Maureen Dowd on the Angry White Man in the Room on Thursday!

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd comments on the Senate Supreme Court nomination hearings last Thursday in her column today.  She comments on the brutality of the hearings and compares them to  the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill testimonies in 1991. The column (below in its entirety) says it all.



Capitol Hill Ralph Club

Brett Kavanaugh faces his moment of truth in a town that doesn’t care about truth.

By Maureen Dowd

Sept. 29, 2018

WASHINGTON — I never thought it could be as brutal.

The same Republican gargoyles who once tore Anita Hill limb from limb knew they had to tread gingerly, with women at the barricades. They outsourced the estrogen to “a female assistant,” as Mitch McConnell called Maricopa County sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell.

And race, which scorched the Hill-Thomas hearings, was not a part of this excruciating face-off. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh were summoning memories of summer days in the very white, very cosseted country club, prep school world of suburban Washington.

But, shockingly, it was more brutal.

Not only because the sexual transgression Blasey was describing was more savage. But also because Kavanaugh simply adapted Clarence Thomas’s playbook of raging against the machine. Thomas’s fury was white-hot. Kavanaugh’s, weepy. But the pitch was the same.

“This is a circus,’’ Thomas seethed in 1991.

“This is a circus,’’ Kavanaugh seethed on Thursday.

Kavanaugh echoed Thomas’s martyrdom, claiming he was being “destroyed” by partisans conspiring to dig up dirt. He charged that Democrats were conducting a “grotesque and coordinated character assassination” because of their anger about President Trump’s ascent and their desire for revenge after his own seamy work helping Ken Starr in his pervy pursuit of Bill Clinton.

It was a cri de coeur custom-made for the age of Trump — and custom-designed to please Trump himself: entitled white men acting like the new minority, howling about things that are being taken away from them, aggrieved at anything that diminishes them or saps their power.

As The Atlantic noted, Kavanaugh brandished Yale as “a magic wand, something that could be waved to dispel questions of his conduct.”

Thomas prevailed over Hill because of that lava flow of anger. The senators were frozen, Pompeii-style, as he cried racism to snatch the mantle of victim.

Hill’s aloof, dispassionate description of Thomas’s harassment, and her preternaturally cool reaction to all the lurid slanders hurled at her, left the senators skeptical that she was telling the truth; shouldn’t a wronged woman show more emotion?

Six years later, when Hill wrote a book, the law professor explained that, as the youngest of 13 from a rural Oklahoma family, she had had years of practice in “being impervious to and immobile in the face of hurt.”

Hill’s mother was left to express the emotion that her daughter reined in; when the Senate confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court, the mother snapped, “The dirty rascals.”

Hill seemed so poised and polished at 35, you had to remind yourself that she was a less-assured 25-year-old personal assistant when Thomas spewed his talk about bestiality and porn stars’ anatomies. But there was no need to remind people Thursday that the dignified professional woman at the witness table was describing something from 36 years ago.

The Palo Alto psychology professor laced her testimony with scientific terms like “sequelae,” “norepinephrine” and “hippocampus.” But it was easy to visualize the 15-year-old in the 51-year-old with the girlish voice and guileless air as she repeatedly pushed a blond strand of hair out of her face, smiled nervously and tried oh so hard to please everyone. Her emotions, including panic, seemed close to the surface.

The pentimento of the teenage Blasey made her seem achingly vulnerable. Like Hill, she had a purity to her manner and story that was luminous, an impressive contrast to all the dark obfuscations, self-serving political maneuvering and petty deceptions around her.

Kavanaugh had seemed to dissemble a few times in his earlier testimony, including about his role in the case of the stolen Democratic documents in the Bush years and his role in the N.S.A.’s warrantless wiretapping program.

And he appeared to do so again on Thursday, pretending the “Renate alumnius” in the Georgetown Prep yearbook was an affectionate term for his “great friend,” who called the innuendo “horrible, hurtful and simply untrue.” He said the vomiting that gained him entry to the “Beach Week Ralph Club” was about spicy food more than drinking. Right. Again treating the senators like idiots, he provided innocent meanings for clearly salacious terms used like “Devil’s Triangle.’’

The nominee whom Ted Cruz defended as “a boring Boy Scout” became a sneering portrait of privilege denied.

When Amy Klobuchar, citing her father’s alcoholism, asked if Kavanaugh had ever blacked out from drinking, he snapped back, “I don’t know — have you?’’

Jeff Flake was so unnerved by the blast of opposition to his decision to vote for Kavanaugh that he led a scheme to get a week’s delay to have the F.B.I. investigate.

So we will finally drag Mark Judge, the man named by Blasey as the third person in the room that night, out of his beachfront hide-out. If the Republicans wanted to discern the character of who they’re putting on the court, rather than simply solidifying the conservative majority, they would already have subpoenaed Judge and anyone else who could provide clarity.

The hope that the F.B.I. will save the day may be misplaced. In the case of Anita Hill, agents were deployed by Republicans to help smear her.

Even if Kavanaugh is confirmed, he already seems warped by this experience — just like Thomas was, when he went onto the bench as a very angry and bitter man.

But at least we have a few more days to pretend to look for the truth.


United States Drops to 27th in the World in Human Capital Study!

Dear Commons Community,

The United States is ranked 27th globally in human capital, a new study based on 2016 data reports.  The study, organized by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, seeks to identify “the number of productive years an individual in each country can be expected to work between the ages of 20 to 64,” based on education and health care. This number is referred to as the “human capital” of a nation’s people.

America’s human capital measurement is 23 years, that’s the amount of time a person can be expected to work at peak productivity when accounting for life expectancy, general health and education. The U.S. ranked sixth in the world in 1990, and the drop took researchers by surprise.

“The decline of human capital in the United States was one of the biggest surprises in our study,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME.

The study shows that China has had the opposite trajectory since 1990, going from 69th in the world to 44th.

Finland landed in the top with 28.4 years, followed by Iceland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Taiwan. At the bottom was Niger at less than 1.6 years of human capital.

An abstract of the study is below. 




Lim SS, Updike RL, Kaldjian AS, Barber RM, Cowling K, York H, Friedman J, Xu R, Whisnant JL, Taylor HJ, Leever AT, Roman Y, Bryant MF, Dieleman J, Gakidou E, Murray CJL. Measuring human capital: a systematic analysis of 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016. The Lancet. 24 September 2018. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31941-X.


Human capital is recognized as the level of education and health in a population and is considered an important determinant of economic growth. The World Bank has called for measurement and annual reporting of human capital to track and motivate investments in health and education and enhance productivity. We aim to provide a new comprehensive measure of human capital across countries globally.


We generated a period measure of expected human capital, defined for each birth cohort as the expected years lived from age 20 to 64 years and adjusted for educational attainment, learning or education quality, and functional health status using rates specific to each time period, age, and sex for 195 countries from 1990 to 2016. We estimated educational attainment using 2,522 censuses and household surveys; we based learning estimates on 1,894 tests among school-aged children; and we based functional health status on the prevalence of seven health conditions, which were taken from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016 (GBD 2016). Mortality rates specific to location, age, and sex were also taken from GBD 2016.


In 2016, Finland had the highest level of expected human capital of 28.4 health-, education-, and learning-adjusted expected years lived between age 20 and 64 years (95% uncertainty interval 27.5–29.2); Niger had the lowest expected human capital of less than 1.6 years (0.98–2.6). In 2016, 44 countries had already achieved more than 20 years of expected human capital; 68 countries had expected human capital of less than 10 years. Of 195 countries, the 10 most populous countries in 2016 for expected human capital were ranked: China at 44, India at 158, USA at 27, Indonesia at 131, Brazil at 71, Pakistan at 164, Nigeria at 171, Bangladesh at 161, Russia at 49, and Mexico at 104. Assessment of change in expected human capital from 1990 to 2016 shows marked variation from less than two years of progress in 18 countries to more than five years of progress in 35 countries. Larger improvements in expected human capital appear to be associated with faster economic growth. The top quartile of countries in terms of absolute change in human capital from 1990 to 2016 had a median annualized growth in gross domestic product of 2.60% (IQR 1.85–3.69) compared with 1.45% (0.18–2.19) in the bottom quartile.


Countries vary widely in the rate of human capital formation. Monitoring the production of human capital can facilitate a mechanism to hold governments and donors accountable for investments in health and education.



Senator Jeff Flake Puts Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation on Hold!


Dear Commons Community,

What can only be described as a “remarkable” turn of events, Republican Senator Jeff Flake brokered a bipartisan deal to hold off voting on Supreme Court nominees Brett Kavanaugh until after an investigation has been completed by the FBI.  No one could have predicted this after the tumultuous and at times, off the rails, hearing on Thursday. As reported by the Huffington Post:

“Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s surprise impact Friday changing the course of Brett Kavanaugh’s expected quick confirmation to the Supreme Court was affected by encounters with women “emboldened” to share their experiences and his desire to “demonstrate that the process is fair,” he told reporters Friday.

He said it was “remarkable” how many people who “saw Dr. Ford [testify] were emboldened to come out and say what had happened to them. I heard from friends, close friends. I had no idea,” Flake told reporters. 

Flake referred to his “interactions with a lot of people — on the phone, email, text, walking around the Capitol, you name it.”

Yet Flake issued a statement Friday morning that he wasn’t convinced Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault was enough to deny the Supreme Court nominee a vote.

A short time later Flake was confronted as he entered an elevator (see video above) by two survivors of sexual assault who challenged him on Kavanaugh in an encounter captured on video that went viral. “What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable,” one of the woman shouted. 

Flake, who left the elevator ashen-faced and clearly rattled, did not reveal to reporters if that encounter affected his ultimate decision concerning Kavanaugh. But he had already been talking the night before with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia about how to deal with the Kavanaugh accusations without rejecting his confirmation outright, sources told Politico. They had the power to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation on the Senate floor. 

Flake told reporters that his morning statement was a bid to keep Republicans calm about where he stood and not worry that he was going to bolt from their ranks. “I hoped that would help provide leverage,” Flake said.

But he was also determined to demonstrate “that the process is fair, even if Democrats are “not going to vote for” Kavanaugh, he added, Politico reported.

He reached out Friday to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and discussions began. After lining up support, Flake called for an FBI investigation into the accusations against Kavanaugh before the Judiciary Committee. He made clear that his vote on the floor of the Senate depended on such a probe of “not more” than a week.

 “This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure we do due diligence,” he told the committee.

“I wanted to support” Kavanaugh, Flake told reporters later. “I’m a conservative, he’s a conservative judge. But I want a process we can be proud of, and I think the county needs to be behind it.”

Late yesterday afternoon, President Trump ordered the FBI investigation.

Thank you Senator Flake. 

You have done the country a great service.



Christine Blasey Ford v. Brett Kavanaugh:  I Give the Edge to Ford!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday the big day came in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s  hearing when Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified about the alleged sexual assault on Ford by Kavanaugh.  Both were credible but from the portions I saw, I give the edge to Ford.  She was calm and dignified, where at times Kavanaugh was volatile and extremely hostile to Democrats on the Committee.  She stayed on the issue of the assault, he kept veering into his accomplishments as a judge, a student in high school, getting into Yale Law School, and excelling in sports.  A New York Times editorial gave the day to Ford while Fox News gave it to Kavanaugh and the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.

As the Times editorial notes,  “the most maddening part of the hearing was the cowardice of the committee’s 11 Republicans, and none of them, apparently, capable of asking Dr. Blasey a single question. They farmed that task out to a sex-crimes prosecutor named Rachel Mitchell, who tried unsuccessfully in five-minute increments to poke holes in Dr. Blasey’s story. Eventually, as Judge Kavanaugh testified, the Republican senators ventured out from behind their shield. Doubtless seeking to ape President’s Trump style and win his approval, they began competing with each other to make the most ferocious denunciation of their Democratic colleagues and the most heartfelt declaration of sympathy for Judge Kavanaugh, in a show of empathy far keener than they managed to muster for Dr. Blasey.”

Portions of the hearing are available on youtube and on several news outlets.



P.S.  I learned after my posting that based on yesterday’s hearing, the American Bar Association called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay a confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until an FBI investigation can be completed into several claims of sexual misconduct.

“We make this request because of the ABA’s respect for the rule of law and due process under law,” reads the letter, a copy of which was obtained by HuffPost.

“The basic principles that underscore the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI.”

The move is extraordinary in that the ABA gave Kavanaugh a unanimous “well-qualified” rating for the Supreme Court nomination, and the federal judge has boasted that he was “thoroughly vetted” by the lawyers’ group.

Student Test Scores Up In New York But Can’t Compare!

Dear Commons Community, 

In nearly every New York school district, students did better on the annual math and reading exams. But comparing the results with previous years’ is impossible.

It is a big question without an easy answer: Are New York’s students improving in reading, writing and math?  As reported by the New York Times:

“Last spring, 950,000 third- through eighth-graders across New York State took standardized English and math exams. Across the state, they seem to have done better.

In New York City, scores jumped by about 6 percentage points in English and about 5 points in math — meaning just under 47 percent of city students passed the English test, and about 43 percent of students passed the math exam.

But instead of trumpeting the results, the state’s Department of Education delayed releasing them for six weeks. And then, in announcing them Wednesday, the department cautioned that the exams cannot be measured against previous tests and should be considered a new baseline.That is because this year’s exams were redesigned to reduce the test length to two days from three; that made the tests too different to be compared, the department said.

Though state tests carry lower stakes now than at any other point in the past decade, the results are still the most commonly used measure of how much progress schools — and the city and state more broadly — are making in educating students.

 “If the tests have changed a lot, then we won’t learn much about trends, maybe nothing about trends,” in student performance, said Daniel Koretz, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who studies testing.

This year’s scores are the latest confusing data points in a long history of zigzagging test results in New York, but what they do tell us is how much the political pendulum has swung on standardized testing.”

Just after No Child Left Behind and its mantra of standardized testing, school districts around the country were subjected to a barrage of tests that were reported far and wide every year.  Testing has become routinized and no longer is on the top of school reform priorities.   This year’s results will no doubt influence fresh questions about education policy in New York, including the state Board of Regents’ decision about whether to use exam results in teacher evaluations. Those debates will reveal much about how New York, considered one of the country’s education reform capitals just a few years ago, is tracking in an entirely new direction on education policy.


Frank Bruni on Brett Kavanaugh – “We are saints AND sinners!”


Dear Commons Community,

Tomorrow the media world will be engrossed with the testimony of  Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both will testify on Ford’s  allegation of a sexual assault that took place 35 years ago.  Kavanaugh will surely deny it and we will base our judgment on the perceived veracity of one or the other.  Frank Bruni in his column today comments that we are all saints and we are all sinners and that Kavanaugh can be both an angel (to his wife and children) and the devil to others.  He states that some women saw a young gentleman. Some saw a drunk predator. Maybe he was both. 

Below is the column!



The Many Faces of Brett Kavanaugh

By Frank Bruni

Sept. 25, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley, told Martha MacCallum of Fox News: “I know Brett. I’ve known him for 17 years.”

But that’s hardly his whole life. And that’s hardly the whole Brett. She knows him mainly as a husband and a father, moved by the emotional currents that those roles stir up, distinguished by the traits that they tease out.

“They know Brett,” she said of the couple’s two daughters. “And they know the truth.” They do indeed — part of it. But not all of it. He may be the gentlest man on earth with them. He may be a feminist in terms of their ambitions, their basketball league.

But he may be nothing of the kind to women in the abstract or women who were in his path when he was very young, very inebriated and very insistent.

A Yale roommate of his told The New Yorker that Kavanaugh was “frequently, incoherently drunk” during the time in college when, their former classmate Deborah Ramirez alleges, he exposed himself to her.

“Is it believable that she was alone with a wolfy group of guys who thought it was funny to sexually torment a girl like Debbie?” the roommate, James Roche, said. “Yeah, definitely. Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of them? Yes.”

So possibly that’s Kavanaugh, too. That’s him riding a wave of testosterone and booze, among similarly pumped-up, zonked-out buddies.

As Brett Kavanaugh’s admirers and detractors stage a ferocious battle over his biography and reputation and those of us watching it try to determine what he’s capable of and what he’s made of, too many of us fall into a familiar trap.

He’s either a wrongly tarnished angel or deceptively phlegmatic devil, prey or predator, “a loyal friend or fratty enabler of bad behavior,” as Kyle Swenson wrote in The Washington Post. A man like Kavanaugh couldn’t do what he’s accused of, or a man like him indisputably did it.

His ethics are elastic and his lies abundant — about his actions in the second Bush administration, about his awareness of a mentor’s obsession with pornography and mistreatment of women. Or he’s a primly religious, utterly devoted family man whose blemishes are the inventions and exaggerations of political foes.

That’s a misleading, false dichotomy, inconsistent with everything we know about human nature and about ourselves.

I don’t believe that anyone persuasively accused of what Christine Blasey Ford says that Kavanaugh did to her has any business on the Supreme Court. So we must try our hardest to come to a best guess about what happened more than 35 years ago, including by listening closely to her scheduled testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

But that effort isn’t served by the caricatures that have come to dominate this discussion, as they do so many others. Those caricatures are out of sync with life. And no set of character witnesses — to Kavanaugh’s virtues or vices — is the final, irrefutable word. They caught a few scenes of him. They didn’t see the whole messy movie.

We show different colors at different times in different situations. We age, sometimes in ways that make us better, sometimes in ways that make us worse. We fashion ourselves, with or without cunning, into who and what we need to be for friends, lovers, parents, children, bosses and employees based on their diverse expectations and ever-shifting demands.

We are genuinely saints and we are genuinely sinners. We are pieces that add up to an incoherent whole.

In the interview that Kavanaugh and his wife gave to Fox News on Monday, he repeatedly mentioned the Sept. 14 letter that 65 women who knew him during high school signed and sent to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It vouched for positive interactions with and impressions of him.

But it doesn’t mean that other women couldn’t have had negative ones. A person’s experience of Kavanaugh likely hinged on the circumstances. Perhaps it was the luck — or curse — of the draw.

Hence the push and pull in the New Yorker article about Ramirez’s charge. Some of Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates said that it didn’t jibe with his character. Others said that it did. They aren’t necessarily contradicting each other. They’re describing their partial perspectives from particular vantage points.

Kavanaugh is being typecast, but he’s many types. He’s entitled. He’s diligent. He’s arrogant. He’s earnest. He’s the beer-mad treasurer of the “Keg City Club,” according to what he wrote in his 1983 yearbook from his all-boys Catholic secondary school, Georgetown Prep. He’s “an avid consumer of legal scholarship,” according to what a former professor of his at Yale Law School — a Hillary Clinton supporter — wrote in praise of him in The Times.

Speaking of that yearbook, The Times on Monday night published a story, by Kate Kelly and David Enrich, about a phrase that Kavanaugh included on his page: “Renate Alumnius.” It was apparently an unsubstantiated boast, made by him and other football players, about Renate Schroeder, who attended an all-girls Catholic school nearby.

Now known as Renate Dolphin, she was among the 65 women on that letter, and she learned only afterward — in the past few days — about the yearbook phrase. “The insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue,” she said in a statement to The Times. “I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”

She knew one Kavanaugh in high school, or thought she did. She’s getting to know another in retrospect. She’s sifting through conflicting signals. That’s the task before all of us now.


Foreign Leaders Laugh at President Trump at the United Nations!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday President Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly here in New York.  He opened his address by congratulating himself and his accomplishments as president.  The delegates laughed at him.  Of greater concern were his messages, the most egregious was his statement that “We [United States] reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.” The United Nations was established after World War II to bring countries together to avert future wars.  It has embraced the global community as the theater for international cooperation and here was our president essentially kicking its founding principles in the shins.

He again embarrassed our country on a world stage.  Below is a New York Times editorial on his address.




President Trump Addresses the United Nations (laughter)!

A dark and cramped view of the world from an increasingly isolated leader.

When President Trump declared that his administration “has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” foreign leaders laughed.

By The Editorial Board

Sept. 25, 2018

Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency claiming “the world is laughing at us.” Now it really is laughing — at him.

Apparently mistaking the United Nations General Assembly for a campaign stop on Tuesday, Mr. Trump opened his annual address — usually a somber occasion for a president to assess the state of the world — by boasting that his administration “has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

That’s when the other world leaders started chuckling.

“Didn’t expect that reaction,” Mr. Trump said, like a comic in a roomful of hecklers, “but that’s O.K.”

Actually, it’s not O.K. America’s president is now openly derided in the most important international forum.

In last year’s United Nations address, Mr. Trump introduced the themes of American sovereignty and national identity (and vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea). This year, he offered a more ornate statement of his atavistic if still rather incoherent agenda.

“Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on earth,” the president said. “That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination.”

He added: “The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”

Just what the president meant by “global governance” is unclear. But he seemed intent on conjuring up the phony black helicopter vision of international institutions as an “unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy” intent on erasing borders and eliminating national governments.

“We reject the ideology of globalism,” Mr. Trump said, “and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Mr. Trump said the United Nations had some potential for good, and he implicitly recognized that, for all his bluster, the United States could not really hope to go it alone in an era of transnational threats, when he thanked South Korea, China and Japan for working with the United States to reduce the danger of a nuclear North Korea. But he reaffirmed his decisions to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council and cut cooperation with the International Criminal Court, castigating it as having “no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority.”

The president seemed to have no understanding that the bodies he criticized, including the World Trade Organization, are part of a post-World War II system established by the United States and its allies and that America still has considerable influence to effect reforms, provided its leaders are committed enough to try.

Mr. Trump was quite explicit in his view of foreign assistance as a reward for good behavior and for personal loyalty. “Moving forward,” he said, “we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”

There was no acknowledgment that foreign aid has been used as a strategic tool to protect American security interests by fighting terrorism, advancing democracy, eradicating disease, promoting trade and cultivating allies.

For Mr. Trump, it’s all about the quid pro quo and the political message to his domestic audience.


Students Defrauded by For-Profit Colleges Get Help from Court Ruling!

Dear Commons Community,

A federal judge has ruled that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ move to ease protections for former students of for-profit colleges should be reversed, handing a victory to those who said they were defrauded by their schools.  But U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss put his ruling on hold for 30 days, giving the Education Department and others a chance to respond. 

Moss had ruled last week that DeVos’ decision to freeze Obama-era protections for defrauded students was illegal. But he went a step further and said the regulation needs to be voided.

The lawsuit was lodged by students defrauded by for-profit schools and Democratic attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Toby Merrill, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University, which is representing the students, hailed the decision.

“Students are continuing to push back and win against the department’s unfair and corrupt policies,” Merrill said. “We are one step closer to these important provisions taking effect.”

A New York Times editorial this morning commented (see below) on the ruling and concluded:

“Ms. DeVos and her cronies in the for-profit industry seem to think that they can plow ahead with these and other damaging proposals regardless of opposition. But it will not take long before the wider public focuses on the fact that the Education Department is undermining higher education to line the pockets of an industry where schools can get up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid. That position will be difficult to defend at election time.”

Tough words but deserved!



Giving the College Profiteers a Free Hand

Students defrauded by for-profit schools can expect no help from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But a federal court ruling offers some hope.

By The Editorial Board

Sept. 24, 2018

A federal judge sent the right message last week when he blocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s suspension of an Obama-era rule that allows students defrauded by for-profit colleges to have some or all of their federal student loans forgiven.

This was his second ruling in a suit filed by attorneys general from 19 states who argued that Ms. DeVos had broken the law by delaying the rule from taking effect, and they demanded that it be immediately reinstated. The judge, Randolph Moss of Federal District Court in Washington, had earlier found that Ms. Devos had broken the law, and last week he invalidated Ms. Devos’s attempt to dismantle the rule, but stayed his ruling for 30 days to give the Education Department time to respond. The next step should be to order the department to grant debt relief to the thousands of student borrowers who have applied and are clearly eligible under the original rule.

The rule, known as “borrowers defense,” is rooted in a provision of the Higher Education Act of 1965 intended to lift the debt burdens of students who were misled by their schools. The rule was designed to compel schools to offer a fair education and to refrain from predatory practices — like lying about career opportunities or steering students into ruinously priced loans — that have been well documented over the last decade.

Ms. DeVos has essentially made the Education Department a subsidiary of the for-profit college industry. Republicans in Congress who wish to hide from this issue are being peppered with complaints from constituents victimized by the for-profit schools — particularly veterans, who have been targeted by companies that covet their G.I. benefits.

Ms. DeVos has already proposed tightening loan forgiveness rules to make it virtually impossible for those defrauded by predatory schools to get relief. She has also proposed rescinding the “gainful employment” rule, which enforces a longstanding Higher Education Act requirement that career education programs “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”

The Education Department wants to replace this important rule with additional disclosure requirements — covering debt, expected earnings, completion rates and other measures — that would apply to all colleges. This disregards the breathtaking fraud that has been documented specifically at for-profits — and the fact that their students take on greater debt and are more likely to default on loans.

The department has defended the decision to jettison the employment rule by describing it as a burden to institutions of higher learning. But in a letter this month, the American Council on Education, which represents about 1,700 colleges, argued persuasively that rescinding the rule, instead of perhaps modifying it, would damage the interests of students, colleges and the public. Still others have portended another round of lawsuits by arguing that the decision to rescind is itself unlawful because the Education Department has not disclosed the factual basis of its decision.

Ms. DeVos and her cronies in the for-profit industry seem to think that they can plow ahead with these and other damaging proposals regardless of opposition. But it will not take long before the wider public focuses on the fact that the Education Department is undermining higher education to line the pockets of an industry where schools can get up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid. That position will be difficult to defend at election time.

Baby Trump Blimp Highlights Puerto Rico Rally Near Mar-a-Lago, Florida!


Dear Commons Community,

A “Baby Trump” blimp was flying high Saturday at a rally in West Palm Beach near President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort to mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.  As reported in The Huffington Post:

“The 20-foot-high blimp, depicting a chubby Trump as a baby in a diaper apparently having a temper tantrum, was the highlight of the rally of some 800 protesters demanding increased funds to help Puerto Ricans impacted by Maria. The hurricane claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

The rally began with a caravan of protesters driving past Mar-a-Lago waving Puerto Rican flags, blasting music and honking horns before speeches at the Meyer Amphitheater a few miles away. Trump, however, wasn’t at Mar-a-Lago during the event. 

The original blimp was first flown in London during for Trump’s visit to the U.K.  in July. There are now six American blimps.

Tallahassee’s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, who’s running for Florida governor against GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis, made a surprise appearance at the rally. 

“We shouldn’t have to remind this country to do right by the people of this country,” Gillum told the crowd, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Anti-Trump protesters hope to fly two more of the Baby Trump blimps near the president’s New Jersey golf club in Bedminster.

A nonprofit New Jersey Group, The People’s Motorcade, is transporting the family of blimps around the nation for protests against Trump and his policies. The activist organization bought the balloons with money raised on GoFundMe after getting permission to use the blimps from the original Brit creators.

“Baby Trump is a 20-foot-high balloon characterizing the petulant and juvenile nature of Donald Trump,” states the group’s website. “The Brits who created the balloon describe him as a ‘big angry baby with a fragile ego and tiny hands.’” 

The statement is signed: “The babysitters.”

If only we could just stick a pin in it and it would all go away.


Maureen Dowd on Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford:  “We haven’t forgotten our history. But we still seem doomed to repeat it.”

Dear Commons Community,

For the past two weeks we have seen the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh dominate the news particularly in light of accusations from Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her at a high school party. After days of negotiation it is likely that Dr. Ford will give testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee sometime this week.  Maureen Dowd in her column today revisits the same process that had Anita Hill give testimony on Clarence Thomas during his nomination in 1991. Ms. Dowd concludes that after 27 years we have not come very far and states: “We haven’t forgotten our history. But we still seem doomed to repeat it.”

Below is Dowd’s entire column.  Read it to prepare for Dr. Ford’s testimony.



Sick to Your Stomach? #MeToo

By Maureen Dowd

Sept. 22, 2018

Somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind, I can recall a time when the sight of that white dome thrilled me. As a teenager, working for a New York congressman, I felt privileged to walk the same marble corridors where some of America’s most revered leaders had walked.

I can also vaguely remember a time, back before the travesty of Bush v. Gore, when I felt awe walking past the Supreme Court. And if I try really hard, I can summon the lost sensation of pride in covering the White House.

But all that is utterly changed.

It was wrenching to watch the futile Iraq war unfold, with its tragic echoes of Vietnam. It is jarring to think I could live through three sagas of impeachment. But I most dread the rhyming history we are plunged into now: the merciless pummeling of a woman who dares to obstruct the glide path of a conservative Supreme Court nominee.

It is unnerving to think how far women have come, only to find ourselves dragged back to the same place.

It has been almost exactly 27 years since the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, and we are still defensively explaining — including to our troglodyte president — why women do not always tell the authorities about verbal and physical sexual assaults, why they bury episodes or try to maneuver past them.

We are still watching a bookish university professor from the West, who tried to anonymously report an alleged blight on the character of a man about to ascend to a lifetime of power, get smeared as a demanding, mixed-up, uptight, loony fantasist.

Like Eve with the apple, she schemed to “come out of the night like a missile and destroy a man,” as Republican Senator Alan Simpson said of Hill.

We are still watching on the Republican side of the panel an all-white male chorus — two of these singers were there tormenting Hill three decades ago — plotting to win at all costs.

I didn’t sleep the week of the Hill-Thomas hearings. At first, I was feverishly trying to figure out what was true in their two diametrically opposite stories.

But it quickly became apparent that Thomas was lying.

His friends and supporters had talked publicly about how, at Yale Law School, Thomas was a regular patron of X-rated movie houses and enjoyed describing the porn to friends afterward.

But that was not introduced into testimony by either the Republicans or the Democrats. Instead, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch — who is still on the Judiciary Committee at age 84 for this new kangaroo court — suggested that a man as esteemed as Judge Thomas could not possibly know the language of porn, that anyone who talked like that was “a psychopathic sex fiend or a pervert.”

Hatch preposterously accused Hill of scavenging her testimony about Long Dong Silver from an old law case, and her story about Thomas asking “Who put pubic hair on my Coke?” from the novel, “The Exorcist.”

No one was trying to figure out the truth or do what was best for the court and the country. Republicans only cared about ramming through a right-wing justice. Even though they were the majority, Democrats were cowed by Thomas wrapping himself in the charged symbolism of the civil rights movement he had always scorned. And they were gun-shy after criticism of their initial bungling of Hill’s revelation. (Does that ring a bell?) Joe Biden, the committee chairman, canceled the testimony of Hill’s backup witnesses from work.

Teddy Kennedy was mute, hobbled by his own past sins. The feminists were less concerned with Hill’s humiliation than with using her as a bludgeon to block a justice who would be devastating on women’s rights.

After a three-day F.B.I. investigation, the White House declared Hill’s charges “unfounded.” Then agents were pressured by Republicans into providing affidavits suggesting that Hill had embellished her testimony, as Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson wrote in “Strange Justice.”

Anita Hill was alone, in a hearing room full of Republican liars and Democratic cowards, getting ripped apart as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty,” in the immortal words of Kavanaugh pal turned Hillary henchman David Brock; and this in front of her elderly parents, farmers from Oklahoma.

Post #MeToo, the Republicans know they have to be more careful on the surface. Their wet work to discredit Christine Blasey Ford will have to be outsourced and done mostly outside the hearing room; consider the sordid, outrageous attempt by Ed Whelan — a friend of Brett Kavanaugh’s who heads a prominent conservative think tank on, ahem, ethics — to throw suspicion on a look-alike classmate at Georgetown Prep. Backed by the Swift Boat p.r. slimers, as Politico reported, Whelan even tweeted a floor plan to the house the student grew up in.

Dr. Blasey is dealing with some demonic forces not in play with Professor Hill: a vicious partisan internet that drove her out of her house and being discredited not merely by the White House but personally by a president who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault, who has consistently defended predators such as Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Roy Moore, and who is advised by the same man who enabled Ailes’s loathsome behavior at Fox News.

We haven’t forgotten our history. But we still seem doomed to repeat it.