U.S.

U.S. (25)

Before I get to the teacher in question, I want to talk education for a minute. It's been written many times that U.S. students are, well - not number one. They are not number one in math, not number one in science and not number one in reading/writing. In fact, they are far from number one. The World Education Ranking system ranks, as you can guess - education in the world. The U.S. has never been number one. Ever.  In 2016 U.S. kids had their best showing since the 70’s and placed 7th, but in 2017 dropped to 20th and last year (2018) - the U.S. dropped off the list entirely.

 

But you know what U.S. kids are number one in - thinking they are number one. No, seriously. If you ask U.S. kids how they expect to perform on a test when up against kids from other countries, American children universally believe they will perform much, much, much better than they actually do. And many U.S. kids honestly believe they will be number one in math, science, literacy and pretty much everything else under the sun. Number. One.

 

Well, let’s take a look. There is a test called the PISA (Program for International Students Assessment) and it’s a worldwide exam administered approx. every three years to 15 year old's in 72 countries. About half a million students take the exam. The test results are compiled by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Their most recent test was in 2015.

 

Out of 72 countries tested:

 

U.S. kids ranked 40th in math with a score that puts U.S. teens 11 spots lower than the average score.

 

U.S. kids ranked 24th in reading comprehension with a score that puts U.S. teens 4 spots higher than the average score.

 

U.S. kids ranked 25th in science with a score that puts U.S. teens 4 spots higher than the average score.

 

Not exactly “‘We’re number one!” And, sadly, according to those 17'-18'World Education Ranking numbers I posted above, it looks like U.S. kids are dropping further down the list.

 

So, what’s going on? Who’s to blame?

 

Well, I don’t really know and I’m not going to speculate much; however, I find it interesting to hear how much self confidence U.S. kids seem to have vs. how they actually perform.  Keep in mind, just because I’m not going to speculate doesn’t mean that other folks won’t speculate. Hell, everyone seems to have all the answers these days, you know? Just check social media where everyone is certain their all caps FB post is clearly the one and only way you MUST think or they’ll unfriend you.

 

It seems as if parents blame teachers. Teachers blame parents. Republicans blame teachers. Democrats blame the system. Education administrators don’t seem to blame teachers, but they certainly bail out on protecting teachers when irate parents come screaming or, God forbid - someone on a sports team is failing! “You can’t fail our basketball/baseball/football star!”

 

Yes, yes teachers can and should be able to fail students up to and including athletes. It is the teacher's exact job to evaluate if a child has done the work to pass, or not. If kids are terrible s#!t heads and parents are ignoring email, after phone call after text message saying, “Hey - your kid is a bully, hasn’t turned in 10 of his assignments this year and I might have to fail him! Please respond!” Well, if parents don’t take a vested interest in their own child’s education and their kid acts a damn fool and never does his/her school work - that kid deserves consequences. Just sayin.

 

And that’s exactly how Julie Marburger felt. Marburger is a sixth grade teacher at Cedar Creek Intermediate School in Texas. She was worn down by the chaotic destructive students and the irate road raging parents. And so, just before she quit, she wrote an epic FB post blasting them all. The rant went viral and within two weeks had millions of hits. (Editor’s note: It doesn’t appear as if she quit. She expected to receive hatred for her post and thought she would have to quit as a result but instead of recieving negative press she has received overwhelming support and it sounds as if the support has stayed her hand from quitting, as of yet).

 

Marburger’s view is that parents and children have become awful, abusive, entitled pricks. The kids don’t seem to care about consequences and parents lose their minds if their Precious Angel doesn’t get an A. It doesn’t matter if Precious Angel destroys school property, turns in zero work assignments and verbally abuses teachers and/or students because parents will still demand that Precious Angel recieve an A!  After two years of, as Marburger describes it - abuse, she finally had enough and called parents and students out for their behavior. 

 

Her full FB post:

 

“I left work early today after an incident with a parent left me unable emotionally to continue for the day. I have already made the decision to leave teaching at the end of this year, and today, I don’t know if I will make it even that long. Parents have become far too disrespectful, and their children are even worse. Administration always seems to err on the side of keeping the parent happy, which leaves me with no way to do the job I was hired to do ... teach kids.

I am including photos that I took in my classroom over the past two days. This is how my classroom regularly looks after my students spend all day there. Keep in mind that many of the items damaged or destroyed by my students are my personal possessions or I purchased myself, because I have NO classroom budget. I have finally had enough of the disregard for personal and school property and am drawing a line in the sand on a myriad of behaviors that I am through tolerating. Unfortunately, one parent today thought it was wrong of me to hold her son accountable for his behavior and decided to very rudely tell me so, in front of her son.

Report cards come out later this week, and I have nearly half of my students failing due to multiple (8-10) missing assignments. Most of these students and their parents haven’t seemed to care about this over the past three months, though weekly reports go out, emails have been sent and phone calls have been attempted.

But now I’m probably going to spend my entire week next week fielding calls and emails from irate parents, wanting to know why I failed their kid. My administrator will demand an explanation of why I let so many fail without giving them support, even though I’ve done practically everything short of doing the work for them. And behavior in my class will deteriorate even more. I am expecting this, because it is what has happened at the end of every other term thus far.

I have never heard of a profession where people put so much of their heart and soul into their job, taking time and resources from their home and family, and getting paid such an insultingly measly amount. Teachers are some of the most kind and giving people I have ever met, yet they get treated so disrespectfully from all sides. Most parents can’t stand to spend more than a couple hours a day with their kid, but we spend 8 with yours and 140 others just like him. Is it too much to ask for a little common courtesy and civil conversation.

It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to have a classroom of my own, and now my heart is broken to have become so disillusioned in these short two years. This is almost all i hear from other teachers as well, and they are leaving the profession in droves. There is going to be a teacher crisis in this country before too many more years has passed unless they abuse of teachers stops.

People absolutely HAVE to stop coddling and enabling their children. It’s a problem that’s going to spread through our society like wildfire. It’s not fair to society, and more importantly, is not fair to the children to teach them this is okay. It will not serve them towards a successful and happy life.

Many will say I shouldn’t be posting such things on social media ... that I should promote education and be positive. But I don’t care anymore. Any passion for this work I once had has been wrung completely out of me. Maybe I can be the voice of reason. THIS HAS TO STOP”

%PM, %27 %836 %2019 %19:%Feb

Cohen's full opening statement to Congress

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Editor's note: Lots of interesting stuff here and I think the entire statement is worth reading but I'm not sure I see the "smoking gun" that will turn Trump supporters away from supporting the President. I mean, they don't care that he has sex with porn stars and cheats on his wife (or they pretend to think he's innocent of such things because they believe him to be a "Christian," which he is not), they don't care how much he's actually worth (or not), they don't care about his taxes, they don't care about Hilary Clinton (unless they're bashing her). They only care that Trump isn't a Democrat. If the Cohen statement said something like, "I actually have proof Trump is a secret Democrat and has been working in collusion with the Dems to pass a Green New Deal," well - then they'd turn on him! Aside from that, I fear this is all going to revert to business as usual...
 
Cohen's opening statement to Congress: 
"Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today.
I have asked this Committee to ensure that my family be protected from Presidential threats, and that the Committee be sensitive to the questions pertaining to ongoing investigations. Thank you for your help and for your understanding.
 
 
I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee's questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.
I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.
Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a
campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said "yes" to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.
I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.
I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty -- of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.
I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.
I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.
He is a racist.
He is a conman.
He is a cheat.
He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.
I will explain each in a few moments.
I am providing the Committee today with several documents. These include:
  • A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account -- after he became president - to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign;
  • Copies of financial statements for 2011 -- 2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank;
  • A copy of an article with Mr. Trump's handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself -- he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs; and
  • Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump's direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.
I hope my appearance here today, my guilty plea, and my work with law enforcement agencies are steps along a path of redemption that will restore faith in me and help this country understand our president better.
***
Before going further, I want to apologize to each of you and to Congress as a whole.
The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump.
Today, I'm here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.
I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false -- our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.
Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates.
In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell
me there's no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.
There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me "How's it going in Russia?" -- referring to the Moscow Tower project.
You need to know that Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.
To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.
And so I lied about it, too -- because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it
clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.
****
Over the past two years, I have been smeared as "a rat" by the President of the United States. The truth is much different, and let me take a brief moment to introduce myself.
My name is Michael Dean Cohen.
I am a blessed husband of 24 years and a father to an incredible daughter and son. When I married my wife, I promised her that I would love her, cherish her, and protect her. As my father said countless times throughout my childhood, "you my wife, and you my children, are the air that I breathe." To my Laura, my Sami, and my Jake, there is nothing I wouldn't do to protect you.
I have always tried to live a life of loyalty, friendship, generosity, and compassion -- qualities my parents ingrained in my siblings and me since childhood. My father survived the Holocaust thanks to the compassion and selfless acts of others. He was helped by many who put themselves in harm's way to do what they knew was right.
That is why my first instinct has always been to help those in need. Mom and Dad...I am sorry that I let you down.
As many people that know me best would say, I am the person they would call at 3AM if they needed help. I proudly remember being the emergency contact for many of my children's friends when they were growing up because their parents knew that I would drop everything and care for them as if they were my own.
Yet, last fall I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with Individual #1.
For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump.
It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times. It is even more painful to admit that many times I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have. Sitting here today, it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.
For that reason, I have come here to apologize to my family, to the government, and to the American people.
***
Accordingly, let me now tell you about Mr. Trump.
I got to know him very well, working very closely with him for more than 10 years, as his Executive Vice President and Special Counsel and then personal attorney when he became President. When I first met Mr. Trump, he was a successful entrepreneur, a real estate giant, and an icon. Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating. When you were in his presence, you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself -- that you were somehow changing the world.
I wound up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade. That was my job. Always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life. At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.
Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation -- only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the "greatest infomercial in political history."
He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign -- for him -- was always a marketing opportunity.
I knew early on in my work for Mr. Trump that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests. I am ashamed to say, that when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. As the President, I consider it significant and dangerous.
But in the mix, lying for Mr. Trump was normalized, and no one around him questioned it. In fairness, no one around him today questions it, either.
A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes.
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.
In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr.
Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of "wouldn't that be great."
Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries "shitholes."
In private, he is even worse.
He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a "shithole." This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.
While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.
And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.
And yet I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a cheat.
As previously stated, I'm giving the Committee today three years of President Trump's financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. These are Exhibits 1a1b, and 1c to my testimony.
It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.
I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit his financial interests. These are Exhibit 2 to my testimony.
As I noted, I'm giving the Committee today an article he wrote on, and sent me, that reported on an auction of a portrait of Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 3A to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.
And it should come as no surprise that one of my more common responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a conman.
He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly -- and she did not deserve that.
I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford's attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 4 to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a Home Equity Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. I did that, too -- without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right thing to do or how it would impact me, my family, or the public.
I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.
As Exhibit 5 to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank
account on August 1, 2017 -- when he was President of the United States -- pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me -- the word used by Mr. Trump's TV lawyer -- for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year -- while he was President.
The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
So picture this scene -- in February 2017, one month into his presidency, I'm visiting President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time. It's truly awe-inspiring, he's showing me around and pointing to different paintings, and he says to me something to the effect of...Don't worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement checks are coming. They were Fed-Exed from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system. As he promised, I received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter.
When I say conman, I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.
As I mentioned, I'm giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump's direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump's grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission. These are Exhibit 6.
The irony wasn't lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades. As you can see in Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared "Let him show his records" after calling President Obama "a terrible student."
The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact, he did the opposite.
When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees' salaries in half -- including mine -- he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving "someone like him" that much money back.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he did not consider Vietnam Veteran, and Prisoner of War, Senator John McCain to be "a hero" because he likes people who weren't captured. At the same time, Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft.
Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.
He finished the conversation with the following comment. "You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam."
I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
***
Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear. But, I have my suspicions.
Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, "Dirt on Hillary Clinton." Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk -- which in itself was unusual. People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: "The meeting is all set." I remember Mr. Trump saying, "Ok good...let me know."
What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone -- and certainly not without checking with his father.
I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump's knowledge and approval. So, I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on
Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad's desk that day -- and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about when he said, "That's good...let me know."
***
Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching. I see now that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with the bad decisions I made.
To you, Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, the other members of this Committee, and the other members of the House and Senate, I am sorry for my lies and for lying to Congress.
To our nation, I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.
For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand. I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your "fixer," Mr. Trump.
I am going to prison and have shattered the safety and security that I tried so hard to provide for my family. My testimony certainly does not diminish
the pain I caused my family and friends -- nothing can do that. And I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.
And, by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurrilous attacks by the President and his lawyer -- trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel. Mr. Trump called me a "rat" for choosing to tell the truth -- much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government.
As Exhibit 8 shows, I have provided the Committee with copies of Tweets that Mr. Trump posted, attacking me and my family -- only someone burying his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they are: encouragement to someone to do harm to me and my family.
I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family -- and unleash his TV-lawyer to do the same. I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will make it clear: As a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.
I wish to especially thank Speaker Pelosi for her statements in Exhibit 9 to protect this institution and me, and the Chairman of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff and Chairman Cummings for likewise defending this institution and my family against the attacks by Mr. Trump, and also the many Republicans who have admonished the President as well.
I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not proud of, and I will live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life.
But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.
Thank you for your attention. I am happy to answer the Committee's questions."

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. 

%PM, %31 %876 %2019 %20:%Jan

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.

%PM, %28 %948 %2019 %21:%Jan

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*

 

 

 

 

 

 

%PM, %01 %844 %2018 %19:%Dec

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.

 

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