. You install them just by asking Alexa to enable them, and when you want to use one, you just name it. To watch a video, you just ask for the video — you don’t load up a web browser or the YouTube app and then search for it.

“It’s a very different mental model than the traditional computer, smartphone or tablet, where you have to think of which app you want to use and then open it and then dive in,” Mr. Limp wrote in an email.

The Echo Show has one other advantage over smartphones and tablets: It’s always there in the same spot.

Your phone and tablet move around the house. Often they are nearby, but sometimes they aren’t. That uncertainty makes them less useful for the kind of ambient computing tasks the Echo is good at. When you are in the kitchen and need to look up a recipe, you could find your iPad to call it up. But the Echo Show is always there, so you and everyone else at home come to rely on it — you know that when you call out for it, it will always answer.

Such communal, stationary devices are not unusual in our homes. All the appliances are stationary and communal, from the fridge to the washing machine. We also have some appliances whose sole purpose is to provide us with information and entertainment — bedside clocks and TVs, for instance. Mr. Limp said these informational appliances provided a “mental model” for the Show’s design, which got me thinking about the expansiveness of Amazon’s ambitions here.

The Show has a seven-inch screen. There’s no reason the screen could not be slightly bigger — an iPad-size one that clings to your bathroom mirror, for instance. Or it could be much, much bigger.

In fact, let me go out on a limb: Within a couple of years, I bet Amazon will make its own TV that will work just like the Echo Show. Because if you are trying to create the perfect home appliance, there is no better target than the biggest screen in the house.”

Jeff Bezos and Amazon again “show” that they are the ones to watch to glimpse technology’s future.



Governor Jerry Brown Calls for Starting an Online Community College in California!

Dear Commons Community,

Governor Jerry Brown has asked Chancellor Eloy Oakley of the California Community Colleges to “take whatever steps are necessary” to establish an exclusively online institution.

Chancelor Oakley has until November to report on his plans. He intends to convene a panel of experts to help him decide on its scope and mission. At the moment, he says, he’s leaning toward a model that would reach out to new markets of working adult students, along the lines of Western Governors University or Excelsior College. “This cannot be about cannibalizing” existing enrollments. The college should reach audiences that the 114 existing community colleges don’t. “Otherwise, there’s no point doing it.”

Other states such as Arizona (Rio Salado Community College) have already established colleges that are exclusively or near- exclusively online. A state with a population as large as California would have no problem attracting enough students to such an institution.


David Brooks:  Republicans Have No Governing or National Vision!

Dear Commons Community,

Conservative David Brooks, has a message for Republicans in his New York Times column today that they have lost their way and have no governing or national vision. Referring to the current bills being considered to replace the Affordable Care Act, he comments:

“Most political parties define their vision of the role of government around their vision of the sort of country they would like to create. The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.

Because Republicans have no governing vision, they can’t really replace the Obama vision with some alternative. They just accept the basic structure of Obamacare and cut it back some.

Because Republicans have no governing vision, they can’t argue for their plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to the Aspen Ideas Festival to make the case for the G.O.P. approach. It’s not that he had bad arguments; he had no arguments, no vision for the sort of health care system these bills would usher in. He filled his time by rising to a level of vapid generality that was utterly detached from the choices in the actual legislation.

Because Republicans have no national vision, they seem largely uninterested in the actual effects their legislation would have on the country at large. This Senate bill would be completely unworkable because anybody with half a brain would get insurance only when they got sick.

Worse, this bill takes all of the devastating trends afflicting the middle and working classes — all the instability, all the struggle and pain — and it makes them worse. As the C.B.O. indicated, the Senate plan would throw 22 million people off the insurance roles. It would send them to private insurance plans that they could not afford to buy. Under the Senate bill, deductibles for poor families would be more than half of their annual income. The plans are so incompetently and cruelly designed that as the C.B.O. put it, “few low-income people would purchase any plan.”

This is not a conservative vision of American society. It’s a vision rendered cruel by its obliviousness. I have been trying to think about the underlying mentality that now governs the Republican political class. The best I can do is the atomistic mentality described by Alexis de Tocqueville long ago:

“They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”


CUNY Spent Over $1 Million a Year on Sponsorships, Donations, and Charities!

Dear Commons Community,

City University of New York (CUNY) was called out yesterday in the New York press for its practice of expending funds on sponsorchips, donations to non-profit organizations, and charities.  As reported in the New York Times:

In the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2015, CUNY, the nation’s largest public urban university system, spent $109,925 on sponsorships for parades like the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Bronx Dominican Day Parade, according to a CUNY spokesman, Frank Sobrino. It also spent $1.3 million for a variety of activities including buying tables at charity galas, making donations to organizations like the New-York Historical Society and Lincoln Center, and attending breakfasts held by the Association for a Better New York or Crain’s New York Business.

Since mid-2013, the spending has totaled $4.3 million, according to a summary provided by the university. Most of that spending has now been halted, Mr. Sobrino said.

The university said the money had come from the CUNY Research Foundation, which is already under scrutiny in a federal investigation into the financial dealings of Lisa S. Coico, a former president of the City College of New York.

The article went on to cite William C. Thompson, Jr., Chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees:

“It was done without the checks and balances that should have existed,” said William C. Thompson Jr., and that it was acceptable to spend money to promote the university or do outreach at community events and similar activities, but that “spending over a million dollars on these things was outrageous, and it made no sense.”

“It was excessive and wasteful,” he added.

CUNY has been under a financial watch since problems at the university surfaced last year after The New York Times reported that the 21st Century Foundation, City College’s oldest alumni fund, had paid for personal expenses of Ms. Coico — money that the Research Foundation reimbursed. Ms. Coico resigned in October, and Mr. Thompson asked the state inspector general to investigate the university and its finances.

The inspector general released a preliminary report in November, detailing a host of lapses, financial abuses and mismanagement.

 The CUNY Board of Trustees was scheduled to take the issue up at its June meeting.



Kai-Fu Lee on the Threat of Artificial Intelligence!

Dear Commons Community,

Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and chief executive of Sinovation Ventures, a venture capital firm, and the president of its Artificial Intelligence Institute, had an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times, calling attention to the advances in artificial intelligence.  He looks specifically at developments in the United States and China and predicts social fallout for inequality and employment.  Here is an excerpt:

“…most of the money being made from artificial intelligence (A.I.) will go to the United States and China. A.I. is an industry in which strength begets strength: The more data you have, the better your product; the better your product, the more data you can collect; the more data you can collect, the more talent you can attract; the more talent you can attract, the better your product. It’s a virtuous circle, and the United States and China have already amassed the talent, market share and data to set it in motion

For example, the Chinese speech-recognition company iFlytek and several Chinese face-recognition companies such as Megvii and SenseTime have become industry leaders, as measured by market capitalization. The United States is spearheading the development of autonomous vehicles, led by companies like Google, Tesla and Uber. As for the consumer internet market, seven American or Chinese companies — Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent — are making extensive use of A.I. and expanding operations to other countries, essentially owning those A.I. markets. It seems American businesses will dominate in developed markets and some developing markets, while Chinese companies will win in most developing markets.

The other challenge for many countries that are not China or the United States is that their populations are increasing, especially in the developing world. While a large, growing population can be an economic asset (as in China and India in recent decades), in the age of A.I. it will be an economic liability because it will comprise mostly displaced workers, not productive ones.

So if most countries will not be able to tax ultra-profitable A.I. companies to subsidize their workers, what options will they have? I foresee only one: Unless they wish to plunge their people into poverty, they will be forced to negotiate with whichever country supplies most of their A.I. software — China or the United States — to essentially become that country’s economic dependent, taking in welfare subsidies in exchange for letting the “parent” nation’s A.I. companies continue to profit from the dependent country’s users. Such economic arrangements would reshape today’s geopolitical alliances.

One way or another, we are going to have to start thinking about how to minimize the looming A.I.-fueled gap between the haves and the have-nots, both within and between nations. Or to put the matter more optimistically: A.I. is presenting us with an opportunity to rethink economic inequality on a global scale. These challenges are too far-ranging in their effects for any nation to isolate itself from the rest of the world.”

Important concerns that will have to be faced in the not-too-distant future.


Pride Parade in New York and Cities Across the Country!

Dear Commons Community,

Crowds turned out for Pride marches yesterday in New York and other cities throughout the country.  The route in New York was down Fifth Avenue and ended on Christopher Street in Manhattan’s West Village to commemorate the riots that broke out there in 1969 after police raided the Stonewall Inn, in an event seen as a turning point in the gay rights movement.  


Maureen Dowd:  Democratic Party Has No Answer for Trump!

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd, takes a swipe at the Democrats in her New York Times column today, eviscerating them for the way they keep losing elections.  The Democrats mean well and have good intentions but have lost their way in terms of how to campaign and win the support of voters particularly those in the middle class.  Here is an excerpt:

“YOU know who is really sick and tired of Donald Trump winning, to the point where they beg, “Please, Mr. President, sir, it’s too much”?


The Democrats just got skunked four to nothing in races they excitedly thought they could win because everyone they hang with hates Trump.

If Trump is the Antichrist, as they believe, then Georgia was going to be a cakewalk, and Nancy Pelosi was going to be installed as speaker before the midterms by acclamation. But it turned into another soul-sucking disappointment.

“It’s Trump four and us zero,” says the Democratic congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. “I don’t want to admit that. When it comes out of my mouth, it bothers me. But Trump does robo calls. He tweets. He talks about the races. He motivates his base, and he moves the needle, and that’s a problem for us. Guys, we’re still doing something wrong here because a) he’s president and b) we’re still losing to his candidates.”

The 43-year-old Ryan, who failed to unseat Pelosi as House minority leader last year, says that the Democrats’ brand is toxic, and in some places worse than Trump’s. Which is beyond pathetic.

The Republicans have a wildly unpopular, unstable and untruthful president, and a Congress that veers between doing nothing and spitting out vicious bills, while the Democratic base is on fire and appalled millennials are racing away from Trump. Yet Democrats are stuck in loser gear.

Trump’s fatal flaw is that he cannot drag himself away from the mirror. But Democrats cannot bear to look in the mirror and admit what is wrong.

“We congenitally believe that our motives are pure and our goals are right,” Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, told me. “Therefore, we should win by default.” But, he added dryly: “You’ve got to run a good campaign. In elections, politics matter. Oooh, what a surprise.”

As Ryan sighs: “If you don’t win, you don’t have power, and you can’t help on any of these issues we care about.”

Democrats cling to an idyllic version of a new progressive America where everyone tools around in electric cars, serenely uses gender-neutral bathrooms and happily searches the web for the best Obamacare options. In the Democrats’ vision, people are doing great and getting along. It is the opposite of Trump’s dark diorama of carnage and dystopia — but just as false a picture of America.

With Jon Ossoff, as with Hillary Clinton, the game plan was surfing contempt for Trump and counting on the elusive Obama coalition. Heavy Hollywood involvement is not necessarily a positive in Georgia, though. Alyssa Milano drove voters to the polls but couldn’t bewitch the Republicans. And not living in the district is bad anywhere.

Democrats are going to have to come up with something for people to be for, rather than just counting on Trump to implode. (Which he will.) The party still seems flummoxed that there are big swaths of the country where Democrats once roamed that now regard the Democratic brand as garbage and its long-in-the-tooth leadership as overstaying its welcome. The vibe is suffocating. Where’s the fresh talent?”

Well said!  The Democrats have to come up with candidates who have a message and more importantly, know how to win. 


120 Health Law and Policy Professors Write Letter Opposing the House and Senate Health Bills!

Dear Commons Community,

In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, more than 120 health law and health policy professors across the United States believe that the House and Senate health bills will cause “severe, lasting harm to all of us, especially our society’s most vulnerable and the middle class.” Below is the letter as published in today’s paper.



To the Editor:

We and more than 120 health law and health policy professors across the United States believe that the House and Senate health bills will cause severe, lasting harm to all of us, especially our society’s most vulnerable and the middle class.

At a time when we are seeing significant declines in the number of uninsured and inadequately insured in our country, the bills represent a giant step backward. By cutting Medicaid funding, eliminating federal assistance for families securing private coverage, and encouraging individuals to either not purchase insurance or to buy bare-bones coverage, these proposals will result in a less equitable, less accessible system of health care.

We are deeply concerned about what these bills portend for women and children. Currently, the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality during childbirth of any developed country. Despite the urgency to strive for better outcomes, lawmakers have specifically targeted maternal health coverage for cuts. And by shifting more families off Medicaid, children’s access to health care services will decline.

The Affordable Care Act protects all Americans from discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, expands coverage for mental health treatment and drug addiction, and fosters preventive care. Millions of Americans have health insurance for the first time, and we are at an all-time low in the percentage of citizens who lack coverage. The reform legislation proposes to wipe away these essential gains.

In 1966, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said to a group of health providers, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.” We agree.




Mr. Singer is director of the Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy. Mr. Hutchinson is executive director of the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics. A longer version of the letter with all the signatures is at

Donald Trump Does Not Want Poor People in His Cabinet!

Dear Commons Community,

Two days ago during a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Donald Trump commented that he does not want poor people in key cabinet positions.  Instead he wants “brilliant business minds.”  His disdain for poor people has been his trademark for years.  Yesterday the New York Daily News reviewed several of his choicer comments regarding the poor. 

“President Trump does not want poor people in his cabinet. Or running for office. Or playing golf. But he does want their votes. In fact, he expects poor people to vote for him because they are poor.

This is the worldview we know from Trump’s public statements about America’s struggling class — the same group that helped propel his populist campaign into an unprecedented presidential victory.

Despite riding to office in large part thanks to blue collar anger at elites, the self-proclaimed billionaire businessman who used to live in a golden Manhattan penthouse has rarely even attempted to hide his disdain for people who aren’t rich like him.

America, here are some choice words from your people’s candidate:

 “These are people that are great, brilliant business minds, and that’s what we need, that’s what we have to have so the world doesn’t take advantage of us. We can’t have the world taking advantage of us anymore. And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense? Does that make sense? If you insist, I’ll do it, but I like it better this way.” (Cedar Rapids, Iowa presidential rally remarks about his cabinet, June 21, 2017)

“What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose? You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?” (Dimondale, Mich. campaign rally remarks focused on black voters, Aug. 19, 2016)

“Let golf be elitist … Let people work hard and aspire to someday be able to play golf. To afford to play it. They’re trying to teach golf to people who will never be able to really play it. They’re trying too hard. Because of the expense of playing, and the land needed, golf is never going to be basketball, where all you need is a court.” (Fortune magazine interview, July 1, 2015)

“My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons. There’s a perception that voters like poverty. I don’t like poverty. Usually, there’s a reason for poverty. Do you want someone who gets to be president and that’s literally the highest paying job he’s ever had?” (New York Times interview, Nov. 28, 1999)

Trump’s comments in Cedar Rapids were met with applause!