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Sacramento Bee Slams Devin Nunes in Scathing Editorial!

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Dear Commons Community,

The Sacramento Bee editorial board yesterday blistered Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), declaring in an editorial that voters in his congressional district “deserve better.”

The newspaper’s board dissected new “explosive allegations” that Nunes ― the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee ― “and his staff contacted shadowy Ukrainian figures in an effort to betray American democracy.”

“Text messages released by the House Intelligence Committee last week reveal that a top Nunes aide named Derek Harvey – who on Trump’s National Security Council before he joined Nunes’ staff – sought direct contact with Ukrainian officials in an effort to smear former Vice President Joe Biden,” the editorial explained.

The editorial said Nunes “knew the Ukraine allegations were true because his office was involved in the same plot. But he used his position in Congress as a platform to spread lies and mislead the public” by continually defending President Donald Trump, who the House last month impeached over the scandal.

“Regardless of whether you lean Democratic or Republican, here’s an undeniable fact: Nunes lied,” the board wrote. “He lied to the American people and to his own constituents about the Ukraine allegations, dismissing them although he knew they were true.”

“Devin Nunes has betrayed the truth, betrayed the trust of voters and, quite possibly, betrayed our country,” the editorial concluded. “We don’t know exactly where this new evidence will lead, or what fate has in store for Nunes, but we do know this: The people of California’s 22nd congressional district deserve better.”

The people in this district indeed deserve better than Nunez!

Tony

Navy Names Aircraft Carrier For Pearl Harbor Hero Doris Miller!

In this file photo taken May 27, 1942, Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller stands at attention after being awarded the Navy Cross medal for for his actions aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Navy named a aircraft carrier in honor of Miller on Jan. 20, 2020.

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Navy honored a World War II hero when a new aircraft carrier was named for Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller.  The Texas native was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for valor.  The announcement was made yesterday at Pearl Harbor.

Miller was recognized for manning a machine gun on the USS West Virginia and returning fire against Japanese planes during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  For those of you who ever watch  the movie, Tora, Tora, Tora, he is depicted manning the machine gun.

USS Miller, a destroyer escort, was previously named in his honor.

“I think that Doris Miller is an American hero simply because of what he represents as a young man going beyond the call of what’s expected,” said Doreen Ravenscroft, a team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial.

An African American was not allowed to man a gun in the Navy in 1941, Ravenscroft said.

“Without him really knowing it, he actually was a part of the Civil Rights movement because he changed the thinking in the Navy,” Ravenscroft said.

Two of Miller’s nieces were at Pearl Harbor for the announcement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Miller, then 22, was collecting laundry when the attack alarm sounded. His normal battle station in an antiaircraft battery magazine was destroyed by a torpedo. He went on deck and carried wounded soldiers to safety before receiving orders to aid the mortally wounded captain on the bridge.

“He subsequently manned a 50-cal. Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship,” the Navy said, noting Miller was not trained to operate the gun.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, presented the Navy Cross to Miller in Pearl Harbor in May 1942. 

Miller died while serving on a ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in November 1943.

Deserved recognition for a true hero.

Tony

Call for Chapter Proposals – Blended Learning Research Perspectives!

Dear Commons Community,

I am pleased to announce that my colleagues (Chuck Dziuban, Charles Graham and Patsy Moskal) and I will be doing a third edition of our book, Blended Learning Research Perspectives.  We have just sent out a call for chapter proposals (see below).   If you or anyone you know are doing research in this area and looking for a publication vehicle, I strongly urge you to consider submitting a proposal.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Tony

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Proposal Submission

We are pleased to announce that we are inviting submissions for the third volume of our book, Blended Learning Research Perspectives. Volume 1 and Volume 2 were well-received in the online and blended learning community and our publisher (Routledge/Taylor & Francis) has approached us to do a 3rd edition.

The nature of the submissions should focus on empirical studies (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods) that examine an aspect or issue related to blended learning. We are defining blended learning broadly to include any combination of online and face-to-face instruction. We will also accept a small number of submissions that focus on theories, models, and literature reviews related to blended learning.

Submissions can deal with any aspect of blended learning. We encourage especially any research related to student outcomes, new technologies, access, diversity, and cost-benefits.

We anticipate accepting approximately twenty-five submissions for the chapters in this book. We hope to provide readers with a broad array of educational interests including higher and K-12 education; adult, non-traditional and corporate training; international perspectives; and newer technologies such as adaptive learning and analytics. Evidence-based evaluations of courses and programs are welcome. Each chapter is not to exceed 5,500 words. Manuscripts will follow the APA style for references and bibliography. If a submission is accepted for publication, more detailed instructions will follow. All proposals should be submitted online at:

http://bit.ly/BLRP3-CFP

Each proposal should be one page and include title, all author names and organizations, a clear statement of purpose of the research, methods used, and a summary of findings. Deadline for submission of chapter abstracts is February 28th, 2020.  Editorial decisions notifications to authors based on chapter abstracts will be sent by the end of March 2020.

Upon completion of the proposal, look for the Qualtrics completion message indicating that your proposal was successfully submitted.

Relevant inquiries regarding the book or chapters should be emailed to APicciano@gc.cuny.edu.

If you have any issues with the proposal submission process, please email Patsy.Moskal@ucf.edu.

Sincerely, Volume Editors:

Anthony G. Picciano, Hunter College and City University of New York Graduate Center

Charles D. Dziuban, The University of Central Florida

Charles R. Graham, Brigham Young University

Patsy D. Moskal, The University of Central Florida

 

New York Times Endorses Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic Nomination!

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Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times yesterday endorsed two candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar from the party’s moderate wing and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren from the progressive wing.

The paper praised Warren as “a gifted story teller” and Klobuchar as “the very definition” of Midwestern charisma and grit.

When mentioning another front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Times acknowledged his years of experience, but also noted his age, 77, desire, and occasional gaffes. “It is time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of political leaders,” the paper said, borrowing from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address.

The paper mentioned Sen. Bernie Sanders’ age, 78, “serious concerns” about his health and noted his unwillingness to compromise. The paper praised another of the front-runners, 38-year-old Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, as likely to have “a bright political future.”

Below is the entire text of the endorsement.

I believe that the editorial staff should have bit the bullet and made one endorsement not two.

Tony

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Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren

The Democrats’ Best Choices for President

New York Times Editorial

January 19, 2020

 

American voters must choose between three sharply divergent visions of the future.

The incumbent president, Donald Trump, is clear about where he is guiding the Republican Party — white nativism at home and America First unilateralism abroad, brazen corruption, escalating culture wars, a judiciary stacked with ideologues and the veneration of a mythological past where the hierarchy in American society was defined and unchallenged.

On the Democratic side, an essential debate is underway between two visions that may define the future of the party and perhaps the nation. Some in the party view President Trump as an aberration and believe that a return to a more sensible America is possible. Then there are those who believe that President Trump was the product of political and economic systems so rotten that they must be replaced.

The Democratic primary contest is often portrayed as a tussle between moderates and progressives. To some extent that’s true. But when we spent significant time with the leading candidates, the similarity of their platforms on fundamental issues became striking.

Nearly any of them would be the most progressive president in decades on issues like health care, the economy and government’s allocations of resources. Where they differ most significantly is not the what but the how, in whether they believe the country’s institutions and norms are up to the challenge of the moment.

Many Democratic voters are concerned first and foremost about who can beat Mr. Trump. But with a crowded field and with traditional polling in tatters, that calculation calls for a hefty dose of humility about anyone’s ability to foretell what voters want.

Choosing who should face off against Mr. Trump also means acknowledging that Americans are being confronted with three models for how to govern this country, not two. Democrats must decide which of their two models would be most compelling for the American people and best suited for repairing the Republic.

The party’s large and raucous field has made having that clean debate more difficult. With all the focus on personal characteristics — age and race and experience — and a handful of the most contentious issues, voters haven’t benefited from a clarifying choice about the party’s message in the election and the approach to governing beyond it.

It was a privilege for us on the editorial board to spend more than a dozen hours talking to candidates, asking them any question that came to mind. Yet that exercise is impossible for most Americans, and we were left wanting for a more focused conversation for the public. Now is the time to narrow the race.

The history of the editorial board would suggest that we would side squarely with the candidate with a more traditional approach to pushing the nation forward, within the realities of a constitutional framework and a multiparty country. But the events of the past few years have shaken the confidence of even the most committed institutionalists. We are not veering away from the values we espouse, but we are rattled by the weakness of the institutions that we trusted to undergird those values.

There are legitimate questions about whether our democratic system is fundamentally broken. Our elections are getting less free and fair, Congress and the courts are increasingly partisan, foreign nations are flooding society with misinformation, a deluge of money flows through our politics. And the economic mobility that made the American dream possible is vanishing.

Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.

That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

At the dawn of 2020, some of the most compelling ideas are not emerging from the center, but from the left wing of the Democratic Party. That’s a testament to the effectiveness of the case that Bernie Sanders and Senator Warren have made about what ails the country. We worry about ideological rigidity and overreach, and we’d certainly push back on specific policy proposals, like nationalizing health insurance or decriminalizing the border. But we are also struck by how much more effectively their messages have matched the moment.

Senator Sanders has spent nearly four decades advocating revolutionary change for a nation whose politics often move with glacial slowness. A career spent adjacent to the Democratic Party but not a part of it has allowed him to level trenchant criticism of a political party that often caters more to rich donors than to the middle class. Many of his ideas that were once labeled radical — like paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, universal health care and limits on military intervention — are now mainstream, and may attract voters who helped elect Mr. Trump in 2016.

Mr. Sanders would be 79 when he assumed office, and after an October heart attack, his health is a serious concern. Then, there’s how Mr. Sanders approaches politics. He boasts that compromise is anathema to him. Only his prescriptions can be the right ones, even though most are overly rigid, untested and divisive. He promises that once in office, a groundswell of support will emerge to push through his agenda. Three years into the Trump administration, we see little advantage to exchanging one over-promising, divisive figure in Washington for another.

Good news, then, that Elizabeth Warren has emerged as a standard-bearer for the Democratic left.

Senator Warren is a gifted storyteller. She speaks elegantly of how the economic system is rigged against all but the wealthiest Americans, and of “our chance to rewrite the rules of power in our country,” as she put it in a speech last month. In her hands, that story has the passion of a convert, a longtime Republican from Oklahoma and a middle-class family, whose work studying economic realities left her increasingly worried about the future of the country. The word “rigged” feels less bombastic than rooted in an informed assessment of what the nation needs to do to reassert its historic ideals like fairness, generosity and equality.

She is also committed to reforming the fundamental structures of government and the economy — her first commitment is to anti-corruption legislation, which is not only urgently needed but also has the potential to find bipartisan support. She speaks fluently about foreign policy, including how to improve NATO relations, something that will be badly needed after Mr. Trump leaves office.

Her campaign’s plans, in general, demonstrate a serious approach to policymaking that some of the other candidates lack. Ms. Warren accurately describes a lack of housing construction as the primary driver of the nation’s housing crisis, and she has proposed both increases in government funding for housing construction, and changes in regulatory policy to encourage local governments to allow more construction.

She has plans to sharply increase federal investment in clean energy research and to wean the American economy from fossil fuels. She has described how she would reduce the economic and political power of large corporations and give workers more ability to bargain collectively. And she has proposed a sweeping expansion of government support for Americans at every stage of life, from universal child care to free public college to expanded Social Security.

At the same time, a conservative federal judiciary will be almost as significant a roadblock for progressive change. For Ms. Warren, that leaves open questions — ones she was unwilling to wrestle with in our interview. Ms. Warren has proposed to pay for an expanded social safety net by imposing a new tax on wealth. But even if she could push such a bill through the Senate, the idea is constitutionally suspect and would inevitably be bogged down for years in the courts. A conservative judiciary also could constrain a President Warren’s regulatory powers, and roll back access to health care.

Carrying out a progressive agenda through new laws will also be very hard for any Democratic president. In that light, voters could consider what a Democratic president might accomplish without new legislation and, in particular, they could focus on the presidency’s wide-ranging powers to shape American society through the creation and enforcement of regulations.

As an adviser to President Barack Obama, Ms. Warren was the person most responsible for the creation of a new regulatory agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In her interview with the editorial board, she demonstrated her sophisticated understanding of the different levers of power in an administration, particularly in the use of regulation in areas such as trade, antitrust and environmental policy.

When she first arrived in Washington, amid the Great Recession, Senator Warren distinguished herself as a citizen-politician. She showed an admirable desire to shake off the entrapments of many Washington interests in favor of pragmatic problem-solving on behalf of regular people. In her primary campaign, however, she has shown some questionable political instincts. She sometimes sounds like a candidate who sees a universe of us-versus-thems, who, in the general election, would be going up against a president who has already divided America into his own version of them and us.

This has been most obvious in her case for “Medicare for all,” where she has already had to soften her message, as voters have expressed their lack of support for her plan. There are good, sound reasons for a public health care option — countries all over the world have demonstrated that. But Ms. Warren’s version would require winning over a skeptical public, legislative trench warfare to pass bills in Congress, the dismantling of a private health care system. That system, through existing public-private programs like Medicare Advantage, has shown it is not nearly as flawed as she insists, and it is even lauded by health economists who now advocate a single-payer system.

American capitalism is responsible for its share of sins. But Ms. Warren often casts the net far too wide, placing the blame for a host of maladies from climate change to gun violence at the feet of the business community when the onus is on society as a whole. The country needs a more unifying path. The senator talks more about bringing together Democrats, Republicans and independents behind her proposals, often leaning on anecdotes about her conservative brothers to do so. Ms. Warren has the power and conviction and credibility to make the case — especially given her past as a Republican — but she needs to draw on practicality and patience as much as her down-and-dirty critique of the system.

Ms. Warren’s path to the nomination is challenging, but not hard to envision. The four front-runners are bunched together both in national polls and surveys in states holding the first votes, so small shifts in voter sentiment can have an outsize influence this early in the campaign. There are plenty of progressives who are hungry for major change but may harbor lingering concerns about a messenger as divisive as Mr. Sanders. At the same time, some moderate Democratic primary voters see Ms. Warren as someone who speaks to their concerns about inequality and corruption. Her earlier leaps in the polls suggest she can attract more of both.

The lack of a single, powerful moderate voice in this Democratic race is the strongest evidence of a divided party. Never mind the talented, honorable politicians who chose to sit this fight out; just stop and consider the talents who did throw their hat into the ring and never got more than a passing glance from voters — Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick, Jay Inslee, among others.

Those candidates who remain all have a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Pete Buttigieg, who is 38 and who was elected mayor of South Bend, Ind., in 2011, has an all-star résumé — Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar, Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, the first serious openly gay presidential candidate. His showing in the lead-up to the primaries predicts a bright political future; we look forward to him working his way up.

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, is an engaging and enthusiastic candidate whose diagnoses are often thought-provoking. He points to new solutions to 21st-century challenges rather than retrofitting old ideas. Yet he has virtually no experience in government. We hope he decides to get involved in New York politics.

Michael Bloomberg served three terms as New York’s mayor (and was endorsed twice by this page). A multibillionaire who built his namesake company from scratch, he is many of the things Mr. Trump pretends to be and would be an effective contrast to the president in a campaign. Mr. Bloomberg is the candidate in the race with the clearest track record of governing, even if that record has its blemishes, beginning with his belated and convenient apology for stop-and-frisk policing.

Still, Mr. Bloomberg’s current campaign approach reveals more about America’s broken system than his likelihood of fixing it. Rather than build support through his ideas and experience, Mr. Bloomberg has spent at least $217 million to date to circumvent the hard, uncomfortable work of actual campaigning. He’s also avoided difficult questions — going so far as to bar his own news organization from investigating him, and declining to meet with The Times’s editorial board under the pretext that he didn’t yet have positions on enough issues. What’s worse, Mr. Bloomberg refuses to allow several women with whom he has nondisclosure settlements to speak freely.

Few men have given more of their time and experience to the conduct of the public’s business than Joe Biden. The former vice president commands the greatest fluency on foreign policy and is a figure of great warmth and empathy. He’s prone to verbal stumbles, yes, but social media has also made every gaffe a crisis when it clearly is not.

Mr. Biden maintains a lead in national polls, but that may be a measure of familiarity as much as voter intention. His central pitch to voters is that he can beat Donald Trump. His agenda tinkers at the edges of issues like health care and climate, and he emphasizes returning the country to where things were before the Trump era. But merely restoring the status quo will not get America where it needs to go as a society. What’s more, Mr. Biden is 77. It is time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of political leaders.

Good news, then, that Amy Klobuchar has emerged as a standard-bearer for the Democratic center. Her vision goes beyond the incremental. Given the polarization in Washington and beyond, the best chance to enact many progressive plans could be under a Klobuchar administration.

The senator from Minnesota is the very definition of Midwestern charisma, grit and sticktoitiveness. Her lengthy tenure in the Senate and bipartisan credentials would make her a deal maker (a real one) and uniter for the wings of the party — and perhaps the nation.

Watch a special endorsement episode of “The Weekly” FX Hulu

1:17‘I Am Someone That Has a Record of Bringing People With Me’

This video excerpt has been edited by “The Weekly.”

She promises to put the country on the path — through huge investments in green infrastructure and legislation to lower emissions — to achieve 100 percent net-zero emissions no later than 2050. She pledges to cut childhood poverty in half in a decade by expanding the earned-income and child care tax credits. She also wants to expand food stamps and overhaul housing policy and has developed the field’s most detailed plan for treating addiction and mental illness. And this is all in addition to pushing for a robust public option in health care, free community college and a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Ms. Klobuchar speaks about issues like climate change, the narrowing middle class, gun safety and trade with an empathy that connects to voters’ lived experiences, especially in the middle of the country. The senator talks, often with self-deprecating humor, about growing up the daughter of two union workers, her Uncle Dick’s deer stand, her father’s struggles with alcoholism and her Christian faith.

Ms. Klobuchar promises a foreign policy based on leading by example, instead of by threat-via-tweet. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she serves on the subcommittees responsible for oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the nation’s borders and its immigration, citizenship and refugee laws. In 13 years as a senator, she has sponsored and voted on dozens of national defense measures, including military action in Libya and Syria. Her record shows that she is confident and thoughtful, and she reacts to data — what you’d want in a crisis.

All have helped Ms. Klobuchar to be the most productive senator among the Democratic field in terms of bills passed with bipartisan support, according to a recent study for the Center for Effective Lawmaking. When she arrived in the Senate in 2007, Ms. Klobuchar was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers that proposed comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for 12 million undocumented immigrants, before conservative pundits made it political poison. Her more recent legislative accomplishments are narrower but meaningful to those affected, especially the legislation aimed at helping crime victims. This is not surprising given her background as the chief prosecutor in Minnesota’s most populous county. For example, one measure she wrote helped provide funds to reduce a nationwide backlog of rape kits for investigating sexual assaults.

Reports of how Senator Klobuchar treats her staff give us pause. They raise serious questions about her ability to attract and hire talented people. Surrounding the president with a team of seasoned, reasoned leaders is critical to the success of an administration, not doing so is often the downfall of presidencies. Ms. Klobuchar has acknowledged she’s a tough boss and pledged to do better. (To be fair, Bill Clinton and Mr. Trump — not to mention former Vice President Biden — also have reputations for sometimes berating their staffs, and it is rarely mentioned as a political liability.)

Ms. Klobuchar doesn’t have the polished veneer and smooth delivery that comes from a lifetime spent in the national spotlight, and she has struggled to gain traction on the campaign trail. In Minnesota, however, she is enormously popular. She has won all three of her Senate elections by double digits. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried nine of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Ms. Klobuchar carried 51 in 2018. And it’s far too early to count Ms. Klobuchar out — Senator John Kerry, the eventual Democrat nominee in 2004, was also polling in the single digits at this point in the race.

There has been a wildfire burning in Australia larger than Switzerland. The Middle East is more unstable at this moment than at any other time in the past decade, with a nuclear arms race looking more when than if. Basket-case governments in several nations south of the Rio Grande have sent a historic flood of migrants to our southern border. Global technology companies exert more political influence than some national governments. White nationalists from Norway to New Zealand to El Paso use the internet to share ideas about racial superiority and which caliber of rifle works best for the next mass killing.

The next president will shape the direction of America’s prosperity and the future of the planet, perhaps irrevocably. The current president, meanwhile, is a threat to democracy. He was impeached for strong-arming Ukraine into tampering with the 2020 election. There is no reason patriotic Americans should not be open to every chance to replace him at the ballot box.

Yet, Mr. Trump maintains near-universal approval from his party and will nearly certainly coast to the nomination. Democrats would be smart to recognize that Mr. Trump’s vision for America’s future is shared by many millions of Americans.

Any hope of restoring unity in the country will require modesty, a willingness to compromise and the support of the many demographics that make up the Democratic coalition — young and old, in red states and blue, black and brown and white. For Senator Klobuchar, that’s acknowledging the depth of the nation’s dysfunction. For Senator Warren, it’s understanding that the country is more diverse than her base.

There will be those dissatisfied that this page is not throwing its weight behind a single candidate, favoring centrists or progressives. But it’s a fight the party itself has been itching to have since Mrs. Clinton’s defeat in 2016, and one that should be played out in the public arena and in the privacy of the voting booth. That’s the very purpose of primaries, to test-market strategies and ideas that can galvanize and inspire the country.

Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Warren right now are the Democrats best equipped to lead that debate.

May the best woman win.

 

Capt. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger Op-Ed: “Like Joe Biden, I Once Stuttered, Too. I Dare You to Mock Me!”

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week, Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, another member of his crass, boorish family, mocked former Vice President Joe Biden, for his stutter.  Chesley “Sully” Sullengerger, the retired pilot and himself once a stutterer, responded to her comments in an op-ed in today’s New York Times.    Here is an excerpt:

“As a small boy in Denison, Texas, I remember vividly the anguish of being called on in grade school, knowing that I was going to have a hard time getting the words out; that my words could not keep up with my mind, and they would often come out jumbled. My neck and face would quickly begin to flush a bright red, the searing heat rising all the way to the top of my head; every eye in the room on me; the intense and painful humiliation, and bullying that would follow, all because of my inability to get the words out.

Those feelings came rushing back, when I heard Lara Trump mocking former Vice President Joe Biden at a Trump campaign event, with the very words that caused my childhood agony. “Joe, can you get it out?” Ms. Trump was seen saying onstage, as a few giggles are heard from an otherwise silent audience. “Let’s get the words out, Joe.”

I too had an experience similar to Capt. Sullenberger. As a child growing up in the Bronx, I stuttered.  I couldn’t start a sentence with the letter “I” or say a word that began with a “W”.   “What” took at least nine or ten tries starting with “Wha..Wha..Wha..Wha..”   And those letters weren’t all the troublemakers. As a result, I was a very quiet little kid and never raised my hand in class. My first-grade teacher, Miss Cassidy, noticing my condition, decided to spend her lunch hours with me and would have me say tongue twisters, very slowly at first, and then faster and faster.  Within two months, my stutter was basically gone.  That was fifty-five years ago.  I have been grateful to her ever since.

It is a disgrace that we have members of our President’s family who feel the need to mock people.  Most likely, they do it to hide their own inadequacies.

Tony

 

 

Michelle Goldberg on Lev Parnas:  When Trump’s Thugs Turn on Him!

 

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Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg has a piece today exposing the relationship between President Trump and Lev Parnas.  Entitled, When Trump’s Thugs Turn on Him, she lays out a pattern in Trump’s behavior with “grifters” like Lev Parnas and shows us Trumpism on the inside.  The entire column is below but here is an excerpt.

“Some of the most disturbing and clarifying information Parnas has provided since turning on Trump involves the administration’s fixation on Marie Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine. It’s true that people around Trump saw her as an obstacle to getting Ukraine’s government to open a politically motivated investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, but that doesn’t quite explain the scale of the animosity toward her.

Trump didn’t just fire her. He told Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, that she was going to “go through some things.” We learned this week that Robert Hyde, a deranged Trumpworld hanger-on and Republican congressional candidate, sent a series of messages to Parnas suggesting he was stalking Yovanovitch. (Ukraine has opened an investigation into Hyde’s activity, and on Thursday he was visited by the F.B.I.) A lawyer and Fox News regular named Victoria Toensing — who has represented a Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian oligarch who is, according to the Justice Department, an upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime figures — texted Giuliani saying, “Is there absolute commitment for her to be gone this week?” Why the obsession with Yovanovitch?

Parnas added to the evidence that when it came to Yovanovitch, Trump and his crew willingly allowed themselves to be manipulated by Yuri Lutsenko, a disgraced former chief prosecutor of Ukraine who loathed her for her anti-corruption work. (As the State Department official George Kent said during the impeachment hearings, you can’t fight corruption “without pissing off corrupt people.”) In WhatsApp messages to Parnas, Lutsenko expressed fury that Yovanovitch hadn’t been fired yet. He spoke of all he’d done to push the spurious Biden scandal, adding, “And yet you can’t even get rid of one fool.”

“In that text message to you,” Rachel Maddow asked on Thursday, “is Mr. Lutsenko saying, in effect, listen, if you want me to make these Biden allegations, you’re going to have to get rid of this ambassador?” Parnas replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Goldberg has all the right insights.  Read her entire column.

Tony

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When Trump’s Thugs Turn on Him

By Michelle Goldberg

Opinion Columnist

Jan. 17, 2020

One good thing about surrounding yourself with tawdry gangsters and grifters is that if they flip on you, you can claim they have no credibility because they’re criminals.

Now that Lev Parnas, a key conspirator in Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s plot to shake down Ukraine, is singing, Trump’s defenders are pointing out that he is a disreputable person who can’t be trusted. “This is a man who is under indictment and who’s actually out on bail. This is a man who owns a company called Fraud Inc.,” the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said on Fox News, the only network on which she regularly appears. (Parnas’s company was actually called Fraud Guarantee, though that’s not any better.)

Grisham is obviously correct that he’s a shady character. He’s certainly not someone you’d want, say, threatening foreign officials on behalf of the president of the United States, as Parnas claimed he did during an extraordinary interview with Rachel Maddow that aired on Wednesday and Thursday on MSNBC.

Trumpists similarly dismissed Michael Cohen, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer before Giuliani did. The day Cohen testified to Congress that Trump is a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat,” a Trump campaign spokeswoman blasted him as “a felon, a disbarred lawyer and a convicted perjurer.” (Some of his felonies, of course, were things he did for Trump.) When Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, testified against his former boss Paul Manafort, Manafort’s lawyer grilled him, asking, “After all the lies you’ve told and fraud you’ve committed, you expect this jury to believe you?”

Giuliani himself is under federal criminal investigation. In a 2018 text to Parnas recently released by the House Intelligence Committee, Giuliani seemed to joke, apropos of Robert Mueller, “I’m no rat,” but should the prospect of prison ever change his mind, expect Republicans to make a similar case against believing a crooked and paranoid barfly. A willingness to associate with Trump is a sign of moral turpitude, so most witnesses to his venal schemes will necessarily be compromised.

Thus nothing that Parnas said in the Maddow interview should be taken at face value. Important questions remain unanswered, including who was paying all of the bills. (Remember — he was paying Giuliani, not vice versa.) Parnas’s decision to go public in the first place is hard to fathom.

None of that, however, means that his dramatic interview on the eve of Trump’s impeachment trial shouldn’t be taken seriously. That’s because much of what he says has been corroborated, and because the very fact that a person like Parnas was carrying out high-level international missions for the president shows how mob-like this administration is.

You don’t have to take Parnas’s word that he was working at the president’s behest. Last fall, when House impeachment investigators asked for documents and testimony from Parnas and his associate, Igor Fruman, they were initially represented by John Dowd, formerly one of Trump’s defense lawyers in the Mueller inquiry. Dowd, in turn, wrote to Congress that Parnas and Fruman would not cooperate with the impeachment investigation because some of the information the House sought may have been privileged. “Be advised that Messers. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump,” the letter said. (Documents that Parnas later provided to the House Intelligence Committee show that Trump signed off on Dowd representing them.)

Some of the most disturbing and clarifying information Parnas has provided since turning on Trump involves the administration’s fixation on Marie Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine. It’s true that people around Trump saw her as an obstacle to getting Ukraine’s government to open a politically motivated investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, but that doesn’t quite explain the scale of the animosity toward her.

Trump didn’t just fire her. He told Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, that she was going to “go through some things.” We learned this week that Robert Hyde, a deranged Trumpworld hanger-on and Republican congressional candidate, sent a series of messages to Parnas suggesting he was stalking Yovanovitch. (Ukraine has opened an investigation into Hyde’s activity, and on Thursday he was visited by the F.B.I.) A lawyer and Fox News regular named Victoria Toensing — who has represented a Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian oligarch who is, according to the Justice Department, an upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime figures — texted Giuliani saying, “Is there absolute commitment for her to be gone this week?” Why the obsession with Yovanovitch?

Parnas added to the evidence that when it came to Yovanovitch, Trump and his crew willingly allowed themselves to be manipulated by Yuri Lutsenko, a disgraced former chief prosecutor of Ukraine who loathed her for her anti-corruption work. (As the State Department official George Kent said during the impeachment hearings, you can’t fight corruption “without pissing off corrupt people.”) In WhatsApp messages to Parnas, Lutsenko expressed fury that Yovanovitch hadn’t been fired yet. He spoke of all he’d done to push the spurious Biden scandal, adding, “And yet you can’t even get rid of one fool.”

“In that text message to you,” Maddow asked on Thursday, “is Mr. Lutsenko saying, in effect, listen, if you want me to make these Biden allegations, you’re going to have to get rid of this ambassador?” Parnas replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

A few months ago, I wrote a column arguing that when it comes to Ukraine, Trump is at once a con man and a mark, and the information Parnas has provided backs this up. Having promised Lutsenko that he’d get Yovanovitch fired, Parnas told Trump, falsely, that Yovanovitch had bad-mouthed him. His text messages show that he pushed Donald Trump Jr. to tweet about her.

Parnas was the vehicle through which a dirty Ukrainian politician pulled Trump’s strings to take revenge on an American official who’d tried to uphold the rule of law. She was threatened, smeared and fired in part because Trump is easily influenced by the goons and bottom feeders in his orbit.

By going public, Parnas has probably done nothing to sway Republicans toward removing Trump from office, not because they don’t believe him, but because they know Trump did what he’s accused of and don’t care. Writing to Politico’s John F. Harris, a Trump supporter recently described the president as “our O.J.,” an apt analogy for Republicans’ vengeful determination to give a guilty man impunity. (As it happens, Trump will be represented by one of O.J. Simpson’s old lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, at his Senate trial.)

But Parnas is worth paying attention to because he’s shown us, once again, what Trumpism looks like from the inside. It’s part “The Sopranos” and part, as he put it to Maddow, a “cult.” The qualities that discredit Parnas are the same ones that let him fit right in.

 

Trump Taps Ken Starr for His Impeachment Defense – Once Called Him a ‘freak,’ a ‘lunatic,’ and a ‘disaster’!

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Robert Ray, Ken Starr, and Alan Dershowitz

Dear Commons Community,

President Donald Trump tapped Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater independent counsel, to represent him in his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.

Starr led the impeachment proceedings against Clinton in the 1990s. At the time, Trump was quoted in interviews as saying.

“Starr’s a freak,” Trump told The New York Times in 1999. “I bet he’s got something in his closet.”

That same year, he told MSNBC: “I think Ken Starr is a lunatic, I really think that Ken Starr is a disaster. I really think that Ken Starr was terrible.”

At the time, Trump was a supporter of Clinton. Starr wrote the so-called Starr Report in 1998 that led to Clinton’s impeachment. The document listed 11 possible impeachable offenses, including abuse of power, perjury, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice.

Starr has been accused of going on a fishing expedition during the investigation, which began as a probe of the Clinton family’s real-estate dealings and expanded to include lurid details of the president’s sex life. 

He also drew some criticism for explicitly detailing the sexual encounters Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky, who at the time was a young White House intern. Lewinsky has said the negative publicity and bullying she endured during and after Clinton’s impeachment made her feel like a “poster child for public humiliation.”

Robert Ray, who worked with Starr during Clinton’s impeachment, will also be representing Trump in his impeachment trial.

On Friday, after it surfaced that Starr and Ray would be on Trump’s legal team and would likely be making the opposite case from what they argued in Clinton’s impeachment, Lewinsky seemed to weigh in.

“[T]his is definitely an ‘are you f—— kidding me?’ kinda day,” she tweeted.

Starr was fired from his presidency at Baylor University  after a scathing 13-page summary report found that Baylor, under his leadership, had done little to respond to accusations of sexual assault involving football players.

Trump’s legal team will also include Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard emeritus law professor and constitutional and criminal law scholar. He confirmed his involvement in the impeachment trial Friday, tweeting that he was “participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent.”

Dershowitz has represented controversial figures in the past. He defended OJ Simpson in the 1990s, and he also represented the billionaire and sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. Last year, Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers sued Dershowitz alleging that she was forced to have sex with him when she was underage and recruited to work in Epstein’s sex trafficking ring (Dershowitz has repeatedly denied the allegation).

The judge in the lawsuit he’s defending from Giuffre ordered him to submit an extensive response to the allegations by February 7.

Trump’s legal team will be spearheaded by the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. In addition to him, Dershowitz, Starr, and Ray, it will also include Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal defense attorney, and Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida.

This has all the trappings of a legal three-ring circus.

Tony

Republican Group to Hit Trump Defenders With Scathing Ads on Fox News!

As impeachment heads to the U.S. Senate, Republicans for the Rule of Law plan to put GOP lawmakers who support President Donald Trump on notice with new ads (see sample above) that will air on Fox News in the Washington area. 

One ad calls out Trump for prohibiting key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry against him..  Another ad shows GOP lawmakers standing up to President Richard M. Nixon when he refused to comply with subpoenas from Congress in 1974.

“Now President Trump refuses to comply with congressional subpoenas,” the voiceover said. “Will today’s Republican Party defend the president’s obstruction or defend the rule of law?” 

Sarah Longwell, the group’s executive director, noted that Republicans stood up to both Nixon and President Bill Clinton during past impeachments. 

“Republicans should remember their forebears as well as the precedent they are setting, and uphold their duty to the Constitution,” Longwell said in a statement that called impeachment a check against “a tyrannical, unaccountable executive.”

The organization is also planning a billboard (see below) in New York’s Times Square similar to the ones placed in the congressional districts of several House Republicans.

“What is Trump hiding?” the billboard asks. 

Trump and friends have a lot to hide.

Tony

Entire Pennsylvania Community College System Signs Articulation Agreement with Southern New Hampshire University!

14 signatures

Dear Commons Community,

On January 8, 2020,  14 Pennsylvania community college presidents signed (see image above) a new partnership and articulation agreement with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

Under the agreement, students from all 14 Pennsylvania community colleges will be able to transfer up to 90 credits to SNHU and complete their bachelor’s degree online with a 10 percent tuition reduction.

“Community colleges work hard to provide students with quality education at an affordable price, which is why we’re so pleased to announce our partnership with Southern New Hampshire University,” said John J. “Ski” Sygielski, MBA, Ed.D., President and CEO of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College. “This articulation agreement will allow community college students in Pennsylvania to seamlessly transfer up to 90 credits to SNHU and offer them a 10 percent tuition reduction, making postsecondary distance education more affordable for Pennsylvania community college students.”

Of the 90 credits that may be transferred toward an online bachelor’s degree with SNHU, applicable military training is considered. The agreement also applies to employees and immediate family members of employees from all Pennsylvania community colleges. The 14 community college presidents hope that the agreement will help Pennsylvania achieve its attainment goal of 60 percent of Pennsylvanians aged 25-64 with a postsecondary degree or industry-recognized credential by 2025.

“At SNHU, we seek to streamline the transfer process for community college graduates across the nation and we are excited to team up with all 14 community colleges in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Batchelor, D.Mgt., Vice President of Academic Programs, Global Campus, Southern New Hampshire University. “Through this new partnership, students will be able to continue on a transformational journey, which will not only impact their lives but also those of their families and communities.”

The agreement will provide transfer students the opportunity to pursue an online bachelor’s degree at a rate which is more affordable than nearly every other public option in Pennsylvania, depending on the student’s program of study and credit load. At the time of today’s signing, the partnership between Pennsylvania’s community colleges and SNHU represents the only statewide articulation agreement of its kind in the Commonwealth.

SNHU is already a popular transfer destination for Pennsylvania’s community college students, with more than 1,500 community college students currently enrolled. Nearly 500 Pennsylvania community college students transferred to SNHU in the 2018 – 2019 academic year, and SNHU awarded 166 Pennsylvania community college graduates a bachelor’s degree last year. Currently enrolled transfer students from Pennsylvania community colleges are eligible for the 10 percent tuition reduction. Under the terms of the articulation agreement, new community college transfer applicants will receive a waiver of the standard application fee to SNHU.

This agreement is further evidence that the evolution of the online mega-universities continues to move forward.  It also puts pressure on Pennsylvania’s four-year colleges including the Penn State World Campus to compete for these community college students.

Tony