U.S.

U.S. (21)

President Trump has signed a spending bill to avert another government shutdown. House Democrats agreed to some provisional border security money (to build 55 miles of new fencing) but did not fund The Wall the President wanted.

Anyway, the President signed the bill, passed by both House and Senate and that, as they say - is that.

Only … the President didn’t get his wall. Which is a problem for him and so, Friday afternoon, he declared the border a “national emergency” and will fund the wall via executive privilege. It doesn't seem to matter that, via any legitimate newsite and paper, you will find evidence to suggest that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans (which Trumps own administration admits).  

That being said, there is a very real opioid crisis in the country. And the drugs are coming from somewhere. Of course, every intelligence agency worth its weight in salt will tell you that the drugs are coming into the country via mules and carriers in legal ports of entry.

It also doesn’t matter that border security personal, custom personal and leadership involved with both groups want “more technology and additional personnel.” That’s it. That’s what they want. Notice how there was no mention of a wall.

But that’s okay. Because this is a known phenomenon called, “Security Theater.”  Security Theater is very specifically designed to create the illusion of offering security, even though everyone involved knows Security Theater does not actually make anything safer, it just makes the average person feel safer. And as long as folks feel safer, they come out and spend money.

The above linked Security Theater video is all about the TSA and how ineffective it is, but the same general principles apply to the border wall. A wall will not actually make the country safer, it will; however, make you feel safer. The border wall is the exact definition of Security Theater.

And by the way, wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for it?

 

The Great Wall of Trump: A timeline of “who is paying.”   

 

June 2015: Trump will “build a great wall” says, ”Mexico will pay for it.”

Aug 2015: Trump says “the wall will be 30-50 ft. high,” Mexico will pay.

Dec 2015: "I'll tell you what it's going to be made of. It's going to be made of hardened concrete, and it's going to be made out of rebar and steel."  Mexico will pay.

Jan 2017: Donald Trump takes over office of the Presidency. The Wall does not seem to be any kind of priority.

Jan 2017: Inexplicably, U.S. “might” have to pay.

Later Jan, 2017: Mexico is paying (again).

Even later Jan 2017: Mexico says it is NOT paying for wall

Even later than that, Jan 2017: Trump says Mexico is paying.

Even later than that, Jan 2017: Mexico says, “No, we are NOT paying for the wall.”

March 2017: Pence says, “Mexico will pay.”

March 2017: Mexico says, “Nope, wrong again. We will not pay for the wall.”

March 2017: Republicans say, “Mexican drug cartels will pay for the wall.”

Later March 2017: Mexican cartels don’t bother responding (but probably, laugh).  

Even later March: U.S. is paying but it "won't be that expensive." 

June 2017: Wall is now a “solar powered wall” that will “pay for itself.”

July 2017: Wall is no longer a solar powered wall that will pay for itself. Wall is now a “steel wall with openings” allowing border security to see when “drug dealers throw drugs over the wall.” Wall price skyrockets. U.S. is paying. 

Jan 2018: Wall is now a “fence with windows.” U.S. is still paying. 

March 2018: Wall is concrete (again) with no openings. Wall price skyrockets. U.S. is still paying but again, wall doesn’t seem to be a priority.

Nov 2018: Two days before the election, Trump warns if you don’t vote Republican the U.S. will be overrun with Mexican invaders.

Nov 2018: Election day. Democrats to retake control of Congress.

Dec 2018: Wall is now a “steel slat barrier.” U.S. - still paying. It’s now a priority. Many begin to report that Russian steel will be involved in building the wall. Russian steel belonging to a Trump/Kushner family friend.

Later Dec: Wall is mostly concrete (again) with some steel areas that will have openings. It’s a priority.

Jan 2019: Democrats take control of Congress.

Later Jan 2019: The wall is coming! (Trump tweets.) US - still paying. Wall price skyrockets. It might even be a national emergency! Will probably use Russian steel.

Feb 2019: Trump declares National Emergency to fund Wall. U.S. taxpayers will pay for it all. It might be concrete, it might use Russian steel. Maybe both.  

On Thursday, The Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law designed to restrict access to abortions. In a 5-4 decision the surprising swing vote came from Chief Justice John R. Roberts Jr., who is generally considered a conservative justice. Instead of siding with fellow conservatives Justice Thomas, Alito & Gorsuch; Chief Justice Roberts sided with liberal appointees Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagen and Breyer.

 

So, just what is the Louisiana law that was struck down?

 

Well, it’s called, “Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act.” The premise of the law argues that doctors should have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of where an abortion is performed, and, if they do not have said privileges they are not allowed to perform an abortion there. If passed, the law would reduce the number of doctors allowed to perform abortions and therefor, possible enforce an “undue” restriction on a woman seeking an abortion.

 

An “admitting privilege,” means that the doctor has the privilege to admit patients to the hospital for some diagnostic or therapeutic services. “Admitting privilege,” as implied in the Louisiana law, and here is the important part - has nothing whatsoever to do medical competence.

 

So the law ties to say that a patient might be “unsafe” if they receive an abortion from a doctor that does not have admitting privileges. Hence, the title of the act.

 

The obvious problem, as has been pointed out many times, and has been the reason this act has been previously struck down in courts is: there are many legitimate reasons why a doctor might not have admitting privileges to a hospital that have nothing to do with medical expertise. Which, obviously means that just because a doctor doesn’t have admitting privileges does not mean he/she is unqualified to perform an abortion. Which means the law is trying to enforce an undue restriction.

 

In fact there was a Texas law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 in their Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt decision. The Texas law was very similar to Louisiana’s “Unsafe Abortion Act.  In a 5-3 decision (they were one Justice down at the time, as Scalia had just died) court said the Texas law constituted an “undue burden” on a women’s right to seek an abortion, and struck it down. Which is exactly what they did to the Louisiana act.

Now, it’s interesting to note that Justice Roberts did not vote against the Texas law in 2016. He did vote against the similar Louisiana law on Thursday. As to why? Well, we don’t know why, exactly. That being said, I did find an interesting breakdown over at Rolling Stone (.com) in a 2018 interview with veteran Newsweek reporter David Kaplan. Kaplan had just published a book called The Most Dangerous Branch, which was drawn from interviews “with 165 people including sitting justices, retired justices, clerks, lower court judges and federal officials.”

Tessa Stuart, from Rolling Stone, asks Kaplan if a new court (w/ Kavanaugh, who had not yet been confirmed) would overturn Roe. v. Wade? Kaplan said about Roberts: “I think Roberts is troubled by seeing the court get put in the maelstrom. And I think he recognizes that Roe v. Wade would put the court in the maelstrom like no other ruling in modern times … My guess would be that Roberts would not vote to explicitly overturn Roe…” (Which then would turn into a 6-3 vote against striking it down, in his opinion).

Fair enough. Maybe this is Robert’s first chance (the Thursday Louisiana vote) to suggest precisely what Kaplan was talking about. I guess, Kaplan is saying that Roberts just doesn’t want to rock the boat, per say. Although Kaplan did, at the time of the interview, seem to feel the Kavanagh would also vote against striking down Roe v. Wade.

Maybe. But maybe not. Kavanagh wrote the dissent against Thursday’s decision and it’s kind of dull but it’s only four pages if you want to check it out (linked above).

I read it. To the extent I understand it, it’s kind of a mess. Kavanagh goes back and forth and says, “Yeah, well, I guess I would be for this. But then again, I can see in some instances this would be undue (therefor illegal). You know I would need more facts about the new law, specifically, in order to make a more informed vote. But since I don’t have those facts - I’ll  just vote yes. Yes, the Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Act is fine!”

Um. Okay. But one would assume that, without more facts about something that is going into law - you should vote, no.

Right?

 

Anyway. This will not be last time we see abortion rights front and center at the Supreme Court. 

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Make Performance Matter!

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How do you put a dollar value on the worth of a public official? How about this idea. 

Shouldn’t receiving any salary increase be based on results?

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron will pocket some three and a half million dollars this year, making him one of the highest-paid football coaches in the nation. He received such an enormous salary package based on results. It’s the old adage that you get what you pay for, and with Ed, LSU ended the football season winning 10 games.

Should time and work be the only criteria in paying public employees? Why not pay the governor, the secretary of economic development, the superintendent of education, and a cross section of other public officials that directly affect our lives based on a scale of how well they perform and what results they achieve?

Experimentation with performance pay in the public sector is on the grow. A New York City charter school is promising to pay teachers $125,000 a year, plus bonuses based on classroom and school-wide performance. Sure, this is a lot of money, but those in charge are looking for a significant increase in student performance levels. Bottom line — results.

All of this aside, the heart of our query is about pegging the pay of the governor and his top assistants to performance. I would surmise that most voters in Louisiana would think it’s a good idea, but how do you do it? When you talk about results, it is certainly easier to define in the private sector. Results are measured in the stock price of a publicly traded company or by profit in any other company. The more the company makes, the more its managers can earn.

But can you create an accountability and production index in government? I think you can. This would be a challenge for key economists at Louisiana universities. Develop a formula that would give a “performance index.” Sounds difficult, but why not give it a try?  If you take the economic figures below and compare them with other states, Louisiana comes in 48th in the nation.

 

  • 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate:-0.1% (3rd largest decrease)
  • 2017 GDP:$207.9 billion (25th largest)
  • Unemployment:7% (tied — 4th highest)
  • 5 yr. annual employment growth:+0.4% (2nd smallest increase)

 

I suggest starting a Louisiana “misery index.” Go ahead and pay Gov. John Bel Edwards and his brain trust the big bucks. The governor should make $1 million a year. But this amount would be adjusted by the misery index. Right now, the index is high on poor growth and low on performance, so Edwards salary would be close to what he now makes: $125,000.  Now this should just be the beginning. As Governor Edwards often tells us, future economic growth in Louisiana is tied to job skills through education. Therefore, we should build into the formula increases in high school math performance, elementary student test results, reduction in the state’s troubling pollution levels, and maybe the number of new movies that are shot in Louisiana each year. Leave out the LSU national football ratings but include the student athlete graduation rates.

Finally, I would factor in consumer confidence. Are the voters getting tangible results? Are they happy with the performance of their top public officials? If you own shares of stock, and have little confidence in your company investment, you simply sell the stock. The average Joe ought to be able to put in his two cents worth as to the value he’s getting out of Louisiana government. Get his opinion through a statewide poll and factor the results in to the performance index.

So to all the statewide officials, I say make your case and ask the salary level you think you are worth. But just like in the private sector, be prepared to defend the bottom line. The proof of course is in the pudding. Be accountable for the results that take place. And if you succeed, reap the benefits.

In ancient Rome, there was a tradition when major projects were built. Whenever a Roman engineer constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible. He stood under the arch.

So pay these pied pipers of change and economic growth the big bucks they say they are worth. But keep them directly under the arch of performance, and let voters know there will be a day of reckoning if this promise of change and results plummet to the ground.

 

 

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

 

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Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.

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Another New Year, Same Old Midwest Freeze

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Another year, another Midwest record breaking cold front. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories, freeze warnings and an approaching “arctic cold front” that will blanket most of the country and, apparently, affect almost 75% of the U.S. population. That's about 225 million people threatened by below zero temperature. And what's really, really bad news for my little dog, is that three day 20-40 below zero front we're expecting here in the Midwest. My poor little guy just can't figure out what those puppy pads are for and pretty much, will only go number 2 outside. But when it's this cold all he does is go in the back yard and then, ten seconds later think, "Nope! This is BS! I'm going back inside and I'll just hold it until it's warmer!" (Good luck with that, little buddy, and it's totally okay if you have an in house accident or two during this kind of freak weather).

 

Anyway, if you live in the Midwest, like I do, you’re already familiar with the cold. But still. Every once and while it's like, "It's going to be HOW cold?" In fact, every year, GCN’s medical columnist, Dr. Daliah Wachs writes “How to Prevent Hypothermia” anticipating this type of weather.

 

Just for "fun" comparison; temperatures in MN will plunge to -37C making my home state colder than Antarctica and even colder than parts of Mars. Author Andy Weir knows what we are going through -- he writes, in his novel, The Martian:

 

“And thanks to decades of reconnaissance by Curiosity, Opportunity, and the rest of NASA’s band of merry Rovers, we know most of what astronauts will need to survive on Mars once they get there: souped-up spacesuits to protect against massive dust storms and sub-freezing temperatures; tons of freeze-dried food; housing pods that can shield against radiation; and a big drill to unlock the frozen water beneath the Mars surface. It’s not easy living, but not too unlike, say, Minnesota.”

 

Thanks, Mr. Weir! We Minnesotans will keep that in mind. =)

 

Anyway. Stay warm. Keep your pets indoors, or keep their outdoor activities to the barest of bare minimums; and dream of warmer days.

 

They are not so far away.

There will be a temporary deal to open parts of the government for a few weeks, mainly for critical issues. Of course, there will be no wall. Which is fine. Walls are medieval and not terribly effective, but whatever. There will be; however, additional money to increase the current level of fencing and assist with said fence repair costs (about $1 billion). There will also be some back pay available to specific workers (but as far as I can tell - as of yet, it’s unnamed as to which workers will receive back pay and which will not). And, I guess, finally there will be a State of the Union.

And it’s this last point that makes me go, “Hrmmmmm.” (Just like in the old Arsenio days). A few days ago when the President announced he won’t have a State of the Union until after the shutdown ends. BUT it is also clear that Nancy Pelosi kind of .. uninvited him from delivering the State of the Union in the House chambers.

And then, Trump agreed to delay with this Tweet:

“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!”

Okay. This immediately made me wonder, “Wait. Is it actually her prerogative?” I mean, obviously, she does not, nor did she ever say she was denying the President to have a State of the Union - she is denying him use of House Chambers. Um, okay. But aside from that - so what? Can Nancy Pelosi deny him use of House chambers? Can the Speaker, actually do that? I’m honestly not sure. I read over lots of online sources today from CNN, to the NYT and Fox News and all of them keep mentioning “according to House Rules,” but none of them linked to any House Rules.

And then I found the House Rules. And now I know why no one linked to them, because it’s a nightmare 50+ pages of tightly fonted legalese. Ugh. It’s bloody painful to read. And confusing. Anyway. Let me dive into it.  

First, let’s check the Constitution and see what it says about a “State of the Union:”  

“The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”

The key phrase seems to be my emphasized, “convene both Houses, or either of them.” Convene, as you may or may not know means, “come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble. Summon. Order.” In other words, the President may “summon/order” either or both houses to a State of the Union.

Seems clear.

Now, the reason that the State of the Union is in the House chamber is because, well - it’s large. And fitting. And so now we ask the question - can a Speaker of the House prevent a President from delivering a State of the Union in House chambers?  

As far as I’ve been able to determine the answer is very clearly - no. But the Speaker DOES have a lot of power over what can and can not happen on the floor of House chambers. You see, not just anyone can walk onto the House floor and have a speaking role. That privilege is restricted to the usual suspects one would assume - current members of Congress, House staffers, invited VIPs, dignitaries, ambassadors, delegates, etc. and, of course, the President / Vice President. Former members of Congress and former Presidents may also enter the House chamber and deliver speeches, if invited.  

So, the Speaker can’t prevent an acting President from entering House chambers BUT according to House Rules, and as much as I understand the 50 pages of legalese I just waded through, a Speaker is, in fact, in charge of several key House chamber factors including (but not limited to):

Use and Admittance. 1. The Hall of the House shall be used only for the legislative business of the House and for caucus and conference meetings of its Members, except when the House agrees to take part in any ceremonies to be observed therein.”

Okay, fair enough. So, it’s possible the Speaker can just decide  to not agree to take part in the State of the Union, and if the Speaker decides this, congress will not attend. And if congress does not attend,  then the chamber is technically not “in session,” and can not be used.

Does this supersede the Constitution’s statement that the President may “convene both houses?” Maybe. Maybe not. I guess it’s all debatable, but even if the President could order congress into session for the State of the Union, I did find a couple of picky (perhaps juvenile) things a Speaker could do to make the State of the Union, (if held in House chambers) a disaster. For example, according to House Rules:

BROADCASTING THE HOUSE. 1. The Speaker shall administer, direct, and control a system for closed circuit viewing of floor proceedings of the House in the offices of all Members, Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and committees and in such other places in the Capitol and the House Office Buildings as the Speaker considers appropriate. Such system may include other communications functions as the Speaker considers appropriate. Any such communications shall be subject to rules and regulations issued by the Speaker.

  1. (a) The Speaker shall administer, direct, and control a system for complete and unedited audio and visual broadcasting and recording of the floor proceedings of the House. The Speaker shall provide for the distribution of such broadcasts and recordings to news media, for the storage of audio and video recordings of the proceedings, and for the closed-captioning of the proceedings for hearing-impaired persons.”

This all means the Speaker of the House could order all close circuit cameras turned off so the speech wouldn’t be broadcast to anyone in the building. AND the Speaker could order that no cameras or press would be allowed onto the floor (although, I believe that currently only C-SPAN is allowed on the House floor). So, sure, the President could still deliver the State of the Union, but the Speaker could make sure that no one ever heard it or recorded it. In fact, it sounds as if the Speaker could, literally, order the lights shut off. So the President would have to deliver the speech in the dark, to no one. And this all may be juvenile tactics but “juvenile tactics” seem to be the ways and means of politics in the last several years.

Anyway, I’ll leave it up to you to further dig through the House Rules for more information because that is some sucky reading, let me tell you (and I’m done with it).

Finally, and again, I am not suggesting that House Rules should always supersede the Constitution. I am only suggesting there does appear to be clear reasons why a Speaker of the House can make a State of the Union, at best - difficult, assuming the President decides to address the nation in House chambers.

A Speaker of the House, obviously, can not stop the President from delivering the address elsewhere, or to Congress or directly to CNN or Fox News or, in the probably case of our current President - on Twitter.

Imagine that. A SOTU address. On Twitter.

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s previous attorney, has been sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple allegations stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller, as we all know by now, is special prosecutor looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. President Trump isn’t too happy about the entire ordeal, claiming hundreds of times, that the investigation is a “witch hunt.”

Now, the term “witch hunt” amuses me. Especially, when applied to this particular investigation. The exact meaning of the phrase “witch hunt” comes from the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts between Feb 1692 and May 1693. Nineteen people, mostly women, were found guilty of “witchcraft” and executed by hanging. Obviously, none of them were witches - because witches don’t exist. But the religious lunatics in 1600 believed in them and hunted them, tortured them and murdered them. So in the 1600’s “witch hunt” we have to go hunt down some witches!

BUT NOW - hundreds of years later, we know that witches don’t exist. So the phrase “witch hunt” has evolved to mean that you are hunting for something that does not exist. So, when President Trump screams “witch hunt” all over Twitter, he is saying that there is no collusion evidence to be found, because he is innocent and that the entire Mueller investigation is hunting for something that does not exist. Hence, it’s a “witch hunt.”  

Which would be a fine argument - if it was remotely true.

To date, because of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian meddling and the conspiracy to protect the Russians, here are the people that have already pled guilty to a huge variety of federal crimes relating to the conspiracy /  lying to the FBI about the conspiracy / federal fraud about the and / or election financing charges in related to the conspiracy: 

  • George Papadopoulos: Member of Trump’s Presidential Election Campaign pled guilty to "willfully and knowingly "making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI in relation to the conspiracy.
  • Michael Flynn: Director of Trump’s Defense Intelligence Agency pled guilty to "willfully and knowingly "making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI in relation to the conspiracy.
  • Paul Manafort: Chairman of Trump’s Presidential Election Campaign found guilty on 8 counts of conspiracy in relation to the Russian conspiracy.  
  • Rick Gates: Top official in Trump’s Presidential Election Campaign pled guilty to "willfully and knowingly "making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI in relation to the conspiracy.
  • Richard Pinedo: The man who ran an online service called Auction Essistance, a company that would open bank accounts in his name and sell them online to specific purchasers. He sold accounts to Russians and helped them illegally move money around and do things like buy Facebook ads (for the Russians) to manipulation the election. He pled guilty to identity fraud in relation to the conspiracy.
  • Alex van der Zwaan: A Dutch attorney that had meetings with Rick Gates about the conspiracy - pled guilty to "willfully and knowingly "making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI in relation to the conspiracy.
  • Michael Cohen: President Trump’s former attorney. Pled guilty to multiple allegations about the conspiracy.   

And that’s just the people that have pled guilty! We’re not even yet counting the dozens of people who have been charged but have not yet had their time in court and / or pled out (yet). We’re also not talking about the other hundred (or more) people that are still under investigation!

So, President Trump is factually inaccurate when he calls the Russian meddling conspiracy a “witch hunt” because there is clearly a huge amount of evidence to suggest conspiracy. Up to and including the folks that have already pled guilty to the conspiracy. AND - the investigation is not over (far from it)!

Remember, a “witch hunt” - hunts for something that does not exist. Robert Mueller’s investigation has already produced enormous amounts of evidence that the Russians meddled in the 2016 Presidential Election. So, the Mueller investigation is clearly NOT a witch hunt. In fact, his investigation is pretty much the opposite of a witch hunt.

Mueller’s investigation is more like, ummm, how can I say it? Oh, I know! It’s more like an investigation into the fact that a hostile foreign government illegally interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election handing the election to Donald Trump and that the Trump family, the Trump campaign, Trump top aides, Trump top advisors and several other individuals all willing and knowingly went along with it and now are all lying to the FBI and trying to cover it up.

Which, is the exact definition of conspiracy.

Finally, I wasn’t a huge fan of Hillary Clinton but I voted for her, against Trump. I will say that Donald Trump sure was right about this one thing: He warned the American people, countless times on the campaign trail that if the people voted for Hillary they would end up with a President who was under federal indictment from day one.

Turns out - he was right! I voted for Hillary Clinton and I ended up with a President under federal indictment from day one!

 

But something about her emails, though. Right? *sigh*

 

 

 

 

 

 

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George H.W. Bush, 41st US President, dies at 94

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Late Friday on Nov, 30th, President George W. Bush (43) announced that his father had passed away at the age of 94. The Bush Presidential Center delivered this tweet:

 

“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years our dear dad has died. George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens. -  George W. Bush”

 

Back in April, George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, lost his wife of 73 years. And, you know what they say after you lose the love of your life. You’ll probably not be far behind.

 

President Bush (41), as you probably already know, had a long career in public service and politics. He was a war veteran from WWII, a Congressman, a diplomat, the CIA chief, Vice President and President.

 

Honestly, I don’t know much about other than very widely known public knowledge.  I was a teenager when he was President and, as you all know, teenagers usually don’t give much a damn about politics. And I always feel like, the moment someone dies they are vilified or sainted unfairly in either direction. So, I won’t elaborate much on his life one way or another, but I did just find out that after Bush Sr. lost re-election in 1992 to an upstart Arkansas Governor, Bush Sr. wrote this letter to incoming President Bill Clinton:

 

Dear Bill,

When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I'm not a very good one to give advice; but just don't let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you.

Good luck—

George

Can you imagine our current Republican President writing anything as classy? Maybe you can, but I certainly can not. In fact, the editorial board over at the NY Times put together a nice piece about this very idea and on 41’s life. Their lead:  

 

“Historians will measure the presidency of George H.W. Bush in familiar ways — by how well or poorly he managed the major domestic and international challenges of his time, his leadership qualities, the moral and social legacies he left for future generations.

 

Yet, at the moment of his passing, it is difficult not to take note of the profound differences between the 41st president of the United States and the current occupant of the White House, Donald Trump. Beyond a desire to be president — Mr. Bush was more competitive and ambitious than his self-effacing personality sometimes suggested — there is almost nothing in common: the one gracious and modest, the other rude and vain; the one prudent, the other brash; the one steady, the other unmoored.”

 

The full NY Times story: “George H.W. Bush, Public Servant.”

 

This morning, a 7.0 earthquake hit Alaska. I haven’t seen any reports of serious injuries or fatalities but it sounds like Anchorage and the surrounding communities got pummeled with some major infrastructure damage, some TV stations going off air and the airport temporarily shutting down.

Alaska hasn’t had an earthquake since that awful M9.2 quake / tsunami hit the Prince William Sound region back in 1964. Which is exactly why a tsunami warning was issued this time in case aftershocks were powerful enough to form a tidal wave. Thankfully, while there were several aftershocks reported, none of them produced the feared tsunami and the warning was cancelled.

The Anchorage Police Department issued this statement.

The Anchorage Police Department is operational after this morning’s massive earthquake.

 

Our Dispatch center is fully staffed and answering your calls as quickly as they can. Please only call 911 if it’s an emergency.

 

Our officers have been dispatched throughout the area and are handling multiple situations. We are working with our public safety partners to keep you safe. For parents, we are working with our partners at the Anchorage School District to check on your children and make sure they are safe.

 

There is major infrastructure damage across Anchorage. Many homes and buildings are damaged. Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don’t need to drive. Seek a safe shelter. Check on your surroundings and loved ones.

 

We will keep you updated via Nixle throughout the day.

 

Again, stay safe and off the roads. Call 911 only if it’s an emergency.”

 

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker tweeted that he issued a Disaster Declaration. Now, just so you know - there are two types of Disaster Declarations. First: Major Disaster Declaration, which means the disaster has exceeded the response capabilities of the state and local government and long term recovery is probably needed. The second: Emergency Declaration, which is requested when the state and local government needs help responding to an emergency or disaster; however, no long term recovery assistance is needed.

 

I have not seen one way or another which type of Declaration Governor Walker has requested but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “Major Disaster Declaration.” It was a 7.0 earthquake, after all.

 

This is a developing story and will be updated as further information is available.

 

Last week in Kansas City, MO state health inspectors stopped several non profit all volunteer groups from feeding the homeless. By poisoning all their food. You read that right. And if you think this sounds like something out of a bad young adult sci-fi dystopian novel, I agree. That's were you should expect such scum and villainy. But no. It’s real.

 

I thought to myself, “the moron that came up with the, “Let’s dump bleach in the food” regulation should be immediately fired.” I was saddened to hear that it’s “standard operating procedure” in many states.  

 

So, what actually happened?

 

A local Kansas City all volunteer non profit group called Free Hot Soup KC went out to multiple parks on Nov. 5th to pass out free food. Mainly, home cooked soups, chili and foil-wrapped sandwiches. In fact, the group has been doing this twice a week for about a year.

 

Their events draw approx. a few hundred homeless, per park and they usually visit several parks. According to multiple sources, their food events are the highest attended park gathering at all of the parks they frequent. The problem is that neighbors complained about all the homeless people "invading their parks." So they complained.

 

A lot.

 

After about a year of complaints, city officials and the cops crashed multiple Free Hot Soup KC events. The problem being, Free Hot Soup KC doesn’t have a permit to distribute unregulated food to the homeless. State officials make the case that the permit is free and that the state provides free training on how to prepare, package and deliver food to the homeless. So … just take the free classes and sign the free permit, right?

 

Seems like a no brainer.

 

And here’s where I think the folks at the Free Hot Soup KC are being a little pompous about the entire ordeal. They are calling their events “picnics” and claim that they don’t need a permit to have a picnic in a public park with their “friends.”

 

Unless, of course, you invite the public. In which case it’s no longer a private picnic with you and your friends. It’s obviously, a non profit providing food for the homeless. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s quite commendable that they do this. Just get the free permit and take the free classes on safety and food prep. Problem solved.

 

But no. People need to be difficult. Like, all the time.

 

Anyway. Yes, it’s true I think Free Hot Soup KC is acting a little self righteous BUT they are still clearly in the right here. I mean, let’s break down what the city officials claim and then do.

 

  1. They show up to a food event that has been safely giving out food to homeless people for at least one year. With no problems. The city officials make sure to bring lots of cops. You know, in order to make everyone feel “more safe.”  
  2. Then, city officials tell the organizers, “You can’t invite the public and hand out free food without a permit and without some very minor safety training because there might be a possibility of food related risk.”
  3. The volunteers refuse to stop serving food and, ridiculously claim, “We’re just having a picnic with our friends.”
  4. The health department officials then - pour bleach into the soups and all over the food to prevent the group from serving it!  

 

Ugh. And just when I was having like a, “Well, I can kind of see their point. It could pose a health risk. It probably wouldn’t, but, it might. I think a small amount of regulation is fair.”

 

And then the state officials offered a triple whammy of dumb. They:

  • Claim this is for the public good. They have to make sure the food is safe.
  • But since the volunteers do not obey orders - now they have to poison the food as standard procedure. Again, to make sure everything is safe.
  • Then they throw the poisoned food into a plastic bag and leave it at the park! You know, for any unsuspecting homeless person to find. And eat. And choke & die because it’s covered in bleach.

 

Um, sorry city official. Your argument of “we’re just trying to make everything safe” just went out the window. You clearly don’t give a rats ass about safety.

 

Folks on the left and the right were, understandably, pissed off about this story. A common sense and reasonable op-ed appeared a few days later in the Kansas City Star. It said:

 

“The Health Department could agree to send at least one food safety inspector to Free Hot Soup events, free of charge, not as an enforcer but as an adviser. Those city employees could oversee food distribution, alerting volunteers when food might not be safe.

The Free Hot Soup volunteers would agree not to serve food that hasn’t been prepared and handled safely. Citations would not be issued.

Then, during the next six months, a handful of Free Hot Soup volunteers would take free food handling courses offered by the Health Department. At the end of that period, every event would have to include at least one certified food handler, or face cancellation.

Other volunteers would not need permits. The events organized by Free Hot Soup or any similar coalition could proceed, with at least one person providing trained food safety oversight.”

Thankfully, the following week, as Free Hot Soup KC went out to deliver food - the cops were not there and the food went out as usual. Hopefully, that will be the end of it.

 

But probably not.

 

%PM, %06 %762 %2018 %17:%Nov

Midterm elections are upon us

Written by

This is your friendly neighborhood reminder to go out and vote. I will not push for one candidate, or one party. You’ve already made up your mind. And you probably wouldn’t want to take my advice, anyway. I have been of voting age for the past seven Presidential elections. I have voted in every race. Only three times has my candidate actually won the election. If I was an NFL team I would be 3 - 4 and probably on my way out of the playoffs.

 

Not only that but in my home state of MN I am 1-2 for Governor (I didn’t vote for Governor in 98 because I hated them all) and 5-3 for Senate. So, my entire Presidential / Governor / Senator win loss record added together would be 9-9. Fifty lousy percent. Nothing to write home about.

 

And while, it’s true, I used to be one of the many folks who said that there are only a few major differences between the two major parties; but mostly they are identical. As in, a win for either side is a win for - the rich, big corporations, big money in politics, lobbyists, the military industrial complex, patriarchy and the status quo never changing.

 

Boy o’ boy, I do not feel that way any longer! I’ll bore you with those details some other time.

 

Today, I plan to go out and actually do something about it. And that’s vote. Hopefully, you will too!



Where to find your voting location.


What to do if you are turned away at the polls.

 

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