USDOE Has Hired former DeVry University Dean to Investigate Fraud!

Dear Commons Community,

Politico, Buzzfeed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education are reporting that the United States Education Department has hired Julian Schmoke, a former dean at the for-profit DeVry University, to a position that investigates fraud by colleges.  As reported by The Chronicle:

“Schmoke’s appointment has raised anxiety among some at the Education Department who work on fraud inquiries.  BuzzFeed reports that Devry paid more than $100 million to settle accusations of false advertising and other misleading practices.

As a dean, Mr. Schmoke wasn’t close to DeVry’s corporate work and wasn’t involved in the various settlements the company reached with the Federal Trade Commission, the Education Department, and the New York attorney general over allegations that it  misled students about graduates’ employment opportunities. Still, some in the Education Department remain concerned that Mr. Schmoke won’t be tough enough on for-profit colleges. ”  

A Buzzfeed article comments that:

“Schmoke will oversee the unit that is actively looking into DeVry’s operations, according to two people with knowledge of the enforcement unit’s work. And he will help determine the fate of more than 1,875 former DeVry students who filed claims saying they were defrauded by the university. Those students filed so-called “borrower defense” claims, saying that they were defrauded by DeVry and are entitled to have their student loans forgiven.”

Schmoke and the Education Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Democrats were immediately outraged by DeVos’s decision. “This is a joke, right?” tweeted Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy. “Basically akin to nominating influenza to be the Surgeon General.”




Ted Cruz v. Chris Christie and Funding for Harvey v. Sandy!

Dear Commons Community,

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been making the talk show rounds pointing out that during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Senator Ted Cruz and others in the Texas delegation voted against a federal aid package.  Ted Cruz has been saying that he voted against the measure because it contained a lot of items unrelated to the storm and has attacked Christie personally. According to the Veuer news feed:  

“Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday slammed what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had to say about the 2012 Hurricane Sandy aid package on FOX News’ Fox and Friends.

“I’m sorry that there are politicians who seem really desperate to get their names in the news and are saying whatever they need to do that,” the Texas lawmaker said.

Cruz was responding to Christie telling MSNBC earlier this week that Cruz and fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn were “playing politics” by voting against the aid package for New York and New Jersey after Sandy.

Cruz had said the bill included wasteful spending that wasn’t related to storm recovery.

A Washington Post fact check found that the Sandy bill was not packed with funds unrelated to the storm, as Cruz had said, and rated the senator’s comment three “Pinocchios” out of a possible four.

“They were all getting ready to do what they wanted to do for 2016. And make themselves seem like the most conservative person,” said the New Jersey governor.

Christie and Cruz’s old beef over Sandy aid is back after Hurricane Harvey hit Cruz’s home state of Texas and has caused damage expected to require massive federal aid.

President Donald Trump claimed Tuesday that Harvey will be the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.

It appears that Cruz and company were playing politics during Hurricane Sandy and should be called out on it, however, there are too many people suffering in Texas right now and the federal government should do all it can to provide aid and relief as quickly as possible.



Mexico’s President Nieto Says His Country Will Not Pay for a Border Wall – Would Rather Use Funds to Help our Neighbors in Texas Ravaged by Hurricane Harvey!

Dear Commons Community,

The rhetoric on building a border wall between the United States and Mexico has been ratcheting up this past week with President Trump insisting that Mexico will pay for it.  Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has repeatedly said the country would not be paying the bill for the wall. Instead, he said that Mexico stands in “full solidarity” with the U.S. as Tropical Storm Harvey batters Texas ― and offered “all the help that can be provided” as “good neighbors should.”  As reported by The Huffington Post:

“As the Mexican government has always stated, our country will not pay, under any circumstances, for a wall or physical barrier built on U.S. territory along the Mexican border,” the ministry said. “This statement is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but rather a principle of national sovereignty and dignity.”

While refuting Trump’s wall claim, the foreign ministry added in its statement that it had offered help to the U.S. government in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“The Mexican government takes this opportunity to express its full solidarity with the people and government of the United States as a result of the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and expresses that it has offered to provide help and cooperation to the US government in order to deal with the impact of this natural disaster.”

On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being the highest, I would say that President Nieto’s statement  rates a 10 for “class”. 




David Brooks:  “The Republican Party has become a vehicle for white identity and racial conflict!”

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks in his New York Times column this morning, calls out Republicans who have latched onto white identity as a driving theme for the party.  He sees this as leading to racial conflict and sees Donald Trump as the main instigator as to why the GOP is in this self-destructive situation.  Here is Brooks explanation:

“The Republican Party has changed since 2005. It has become the vehicle for white identity politics. In 2005 only six percent of Republicans felt that whites faced “a great deal” of discrimination, the same number of Democrats who felt this. By 2016, the percentage of Republicans who felt this had tripled.

Recent surveys suggest that roughly 47 percent of Republicans are what you might call conservative universalists and maybe 40 percent are what you might call conservative white identitarians. White universalists believe in conservative principles and think they apply to all people and their white identity is not particularly salient to them. White identitarians are conservative, but their white identity is quite important to them, sometimes even more important than their conservatism.

These white identitarians have taken the multicultural worldview taught in schools, universities and the culture and, rightly or wrongly, have applied it to themselves. As Marxism saw history through the lens of class conflict, multiculturalism sees history through the lens of racial conflict and group oppression.

According to a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, for example, about 48 percent of Republicans believe there is “a lot of discrimination” against Christians in America and about 43 percent believe there is a lot of discrimination against whites.

I’d love to see more research on the relationship between white identity politics and simple racism. There’s clear overlap, but I suspect they’re not quite the same thing. Racism is about feeling others are inferior. White identitarianism is about feeling downtrodden and aggrieved yourself.

In the P.R.R.I. survey, for example, roughly as many Republicans believe Muslims, immigrants and trans people face a lot of discrimination as believe whites and Christians do. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 59 percent of those in the white working class believe white supremacist groups are a threat to the country.

But three things are clear: First, identity politics on the right is at least as corrosive as identity politics on the left, probably more so. If you reduce the complex array of identities that make up a human being into one crude ethno-political category, you’re going to do violence to yourself and everything around you.

Second, it is wrong to try to make a parallel between Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter. To pretend that these tendencies are somehow comparable is to ignore American history and current realities.

Third, white identity politics as it plays out in the political arena is completely noxious. Donald Trump is the maestro here. He established his political identity through birtherism, he won the Republican nomination on the Muslim ban, he campaigned on the Mexican wall, he governed by being neutral on Charlottesville and pardoning the racialist Joe Arpaio.

Each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace this garbage or not. The choice is unavoidable, and white resentment is bound to define Republicanism more and more in the months ahead. It’s what Trump cares about. The identity warriors on the left will deface statues or whatever and set up mutually beneficial confrontations with the identity warriors on the right. Things will get uglier.

And this is where the dissolution of the G.O.P. comes in. Conservative universalists are coming to realize their party has become a vehicle for white identity and racial conflict. This faction is prior to and deeper than Trump.

When you have an intraparty fight about foreign or domestic issues, you think your rivals are wrong. When you have an intraparty fight on race, you think your rivals are disgusting. That’s what’s happening. Friendships are now ending across the right. People who supported Trump for partisan reasons now feel locked in to support him on race, and they are making themselves repellent.

It may someday be possible to reduce the influence of white identity politics, but probably not while Trump is in office. As long as he is in power the G.O.P. is a house viciously divided against itself, and cannot stand.”

Unless an angel of mercy comes down and breathes virtue and common sense into the Republican leadership, it will not change.



Gail Mellow: Op-Ed on Community Colleges Needing More Support!

Dear Commons Community,

Gail O. Mellow, the President of LaGuardia Community College, has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times reminded us that community colleges provide incredible services to a very diverse student population, most of whom struggle to combine family, work, and education into their busy lives.  She concludes by calling on public and private (i.e. individuals and foundations) funders to provide more resources to these invaluable institutions.  Here is an excerpt:

“You might think the typical college student lives in a state of bliss, spending each day moving among classes, parties and extracurricular activities. But the reality is that an increasingly small population of undergraduates enjoys that kind of life.

Of the country’s nearly 18 million undergraduates, more than 40 percent go to community college, and of those, only 62 percent can afford to go to college full-time. By contrast, a mere 0.4 percent of students in the United States attend one of the Ivies.

The typical student is not the one burnishing a fancy résumé with numerous unpaid internships. It’s just the opposite: Over half of all undergraduates live at home to make their degrees more affordable, and a shocking 40 percent of students work at least 30 hours a week. About 25 percent work full-time and go to school full-time.

The typical college student is also not fresh out of high school. A quarter of undergraduates are older than 25, and about the same number are single parents.

These students work extremely hard to make ends meet and simultaneously get the education they need to be more stable: A two-year degree can earn students nearly 20 percent more annually than just a high school diploma.

And yet, these students are often the most shortchanged.

As open-access institutions, community colleges educate the majority of our country’s low-income, first-generation students. But public funding for community colleges is significantly less than for four-year colleges, sometimes because of explicit state policies. This means the amount that community colleges can spend on each student — to pay for faculty, support services, tutoring and facilities — is far less as well.

Tuition for low-income students can be covered by federal financial aid programs, but these students often have significant other costs — including housing, transportation, food and child care — that regularly pose obstacles to their education.

A recent Urban Institute study found that from 2011 to 2015, one in five students attending a two-year college lived in a food-insecure household. A study from the Wisconsin Hope Lab found that in 2016, 14 percent of community college students had been homeless at some point. At LaGuardia Community College in New York, where I am president, 77 percent of students live in households making less than $25,000 per year.

With financial pressures like these, studying full-time is not an option. It is not uncommon for a student to take between three and six years to graduate from a two-year associate degree program.


It will take sustained commitment by our elected officials, business leaders and philanthropists to increase support for routinely underfunded community colleges. It’s time to put public and private money where more and more students are educated, and remove the real, but surmountable, obstacles that stand between them and a degree.”



Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Suggests that President Trump Speaks for Himself on American Values Not the Country!

Dear Commons Community,

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson if Donald President Trump had made it more difficult to promote American values abroad. 

In response, Tillerson said  “We express America’s values from the State Department…We represent America’s values, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment for people the world over, and that message has never changed.”

Wallace noted that a statement from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was disturbed “by the failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn the racist violent events and demonstrations.”

“I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values,” Tillerson said. 

What about the president’s values, Wallace asked.

“The president speaks for himself, Chris,” Tillerson said. 

After a moment of silence, Wallace asked whether Tillerson was deliberately trying to separate himself from the president. Tillerson replied simply that he’d already made his own statement on his department promoting U.S. values. 

As reported in The Huffington Post:

“Wallace’s questioning arose from the violence sparked in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month when neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other hate groups gathered to protest efforts to remove a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. A 32-year-old woman was killed when a car allegedly driven by a white supremacist plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, and two on-duty Virginia state troopers died when their helicopter crashed on Charlottesville’s outskirts.

Trump, in a series of separate comments on what happened, condemned white supremacists but also blamed “both sides” and “many sides” for the violence. That opened him up to criticism that he wasn’t making a distinction between hate groups and counter-protesters. He also insisted during a raucous press conference that some “fine people” were among those joining the rally that had been organized by white supremacists.”

It sounds like Tillerson is definitely separating himself and the entire State Department from the President!



Nicholas Kristoph Writes of Caligula – Lessons for America!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristoph provides a character sketch of the Roman Emperor, Caligula, in his column today.  The comparison to Donald Trump cannot be mistaken.  Here is an excerpt:

“What happens when the people of a great nation gradually realize that their leader may not be, er, quite right in the head?

When Caligula became Roman emperor in A.D. 37, the people rejoiced. “On all sides, you could see nothing but altars and sacrifices, men and women decked in their holiday best and smiling,” according to the first-century writer Philo.

The Senate embraced him, and he was hailed as a breath of fresh air after the dourness, absenteeism and miserliness of his great-uncle, Emperor Tiberius. Caligula was colorful and flamboyant, offering plenty of opportunities for ribald gossip. Caligula had four wives in rapid succession, and he was said to be sleeping with his sister. (Roman historians despised him, so some of the gossip should be treated skeptically.)

He was charming, impetuous and energetic, sleeping only three hours a night, and he displayed a common touch as he constantly engaged with the public. His early months as emperor brimmed with hope.

Initially, Caligula focused on denouncing his predecessor and reversing everything that he had done. Caligula also made popular promises of tax reform so as to reduce the burden on the public. He was full of grandiose pledges of infrastructure projects, such as a scheme to cut through the Isthmus of Corinth.

But, alas, Caligula had no significant government experience, and he proved utterly incompetent at actually getting things done….

…Caligula, a narcissist and megalomaniac, became increasingly unhinged. He supposedly rolled around on a huge pile of gold coins, and he engaged in conversations with the moon, which he would invite into his bed. He replaced the heads of some statues of gods with his own head, and he occasionally appeared in public dressed as a god. He was referred to as a god in certain circumstances, and he set up a temple where he could be worshiped.

“Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody,” he told his grandmother, according to Suetonius.

Caligula had a thing for generals, and he periodically wore the garb of a triumphant military commander. He removed the breastplate of Alexander the Great from his sarcophagus and wore it himself at times.

The Senate, dignified and traditional, watched Caligula with increasing alarm. He scandalized the public by sometimes dressing as a woman, and he aggravated tensions by scathingly denouncing the Senate, relying on sarcasm and insult, and showing utter contempt for it…

…Yet as Caligula wreaked havoc, Rome also had values, institutions and mores that inspired resistance. He offended practically everyone, he couldn’t deliver on his promises, his mental stability was increasingly doubted and he showed he simply had no idea how to govern. Within a few years, he had lost all support, and the Praetorian Guard murdered him in January 41 (not a path I would ever condone).

Caligula was as abominable a ruler as a great nation could have, yet Rome proved resilient.

“If there’s a hero in the story of first-century Rome, it’s Roman institutions and traditional expectations,” reflects Emma Dench, a Harvard scholar of the period. “However battered or modified, they kept the empire alive for future greatness.”

To me, the lesson is that Rome was able to inoculate itself against unstable rulers so that it could recover and rise to new glories. Even the greatest of nations may suffer a catastrophic leader, but the nation can survive the test and protect its resilience — if the public stays true to its values, institutions and traditions. That was true two millennia ago, and remains true today.”

In the words of George Santayana:

“Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It!



Hurricane Harvey: Photos and How to Help!

Dear Commons Community,

Parts of east coast of Texas were left devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and has forced tens of thousands of people to flee inland.

Even though Harvey has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, its effects are likely to be felt for months ―  its heavy rainfall may cause “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding.”

If you wish to help, here are some suggestions courtesy of The Huffington Post:

A plethora of organizations are appealing for donations to help them as they send volunteers and supplies to the hardest-hit areas.

These include the American Red CrossThe Salvation ArmySamaritan’s PurseSave The Children, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Heart to Heart International.

The local Texas Diaper Bank is also putting together disaster relief kits for families with young children. You can donate here

Crowdfunding site GlobalGiving has launched a hurricane relief fund aimed at gathering funds for local nonprofits in the storm-stricken region.

Animal shelters and rescue groups are taking in numerous pets displaced by the storm ― whether the animals got lost in the chaos, got left behind, or simply need temporary housing while their owners stay in evacuation shelters. Those groups include the SPCA of TexasAustin Pets Alive!Dallas Animal Services and the San Antonio Humane Society.

You can find donation centers or blood drives for the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center here or for Texas organization Carter BloodCare here.

And even if you’re not in Texas, you can search online for blood drives local to you or book an appointment via the Red Cross website.

Airbnb has launched a portal so that the people who have been displaced by the hurricane can find a place to stay. It’s also waiving fees for people affected by the disaster. More details are available on the Airbnb website here.


75,000 Students Apply for NYS Excelsior Scholarships!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting that 75,000 students have applied for New York State Excelsior Scholarships.  As reported:

“This spring, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo won approval for his groundbreaking Excelsior Scholarship program to make college tuition-free for some students at New York’s public colleges and universities, the state anticipated that 23,000 people would benefit, sharing $87 million in funding.

Instead, 75,000 people applied.

And that means, in a program designed to help make higher education more affordable and accessible, roughly two-thirds of those who applied won’t get help.

In some cases, that is because their families exceeded the income cap, which is $100,000 for families this year, rising to $125,000 by 2019. But others did not have good enough grades to qualify, or their schooling had been interrupted in the past for work or personal reasons.

But while the idea of continued enrollment was mentioned when the scholarships were announced, some people have been surprised to learn that the requirement was retroactive and are now heartbroken.

And it’s students who need the money the most who might have the hardest time meeting these requirements. Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said that those in lower income brackets are more likely to take breaks in their education because of work and family responsibilities. As such, the Excelsior program has catered to “traditional age, middle- to upper-class families, and people who can navigate  

With many of the state’s public colleges starting school this week and next, it was unclear whether the initial projection of 23,000 award recipients would be accurate. The deadline for families to submit supporting financial documents was extended to this past Monday, according to the governor’s office, so final statistics are not expected for weeks. Also, community college students may still be enrolling, and current students may be finishing summer courses that could affect their averages.

Regardless of the issues raised in this article regarding eligibility, it appears the Excelsior Program will make it easier for many students to afford a higher education.



President Trump Pardons Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, President Donald Trump  pardoned former Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who  violated a federal judge’s order by unlawfully detaining individuals his officers claimed might be in the country illegally.   As reported by various media.

“Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had previously proclaimed himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” was convicted of criminal contempt last month for violating a 2011 order that barred Arpaio and his office from detaining individuals solely based on suspicions about their legal status. Arpaio, 85, was scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5.

“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the White House said in a statement late Friday. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, the first of his presidency, amounts to a tacit endorsement of Arpaio’s discriminatory tactics and reads as a favor to a political ally. The media-savvy former sheriff, known for parading inmates around in pink underwear, supported the former reality TV star’s presidential campaign and spoke at the Republican National Convention last summer. Both men were prominent promoters of the racist conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

Arpaio, who served as sheriff from 1993 through 2016, had long been accused of discriminatory practices against Latinos. A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division concluded there was reasonable cause to believe that Arpaio and his office engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful policing and racial profiling. Arpaio’s officers called Latinos “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans” and “stupid Mexicans,” the Justice Department found, and Latino drivers were four to nine times as likely to be stopped by his officers as non-Latino drivers were. A lawsuit filed by the Justice Department was settled in 2015.

“With his pardon of Arpaio, Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing,” Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement Friday. “Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and have been struck down by the courts. His pardon of Arpaio is a presidential endorsement of racism.”

The pardon was swiftly condemned on Twitter by Democrats in Congress as “outrageous and completely unacceptable” and a “disgrace.”

I would also add that Trump’s pardon is a sign that he will use his powers for much more significant reasons if need be such as any convictions related to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.  Kushner, Manafort, Trump Jr. and all the others under investigation do not have to worry about jail time while Trump is president.