Video: Joe Scarborough – Donald Trump “To Crawl on his Hands and Knees” to China’s President Xi Jinping!

Dear Commons Community,

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough this morning analyzed the weekend of Trump’s tweets, bombasts against American corporations doing business in China, and anger with his Fed Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.  Scarborough sees Trump as bringing the country to an economic cliff.  He also comments that “Trump is  going to have to crawl on his hands and knees to China to try and get out of this crisis that he created.”

See video here.



Joe Walsh, Conservative Radio Show Host, to Challenge Trump for Republican Nomination!

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Joe Walsh

Dear Commons Community,

Joe Walsh has confirmed that he will challenge Donald Trump for the GOP nomination for president.  Walsh is a conservative radio show host and former Republican lawmaker from Illinois who rode the 2010 Tea Party wave to serve one-term in Congress.  As reported in the New York Times:

“Mr. Walsh announced his candidacy in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” while Mr. Trump was in Biarritz, France, for the G7, where he admitted he had “second thoughts” about ratcheting up tariffs and threats against China last week — moves that rattled global stock markets — before his spokeswoman said his statement was being misinterpreted.

“We’ve got a guy in the White House who is unfit, completely unfit, to be president and it stuns me that nobody stepped up,” Mr. Walsh said in announcing his candidacy, claiming that “everyone” in the Republican Party believes Mr. Trump is not fit for the job.

Mr. Walsh’s decision to announce his candidacy on television, aides said, is a preview of a television-centric strategy designed to rattle a television-focused president with a rare challenge from within the party. Mr. Walsh, a former supporter and acerbic Clinton critic, in 2016 wrote on Twitter: “On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?”

Despite Mr. Walsh’s claim that many Republicans share his belief that Mr. Trump is unfit to serve, most polls show the president’s approval rating among Republican voters is consistently in the high 80s. Mr. Walsh stands virtually no chance of wresting the Republican presidential nomination away from Mr. Trump. But he framed his long shot primary challenge as a moral imperative to offer an alternative to Mr. Trump, and said that he is jumping in because “somebody needs to step up.”

Mr. Trump’s campaign has been working for over a year to make it virtually impossible for challengers to amass delegates, by tightening its stranglehold on state parties. The Trump campaign on Sunday simply shrugged off Mr. Walsh’s announcement. “Whatever,” Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman, said in a text message.

For Mr. Walsh, it’s a question of what defines success. He has been trying to recruit high profile Trump-hating Republicans like George T. Conway III, the husband of a top Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway, in what is seen as an effort to troll Mr. Trump into engagement with him. And he is hoping that as a former supporter turned critic, he will encourage other Trump voters to split with the president and weaken his base.

In a two-minute video posted on his website, Mr. Walsh makes a direct-to-camera appeal, telling voters that “we’re tired of a president waking up every morning and tweeting ugly insults at ordinary Americans.” He adds, “We’re tired of a president who is tweeting this country into a recession.”

I don’t think that Mr. Walsh is the best person to challenge Trump being a former Tea Partier who has made some outlandish claims in the past.  Regardless I wish him luck!


Michelle Goldberg:  Mazel Tov, Trump. You’ve Revived the Jewish Left!

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Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg, has a piece this morning describing how the Jewish Left has been revitalized by President Trump and his racist rhetoric.  Various Jewish groups have become more active in recent months to combat what they see as Trump’s attempt  “to use American Jews as mascots for an administration that fills most of them with horror.”  Entitled, Mazel Tov, Trump. You’ve Revived the Jewish Left, Goldberg provides must reading for those who care deeply about how Trump divides our country.  The complete column is below.



New York Times

Mazel Tov, Trump. You’ve Revived the Jewish Left!

By Michelle Goldberg

Aug. 24, 2019

On Aug. 11, more than 1,000 people marked Tisha B’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, by occupying an Amazon Bookstore in Manhattan, protesting the technology behemoth’s technical support for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sitting on the floor, they read harrowing accounts of people in immigration detention and recited the Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning. One of their signs said, “Never again means never again.”

According to organizers, 44 people, including 12 rabbis and a member of New York’s City Council, were arrested. It was one of over 50 Jewish-organized demonstrations against ICE held across the country that day.

A few days later, a corrections officer drove a truck into a row of Jewish protesters who were blocking the entrance to a private prison in Rhode Island where migrants are being detained. Two of the protesters were hospitalized. That demonstration was one of at least 38 organized this summer by Never Again Action, a decentralized group formed two months ago to engage in nonviolent direct action against immigrant detention.

Donald Trump might have thought he was going to lure Jewish voters to the Republican Party with his lock-step alliance with the Israeli right. Instead, by attempting to use American Jews as mascots for an administration that fills most of them with horror, he has spurred a renaissance on the Jewish left.

New progressive Jewish groups are forming. Older ones, like New York’s Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, one of the forces behind the Amazon action, are growing; once-sleepy organizing meetings have become standing room only. Jewish Currents, a left-wing Jewish publication founded almost 75 years ago, was reborn last year with a new cadre of writers and editors who speak to the millennial socialist zeitgeist.

Obviously, American Jews have long leaned liberal, and have always been overrepresented in progressive movements. But there’s a difference between leftists who happen to be Jewish and explicitly Jewish left-wing activism. “People who may not have been that close to Jewishness, they feel suddenly like it’s very important to express who they are as Jews in the context of their activism and in the context of their collective memory,” said Arielle Angel, the editor of Jewish Currents.

Alyssa Rubin, a 25-year-old organizer with Never Again Action, told me that in college, she had little interest in Jewish communal life, much of which seemed to revolve around support for Israel. But in the months leading up to the 2016 election, as Trump spouted rhetoric that smacked of fascism and white nationalists grew giddy at their new relevance, “I had never thought about my Judaism more,” she said. For the first time, anti-Semitism seemed an immediate, urgent threat.

For Jews on the left, fear has been magnified by insult as Trump, the man who helped unleash a new wave of anti-Semitism, posed as the Jews’ savior because of his devotion to the Israeli right.

“It’s infuriating and intolerable,” said Sophie Ellman-Golan, 27, the former director of communications and digital outreach at the Women’s March organization, who is now working on a project to mobilize Jews against white nationalism. Because the right purports to defend Jews even as it pursues policies that most Jews abhor, she argued, “it’s imperative that we loudly speak for ourselves because if we don’t the loudest voices that claim to speak on behalf of Jews will be right-wing evangelical Christians.”

There are, of course, plenty of established Jewish groups that make it their mission to speak for the community. But it’s hard to overstate the degree to which left-wing Jews feel alienated from and betrayed by the Jewish establishment, which often seems more concerned with left-wing anti-Zionism and rhetorical overkill than with right-wing white nationalism.

Never Again Action was born in reaction to the perceived failures of mainstream Jewish organizations to stand up to Trump. In June, after Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to migrant detention camps as “concentration camps,” establishment Jewish outfits like the Jewish Community Relations Council rushed to condemn her. Rubin was incredulous. A militantly xenophobic government is building internment camps for members of ethnic out-groups, and Jewish leaders worried that critics of this project were disrespecting the memory of the Holocaust?

“That compounded the outrage that a lot of Jews were feeling, that a mainstream Jewish institution would say something that just felt so out of touch,” she said. “That in part led us to really want to not just say in words, but actually take action to show how the Jewish community actually feels about this moment.”

People involved in the new Jewish left recognize that left-wing anti-Semitism exists. But they generally don’t believe it’s a threat on par with right-wing Jew hatred.

“No political party or movement is free of anti-Semitism,” said Ellman-Golan, who had to deal with the fallout from anti-Semitism at the Women’s March. But, she said, “only one political party is quite literally inciting white nationalists to shoot up our synagogues, drive cars into our peaceful protests, mail bombs to members of our community, burn black churches and mosques, and open fire on Latinx people.”

The Jewish left rejects the idea that anti-Zionism is equivalent to anti-Semitism, but even more than that, it rejects the idea that Israel is the guarantor of Jewish safety or the lodestar of Jewish identity. A central value of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, as well as for much of left-wing Jewish culture more broadly, is “doikayt,” a Yiddish term that means “hereness.”

“Where we are is our home. This is what we fight for. This is where we seek kinship,” said Audrey Sasson, JFREJ’s executive director. The first post-relaunch issue of Jewish Currents featured an essay by the publisher, Jacob Plitman, called “On an Emerging Diasporism,” which likewise celebrated the value of “hereness.”

For those primarily concerned about Jewish life in the diaspora, Israel, which has courted anti-Semitic nationalist leaders in Europe, isn’t really an ally, much less an ideal. And Trump, who always speaks of American Jews as if they belong there, is a grotesque enemy. He tells Jews committed to life in America that they owe loyalty to Israel, which he sometimes calls, when speaking to American Jews, “your country.” He says this, and expects Jews to react with gratitude.

Instead, many are reacting with a redoubled commitment to multiracial democracy and solidarity. Jews have been taking to the streets because no amount of support for a foreign country can redeem what he’s doing to this one.


As the Amazon Rainforest Fires Rage On – Brazil’s President Takes First Steps to Contain the Blazes!

Dear Commons Community,

As the Amazon burns and escalates into a global ecological crisis (see video above),  Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, finally took the step yesterday of mobilizing the armed forces to help contain blazes that are destroying swaths of precious rainforest.  Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article:

“As an ecological disaster in the Amazon escalated into a global political crisis, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, took the rare step on Friday of mobilizing the armed forces to help contain blazes of a scale not seen in nearly a decade.

The sudden reversal, after days of dismissing growing concern over hundreds of fires raging across the Amazon, came as international outrage grew over the rising deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rain forest. European leaders threatened to cancel a major trade deal, protesters staged demonstrations outside Brazilian embassies and calls for a boycott of Brazilian products snowballed on social media.

As a chorus of condemnation intensified, Brazil braced for the prospect of punitive measures that could severely damage an economy that is already sputtering after a brutal recession and the country’s far-right populist president faced a withering reckoning.

On Friday, he said that he was planning to send the military to enforce environmental laws and to help contain the fires starting Saturday.

“Whatever is within our power we will do,” he told reporters. “The problem is resources.”

Mr. Bolsonaro did not indicate what resources the military would bring to bear, but he was scheduled to give a televised address Friday evening to describe the government’s response plan.

In a televised address Friday night, Mr. Bolsonaro said the government would take a “zero tolerance” approach to environmental crimes. But he also said Brazilians in living in the states that encompass the Amazon must be provided with broader opportunities to make a decent living.

“I have a profound love and respect for the Amazon,” Mr. Bolsonaro said in a rare scripted message. “Protecting the rain forest is our duty.”

He provided no details about what assets the military would bring to bear in areas where fires are spreading.

It was unlikely that Mr. Bolsonaro’s plan could address the underlying crisis without a fundamental shift in his environmental policies, which have emboldened miners, loggers and farmers to strip and burn protected areas with a sense of impunity.”

This may be too little too late!


David Koch Leaves Behind a Complicated Legacy!

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Dear Commons Community,

David Koch, the industrialist and backer of conservative causes, died yesterday, and leaves behind a complicated legacy.  With a fortune of $50 billion, he played a part in shaping the world.  Daniel Schulman, a Koch brothers biographer, has an interesting piece about the two sides of the man.  Here is an excerpt:

“David’s older brother Charles, the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, released a statement on Friday praising his brother’s “institution changing philanthropic commitments to hospitals, cancer research, education and the arts.” David’s family, in their own remarks, noted that “David’s philanthropic dedication to education, the arts and cancer research will have a lasting impact on innumerable lives—and the we will cherish forever.”

It was in this benevolent, Carnegie-esque mold that David would prefer to be remembered. But, of course, there is another part of his legacy these statements conspicuously left out—David’s role as a conservative megadonor and political boogeyman who was one half of the enigmatic Koch brothers duo.

Together with Charles, he poured millions into politics in a decades-long bid to advance a conservative, free-market worldview, one passed down to the brothers from their hard-charging father, Fred, a founding member of the John Birch Society terrified by what he saw as encroaching communism. In 1980, David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket. The party’s platform that year included abolishing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and shuttering a host of government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Federal Trade Commission, CIA, and FBI. The primary qualification for David’s candidacy at the time was his overflowing bank account—as a candidate, he could spend as lavishly on the campaign as he chose. He infused the campaign with upwards of $2 million, and, ultimately, Koch and his running mate garnered a little more than 1 percent of the popular vote, a high-water mark for a party that had formed less than 10 years prior. 

The Libertarian Party run crystallized a role that David would play throughout his life as the public face of Charles’ political projects. It was Charles who had elevated the libertarians from obscurity, funding the movement almost singlehandedly in its early years and co-founding its flagship think tank, the Cato Institute. Similarly, when the tea party emerged during the early years of the Obama administration, thanks in part to the organizational assistance of Koch-created Americans for Prosperity, David, the group’s chairman, was the more visible presence. It was during the Obama-era, as the Kochs ramped up their political operation to fight what they perceived as a socialistic onslaught, that David Koch’s two worlds came uncomfortably into conflict—in one, he was the benefactor behind the renovation of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City, a board member of Boston’s WGBH, and sponsor of NOVA, and the man who had ponied up $65 million to overhaul the plaza in front of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the other, he was the modern-day robber baron financing climate change denial and an intemperate right-wing movement of anti-regulatory and limited-government activists. 

In the crucible of politics, Charles and David’s identities became virtually fused together as the monolithic Koch brothers. But they were far different men. That was evident by looking at the way both billionaires lived, Charles on the Wichita compound, hemmed in by strip malls, where the brothers grew up, and David in an 18-room duplex at one of New York’s most elite addresses, 740 Park Avenue, where a  plaque in the marble entryway to his home read: “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

Charles was the visionary and strategist behind their political and corporate empires. David was his loyal deputy, and though an eager participant in both endeavors, his passions seemed to lie elsewhere. When I was working on Sons of Wichita, my biography of the Koch family—there are four Koch brothers, by the way, not two—a Koch Industries veteran summed up their differences this way: “David,” he said, “is a true philanthropist. David’s [giving] is about making the world a better place. Charles’ is about changing the world.”

David’s numerous detractors—some of whom tastelessly took to Twitter today to wish him eternal damnation in hell—would argue over whether David, at least in the political realm, shaped the world for the better, though in other areas his backing has unquestionably done so. In the end, he leaves behind a complicated legacy. His name memorialized at Lincoln Center and at a cancer research center at M.I.T., will tell one story; the significant, though less-visible imprint of his giving on our polarized political climate will tell another.”



Gerry Murray, Roller Derby Star, Dies at 98!

Dear Commons Community.

Earlier this week, Gerry Murray, of roller derby fame died at the age of 98.  I was surprised by the extensive obituary (see below) in the New York Times written about her. 

I had forgotten Gerry but as a child growing up in the Bronx in the 1950s, my brothers and I were great fans of the New York Chiefs roller derby team and especially her.  She was an exciting skater who was speedy and tough.  I can remember my older brother Donald taking my brother Peter and me, to see her and the Chiefs at the 69th Street Regiment Armory.  She was by far the top fan favorite. 

She was a small and happy part of my childhood and am glad to see that she led a long life. 




Gerry Murray, Stalwart Roller Derby Star, Dies at 98

New York Times

By Richard Sandomir

Aug. 15, 2019

Gerry Murray, an aggressive and durable roller derby star who began her career in the late 1930s — and, after retiring, resumed it in the 1970s — and whose teammates included her two husbands and her only son, died on Aug. 9 in Des Moines. She was 98.

Her granddaughter, Sharilee Cantal, confirmed the death.

Murray joined the roller derby circuit as a teenager three years after a promoter, Leo Seltzer, conceived the sport in 1935. She stayed long enough to be part of its postwar surge of popularity, which brought large crowds to arenas and millions of viewers to television sets.

An exceptionally fast skater, she could deftly dispatch rival skaters on the sport’s banked oval track by jabbing them with a sharp elbow or thrusting a hip at them.

Murray, who played for most of her career with the New York Chiefs, was “a female terror, swishing around the track at 30 miles an hour, hipping her opponents, zigzagging recklessly, her red hair, tied in a ribbon, winging along behind her,” Gay Talese wrote in The New York Times in 1958.

In a sport filled with bruising action, Murray was known for her on-track battles with other women, notably Midge (Toughie) Brasuhn of the Brooklyn Red Devils. They were two of the biggest attractions in a league where the teams consisted of both men and women — unusual then and now — and women were often the stars.

“The worst roughing up I got was in Chicago against Toughie,” Murray told the gossip columnist Earl Wilson in 1950 about the serious leg injury she incurred in one of their bruising encounters. “She gave me one of those terrific blocks and I wasn’t even expecting it. I ended up on the rail. I hit the upright in midair.”

Despite the bloody noses Murray gave Brasuhn, they were friends off the track.

Their track duels inspired Sue Macy to write a children’s book, “Roller Derby Rivals” (2014), with illustrations by Matt Collins. “It was really passionate,” Ms. Macy said in a phone interview. “They weren’t just playing at hitting each other.”

Murray had a theory about why some young women entered roller derby’s aggressive world: They were shy and not too athletic, and they had not found outlets for their latent killer instincts.

“Once unleashed on the banked track,” she was quoted by Frank Deford in his book “Five Strides on the Banked Track” (1971), “the kid wakes up and learns it’s great to bounce people off their feet and onto their heads.”

In the close-knit, self-contained roller derby world, in which teams lived together for weeks at a time in the cities where they were competing, Murray married two of her male colleagues.

With Paul Milane, she had a son, Mike. After their divorce, she married Gene Gammon, who adopted Mike and was also her coach and teammate. They later divorced.

Mike Gammon — who was fitted with roller skates at 13 months — joined the league in the late 1950s as a teenager, played with his mother on the Chiefs and became one of the sport’s top stars.

Geraldine Murray was born on Sept. 30, 1920, in Des Moines to Raymond and Leila (Zika) Murray, and was raised largely by a grandmother. As a youngster, Gerry swam, ran track and played volleyball and softball. While playing in a high school softball tournament in Chicago in 1938, a friend suggested that she try out for roller derby at a local fair grounds.

She knew how to skate, but at first she could not fathom racing around the steeply banked track used in roller derby. “Are you kidding?” she recalled thinking in an interview with the roller derby writer Alan Ebert. “I could never skate on that thing.”

But she adapted, was chosen as a trainee and went to the derby’s school in Texas.

For the next 22 years, she played for the Chiefs and other teams. She oversaw the Chiefs’ training for some of that time and occasionally used her sewing skills to mend their uniforms.

After retiring in 1960 she held various jobs, owned two bars and bought a cattle and horse ranch in Hayward Hills, in Northern California, with her son and his wife, Judi McGuire Gammon, who also skated for the Chiefs.

In addition to her son and granddaughter, she is survived by two great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

In 1975, she returned to skating. Her old league had shut down two years earlier so, in her mid-50s, she joined the New York Braves of the new United Banked Track Skating Association, which led to newspaper headlines like “What’s a Nice Grandma Doing on Skates?” Her teammates included her son and daughter-in-law.

She was serious about returning, although she recognized why others would question her motives.

“This isn’t a publicity stunt,” she told United Press International. “If I can’t skate and skate the right way, I don’t want to skate at all.”

The league collapsed quickly, but in 1977 she tried again, joining a reconstituted Chiefs squad in the International Roller Skating League. In one match that season, Murray blocked and elbowed a rival, Carol (Peanuts) Meyer of the San Francisco Bay Bombers, with the physical vigor of her much younger self.

But that would be her final season. While skating in San Jose, she was knocked into a rail, broke a rib and punctured a lung.


“She was hospitalized for two or three days but skated the rest of that season,” Donald Drewry, a founder of the International Roller Skating League and a roller derby announcer, said in a phone interview. “She never told management, but when they found out, they were afraid to let her skate any longer.”

She retired, again, to her ranch, then returned to Des Moines in the 1990s.


New York Daily News Front Page: Trump the Chosen One!

Dear Commons Community,

President Donald Trump thanked a right-wing conspiracy theorist for likening him to the “king of Israel” and the New York Daily News couldn’t resist panning him.

For today’s front page, the News gave Leonardo Da Vinci’s famed depiction of the biblical story of The Last Supper a Trumpian twist.

The front page ― headlined “The Last Whopper” ― features Vice President Mike Pence, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  First lady Melania Trump and two of Trump’s closest White House advisers ― his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushne also appear.

The cover was published in  response to Trump tweeting his thanks to right-wing conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root, who claimed on Tuesday that Jewish people consider the president as the “second coming of God” and the “king of Israel.” Root’s comments, meanwhile, came after Trump said Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are disloyal.

Is king of the fools next!


New York Times Editorial: Mr. Trump, Stop Questioning the Loyalty of American Jews!

Dear Commons Community,

A New York Times editorial this morning takes aim at President Trump’s recent comments about Jews, loyalty to Israel, and voting for Democratic candidates. The editorial reminds readers that in the history of modern anti-Semitism, one of the most common justifications for violence is the inflammatory canard that the loyalty of Jewish citizens is suspect. 

President Trump has repeatedly used that libel in recent days as part of a verbal assault on the Democratic Party.  Such language is traditionally used to invoke anger against Jews. Mr. Trump, surreally, is employing it in an effort to win Jewish votes.

“If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel,” he said Wednesday.

This is nonsense on several levels. While many American Jews strongly support the Jewish state, such support is a choice, not an obligation. And those who do support Israel may reasonably conclude that there’s not much difference between the Republican Party’s longstanding and vigorous support for Israel and the Democratic Party’s longstanding and vigorous support for Israel — or they may place greater weight on other issues in casting a ballot.  Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

“…the president’s words are dangerous.

His demonization of minority groups and his equivocations about white supremacists has coincided with a sharp rise in hate crimes against Jews.

Gunmen have opened fire on Jewish congregations in Pittsburgh and in Poway, Calif., and the F.B.I. says hate crimes against Jews increased in each of the last three years. By subjecting Jews to a reckoning of loyalties, Mr. Trump toys with fanning those flames.

The president has a habit of speaking about Jews as different from other Americans, and specifically of suggesting that their loyalties are divided.

In April, addressing a gathering of Republican Jews in Las Vegas, he referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as “your prime minister.”

Responding to criticism of his latest remarks, he said Wednesday that his talk “is only anti-Semitic in your head.” But that’s precisely where anti-Semitism resides: in the minds of people who see Jews as somehow alien.

Mr. Trump, who has an undoubted eye for the weaknesses of his political opponents, is seeking to exacerbate emerging divides in the Democratic Party over America’s alliance with Israel. The dangers extend well beyond his recourse to anti-Semitic statements.

Even incremental movement toward polarizing Americans over Israel undermines the long-term security of the Jewish state, which has long rested on the firm foundation of bipartisan American support.

Mr. Netanyahu appears blind to this danger. He has chosen to reap the short-term benefits of Mr. Trump’s embrace, delighting in small victories like the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem and, at Mr. Trump’s urging, preventing two Muslim congresswomen, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, from making an official visit to Israel.

Mr. Trump is also doing Israel no favors over the long haul by discarding long-running American efforts to address the hopes and grievances of Palestinians and Israelis through a negotiated deal.

For Democrats, the challenge is to resist the easy gratification of reflexively opposing what Mr. Trump supports — or supporting what he opposes.

Mr. Trump wants to keep Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib in the spotlight because they are outspoken critics of American support for Israel. Ms. Omar has invoked anti-Semitic language in support of her arguments. Both support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is silent in its official documents about Israel’s right to exist, and which seeks to use economic pressure to extract concessions from Israel that the United States has long maintained should be negotiated as part of a peace agreement.

Leading Democrats have rightly criticized Israel for barring Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, while making clear that their views on Israel are not widely shared.

The right road forward is for Democrats, and Republicans, to maintain strong support for democracy and liberal values, both in Israel and in the United States.”

In sum, it is dangerous and despicable for Trump to imply that Jews owe allegiance to another nation.



Two Prominent Scholars Will Leave MIT’s Media Lab Because of Its Director’s Financial Ties to Jeffrey Epstein!

Dear Commons Community,

Two scholars from the MIT Media Lab have announced plans to resign in the wake of revelations that the director of the center, Joi Ito,  had deep financial ties with the accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.  Ethan Zuckerman, director of the lab’s Center for Civic Media, and J. Nathan Matias, a visiting scholar at MIT and founder of the nonprofit CivilServant, both announced that they would resign in protest at the end of the academic year.  As reported by  The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab is reeling from financial revelations last week connecting its director, Joi Ito, to Jeffrey Epstein, the accused child sex trafficker. In the latest fallout, Ethan Zuckerman, director of the lab’s Center for Civic Media, announced he would resign in protest at the end of the academic year.

“I am ashamed of my institution today and starting the hard work of figuring out how to leave the Lab.”

“The work my group does focuses on social justice and on the inclusion of marginalized individuals and points of view,” he wrote in a Medium post on Tuesday. “It’s hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship.”

Ito had extensive financial ties to Epstein, whom he met in 2013, five years after the financier was required to register as a sex offender in a controversial plea deal. In 2012 Epstein donated $50,000 to MIT, and he also invested in Ito’s private venture-capital funds. Ito has said that he visited Epstein’s properties numerous times and invited the financier to the Media Lab.

Epstein was found dead earlier this month in a Manhattan correctional facility, where he was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. A New York City medical examiner declared his death a suicide.

On August 15, Ito issued an apology in which he pledged to raise as much money as Epstein had given to the research center and donate it to nonprofits that support sex-trafficking victims. He also promised to return the money that Epstein invested in his venture-capital funds.

In his Medium post, Zuckerman cited the “scale of Ito’s involvement with Epstein” as the deciding factor in his decision to leave the lab. It is still unclear how much money Epstein donated to the lab or invested in Ito’s private funds, which are oriented toward startups.

The day after Zuckerman’s announcement, J. Nathan Matias, a visiting scholar at MIT and founder of the nonprofit CivilServant, which is housed at the Media Lab, said he, too, would move his work elsewhere.

“As part of our work, CivilServant does research on protecting women and other vulnerable people online from abuse and harassment,” Matias wrote in his own Medium post. “I cannot with integrity do that from a place with the kind of relationship that the Media Lab has had with Epstein.”

Both Matias and Zuckerman declined to comment for this article.

Zuckerman, who also holds an appointment as an associate professor of the practice in media arts and sciences at the lab, intends to move his work elsewhere by May 2020. He wrote that he might stay at MIT, but that would depend on “whether the Institute knew about the relationship with Epstein and approved of his gifts.”

Neither MIT nor the Media Lab responded to The Chronicle’s request for comment in time for publication.

CivilServant will move to Cornell University, where Matias was recently hired.

Ito and the Media Lab may have misled the public about funding from Epstein before Ito’s connections to the accused pedophile were revealed by The Boston Globe. In 2015, in response to a news release from Epstein touting his funding of a program at the lab to teach toddlers about computer programming, a spokeswoman for the research center denied that the money was ever received.

The Media Lab, an “antidisciplinary research community” that aims to “connect technology back to the social and the human,” is known for working at the intersection of new technology and social justice. Last year the research center presented three women with its annual Disobedience Award for their work in elevating the #MeToo movement in STEM. The irony was not lost on Zuckerman, who apologized to past recipients of the award after learning about the lab’s ties to Epstein.

“I am ashamed of my institution today and starting the hard work of figuring out how to leave the Lab,” he wrote in a letter obtained by The Boston Globe.

The Media Lab’s connections to Epstein go beyond Ito. Marvin Minsky, a pioneer of artificial intelligence and co-founder of the Media Lab who died in 2016, was accused of having sex with one of Epstein’s underage victims on the deceased financier’s private island. Minsky also held two conferences on the island, called Little St. James, where much of Epstein’s child sex trafficking is alleged to have taken place.

Epstein, who once called himself a “science philanthropist,” has a long history of funding scientific initiatives at institutions like MIT and Harvard University, which received more than $6.5 million from Epstein but said in July it has no plans to return the money. Epstein also had personal and financial relationships with some of the world’s foremost scientific thinkers, including the celebrity physicists Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss, who retired from Arizona State University in May following sexual-misconduct allegations. On more than one occasion, Epstein consulted with scientists about the possibility of inseminating 20 women at a time with his sperm on his New Mexico ranch in order to spread his DNA.

Ito is not the first prominent academic to face criticism for his relationship with Epstein. On August 5, the renowned Harvard biologist George Church apologized for multiple meetings and phone calls with Epstein after he pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution in 2008.

In their Medium posts, Zuckerman and Matias emphasized their love for the Media Lab’s work and community, even as they expressed disgust and disappointment toward its director.

“The MIT Media Lab is a community of creative people who helped me grow into the person I want to be in the world,” Matias wrote. “I am in tears as I write this.”

Zuckerman said it was a “privilege” to work at the Media Lab, but he added that “privilege can be blinding, and can cause people to ignore situations that should be simple matters of right and wrong.”

“I’m hoping my decision can open a conversation about what is appropriate for people to do when they discover the institution they’ve been a part of has made terrible errors,” he wrote.

We will hear more about this in higher education circles!



Pete King Becomes First House Republican To Back Assault Weapons Ban!

Image result for Representative Pete King

Dear Commons Community,

Rep. Pete King of New York on Monday became the first House Republican to back an assault weapons ban, joining its 200 Democratic co-sponsors.

The bill, titled The Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, was introduced in February by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). It applies to semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, both of which would be illegal to import, transfer, manufacture, sell or possess.

“They are weapons of mass slaughter,” King told the New York Daily News. “I don’t see any need for them in everyday society.”

King’s endorsement comes after two mass shootings devastated the nation earlier this month ― one at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart where an alleged white supremacist killed 22 people, and another in downtown Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people. Combined, the attacks also injured more than 50 people.

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, King released a statement calling for measured action on gun control in a message that differed from the GOP’s usual refrain of offering merely “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of mass shootings.

“The tragic shootings in El Paso and Dayton demonstrate again the need to address gun violence,” he said in the Aug. 5 statement. “Sensible gun regulation is essential as is psychological study of who resorts to gun violence and why and what early indicators there might be.”

Cicilline tweeted on Monday that he is “grateful” King, whose district encompasses part of Long Island, has specifically endorsed the assault weapons ban, and he urged other Republican to follow suit. 

“Time for my other Republican colleagues to stop worrying about their ratings from the gun lobby and start protecting the lives of their constituents,” Cicilline said.

Few signs have emerged, however, of a shift in GOP opposition to the proposed ban. President Donald Trump has vaguely endorsed the toughening of some gun control measures following the most recent slaughters, but he also declared that he saw “no political appetite, probably” for an assault weapons ban.

Without a lobbying effort by Trump, a House-passed ban would likely stall in the GOP-controlled Senate.

A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll found that 59% of Americans said they support an assault weapon ban. A Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 7 in 10 voters backing such a ban, including 64% of Republican women.

Are there any other Republicans with the courage to stand up to the NRA?