Michael Bloomberg Eviscerates Donald Trump in Op-Ed!

Dear Commons Community,

Michael Bloomberg, in a blistering op-ed eviscerated President Donald Trump for the federal government shutdown and called the budget standoff a “dumb” way to demand border wall funding.

Bloomberg did not mince words and opened his message by stating:

“There are many reasons to be optimistic about 2019. The increasingly isolated man in the Oval Office is not one of them.

With the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency drawing to a close, the past week all too perfectly exemplified its destructive effect on competent government in Washington — and it should give all Americans, in all parties, cause for concern.”

Bloomberg’s piece, published yesterday, said the partial shutdown of the U.S. government shows Trump’s administration is unraveling.

Bloomberg wrote that his major concerns include the potential for an economic nosedive triggered by what he described as Trump’s devil-may-care style of leadership.

“With other countries pleading for sanity and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization warning of severe consequences if trade sanctions get out of hand, talk of a looming recession is growing,” he said. “Yet the president seems determined to make matters worse — and to hell with the economic consequences.”

Bloomberg pointed to last week’s stock market plunge as another sign that “Trump’s recklessly emotional and senselessly chaotic approach to the job” has a real impact.

“At the halfway mark of this terrible presidency, one has to wonder how much more the country can take,” he added.

The only solution, Bloomberg said, was for the GOP to stand up to Trump.

“Unless something changes — unless, in particular, Republicans in Congress start showing some spine — two more years might be enough to test whether we can sustain Trump’s model of bad government. This past week, we got a glimpse of what the beginning of the collapse may look like — and what it may ultimately cost us.”

I would add that in addition to the Republicans in Congress, we need more Michael Bloombergs in the business community to come out publicly to denounce this president.


Trump Shutdown Continues and Secretary Mattis Leaving Immediately!

Dear Commons Community,

As the Trump’s shutdown of the federal government continues with little hope of resolution soon, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was told to leave office immediately by the White House rather than continue in his position.

There is little hope that the federal government shutdown would end this week. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned that the shutdown could stretch into January, when a new Congress is seated.

Mulvaney, who also runs the White House budget office, said he’s awaiting a response from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York after the administration on Saturday presented Schumer with a counteroffer in the long-running dispute over funding the wall.

Mulvaney withheld specifics but placed the offer at between Trump’s $5.7 billion request and $1.3 billion Democrats are offering.

“We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3,” Mulvaney said.

The director’s comment about the president’s softening stance came less than 24 hours after a senior administration official insisted to reporters on Saturday that Congress give into Trump’s demands, highlighting the unpredictable nature of Trump’s negotiating style.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued instead for increasing the use of technology along the border instead of building “some medieval wall.”

During the shutdown discussions, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was told that his resignation was being accepted immediately and that he would be replaced by January 1, 2019.  In his resignation letter, Mr. Mattis had issued a stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump over his neglect of allies and tolerance of authoritarians. The president grew increasingly angry as he watched a parade of defense analysts go on television to extol Mr. Mattis’s bravery, another aide said, until he decided yesterday that he had had enough.

In a tweet yesterday, the president announced that he was removing Mr. Mattis from his post and that Patrick M. Shanahan, Mr. Mattis’s deputy and a former Boeing executive, would serve as the acting defense secretary, praising him as “very talented” and adding that “he will be great!”

Mr. Trump’s sudden announcement that he was firing a man who had already quit was the exclamation point to a tumultuous week at the Pentagon, where officials have been reeling from day after day of presidential tweets announcing changes in American military policy.

Mr. Mattis had wanted to stay through a NATO defense ministers meeting scheduled for February, hoping to enshrine recent moves by the alliance to bulk up its security compact as a bulwark against Russia. But Mr. Mattis’s resignation letter did him no favors on that count: It had become hard to envision how he could continue for two months to represent a president whose own views toward Russia are far more benign.

As it became clear that the two men’s ideas of how to treat both friends and adversaries were so publicly at odds, the White House decided that there would be no reason for Mr. Mattis to stay on for two more months.

All the best to Mr. Mattis!


New York Daily News Blisters Donald Trump as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas from 800,000 Federal Workers!

It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But we think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Daily News captured the essence of President Trump’s demeanor during negotiations last week likening him to the Grinch who stole Christmas. The Trump shutdown began at 12:01 a.m. yesterday and affects roughly one-quarter of the federal government, depriving 800,000 workers of their pay.  Below is the latest regarding negotiations courtesy of the New York Times:

“As the White House and Democrats remained locked in a standoff over funding for President Trump’s border wall, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sent his colleagues home for the Christmas holiday on Saturday, virtually ensuring that the government will remain partially shuttered for at least several more days.

Mr. McConnell’s adjournment of the Senate until Thursday came after a frenzied day of negotiations in Washington and conflicting signals from the White House.

Mr. Trump is demanding $5 billion for the “big, beautiful wall” he promised to build at the southern border, and in a conference call with reporters, administration officials insisted that he would accept nothing less. But even as they spoke, Vice President Mike Pence was on his way to the Capitol to present an offer to the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York.

Those talks, however, appeared to make little headway. Mr. Pence was tight-lipped as he left Mr. Schumer’s office — “We’re still talking,” he said — while a spokesman for Mr. Schumer, Justin Goodman, pronounced the two sides “very far apart.” Mr. McConnell then announced the Senate’s adjournment and left the Capitol to fly home to Kentucky for the holiday.

With lawmakers cleared out of Washington and no end to the impasse in sight, some speculated that it would be left to Democrats to reopen the government when they take over the House next month. In an interview Saturday morning, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democrats’ nominee to be speaker, vowed that they would do just that.

“We have certainty,” Ms. Pelosi declared. “We will end this the first week in January.”

I hope Ms. Pelosi is right and may Trump find coal in his stockings on Christmas.


Penny Marshall: Bronx Girl Who Kept It Real!

Dear Commons Community,

The acclaimed actress and director Penny Marshall died this past Monday at the age of 75 from diabetes.  There have been many tributes to her and deservedly so.  Besides being the lovable LaVerne in the 1970s TV series, Laverne and Shirley, Marshall pioneered new ground as a female director of hit Hollywood movies, most notably Big and A League of Their Own.  John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine,  in yesterday’s New York Post had a column on Ms. Marshall emphasizing her childhood roots in the Bronx.  It is quite well done and describes a bygone era.  See the full text below.




Penny Marshall Was an Authentic Bronx Girl Who Always Kept it Real

John Podhoretz

New York Post December 19, 2018

There was one 1974 episode of that New Yorkiest of television shows, “The Odd Couple,” that centered on supporting character Myrna Turner, Oscar’s secretary. Up to this point we’ve known little about Myrna other than that she moves and talks very slowly, has a honking laugh and the thickest Bronx accent in the history of Bronx accents.

Myrna is heartbroken, because her fiancé, Sheldn (the “o” was left off his birth certificate), has dumped her and gone off to a singles weekend at a Catskills hotel. He returns and pulls off the Afro wig and pasted-on sideburns he had affected to win the hearts of the ladies. He was fake, he tells Oscar, and so were the women he met there. But Myrna?

“Myrna,” Sheldn says, “is very, very real.”

Myrna was played, of course, by Penny Marshall, who died Monday at the age of 75. Sheldn could have been talking for ­everyone who loved Marshall as a performer, loved her as a general cultural presence on game shows and talk shows and the like and loved the work she did as a director.

She was, in every particular, herself.

And who was she? She was a type entirely familiar in her youth in the 1950s and now all but vanished from the cultural scene — a white outer-borough ethnic.

“Identity was never an issue for me,” she once wrote. “I embraced being from The Bronx.”

In her delightful 2012 memoir, “My Mother Was Nuts,” she described life outside her home at 3235 Grand Concourse: “All the kids from my apartment building played together on the sidewalk and in nearby vacant lots. Popular games were stickball, Skelly, Three Box Baseball . . . and I Declare War.”

She played outside, because inside was her furious whirlwind of a mother, who ran a neighborhood dance studio and lived in a state of civil war with Penny’s father, who ran a small advertising agency.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood were the Carl Reiners, whose son Rob she would later marry (he played Sheldn). So was Alan Alda — who, like Penny Marshall, would forever be thought of as Jewish (his character on “M*A*S*H” had a totally Jewish mien) but was ­actually born Alphonso D’Abruzzo.

In the 1950s, when Penny reached adolescence, Jews comprised around 27 percent of the New York population, some 2.1 million. They constituted the largest minority group in the city by far, and set the cultural tone. Just as President Trump even now speaks in the cadences of the Borscht Belt (where Sheldn went to party), so did Penny and her brother, Garry Marshall and the young Alan Alda.

And the sensibility she brought to “The Odd Couple” and “Laverne and Shirley” evoked that now-vanished New York melting pot. Myrna was the girl who never worked to lose her accent because she didn’t even know she had an ­accent.

The accent Penny made ­famous as Myrna barely exists any longer, nor does the street life she evoked so vividly in her memoir. The disappearance of Etan Patz in 1979 put an end to New York kids playing by themselves without adult supervision.

Penny became world-famous playing Laverne DeFazio of Milwaukee on “Laverne and Shirley,” but there was no Milwaukee in that ineffable voice in which everything came out as a mournful whine.

She was still Myrna Turner — still very, very real. She remained Myrna Turner when she promoted the movies she directed. And was the same when she did the actual directing. Her style, she said, was largely to whine at the actors and the crew until they did what she wanted.

That was a funny crack, but it was belied by the tone of sweetness mixed with a sharp edge she brought to “Big” (1988) and “A League of Their Own” (1992) and her underrated final film, “Riding in Cars with Boys” (2001).

Think of Tom Hanks in “Big,” alone in a Times Square hotel room in a man’s body but a boy’s emotions, listening to gunshots and a man hitting his girlfriend and rolling over and sobbing.

That scene — even more than the wondrous “Chopsticks” duet on the floor piano at FAO Schwartz that is the signature moment in the film — shows what Marshall was at her best: someone who, as an actress and a director and a memoirist, was able to capture and personify something very, very real.


Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis Rebukes President Trump and Hands in Resignation!

Dear Commons Community,

Secretary of Defense Jim  Mattis resigned yesterday in protest of President Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria and his rejection of international alliances.

Mr. Mattis had repeatedly told friends and aides over recent months that he viewed his responsibility to protect the United States’ 1.3 million active-duty troops as worth the concessions necessary as defense secretary to a mercurial president. But yesterday in an extraordinary rebuke of the president, he decided that Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw roughly 2,000 American troops from Syria was a step too far.

Officials said Mr. Mattis went to the White House with his resignation letter already written, but nonetheless made a last attempt at persuading the president to reverse his decision about Syria, which Mr. Trump announced on Wednesday over the objections of his senior advisers.

“My views on treating allies with respect and also being cleareyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held,” Mr. Mattis wrote. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

The full text of Mattis’s letter is below.

We salute you, General Mattis, for standing up for what you believe.


Book Recommendation: Stephen Hawking’s “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”

Dear Commons Community,

I just finished reading Stephen Hawking’s best seller, Brief Answers to the Big Questions.  I admit that I am a Hawking fan and have read several of his earlier books including A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design. In Brief Answers…Hawking leaves us with his final thoughts on the biggest questions facing humankind.

Will humanity survive? [Hopefully] Should we colonize space? [Yes] Does God exist?  [No].​​

Featuring a foreword by Eddie Redmayne, the actor who won an Oscar playing Stephen Hawking, an introduction by Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne, and an afterword from Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, Brief Answers…is his wonderful last message. 

Hawking was perhaps the most renowned scientist since Albert Einstein, and known for his brilliant work in physics and cosmology. However, he never won a Nobel Prize, a fact that he laments on page 117.

Of the ten chapters or big questions, I especially enjoyed “How Do We Shape the Future?”   He states:

“We have two options for the future of humanity as I see it:  first, the exploration of space for alternative planets on which to live, and second, the positive use of artificial intelligence to improve our world.“

The former may be a  century or two  or more away but the latter much  less so.  We are already seeing rudimentary artificial intelligence applications and there are concerns about how beneficial they are or will be.

Below is a book review that appeared in the Financial Express in October 2018.

I recommend this book for anyone but especially those who have enjoyed Hawking’s  earlier work.



Book review: Stephen Hawking’s Brief Answers to the Big Questions

By: Ivinder Gill | Published: October 21, 2018 2:43 AM

Celebrity scientist Stephen Hawking does it again. In his final book—in development while he was alive and completed later—he gives us an addictive manual on our origins, our present and our possible future. We distill his last thoughts from the book.

Humans need to leave earth

Hawkins is very clear that with the rate humans are growing in numbers and exploiting the planet, doomsday is very near and imminent. He cites several parameters such as population, political instability, climate change, global warming and nuclear weapons where we have gone wrong and which together, and even alone, could annihilate humans. He warns that global warming will make our planet like Venus—“boiling hot and raining sulphuric acid, but with a temperature of 250 degrees Celsius”. However, like all scientists, he is worried we might already be too late in checking climate change.

Interestingly, he warns against excess of knowledge, born out of the exponential speed of technology and human intelligence, saying that by 2600, “the world’s population would be standing shoulder to shoulder”, the “electricity consumption would make the Earth glow red hot”, and “there would be ten papers a second in my kind of theoretical physics”.

But before that happens, he is almost sure humans would wipe themselves out if not by nuclear disaster, then by brutalism and barbarity, much like in Terminator.

Another possibility he foresees is genetic engineering in humans, which, he says, will become a necessity, given the increasingly complex world and its new challenges, including space travel. Humans will need to improve mental and physical capabilities, which can happen only by inducing DNA mutations. This might extend to machines, with computers being made so complex that they can display true intelligence.

He also reminds us that our luck in ducking a cosmic collision with another heavenly body like an asteroid might run out any day, an event that is “guaranteed by the laws of physics and probability”.

But like Columbus had a New World to discover, we don’t have that luxury today. So he advocates venturing into space, arguing that the human race should not put all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. He, however, adds somberly that even if humans will surely develop technology to escape apocalypse, millions of other species will be destroyed, “and that will be on our conscience as a race”.

Finding a new home

Hawkins reiterates that humans have no option but to colonise other planets or moons, terming it a long-term strategy with a time frame of thousands of years. For the obvious query that why shouldn’t we spend our time and resources on improving the earth instead of colonising other planets, he says we can do that and still spare resources (a quarter of a per cent of the world GDP) for space. And he doesn’t stop at the solar system, insisting that planets in other systems are a better bet. But where is the technology? He sees a glimmer of hope in proposed technologies such as lasers. “We have no other option”, he sums up.

Humans can win over machines

That artificial intelligence will far exceed its current capabilities is never in doubt. Hawkins proposes that given the rate of increase in technology, computers will overtake human intelligence in the next hundred years. At such a point, they will be capable of improving themselves without human help. “When that happens, we will need to ensure that the computers have goals aligned with ours”, he says, adding that success in AI would be the biggest event in human history, but it might also be the last, unless we avoid the risks. Machines will speed up their redesign much faster than biological humans, thus superseding humans. But if used correctly, AI could eradicate disease and poverty, give us smart cities and smart homes, self-driving cars and even create digital doubles of ourselves. Hawkins says our future is a race between growing technology and our wisdom to use it. “Let’s make sure that wisdom wins.”

Life exists elsewhere

The most fascinating aspect of space has been the quest and belief in alien life. Hawkins, while conceding that life is very much possible on other planets, is sceptical of intelligent life surviving elsewhere. He argues that evolution need not necessarily lead to intelligence; cosmic disasters like comet collisions could wipe out intelligent life in the bud; intelligent beings could lead to self-destruction, which is what he portends for the human race, saying that since space travel is highly unlikely for fragile humans, in all likelihood, we will send machines to invade other planets, from where they will procreate and spread across the universe. A possibility he warns against is getting in touch with advanced forms of life, for which he thinks mankind is clearly not ready.

At the same time, he classifies computer viruses as forms of life—perfectly capable of reproducing and invading other bodies (computers).

God can’t be possible

Much as many would like to believe that there is some ‘human-like being’, termed God, who created this universe, and with whom people can conveniently have a relationship with, Hawking dispels the possibility of such an existence. His theory is rather indisputable. If time began with the advent of the Big Bang, there was obviously no time before that. This means that before the Big Bang, there was simply no time for a creator to have existed in. So there could have been no God who created the universe.

No answers to our origins

Hawking invokes Hamlet in demonstrating that the origins of everything were like a nutshell with infinite space as a possibility. He puts forth several theories of physics, past and present, that debate the origins and nature of the universe. He concludes that we still don’t have all the answers, but it is safe to assume that the universe is a dynamic entity that has been changing ever since it began. And, one day, it will probably all end, either in the Big Crunch, where the universe will contract, or with a slow drifting away, where the stars will burn out and all that will remain is emptiness.


Judge Emmet Sullivan Exerts His Judicial Power in Michael Flynn Case!

Dear Commons Community,

In Washington, Judge Emmet Sullivan let Michael Flynn know that you can parrot political spin or you can tell the truth, but you can’t do both to someone who can send you to prison.  Here is a recap courtesy of the New York Times:

“Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, appeared before Judge Emmet Sullivan to be sentenced to what he expected would be a term of probation, after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about conversations with the Russian ambassador. The office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, had earlier filed a memo that said it would be right for Mr. Flynn to avoid prison after his extensive cooperation in the investigation of Trump ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and after.

Then last week, in a memo about their client’s sentencing, Mr. Flynn’s lawyers implied that he had been tricked into lying and that the F.B.I. acted improperly in interviewing him — points raised by pro-Trump commentators elaborating on the president’s claims of being victimized by a witch hunt.

Judge Sullivan was having none of it.

“I cannot recall an instance of a court ever accepting a guilty plea from someone who did not maintain he was guilty,” Judge Sullivan said, “and I do not intend to start today.”

Chastened, Mr. Flynn told the judge that nobody tricked him, that he lied and that he knew he shouldn’t have.

The judge was not upset only about Mr. Flynn’s sneaky prevarication. He said he felt “disgust” at Mr. Flynn’s offenses, that a retired three-star general would lie to the F.B.I. “while on the physical premises of the White House,” and, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country, Turkey, while he was an adviser to Mr. Trump (to which he admitted but was not charged). It was a bracing reminder of the brazenness of his misdeeds and of the standards the public should be able to expect of those who serve them.

Realizing that Judge Sullivan was considering a term of up to six months in prison, Mr. Flynn accepted his offer to delay the sentencing for 90 days until he has completed his cooperation with the special counsel.

“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn,” Mr. Trump had tweeted first thing Tuesday morning.  

“Thanks for nothing, Mr. President,” Mr. Flynn might have thought as he left court.

Mr. Flynn should be grateful the judge offered him the chance to come clean.”

God bless Judge Sullivan!



Trump Foundation Dissolves Amid Lawsuit Brought by New York State Attorney General, Barbara Underwood!

The Donald Trump Foundation “donated” $10,000.  to have his portrait painted.


Dear Commons Community,

The Donald J. Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve yesterday  and give away all its remaining assets under court supervision as part of an ongoing investigation and lawsuit by the New York State attorney general.

The foundation was accused by the attorney general, Barbara Underwood, of “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” and of engaging in “a shocking pattern of illegality” that included unlawfully coordinating with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.  In addition to shuttering the charity, her office has pursued a lawsuit that could bar President Trump and his three oldest children,  Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric  from the boards of other New York charities, as well as force the payment of millions in restitution and penalties.  As reported by the New York Times:

“This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone,” Attorney General Underwood said in announcing the agreement.

The closure of the foundation is a milestone in what has been a two-year investigation after the nonprofit’s management and giving patterns emerged as a flash point in the 2016 campaign. What assets remain after penalties will be directed to charities that must be approved by the attorney general’s office, and the process will be subject to judicial supervision.

Ms. Underwood and a lawyer for the Trump foundation signed the stipulation agreeing to the dissolution.

“We’ll continue to move our suit forward,” Ms. Underwood said, “to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”

Nonprofit foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities. But the attorney general’s office has charged that the Trump Foundation was used to win political favor, accusing the foundation of virtually becoming an arm of the Trump campaign, with its campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, directing the foundation to make disbursements in Iowa only days before the state held its presidential nominating caucuses.

“Is there any way we can make some disbursements [from the proceeds of the fund-raiser] this week while in Iowa? Specifically on Saturday,” Mr. Lewandowski wrote to the foundation’s treasurer in an email disclosed in the lawsuit.

Mr. Trump was required to sign annual filings with the Internal Revenue Service in which he attested that the foundation did not engage in political activity.

The president had said after the 2016 election that to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, he would dissolve the foundation. But the attorney general’s office blocked him from doing so amid concerns about the handling of the foundation’s documents and assets.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, refused to comment on the dissolution of the Trump Foundation, saying, “That’s something that I would refer you to the Trump Organization.”

Mr. Trump has long claimed that all the foundation’s money went to “wonderful charities” that had legitimate purposes. Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer for the foundation, accused Ms. Underwood of making a “misleading statement” on Tuesday in “a further attempt to politicize this matter.”

“The foundation has been seeking to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to worthwhile charitable causes since Donald J. Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election,” he said. “Unfortunately, the N.Y.A.G. sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7 million.”

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Ms. Underwood, said the Trump foundation had previously wanted to dissolve without any oversight. “That was unacceptable,” she said.

The investigation of the foundation was begun by the former attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat who was an antagonist of Mr. Trump before stepping down following revelations of sexual misconduct this year.

Next month, the ongoing case will fall to the incoming attorney general, Letitia James, a vocal critic of Mr. Trump who said recently that she would “use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family.”

Ms. Underwood’s office sued the Trump Foundation in June, charging it with “improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

Charities are barred from advancing the self-interests of its executives over the charity’s mission, but the attorney general’s office said in a court filing this year that the foundation had entered into a number of “prohibited self-dealing transactions that directly benefited Mr. Trump or entities that he controlled.”

The Trump Foundation, for instance, purchased a $10,000 portrait of Mr. Trump that was displayed at one of his golf clubs. The existence of the portrait, along with other examples of questionable spending cited in the lawsuit, was first reported by The Washington Post.

One transaction was revealed by a note in Mr. Trump’s handwriting that said $100,000 of Trump Foundation money should be directed to another charity to settle a legal dispute between the Town of Palm Beach and Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Mr. Trump was once a major donor to his own foundation. But in the six years before his presidential run, from 2009 to 2014, Mr. Trump stopped giving his own money, relying instead solely on outside donations.

The attorney general’s office is seeking for the Trump Foundation to pay $2.8 million in restitution, which is the amount raised for the foundation at an Iowa fund-raiser in 2016 that Mr. Trump held on the day that he avoided attending a debate with his Republican rivals. The foundation reported $1.7 million in assets in 2017 to the I.R.S.

Last month, a New York state judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed, even as Mr. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump, as president, and that the statute of limitations had passed on some of the issues.

“I find I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump,” Justice Saliann Scarpulla wrote in a 27-page ruling.

Mr. Futerfas had said in a statement then that “all of the money raised by the Foundation went to charitable causes” and that “we remain confident in the ultimate outcome of these proceedings.”

“I won’t settle this case!” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter in June, accusing “the sleazy New York Democrats” of targeting him.

The real sleaze here is Donald, Ivanka, Donald, Jr. and Eric.


Russian Interference Reports in U.S. Elections Taking Over News Cycle!

At least 50,000 homeless veterans are starving dying in the streets, but liberals want to invite 620,000 refugees and settle them among us. We have to take care of our own citizens, and it must be the primary goal for our politicians!”

Dear Commons Community.

Yesterday I blogged about two new U.S. Senate Reports on Russia using social media to interfere with American elections.  The story is taking over the news cycle this morning with follow-up reports and commentary.  It seems that the extent of Russian interference was greater than first thought and also that it continues extensively to the present day.   Above is a sample of one such false Russian web posting .

Using a weathered veteran’s face, the post above contrasted the desperate condition of many American veterans with the supposedly more fortunate fate of refugees, using a number that Mr. Trump had cited in an attack on Mrs. Clinton. (The number was judged by PolitiFact to be false). Like a huge number of posts, it appealed to conservatives, used dubious statistics and tapped into the presidential election two months away. Despite its somewhat awkward name — the Russian meme makers were not native speakers of English, after all — the Facebook page called “Being Patriotic” garnered 6.3 million “likes,” presumably from Americans who believed they were supporting fellow patriots.

The Washington Post, the Hill and other media are reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been a frequent target of Russian trolling over the past year.



Google to Build New $1 Billion Campus in Lower Manhattan!

The outside of the St. John Terminal on West Street in Manhattan where Google will build new campus.

Dear Commons Community,

Google announced yesterday that it planned to build a new $1 billion campus in Lower Manhattan just south of the West Village. Google follows Amazon, which said last month that it planned to open a new office in Queens that will house as many as 25,000 employees. Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn and Uber have also embarked on recent New York expansions — much of it driven by a hunt for talent. Each is creating hundreds or thousands of high-paying jobs and leasing or building millions of square feet in commercial real estate.  As reported in the New York Times:

“Law, medicine and finance have been superseded by information technologies,” said Mitchell Moss, an urban-planning professor at New York University who studies the city’s economy.

Google’s new campus selection of Hudson Square, once an industrial district just south of the West Village, strengthens its grip on Manhattan’s West Side, likely accelerating the neighborhood’s changes. That would mirror how Google transformed Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, where it has had an office since 2006. The company bought Chelsea Market for $2.4 billion earlier this year and an adjacent building in 2010, and it leases other space in the area, about a 20-minute walk from its new offices.

The centerpiece of the new 1.7-million-square-foot campus will be the St. John’s Terminal building near the Holland Tunnel on Washington Street, with Google also set to occupy space at two buildings nearby on Hudson Street. Altogether, the company will expand its footprint in Manhattan by a third to about 6.75 million square feet.

 “New York City continues to be a great source of diverse, world-class talent,” Ruth Porat, Google’s chief financial officer, said in a statement on Monday. “That’s what brought Google to the city in 2000, and that’s what keeps us here.”

New York’s transformation into a tech center began after the 2008 financial crisis, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg focused on the industry as an engine of future growth. His administration sought to upgrade the tech skills of the local labor force, a campaign that led Cornell University and its partner, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, to open an applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island. Tech initiatives — new courses, buildings and research institutes — are also underway at Columbia University, New York University and the City University of New York.

Google arrived in New York when it opened an advertising sales office in 2000. It added an engineering team in the city in 2003 and has steadily expanded since.

Other big tech companies quickly followed. Amazon and Facebook each now have more than 2,000 employees in New York, while Apple and Salesforce each employ more than 1,000. LinkedIn has a large office in the Empire State Building, and IBM chose New York as the base for its Watson artificial intelligence and cloud computing divisions.

Since 2009, jobs in tech and advertising in New York have increased 31 percent to 360,600, while financial-services jobs in the city increased about 12 percent to 475,500, according to an analysis of federal data by Ken McCarthy, principal economist at the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. By contrast, the education and health sectors employ about one million people in New York, while the hospitality industry employs 465,800, according to his analysis.

Mr. McCarthy said federal data categorized jobs based on the employer, meaning any bank employee is counted as finance. But New York’s traditional industries — banking, retailing and consulting — have also added thousands of tech jobs. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup each employ thousands of tech workers, including many in new fields like data science, blockchain and machine learning.

And New York’s tech sector is accelerating. Over the past year, the share of New York postings on the job site Indeed increased nearly 13 percent for tech jobs and just 2 percent for finance and accounting jobs. About 5 percent of all New York jobs posted on Indeed are now tech related, the site said, compared with 3 percent for finance and accounting.

That growth has made San Francisco, which is a gateway to Silicon Valley, a sort of sister city to New York. As a result, the air route between them is one of the nation’s most competitive and heavily trafficked.

“There is more economic connectivity between New York and San Francisco than between New York and any of the declining upstate cities,” Mr. Moss said.

…Google has expanded quietly and has not asked for public subsidies. “We’ve been growing steadily for the past 18 years without heralding trumpets, or asking for support from the government,” William Floyd, Google’s head of external affairs in New York said this month. “We’ve done it by the dint our own work.”

Still, Google has faced criticism in New York. The owners of some Chelsea restaurants said they are losing potential customers because of the company’s free-food-at-work policies.

And some in Manhattan are wary that Google and other businesses will begin to spread into historic neighborhoods.

“My concern is that with Google’s concentration in that area, it’s going to pull in even more intense pressure for office development, particularly tech office development, in adjacent neighborhoods like the Village and East Village, where we are seeing it happen already,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Mr. Berman said he did not oppose Google’s expansion in Hudson Square, which in the past decade has transformed into a commercial district, with many of its lofts and factories converted to offices for more than 1,000 companies, many in technology, advertising and media. Today, more than 50,000 people work in the neighborhood, and thousands more have made their home there following a 2013 city rezoning that allowed residential development.

But Mr. Berman said the growing demand for offices has led to the demolition of historic buildings, pushed out longtime businesses and residents, and resulted in modern office towers that are out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.

Chelsea has also witnessed rapid development over the past decade as it has mostly shed its working class roots and identity as a hub of gay night life. It still maintains large public housing projects, but is dotted with art galleries, new condominiums and expensive restaurants.

Several factors prompted the area’s gentrification, including the elevated High Line that opened in 2009. But some residents have complained that Google sped up the process, even as it followed a strategy of growing slowly.

In response, Google invested in local nonprofit organizations and said it would pay for a ferry stop at Pier 57, where it is renting office space, earning some plaudits from local elected officials.

“In terms of buying the new buildings, we want to make sure that they’re not chasing anyone out,” said Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president. “But they’ve been awfully good neighbors in Chelsea.”

Welcome Google!