February 28, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v123)

Well, well, well. It's Wednesday again - let the wondering begin.

I've been disconnected from news and stuff most of the day, so I have to wonder whether anyone else did a 'Hope and change' comment about poor Hope Hicks, the president's other daughter, resigning from her position as White House communications director?  That was one headline I saw as soon as I got back home. Hicks, who admitted to telling 'white (house) lies' in her role as Communications Director, was the one who wrote the press release praising alleged domestic abuser Rob Porter who, it seems, was her boyfriend at the time.  She's apparently been planning this for a while, and it's not related to her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee where the lying was admitted. 

While Hicks was fairly under the radar - didn't handle press briefings or do interviews or any of the traditional CommsDir roles -- she apparently made her mark on folks, like Trump's General Kelly.
I quickly realized what so many had learned about Hope: she is strategic, poised and wise beyond her years. She became a trusted adviser and counselor, and did a tremendous job overseeing the communications for the president's agenda including the passage of historic tax reform. She has served her country with great distinction. To say that she will be missed is an understatement.
Of course, this is the same General Kelly who spoke so highly of Porter in that lovingly crafted press release.
Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can't say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante, and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.
I wonder, is there some compromised judgment here on the part of the General? Or compromised sense of duty?

Speaking of compromised judgment, the president managed to blow yet another tweet gasket about his Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.
Why is AG Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn't the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
This time, instead of rolling over and playing dead, Sessions fought back.
We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary. As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.
I have wondered, for a while, why it is that Sessions stays and puts up with Trump's bullying, public thrashing, and general abuse. I still wonder about that, but at least he took a step today and fought back, something that DOJ employees have long wanted, since Trump also attacks them with impunity and with regularity.

One more before we go: remember the "Hispanic, we believe" judge who was involved in the Trump University case? The one who would not be able to be fair to Trump because of his heritage, and because Trump was building a wall, and therefore it was impossible for the judge to rule on anything in Trump's favor?

Yeah, that Judge handed down a very beneficial ruling on the border wall.
US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel has cleared on potential obstacle to president Donald Trump's long-promised border wall, ruling Tuesday that the administration has the authority to waive a host of environmental laws and other regulations to begin construction.
I wonder, how long will it take for Trump to apologize for his extremely racist comments about the judge?

February 27, 2018

Poll Watch: All About the Donald

The folks at Quinnipiac released a poll  on February 21st that looked at national opinions on the president.

Here's a look at how we think things are going -- and we know, don't we, that how we think things are going isn't necessarily the way folks in Washington or in the statehouses think things are going, or how they act.

Small print stuff: the poll was conducted by live interviewers over land and cell phones from February 16 - 19, and included 1249 voters.

First up? Presidential approval.
  • 37% of respondents approve of how the president is handling his job; only Republicans (86%) and white men (51%) have a higher percentage of approvers; all other demographics disapprove more than they approve.
  • The 37% approval has fallen 3% since the February 7th survey.
  • 67% of Republicans strongly approve of Trump's handling of his job; all other demographics strongly disapprove more than any of the other options (strongly disapprove, disapprove somewhat, approve somewhat, and don't know/NA).
Approval rates for Congressional Republicans, who of course have a majority in both houses, are even worse. 72% of respondents disapprove of the GOP in DC; in every age group, over 70% disapprove. The greatest disparity is with the 18 - 34 year olds, with a 64 point gap, 79% to 15%. Democrats (94%) and blacks (97%) disapprove the most - no surprise there.

Similarly, approval rates for Congressional  Democrats are not good, but slightly better -- 'only' 66% disapprove. And  while Republicans support the Congressional GOP 55% - 38%, Dems support their party in Congress only 53% - 41%. And for both parties, the disapproval rate is going in the wrong direction.

People don't like Trump (59%) more than they like him (37%): the same is true for Mike Pence (46% to 36%), Paul Ryan (51% to 28%), Nancy Pelosi (52% to 29%), and Mitch McConnell (51% to 15%).  Chuck Schumer would be appalled to know that 34% of respondents don't know enough about him to form an opinion; his disapproval rate is 37%.

Trump's policies are disliked by all but Republicans (89%) and white men (53%); as a person. only Republicans like him more than they dislike him. Even white men dislike him (51% to 40%).

When it comes to Trump's fitness for office, 57% think he's not fit. Republicans (90%) and white men (55%) think he is, as do whites without a college degree (57%).  Men overall are torn -- 49% say yes, 49% say no. Women (65%) and white women (58%) think he's not. 

Only Republicans believe Trump respects women just as much as he respects men (72% to 21%); everyone else - including all men (58%), white men (54%) and whites without a college degree (56%) disagree. 

How about the bonds of marriage?  Everyone -- every single demographic, even Republicans -- believes that loyalty to one's spouse is important. And every demographic except one thinks that president Trump has not been loyal to his wife. On this question, Republicans say yes, he's loyal to Melania (42%), no he hasn't been (14%) and 44% don't know. That 'don't know' percentage is 14% higher than for any other demographic. 

There were some other questions, about Rob Porter, Jared Kushner, and Russia, and the trends - all demographics except the usual suspects being on the negative side - were generally consistent on those questions as well. 

The last question was interesting: "As you may know, the definition of an autocrat is a ruler with absolute power.  Do you think that president Trump behaves more like an autocrat or do you think president Trump behaves more like a typical US president?"
  • 56% overall think he acts like an autocrat.
  • As you would expect, Republicans (76%) and white men (49%) think he acts like a typical president.
If you're the president, how would you respond to this overwhelmingly negative survey?  Officially announce your 2020 campaign!

This should have been  a shock to literally no one, since he filed the paperwork on the day he was inaugurated, has been holding campaign rallies for months (some blatant, some under the guise of being presidential), and the Republican National Committee has been paying rent -- in Trump Tower, of course -- for months. 

But hey  - when you have 158 million followers on social media, the sky's the limit!

February 26, 2018

Opportunity's Knocking

Today is February 26th. March 5th is next Monday, and is the day that president Trump gave as his deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly known as DACA, to end unless Congress acted to save it.

Today, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's call for an expedited appeal of the decision to kill DACA. Here's some info from the NY Times.
The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the administration's appeal was expected, as no appeals court has yet ruled on the issue. The court's order was brief, gave not reasons, and noted no dissents. It said it expected the appeals court to "proceed expeditiously to decide this case." 
...two federal judges have ordered the administration to maintain major pieces of the program while challenges move forward, notably by requiring the administration to allow people enrolled in it to renew their protected status. The administration has not sought stays of those injunctions.
The Supreme Court's move will, as a practical matter, temporarily shield the young immigrants who already has signed up for the DACA program from immediate deportation, and allow them to keep working legally in the United States. Their status lasts for two years and is renewable.
What was the administration looking for? Well, it wanted the Supremes to step in and review Trump's ending of the program, before a lower court had heard and decided an appeal. Two federal judges - one in California and one in New York, issued rulings that effectively barred the shutdown of the DACA program. Here's a glimpse at what happened in the lower courts, from the ACLU,
Both courts ruled that the administration's rationale for suspending the DACA program - that it was unconstitutional and conflicted with the immigration laws - was incorrect and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which is a 1946 law that regulates federal agencies and provides judicial oversight over their behavior. The law prohibits "arbitrary and capricious" actions by federal agencies, and provides a safeguard against unchecked power.
So, what happens now? The cases will wind their way through the appeals process - when the Trump administration filed the appeal with the Supremes, they also filed it in the California case, and if they haven't already done so, they'll likely appeal the NY ruling too.

And in the meantime, it's likely that no one will be working on a legislative solution, because the pressure will be off the politicians - but it won't be off the DREAMers. As the Times notes,
The court's decision not to hear the appeal could also relieve the immediate political pressure on lawmakers to permanently address the status of those immigrants, or to deal with the additional one million DREAMers who had never signed up for the DACA program. They remain at risk of deportation if immigration agents find them.
That sentiment is echoed by the ACLU.
The Supreme Court's refusal provides a reprieve for DACA recipients, but it by no means takes away the urgent need for Congress to come up with a legislative solution. even with DACA reviews continuing, nearly 800,000 DACA recipients live in fear the the lives have built in the United States are in jeopardy.
So -- now is the time for a leader or several leaders in the Senate to rise to the occasion and come up with a plan that addresses DACA and other immigration issues, rather than waiting for the eventual court ruling that will make the decision for them.  It was only back on February 15th that the Senate failed to pass an immigration plan.
  • The Coons-McCain bill failed, 52-47. This bill had a path for DACA bu didn't do anything about the border wall.
  • The Toomey Amendment failed, 54-45. This would have penalized sanctuary cities, but didn't address DACA.
  • The Common Sense plan failed, 54-45. This one addressed DACA, included billions for border security, and would have prevented DACA recipients from sponsoring their parents.
  • The Grassley bill, which was really the Trump bill,  addressed DACA, covered border security, and ended family reunification/chain migration and the visa lottery system. This failed, 39-60. 
That's right - the president's plan was the least successful of the four considered - so we know that's not what we need. But the others, particularly the Common Sense plan, may not be completely outside our reach, if only someone would grab the bull by the horns and make it their mission to get this accomplished.

Opportunity is knocking. It will be interesting to see if anyone answers the door.

February 25, 2018

Sunday School 2/25/18

I only wanted to see one classroom today - ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, where the NRA's Dana Loesch was going to be the guest.

Loesch, you'll recall, is the national spokesperson for the NRA, who sort of hit the big time after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, with her comment that
Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now I'm not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are gold to you and many in the legacy media...
Stephanopoulos started right in on the first question, wondering whether the NRA would back the president's call for raising the age to purchase rifles to mirror the age for purchasing a handgun.
DL: Well, the NRA has made their position incredibly clear. The five million members of the NRA have made their position incredibly clear, and I do want to caution people...
 GS: And that's a no, then?
DL: Well, I do want to caution people, because I know that people are trying to find daylight between president Trump and five million law abiding gun owners all across the United States. These are just things that he's discussing right now. I think that it's great as president he had all of these individuals, all of these constituents come into the White House, he had this listening session. He's really looking for solutions. He wanted to hear what they had to say, and that's what he's doing. So, nothing's been proposed yet. The NRA's made their position clear...
GS: Well, let me just -  the position is you do now want to raise the age?
DL: That's what the NRA came out and said. That's correct. 
How hard is it to say "yes, we agree that the age should be raised?" The same difficulty happens on the bump stock question. Stephanopoulos asked if the NRA was backing that.
Well the NRA already called for -- they already made it clear, the ATF needs to do their job and they need to make sure their definitions are consistent. The NRA called for this before the president made a statement...
She went on to say that the  ATF is on the same page as the president and the Attorney General.
GS: No, they're not, they're actually not on the same page. The ATF says they don't have the authority right now to ban bump stocks. The president has now said he wants those to be banned. Will the NRA back that?
DL: The NRA doesn't back any ban. The NRA has asked the ATF to do its job and make sure that these classifications are consistent. 
If you're out of the loop like I am, you might be wondering what the NRA is referring to with "classifications.' Here's some information on that.
Following the Las Vegas shooting, a significant amount of public attention has been focused on bump stock-type devices. ATF has received correspondence from the general public and from members of both houses of Congress requesting that ATF reexamine is past classification decisions concerning bump stock devices to determine whether they should be classified as machine guns... (it is) the initial step in a regulatory process to interpret the definition of machine gun to clarify whether certain bump stock devices fall within that definition. If, in a subsequent rule making, the definition of machine gun under section 5845 (b) is interpreted to include certain bump stock devices, ATF would then  have a basis to re-examine its prior classifications and rulings.
So - do we know whether or not the NRA supports classifying bump stocks as machine guns, which would make them much harder to obtain? You'll have to be the judge of that. I just know that Loesch said they don't back a ban.

Also, note from the same article about the ATF, it was noted that when they reached out to manufacturers, they asked whether "new regulations would hurt sales or a company's bottom line."

What else did Loesch offer?

  • Well, that the shooter at the Congressional baseball practice was a "former Bernie Sanders staff member" who, according to reports, was a one-time volunteer for Sanders, and a supporter of his candidacy - but not a staff member.
  • When Stephanopoulos talked about no other country having the "wide access" to AR-15s or  the "frequency or intensity of these kind of shootings"  Loesch argued that France had in one year a higher casualty rate than the two Obama terms. Which I guess is true, if you compare a coordinated ISIS attack across multiple locations, including both bombs and guns, to be the equivalent of multiple school shootings resulting in the deaths of children. 
  • Stephanopoulos noted a recent Quinnipiac poll reflected 97% of Americans supporting background checks for all gun purchases. Loesch said that "the question for that poll, by the way, was do you support background checks if it prevents, you know, those who are dangerous and -- terrorists, et cetera from getting firearms" when in fact, the question simply asked "Do you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers?"
One point she raised that I thought was actually a valid one, was asking Stephanopoulos if he was going to start having politicians on the show to grill them about whether their states were submitting all of the required information to the NICS background check system, because we're told that many states are way behind in their reporting. Stephanopoulos said it was a good idea -- we'll see if he goes through with it.

Stephanopoulos did not push her on her comments at CPAC; I'm not sure whether it was because he knew he'd get nothing new, or else he thought he might not have been able to control the interview - which I suspect was true. 

I'm not sure there's a way to control any of these interviews on guns, gun control, and finding common ground. I think it probably starts with wanting to find the common ground...

See you around campus.  

February 24, 2018

Wayne's World

Did you catch Wayne LaPierre's talk at CPAC the other day?

He talked about 'hardening' schools and making them safer, of course. He also took credit, on behalf of the NRA, for the National Instant Check System, and for fighting to make sure that all the bad people who needed to be in the background system were there. Many people disagree with those characterizations of the NRA's positions, but that's a story for another post.

What I wanted to share with you is LaPierre's vision of America; if you like the 2016 Republican National Convention or Trump's inaugural address, you'll love this stuff.
As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain. Saul Alinsky would have been proud. The breakneck speed of calls for more gun control laws, and the breathless national media eager to smear the NRA - think about that, in the midst of genuine grief, in an understandable passion, as millions of Americans searched for meaningful solutions, what do we find? Chris Murphy, Nancy Pelosi and more, cheered on by the national media, eager to blame the NRA and call for even more government control. They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment, they hate individual freedom....
For them it is not a safety issue, it is a political issue. They care more about control and more of it, their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms. 
 They fantasize about more laws stopping what other laws fail to stop. The truth is, laws succeed only when people obey them, that is what the law-abiding majority in this country practices. But once again, so many existing laws were ignored. Their laws do not stop illegal criminals from crossing our borders every single day. Their laws do not stop this scourge of gang violence and drug crime that savages Baltimore, Chicago and every major American community. Their laws have not stopped the plague of opioids and Chinese fentanyl that floods the streets and kills victims every single day in this country. No wonder law-abiding Americans all over this country revere their Second Amendment that protects them more than ever. They do not care if their laws work or not, they just want to get more laws to get more control over people. 
Hold a moment please - the "breakneck speed" with which LaPierre moved from hardening schools to protect children to accusing Democrats and the media of being responsible for, or at the very least complicit in, all of society's ills and of trying to take over the universe was truly breathtaking.

And that's not all. There's a whole cabal of America-hating bastages at work here that need to be foiled, don't you know?  You don't know?  Well, follow along.
Obama promised a fundamental transformation of our country. And you know what? It began with his own national party, a party that is now infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the Constitution,  do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it
Obama may be gone but their Utopian dream, it marches on and president Trump's election, while crucial, cannot turn away the wave of these new European-style socialists bearing down upon us. I'm not just talking about Bernie Sanders, I mean, he's near the end of his career. What about Elizabeth Warren, Bill De Blasio, Andrew Cuomo, Cory Booker, Christopher Murphy and Keith Ellison?  They are not Democrats in the mode of John F. Kennedy or Tip O'Neill.
They hide behind labels like 'progressive' to make their socialist agenda more palatable and that is terrifying. And that should terrify every citizen who values the American ideal in this country of individual liberty. They politicize the Department of Justice. They weaponize the Internal Revenue Service, the EPA, perhaps cripple the FBI and the Intelligence Community, and seized and embedded leadership in all of them to advance their agenda 
Set aside, for a moment, the idea that my Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo and New York City's mayor Bill De Blasio have anything to do with the DOJ, the IRS, the EPA or the FBI and the Intelligence Community. Note also that that Keith Ellison, as a DNC executive - and a Democrat in the House - has even less influence than do Warren, Booker and Murphy in the Senate. But again, the truth and facts are not what we're looking for here.

This is a raw meat fest, CPAC is, and everyone knows it. I was naive, I guess, as to how raw the meat was - it's still on the hoof, for Pete's sake. It's blue and mooing, I tell you. Ready to get some of that?
Absolute control in every corner of our government is their ultimate dream. These intellectual elites, they think that they are smarter than we are. They think that they are smarter than the rest of us. And they think they are better than we are. They truly believe it. And you know it. 
The privileged and the powerful, they think they deserve to be in charge of every level of power but you know what? The United States Constitution makes it absolutely clear that they are not in charge. We, the people, are in charge of this country! But Washington - OH. MY. GOSH. The city likes to ignore that. Our intelligence community shrouds everything in secrecy, driving into darkness every dirty memo. And every dirty institutional secret and memory, in the name of national security. But when the leaks come, as so often occurs in the light of day, it reveals nothing about the security of our country and it reveals everything about the corruption of those in power. That is because in a captive society, the loss of transparency results in the loss of truth. 
And I'm thinking, "in the midst of genuine grief, in an understandable passion, as millions of Americans searched for meaningful solutions", the Executive Director of the NRA went off the deep end, way off the deep end, into the dark spiral of paranoia.
I can understand a bit of bad apples in organizations as large as the FBI. But what is hard to understand is why nobody at the FBI stood up and called BS on its rogue leadership. I mean, really, where was the systemic resistance that should protect every powerful institution that serves us? The lowest-ranking Marine knows to resist an unlawful order. The rank and file in every powerful institution must police its own leadership.
Do you think the membership of the NRA was hearing that call, to resist the urges of LaPierre and his bizarro world vision? And do you think LaPierre was right to co-opt the Parkland teens' rallying cry of "we call BS" for his own purpose?
But still, too much of today's Washington, nobody speaks out. Nobody challenges authority. Everyone keeps their mouths closed and their heads down. And that is exactly how socialistic societies function, when leaders do whatever they want, when resistance and repercussion disappears, and when the fundamental concept of moral behavior is expunged. 
The state rules the day and anyone who resists is smeared right into submission. Yep, you know it. - yes, the "art of the smear.
The state rules the day, and the president, its leader, is a master of the art of the smear - it's one of the ways he vanquished his 16 opponents.
We live in a socialistic age of the art of the smear. It does not have to be true, it just has to stick somewhere, anywhere. It is designed to degrade, destroy, and it is all over the national media to serve their agenda.
Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!  Oh, sorry - I digress. I was practicing the Art of the Smear, which I'm sure will be a new Trump book now that the title has been handed to someone on a sliver platter.
And socialism is a movement that loves the smear. Racists. Misogynist. Sexist. Xenophobia and more. These are the weapons. These character assassinations scream to permanently hang on their targets and create a growing segment of victims. Because socialism feeds off of manipulative victims. You name the group and they will find a way to turn them into victims, they keep their movement growing by finding somebody to be offended every minute of every day.
You know, those 20 manipulative first graders and the six manipulative adults at Sandy Hook, and the 14 manipulative teenagers and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and all of the other manipulative victims of other mass shootings, the bastages. 
They do not like free speech any more than they like the Second Amendment. They like only limited speech, controlled speech, controlled by them through safe zones where they can shame the outspoken or riot to shut them up. If you still think that we have full First Amendment freedom in this country, try going right now at Berkeley and speaking out in favor of conservative causes or even the Second Amendment.
Forgetting, he must be, the sad tale of Milo Yiannopoulos. You see,  CPAC's sponsor invited Milo, who was the victim of those riots-against-free-speech-at-Berkeley to speak at the 2017 gathering of this same voodoo-juice-drinking crowd -- and then disinvited him when his free speech was a little too freely offensive. How soon, how soon, the conservatives forget that CPAC is a safe zone itself!

He then talked about how the "socialist state dreams of manipulating schoolchildren" to get information from them, all kinds of information about their parents, what they watch on TV (ironic, since the NRA and LaPierre point out how violent video games cause mass shootings) and if they own guns and stuff.
And all that private information will be entered in to the ultimate list, that cloud of data storage that couldn't care less about due process and constitutional freedom and your privacy as an American citizen and then it is just a short hop to the systematic destruction of our most basic freedoms in this country and you all know what they are, but let me say them: family; faith; individual responsibility; and self destiny. A free market economy; patriotism; respect for our national flag and our national anthem. Personal liberty and justice for all... It will not take long if we stay on the path we are on to erase them completely. That is the consequence of this new socialist wave in America.  
You know, I hear a lot of quiet in this room and I sense your anxiety. And you should be anxious and you should be frightened. If they seize power, if the so-called new European socialists take over the House, and the Senate, and God forbid they get the White House again, our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever.
I wonder, was the anxiety coming from LaPierre's ranting and raving?  Mine sure was.
And the first to go will be the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. History proves it. Every time, in every nation, in which this political disease rises to power, its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated. It is all backed in this country by the social engineering and the billions (billions of dollars, he means) of people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and more, and gleefully promoted by those who have risen to power in the so-called national news media and seized control of social media to spread their propaganda.
They do not tell us news, you all know it and people know it all over the United States. They say it to me every day, they do not tell us news, they tell us what we need to think... 
You know, some people out there think that the NRA should just stick to its Second Amendment agenda and not talk about all our freedoms, but real freedom requires protection of all of our rights, and the Second Amendment isn't worth its own words in a country where all of our other individual freedoms are destroyed...
Forewarned is forearmed -- the NRA TV channel is looking to be way more bigly involved, and way more bigly accessible, just like NBC and CNN. Which are fake news. And Fox, which is real news, except that it does exactly the same thing as LaPierre just described the media doing, which was bad, in case you didn't catch that.

And now, the big finish - and yes, he does talk about guns again. I forgot that he was the Executive Director of the NRA for a second there - as, I think, did he.
Let's be clear. We are never talking about an armed resistance against the socialist corruption of our government. We are always talking about a resistance armed with the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights in our country. The genius of those documents, the brilliance of America, of our country itself, is all of our freedoms are for every single citizen and there is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive. 
It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright. So I call right now today on every citizen who loves this country and who treasures freedom to stand and unflinchingly defend the Second Amendment, the one freedom that protects us all in this country.
And yes, in case you were wondering, LaPierre did close with the "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.

And yes, in case you were wondering, CPAC, according to several reports, including this one, and this one, is a gun-free zone.

February 23, 2018

TGIF 2/23/18

Yay! Another week in the books...

The week that saw Pennsylvania get handed redistricting maps, drawn by an expert from Stanford University, based on the 2016 presidential election vote.  Why were new maps needed?  Well, the old maps were determined to be a 'partisan gerrymander' and in violation of the law, and the governor (a Dem) and the state legislative leaders (Reps, natch) couldn't get it figured out on their own, so down came the new version.
The court's new map largely undid the Republican gerrymander, creating 10 Republican-leaning and eight Democratic-leaning House seats, as estimated using 2016 presidential election returns. Outside experts who were not involved with the case praised the new map, calling it "fairer" and "much more competitive" than the old one. 
The new map is a better reflection both of the composition of the state's electorate which tends to be divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, and of the traditional redistricting criteria used to draw maps in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
So, naturally, the justices on the state Supreme Court that made the ruling need to be impeached, because, oh for Pete's sake, because the Republicans stand to lose as many as three seats because of the redistricting.

The week that saw the Florida House declare pornography a public health crisis, and require that "In God We Trust" be placed conspicuously in every school in the state. According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kimberly Daniels (a Democrat),
It is not a secret that we have some gun issues that need to be addressed. But the real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart.
The week that saw the president chime in officially, and give full control of his son-in-law's security clearance to General Kelly, his personal general, who will do the right thing, we're sure.
That will be up to General Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot, and General Kelly will make that call -- I won't make that call. I will let the general, who's right here, make that call... I will let General Kelly make that decision and he's going to do what's right for the country. And  have no doubt that he will make the right decision. 
Or, he'll be fired, of course.

And finally, the week that say every teacher in West Virginia go on strike. Even after the state's governor signed wage increases of 2% this year and 1% for next year two fiscal years.

Wages and benefits are the issues; the salary increases are not enough to cover the increases in their health insurance, according to the teachers. And, a promised freeze of health insurance premiums for sixteen months wasn't enough to keep the teachers on the job, where the average starting salary is less than $32,500 and the average salary is $44,700. 

Which isn't a lot of money, in the overall scheme of things - especially if we end up asking teachers to be law enforcement officers too.


February 21, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v122)

What are we wondering about today?  Well, let's see...

Billy Graham has passed, at the age of 99. I managed to catch bits and pieces of a few different news stories about Graham and his remarkable career, and there seemed to be a consistent theme: how different things are with Franklin Graham at the helm of the empire than when it was Billy Graham in charge. The difference between ministering to politicians and presidents and preaching politics. The shift between evangelizing the gospel, and evangelizing the political.

What was most interesting was that many of the people talking about these distinct differences were truly fans of Billy Graham, not detractors, people who respected who he was and what he built and what he brought to people as "America's pastor" who seem less enamored of his son's work and path and approach. Interesting stuff, and it made me wonder what Franklin thinks about all of that, and whether he's impacted by how people perceive he's handled his father's legacy. Any regrets there, I wonder?

Also wonder-worthy? The president had a listening session today with families of school shootings.  Folks from Florida, and from Connecticut too, were there, talking to him about wanting change, needing change, wanting this to be the last one, the last time this happened here. Trump promised action, promised good ideas, the strongest ideas that he has or that governors who are coming to the White House next week have and taking the best ones and doing something. Arming teachers is one suggestion; better background checks is another he mentioned

I wonder though, whether there's really any appetite for change in Congress? Will this just be more lip service from the White House, to be ignored by the House and Senate or will Trump be able to accomplish something where others have failed, or failed to try?

What else is going on?  There are reports, believable or not, that Trump's General Kelly has to go, because there needs to be a scapegoat after the whole Rob Porter - domestic violence - security clearance debacle.  And the fact that, again according to reports, Kelly wants to take Jared Kushner's security clearance away, even as he expresses confidence in Kushner and that he values Kushner's contributions.  It's just that, you know, he can't get his security clearance straightened out.  We also learned that Kushner is a yuge consumer of intelligence, reportedly asking for more of the good stuff than any other White House staffer.

I have to wonder, does Kelly think he can with this battle? Or, by picking this battle, if he really did, is he looking for his own kind of Brexit? 

And finally, I wonder about Fergie's rendition of the National Anthem at the NBA All-Star Game...

February 20, 2018

Some, All, or None of the Above

Pretend, for the sake of argument that this was the school shooting that is the one that changes everything. Columbine didn't, and Sandy Hook didn't. So pretend this is the one.

Pretend, for the sake of argument,  that we actually are inspired and want to make changes, across a wide spectrum, to try and make a difference.

Pretend, for the sake of argument, that your elected representatives at the school, local, state and national level are motivated to listen to you and do whatever it is you suggest to keep your children safe.

Pretend, for the sake of argument, that you are in control. I know, I know - that's a huge bit of pretending, I get it -- but just pretend.

Here's your list of options, based on what I've seen on various news and social media platforms. Know that none of these will work, because if a person really wants to commit mayhem, they'll find a way - that's what we're told, anyway, when some suggests changing gun laws. 

Know that  individually,  these might have no impact, but that collectively, they might make a difference --and choose as many as you think we should try.

1. Ban large-capacity magazines, clips, etc. so that a person would have to load their gun more often, making it take longer for them to commit mass mayhem and giving people more time to, hopefully, escape.

2. Ban new sales of the 'mass-shooting' rifle -- the AR-15 and similar weapons, and implement a buy-back program to get as many of them off the street as possible.

3. Ban sales of bump-stocks and similar items that make it easier to kill more people in a short period of time.

4. Ban sales of guns to anyone who is not old enough to purchase alcohol.

5. Ensure that the military is reporting all less-than-honorable discharges to the national background check system, and do not allow them to purchase any kind of gun, and that this reporting is timely - as in, immediately upon discharge. And fire anyone in the military hierarchy who failed to ensure this reporting occurred as required.

6. Close the 'boyfriend' loophole, which allows a person who commits violence against a partner to whom they are not married to purchase a gun, and treat these people the same as those who abuse their spouse.

7. Establish a ten-day waiting period on the purchase of all guns - handguns, medium guns, long guns, whatever - to bring consistency to the process, and to allow sufficient time for the background check process to occur.

8. Pay gun manufacturers not to make guns, just like we pay farmers not to grow crops.

9. Tax packages of ammunition the same way we tax packages of cigarettes. Add a user fee on the sale of every gun. Use this money as startup cash to pay for whatever needs to be paid for (see #11 and #12, for starters).

10. Close all background check loopholes. Private sales, gun shows - whatever the gaps, close them.

11. Secure our school buildings: locks on external doors, cameras, badge readers, metal detectors, security offices and security officers - real ones, not the kind you see at many offices - at entry doors, double door entries, limited number of doors with external handles, etc.

12. Secure the classrooms: bullet-proof glass in the windows and doors; panic buttons for teachers to warn the office and local police of a threat; doors that truly lock from inside and cannot be forced open.

13. Arm teachers, if they are willing, provided that the weapons they're assigned can be secured in their classrooms so that they don't fall into the wrong hands, and that they're carefully screen and can prove proficiency with their weapons (something that is not required for purchasing one, by the way).

14. Go back to saying the Pledge of Allegiance in schools every day.

15. Re-institute school prayer.

16. Ban violent video games, television shows, lyrics, movies, poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing, and any other art forms which can project violence.

17. Enter mental health records into the background check system, regardless of the patient age, and never allow anyone who has had any mental health issues to legally purchase guns or ammunition.

18. Stop prescribing medications that can have mental health related side effects (depressions, thoughts of suicide, hyperactivity, manic behaviors and so on).

19. Ban contributions to politicians from any gun rights groups.

20. Wring our hands, offer thoughts and prayers, and as Paul Ryan said, count our blessings, whatever that means.

Have at it -- some, all, or none of the above?

February 18, 2018

Sunday School 2/18/18

Only visiting Fox News Sunday today and only giving a handful of excerpts from the show.

First, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas school.
Cameron Kasky: Today, I'd like to announce that we have an event coming up to have everybody in the nation talking about what we're talking about. And one of the things we've been hearing is that it's not the time you have to talk about gun control and we respect that. We've lost 17 lives, our community took 17 bullets to the heart and it's difficult to come back from that. 
So here is the time that we are going to talk about gun control. March 24th, we have the March for Our Lives which you can find at MarchforOurLives.com... The March for Our Lives is going to be in every major city and we are organizing it so students everywhere can beg for our lives, because at the end of the day this isn't about the red and blue, GOP and Democrats. This is about adults and kids.And at this point you're either with us or against us. We are giving all our politicians a clean slate and in the next election, we are saying if you are accepting money from the NRA, there is a badge of shame on you because you are enabling things like this to happen.
David Hogg: This is a student-led grassroots movement and this is not a debate, this is a discussion between Americans because we've had too many debates before and they've gotten nowhere. From the Republicans, they can talk about mental health care and from the Democrats, they can talk about gun control. 
But what we need to do -- but what we need to do here is come together not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans and work together to solve this issue through love and compassion, because this event occurred on Valentine's Day sadly and sadly 17 people had to take a bullet to the heard and so did our community This is a time for change and we can't let this ever happen again...
Our elected officials need to get together, overcome their political differences and get some things done because they need to save the future of our country, in the future of our country are those children that are currently dying because politicians refuse to take action and continue to take money from the special interest groups. 
Emma Gonzalez: This is a case of, simply, please stop. Please stop allowing us to be gunned down in our hallways... Every generation is supporting us with countless, countless amounts of energy. So many people are coming up to us in the street saying "thank you" and we want to thank them by communicating what we're trying to communicate. We want to get  the support for March for Our Lives...
We want people to -- we want students to be at that march and to be with us. We want to be with those students who we didn't understand their pain before and it's all too tragic that we all have to understand the same pain now. 
Kasky: We're here for everybody's kids.  
Also on the show? Rush Limbaugh. 
What I found interesting about the students  and - they are very articulate and you have to feel for them. And  - I mean, this is -- it's with their lives. They are a combination  scared and angry. 
But Chris, I have to ask if anybody is really serious about solving this because none of this - by the way, I couldn't care less about the gun angle of this. None of this is going to solve - prayers and condolences don't solve it and marches aren't going to solve it...
We have security, armed security at virtually every public entity in this country except schools. For some reason, they are a gun free zone and everybody who wants to shoot up a school knows that they are going to be the only one armed. Until we're willing to get serious about where we are and how do we stop this from happening and marches aren't going to do it, saying no more guns isn't going to do it, bashing the NRA isn't going to do it...
You know, we're told, well, we can't do anything until the crime has been committed. That's what has to change and is going to take some really smart people to figure out how to do that without violating civil liberties and the Fourth Amendment and so forth. But it's clear that the way we deal with this no -- this, Chris, this is totally political.
The students think they are taking politics out of this. The minute they bash the NRA, it's politics. And the point for many of this is - this is an event that advances a political agenda for the American left and the Democrat Party to bash the NRA.
Mark Kelly was on the show, too. You know - Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. They're working on a number of issues, including laws that would allow family members to have guns taken away from their own, or to keep their own family members from getting guns.

He spoke about the kids differently than Limbaugh did.
Well, these kids are incredibly articulate and certain members of Congress are really good at not listening to their constituents. I mean, these - you know, these reforms are supported typically by 70 to 90 percent of Americans. And to have high school kids who went through this horrific shooting, calling for change, should matter. I would hope in our society that that would make a difference.
This is a very political issue, though.  We've got to get people to vote on this issue. I can guarantee you that those kids you had on today are going to vote on this issue probably for the rest of their lives. They're going to encourage others to do, to do that as well. 
See you around campus.

If Only...Except That

If only we let God in schools, this would never happen. God is everywhere you want Him to be, just like Visa used to be, whenever you want Him to be there. He will never leave you alone, I'm told. Besides, God doesn't prevent things from happening, He makes it more bearable when things do happen, I'm told. So you can't blame God not being in schools.

If only we didn't have violent video games, this would never happen. Except that everyone who plays video games doesn't go out and shoot up schools.  It's just fantasy, millions of people are just fine who play these games, they don't have mental health problems, they just like sitting in the dark shooting things. So clearly you can't blame God not being in schools, or the video games.

If only parents acted like parents instead of like friends, this would never happen. Except that many parents do act like parents, and do make their children behave and do have rules and curfews and make their kids do their homework and go to school and go to church and not hang out at the mall playing video games, so you can't blame God not being in schools, and you can't blame video games, and you surely can't blame the parents.

If only someone would say something if they saw something, this would never happen. Except that people do say something, and in the Florida case, they did say something and the ball was dropped, they say, because this kid still did what he did.And so you can't blame God not being in schools, or video games, or the parents, or the community. 

If only this particular kind of gun was harder to get, this would never happen.  Except that there's millions of them out there, and so you can't keep them out of the hands of people who want to get one. If they can't get one legally, they'll get one illegally the way MS-13 gang members do. So you can't blame God not being in schools, or the video games, or the parents, or the community, or the easy access to a very particular gun that is used in so many mass shootings.

If only we had had better background checks, this would never happen. Except that the background check process works just fine, look at all the people who are not able to buy guns, and besides, look how hard it is to get a pistol! So clearly, we can't blame God not being in schools, or video games, or parents, or communities, or the particular gun of choice for shooting up schools and such, and you can't blame the background check process.

If only people who had mental health issues got treatment, this would never happen. Except that this does happen when people are getting help for mental health issues. And at what point did we decide that everyone with dark thoughts has mental health issues? So no, you can't blame God not being in schools, or video games, or parents, or communities, or the gun of choice, or background checks, or mental health. 

If only kids couldn't buy guns before they were old enough to buy a beer, this wouldn't happen
Because drinking, you know, that's a serious thing, and society needs to make sure you're protected from a can of Bud Light until you're mature enough to understand the consequences of yelling dilly dilly like an idiot. So you can't blame God not being in schools, or video games, or parents, or communities, or the gun of choice, or the background check process, or mental health, or being able to buy guns before you can buy a beer. 

If only we didn't have half the country wandering around on medication for their mental health issues, this wouldn't happen.  Except that people need these medications to function, to be contributing members of society... pastors and parents and doctors and lawyers and teachers and the rest, and the vast majority of these medicated folks are just fine and never commit mayhem, so no -- you can't blame God not being in schools, or video games, or parents, or communities, or the gun of choice, or the background check process, or mental health, or the age of majority, or prescription drugs either. 

If only people had more respect for each other, this wouldn't happen. Except that there is no law that says you have to be respectful, there's no legal definition of respect, there's open season on anyone and anything you don't like from the top all the way down (and you know what I'm talking about here, right?)  Besides, millions and millions of people who don't respect other people go about their daily lives and never commit a crime, never murder school children. So, don't blame God not being in schools, or video games, or parents, or communities, or the gun of choice, or the process, or mental health, or the age of majority, or prescription drugs, or the lack of respect.

If only teachers were armed, this wouldn't happen.  Except that if teachers wanted to be cops they wouldn't be teachers. Nope - don't blame God not being in schools, or video games, or parents, or communities, or the massacre gun, or the process to keep guns out of the wrong hands, or mental health, or the age of majority, or prescription drugs, or a lack of respect, or unarmed teachers.

If only the NRA wasn't able to buy all those politicians, this wouldn't happen. Except that if  George Soros can buy politicians and unions can buy politicians and everyone else can buy politicians, the NRA has to be able to buy politicians too. So, not you can't blame God for not being in schools and you can't blame video games, or parents, or communities, or the killing gun, or the process, or mental health, or the age of majority, or prescription drugs, or the lack of respect, or unarmed teachers, or the NRA buying politicians.

If only people cared as much about their children as they did about their own rights, this wouldn't happen. Except that rights are rights, and children aren't. Or are simply, sadly, collateral damage for us having rights. Don't blame God for not being in schools. Don't blame video games. Don't blame parents. Don't blame communities. Don't blame the gun. Don't blame the process. Don't blame mental health. Don't blame the age of majority. Don't blame prescription drugs. Don't blame the lack of respect. Don't blame unarmed teachers. Don't blame the NRA.Don't blame people not caring about kids, and don't blame my rights.

If only thoughts and prayers kept us safe, this wouldn't happen.  Except that they don't and this does. 

February 15, 2018

The Speed of Safety

Beginning in late September 1982, the Chicago area, and in fact the entire country, was on edge as seven people died after taking Tylenol laced with cyanide.  Tens of millions of packages were recalled; people were afraid to take any medicine for a while, fearing they could suffer the same fate.

Less than a full year later, the NY Times published an article about industry-wide efforts to develop truly tamper-proof packaging.
Companies that make over-the-counter drugs and other consumer products are still struggling to cope with the packaging worries that began with the contamination of Tylenol capsules last year, resulting in the death of seven people.
Since then, over-the-counter drug makers have spent $173 million to meet the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration for tamper-resistant packaging, according to the Proprietary Association, a trade group of non-prescription drug makers. 
The article noted some of the challenges in coming up with something that was truly tamper resistant, and also the challenges faced by consumers trying to get into the new packages to use the products. This is still an issue today, I can attest, as I'm currently battling the flu with both prescription and non-prescription medicine, and it takes several minutes of meditation, a pair of scissors, and often a knife to get the meds out of their protective covers. I surely would have a drink to help steady my nerves before attempting to get the pills, if alcohol weren't contraindicated.

We also learned from the Times article that the original deadline for the entire non-prescription drug industry to be 100% compliant with  the tamper-resistant packaging rules was February 6, 1984 - a mere 495 days from the first Tylenol death.

On December 22, 2001, Richard Reid tried - and failed - to light a fuse in his sneaker, hoping to take down a plane flying from Paris to Miami.  On July 10, 2003 - only 565 days later - the TSA issued a press release attempting to clarify what they had been doing with shoe screening for months.
TSA's increased focus on screening shoes in recent months reflects a necessary reaction to information gathered by federal intelligence agencies. But just as TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, achieved consistency last fall by clarifying procedures for the screening of drinks carried through security checkpoints, the agency is moving now to make sure its shoe policy is implemented consistently from coast to coast. 
"Our screeners have always worked hard to make sure a 'shoe bomb' does not get on an aircraft," Admiral Loy said. "Now we must make sure our security process is consistent so air travelers know what to expect at every airport in the country." 
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred on December 14, 2012. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School occurred 1,888 days later.

Still too soon?

February 14, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v121)

You may have heard in the reporting on the horrific shooting in Florida that it was the 18th school shooting this year; I heard that, and I wondered about it: how could it be true, first of all, and how did we not hear of all of these shootings?

I found a list of the shootings - it has everything from 2013 to the present, and you can click on each to see the details. I think the statistic is slightly misleading -- in the first shooting of 2018, for example, a man called 911 from the parking lot of a school saying he was suicidal. After a long standoff, he eventually did commit suicide.

At no point were any students in jeopardy, as the school was closed at the time of the incident. And students in jeopardy is the very first thing most of us think of when we hear 'school shooting.'

That said, it's still a shocking number of incidents of gun violence taking place at schools -- from elementary schools to well known universities and everything in between. The highlighted links are described as "attack on other persons(s) resulting in injury or death."

That same description will be used when today's shooting is added to the list; at least 17 people were killed and another 14 were injured, five of whom are in critical condition now.
As the investigation continues, we'll learn more about the accused shooter - a former student, expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, considered by other students interviewed today to be perfectly capable of doing exactly what he did.

We'll be reminded that it's "too soon" to talk about anything, whether it's mental health or gun control.

We'll be reminded that atrocities like this should never be politicized, even as the people who remind us of that do exactly what they're reminding us to never do.

We'll be reminded that schools would be a whole lot safer if only there were more guns in the hands of teachers, secretaries, janitors and cafeteria ladies.

We'll be reminded, as we were today by the president, that no child should feel unsafe at school.

Maybe we'll be told that this shooting, like Sandy Hook, was a 'false flag' and never happened.

And, we'll be reminded that this happens only here.

This happens only in America.

Why is that, I wonder?

February 13, 2018

Poll Watch: What We Say vs. What They Do

Now that the Senate is trying to solve our DACA problem by holding open debate on immigration, I thought it would be fun to remind everyone what Americans think about the issue.

Let's take a look at a recent Fox News poll, taken via land line and cell phones in January; randomly chosen registered voters were asked to participate.

When asked whether they favored or opposed allowing illegal immigrants under age 30 who were brought here as kids to legally stay in the country, provided they pass a background check, survey respondents overwhelmingly favor this  - 71% to 20%.

Similarly, last fall we had strong favorable opinions of this population - -the Dreamers - when Fox asked us what we thought:
  • 86% favored granting work permits to this population, provided they pass a background check
  • 79% favored granting citizenship to this population, provided they pass a background check

One of the pillars of president Trump's immigration plan is that we have a great big beautiful transparent border wall to keep out the bad guys. Is that a pillar that America also believes in?

Historically, no. Only 40% favor this in the current poll; 39% did so in August 2017; 41% in September 2016, and 50% in November of 2015.

Illegal immigration ranked 11th out of 12 issues, with only 64% expressing concern. Here's what scored higher:
  • health care - 82%
  • political divisions in the country - 74%
  • the opioid crisis - 72%
  • infrastructure and the economy - 71% each
  • war with North Korea  and race relations - 70%
  • taxes - 68%
  • Islamic terrorist attacks and sexual harassment in the US - 65%

Scoring lower? Climate change, at 57%.

Time will tell whether Congress pays attention to what we think, or if they're merely going to pay attention to what the guy at the other end of Pennsylvania Ave thinks. One can only hope...

Two other fun things in this poll? 59% of respondents favor legalizing marijuana, and 58% are at least somewhat pro choice (46% yes, 12% some or a mix).  These, too, are things where Americans seem to stand in one place and the administration stands in another. 

February 11, 2018

Sunday School 2/11/18

One classroom only today -- fighting a cold and trying to be considerate of my fellow students. 

The lucky winner today was CBS News' Face the Nation, with Major Garrett hosting. His guests were Kentucky's junior senator Rand Paul; Budget Director and acting head of the CFPB Mick Mulvaney, Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, and House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina.

Let's start with Mulvaney, who described the the Rob Porter situation as "reasonable and normal," much to Garrett's surprise.  Here's how Mulvaney explained things:
The president had someone working for him who came to him and said, look, I have been accused of this. I have been falsely accused of this. Please don't believe it. It's not true.
If your cameraman came to you and said that to you, you probably would give that person the benefit of the doubt, or at least you would want to do that because you know that person and you trust that person.
That's what the president did up until the time that it became obvious, when the photographs came out, that the person was not being honest with the president. And that person after that happened, we dismissed that person immediately.
So, that's an ordinary, and it's a very human reaction to the set of circumstances. You don't want to throw people based just upon the allegation. But as soon as it became apparent to us that the allegations were true, Rob Porter had to go.
Mulvaney failed to respond to questions about Trump's comments that Porter was denied due process and that hopefully he'll go on to great things, while his ex-wives, well, you know... 

On the budget, he blamed the Democrats for the deficits. Here's that exchange.
MM: We were hoping that we could sit down with the Democrats and figure out a way to get additional funds to the military to respond to these threats. Publicly, the Democrats said they wanted to help fun the Defense Department. Privately, though, what they said was, they would not give us a single additional dollar for defense unless we gave them dollars for social programs
MG: You knew they were going to say that...
MM: Well, but publicly they were not saying that. Publicly they were saying they wanted to defend the nation. They all say that Democrats care as much about defense as Republicans do. But when the rubber meets the road, they don't. They held the Defense Department hostage, and we had to pay that ransom.
Apparently, it seems, Mr. Mulvaney did in fact just fall off the turnip truck. Who knew?

Next up? Rand Paul, not in Kentucky but in Palm Beach - not sure if he was at Mar-a-Lago or some other swanky place. He was on the show to talk about deficits. Garrett asked him about the trillion-dollar Trump deficits, after Paul talked about going into office to fight the trillion dollar Obama deficits.
...I think one of the questions, see, Republicans, I think, are not willing to ask themselves is, can you be fiscally conservative and be for unlimited military spending? There's sort of this question, is the military budget too small, or maybe is our mission too large around the world? And because Republicans are unwilling to confront that, they want more and more and more for military spending...
I think the mission is beyond what we need it to be. We're actively in war in about seven countries, and yet Congress hasn't voted on declaring or authorizing the use of military force in over 15 years now.
Garrett pressed him on his support of the Republican's tax cuts which also added to the deficit and to our debt problems, and how he reconciled that.
I think if you're for tax cuts and for increasing spending, that's hypocritical. But if you're for tax cuts and you're also for cutting spending a corresponding amount, see, I would offset the tax cuts with spending cuts. And there are a few of us that would actually do that.
But, of course, the Senator voted for the Republican tax cuts, which had no spending cuts, just growth, growth, growth to make up for the $1.5T added to the deficit. Hmmm...

He continued
When we had the budget deal that lowered the taxes, I also had an amendment to look at and try to control entitlement spending at the same time to pay for the tax cuts. But, interestingly, I could only interest three other Republicans. We had four votes total to try to control entitlement spending. And that's where the money is.
So, even if we have out of control military spending and unauthorized wars in seven countries, we need to cut domestic spending to pay for tax cuts.  Hmmm...

Adam Schiff did his usual shtick about FISA and the Nunes Memo and the FBI and Mueller - nothing new there,so not repeating any of it.

Mark Meadows, on the other hand, is a fresher voice, and he's not happy with the Republican leadership
I can tell you, the real problem with this particular one is that our leadership caved, the swamp won, and the American taxpayer lost... At some point, we're going to have to say, Mitch McConnell, enough is enough. 51 votes on anything that is of national security interests, it is time that we change this. The American people, you viewers right now, could care less about the traditions of the Senate.
What Meadows and others of his ilk don't appreciate is that many of us don't care a hoot about having a simple majority decide things as important as national security... And if Americans had wanted the Republicans to shove whatever they wanted down our throats, McConnell would have his 60-vote majority in the Senate. But I'm pretty sure that's falling on deaf ears, would you agree?

See you around campus.

OrangeVerse XXIX: Marking Time in Ohio

As you know, the president was on a campaign stop in Ohio at a small manufacturing firm. He was talking tax cuts, and bonuses and everything coming back.

And how do we know it was a campaign stop, not an official visit? It's all here, chapter and verse.

We've got to do
well in '18 and
I know we're going to
do great in '20. 
But I think we're going to
do well in '18. 
I think we're going to
do well in '18. 
I think we're going to
do very well. 
They have gone left.
They want to raise your taxes.
You know, 
I figure we're safe.

I'm a (stable) Genius
Historically when you win
the presidency --
you know the story. Just,
for whatever reason  it is --
and I think
I figured it out.
Nobody, really
has been able to 
explain it
I think
I figured it out -- 
the party wins the presidency.
And now the people are happy
and you see tax cuts,
in this case or whatever
that party is - 
but you see the big tax cuts, 
you see what we're doing
And the people that
voted for us become
complacent a little bit.
They're happy.

No Movies for You
And it's only two years - 
between '16 and '20
and so it's two years.
So it's a short time.
So the people are happy.
And they don't get out,
and they don't vote
like they should.
Maybe they go
to a move in '18. 
None of you
are going to a movie,
I hope.

Feel Like '18 Again
So what happens is
they sort of take it
for granted. They
sit back and then they
get clobbered because
the other people
are desperate and
they get out and
have more energy. 
But I think
because of what we've done
because of the tremendous 
success we've had,
I have a feeling
that we're going to do
incredibly well in '18.
And I have to say this:
History is not on our side. 

They Call The Wind the Midterms
But it's not because of that word complacency.
You win the presidency
and you take it easy and then they
come and surprise you
in the midterms.
They call them the midterms...
So that's what happened.
And that's what happens in midterms.
But we're not going to 
let it happen to us I mean it's -
traditionally, that's what goes on.
But we're going to be in there
fighting because we don't
want that tradition to go.
We want to have
 tremendous success... 
But we have to have, to have
tremendous - we have to have 
tremendous success.
And if we don't we're just foolish.

Don't Stop Believin'
We can't - I know we're going
to do great in '20 because by that time
see what happens is, 
if you did badly in '18
now you're all angry again
 and you're going - and now, '20 comes along.
But we want to do great
in '18 and we're going to do really well
in '20. That's when we go again
and we keep this 

February 10, 2018

Grains of Salt (v31): SOTC, Part 3

Grains of Salt
Let's take a look at the last part of new Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh's first State of the City address.

In the first two posts, we focused primarily on the city's financial condition and collaboration and the I-81 project and related efforts. In this last post, we'll look at aspects of daily living in a city, the stuff that matters to residents every day.
There is no greater responsibility for a city government than the safety of its residents. Without a feeling of security, none of the potential we have described tonight can occur. My hope is for a Syracuse in which citizens and the people charged with protecting them have a mutually supportive and respectful relationships. I want that for our residents and our law enforcement professionals, and I know we can get there.
As he did on a number of other issues, he referenced the work of his transition team; the Neighborhoods and Safety committee came up with more than 20 idea, he said, to build relationships between kids, adults and the police. Among the ideas? Recreational and job opportunities for teens, community policing, and an assessment of the Citizens Review Board.

These feel like perennial favorites - any mayor coming in would want to focus on these issues, to build trust between police and residents, and I'm hoping that we can get there this time. Walsh and Chief Fowler are focused on getting 25 - 30 new recruits on board by the end of the year but maybe there's more we can do: redeploying resources to get more police officers on the streets in the neighborhoods, back filling them with civilian employees, for example, or incentivizing cops to live in city neighborhoods; both of these will likely require difficult contract negotiations, but it would be worth it to try stuff like this, which other communities have done successfully.

Walsh is also undertaking a public-participation search for a new police chief; we residents will have the chance to define the characteristics we want in a chief, and a national search will get underway by spring. We also have some new leaders in both the police department and fire department; Walsh made quick moves there.

What else did he talk about?
  • Snow removal - hard not to talk about that, given we're the snowiest city in the country. We have two issues here - roads, and sidewalks.  DPW crews get the main roads quickly, but side streets? Not so much. Add irresponsible residents parking on both sides of the street, or private snow removal companies filling the road with 'residential' snow, and it can get out of hand quickly. Also getting out of hand quickly? Residents not clearing their sidewalks timely - or ever, in some cases. Walsh is looking to the I-team to get on this one, with a public meeting coming up to talk about snow - and getting rid of it. 
  • Bike sharing is another item on the Mayor's wish list, to allow people to rent a bike to get around town. Not sure how much demand there is for this, but we've been putting in a lot of bike lanes, so this might encourage more use of them. 
  • Schools, of course - including phase two of the JSCB renovation program which is continuing this year. 
  •  Drones - piloting, engineering and repairing them - via a partnership with the SCSD, OCC and Mohawk Valley Community College - with teaches kids what they need to know and gets them a college degree at no extra cost. This makes perfect sense given the emphasis on drones in CNY, including the 50-mile drone corridor that will eventually stretch to Syracuse from Rome.
  • Educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math - STEM - via partnership with LeMoyne College and Onondaga County
What we saw in this last part of the SOTC was the same as we saw in the first two parts: Walsh, looking for collaborators, looking for participation, looking to allow everyone to #RiseAbove together. And that's how he  wound up the policy portions of his speech.
The journey will be made easier if we are all in it together. So tonight, I repeat the invitation to join us. Stay informed. Come to meetings. Share your ideas. Hold us accountable.
Our journey will go faster if the businesses and institutions of our great city get behind us and push us along - investing their resources here in our city, opening their doors to the rich talent pool here in our community and extending a hand to all those who need to be helped along. Because, in the end, isn't that all that really matters, the compassion we show for each other?
We've had optimism before in Syracuse, , and plans, and ideas, and we've had collaboration between the city and the county, too - noteworthy collaboration, even.

But this feels different, I think. More hopeful; more possible, more 'ready.'  It feels like a lot of work has been done already, with partners lined up, people in place, plans and ideas already on the table for discussion, and room for more.  It feels good.