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Talks Between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Collapse!

Dear Commons Community,

The Washington Post and the Associated Press are reporting that the nuclear summit between President Donald Trump and  Kim Jong Un collapsed yesterday after the two sides failed to reach a deal due to a standoff over U.S. sanctions on North Korea, a stunning end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global threat.  As reported:

“Trump, in a news conference after the abrupt end to the talks, said the breakdown occurred over North Korea’s insistence that all punishing sanctions the U.S. had imposed on North Korea be lifted without Pyongyang committing to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump explained, adding that an agreement was “ready to sign.”

“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” the president said. “We’re in position to do something very special.”

Both leaders motorcades roared away from the downtown Hanoi summit site within minutes of each other after both a lunch and the signing ceremony were scuttled. Trump’s closing news conference was moved up and he was expected to depart for Washington ahead of schedule.

The breakdown came after Trump and Kim had appeared to inch toward normalizing relations between their still technically-warring nations as the American leader tamped down expectations that their talks would yield an agreement by North Korea to take concrete steps toward ending its nuclear program.

In something of a role reversal, Trump deliberately ratcheted down some of the pressure on Pyongyang, abandoning his fiery rhetoric and declaring he wanted the “right deal” over a rushed agreement.

For his part, Kim, when asked whether he was ready to denuclearize, said “If I’m not willing to do that I won’t be here right now.”

The breakdown denied Trump of a much-needed victory that could have offset some of the growing domestic turmoil back home. But he insisted that relations with Kim remained warm, stressed that progress had been made and said he was still hopeful of eventually reaching a deal to denuclearize North Korea.”

Tony

 

At Michael Cohen Hearing: Republicans Sink Further into Trump’s Cesspool!

A check from President Trump to Michael Cohen on display at the House committee hearing.

Dear Commons Community,

Michael Cohen’s testimony yesterday revealed a lot about the life of Donald Trump’s fixer and what he did to protect the president over a number of years.  You can check out a New York Times article for highlights from the all-day affair. 

Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former Republican, has an op-ed today blasting the way the GOP sank “further into Trump’s cesspool” during the hearing.  His main message was that what they left out of their questioning of Michael Cohen says more about “the degradation of my former party than anything they said.”  Below is the entire op-ed.

It was a sad day for Michael Cohen but a sadder day for Republicans to see their party leaders attack and attack while asking few substantive questions.

Tony

——————————————————————————————

Republicans Sink Further Into Trump’s Cesspool

By Peter Wehner

Contributing Opinion Writer

Feb. 27, 2019

Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday revealed as much about the Republican Party as it did about President Trump and his former lawyer. In the aftermath of Mr. Cohen’s damning testimony, several things stand out.

The first is that unlike John Dean, the former White House counsel who delivered searing testimony against President Richard Nixon in 1973, Mr. Cohen produced documents of Mr. Trump’s ethical and criminal wrongdoing. (Mr. Dean had to wait for the Watergate tapes to prove that what he was saying was true.)

Mr. Cohen’s most explosive evidence included a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account, while he was president, to reimburse Mr. Cohen for hush money payments. The purpose of that hush money, of course, was to cover up Mr. Trump’s affair with a pornographic film star in order to prevent damage to his campaign.

Other evidence produced by Mr. Cohen included financial statements, examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his wealth to serve his interests, examples of charity fraud, efforts to intimidate Mr. Cohen and his family and even letters sent by Mr. Cohen to academic institutions threatening legal actions if Mr. Trump’s grades and SAT scores were released. (Mr. Trump hammered President Barack Obama on this front, referring to him as a “terrible student, terrible,” and mocking him for not releasing his grades.)

Yet Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in their frantic effort to discredit Mr. Cohen, went after him while steadfastly ignoring the actual evidence he produced. They tried to impugn his character, but were unable to impugn the documents he provided. Nor did a single Republican offer a character defense of Mr. Trump. It turns out that was too much, even for them.

In that sense, what Republicans didn’t say reveals the truth about what happened at the hearing on Wednesday as much as what they did say. Republicans showed no interest, for example, in pursuing fresh allegations made by Mr. Cohen that Mr. Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016.

In a sane world, the fact that the president’s former lawyer produced evidence that the president knowingly and deceptively committed a federal crime — hush money payments that violated campaign finance laws — is something that even members of the president’s own party would find disquieting. But not today’s Republican Party.

Instead, in the most transparent and ham-handed way, they saw no evil and heard no evil, unless it involved Mr. Cohen. Republicans on the committee tried to destroy the credibility of his testimony, not because they believe that his testimony is false, but because they fear it is true.

By now Republicans must know, deep in their hearts, that Mr. Cohen’s portrayal of Mr. Trump as a “racist,” “a con man” and “a cheat” is spot on. So it is the truth they fear, and it is the truth — the fundamental reality of the world as it actually is — that they feel compelled to destroy. This is the central organizing principle of the Republican Party now. More than tax cuts. More than trade wars. More even than building a wall on our southern border. Republicans are dedicated to annihilating truth in order to defend Mr. Trump and they will go after anyone, from Mr. Cohen to Robert Mueller, who is a threat to him.

A second thing that stands out from Mr. Cohen’s testimony is that the Republican Party has been as corrupted by its association with Mr. Trump as Mr. Cohen was by his. As Mr. Cohen told Republican lawmakers, “I did the same thing that you’re doing now. For 10 years. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years.”

He then issued this warning to them: “The more people that follow Mr. Trump — as I did blindly — are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.” Mr. Cohen later explained the ethos of Trumpworld: “Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day most of us knew we were coming and we were going to lie for him about something. That became the norm.”

The ethic that became the norm at the Trump Organization —- defacing the truth and disfiguring reality in the service of Donald J. Trump — is the ethic that has become the norm of the Republican Party and the American right.

This is what some of us who are conservatives and who have been lifelong Republicans have warned since Mr. Trump began his quest for the presidency — that his corruptions would eventually become theirs.

It didn’t take long.

The way these things happen is simple and insidious. In this case, because Mr. Trump was their party’s nominee, many Republicans felt duty bound to defend him, even though they would from time to time call him out for his worst offenses. They also held out the hope that Mr. Trump would grow in office and become more presidential.

What happened is quite different: As Mr. Trump was elected and then inaugurated, Republicans became more and more reluctant to call him out and more and more vocal in defending him and attacking his critics; rather than weakening, their loyalty to him intensified. And the president, rather than becoming more responsible, has become less restrained, more volatile, more unhinged. The result is the ethical wreckage we saw on display Wednesday.

Republicans should brace for even more damaging revelations. The evidence presented on Wednesday was of course harmful to the president, but Mr. Cohen quite likely revealed only a small fraction of what the Southern District of New York and the Mueller investigation have amassed. But Mr. Cohen did suggest that federal prosecutors are investigating unspecified criminal allegations involving the president that have not been made public.

When this story is finally told — when the sordid details are revealed, the dots finally connected — the Republican Party will be the political and institutional version of Mr. Cohen, who squandered his integrity in the service of a man of borderless corruption.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Michael Cohen’s Opening Statement for His Testimony Before the House Oversight and Reform Committee!

Dear Commons Community,

Many people today with access to the video feed to Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee may be treated to a blistering inside scoop on the Trump campaign and presidency.  The New York Times and several other news organization have received a copy of the the opening statement.   It states that Michael Cohen plans to tell Congress that President Trump is a “con man” and a “cheat” who knew a longtime adviser was communicating with WikiLeaks — and who implicitly instructed Mr. Cohen to lie about a Trump Tower project in Moscow that was underway during the 2016 presidential campaign.    Courtesy of the New York Times, read the opening statement and see what to watch for here.

Tony

Robert Zaretsky: Teaching in the Twilight of the Humanities!

Photo by Randy Lyhus for The Chronicle of Higher Education

 

Dear Commons Community,

Robert Zaretsky, a professor of world cultures and literatures in the department of modern and classical languages at the University of Houston, has an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education lamenting the state of the humanities on college campuses.  The title, Twilight of the Humanities says it all.  Here is an abridged version of the article.

“Alas, this will kill that.” I looked up from my copy of Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame of Paris, and I gazed at the students in my class on the twinned histories of modern Paris and Berlin. This ominous line, uttered by the cathedral’s archdeacon, Claude Frollo, haunts this story set in the late 15th century. Upon pronouncing the riddle to visitors in his austere quarters, Frollo hints at the answer: He points first to the cathedral, looming outside his window, then to a printed book on his desk.

Architecture, the language of medieval Europe — or so Hugo claimed — had been killed by the modern printing press.

As my students wrestled with Frollo’s words, I looked outside the classroom’s window. Rather than Notre-Dame, several of the university’s science, engineering, and technology buildings claimed pride of place. Some are young, others not yet done, and all announce that the STEM disciplines have colonized the campus. These buildings are the glass and steel distillation of our administration’s drive to become, as local billboards and commercials insist, a national powerhouse.

Hugo might have been a romantic, but he wasn’t a reactionary. This drive, he would insist, is neither condemnable nor commendable; it simply is. As with moveable type, so too with, say, microprocessing: Each represents a stage in the relentless evolution of our world. As new technologies and professions flourish, older technologies and professions fade. That Hugo brilliantly immortalizes, thanks to the printing press, what the printing press rendered obsolete serves as witness to the stunning complexity of this dialectical movement.

The Future of Learning

Nevertheless, it is rarely enjoyable to be on the losing end of this dynamic. As a historian, I cannot help but worry over the changes that threaten to overwhelm the humanities. As with our colleagues in the sciences, so too with those of us in the humanities: Our material conditions reflect our professional status. This semester, my classes are in the campus’s principal liberal-arts building. Built a half century ago, the peeling edifice was recently drained of its asbestos but can never be drained of its dreariness. Just ask my 40 students in one class who are wedged into a windowless room that seats, uncomfortably, 30. (As this class is devoted to the history of nihilism, the setting is apt.) As for the English department, which has its own place, the draining is literal: Long plagued by plumbing problems and water leaks, the building remains in a state of chronic disrepair.

Don’t get me wrong: better a yellow slicker than a pink slip. By many measures, the state of liberal arts at the University of Houston seems relatively bright. Across the country, colleges are marginalizing or simply eliminating humanities departments. The most recent salvo of bad news came last year from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, which announced plans to shutter several departments in the humanities. Other institutions, like the University of Vermont, have adopted incentive-based budgeting, or IBB, which penalizes departments that fail to generate a level of revenue deemed necessary by their administrations. Yet others have turned to business CEOs to lead them across the threshold of this brave new world. Last year the University of Oklahoma named the former oil executive James Gallogly as president, while the University of Texas system seems to have considered Rex Tillerson, late of Exxon and the U.S. State Department, as its next leader.

Of course, university administrators need only point to enrollment figures to justify their decisions. If humanities departments are shrinking, it is because the number of majors is shrinking. Take history. Please. Last November, the American Historical Association published an analysis of undergraduate enrollments in the discipline. While all the humanities are afflicted by falling numbers of undergraduate majors, history has simply fallen off the cliff. The steady decline that marked the 1980s has accelerated since the Great Recession. In 2008, 34,642 students earned history degrees; in 2017, the most recent year with available data, fewer than 25,000 did.

Claude Frollo would have muttered “alas,” but it is hard not to be aghast at these numbers. All the more so as the reality they reflect ripples beyond the academy. As the study’s author, Benjamin Schmidt, observed, these declines are not “just a temporary response to a missing job market.” Instead, the causes run deeper: They seem to reflect a “longer-term rethinking of what majors can do for students.” In other words, incoming students increasingly seem to believe that a history degree and three bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks, though not necessarily a job as barista.

Historians like Schmidt rightly point to deeper structural reasons for this shift in student priorities. Though the economy has rebounded since the Great Recession, the fear and foreboding it unleashed remains. Most students and parents have decided that they can ill afford such degrees. Moreover, in an era where most Americans seem to believe that all the history they need to know can be done by Hollywood or the History Channel, professional historians seem as superfluous as professional journalists. (There are, in fact, unsettling parallels between the corporatization of newspapers and universities.)

What’s to be done? If we were to go solo, historians could cite recent studies showing that history majors fare better on the job market than other liberal-arts graduates. But we could also embrace our sister disciplines, and persuade both students and administrations that liberal-arts degrees are solid currency in a corporate world that values critical, textual, and historical thinking. Most important, we must also reach out to this wider world, one that extends beyond promotion committees and external readers.

This leads us back to Notre-Dame. When he was 14 years old, the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright read Hugo’s novel. As Wright later recalled, he found the line “this will kill that” to be “one of the grandest sad things of the world.” Paradoxically, this diagnosis drove Wright to resurrect architecture by acting upon Hugo’s assertion that architecture was, quite literally, a medium or form of communication. Rather than mourning architecture’s death, Wright contributed to its rebirth by crafting works that spoke to both professionals and the public. All things considered, it might not be one of the grandest silliest things of the world to ask that humanities professors to do the same.”

Alas indeed!

Tony

Thomas Friedman on Artificial Intelligence: It Still Needs Human Intelligence For Now!

Dear Commons Community,

After fifteen years, New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman revisited Bangalore  (India’s Silicon Valley) and found that a lot has changed especially with how artificial intelligence (A.I.) is being deployed in various activities.  He describes how one company that specialized in customer service has retooled dramatically as A.I. has taken over much of the actual interactions with callers needing assistance.  Here is an excerpt.

“BANGALORE, India — Fifteen years ago I came to Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, to do a documentary on outsourcing. One of our first stops was a company called 24/7 whose main business was answering customer service calls and selling products, like credit cards, for U.S. companies half a world away.

The beating heart of 24/7 back then was a vast floor of young phone operators, most with only high school degrees, save for a small pool of techies who provided “help desk” advice. These young Indians spoke in the best American English, perfected in a class that we filmed, where everyone had to practice enunciating “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” — and make it sound like they were from Kansas not Kolkata.

The operations floor was so noisy from hundreds of simultaneous phone conversations that 24/7 installed a white-noise machine to muffle the din, but even then you could still occasionally hear piercing through the cacophony some techie saying to someone in America, the likes of: “What, Ma’am? Your computer is on fire?”

Well, 24/7’s founders — P.V. Kannan and Shanmugam Nagarajan — invited me back last week for an update. Their company is now called [24]7.ai and their shop floor is so quiet that the operators are encouraged to play their own music. The only noise is from the tapping on keyboards, because every query — from customers of U.S. retailers, banks and media companies — is coming in by text messaging from smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops.

These text queries are usually answered first by a [24]7.ai chatbot, or “virtual agent,” powered by A.I. (artificial intelligence) and only get handed over to a person using H.I. (human intelligence) if the chatbot gets stuck and can’t answer. The transformation of [24]7.ai from perfecting its accents to perfecting its insights illustrates in miniature how A.I. is transforming the whole work landscape.

In a nutshell, the U.S. and Indian middle classes were built on something called the high-wage, middle-skilled job. In an A.I.-driven world, such jobs are becoming extinct. Now there are mostly high-skilled, high-wage jobs and low-skilled, low-wage jobs, and a dwindling number in between.

Virtually all of the [24]7.ai human operators today have college degrees, because they need to be able to text with good grammar in English, understand the interaction between the chatbot and the person calling for service and communicate with expertise and empathy when the chatbot runs out of answers.

At the training class I sat in on last week, Peter Piper was gone. He was replaced by a competition among trainees over who could grasp first exactly when the chatbot — which [24]7.ai calls by the woman’s name Aiva, for Artificially Intelligent Virtual Assistant — could no longer understand the “intent” of the customer and what that intent actually was.

It’s at that critical point that the human agent not only has to step in and answer the question that Aiva couldn’t, but also to “tag” the customer’s queries that stumped the bot and feed them to [24]7.ai’s data scientists, who then turn them into a new, deeper layer of artificial intelligence that enables Aiva to answer this more complex query the next time. (Kannan is about to publish a book on A.I. called “The Age of Intent.” )

The data scientists who figure out the upgrades for chatbots that handle text are called “digital conversation designers.” For another, small part of the business, data scientists for chatbots that speak in computer-generated natural language are called “voice conversation designers.”

“It’s a cool job,” Santhosh Kumar, a 45-year-old conversation designer, who came up through the 24/7 system, said to me. “You are designing what the chatbot should be saying to the customers.” It is all about “how to make a computer sound like a human.” Banks want their bots to be formal; retailers prefer more conversational bots.

Another new term I learned here was “containment.” That measures how deep into a conversation your chatbot can go without having to hand the customer over to a human agent. A company’s “containment rate” is like its A.I. batting average.

Today, [24]7.ai’s containment rate ranges from 20 percent to 50 percent of queries, depending on the company it is serving. Its goal is 80 percent. As the bots grasp more of each customer’s intent, the skilled humans are redeployed to more complex services and sales, and that, said Kannan, “turns into better sales and keeping customer satisfaction high.”

His chatbots, Kannan explained, are built with a “negative sentiment detector” to identify angry customers, so “we auto-generate sympathy when we can,” but for the most part “complexity and empathy” are left to the humans.

Hollywood and Bollywood movies lately “have created a really bad impression that robots are going to take over,” said Irene Clara, a trainer. “I don’t think that fear is justified. I think we grow together. When you’re teaching Aiva, you’re getting skilled yourself, and without that Aiva becomes incompetent.”

So — for now — if you have critical thinking and empathy skills, Aiva is your friend. But I wonder what happened to all those Indian high school grads I met 15 years ago. Because if you don’t have those skills — and just have a high school degree or less, which applies to hundreds of millions of Indians — or you are doing routine tasks that will be easily roboticized, well, Aiva the robotic fruit picker, Aiva the file clerk or Aiva the trucker will not be your friend.”

Friedman’s conclusion:  A.I. has a lot to offer and for now it depends upon the human touch but this may only be an intermediate stage.

Tony

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza Rethinking NYC’s Renewal Schools Program!

Dear Commons Community,

After considering a new round of school closures, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are preparing to announce that they will not shutter any schools in the city’s Renewal program this year.

De Blasio’s Renewal  program has sparked controversy since it launched in 2014. Officials sold Renewal as an alternative to closures, and argued that the city’s lowest-performing schools could rapidly improve with an influx of additional social services and academic supports over just three years. But more than four years and nearly $800 million later, the program has achieved results far short of the mayor’s promise of “fast and intense” improvements.

The politics of the Renewal program have been a problem for de Blasio during much of his first term. The mayor’s critics have argued the program trapped students in schools the city knew were failing, while it gambled on unproven interventions. Research on the program has given those critics some ammunition. One analysis found the program did not seem to have a meaningful effect on graduation rates or test scores; another found only slight gains on tests. And behind closed doors, city officials were much less optimistic about the school’s chances of swift progress.

Supporters of the program have privately acknowledged Renewal was oversold and that dramatic improvements at struggling schools were always unlikely to happen on the mayor’s aggressive timeline. Still, many argue that flooding schools with resources is preferable to shutting them down and opening new ones, the favored strategy under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Some research has found that approach showed promise, but it also drew fierce protest from teachers who worried about shuttering key community institutions in predominantly low-income neighborhoods.

The New York Times reported in October that Mr. de Blasio was preparing to close Renewal, and that city officials had known some Renewal schools were likely to fail but had left most of them open anyway.

As education fads have come and gone, politicians have flipped between school improvement models based on punitive measures like closure and teacher firing and softer approaches that rely on pouring resources into schools.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. de Blasio defended the goals of the program, but said its execution was flawed.

“I’m at peace that with the information we had and the structure we had at the time, it was a sensible approach,” he said. But he added, “I would not do it again that way.”

Mr. de Blasio said the reorganization of the Department of Education’s behemoth bureaucracy, undertaken last year by his schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, would help smooth out the confusing lines of authority that led to frustration among principals and teachers in Renewal schools.”

A few hours ago, Chancellor Carranza sent a memo to his staff announcing a new Comprehensive School Support structure to assist all schools including Renewal schools.  Below is the full text of the memo courtesy of Mary Ann Polisinelli, District 75 Director of ELL/MLL Citywide Programs.

Tony

——————————————————————————————————————–

From: NYCChancellor@schools.nyc.gov

Sent: February 26, 2019 12:45 PM

To: NYCChancellor@schools.nyc.gov

Subject: Supporting Schools: Our Shared Path Forward

 

Dear Colleagues:

Earlier today, Mayor de Blasio and I announced the next steps and evolution of the Renewal School program, and I am excited to share more with you.

As you know, when the Renewal School program launched in 2014, the City put in motion its unwavering commitment to our underserved schools and communities. The major investment in Renewal Schools was built on a belief we hold as deeply today as we did then: that if we truly give schools a chance, they can succeed.

Today, the data is clear: Renewal Schools have improved substantially. We have seen significant growth in graduation rates and test scores, and declines in suspensions and chronic absenteeism. Looking school by school, students are achieving successes that change the narrative of what our schools can do, and how highly they can perform.

Now is the moment to apply the lessons we learned from the past four-plus years of the Renewal program—like how important it is to support school leadership and teacher growth and family and community engagement—and blaze a trail ahead for all schools to receive the supports that they need. I’m excited to move our system forward with a citywide, equity-driven approach to supporting all schools, in place of a binary approach, where you get a “Renewal” designation or not.

As we evolve away from the Renewal and Rise designations for schools, we move toward something I’m calling Comprehensive School Support (CSS). CSS is not a program or a designation, but a strategy for identifying needs and delivering supports to all schools. In forging this path ahead, I am echoing so many voices I have heard across DOE schools and offices that recognize that all schools have room to improve. In other words: every school, Renewal or not, needs to be treated as the unique learning environment and community that it is, and get the tailored, responsive support it needs.

We know that a great school has strong leadership that fosters a supportive environment, and collaborative teachers who deliver rigorous instruction. We know that a great school is based on a culture of family empowerment, and a real sense of trust. But individual schools need a different combination of supports to get there. And this requires us to continually ask: How can we meet schools where they are? What are the assets and successes that schools, students, and communities are bringing to the table each day? And how can we best fit in to accelerate and support their growth?

These conversations have been happening in full force across the DOE over the course of this year. And in many ways, this Comprehensive School Support approach started even prior to this school year, when we began reorganizing the way we support schools and communities, featuring our new borough-based and citywide Executive Superintendents to bring support and supervision together under one roof. Accountability is clearer, and resources and decision-making are closer to students and schools.

A next, important step of CSS will be the development and launch of EduStat, a new performance management system modeled after systems like ACS’s ChildStat. ‘Stat’ tools are one clear way to make our values around equity explicit. This new system will bring Executive Superintendents and other key leadership—including me—to the table around real-time data, and will help the DOE make sure schools are getting the support they need. We are excited to continue in the development of this continuous improvement approach, and will launch EduStat in beta form later this year.

As a former principal, the core of my approach to our system is the knowledge that schools can’t do it alone. Reversing the impact of historic underinvestment will take a team effort. Our approach must necessarily put school needs at the center, and recognize that the strength of our system is in our ability to work with and learn from one another.

By recognizing the individual journey of every school, we strengthen our entire system. Together, we will lift up every child, in every school, in every neighborhood, in every borough. Together, we will deliver equity and excellence for all.

In unity,

Richard Carranza

 

 

Barry Diller on Democrats in 2020: “Snatching Defeat from Jaws of Victory!”

Dear Commons Community,

Over the weekend, Barry Diller, Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia, Inc., during an interview of MSNBC, commented:

“For Democrats my great worry is they’re putting their foot in it right now, and I worry that they’re going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory … This is not an election about economics. The economy is okay. This is an election about morality and decency…. It will get won on arguing the only relevant issue. We have an indecent president. And that is a moral question. And it is that question — that topic that I think everything should and I hope will revolve around.”

Zach Carter, a senior reporter for The Huffington Post, has a similar warning:

“It should not be difficult for Democrats to defeat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by nearly 3 million votes. His overall approval rating has never ― not for one day ― eclipsed 50 percent. His main political tactic, scapegoating immigrants,  doesn’t work very well. After making the 2018 midterms a referendum on a migrant caravan, Trump ended up ceding 41 House seats to the Democratic Party ― the worst result for Republicans since 1974.

But if anybody can screw this thing up, it’s the leadership of the modern Democratic Party. They did, after all, manage to lose to this guy three years ago.

And one troubling sign is the dangerous new orthodoxy that seems to be hardening in Washington, in which Democrats are forbidden from criticizing other Democrats to avoid empowering Trump ahead of the election. It’s fine to debate policy, this thinking goes, but it’s not OK to criticize governing records, question priorities or impugn motivations. Any hint of intra-party infighting, it’s argued, would only weaken the eventual 2020 nominee.”

Max Boot, a conservative writer who endorsed Hillary Clinton and wants Trump out of the White House was recently quoted as saying:

“I feel politically homeless right now. Maybe republicans are doing a good job highlighting the far left and playing up how much they represent the Democratic Party. And maybe the people who are declaring early to run for president are tipping a little more to the left now to get a strong base.

I am worried the Democrats are going to screw up and Trump is going to get re-elected in 2020.”

I think Diller, Carter, and Boot have valid concerns.  The Democrats have to be careful especially with its huge field of possible candidates not to screw up the 2020 election as they did in 2016.  They cannot assume that Trump is such a terrible president that a victory is assured.  The Democrats need to demonstrate unity, that they can govern, and that they can organize their campaign well.   

Tony

National Rifle Association Posts “Target Practice” Photo of Nancy Pelosi on Cover of its Magazine!

Image result for NRA Pelosi photo

Dear Commons Community,

The National Rifle Association is being pelted with criticism after posting the headline “Target Practice” in its magazine next to a photo (see above) of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) and former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The furor erupted Saturday after HuffPost senior politics reporter Jennifer Bendery tweeted a screenshot of the magazine spread that appeared in American Rifleman, which is published by the gun lobbyist organization. The article examines Democrats’ efforts to strengthen gun control, claiming that legislators are attempting to “target gun owners with prosecution.”

The large headline for the article “Target Practice” is next to a photo prominently featuring Pelosi. Giffords stands next to her. Giffords suffered catastrophic injuries in 2011 when she was shot in the head at a Tucson mall where she was speaking to constituents. Six people were killed in the gunman’s attack.

Giffords later founded a political action committee supporting gun control. Her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, is now running for the Arizona Senate seat formerly held by the late John McCain.

The controversial spread appears in the Rifleman’s March issue. Pelosi is identified in the piece, written by chief NRA lobbyist Chris Cox, as the “arch anti-gunner.”

The NRA is apparently incensed that Congress will vote next week on the bipartisan bill H.R. 8 to require universal background checks for gun buyers. The photo of Pelosi and Giffords used in the magazine was taken as the women announced the measure last month — on the eighth anniversary of the day Giffords was shot.

What can you say to this except that the NRA is led by a disgusting group of individuals.

Tony

Video: Ole Miss Players Take a Knee during National Anthem as Protest Against Pro-Confederate Rally!

Dear Commons Community,

On Saturday, members of the Ole Miss men’s basketball team took a knee (see video) during the national anthem as a  protest against a pro-Confederate rally that marched through Oxford.  Eight players took a knee before Ole Miss faced off against Georgia.  As reported by various media:

“Following the contest, coach Kermit Davis and a few Ole Miss players confirmed members of the team knelt to protest that rally.

Davis told reporters he was not aware his players would kneel before the game. Guard Breein Tyree said he did not anticipate the kneeling would become a multi-game thing.

Two pro-Confederate groups — Confederate 901 and Hiwaymen — held a protest to express their disappointment that Ole Miss will no longer use Colonel Reb as its mascot, according to Nick Suss of the Clarion Ledger.

The rally started in downtown Oxford — the city where Ole Miss is located — and ended on Ole Miss’ campus at a monument to unnamed Confederate soldiers.

Roughly 75 protestors gathered prior to the march, according to Suss. They began the march by chanting “God bless Dixie.” The rally was met by counter-protestors who chanted “who lost the war? You lost the war.”

Ole Miss knew about the protest, but still decided to go through with Saturday’s game. The university advised students to stay away from the rally, according to Suss.

The decision to kneel during the national anthem — no matter what the motive — was not done lightly. When he was hired in 2018, Davis said his players would respect the flag, according to Sports Illustrated.

“We’re going to be a respectful team that respects the flag and the national anthem. All those things from culture is what we’re about. It’s who we’re going to be,” Davis said.

Freedom of speech is alive and well at Ole Miss!

Tony

Rep. Adam Schiff to Republican Colleagues: Share Your Private Concerns about Trump Publicly!

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Dear Commons Community,

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) urged his Republican colleagues to state their private concerns about President Trump publicly in a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday.   Here is an excerpt:

“To my Republican colleagues: When the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he is implicated, you did not speak out …When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn’t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse.” 

“Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private.”

“That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.”

Trump responded by calling Schiff a “political hack.” Schiff in turn  responded that he could understand why Trump was scared of congressional oversight.

We are getting closer to the boiling point with Trump, the Mueller investigation, and the Congress!

Tony