Maureen Dowd Pays Tribute to Dianne Feinstein!

Dianne Feinstein needed her strength to take on the male power structure. Credit…Kim Komenich/Getty Images

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd paid  a moving tribute to Dianne Feinstein in her column on Sunday.  Entitled, “DiFi, Breaking Into the Boys’ Club,” Dowd recounts Feinstein’s historic contributions to women’s rights by breaking into one of the most male-dominated bastions in our country – national politics.  Here is an excerpt.

“Several years ago, Senator Feinstein invited me to her house one evening for a drink. I was very excited. I’d watched male columnists play golf with presidents and go drinking with male lawmakers for a long time, and now at last I was going to be ushered into an inner sanctum.

The very proper senator sat with a small dog on her lap in her elegant living room as we had a glass of wine. She didn’t want to spin me on anything or break news. She just wanted to chat. It turned out that DiFi, as she was known, regularly organized dinners with female journalists and mentored women in Congress; she often said that Washington could be a lonely, hard and mean place, especially for women breaking barriers.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who got tangled in the gender issue, Feinstein (like Pelosi) played the game without regard for gender. She wasn’t worried about sexist criticism; she was focused on doing what she thought was right, no matter who complained.”

Dowd concluded her piece as follows:

“Back in 2008 when the Sean Penn movie “Milk” came out, a solemn Feinstein told me: “I was the one who found his body. To get a pulse, I put my finger in a bullet hole.”

When she opposed the 2008 proposal to ban gay marriage in California, she told me of the evolution of her thinking: “The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve seen the happiness of people, the stability that these commitments bring to a life. Many adopted children who would have ended up in foster care now have good solid homes and are brought up learning the difference between right and wrong.”

Yep. A class act, all the way.”

Dowd’s entire column is below.



The New York Times

DiFi, Breaking Into the Boys’ Club

Sept. 30, 2023

By Maureen Dowd

Opinion Columnist

WASHINGTON — I’ve always said that the Washington Monument is an apt symbol, a Freudian obelisk redolent of all the male egos that have shaped our capital.

To appreciate what Dianne Feinstein accomplished, you need to know how male this city was in 1992, when she was swept into Congress in the “Year of the Woman” as the 18th female senator in history.

That wave was buoyed by women’s anger at the vicious Republicans and inept Democrats on the white male Judiciary Committee overseeing the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. A sexual harasser lied his way onto the Supreme Court, and now he is doing his best to corrupt it.

These women arrived on the Hill, home to historic man caves, as the journalist Jackie Calmes called the hideaways where male pols horse-traded, sipped whisky and played poker. When one new lawmaker stepped into the House elevator, the female operator said icily, “This elevator is for members only.”

“Yes, thank you,” the representative replied, waiting for the operator to spot her blue pin with the congressional seal.

A small sorority worked to penetrate the good ol’ boys club (and not be mistaken for staff). “With so many new women and minorities, everyone’s constrained to be politically correct,” Charles Wilson, the colorful Texas representative, told me that year. He deadpanned that he tried to irritate his colleague Patricia Schroeder of Colorado “by calling her Babycakes, but that’s about it.”

Despite stereotypes — “The word was women could not get along,” the former California senator Barbara Boxer recalled Friday to Katy Tur of MSNBC — women worked together to buck rules about how they couldn’t wear pants on the Senate floor and lobbied for a women’s restroom off the House floor so they wouldn’t have to trek to the women’s reading room. (That wouldn’t happen until 2011.)

Representative Louise Slaughter of New York told Hillary Clinton, the new first lady, of trying to include women’s health issues in the budget, noting: “It’s almost certainly the first time that these guys on the budget committee heard words like ‘cervix,’ ‘ovaries’ and ‘breasts’ spoken out loud.”

Hillary drolly riposted, “At least in that context.”

Nancy Pelosi told us at a lunch for women journalists last December that she never made it into a Democratic speaker’s office until she became the Democratic speaker.

Several years ago, Senator Feinstein invited me to her house one evening for a drink. I was very excited. I’d watched male columnists play golf with presidents and go drinking with male lawmakers for a long time, and now at last I was going to be ushered into an inner sanctum.

The very proper senator sat with a small dog on her lap in her elegant living room as we had a glass of wine. She didn’t want to spin me on anything or break news. She just wanted to chat. It turned out that DiFi, as she was known, regularly organized dinners with female journalists and mentored women in Congress; she often said that Washington could be a lonely, hard and mean place, especially for women breaking barriers.

Unlike Hillary, who got tangled in the gender issue, Feinstein (like Pelosi) played the game without regard for gender. She wasn’t worried about sexist criticism; she was focused on doing what she thought was right, no matter who complained.

In 2019, DiFi went viral when a group of child activists confronted her in her San Francisco office for not supporting the Green New Deal. She engaged with them but then briskly rebuffed them, saying she wasn’t succumbing to any “my way or the highway” demands.

As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she led the fight in 2014 to release the classified report on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo. It took guts to go up against President Barack Obama and his C.I.A. chief John Brennan, who wanted to keep covering up what The Times would call “a portrait of depravity.”

George W. Bush’s C.I.A. director Michael Hayden said dismissively that Feinstein couldn’t be objective because she was motivated by “deep emotional feeling.”

“Nonsense,” she snapped back. The senator simply wanted America to face the ugly truth so we would never betray our values in such a grotesque way again.

She believed in government as a force for good. Unfortunately, she died at 90 watching our government coming off the rails.

Despite being surrounded by Republican lawmakers who never met a gun they didn’t like, Feinstein did her best to stop people from getting killed in mass shootings, driven by her traumatic experience with the assassination of Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco and Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California and her colleague on the Board of Supervisors.

Back in 2008 when the Sean Penn movie “Milk” came out, a solemn Feinstein told me: “I was the one who found his body. To get a pulse, I put my finger in a bullet hole.”

When she opposed the 2008 proposal to ban gay marriage in California, she told me of the evolution of her thinking: “The longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve seen the happiness of people, the stability that these commitments bring to a life. Many adopted children who would have ended up in foster care now have good solid homes and are brought up learning the difference between right and wrong.”

Yep. A class act, all the way.

The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded yesterday to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman

Dear Commons Community,

The  2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly yesterday to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.  Much of their research was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania.

The discoveries by the two Nobel Laureates were critical for developing effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 during the pandemic that began in early 2020. Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times.  As described at the Nobel Prize website.

Vaccines before the pandemic

Vaccination stimulates the formation of an immune response to a particular pathogen. This gives the body a head start in the fight against disease in the event of a later exposure. Vaccines based on killed or weakened viruses have long been available, exemplified by the vaccines against polio, measles, and yellow fever. In 1951, Max Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing the yellow fever vaccine.

Thanks to the progress in molecular biology in recent decades, vaccines based on individual viral components, rather than whole viruses, have been developed. Parts of the viral genetic code, usually encoding proteins found on the virus surface, are used to make proteins that stimulate the formation of virus-blocking antibodies. Examples are the vaccines against the hepatitis B virus and human papillomavirus. Alternatively, parts of the viral genetic code can be moved to a harmless carrier virus, a “vector.” This method is used in vaccines against the Ebola virus. When vector vaccines are injected, the selected viral protein is produced in our cells, stimulating an immune response against the targeted virus.

Producing whole virus-, protein- and vector-based vaccines requires large-scale cell culture. This resource-intensive process limits the possibilities for rapid vaccine production in response to outbreaks and pandemics. Therefore, researchers have long attempted to develop vaccine technologies independent of cell culture, but this proved challenging.

mRNA vaccines: A promising idea

In our cells, genetic information encoded in DNA is transferred to messenger RNA (mRNA), which is used as a template for protein production. During the 1980s, efficient methods for producing mRNA without cell culture were introduced, called in vitro transcription. This decisive step accelerated the development of molecular biology applications in several fields. Ideas of using mRNA technologies for vaccine and therapeutic purposes also took off, but roadblocks lay ahead. In vitro transcribed mRNA was considered unstable and challenging to deliver, requiring the development of sophisticated carrier lipid systems to encapsulate the mRNA. Moreover, in vitro-produced mRNA gave rise to inflammatory reactions. Enthusiasm for developing the mRNA technology for clinical purposes was, therefore, initially limited.

These obstacles did not discourage the Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó, who was devoted to developing methods to use mRNA for therapy. During the early 1990s, when she was an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, she remained true to her vision of realizing mRNA as a therapeutic despite encountering difficulties in convincing research funders of the significance of her project. A new colleague of Karikó at her university was the immunologist Drew Weissman. He was interested in dendritic cells, which have important functions in immune surveillance and the activation of vaccine-induced immune responses. Spurred by new ideas, a fruitful collaboration between the two soon began, focusing on how different RNA types interact with the immune system.

The breakthrough

Karikó and Weissman noticed that dendritic cells recognize in vitro transcribed mRNA as a foreign substance, which leads to their activation and the release of inflammatory signaling molecules. They wondered why the in vitro transcribed mRNA was recognized as foreign while mRNA from mammalian cells did not give rise to the same reaction. Karikó and Weissman realized that some critical properties must distinguish the different types of mRNA.

RNA contains four bases, abbreviated A, U, G, and C, corresponding to A, T, G, and C in DNA, the letters of the genetic code. Karikó and Weissman knew that bases in RNA from mammalian cells are frequently chemically modified, while in vitro transcribed mRNA is not. They wondered if the absence of altered bases in the in vitro transcribed RNA could explain the unwanted inflammatory reaction. To investigate this, they produced different variants of mRNA, each with unique chemical alterations in their bases, which they delivered to dendritic cells. The results were striking: The inflammatory response was almost abolished when base modifications were included in the mRNA. This was a paradigm change in our understanding of how cells recognize and respond to different forms of mRNA. Karikó and Weissman immediately understood that their discovery had profound significance for using mRNA as therapy. These seminal results were published in 2005, fifteen years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congratulations to Karikó and Weissman!



New AP-NORC/UChicago Poll: Few Americans say conservatives can speak freely on college campuses!

Dear Commons Community,

Americans view college campuses as far friendlier to liberals than to conservatives when it comes to free speech, with adults across the political spectrum seeing less tolerance for those on the right, according to a new poll.

Overall, 47% of adults say liberals have “a lot” of freedom to express their views on college campuses, while just 20% said the same of conservatives, according to polling from the University of Chicago and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Republicans perceive a stronger bias on campuses against conservatives, but Democrats see a difference too — about 4 in 10 Democrats say liberals can speak their minds freely on campuses, while about 3 in 10 Democrats say conservatives can do so.

“If you’re a Republican or lean Republican, you’re unabashedly wrong, they shut you down,” said Rhonda Baker, 60, of Goldsboro, North Carolina, who voted for former President Donald Trump and has a son in college. “If they hold a rally, it’s: ‘The MAGA’s coming through.’ It’s: ‘The KKK is coming through.’”

Debates over First Amendment rights have occasionally flared on college campuses in recent years, with conflicts arising over guest speakers who express polarizing views, often from the political right.

Stanford University became a flashpoint this year when students shouted down a conservative judge who was invited to speak. More recently, a conservative Princeton University professor was drowned out while discussing free speech at Washington College, a small school in Maryland.

At the same time, Republican lawmakers in dozens of states have proposed bills aiming to limit public colleges from teaching topics considered divisive or liberal. Just 30% of Americans say states should be able to restrict what professors at state universities teach, the poll found, though support was higher among Republicans.

Overall, Republicans see a clear double standard on college campuses. Just 9% said conservatives can speak their minds, while 58% said liberals have that freedom, according to the polling. They were also slightly less likely than Americans overall to see campuses as respectful and inclusive places for conservatives.

Chris Gauvin, a Republican who has done construction work on campuses, believes conservative voices are stifled. While working at Yale University, he was once stopped by pro-LGBTQ+ activists who asked for his opinion, he said.

“They asked me how I felt, so I figured I’d tell them. I spoke in a normal tone, I didn’t get excited or upset,” said Gauvin, 58, of Manchester, Conn. “But it proceeded with 18 to 20 people who were suddenly very irritated and agitated. It just exploded.”

He took a lesson from the experience: “I learned to be very quiet there.”

Republicans in Congress have raised alarms, with a recent House report warning of “the long-standing and pervasive degradation of First Amendment rights” at U.S. colleges. Some in the GOP have called for federal legislation requiring colleges to protect free speech and punish those who infringe on others’ rights.

Nicholas Fleisher, who chairs an academic freedom committee for the American Association of University Professors, said public perception is skewed by the infrequent cases when protesters go too far.

“The reality is that there’s free speech for everyone on college campuses,” said Fleisher, a linguistics professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. “In conversations within classrooms, people are free to speak their minds. And they do.”

Officials at PEN America, a free speech group, say most students welcome diverse views. But as the nation has become more politically divided, so have college campuses, said Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager for education at PEN.

“There’s this polarization that just continues to grow and build across our country, and colleges and universities are a part of that ecosystem,” she said.

Morgan Ashford, a Democrat in an online graduate program at Troy University in Alabama, said she thinks people can express themselves freely on campus regardless of politics or skin color. Still, she sees a lack of tolerance for the LGBTQ+ community in her Republican state where the governor has passed anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“I think there have to be guidelines” around hate speech, said Ashford. “Because some people can go overboard.”

When it comes to protesting speakers, most Americans say it should be peaceful. About 8 in 10 say it’s acceptable to engage in peaceful, non-disruptive protest at a campus event, while just 15% say it’s OK to prevent a speaker from communicating with the audience, the poll found.

“If they don’t like it, they can get up and walk out,” said Linda Woodward, 71, a Democrat in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas.

Mike Darlington, a real estate appraiser who votes Republican, said drowning out speakers violates the virtues of a free society.

“It seems to me a very, very selfish attitude that makes students think, ‘If you don’t think the way I do, then your thoughts are unacceptable,’” said Darlington, 58, of Chesterfield County, Virginia.

The protest at Stanford was one of six campus speeches across the U.S. that ended in significant disruption this year, with another 11 last year, according to a database by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free speech group.

Those cases, while troubling, are one symptom of a broader problem, said Ilya Shapiro, a conservative legal scholar who was shouted down during a speech last year at the University of California’s law school. He says colleges have drifted away from the classic ideal of academia as a place for free inquiry.

An even bigger problem than speakers being disrupted by protesters is “students and faculty feeling that they can’t be open in their views. They can’t even discuss certain subjects,” said Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute think tank.

About three in five Americans (62%) say that a major purpose of higher education is to support the free exchange and debate of different ideas and values. Even more U.S. adults say college’s main purpose is to teach students specific skills (82%), advance knowledge and ideas (78%) or teach students to be critical thinkers (76%). Also, 66% said a major purpose is to create a respectful and inclusive learning environment.

“I believe it should be solely to prepare you to enter the workforce,” said Gene VanZandt, 40, a Republican who works in shipbuilding in Hampton, Virginia. “I think our colleges have gone too far off the path of what their function was.”

The poll finds that majorities of Americans think students and professors, respectively, should not be allowed to express racist, sexist or anti-LGBTQ views on campus, with slightly more Republicans than Democrats saying those types of views should be allowed. There was slightly more tolerance for students expressing those views than for professors.

About 4 in 10 said students should be permitted to invite academic speakers accused of using offensive speech, with 55% saying they should not. There was a similar split when asked whether professors should be allowed to invite those speakers.

Darlington believes students and professors should be able to discuss controversial topics, but there are limits.

“Over-the-top, overtly racist, hateful stuff — no. You shouldn’t be allowed to do that freely,” he said.

The poll of 1,095 adults was conducted Sept. 7-11, 2023, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.



California Governor Gavin Newsom Appoints Laphonza Butler to Finish Dianne Feinstein’s Senate Term!

Laphonza Butler

Dear Commons Community,

Wasting no time, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced yesterday that he’s appointing EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler to finish out the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Senate term, making good on his promise to fill the vacancy with a Black woman.  Emily’s List is a political organization that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights. Butler is also a former labor leader with SEIU 2015, a powerful force in California politics.

The swift appointment (D) was essential for Democrats’ power in the Senate, where they have a slim 50-49 majority following Feinstein’s death at age 90.

Butler’s appointment will last until January 2025, when Feinstein’s sixth term in the chamber was due to end. It’s then up to voters to select a permanent senator for the next six-year term.

The race for Feinstein’s seat was well underway at the time of her death. Three Democrats representing California in the House had launched campaigns: Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. While Newsom made good on his pledge of appointing a Black woman by selecting Butler, he said in September he wouldn’t nominate someone who’s seeking to hold the seat permanently.

“I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” Newsom told NBC News. “It would be completely unfair to the Democrats who’ve worked their tails off.”

That was a big blow to Lee, who’s trailing Porter and Schiff in both polls and fundraising.

There are currently no Black women elected to serve in the Senate. Prior to Newsom’s nomination, Sens. Carol Moseley Braun and Kamala Harris were the only two to have ever sat in the Senate.

Her appointment sets up a potentially tricky political calculus in the crowded 2024 contest to succeed Feinstein, which has been underway since the beginning of the year.

Newsom spokesman Anthony York said the governor did not ask Butler to commit to staying out of the race. The deadline for candidates to submit paperwork to seek the office is Dec. 8. Should Butler enter the contest, she could set up a competition for the relatively small but influential group of Black voters in California and possibly undercut Lee’s chances.

This is the second time Newsom has gotten to nominate a senator. When then-California Sen. Harris won the vice presidency in 2020, the governor nominated now-Sen. Alex Padilla to replace her. Newsom caught some flak for selecting Padilla, who is a first-generation Mexican American, to replace the only Black woman in Congress.

It appears Newsom made a good move here!



Video: U2 concert uses stunning visuals to open new massive Sphere venue in Las Vegas!

Dear Commons Community,

It’s hard to know which was the bigger act in Las Vegas Friday night: U2 or the Sphere, the gargantuan light-shifting orb they performed inside of.

The rock band’s first performance of their Las Vegas residency was also the christening of the $2.3 billion globe-shaped entertainment venue, which has dazzled onlookers after construction was completed at the Venetian Resort this summer. Coated inside and out with more than a million programmable LED lights, the Sphere has already wowed the Vegas skyline by morphing into a 33-story Christmas snow globe and a giant eyeball.

The U2 concert gave audiences inside and online on TikTok and Youtube their first chance to peek inside the jaw-dropping venue.  By Saturday afternoon, millions of people had watched a  video (see below) showing the band performing .

The Sphere is considered the world’s largest building with such a shape. To get a sense of its scale: The entire surface of its inside screen measures 3.7 acres — about three football fields of digital real estate. The outside surface is substantially larger.






On the brink of a federal shutdown, the House passes a 45-day funding plan!

Final Vote in the House on Keeping the Government Funded (House Television via AP)

Dear Commons Community,

With hours left to go on the eve of a government shutdown, Congress passed a stopgap bill to keep federal agencies funded and workers at their desks through mid-November.  As reported by The Associated Press and the Huffington Post.

The price? About $6 billion in aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian invaders and new worries Russian dictator Vladimir Putin will be encouraged to continue the full-scale invasion he started in February 2022.

On yesterday afternoon, the House voted 335 to 91 (see graphic above) for a temporary funding bill to keep the government operating through Nov. 16 and also fund disaster assistance. Two hundred and nine Democrats joined 126 Republicans in voting for the package.

Later that night, the Senate passed it 88 to 9, though only after some last-minute public misgivings by a few Democratic senators, including a brief hold on floor action by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) over the Ukraine aid.

The bill went to the White House where it will be signed by President Joe Biden.

The deal will avoid the worst case politically that both parties feared ― being blamed for the first government shutdown since 2019 ― but leaves several issues unaddressed, like the future of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Putting the bill on the floor was a stark turnaround for McCarthy, who has spent all year trying to placate far-right members of his conference — something that has proved almost impossible. On Friday, he moved a bill that would have kept the government open with severe spending cuts and 21 hard-line Republicans still voted no, dooming it.

Republicans such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) have said they would force a no-confidence vote in McCarthy if the House passed a funding bill with Democratic support.

But pulling his party back from the brink of a shutdown may have boosted his stock with the more moderate wing of his party. “If we have folks in the conference that don’t like his leadership, that want to put a motion to vacate forward, that’s on them to do that and explain to the American people why,” said Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.).

And McCarthy remained defiant.

“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it. There has to be an adult in the room,” he said.

Another open question is what happens when the stopgap bill expires. While lawmakers have a few more weeks to work on spending bills, it’s unclear that they will get them finished by then. And the near-shutdown this time could merely be a dress rehearsal for an actual one later in the year.

Democrats initially balked at the bill, saying they had not been given enough time to read its 71 pages. But faced with the political reality that they could be blamed for a shutdown by insisting on aid to war-torn Ukraine, many decided to embrace the bill.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, however, read a letter from Mike McCord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for defense, who warned that European allies would be unlikely to keep up their support for Ukraine without U.S. leadership.

“From the very beginning of the war, Putin has bet that America is weak, unreliable, and that his desire to rebuild the Soviet Empire was greater than our will to oppose him,” said Scott Cullinane, director of government affairs at Razom for Ukraine, a pro-Ukraine advocacy group. “Our unwillingness to give Ukraine the weapons it needs to win and Congress’ delay in funding threaten to prove Putin right.”

McCarthy has said there is enough Ukraine aid still in the pipeline for another 45 days. Aid could be attached to another bill later on, but would probably have to be more than the $6 billion that was at issue here and it’s unclear what bill it would have to be attached to in order to pass.

“We have to deal with these issues again in 45 days but, for today, I’ve got a little bounce in my step.”

A delay is better than shutting down the government!



NYC inundated after heavy rains flood area – State of emergency declared!

Dear Commons Community,

Rainstorms swamped the New York metropolitan area yesterday, shutting down subways and commuter railroads, flooding streets and highways, and delaying flights into the airports.

Up to 5 inches of rain fell in some areas overnight, and as much as 7 inches more was expected throughout the day, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said yesterday morning.

By midday, although there was a break in the downpour, Mayor Eric Adams urged people to stay put if possible.  As reported by The New York Daily News and the Associated Press.

“It is not over, and I don’t want those gaps in heavy rain to give the appearance that it is over,” he said at a news briefing. He and Hochul, both Democrats, declared states of emergency.

No storm-related deaths or critical injuries had been reported as of midday, city officials said. But residents struggled to get around the waterlogged metropolis.

Traffic hit a standstill, with water above cars’ tires, on a stretch of the FDR Drive — a major artery along the east side of Manhattan. Some drivers abandoned their vehicles.

Priscilla Fontallio said she had been stranded in her car, which was on a piece of the highway that wasn’t flooded but wasn’t moving, for three hours as of 11 a.m.

“Never seen anything like this in my life,” she said.

On a street in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, workers were up to their knees in water as they tried to unclog a storm drain while cardboard and other debris floated by. The city said that it checked and cleared key drains, especially near subway stations, ahead of the storm.

As the rain briefly slowed, residents emerged from their homes to survey the damage and begin draining the water that had reached the top of many basement doors. Some people arranged milk crates and wooden boards to cross the flooded sidewalks, with water close to waist-deep in the middle of some streets.

High school student Malachi Clark stared at a flooded intersection, unsure how to proceed as he tried to get home to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. He had tried to take a bus, then a train.

“When it stops the buses and subways, you know it’s bad,” he said. Bus service was severely disrupted citywide, according to the the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A Brooklyn school was evacuated because its boiler was smoking, possibly because water had gotten into it, Schools Chancellor David Banks said at the news briefing. Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala said that more than 2.5 inches of rain fell in a single hour at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, overwhelming the surrounding drainage systems.

Elsewhere, photos and video posted on social media showed water pouring into subway stations and basements.

Jessie Lawrence said she awoke to the sound of rain dripping from the ceiling of her fourth-floor apartment in Brooklyn ’s Crown Heights neighborhood. She set out a bowl to catch the drips, but she could hear strange sounds coming from outside her door.

“I opened my front door, and the water was coming in thicker and louder,” pouring into the hallway and flowing down the stairs, she said. The heavy rainfall had pooled atop the roof and was leaking through a skylight above the stairwell.

Dominic Ramunni, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in New York, said yesterday’s rain was brought by a coastal storm, with low pressure off the East Coast helping to bring in some deep moisture from the Atlantic Ocean.

“This will be one of the wettest days in quite some time,” he said.

Virtually every subway line was at least partly suspended, rerouted or running with delays, and the Metro-North commuter railroad was suspended.

Flights into LaGuardia were halted Friday morning, and then delayed, because of water in the airport’s refueling area. Flooding also forced the closure of one of the airport’s three terminals.

Hoboken, New Jersey, and other cities and towns around New York City also experienced flooding.

The deluge came less than three months after a storm caused deadly floods in New York’s Hudson Valley and left Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, submerged. A little over two years ago, the remnants of Hurricane Ida dropped record-breaking rain on the Northeast and killed at least 13 people in New York City, most of whom were in flooded basement apartments. Overall, 50 people died from Virginia to Connecticut.

Wate, water everywhere!  And thank God there were no fatalities!


Trump ally, Scott Hall, flips and is the first to plead guilty in Georgia elections case!

Scott Hall

Dear Commons Community,

Former Republican bail bondsman Scott Hall, one of the 19 people charged alongside Donald Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia, entered into a plea agreement yesterday, becoming the first defendant to plead guilty in the sprawling criminal case.

The surprise move from Hall came after he gave a recorded statement, it was revealed in court, to prosecutors who are almost certain to use that testimony against the former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell when she goes to trial in October accused of several of the same crimes.

A transcript of the court proceeding showed Hall pleading guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties, a misdemeanor charge.

Hall was sentenced to five years’ probation, a $5,000 fine, 200 hours of community service, and to write an apology letter to the state.  As reported by The Guardian.

The description of the plea agreement suggested prosecutors were interested in having Hall flip against Trump and the other co-defendants in the wider Rico case, but especially against people like Powell who had similar legal exposure to him and also had direct links to Trump.

In addition to contacts with Powell, Hall also had a 63 minute phone call with former Trump justice department official Jeffrey Clark on 2 January 2021 where they discussed the 2020 election results in Georgia, according to the indictment. Clark, another co-defendant, lost his bid to transfer his case to federal court on Monday.

Hall was indicted by an Atlanta-area grand jury last month on charges, brought by the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, that he had played a role in trying to reverse Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election in a brazen plot to access voting machines in Coffee county, Georgia.

The scheme involved several Trump allies hiring a team of forensics experts that gained unauthorized access to the voting machines and copied virtually every part of the elections systems, before uploading them to a password-protected website that could be accessed by 2020 election deniers.

A day after the Capitol attack in Washington, surveillance footage showed data experts from SullivanStrickler, a firm that specializes in “imaging”, or making exact copies, of electronic devices, arrive at the Coffee county election office and meeting with Hall as well as others.

What happened inside the elections office is only partially captured on surveillance video, but records show the Sullivan/Strickler team imaged almost every component of the election systems, including ballot scanners, the server used to count votes, thumb drives and flash memory cards.

Hall was charged with multiple counts including engaging in the Rico (racketeering) plot, conspiring to commit election fraud, conspiring to commit computer theft, conspiring to commit computer trespass, conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy and conspiracy to defraud the state of Georgia.

Powell, the former Trump lawyer who was charged with many of the same criminal violations, has argued that she did nothing wrong because it was only her non-profit company that paid the forensics experts and that there had been authorization from officials to access the voting machines.

The exact nature of the recorded statement that Hall gave prosecutors remains unclear because it took place before he revealed he had taken the plea agreement and was not available on the case docket.

But Melissa Redmon, a former deputy Fulton county district attorney and assistant professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, said Hall probably got the agreement because his testimony would undercut Powell’s defense arguments that the voting machine breaches were above board.

The jury selection for Powell’s case, where she is being tried alongside another ex-Trump lawyer called Kenneth Chesebro, is scheduled to start on 23 October. Powell and Chesebro are going separately from the other co-defendants after they requested a speedy trial under Georgia state law.

Now that one indictee in this case has flipped, might we see others do the same!



General Mark Milley says he has taken “appropriate” safety measures after Trump calls for his death on social media!

Mark Milley.  Photo  by Al Drago Bloomberg/ Getty Images.

Dear Commons Community,

Outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has taken “appropriate measures” to ensure his safety, he said this week in his first public response to shocking comments made by former President Donald Trump suggesting that the Army general is a traitor who deserves execution. 

Trump last week accused Milley of going behind his back to communicate with China during the final months of the Trump administration. Milley, who was nominated to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Trump, is set to leave his military leadership post tomorrow.. The general has stood by his communications with China and said he wishes that Trump hadn’t made his comments. As reported by CBS News.

“I’ll take appropriate measures to ensure my safety and the safety of my family,” Milley said. 

What former President Trump said about Gen. Milley

The public disagreements between Trump and Milley have gone on for years. A 2021 book suggested Milley was concerned Trump might attempt a power grab over the 2020 election results. Milley in 2021 refused to comment on the reports.

Trump, in his Friday Truth Social post, also targeted Milley’s role in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The former president  indicated that Milley’s decision to leave office was cause for celebration. 

“This guy turned out to be a Woke train wreck who, if the Fake News reporting is correct, was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States,” Trump wrote on his social platform Truth Social. “This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act.”

Gen. Milley’s response to former President Trump’s comments

Milley, when asked about the post suggesting he should deserve the death penalty, stressed that he’s a soldier who’s been faithful to the Constitution for more than 44 years. He said he’s willing to die to support and defend the Constitution. 

“So I’m not gonna comment directly on those, those things,” he said. “But I can tell you that this military, this soldier, me, will never turn our back on that Constitution.”

Milley also said there was nothing inappropriate or treasonous about his calls to China. 

Gen. Milley’s calls to China

The chairman’s spokesperson in 2021 said the general’s calls to China were part of his regular communications with defense chiefs worldwide. The spokesperson described the calls as being crucial to reducing tensions between nations, as well as “avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”

“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” the spokesperson said in a written statement at the time. “All calls from the chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”

Milley’s calls with his Chinese counterpart were revealed in “Peril,” a book by reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, now a CBS News correspondent. There were reports that toward the end of the Trump administration, Milley assured General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that the U.S. would not launch an attack against China. 

Milley is set to appear in an upcoming CBS 60 Minutes episode to discuss why he thought his calls to China were not only proper, but also necessary to avert further conflict. 

Milley is a military hero.  Trump can’t stand military heroes!


Michael Cohen’s revenge: Donald Trump’s fraud was exposed by his ex-fixer!

Michael Cohen.  Photo by Barry Williams/for New York Daily News

Dear Commons Community,

The following is an editorial that appeared in The New York Daily News last evening.

“The damning civil court ruling that Donald Trump had systematically lied on statements of financial condition he supplied to lenders and insurers and will be stripped of his ability to conduct business in New York and exposed to a possible quarter-billion dollar fine could have and should have also carried a criminal penalty, had only someone brought the case. And that criminal case should still be brought. Who will step up?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined to seek an indictment on this valuations case, despite his predecessor Cy Vance laying out the groundwork by prosecutors Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne.

State Attorney General Tish James, who did a fantastic job on this civil proceeding before Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, could obtain a criminal referral and pursue prison for Trump.

Manhattan United States Attorney Damian Williams could also have a go, as could the IRS. Do it. Justice demands so.

The facts are all there, as Engoron wrote in his 35-page decision: “the documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.” Trump, as we have long known, lies about everything, even the size of his 10,996 square foot Trump Tower triplex, which he claimed was three times as large at 30,000 square feet, causing Engoron to conclude: “A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud.” And on and on and on. Liar, liar, liar. Fraud, fraud, fraud. Cheat, cheat, cheat.

The comeuppance for the con man is thanks to his one-time bagman, fixer Michael Cohen. That Trump toady ratted out the Boss and the whole Trump Organization after he was left out in the cold and prosecuted by the feds in 2018 for carrying Trump’s water. He pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to cover up Trump’s trysts and tax evasion and making false statements to a federally insured bank, as well as lying to Congress.

But before Cohen reported to federal prison to start his three-year sentence, he gave testimony to the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 27, 2019, a day after he was disbarred by the New York courts for his felony convictions.

He told the Congress that “Mr. Trump is a cheat. It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”

Asked by Rep. Lacy Clay from St. Louis, “To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to a bank in order to help him obtain a loan?”

Cohen said: “These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one occasion where I was with them in our attempt to obtain money so that we can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills.”

Asked by freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, barely a month into her tenure: “To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company? Cohen said yes.

AOC: “Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?”

Cohen: “Yes, and you would find it at The Trump Org.”

And that’s just what happened.”

Payback is a “b****”!