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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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*
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
Elections feel more and more like sporting events every time they're held. There's more dirty play, more money spent, the officiating gets worse and worse, and there have been more people switching teams, from Republican to Democrat mostly, according to Twitter at least, than ever before. That doesn't make the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections easily understood, however.
Since sports is a language we all understand, I offer this as a means to comprehend the chaos that is contemporary U.S. politics by looking at the races like they're actual races, or any sporting event for that matter. This piece aims to inform you of the facts and stakes surrounding the biggest and closest races of the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections by comparing them to historic sporting events or sports rivalries.
The piece also offers some politics betting advice you can take or leave, but I assure you, politics betting is even more fun and addictive than sports betting. If you're disinterested in politics, politics betting makes politics suddenly interesting. I should warn you, however, that I and just about everyone else in America lost big time in 2016—in more than one way. This election we’ll start winning it back together. (Author's note: any winnings are reinvested into candidates’ campaigns the following election cycle.)
It might not be a perfect comparison to 1908's “Fight of the Century” between the first ever black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, and Tommy Burns, but Democrat Stacey Abrams is trying to be to the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections what Jack Johnson was to boxing.
Abrams is running to become the country’s first ever black female elected governor of any state. Abrams’ opponent, Brian Kemp, is doing his damnedest as Georgia’s acting Secretary of State to make sure she doesn’t. It would be like Johnson’s fight against Burns, but if Burns had served as referee of the fight as well. Abrams isn’t likely to do a year in prison for dating a white woman like Johnson did, though.
A federal judge has already ruled against Kemp, who was using an “exact match” law to keep over 3,000 people—mostly minorities—from voting for things like misspellings and missing hyphens on their voter registration applications. But over 50,000 voters in Georgia have been flagged as ineligible because of the law, and despite that, Abrams trails in the polls by just one point, according to Real Clear Politics’ (RCP) average. She’s gotten the Oprah boost recently, too, so expect this one to come down to the wire.
I have $10 on Abrams to win on Predict It, an online marketplace for politics betting, basically. The difference being you can buy and sell shares right up until the election is called, so if Abrams holds a lead at some point on Election Day, I can sell my shares for her to win at a profit in case the late rounds go to Kemp. I won’t, however.
The basketball battle for the State of California between LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers and the reigning, back-to-back-champion Golden State Warriors is not unlike the battle for the Texas Senate seat. Ted Cruz is the reigning, Republican champion running for a second term, and Beto O’Rourke brings all the glitz and glam LeBron brought with him to the Lakers. O’Rourke doubled Cruz’s campaign contributions in the second quarter of 2018, raising more than $10.4 million despite taking no money from Political Action Committees (PACs). His ability to raise money has this shaping up to be the most expensive U.S. Senate race of all time.
Like the Lakers, O’Rourke will have to spend to contend. According to the latest Emerson poll, he trails Cruz by three points, but the RCP average has him even further behind in a state that hasn’t had a Democratic Senator since 1993. I have $5 on O’Rourke scoring an upset, but I’m really just hoping early tallies of metropolitan areas like Dallas-Fort Worth have O’Rourke far enough ahead early to sell at halftime before Cruz goes on a run, hitting shots from rural Texas in the third quarter like the Warriors do against seemingly everybody.
While Miamians will vote on a proposal for the purchase of real estate to house a billion-dollar Major League Soccer (MLS) complex, they'll also be voting to potentially restore the voting rights of more than 1.5 million former felons in the state (10 percent of all voters in the state). Florida is one of just three states (Iowa and Kentucky being the others) to automatically bar anyone convicted of a felony from voting. A grassroots campaign run by former felons is looking to change that, but needs 60 percent of Florida voters to vote "yes" on Amendment Four in order for it to pass.
Amendment Four would "automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation." And while Florida's ex-cons have an avenue to regaining their voting rights, it's a long street with obstacles abound like the last level of the arcade game, Paperboy, but with an old, pasty boss withholding payment until you get off the bike, walk up to the house, ring the doorbell, and place his newspaper ever so gently in his right hand before kissing the rings on his left.
Ari Berman explains in an article for Mother Jones that Florida felons can get their voting rights back but have to wait five to seven years to petition a Clemency Board headed by current governor, Rick Scott, who has denied 90 percent of applications—giving just 3,000 Florida felons the right to vote. Scott's predecessor, Charlie Crist, who left the Republicans for the Democrats in free agency, approved 155,000 applications. Even Republican Jeb Bush approved 75,000, and he's still on Scott's team. And that team is hard on crime because it's an easy stance to take and it pays well.
Florida's Rick Scott has received the most contributions from the private prison industry in 2018 ($70,600), and fellow Floridian Rebecca Negron is second ($29,850). Two other Florida Republican candidates make the top 20, accepting $10,000 each to funnel both prisoners and tax dollars to for-profit prisons. Texas "entrepreneurs" were turning old motels into migrant detention centers until they found out they could get away with putting up a few tents instead. Four Republicans and one Democrat from Texas also made the list.
These private prisons are literally banking on recidivism; they want prisoners to keep coming back. To them, convicts are cash cows; they're valued. But to the rest of the world, convicts are always convicts, regardless of rehabilitation. Convicts can find God but not a job. In Florida, they can get a law degree but not practice law. And in Florida, they can indulge in every pleasure imaginable except the pleasure that comes from voting. The second chance ex-cons are afforded, especially in Florida, comes with strings attached, takes five to seven years to earn, and doesn't have to be granted, and likely won't, even if the convict does everything asked of her. That doesn't mean they can't participate in democracy, though.
Even though a million-plus Florida ex-cons can't vote in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections, you can bet they're knocking doors and phone banking to get Democrats to the polls on Election Day so they can vote someday soon. Felons currently incarcerated in Florida jails and prisons are probably calling home to make sure their friends and family vote in this election so they too can vote someday. Left-leaning voters with friends and family convicted of felonies won't be sitting at home on Election Day, and that bodes well for Democratic candidates. Both Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum were leading in the RCP average polls on the eve of the elections.
The roughly 113,000 Florida votes that separated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 (1.2 percent) will surely narrow, because this grassroots movement of former felons has given Florida Democrats an inside track to victory through an issue that has further motivated an already motivated base. Major League Soccer's (MLS) success in Atlanta is indicative of what can be done when you offer people something of which they've been deprived.
Both Minnesota and Atlanta got MLS expansion franchises in 2017. Minneapolis and Atlanta share similar age demographics that make them ideal soccer cities. Residents aged 20 to 30 years make up the largest segment of their populations. Atlanta is obviously more diverse, but that doesn't explain why Atlanta United leads not only MLS, but the NFL, MLB, and NHL in attendance, averaging 46,318 tickets sold per game in its inaugural season. Minnesota United managed just over 20,000 per game in its inaugural season, in a stadium with more than 50,000 seats, which the Loons filled just once and marketed hard to do so.
Atlanta United set new attendance (and points) records in 2018, averaging over 53,000 fans per game. What gives? The Five Stripes were surprisingly good surprisingly fast, but they weren't the Vegas Golden Knights of MLS. The Five Stripes lost in the first round of the playoffs despite finishing the regular season fourth overall. The key to Atlanta's stunning MLS success isn't strictly due to the product's performance on the pitch. It's influenced by the availability of excess income and a lack of quality, sports/entertainment substitutes in the area demanding those dollars.
Atlanta is a business hub home to Home Depot, Coca-Cola, UPS, and Delta Air Lines, so while Atlanta has more impoverished individuals and families than both Minneapolis and St. Paul, a lot of Atlantans have a lot of money. There are more families in Atlanta earning more than $200,000 annually than in any other income level. More than a quarter of married families in Atlanta make more than $200,000 annually. Minneapolis and St. Paul combined have just 23.5 percent of married families making more than $200,000 annually. But what sporting events would Atlantans pay to see in 2017?
The MLB's Braves might have moved into a new, publicly funded stadium in 2017, but they weren't especially good (and neither was traffic or parking), finishing 72-90, 23rd in the standings and 13th in attendance. The Braves turned that record around and won their division in 2018, but still finished 11th in attendance. For reference, in 2011, the Minnesota Twins finished their second season at Target Field with a 63-99 record and managed to finish fourth in attendance. MLB as a whole saw average attendance drop to a 15-year low in 2018, but whether the Braves' struggle to fill seats is due to traffic, parking, the ire of taxpayers, or an overall disinterest in the game doesn't change the fact that their product fails to demand the entertainment dollars of affluent Atlantans.
The NBA's Hawks were even worse than the Braves in 2017-18. After losing out in the first round of the 2016-17 NBA Playoffs, they finished the following season tied for the third-worst record in basketball, ending a run of regular-season dominance culminating in early postseason exits. The Hawks are hoping a renovation of State Farm Arena, complete with golf simulator suites and an authentic, Atlanta barbershop, demand the dollars their product currently cannot.
The Hawks do, however, offer a relatively affordable and valuable season ticket package, which is another means to make a poor product more appealing. Price matters and must reflect not just the product's quality, but how accessibility affects demand for the product. Transportation and parking expenses must be considered when setting a price, and the Hawks have years of experience at their location to more accurately estimate those costs than the Braves did.
Still, the Hawks were dead last in attendance in 2017-18, managing to fill just 14,409 of their 21,000 seats per game (68.6 percent of capacity). Atlanta United originally intended to close the upper bowl of Mercedes-Benz Stadium to create a more intimate atmosphere, lowering capacity from 70,000 to 42,500. That's 109 percent of seats sold in year one, or 66.2 percent if you use the 70,000 figure. In year two, they bested the Hawks' seat-sold percentage by almost 10 percent using considering a capacity of 70,000.
With the NHL's Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, Atlanta's affluent population has been deprived of quality, sports entertainment since the Hawks' window of contention closed in early 2017. The wallets of affluent Atlantans were practically begging for a worthwhile entertainment alternative just as Florida ex-cons are actually pleading for an alternative to Rick Scott's Clemency Board when it comes to regaining their right to vote.
Florida Democrats could replicate The Five Stripes' stunning MLS success by simply expressing their support for legislation offering disenfranchised people an alternative to Scott's Clemency Hawks subjectively dictating the voting rights of Florida's former felons with no oversight whatsoever. But something tends to be better than nothing, and nothing is very close to what Rick Scott is offering Florida's 1.5 million former felons right now. Expect a blue wave in Florida across the board.
Heidi Heitkamp has a better chance to retain her North Dakota Senate seat (11/2, according to the Predict It market) than Conor McGregor had to beat Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match (11/1). But McGregor was incredibly overrated and idiotically over-wagered. Despite a marijuana legalization initiative appearing on North Dakotans’ ballot on Election Day, Heitkamp trails Republican challenger Kevin Cramer by nine points in the latest Fox News poll. With cannabis becoming more of a bipartisan issue, the initiative might bring close as many Republicans to the polls as Democrats, so it looks as though Heitkamp’s short reign as North Dakota’s Senator could be coming to an end.
Heitkamp’s stance against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment apparently hurt her chances, but she’s not stepping into a boxing ring with an undefeated, world champion having never boxed before. She has boxed, and Kevin Cramer is no Floyd Mayweather, except that he did say even if Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is telling the truth, the recently confirmed Supreme Court Judge would have done “nothing” seriously wrong. Mayweather, you might remember, served two months in jail after being convicted of domestic battery. A 17-year-old Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman when he was drunk, allegedly.
I have $5 on Heitkamp overcoming the long odds because she will no doubt attract the most money from Democratic donors down the stretch, as they desperately try to become the majority in the Senate. As her deficit in the polls narrows, I’ll start shedding my 15-cent shares at a profit if I can. And even if Democrats see Heitkamp as a lost cause in the late rounds, the votes in Fargo and Bismarck-Mandan areas will undoubtedly be reported first, so she’ll look close enough early on to hopefully make some money on my shares. If not, a candidate is out $5 in the next election cycle. I don't think anyone will notice.
Democrats in Wisconsin probably feel like New York Islanders fans between 1996 and 2001: like there was just no chance of winning. With their arena crumbling around them, the New York Islanders were so undesirable to potential buyers, a fraud named John Spano misrepresented his net worth and took over the team for four months. It took another half decade for the Islanders franchise to be saved by Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, but even then, fans questioned moves made by the new front office, only to enjoy a franchise best start to the 2001-02 season (9-0-1-1) and a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division.
It’s been seven years since Wisconsin had a Democratic governor, and it might be time Democrats get their Islanders Season in the Sun. The Democrats already received their John Spano gut punch with a failed attempt in 2012 to recall Governor Scott Walker for limiting public workers’ rights to collectively bargain. They and Wisconsinites, like Islanders fans, suffered since, and seem to have suffered enough given Democratic challenger Tony Evers’ five-point lead in the latest Emerson poll. He’s the guy with experience as a teacher and principal whose education budget recommendations Walker was ignoring while Governor. Wisconsinites seem to think he has the experience to right Walker’s biggest wrongs.
It’s no secret Walker has undermined labor unions in Wisconsin, especially teachers’ unions, but Walker’s really failed Wisconsin’s youth when it comes to education, as Patrick Caldwell writes in Mother Jones. “Walker slashed funding for K-12 schools by $792 million over two years,” forcing local property tax hikes. It’s never a good look when a candidate preaching tax cuts is responsible for tax increases.
Desperation is a stinky cologne, and that’s exactly what Scott Walker is emitting. He suddenly wants to adopt a portion of Obamacare, protecting coverage guarantees for people suffering from pre-existing conditions. He’s hoping it will save his political life like a full Medicare expansion could have literally save the lives of his constituents. It won’t be enough, though. Walker’s just done Wisconsin wrong too many times—just like Islanders owners done Islanders fans.
Greg Gianforte managed to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives despite body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs when he asked the candidate a question the day before the election. Gianforte's win might be due to the postponed release of his mugshot to the public and press despite being formally charged and arrested for assault. A court eventually ordered Gianforte’s mugshot released, but not before the election was held.
The mugshot might not have mattered, though. Gianforte reportedly raised more money the day after his assault of a reporter than on any other day. Now he’s a California-born, New Jersey-raised, Trump-loved Brock Lesnar defending his championship belt in Montana against a tiny, minority-defending female version of Eddie Guerrero.
Kathleen Williams’ strong candidacy, likely the strongest Montana Democrats have ever run, might not matter either. Gianforte’s folk-hero status with Conservative Montanans could be insurmountable, but she’s made the race close for the first time in a long time. Montana is deeply red when it comes to the House of Representatives, especially recently. A Republican has represented Montana in the U.S. House for over 20 years. The latest Gravis poll has Montana’s At-Large Seat all tied up though. If Williams gets a surprise spear from Goldberg (i.e. Oprah), she can win just like Guerrero did.
As you can see, I have no money down on Republicans in any races, but I did turnaround some shares I purchased for Republicans to retain the Senate. I also had shares of Democrats taking a majority in the House (they need to win 23 seats, and 25 Republicans are up for reelection in districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016). Both races were too close for my comfort, so I concentrated my funds on individual races I was most confident would either go Democrat or start to lean Democrat so I could sell my shares at a profit.
Basically, I made modest bets on longshots or long bets on what I perceive to be sure things. Use RCP and New York Times polling to guide your bets, and then, on Election Day, vote if you’re a registered voter, register to vote if you're not and you still can in your state, and then treat it like the holiday it ought to be. Watch Election coverage like it's Thanksgiving football. Turn it into a drinking game. Eat like an American, and win and lose your bets like an American—"cocky and arrogant, even when you're getting beat."
Another day, another lunatic. Many sources have reported multiple gunshot fatalities at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. At least 12 people were shot, eight appear to have been killed. Multiple officers were injured while exchanging fire with the shooter, who eventually surrendered.
The shooter, Robert Bowers, was an active poster on “alt-right” sites, especially, Gab. A site I’ve never even heard of. Anyway, his Gab profile was quickly disabled after he was named the shooter. But images captured from his profile before it was deleted show that a few days before the shooting Bowers wrote about the “kike” infestation, “the overwhelming Jew problem” and this about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.” And then he picked up his AR-15 like rifle and attacked a Jewish synagogue during a baby naming ceremony.
Why he chose Tree of Life specifically is so far unclear. You know what’s particularly scary about his attack? He marched right up to the third floor to begin shooting. You know what is usually happening on the third floor of that building on Saturday mornings? Children’s classes.
So, it’s kind of looking like crippling insecure man baby Robert Bowers knew that children were going to be up on the third floor so he went up to massacre them. Thankfully, earlier that morning, all the children’s classes had been canceled (for some reason but presumably, for the baby naming ceremony). Bowers then shot up the synagogue killing several people - here are the names of the victims.
Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the Tree of Life congregation, spoke with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and told them that, at any typical Saturday morning there would be approx. 100 - 150 people from multiple congregations holding simultaneous services in the building.
Police believe he acted alone and that there is no further threat to the community and are treating this as a hate crime.
This is a developing story.
Another day, another lunatic. Multiple sources have reported that federal authorities arrested Cesar Sayoc, a Florida man, in connection to sending possible package bombs (or suspicious looking packages) to prominent Democrats / Trump critics including (but not limited to): Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Maxine Waters, Joe Biden, John Brennan, James Clapper, Cory Booker, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Eric Holder, the offices of CNN and Robert De Niro.
The packages all looked exactly the same. Manila envelopes all with multiple misspellings and the same return address: Debbie Wasserman “Shultz” (also misspelled) the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. A few of them even had “postage due” stamps on them suggesting the package went through the entire mail system before being discovered as “suspicious.”
The folks over at CNN actually opened the package, not knowing what it was and uncovered the bomb. They partially evacuated the building and the bomb squad came and ended up destroying the pipe package bomb (which is standard procedure).
It should be noted that none of the bombs exploded. Which means they may or may not have been working bombs. Which is mind numbingly stupid. I mean, don’t get me wrong - I’m not suggesting to send working bombs through the mail. I’m suggesting that the culprit put together fake bombs to scare and / or make a political point and now, that he’s caught, will be prosecuted as if he sent real bombs.
What a moron. (Editor's note: The FBI now says the bombs were real. It's fortunate that, but unclear why - none of them exploded.)
I’ve already read the conspiracy sites too. They are up in lunatic arms. “False flag attack. Bummer Obama and Killery Clinton are behind it all!” They claim. *sigh*
I don’t need a conspiracy to answer this basic question, “Do you think someone, in this day and age of hyper partisanship, is crazy enough to send pipe bombs to political figures he despises?”
The answer is - yes! I do! Obviously! I mean, it seems to happen a lot. Death threats. Online harassment. Partisan fucking hatred. Gunmen go after republicans. Gunmen go after democrats. Gunmen go after kids. (Note: The Sandy Hook Massacre was NOT a false flag attack!). Gunmen go after folks hanging out in church.
Point being: There are lunatics everywhere. And some of them are violent. When you hear “lunatic man sends pipe bomb to prominent Democrats” your first thought should be, “Another fucking lunatic man terrorizing political figures” and not, “It’s probably a Killary / Obummer false flag plot to stifle conservative voices all told through the fake news narrative of the CIA controlled media.”
No. It’s not.
It’s probably just another lunatic man sending pipe bombs through the mail. That’s probably what it is. And I hope he goes to jail forever.
This is a developing story.
The damage from Hurricane Michael is staggering. Georgia’s farms were clobbered and the agricultural industry is reporting “unprecedented generational losses” that are estimated to reach nearly $3 billion in damages.
About a million acres of timber has been destroyed as well all sorts of vegetable and nut farms. Lots of sources are still reporting about the Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Fla. The base, if you have not heard, sustained heavy damage from the storm. Most of Tyndall’s planes were flown to safety before Michael hit the coast but 17 F-22 Raptors were left behind because they were undergoing maintenance and were not flight worthy. Each of the Raptors cost an estimated $330 million each. Which means that’s almost $6 billion dollars of fighter jets that may have taken significant damage from Michael. The Air Force is being a little mom on the subject, which - fair enough. There is no reason to broadcast to enemies how many of our fighter planes were damaged beyond repair.
But that isn’t even touching on the personal cost to homeowners up and down the coastline. The NY Times has a “Damage in Pictures” all about Michael and from the look of things it’s as bad as everyone expected. Entire towns are wiped out. Farms are gone. Houses obliterated. It’s apocalyptic looking stuff.
If that’s not bad enough there are sheriffs in FL reporting that they are arresting about 10 looters each night since last Wed. Armed looters, it appears, are targeting homes without electricity and taking advantage that first responders are stretched thin. People really suck sometimes, you know?
There are even neighborhoods putting up hand made signs that say things like, “You loot. I shoot.” Which - sounds about right to me.
Still, it sounds as if hundreds of thousands of people are still without power and cell phone service has only just recently been (mostly) reinstated.
And keep in mind this is all damage from one hurricane. That’s not counting the damage that Florence did just last month. It’s not counting the death toll when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and almost three thousand people died as a result. How about Irma and Harvey - two Hurricane’s that pummeled the south just last year.
They keep coming and they seem to keep getting more destructive and more costly. And why is that? Well, last year my co-worker wrote a strongly worded story titled “Hurricanes should blow climate deniers’ eyes, minds open.” In it he writes:
“While I wish the best to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, I also hope climate change deniers affected by the hurricanes realize their denial of climate change contributed to their current situation and will contribute to worse situations in the future.
Mother Earth is doing her best to convince climate denying Americans that global warming is no hoax and that people are responsible for the increasing instances and intensity of weather disasters. She started by flooding the Gulf Coast with category-three hurricane, Harvey, which AccuWeather predicts will cost America more than Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina combined.”
His story makes compelling arguments and he links to more than a dozen reputable sources and studies. He wrote that more than one year ago and he was correct in predicting that this year the hurricanes would be much, much worse.
And they are. And now all we can do is rebuild and assist those that are in need. And we’ll probably have to do it again. And again. And again.
If you can, donate to the Red Cross.
If you can, donate to the Humane Society Animal Emergency Rescue Fund.
Hurricane Michael, the strongest on record in the U.S. since 2004 hit the Florida coastline this afternoon. It’s too late to evacuate. If you’re there - you’re there. Michael is a Category 4 hurricane with winds at 155 mph. But that makes it that top end of Category 4 because as soon as winds hit 157 it will officially be a Category 5. Not that there is much difference between 155 and 157 mph winds other than the rating system because, either way, enormous damage is about to rain down on Florida.
Not even one month after Florence flooded Georgia & the Carolinas and caused $1.5 billion in damages, the E coast is getting hammered again. This time by Hurricane Michael, which meteorologists have rated a Category 4.
Folks in Georgia and the Carolinas still have flooded areas in large portions of the coastline and in a few more days will receive more rainstorms as Michael hits Florida today but will move N further inland by Friday. Michael is actually the opposite of Florence which went from a Category 4 down to a Category 1 by landfall while Michael increased in strength as it came closer to the SE coastline. In fact, meteorologists believe that Michael will still be a Category 2 Hurricane when it hits Alabama and southern Georgia.
If that’s not bad enough Hurricane Michael, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could spawn tornadoes anywhere from 50-100 miles outside the hurricane eye. That’s all those folks need, right? Tornadoes to go along with their Category 4 hurricane.
Last month, our very own Dr. Daliah wrote a “How You Can Help” column for Hurricane Florence and all of her information is relevant for Michael as well. You can read her column here. Her column also has plenty of links to the Red Cross, the Army Emergency Relief and other sources if you want to donate assistance. The American Red Cross is accepting monetary and blood donations. Financial donations can be given here or on their website at redcross.org. Moreover one can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. More relief numbers in her column.
The forecast cone is expected to stretch Michael all the way north to Maryland, which is a lot of damage, and a lot of danger.
This is a developing story.
The Category 1 hurricane that hit the Carolinas on Friday is expected to cause “widespread devastation” to multiple states.
Five people, including an infant, have been reportedly killed within the first 12 hours of Hurricane Florence’s landfall.
Torrential downpours are expected to continue and power outages, floods, raging waters, and the potential for tornadoes threaten coastal and inland residents.
Risks of drowning, crush injuries, infection, malnourishment, chemical exposure, hypothermia are just a few of the grave issues residents are facing.
Many of those who did prepare for the storm may not have stored plenty of food, especially healthy fresh food. Those trapped in their homes may find the food they did store contaminated by flood water.
The World Health Organization states that floods bring water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, leptospirosis and Hepatitis A. Vector-borne diseases include Zika, malaria, dengue hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, and West Nile.
Mosquitos initially get washed away during the storm, but the resulting puddles of water take weeks to dry and make ideal breeding grounds for insects.
The water gets dirty pretty quickly. People touching the flood water need to wash their hands thoroughly before eating or preparing food.
Moreover due to the moisture that seeped into walls and floors of houses, mold can grow and cause a variety of respiratory issues among other physical ailments. Massive disinfecting needs to take place before coming home to flood water contaminated residencies.
Chemicals from garages and fuel seeping into flood water expose victims to many compounds such as benzene, toluene and xylene that can cause a multitude of health effects including those that affect breathing, skin, the gut, balance, thought, and memory.
Multiple looters in North Carolina have already been arrested. During Hurricane Harvey, a Cajun Navy rescuer told CNN that looters fired shots at him and his comrades, trying to take their rescue boat, which had actually broken down.
Panic fuels dangerous behavior and those without resources may try to take from those who prepared.
Sexual assault crimes can rise as predators find the chaos and lack of video surveillance ideal conditions to find victims who can’t yell for help.
When one loses their home, neighborhood, income, treasured belongings and more, its devastating. Post-traumatic stress disorder may ensue.
To combat these risks, medical personnel and the CDC are preparing. Among food, shelter and clothes, paper products, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, tetanus vaccinations and counselors will be needed is mass quantities.
Hurricane Florence, although weakening, is expected to hover over the next few days bringing more deadly conditions.
Army Emergency Relief is taking donations here to help victims of natural disasters.
Save the Children‘s Hurricane Florence Children’s Relief Fund site can be found here.
Blood supplies will be needed as residents who routinely donate have evacuated the area. Donating blood at your local blood bank may be shipped to the area in need.
United Blood Services have locations throughout the country that can accept your blood Donation. Contact UBS here.
The American Red Cross is accepting monetary and blood donations. Financial donations can be given here or on their website at redcross.org. Moreover one can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
The Salvation Army is also accepting donations online here and by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).
The Red Cross and Salvation Army may also need local volunteers to help set up shelters. Contact the above numbers.
Local volunteers are asked to donate supplies to nearby recreation centers for housing evacuees.
Supply drives in out-of-state locations may not be accepted directly but could help local charities who need to ship supplies to the affected area.