New York State to Lift Mask Mandate in Schools on March 2nd!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced yesterday that the statewide masking requirement in schools will be lifted by March 2.

In a briefing held in Albany, Hochul cited declining COVID-19 cases and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She said counties and cities could keep their own mandates in place, and parents could still choose to send their kids to school in masks.

The new rules effective Wednesday apply to children 2 years and older in childcare facilities. New York State has 2.7 million schoolchildren, including about 1 million in New York City.

Earlier this month, Hochul let a broad mask mandate for most indoor settings expire, but said the schools requirement would remain in place. She had promised to revisit the schools question by the first week of March.

The broad mask mandate was implemented during a COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant in December.

Masks are still required in some places, including public transit.

In response to Hochul’s announcement, New York City will lift its indoor mask mandate for public school students and “Key to NYC” requirements on Monday, March 7 if the five boroughs continue to see a “low level” of COVID-19 risk, Mayor Eric Adams said yesterday.

Adams is expected to formally announce the news on Friday, he said in a press release.

The city’s Key to NYC rules require restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues to ask patrons and customers for proof of vaccination.

“Our schools have been among the safest places for our children since the beginning of the pandemic, and we will continue to make the proper public health decisions to keep our kids safe, including making masks available for any child or school staff member who wishes to continue wearing them,” Adams said in a statement. 

Lifting the Key to NYC requirements on March 7 “will give business owners the time to adapt and will allow us to ensure we are making the best public health decisions for the people of New York,” he added. 

The city’s other vaccine mandates, including its private sector mandate, “will remain in place at this time as they are, and have been, vital to protecting New Yorkers,” the mayor noted.

Good moves on the part of the governor and mayor!



Video: ‘Almost treasonous’ – Romney condemns GOP voices backing Putin!

Dear Commons Community,

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said yesterday (see video clip above)  that “it just makes me ill” to see people inside of the Republican Party praise Russian President Vladimir Putin as he wages war against Ukraine. Romney even went as far as to describe it as “almost treasonous” to side with Putin.

“A lot of those people are changing their stripes as they are seeing the response of the world and the political response here in the U.S.,” Romney said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when asked about pro-Putin sentiment within the Republican Party.

“But how anybody — how anybody in this country, which loves freedom — can side with Vladimir Putin — which is an oppressor, a dictator, he kills people, he imprisons his political opponents, he has been an adversary of America at every chance he’s had — it’s unthinkable to me. It’s almost treasonous,” he continued. “And it just makes me ill to see some of these people do that.”

Romney did not name whomever he was talking about, but the Utah senator is a prominent critic of former President Donald Trump, who has praised Putin’s Ukraine strategy as “genius” and repeatedly showered the autocratic Russian with praise throughout his presidency.

Trump’s stance stands in sharp contrast with decades of hardline anti-Moscow orthodoxy within the Republican Party, stretching back through the Cold War. Ten years ago, Romney, then the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, even drew mockery from then-President Barack Obama for describing Russia as America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe. “They continue to be” that geopolitical adversary, Romney told CNN.

Plenty of Republicans, including the GOP leaders of both the Senate and House, have maintained the party’s traditional hawkishness on Russia. But there have been clear deviations beyond Trump, though perhaps sparked by him.

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted earlier this month found that Trump voters were twice as likely as Biden voters to say the Russia-Ukraine conflict is “none of America’s business.” Other polls have shown Republican voters giving a higher favorability rating to Putin than leading Democrats.

J.D. Vance, a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, recently declared in a podcast interview, “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.” The official Twitter account of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted a couple days ago: “Why does Joe Biden care more about Ukraine’s border than the U.S. southern border?”

Top-rated Fox News host Tucker Carlson has also repeatedly downplayed the crisis, describing it as a “border dispute” and asking: “Why would we take Ukraine’s side and not Russia’s side?” Carlson has recently taken a harder line on Putin.

During the Sunday interview, CNN anchor Dana Bash pressed Romney on whether his “almost treasonous” line would apply to Trump. Romney demurred.

“Standing up for freedom is the right thing to do in America, and anything less than that, in my opinion, is unworthy of American support,” he said.

We need more Romneys in the Republican Party!



5 verified charities working to help Ukrainians amid invasion!

| Hungry Child in Ukraine | MR Online

Hungry Child in Ukraine (Donbass Insider)

Dear Commons Community,

On Thursday, Feb. 24, Russia began its attack on Ukraine.

With heavy casualties expected on both sides, you might be wondering how you can help.

USA TODAY compiled a list of United States-based charities that will put your money to good use, based on information from their websites. If you are so inclined, below are five organizations you can support.



Global Giving Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund

The Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund by Global Giving sprung into action once Russia declared war on Ukraine earlier this week.

According to the organization’s official website, your donation will help “affected communities in Ukraine, with a focus on the most vulnerable, including children, who need access to food, medical services, and psychosocial support.”

Not only that, but the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund will “support humanitarian assistance in impacted communities in Ukraine and surrounding regions where Ukrainian refugees have fled.”

International Rescue Committee

As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, the International Rescue Committee is getting ready to prepare for the worst. Right now, it is mobilizing resources to aid the people in Ukraine who were forced to flee their homes.

“The IRC is meeting with partners and local civil society organizations in Poland and Ukraine to assess capacity for responding to an increase of refugees and people in need,” said the organization on its official website. “We will work to respond where we are needed the most and with the services that are needed urgently. Whatever the needs are, we are preparing to meet them.”

Save the Children

According to Save the Children, there are 7.5 million kids who are in danger of physical harm, emotional distress and displacement due to the invasion in Ukraine. Even before the conflict escalated this week, there were already 400,000 children there who needed humanitarian aid.

That’s why Save the Children has made their own Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund to help Ukrainian families now. On their official website, the organization said that it will use donations to help families meet their basic needs such as food, medicine and shelter.

Save the Children’s specialist teams will also help Ukrainian children get access to education and psychosocial support.

Razom for Ukraine

Razom for Ukraine has been helping Ukrainians since the organization was first established in 2014. It aims to help Ukraine pursue a democratic society that has civil rights for all.

“This is not the first time we are all facing the hybrid war against us. And together we will stand strong!” the charity said on its Facebook page.

According to its official website, the organization is named Razom for Ukraine because Rzaom “means ‘together’ in Ukrainian and serves as a constant reminder of the community that it takes to create, build and do, to stay the path towards a more prosperous and democratic Ukraine.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross is helping the Ukrainian Red Cross assist people who were affected by the conflict there.

Once war broke out, ICRC president Peter Maurer released a statement on the organization’s website.

“The ICRC’s priority is to assist those in need,” he said. “This week we delivered 3,000 liters of potable water to Dokuchaevsk hospital and sent 7,000 liters to Donetsk municipality.”

“Recent work also includes visits to places of detention to help improve hygiene and nutrition,” he added. “The security situation permitting, our teams now in Ukraine will continue their work to repair vital infrastructure, support health facilities with medicines and equipment, and support families with food and hygiene items.”

“We will also continue our bilateral and confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict to protect those affected by the fighting,” Maurer continued.

More notable charities:

If these charities don’t appeal to you, then Charity Navigator — a platform dedicated to educating Americans about non-profit resources — suggests giving these organizations a try:


Maureen Dowd on Vladimir Putin as a Napoleonic megalomaniac who is “a small man of five-six saying he’s five-seven”

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd today analyzes the insanity of Vladimir Putin, the former K.G.B. officer who has been feeling humiliated and furious ever since the red banner of the Soviet Union came down from the Kremlin 30 years ago.  He decided to indulge his nostalgia for the days when American children had to practice diving under their school desks; when James Bond sparred with the Soviet assassin Rosa Klebb, sprouting a knife in her shoe. He longs for the shadowy era when Moscow was a menacing superpower, not a withering autocracy.

She adds:  To feed Cold War dreams, Putin spun a nuclear nightmare. He invaded a peaceful democracy, Ukraine, vowing consequences “you have never seen in your entire history” to those who interfered.

One of her best comments refers to Donald Trump:  “Though Donald Trump was Putin’s lap dog, upending traditional Republican antipathy toward Russia, Putin no doubt has contempt for the weak and malleable Trump. Putin could have been alluding to Trump in his speech Thursday when he accused the U.S. of ‘con-artist behavior,’ adding that America had become ‘an empire of lies.’ Certainly, Trump was the emperor of lies.”

She concludes that Putin is a Napoleonic megalomaniac, summed up best by  Russia expert Nina Khrushcheva in a Vanity Fair podcast: “He’s a small man of five-six saying he’s five-seven.”

Dowd’s entire column is below.



The New York Times

Rash Putin Razes Ukraine

By Maureen Dowd

Feb. 26, 2022

WASHINGTON — What has surprised me most about the history I have lived through is how often we get dragged on demented, destructive rides by leaders who put their personal psychodramas over the public’s well-being.

And it always feels as though we are powerless to stop the madness of these individuals, that we’re trapped in their ego or libido or id or delusion.

Now comes the insanity of Vladimir Putin, the former K.G.B. officer who has been feeling humiliated and furious ever since the red banner of the Soviet Union came down from the Kremlin 30 years ago. This demonic little man with the puffy Botoxy face has been watching too many episodes of “The Americans” during his Covid isolation.

He decided to indulge his nostalgia for the days when American children had to practice diving under their school desks; when James Bond sparred with the Soviet assassin Rosa Klebb, sprouting a knife in her shoe. He longs for the shadowy era when Moscow was a menacing superpower, not a withering autocracy.

To feed Cold War dreams, Putin spun a nuclear nightmare. He invaded a peaceful democracy, Ukraine, vowing consequences “you have never seen in your entire history” to those who interfered.

“Even by his logic, I don’t see how this ends well,” The Times’s Steven Lee Myers, a former Moscow correspondent who wrote “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin,” told me. “He conquers Ukraine and people declare him the tsar of all Russian lands? That’s not going to happen. There’s not even cheering in Russia like there was after the annexation of Crimea, which was done with almost no bloodshed. And I doubt a majority of Russians believe the propaganda about the imminent Nazi threat.” (Especially since the country is run by a Jewish comedian turned courageous president, Volodymyr Zelensky.)

As Julia Ioffe wrote in Puck, Putin stewed in his begrudging juices for decades and then rang down a new Iron Curtain: “Even as his forces were shelling the entirety of Ukraine — north to south, east to west — Putin made clear that his invasion wasn’t really about Ukraine. It was about the United States, about history and settling old scores, and rewriting the terms of surrender, 30 years later, that ended the Cold War.”

On Thursday, Putin tried to justify behaving like a war criminal, saying that Russia — i.e., Putin — was being treated in an “insolent,” “contemptuous” and “disdainful” way by the West.

In the midst of his “extraordinary, if predictable, doublespeak,” as The Times’s Roger Cohen called it, Putin draped the albatross of the unwarranted invasion of Iraq around America’s neck:

To prove that there were W.M.D.s in Iraq, Putin said, “the U.S. secretary of state held up a vial with white powder, publicly, for the whole world to see, assuring the international community that it was a chemical warfare agent created in Iraq. It later turned out that all of that was a fake and a sham, and that Iraq did not have any chemical weapons.”

Hard to argue with that.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney let their own egos, gremlins and grandiose dreams occlude reality. W. wanted to outshine his father, who had decided against going into Baghdad when he fought Saddam. And Cheney wanted to kick around an Arab country after 9/11 to prove that America was a hyperpower. So they used trumped-up evidence, and Cheney taunted Colin Powell into making that fateful, bogus speech at the U.N., chockablock with Cheney chicanery.

Though Donald Trump was Putin’s lap dog, upending traditional Republican antipathy toward Russia, Putin no doubt has contempt for the weak and malleable Trump. Putin could have been alluding to Trump in his speech Thursday when he accused the U.S. of “con-artist behavior,” adding that America had become “an empire of lies.” Certainly, Trump was the emperor of lies.

Republicans used to be so allergic to Communists that George H.W. Bush told this story in his memoir: In his 1964 Texas Senate bid, the John Birch Society slimed him by implying that Barbara Bush’s father, the president of McCall publishing, put out a Communist manifesto, Redbook, the women’s magazine.

As President Biden marshaled world opinion against Putin, Trump offered nauseating praise of this murderer. Like the thug he so admires, Trump let his fragile ego and world-class delusions distort reality. Trump politicized the Covid response in a dangerous way. And, unable to accept the designation of Loser, he helped spread the lies and misinformation that led to Jan. 6. In a breathtaking betrayal, the president of the United States tried to scuttle the democracy he was running; Trump abandoned the Constitution he was sworn to protect.

But if President Biden got no backup on helping Ukraine from the quisling Trump, he did get a boost Friday from his inspiring Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who reminded us, “The United States of America is the greatest beacon of hope and democracy the world has ever known.”

As for Putin’s Napoleonic megalomania, perhaps the Russia expert Nina Khrushcheva summed him up best in a Vanity Fair podcast: “He’s a small man of five-six saying he’s five-seven.”


Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Rejects U.S. Evacuation Offer: ‘I Need Ammunition, Not A Ride’

I need ammunition, not a ride': Zelensky turns down U.S. evacuation offer

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Dear Commons Community,

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy turned down an American offer early yesterday to be evacuated from the capital city, Kyiv, which is under attack by Russia.

“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelenskyy said, according to the Ukrainian Embassy in the U.K.

Russian troops continued to press into Ukraine’s capital on the third day of the invasion, with Ukraine reporting 198 people killed and more than 1,000 injured. Residents of Kyiv took shelter after a night of explosions and street fighting on the city’s outskirts.

An apartment building was hit by a missile strike Saturday morning. There were no reported deaths, according to the Kyiv Independent.

Zelenskyy appears determined not to leave the city, “This might be the last time you see me alive,” he reportedly told European Union leaders on a conference call Thursday night.

The U.S. concurs that Zelenskyy is a prime target for Russian forces. Zelenskyy “does, in many ways, represent ― even personify ― the democratic aspirations and ambitions of Ukraine ― of the Ukrainian people,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday evening.

The Ukrainian president tweeted a 40-second video yesterday morning from his phone, seeking to reassure people that he was still in Kyiv.

“I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this,” he said, according to a translation by CNN.

“That is it. That’s all I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine,” he added.

Another video, posted Friday night, showed Zelenskyy surrounded by other political leaders on a city block lit by streetlights. “Our troops are here, citizens are here,” he said, according to a translation by The Telegraph.

Zelenskyy has maintained an active social media presence during the Russian attacks, tweeting about his contacts with world leaders and advocating for his desired outcomes. On Saturday morning, he urged that Ukraine become part of the EU. He also pushed for countries to exclude Russia from the global financial messaging system SWIFT, which links the world’s banks and allows cross-border financial payments to function.

The Associated Press reported that the US, the EU, and the UK were making moves yesterday that would include cutting key Russian banks out of the SWIFT financial messaging system, which daily moves countless billions of dollars around more than 11,000 banks and other financial institutions around the world. The fine print of the sanctions was still being ironed out over the weekend, officials said, as they work to limit the impact of the restrictions on other economies and European purchases of Russian energy.

The disconnection from SWIFT announced by the West on Saturday is partial, leaving Europe and the United States room to escalate penalties further later.

Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people deserve as much help as possible from the US and the rest of the world in order to keep their country.



Video: David Petraeus – Ukrainians are fighting valiantly against Russian invaders!

Dear Commons Community,

Two days in, the Russian invaders  have encountered stiffer-than-expected resistance from highly motivated Ukrainian armed forces.

Despite an overwhelming advantage in manpower and equipment, the Russian advance lost some of its momentum yesterday and the quick victory Russian President Vladimir Putin was counting on is no longer assured, a senior United States defense official told NBC News.

“We do assess that there is greater resistance by the Ukrainians than the Russians expected,” the official said. “They are fighting for their country.”

While Russian forces are threatening the capital, Kyiv, and other major cities like Kharkiv and small-but-strategic cities like Rivne, none have have been taken so far and the Ukrainian air defenses remain largely intact, despite being targeted by relentless missile attacks, the official said.

Former CIA director David Petraeus echoed that assessment in an interview with MSNBC (see video above).

“They are encountering more significant resistance and more determination than I think they expected,” Petraeus said.

“The Russians have not collapsed the Ukrainian command and control,” Petraeus said. “They haven’t taken even remotely a major city yet….This has to be unsettling to them.”

Still, Petraeus said he expects the Russians will eventually defeat the Ukrainian army.

“They’ll defeat the Ukrainian conventional forces, that’s again, not in question,” he said. “It’s how long it takes, how determined can they be as they’re taking very tough losses.”

Western Ukraine, which borders NATO member Poland and where the U.S. and other countries are maintaining a diplomatic presence in the city of Lviv, “remains largely undisturbed,” the official said.

And while a Russian amphibious assault involving thousands of soldiers was underway west of the city of Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, the official said the assumption is that those forces are bound for the Donbas region, which is a pro-Russian area where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian forces for months.

“Contrary to great Russian claims, and indeed President Putin’s sort of vision that somehow the Ukrainians would be liberated and would be flocking to his cause, he’s got that completely wrong, and the Russian army has failed to deliver, on Day One, its main objective,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

Wallace’s assessment came as the outskirts of Kyiv were being pounded by Russian missile strikes and machine guns were being handed out to civilians preparing to defend their city from the invaders.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has shed his tailored suits and is now dressed for battle in hunting gear, has refused to leave Kyiv and has been pleading for Western governments to take tougher measures against Moscow.

“I think they are going to fight,” James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and former top NATO commander, said of the Ukrainians on NBC’s “TODAY.” “The government in Kyiv has handed out 18,000 rifles to the populace. They are restricting all men age 18 to 60 from leaving the country. Clearly Zelenskyy, he’s out of his suit. He’s wearing his hunting gear. This is going to be a tough fight for the Russians.”

Wallace agreed.

Fight on Ukraine!


New Book:  “Hitler’s American Gamble:  Pearl Harbor and Germany’s March to Global War” by Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman!

Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished reading Hitler’s American Gamble:  Pearl Harbor and Germany’s March to Global War by Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman,  World War II buffs will find this an enjoyable and insightful read.  It covers the five days between the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 to December 11th.  Simms and Laderman trace how America’s involvement in World War II was far from inevitable.  However, the attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s subsequent declaration of war on the United States on December 11th irrevocably forced America into war with Germany and the Axis powers.  This book at 500+plus pages with footnotes is no quick treatment of the subject.  There are also good details about the importance of the lend-lease program, the war between Germany and Russia on the Eastern Front, and Roosevelt’s relationship with Churchill. The authors conclude:

“Thanks not least to Roosevelt’s skillful messaging…It was Hitler not Roosevelt, who had brought the United States into the war, dooming the Third Reich.”

I found it a page turner!

Below is the New York Times review.



The New York Times Book Review

The Decision That Cost Hitler the War

By Benjamin Carter Hett

Nov. 19, 2021

Pearl Harbor and Germany’s March to Global War
By Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman

The world probably changed more between Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, 1941, than in any other week in history.

In early December German forces stood close to Moscow, and it seemed the Soviet capital would soon fall. Japan was at war in China but retained diplomatic relations with other world powers. The United States, despite the new Lend-Lease program, was as far from entering the military conflict as ever — so much so that Winston Churchill was starting to despair that America’s military power would never come to his hard-pressed country’s aid. Churchill knew that “dragging the United States in,” as he put it, was Britain’s only possible path to victory.

And then, on Dec. 5, the Soviets opened an enormous counteroffensive in front of Moscow that grew into a mortal threat to the exhausted German forces. On the evening of Dec. 7, as the British historians Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman tell us in “Hitler’s American Gamble,” their absorbing new book, Churchill was in such a funk that he sat slumped in his chair ignoring the news broadcast of a Japanese assault on an American naval base in the Pacific.

Churchill’s consuming worry was that Japan would attack British-held territories in Asia, giving Britain new fronts and a new skillful and determined enemy, while the United States remained on the sidelines. Even Pearl Harbor did not leave Churchill as relieved as he later claimed: It raised the danger that the United States might pull out of Lend-Lease and direct all its energies toward Japan, leaving the British more stretched than before.

For four tense days, dramatically chronicled here, it was far from certain that Franklin Roosevelt would lead the United States into war against Germany. It took Hitler to do that. On Dec. 11, in a speech before Germany’s Reichstag, Hitler announced his declaration of war on the United States. With this step, he chose a war that his country, already mired in the Soviet Union, could never win.

Why would he do this? Historians have generally fallen into two camps on this question. Some think Hitler was just nihilistic and irrational, welcoming the destruction into which he was rushing. Others find at least some semblance of strategic calculation in his decision.

Simms and Laderman fall into the second camp. In their telling — consistent with the theme of Simms’s truly original 2019 biography of Hitler — the Führer was well aware of American power, indeed obsessed by it. He was also sure that the United States would enter the war against him sooner or later. He thought the only solution was pre-emptive: to get control of enough oil and food from the Soviet Union to enable Germany to hold its own against Anglo-America in a long war.

Hitler may have believed that the Japanese would distract America long enough for him to reach his goal, and so he wanted to encourage Tokyo by adding his support. In any case, the only alternative he saw to immediate war on the United States was slow but certain strangulation at Anglo-American hands. With a nod to an epigram from A. J. P. Taylor, Simms and Laderman offer this summation: “Hitler committed suicide for fear of dying.”

The greatest strength of Simms and Laderman’s book is its success in accomplishing something supremely difficult: It reminds us how contingent even the most significant historical events can be, how many other possibilities lurked beyond the familiar ones that actually happened — and how even the greatest leaders often have only a shaky grasp of what is happening.

Early December 1941 is the moment of the war in which plausible alternate scenarios seemed to loom the largest. What if Vichy France and Fascist Italy had drawn closer together in a “Latin front,” as they were discussing at the time? What if the Japanese had attacked the British in Malaya and Singapore but not attacked the United States? What if the German who spied for the Soviet Union in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, had not supplied his masters with accurate information on Japanese plans, allowing Stalin to move 20 divisions from the east and redeploy them to Moscow for the shattering counterattack of Dec. 5?

The other thing the book does effectively is to pay careful attention to how the timing of events played out around the world, especially in the pattern of reactions to Pearl Harbor. We see Hitler getting news of the attack late in the evening from his press chief, who heard it from a Reuters broadcast, just as we see Churchill only slowly grasping what he was hearing on the radio. Simms and Laderman give us a visceral sense of these events as they unfolded, in real time, with historical actors not always quite sure what was happening — a dimension of history that is both crucial and fiendishly difficult to recover.

By Dec. 12, 1941, the world was transformed. One of the last surprises in this book is how many world leaders saw accurately from that moment how the future would unfold. “I feel a really miserable defeat coming,” said the recently resigned Japanese prime minister, Prince Konoye. In January 1942, Hitler admitted to the Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Oshima that he was “not yet sure” how he could defeat the United States. “The accession of the United States makes amends for all,” Churchill told his foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, “and with time and patience will give certain victory.” They were all correct.

Benjamin Carter Hett is the author of “The Death of Democracy” and “The Nazi Menace.”


President Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Is In – Ketanji Brown Jackson!

Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson | The White House

Dear Commons Community,

President Joe Biden today will nominate federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, the White House announced, making her the first Black woman selected to serve on the Court.

In Jackson, Biden delivers on a campaign promise to make the historic appointment and to further diversify a court that was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries. He has chosen an attorney who would be the high court’s first former public defender, though she also possesses the elite legal background of other justices.

Jackson would be the current court’s second Black justice — Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, is the other — and just the third in history.

Biden planned to introduce Jackson in remarks at the White House this afternoon, where Jackson was also expected to speak.  As reported by the Associated Press.

Jackson would also be only the sixth woman to serve on the court, and her confirmation would mean that for the first time four women would sit together on the nine-member court.

The current court includes three women, one of whom is the court’s first Latina, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Jackson would join the liberal minority of a conservative-dominated court that is weighing cutbacks to abortion rights and will be considering ending affirmative action in college admissions and restricting voting rights efforts to increase minority representation.

Biden is filling the seat that will be vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is retiring at the end of the term this summer.

Jackson, 51, once worked as one of Breyer’s law clerks early in her legal career. She attended Harvard as an undergraduate and for law school, and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the agency that develops federal sentencing policy, before becoming a federal judge in 2013.

Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority by a razor-thin 50-50 margin with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. Party leaders have promised swift but deliberate consideration of the president’s nominee.

The next justice will replace one of the more liberal justices, so she would not tip the balance of the court, which now leans 6-3 in favor of conservatives.

The news comes two years to the day after Biden, then struggling to capture the Democratic presidential nomination, first pledged in a South Carolina debate to nominate a Black woman to the high court if presented with a vacancy.

“Everyone should be represented,” Biden said. “We talked about the Supreme Court — I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get everyone represented.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said in a statement that the panel will “begin immediately” to move forward on the nomination and that Jackson is an “extraordinary nominee.” Senators have set a tentative goal of confirmation by April 8, when they leave for a two-week spring recess. Hearings could start as soon as mid-March.

That timeline could be complicated by a number of things, including the ongoing developments between Russia and Ukraine and the extended absence of Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who suffered a stroke last month and is out for several weeks. Democrats would need Lujan’s vote to confirm Biden’s pick if no Republicans support her.

Once the nomination is sent to the Senate, it is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to vet the nominee and hold confirmation hearings. After the committee approves a nomination, it goes to the Senate floor for a final vote.

The entire process passes through several time-consuming steps, including meetings with individual senators that are expected to begin next week. While Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed just four weeks after she was nominated ahead of the 2020 election, the process usually takes several weeks longer than that.

Biden and Senate Democrats are hoping for a bipartisan vote on the nomination, but it’s unclear if they will be able to win over any GOP senators after three bitterly partisan confirmation battles under President Donald Trump. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson to the appeals court last year, had pushed Biden to nominate a different candidate from his home state, Judge J. Michelle Childs. He said earlier this month that his vote would be “very problematic” if it were anyone else, and he expressed disappointment in a tweet Friday that Biden had not nominated his preferred choice.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he looks forward to meeting with Jackson and “studying her record, legal views, and judicial philosophy.” But he also appeared to express skepticism, noting he voted against her a year ago.

Jackson was on the president’s short list as a potential nominee even before Breyer retired. Biden and his team spent weeks poring over her records, interviewing her friends and family and looking into her background.

Biden has said he was interested in selecting a nominee in the mold of Breyer who could be a persuasive force with fellow justices. Although Breyer’s votes tended to put him to the left of center on an increasingly conservative court, he frequently saw the gray in situations that colleagues were more likely to find black or white.

“With her exceptional qualifications and record of evenhandedness, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be a Justice who will uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of all Americans, including the voiceless and vulnerable,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “The historic nomination of Judge Jackson is an important step toward ensuring the Supreme Court reflects the nation as a whole.”

As part of his search process, Biden, a longtime chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also interviewed Childs and California Supreme Court Judge Leondra Kruger, according to a person familiar with the matter. He also consulted with a wide range of legal experts and lawmakers in both parties and delved deeply into the finalists’ legal writings before selecting Jackson for the post.

Jackson serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a position that Biden elevated her to last year from her previous job as a federal trial court judge. Three current justices — Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts, the chief justice — previously served on the same court.

On Friday morning ahead of the announcement, Jackson took part in scheduled arguments before the circuit court.

Jackson was confirmed to that post on a 53-44 Senate vote, winning the backing of three Republicans: Graham, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

Graham, in a tweet, indicated displeasure with the nomination, saying, “I expect a respectful but interesting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Bipartisanship is important to Biden, who has often said he was reaching for GOP support as he closed in on a nominee. Another GOP connection: Jackson is related by marriage to former House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

In one of Jackson’s most high-profile decisions, as a trial court judge she ordered former White House Counsel Don McGahn to appear before Congress. That was a setback to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to keep his top aides from testifying. The case was appealed, and a deal was ultimately reached for McGahn’s testimony.

Another highly visible case that Jackson oversaw involved the online conspiracy theory “pizzagate,” which revolved around false internet rumors about prominent Democrats harboring child sex slaves at a Washington pizza restaurant. A North Carolina man showed up at the restaurant with an assault rifle and a revolver. Jackson called it “sheer luck” no one was injured and sentenced him to four years in prison.

Jackson has a considerably shorter record as an appeals court judge. She was part of a three-judge panel that ruled in December against Trump’s effort to shield documents from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Miami. She has said that her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, chose her name to express their pride in her family’s African ancestry. They asked an aunt who was in the Peace Corps in Africa at the time to send a list of African girls’ names and they picked Ketanji Onyika, which they were told meant “lovely one.”

Jackson traces her interest in the law to when she was in preschool and her father was in law school and they would sit together at the dining room table, she with coloring books and he with law books. Her father became an attorney for the county school board and her mom was a high school principal. She has a brother who is nine years younger who served in the Army, including in Iraq, and is now a lawyer.

Good pick and best of luck to Judge Jackson!


White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates calls Trump and Putin “two nauseating fearful pigs”


Dear Commons Community,

Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary, called former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin “two nauseating, fearful pigs who hate what America stands for” after Trump again praised Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a political fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday night, Trump reiterated his view that the Russian president’s incursion into the sovereign nation was a stroke of “genius.”

“I mean, he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” Trump said. “I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country — literally a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.” The former president went on to insist that he knew Putin very well and that the crisis would not have happened if he were in office.

Bates  responded with the scathing tweet above.

Trump’s comments came shortly before Putin launched a predawn attack on Ukraine, hitting cities with airstrikes and sending tanks across the border. The move, which U.S. intelligence agencies have been predictng for months, was widely condemned by world leaders.

President Biden called it “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces.”

“Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”

On Tuesday, Trump made headlines by praising Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine to support Russian-backed separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.

“This is genius,” he said on a radio program. “So Putin is now saying it’s independent — a large section of Ukraine. I said, how smart is that? And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace, all right.”

Bates has Trump and Putin figured out right!


Machine learning is being used to reduce antibiotic resistance!

Dear Commons Community,

There is an article in the current edition of Science that describes how new machine learning software is being used to tackle antibiotic resistance.  Using a large database (see figure above),  the software compares the patient’s history to an array of demographic indicators to prescribe the appropriate antibiotic.  Very beneficial use of machine learning.

The entire article is below.


Click on the article to enlarge.