Video: Steve Bannon “Trump’s Firing of James Comey – Biggest Mistake in Modern Political History!

Dear Commons Community,

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon said President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey may have been the biggest mistake in “modern political history.”

Bannon’s comment came in a segment from Bannon’s Sunday “60 Minutes” interview with Charlie Rose that did not make the cut on air.

In the interview, Rose said he had heard Bannon describe Comey’s ouster in May as “the biggest mistake in political history.”

“That probably would be too bombastic, even for me,” Bannon said.

“But maybe modern political history.”

Trump admitted that he fired Comey in part to help clear “the cloud” hanging over his presidency from the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s purported Russia ties.

As Bannon sees it, Trump should have realized that the FBI as an institution would continue its work no matter who ran it.

Bannon also noted that, if Comey didn’t go, Special Counsel Robert Mueller — who Trump cannot personally fire — would have never taken over the probe.

Coming from Bannon as someone close to Trump, this is a most interesting comment.


Spelman College to Admit Transgender Students in 2018!

Dear Commons Community

Spelman College’s President Mary Schmidt Campbell sent out a statement to students last week announcing that starting in 2018, transgender students will be accepted for admission.  The statement read in part:

“Spelman College, a Historically Black College whose mission is to serve high-achieving black women, will consider for admission women students including students who consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth. Spelman does not admit male students, including students who self-identify and live consistently as men, regardless of gender assignment at birth. If a woman is admitted and transitions to male while a student at Spelman, the college will permit that student to continue to matriculate at and graduate from Spelman…

…In adopting this admissions policy, Spelman continues its fervent belief in the power of the Spelman Sisterhood,” her letter states. “Students who choose Spelman come to our campus prepared to participate in a women’s college that is academically and intellectually rigorous, and affirms its core mission as the education and development of high-achieving Black women.”

Spelman College, founded in 1881, isn’t the only all-female college opening its doors to transgender students. This year, Wellesley will admit transgender students for the first time. Smith College began to accept transgender students in 2015, as did Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Mills College, and Mount Holyoke is open to transgender admissions as well.   Spelman will become the second exclusively for women Historically Black College and University to admit transgender students. Bennett College was the first to do so in January 2017.


Hurricane Irma: Where Its Been and Where Its Going?

Dear Commons Community,

People around the country the past few days were keeping a watch on Hurricane Irma as it approached Florida.  Its path of devastation moving steadily west in the Caribbean.  Multiple maps and other graphics have been inundating the news media especially television.  A few clicks to the left or the right  could mean a major difference as to where Irma might land.  The National Weather Service has come out with a clear graphic of the path of the storm and it appears that the west coast of Florida will bear the brunt of the hurricane.  Up until yesterday, it appeared that Miami was in the eye of the storm.  While all of Florida will be impacted, it now appears western areas like the Keys, Tampa and Naples will see the worst.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Florida!



Jeff Flake’s Book:  “Conscience of a Conservative!”

Dear Commons Community,

I just finished reading Senator Jeff Flake’’s Conscience of a Conservative that was published earlier this year.  It is a thin volume by the Republican from Arizona that borrows from Barry Goldwater’s book of the same title published in 1960.  Flake readily admits that he was always a big Goldwater fan and credits his own conservative views to him.  This becomes the basis for his strong disagreement and distaste for the way Donald Trump is handling the presidency.

Flake makes the case that Trump is not conservative or really a Republican.  His stances on free trade and globalization for instance are anathema to core, free-market conservative values. 

Flake also takes strong issue with Trump, the president.  He characterizes him as volatile and a destabilizer who is more television reality star than statesman. Without a doubt, he clearly sees Trump as a danger to our country, its values, and to conservatism.

Although not a great insight, I did enjoy reading Flake’s book this week as we saw Trump strike a major legislative deal with the Democrats.  It exemplified Flake’s assertions that Trump is not a Republican.  However, I am a bit dismayed that while Flake has written this book in part because he is fighting a major election challenge for his Senate seat, he has also consistently voted for all the agenda items that Trump has been pushing the Senate to move on.  So he disagrees with Trump and sees him as a danger to the country but still supports him as a party loyalist.  A bit of hypocrisy here.  

In sum, I give it a B-Minus!


Trump Embraces Bipartisanship (for Now)!

Dear Commons Community,

On Wednesday, in a rare show of bipartisanship, President Trump struck a deal with Democratic congressional leaders to increase the debt limit and finance the government until mid-December.  The Republican-led Senate yesterday approved legislation to raise the debt limit and keep the government funded until December while providing $15 billion in disaster aid.  The Senate approved the measure 80 to 17.  All of the senators voting no were Republicans.   The agreement averts a fiscal showdown later this month without the bloody, partisan battle that many had anticipated by combining a debt ceiling increase and stopgap spending measure with relief aid to Texas and other areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey.  As reported by the New York Times:

“In embracing the three-month deal, Mr. Trump accepted a Democratic proposal that had been rejected earlier in the day by Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Mr. Trump’s snap decision at a White House meeting caught Republican leaders off guard and reflected friction between the president and his party. After weeks of criticizing Republican leaders for failing to pass legislation, Mr. Trump signaled that he was willing to cross party lines to score some much-desired legislative victories

By the time President Trump woke up on yesterday morning, he was feeling upbeat. And as he watched television news reports about his fiscal agreement with Democrats, he felt like telling someone.

He picked up the phone and called the two Democratic congressional leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California. “The press has been incredible,” he gushed to Ms. Pelosi, according to someone briefed on their call. He was equally effusive with Mr. Schumer, boasting that even Fox News was positive.

A few hours later, Mr. Trump went on TV himself, vowing to turn a one-time spending-and-debt deal brokered out of expediency into a more enduring bipartisan alliance that could transform his presidency. He signaled openness to a Democratic proposal to eliminate the perennial showdowns over the debt ceiling, and he repeated his desire to cut a deal to protect younger illegal immigrants from deportation.

But even as Republicans fumed at being sidelined, many in Washington were skeptical that the moment of comity would last. Although Mr. Trump has at times preached bipartisanship, he has never made it a central part of his governing strategy. While he may have been feeling energized on Thursday by the collaboration, he is a politician driven by the latest expression of approval, given to abrupt shifts in approach and tone. He is a man of the moment, and the moment often does not last.

There are also reasons to doubt whether Democrats would sustain a partnership with Mr. Trump beyond the deal they have cut to keep the government open for three months and paying its debts. The centrifugal forces of partisanship tug from the left as well as the right, and the liberal base has put pressure on Democratic lawmakers not to meet in the middle a president it loathes.

For one day, though, the two sides sought to put months of acrimony behind them. “I think we will have a different relationship than we’ve been watching over the last number of years. I hope so,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “I think that’s a great thing for our country. And I think that’s what the people of the United States want to see. They want to see some dialogue. They want to see coming together to an extent.”

Democrats expressed a blend of optimism and caution. “We’ll see,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview. “I think it would be much better for the country and much better for Donald Trump if he was much more in the middle and bipartisan rather than siding with the hard right. I think he got a taste of it yesterday. We’ll see if it continues. I hope it does.”

Congratulations to Trump, Schumer, Pelosi, and all the Republican senators who voted for this legislation.  This is the way our government is suppose to work!



Lawrence M. Krauss:  Op-Ed on Voyager’s 40th Anniversary!

Dear Commons Community.

This past Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1.  Lawrence M. Krauss, the director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, had an op-ed piece in the New York Times reflecting on its journey and that of its companion probe, Voyager II, and pondering  just how far humanity has traveled in just a few decades.  Here is an excerpt:

“In 2012, Voyager 1 left the sheltered cocoon we call the heliosphere, a bubble in space in which the pressure from the sun’s wind of particles and its magnetic field overcome the outside pressure from the rarefied gas that permeates the rest of our galaxy. It became the first object built by humans to depart our solar system, to wander through dark interstellar space. (Voyager 2, on a different trajectory, remains within the heliosphere.)

One way or another, humanity’s future is in the cosmos. Perhaps spacecraft will one day manage to carry humans to the stars, or at least robots with instructions on how to create humans.

Or, humanity may never expand beyond Earth. In two billion years, the sun’s brightness will increase by 15 percent, making our home similar to Venus today. A runaway greenhouse effect will produce surface temperatures in excess of 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Following that, in five billion years, the sun will exhaust its hydrogen fuel and its outer surface will expand as it becomes a red giant, eventually encompassing Earth within its outer layers.

As this happens, our atmosphere will be blown out into the cosmos, and the atoms that now make up our bodies may be dispersed into the interstellar medium, perhaps to seed some future planet around some star that has yet to be born.

For humans, these two futures are wildly divergent. But for our atoms, they are largely the same. Many will end up among the stars, whether they travel outward into the cosmos in spacecraft or are propelled by a massive atmospheric shock wave.

All the while, our two Voyager spacecraft are likely to continue their lonely journeys among the stars. Humanity may perish, but somewhere in our galaxy will be evidence that we once existed.

The Voyagers carry with them a much-heralded snapshot in time. The famous and romantic Golden Record, developed by Carl Sagan and his colleagues, with music and images from the world as it was in 1977, might be discovered one day by distant aliens who find the crafts wandering in their vicinity of the galaxy.

…Think of how much our understanding of the universe has changed since 1977. We now know that all the visible stars and galaxies and everything we could then see with our telescopes are actually merely 1 percent of what is actually there. The known universe in 1977 was but the visible part of a cosmic iceberg, the bulk of which is made up of material having no resemblance to the matter that makes us up. Even more inexplicable is the fact that 70 percent of the total energy of the cosmos resides mysteriously in empty space, which is causing the expansion of our universe to speed up, not slow down.

Even in our own solar system, we expected the moons of Jupiter and Saturn were merely dead lumps of rock or frozen snowballs, whereas we now understand that several have warm oceans underneath a coating of ice — ideal potential breeding grounds for what may be independent forms of life.

We also had no direct evidence that any planets existed around other stars. We have now discovered thousands of them, some of which may be habitable, including one around our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri. And we know that our solar system is by no means typical.

We have discovered massive black holes at the center of many galaxies and have observed the convulsions of space as black holes collide and merge. On smaller scales, we have unraveled the nature of three of the four fundamental forces of the universe and discovered the Higgs particle, validating our picture of the origin of mass in the cosmos.

…Where will humanity be in another 40 years, as these spacecraft continue their travels, though still closer to their home star than any other? Will we continue our own voyage of discovery? Will we meet the global challenges we face or succumb to them? The future for the Voyager spacecraft may already be written. Our own future remains in our hands.”

Thank you Dr. Krauss for reminding us of some big questions!


New York City Public Schools to Provide Free Lunch to All 1.1 Million Students!

Dear Commons Community,

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced yesterday that all public school students, regardless of family income, will receive free lunch.

The program — called Free School Lunch For All — aligns with the start of the school year, and ends a feud between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council members, Chalkbeat reported.

At New York City Public Schools, the largest district in the US with about 1.1 million students, nearly 800,000 students have been estimated to qualify for free lunch. But many don’t fill out the proper forms and miss out on the program due to the stigmatization associated with qualifying, Chalkbeat reported. 

The program aims to remove the barriers for all kids to receive access to lunch at school.  

The de Blasio administration has slowly expanded access to free meals: The city began a pilot program offering free lunch to middle school students in 2014, and currently offers free breakfast at every school.

“This is about equity,” schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said at a press conference Wednesday, where she was joined by city council leaders, union officials, and advocates. “There is a basic level of investment that every New Yorker deserves.”

Great move by the de Blasio and Fariña.  Active, healthy children need fuel if they are to do well in school.


Lunatics In Charge of Nuclear Weapons!

Dear Commons Community,

This is a disheartening week for news given the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, bracing for Hurricane Irma, and the cruel rescinding of the DACA policy.  To add to this is the concern that North Korea has developed a nuclear device similar to a hydrogen bomb. Yesterday, Stephen Moore,  a former Trump adviser and now an analyst for CNN, went on a rant on a morning broadcast about what a “lunatic” and “maniac” North Korean President Kim Jong-un was and the danger he poses given his access to weapons of mass destruction.  I agree but we have a similar problem here in the United States. 

It was two weeks ago on August 23rd that James Clapper, Jr., former director of national intelligence,  questioned President Trump’s fitness for office following a freewheeling speech in Phoenix, which Clapper labeled “downright scary and disturbing.”

“I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon. “I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it — maybe he is looking for a way out.”

Clapper said watching Trump’s speech, he worried about the president’s access to nuclear codes.

“In a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said, referencing North Korea’s leader. “The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”

Clapper joined a growing chorus of alarm over Trump’s erratic behaviour. The Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker, said last week that Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful”.

Well this is scary because now we have two national leaders who are being labeled as lunatics, unstable, or unfit to serve in office, who have access to nuclear weapons. 

It is fair to say that Trump’s access is as problematic as Kim Jong Un’s.



Mark Zuckerberg and the Business Community Respond to Trump’s End to DACA!

Dear Commons Community,

At 11:00 am this morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the  Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Response to this decision has been swift.  Mark Zuckerberg called it “cruel” and “a sad day for our country.”  He and hundreds of other corporate leaders are coming out strongly against this policy change.  Below is the letter that Zuckerberg’s is encouraging others to sign.



August 31, 2017

To: President Donald J. Trump

To: Speaker Paul Ryan; Leader Nancy Pelosi; Leader Mitch McConnell; and Leader Charles E. Schumer

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we are concerned about new developments in immigration policy that threaten the future of young undocumented immigrants brought to America as children.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows nearly 800,000 Dreamers the basic opportunity to work and study without the threat of deportation, is in jeopardy. All DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes. More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees.

Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, all 780,000 hardworking young people will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and every one of them will be at immediate risk of deportation. Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.

Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.

We call on President Trump to preserve the DACA program. We call on Congress to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act or legislation that provides these young people raised in our country the permanent solution they deserve.