David Bloomfield:  What Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Retirement Means for Education?

Dear Commons Community,

CUNY’s own David Bloomfield had an op-ed in yesterday’s The Hechinger Report that comments on what Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement means for education.  Bloomfield specifically focuses on matters of race and diversity where “Kennedy’s legacy was most profound…  He was also a moderating force among Court’s conservatives, Kennedy’s retirement removes that influence. As a result, we may see an end to permissible considerations of race in voluntary college and K-12 enrollment plans.”  Below is the entire op-ed.

Good commentary!



David Bloomfield:  What Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Retirement Means for K-12 Education and Race?

June 29, 2018

Supreme Justice Anthony Kennedy’s education legacy was most profound in the area of racial preferences.

A moderating force among Court’s conservatives, Kennedy’s retirement removes that influence. As a result, we may see an end to permissible considerations of race in voluntary college and K-12 enrollment plans. Two key decisions may fall.

In Fisher v. University of Texas, 579 U.S. – (2016), Kennedy’s majority opinion approved an admissions plan that, without numerical quotas or abstract notions of diversity, holistically took race into account based upon specific goals and considerations for a portion of applicants. applicants . No radical approach, even the conservative Fifth Circuit had viewed the plan favorably.

But Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito opposed the plan against an unusually thin 4-3 majority after Justice Scalia died and Justice Kagan recused herself. With the addition of Justice Gorsuch and a new Trump appointee on the bench, the remaining members of the Fisher majority are weakened.

Whether there is an appetite to revisit the issue remains to seen but the presence of a new justice opposed to racial preferences could tempt litigants to once again raise the issue. The case of Harvard’s alleged bias against Asian applicants, now in the lower courts, may present the opportunity.”

The future of voluntary racial preferences in pre K-12 education is even more tenuous. Kennedy’s was the deciding concurrence in Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007). There, his was the fifth vote creating the majority finding against voluntary plans in Seattle and Louisville that used race as a tie-breaker to promote diverse school enrollments.

While others in the majority would have barred racial considerations entirely from such plans, Kennedy found that though the particular plans ran afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, he could support a plan “without resorting to widespread governmental allocation of benefits and burdens on the basis of racial classifications.”

This cryptic suggestion that some unexplained plan to promote racial diversity in the nation’s public schools might be constitutionally acceptable has tantalized advocates ever since and is the underpinning of Obama-era Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Hopes to preserve and even extend these practices may have died with Kennedy’s announced retirement.


Western Illinois University to Make Draconian Cuts Including Laying Off 24 Faculty Members!

Dear Commons Community,

The news continues to be troublesome in Illinois’ public higher education system. Yesterday, in a news release, Western Illinois University announced the layoffs of 24 faculty members, including seven with tenure.  In making this decision, the university’s Board of Trustees cited dips in enrollment and state funding. Two academic-affairs positions are also among the cuts. An additional 62 teaching positions — which either are vacant or will be vacated due to retirements or resignations — won’t be filled, according to the news release.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The layoff notices, which will be sent to faculty members today, give a one-year warning, as stipulated by the university’s contract with the union, the University Professionals of Illinois. Cathy Early, chair of the Board of Trustees, said in the news release that more cuts may follow, although the university’s president promised growth in other areas.

“As the state returns to what we hope is an era of fair and predictable funding, Western is making greater investments in high-demand programs,” the president, Jack Thomas, said in the news release. He also said the university would announce plans next month for investment in academic programs.  

Because of a historic state-budget stalemate, public colleges and universities in Illinois went some two years without state funds. Regional campuses like Western Illinois were especially hard hit. The state’s public colleges received some emergency funding, but the political deadlock forced many to lay off faculty and staff members.

During the budget crisis, more than 100 faculty and staff members were laid off at Western Illinois. The university also laid off two tenured professors. As the crisis worsened, Illinois students headed for the exits, leaving the state in droves to pursue their college education elsewhere.

“We are realigning resources to further build upon Western’s programs that are highly sought after by our students and employers,” Early said. “Throughout the institution’s history, Western has readjusted according to the times. The current realities facing public higher education call for realignment.”

Sad day for Western Illinois!



Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory!

Dear Commons Community,

On Tuesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic Party nomination for New York’s 14th Congressional District which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx.  Her victory over Representative Joseph Crowley, the fourth ranking member of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives has sent shock waves throughout the party.  Mr. Crowley’s seniority and reputation here in New York was similar to Nancy Pelosi’s on the West Coast.  Mr. Crowley in fact was being tapped as Ms. Pelosi’s successor as House leader.  So what happened?  Below is an analysis by the New York Times editorial board. I believe it is right-on especially the part about the “hubris and complacency” on the part of the Party’s elite and power establishment that contributed to their loss to Donald Trump in 2016.



What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory Means?

By The Editorial Board

June 27, 2018

Democratic voters in New York’s 14th Congressional District delivered a shock to the political system Tuesday night, rejecting the fourth-highest-ranking member of the party’s House leadership, Representative Joseph Crowley, in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former Bernie Sanders campaign organizer who has called for abolishing the nation’s immigration and customs enforcement agency.

In doing so, voters delivered a message to Democrats and Republicans across the country, and perhaps in Albany: The liberal base is fired up, showing up at the polls, and may be ignored only at great political risk.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is a vivid sign of the changing of the guard. In addition to more liberal immigration laws, she ran on a platform calling for Medicare for all and a federal jobs guarantee. She also talked about the housing crisis in New York City, an issue that resonates deeply with many voters here. Her district, which runs through Queens and the Bronx, is majority-minority, but its leadership has yet to reflect those changes. That’s something Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was able to capitalize on fluently, casting herself as part of a new generation of young, unabashedly liberal Democrats unwilling to wait their turn any longer.

Many told Ms. Ocasio-Cortez she was crazy for challenging Mr. Crowley, a 10-term incumbent who had ambitions to succeed the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California. As chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party, Mr. Crowley, 56, was a kingmaker in New York City politics. At his annual holiday party, city officials were expected to perform karaoke, singing and dancing on the stage to a song of Mr. Crowley’s choosing.

That power perhaps created a sense of hubris and complacency, the kind that no doubt contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump. In Mrs. Clinton’s case, it may have stopped her from campaigning harder in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, places where Mr. Trump eked out narrow victories. In Mr. Crowley’s case, it may have led him to become smug: The congressman had also skipped a debate with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is also a reminder of the importance of improving healthy competition in Democratic primaries, where voters are too often taken for granted, especially in solidly blue states like New York, leading to lethargic turnout and weaker candidates. And many newly motivated women and other activists around the country are challenging Republican incumbents who others thought were unbeatable.

What remains to be seen, though, is whether Democratic leaders will embrace these newcomers or see them as a threat. That may determine whether Democrats are able to take back the House of Representatives in November.

Many voters are ready for something different. Politicians across the country should take note.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Announces His Retirement – Ouch!

Dear Commons Community,

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced this afternoon that he will step down from the bench on July 31.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement, which noted that he chose to step aside to spend more time with his family.  As reported:

Kennedy, 81, has sat on the high court since 1988. The Ronald Reagan appointee is known for his frequent role as a swing vote on 5-4 decisions. In this Supreme Court term, Kennedy sided with the court’s conservative bloc in every one of the court’s 5-4 decisions.

With his departure, President Donald Trump is likely to appoint a more reliably conservative judge who will swing the balance of the court further to the right. Among the key issues at stake is the constitutional right to an abortion, as upheld in the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. With a conservative replacing Kennedy, anti-abortion activists are likely to shepherd a challenge to that ruling up to the Supreme Court. 

Conservatives have long been preparing for Kennedy’s departure from the court and have been eyeing potential replacements since last year. Speaking shortly after Kennedy’s announcement, the president said his search for a nominee would begin immediately, and that he will choose a new judge from the list the White House circulated in November. 

Trump’s team will press for Senate confirmation of a nominee prior to November’s midterm elections, when Democrats are hoping to take back control of the Senate, according to ABC

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is unlikely to delay a confirmation vote due to this year’s election, according to a spokesman — as he did when former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia after his death in 2016. 

Kennedy, who was raised in Sacramento, California, began his law career in private practice. He went on to teach law at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law and served on multiple judicial boards and committees.

He became more prominent in the legal world after President Gerald Ford nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, on which he served until his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kennedy leans conservative, but he has often broken with the court’s right wing in key cases, including in several landmark gay rights cases. He has been the deciding vote in some high-profile cases, including Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 ruling that rolled back some restrictions on campaign finance, and Boumediene v. Bush, in which the court found that Guantanamo Bay detainees have the right to appeal their detention. 

Kennedy, however, has bristled at his “swing vote” reputation. 

“The cases swing. I don’t,” he told Harvard Law School in 2015. 

This is the biggest win of the day for conservatives.


U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Janus Case That Public Union Members Do Not Have to Pay Dues!

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Supreme Court today decided against organized labor, ruling that non-members cannot be forced to pay fees to unions representing public employees such as teachers and police. This decision has the potential to reduce revenue for the unions involved. This ruling affects unions in states and local jurisdictions but not in the federal government.  As reported in various media.

The 5-4 decision in the case, Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, effectively makes much of the public sector a “right-to-work” zone. As a result, millions of public employees will have the choice to no longer support unions that must continue to bargain on their behalf.

Janus, as the case is known, was widely seen as the biggest judicial threat to organized labor in years, if not decades. The ruling in favor of Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee, has the potential to squeeze some of the largest and most powerful unions in the country, reducing their clout in the workplace as well as in national and local politics.

The case centered around what are known as “fair share” or “agency” fees. In the United States, a union must represent all the workers in a particular bargaining unit, even those who don’t want a union. While no one can be required to be a full-fledged union member, many states have allowed for contracts stipulating that all workers in the bargaining unit must chip in to cover the costs of bargaining and representation. These agency fees amount to normal union dues minus the portion that the union would devote to politics.

Janus, a child support specialist with the state’s health department, claimed that having to pay agency fees to AFSCME still amounted to “compelled speech,” even if the money wasn’t going directly to political ends. Under his argument, public sector unionism is an inherently political activity, since the salaries and benefits that the unions bargain for impact state budgets and the use of taxpayer dollars. Therefore, the reasoning goes, public workers should not have to pay any union fees if they don’t want to, on First Amendment grounds.

The original Janus lawsuit was filed by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). But a lower court determined that Rauner didn’t have standing in the case because he’s not a union member, so Janus intervened with the help of conservative legal groups. As Janus’ lawyer previously told HuffPost, Janus didn’t want to support AFSCME because the union’s salary and benefit demands for workers like himself “would impose an unreasonable financial burden on the state.”
Even though the Supreme Court had previously upheld the constitutionality of agency fees, in the landmark 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the court’s conservatives upended that precedent with the Janus decision.

Allowing workers to opt out of agency fees leads to what unions call the “free-riding” problem. A worker can choose not to pay them but still reap the benefits of the union’s bargaining and grievance process. A downward spiral can ensue: As more workers decide not to support the union, the union becomes less effective, giving more workers reason to bow out.
“It’s a collective action problem,” Martin Malin, a labor law expert at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, explained to HuffPost earlier this year. “It’s a rational decision ― even for someone who wants to be represented in collective bargaining ― to not become a member, because their dues won’t make any [noticeable] difference, and the benefits of collective bargaining are collective goods.”

This collective action problem already exists in so-called right-to-work states, which bar contracts between employers and unions that require everyone in the unit to pay fees to the union. Twenty-eight states and counting currently have such laws on the books; the Janus ruling will affect the estimated 5 million public sector jobs in the other 22 states and the District of Columbia.

The same conservative groups that have been pushing right-to-work laws around the country have been laying the groundwork for a Janus ruling for years. Their wish nearly came true two years ago, when the Supreme Court considered a similar case involving a group of public school teachers in California.

The 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia led to a deadlock on the court, buying unions more time. But the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, led to the conservative majority needed to assure a ruling against unions.

The public unions will have to work dilligently to maintain their membership so that the vast majority of public employees continue to pay dues.


Two Opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Trump’s Travel Ban!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold President Trump’s travel ban, which indefinitely bars most people from five majority-Muslim countries, and certain citizens from two other countries, from entering the United States.  The conservative majority on the Court said the ban, Mr. Trump’s third version after the first two were struck down by lower federal courts, was a lawful exercise of presidential authority. They reached this conclusion despite Mr. Trump’s best efforts to convince them, and the country, that its real purpose was to discriminate on the basis of religion.  A New York Times editorial this morning called this decision “bigoted and feckless.”

However, a number of other observers including Peter Schuck, professor emeritus of law at Yale University, are of the opinion that the Court ruled correctly in this matter.  While Professor Shuck concedes that “Mr. Trump is a man who proudly parades his many egregious biases, especially against immigrants in general and Muslims in particular” the Court’s Decision emphasized the importance of distinguishing between the “statements of a particular President” and the “authority of the Presidency itself” — including Section 212(f).  Below is Professor Schuck’s analysis.  It is worth a read.



The Court Ruled Correctly on the Travel Ban

By Peter H. Schuck

In some respects, the Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday rejecting challenges to President Trump’s travel ban was highly predictable. Mr. Trump issued his series of executive orders under the authority of a breathtakingly broad statute — specifically, Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act — a provision designed to forestall national security threats. And he issued it for two plausible reasons: the proliferation of international terrorism threats against the United States and the seeming inadequacy of overseas screening (“vetting”) of would-be travelers to the United States by some source countries. Given this context, the decision has all the surprise of a Golden State Warriors victory in the N.B.A. finals.

Why, then, did the decision draw four dissenters? Here too the answer is quite straightforward. Mr. Trump is a man who proudly parades his many egregious biases, especially against immigrants in general and Muslims in particular. His campaign was replete with vile stereotypes and schoolyard bullying of minorities of all sorts, conduct that has only worsened since the election. The dissenters took the president at his anti-Muslim word and found support in our long legal tradition, encoded in the First Amendment, protecting religious minorities from overreaching majorities.

The majority justices, no less committed to the amendment’s prohibition against government discrimination against particular religions, nevertheless emphasized the importance of distinguishing between the “statements of a particular President” and the “authority of the Presidency itself” — including Section 212(f).

This distinction — highlighting the principle of deference to the presidency in the foreign affairs and national security area — provides the key to the court’s decision; all nine justices accepted this principle. The question actually dividing them was how much deference Mr. Trump could claim by reason of his foreign-affairs and national-security powers under the Constitution and Section 212(f).

The challengers maintained that the court could not, and should not, simply accept the almost reflexive presidential claim to deference in this particular area. Instead, they argued, the court should assess Mr. Trump’s action with the skeptical, probing “strict scrutiny” standard traditionally applied to religious discriminations by government.

The majority emphatically disagreed. Invoking the familiar deference principle commonly applied by the court when it comes to executive actions in the name of national security, it decided to demand only a “rational basis” for the executive order (indeed, the majority said, it could have applied an even more relaxed “facially legitimate” standard of review). It insisted, rightly in my view, on assessing the order on its face rather than probing Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim motives (as evidenced by his rhetoric) and in trying to parse the relative weight that they played in his decision as compared with his legitimate national security concerns.

With this move, the court’s conclusion was inevitable, resting on the many policy reasons and distinctions adduced in the order. Most of the rest of the court’s opinion was mere window dressing, with a few exceptions.

First, the majority had to deal with another provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act barring religious and other types of discrimination in the issuance of visas. Here, the court plausibly read this provision to apply only to visas, not to admissions per se — especially (but not only) in light of its broad interpretation of Section 212(f).

The other noteworthy addition — not central to its analysis — was the majority’s welcome, justifiably harsh condemnation of the Supreme Court’s notorious 1944 Korematsu decision, which had upheld the wartime internment of American citizens of Japanese descent. The dissenters used that precedent to try to impugn the majority’s reasoning in the present case, indeed the very morality of its decision.

The fact that the court ruled correctly, however, does not mean that the status quo is acceptable. The most fearful aspect of the court’s decision is already evident in Mr. Trump’s immediate, triumphalist response to it. The decision will certainly embolden him in his claims of vast presidential power and indifference to the rule of law, whether on immigration or in other policy areas.

All the more reason for Congress to confront and discipline those claims. It should promptly review Section 212(f) with a view toward prudently constraining any president’s power to bar broad classes of aliens whenever he deems it necessary to protect the national interest. At the very least, he should have to make specific factual and national security findings and provide his supporting evidence in as much detail as possible so that the public can assess his actions. Congress should also consider requiring a post-implementation inquiry into the actions and how the administration is implementing them on the ground.

The risk and temptation of presidents to use their power to overreach and ignore principles of justice is a constant threat to our democracy. This threat is especially grave when the policy objective is praiseworthy, as President Barack Obama’s unilateral, procedurally deficient Dreamers order was. Although Mr. Trump poses this threat most brazenly and in the extreme, it is by no means confined to him. Indeed, his precedent will embolden his successors.


Stanley Fish – Stop Trying to Sell the Humanities: Arguments that they’re useful are wrong, anti-humanistic, and sure to backfire!

Dear Commons Community,

Stanley Fish, a former professor of English and Law at Duke University, now a professor of law at Florida International University, and a visiting professor at Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University, has written extensively in the past about the plight of the humanities. In his latest essay, Stop Trying to Sell the Humanities: Arguments that they’re useful are wrong, anti-humanistic, and sure to backfire, that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday, he examines every rationale as to why the humanities are important and then shreds it. He saves his most critical comments for the digital humanities enthusiasts who are chasing “fool’s gold.”  Below is an excerpt:

“The justification of the humanities is not only an impossible task but an unworthy one, because to engage in it is to acknowledge, if only implicitly, that the humanities cannot stand on their own and do not on their own have an independent value. Of course the assertion of an independent value and the refusal to attach that value to any external good bring us back to the public-relations question: How are we going to sell this? The answer is. again, that we can’t.

What then to do, and who is to do it? This a political rather than an educational or philosophical question; it’s a question about the levers of power, about what persons or groups are situated in a way that might make their championing of the humanities effective, might lead us to receive more funds and more respect. Certainly we cannot expect some career politician to be preternaturally attuned to our interests. We can’t assign legislators to read books defending the humanities and trust that they will come out on the right side, that is, on our side.

The only hope (and it is a slim one) resides in the efforts of senior administrators, administrators with a firm and unshakable understanding (modeled on the understanding of Oakeshott, Newman, Aristotle, Max Weber, Immanuel Kant) of the academic enterprise and a resolve to protect it no matter what forces — political, budgetary, cultural — are arrayed against it. In academic institutions as in most others, those at the top of the administrative ladder set the agenda and establish the spirit. It is no exaggeration, I think, to say that humanities faculties today are dispirited. Only administrators who assume an almost military stance and promise to lead us into sustained battle can be the agents of revival. Do you know any?

I cannot conclude without naming one source of renewal and revival that has recently offered itself. I am thinking of the digital humanities, which promise both to improve our traditional interpretive activities and to do so in a way that will in itself constitute their defense because it will bring humanities activities in line with the more culturally privileged activities of science and mathematics.

This is fool’s gold, for several reasons. First, the digital humanities cannot make good on the claim that most recommends them to traditional humanists, the claim that data mining will provide a surer basis for the interpretation of texts — literary, historical, legal, whatever. It is true, as digital humanists argue, that a corpus that has been digitized can then be searched for patterns the naked eye could never discern — frequency patterns, contiguity patterns, collocation patterns (words that appear together). The problem is that once such patterns have been uncovered, there is no legitimate route from them to the interpretation of texts. Given the limited number of letters in the alphabet and the limited number of ways they can be combined, it is inevitable that pattern-regularities will emerge. The trick is to determine what, if anything, they mean, and the trick cannot be performed without a prior determination that someone is using them to send a message. Without that information, which the data cannot by itself deliver, the patterns will just sit there conveying nothing but their own shape.

Think of puffs of smoke seen on a distant ridge; they could be just puffs of smoke, they could be smoke signals. How do you know? Not by just looking at them; it is only when you are persuaded — not by the data but by extratextual information — that a particular someone has designed the sequence that you will ask what message that someone might have wanted to send. Interpretation can’t get started without the prior identification of an intentional agent, and brute data, no matter how it is sliced and diced, cannot produce that identification by itself. So when the considerable machinery of the digital humanities is cranked up, the product it generates is interpretively inert.

But there is an even deeper problem with the digital humanities: It is an anti-humanistic project, for the hope of the project is that a machine, unaided by anything but its immense computational powers, can decode texts produced by human beings. For it to work, the project requires a digital dictionary — a set of fixed correlations between formal patterns and the significances they regularly convey. There is no such dictionary, although if there were one the acts of readers and interpreter could be dispensed with and bypassed; one could just count things and go directly from the result to a statement of what Paradise Lostmeans. That is the holy grail of the digital-humanities project, at least with respect to interpretation: It wants to get rid of the inconvenience of partial, limited human beings by removing from the patterns they produce all traces of the human. It is an old game forever being renewed, but in whatever form it takes, it’s a sure loser.

Finally, the digital humanities are a version of the “hair of the dog” cure and of the axiom that if you can’t beat them, join them. According to most accounts, the decline of the humanities goes hand in hand with (a) the society’s high valuation of scientific knowledge accompanied by a conviction that only what can be measured is worth knowing, and (b) the growing tendency of both educators and students to support courses that provide a direct path to gainful employment. The digital humanities check both boxes: They are scientistic if anything is; and because they look like other, favored knowledge projects, administrators will bestow on them resources that are withheld from medieval history or Byzantine art.

Richard Grusin, a digital humanist himself, worries that “digital humanities projects might serve as something like gateway drugs for administrators addicted to quick fixes and bottom-line approaches to the structural problems facing higher education today.” When the digital-humanities enthusiasm has cooled down, the structural problems will still be there, and the humanities will still be in danger of expiring. Administrators who pour funds and resources into the digital humanities are complicit in the killing of the humanities. The digital humanities will garner grants and produce some jobs, but its success will be marked by the further eroding of the values that the humanities have always stood for.

So the available justifications as I have surveyed them won’t work, and the surrender of the humanities to their traditional enemies won’t work either, in the long run. Not a pretty picture, and alas, there will be no turn at the end of this essay to a solution everyone else has missed. Aside from urging the reinstatement of severe distribution requirements that have the effect of forcing students into courses they would otherwise choose not to take — those were the days! — I can’t think of a plan that would return the humanities to the prominence they once enjoyed. If my fellow humanists can come up with something, they should speak now, or they may be forever holding their peace whether they want to or not. If things proceed as they have been, in the end we’ll all go the way of Stevens Point.”

Fish’s reference to Stevens Point is the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point’s recent proposal to eliminate 13 majors, including history, art, English, philosophy, sociology, political science, French, German, and Spanish.



Gay Pride Parade – New York City!

Dear Commons Community,

Throngs of people crowded streets yesterday in New York City and elsewhere for annual gay pride marches.  Rainbows were found on flags, shirts, posters and people’s faces.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King was one of the grand marshals, along with transgender advocate Tyler Ford and civil rights organization Lambda Legal. The parade commemorates the riots that erupted in response to a police raid at a New York gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in June 1969.

The parade was both a celebration of the diversity of LGBT culture and a statement against anti-LGBT policies promoted by President Donald Trump, such as the Republican president’s attempt to ban all transgender people from serving in the military. Participants also spoke out against policies aimed at other communities, like immigrants and minorities.   

“We’re making a statement that we’re here, everybody. Whether it’s immigrants, whether it’s queer people or people of color, we’re not going to put up with what this administration is doing,” said Diego Molano, of Queens, at his second pride parade. “You can’t just cage everybody up.”

Olivia Nadler, a Connecticut resident attending her third parade, said “people that are oppressed are not going to go away, they’re not going to be quiet, they’re not going to be ignored.”

Among the signs people were carrying in the parade were phrases like, “Black and brown and trans lives matter” and “No more guns.”

Ohemaa Dixon, 20, from Brooklyn, teared up as she spoke about what the parade meant to her and the joy she felt in seeing everyone come out to attend.

“It’s okay to be who you are and love who you love and dress how you want to dress and do what you want to do because I think it’s so important to be who you are and who you love,” she said. “I’m getting emotional about it because I think it’s so beautiful when people are who they are. That’s why I love coming to these things. I think it’s really cool that people come and they are exactly who they want to be.”

Elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, were among those attending the march.

Before it started, Cuomo officially unveiled a New York state memorial to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that honors victims of intolerance. Placed in Hudson River Park, it has nine boulders with pieces of glass installed in them that can act as prisms and reflect rainbows in sunlight.

Cuomo formed the commission to come up with an LGBT memorial after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead.

The theme of this year’s march was “Defiantly Different.” 

Similar marches and parades took place in dozens of cities all over the world.


Maureen Dowd:  Ivanka Trump Is Not Who She Thinks She is!

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd analyzes Ivanka’s Trump’s persona in her column this morning, and does not paint a pretty picture of the first daughter who will never “return to her perch as a Manhattan society darling.”   Dowd excoriates Ivanka for not commenting on the horror of the immigrant crisis manufactured by her father President Trump and his deplorables in the White House.  Dowd references Emily Jane Fox, author of a new book, “Born Trump,”   who recently commented:

“It’s really easy for someone whose sole job in the White House is women and children to issue a statement — even Melania did it…”

“It just shows how fake Ivanka is,” Fox continued. “She’s crafted this whole image of herself that’s not actually her. And the real her is cooler, slightly more interesting, funnier. She curses like a sailor. She partied a lot when she was younger. She flashed a hot dog vendor when she was in eighth grade. She chain-smoked. Which is so opposite of the image she put out there.

“What you’re seeing now is the unmasking. She can’t control the narrative anymore because she’s so inauthentic. It has really come back to bite her.”

The twisted Trump family dynamic was on lurid display this past week, hitting a Marie Antoinette high point as the echoes of sobbing children snatched from parents fleeing violence collided with images of a whining, pampered child-president bragging about his crowd size and his bank account, all while he callously used helpless kids as hostages to get his wall.

Melania bizarrely wore a jacket on her trip to a child detention center at the border that turned into the 2018 version of the George H.W. Bush “Message: I care” moment. Her $39 Zara jacket read, “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” And yet again, it wasn’t clear whom she was trolling — most likely, as her husband tweeted, the press, which criticized her for wearing stilettos on the way to a good-will mission to a hurricane-ravaged Texas. Which means the first lady is like her husband in one unfortunate respect: In times of national turmoil, she makes it about herself.

The 36-year-old Ivanka has fallen far from the days when she tried to stage her father’s inaugural to echo Camelot, perhaps with dynastic presidential dreams herself. “She was infatuated with the Kennedys,” Fox said.

She tried to present her brand as luminous, caring and classy — a champion of women and children with a carefully curated image over the years on Instagram, in a blog and in books. Amid the dark hailstorm of her father, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, she sold herself as the sunny morning — the one who would temper her father’s retrogressive and sometimes wretched moves.”

How sadly wrong Ivanka was.  She has become exposed as a charlatan, pretending to be classy, intelligent, and dignified but who wallows in the same “swamp” as her father.



Conservative Columnist George Will Makes the Case to Vote Against Republicans in the Fall Because GOP Members of Congress “Have Become the President’s Poodles”!

Dear Commons Community,

George Will, the well-respected conservative columnist and long-time Republican Party supporter, has made the case for voting against GOP candidates in the November elections.  He referred to House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP members of Congress as “the president’s poodles”.

In a column published yesterday in The Washington Post, Will lamented “Republican misrule,” and criticized lawmakers for “having no higher ambition than to placate the president.”

“The Republican-controlled Congress, which waited for Trump to undo by unilateral decree the border folly they could have prevented by actually legislating, is an advertisement for the unimportance of Republican control,” Will wrote.

Will’s column follows a public outcry over President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance enforcement policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has led to the separation of undocumented migrant children from their parents. While Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ceasing the separations, his administration will instead detain families together indefinitely — a policy that also drew swift criticism and conflicts with a 2015 court order. 

Republicans, meanwhile, have failed to come up with immigration legislation that will pass both chambers of Congress, and they lost the president’s support in the process. 

Will also took on Trump aide Stephen Miller, one of the president’s top advisers on immigration, as well as the president’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski

“Just as a magnet attracts iron filings, Trump attracts, and is attracted to, louts,” he wrote. 

Will didn’t endorse Democrats, either — “a Democratic-controlled Congress would be a basket of deplorables,” he wrote — but nevertheless pressed voters to strip the Republicans of their congressional majority.

“In today’s GOP, which is the president’s plaything, he is the mainstream,” he wrote. “So, to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him.”

Last year, Will called Trump “the nation’s worst president” after Trump endorsed accused child molester Roy Moore for the then-open Senate seat in Alabama.

A party of poodles indeed!