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Marquette Neighborhood Association Board And Donald Trump’s White House Press Operations

January 23, 2019

This week a most unfortunate and troubling news story was reported by the major networks and newspapers.

Donald Trump said that he directed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders “not to bother” with press briefings because he believes that reporters are rude to her and that most members of the media will not cover the administration fairly.

If Trump can not control the message and dictate behavior then he will pull the plug on press briefings.  Childish behavior that is damaging to the nation.

With that in mind I had to smile this evening when reading the latest posting by Marquette Neighborhood Association President Lynn Lee to the local list-serve.

“….this discussion group has been a great way to communicate with the neighborhood, but has also been stressful, lots of negativity, and quite frankly, not something that really promotes what the essence of MNA strives to do in the neighborhood……Times have changed, we have many other options to do this, and without the negativity that the list serve seems to promote.   MNA will continue to post meeting times, agendas, and important information to the neighborhood on the Yahoo discussion group going forward.   We simply won’t be responsible for moderating the discussion or have MNA attached to the group.”

The ‘negativity’ mentioned by Lee can be summed up, at times, as a request for an open and transparent process concerning how the Board conducts meetings and takes executive actions on matters before the body.

I am old-fashioned in that I believe the ayes and nays of all actions at meetings taken by the Board should be recorded and announced to the membership.  How does a community member know who to support, or not support, at the next elections if there is a complete absence in the record of their positions when seeking office?  Yet that request has been met with a stunning refusal from the Board.  Also the process of openness would be enhanced if the actual vote tally outcomes of board elections were made public.

I come from a home where for 44 years my father served as an elected official in town government. Some of the monthly meetings were held around the table in our kitchen when I was a boy.  I know a thing or two about the reasons an elected official needs to be accountable for actions and votes taken.  It is a lesson that does not get old, nor does it stop serving a purpose.

While the Board can take any action it desires in relation to the moderating (or not) of the Yahoo group it is most troubling (or telling) that when presented with frank and honest assessments the first reaction is to label it as “lots of negativity”.   That response strikes too close to the usual tone of what comes from the current White House.  It is also not what I would hope for from what is advertised as a progressive neighborhood.

I am quite sure that Yahoo groups are as popular with today’s social media users as CDs are with teenagers who wish to listen to music.  So Lee would be correct to say there are other options which can be used to communicate with the public.  The issue is not the platform chosen to communicate, but the lack of an open and fair process.

Mass Shooting In America (Again)–Must Be A Wednesday

January 23, 2019

At least five people are dead after a gunman opened fire at a SunTrust Bank in Sebring, Florida.  

At around 12:30 this afternoon a man contacted police to say he had fired shots inside the bank.  When authorities arrived, they established a perimeter and attempted to negotiate with the gunman.

After negotiations to try to get the barricaded gunman to exit the bank were not successful a SWAT team entered the building.

The suspect eventually surrendered.

How does a wall lower violent crime again? Let me be most clear.  White pseudo-christian males with semi-automatic penis enhancers kill more Americans than any brown immigrants ever did.

Meanwhile Americans are well aware that more guns = more deaths.  It’s not complicated.  And this is happening every day in America.  But we have allowed the lowest common denominators to hi-jack the conversation in the country.

Strong Woman Stopping Trump As Strict Constructionist Thinking Loses Ground At White House

January 23, 2019

At the end of the day there is not really much of a battle, at all, over weather Donald Trump gives a State of the Union address from the House of Representatives.   Simply stated, no president has any say in the matter until invited by a resolution from both house of congress.  And under the circumstances of a government shutdown—a shutdown predicated on lies from Trump about immigrants–means no speech will be made in the House until our government is open again.

As much I love the pomp of the event, and trying to guess who will be the ‘lone survivor’ from the Cabinet in case calamity were to strike, I am firmly on the side of the arguement that no president should ever be allowed to hold a nation hostage.  Or demand the largest stage this nation can make possible to further spread dis-information.  We all need to care enough about the core values of democracy and stand firm to deny any one such a venue, given the circumstances.

This blog has hoped for more attention from congress concerning the international implications of fracturing alliances, the undermining of liberal democracies, and the needed laws to blend with the continuing growth of technology.  But instead we are mired in a most embarrassing government shutdown.  Instead of thinking about the large weighty matters of our time we have Trump who insists his manufactured crisis and continuing publicity stunts are more important.

It would not be a far mental leap to suggest–even strongly suggest–that Trump is doing exactly what Russian President Putin has asked him to do: weaken the United States and cause as much division and chaos as possible.   Being a Russian asset does not mean hiding in dark corners.  They can act in the open and defy being called out.

Putin, it is clear, did not get the sharpest asset when landing Trump.  It would be better next time when Putin helps elect an American politician to get one that can read.

Trump has blustered that he is to give the SOTU “on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!”  Where in the world did he come up with that taco salad of jumbled nonsense?

I only need to have my readers turn to the Constitution where this matter is dealt with most clearly.  The requirement is that 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.” Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.

It seems ironic, for an administration so adamant that strict constructionist thinking be applied to the selection of judges, the same is not demanded of the one sitting in the Oval Office.   Making it very clear for Trump (and his supporters who read slowly, too) that there is no specific time or place required for the SOTU.

Trump’s imperial view of presidential powers will be stopped.  That will happen–is happening.  And best of all Trump is being curtailed and stopped by what he hates the most.

A strong, educated, and determined woman.

Russell Baker, Times Columnist, Delight To Readers, Dies at 93

January 22, 2019

A writer who could make a newspaper page come alive.

Mr. Baker in 1951 at The Baltimore Sun, where his newspaper career began

Russell Baker, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose whimsical, irreverent “Observer” column appeared in The New York Times and hundreds of other newspapers for 36 years and turned a backwoods-born Virginian into one of America’s most celebrated writers, died on Monday at his home in Leesburg, Va. He was 93.

But it was as a columnist that Mr. Baker made his name. Based at first in Washington, he recalled that he had to feel his way in the new genre of spoof and jape. “Nobody knew what the column was going to be,” he told the writer Nora Ephron. “I didn’t. The Times didn’t.”

But soon he was doing what he called his “ballet in a telephone booth,” creating in the confined space of 750 words satirical dialogues, parodies and burlesques of politicians and the whirling capital circus — then stoking the fires of the antiwar and civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard M. Nixon from office in 1974.

That year, Mr. Baker moved from Washington to New York, and his column changed. His topics grew more varied, less tied to news events and more to the trappings of ordinary life. His writing, admirers said, matured into literature: an owlish wit, sometimes surreal, often absurdist, usually scouring dark corridors of paradox, always carried off with a subtext of good sense.

He wrote of Francisco Franco’s dying and going straight to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. In another column, a pseudonymous Sykes tells of awakening one day to find that he has someone else’s feet. Sykes conceals the shame from his wife and colleagues. Doctors are no help. Finally he confides to an editor, who signs him to a three-book contract. The feet become television celebrities. Hollywood wants Sykes’s life story for a Robert Redford movie.

In 1975, after The Times’s food editor and restaurant critic Craig Claiborne reported in gastronomic detail on a $4,000 31-course epicurean repast for two, with wines, in Paris, Mr. Baker wrote “Francs and Beans,” describing his own culinary triumph after coming home to find a note in the kitchen saying his wife had gone out.

“The meal opened with a 1975 Diet Pepsi served in a disposable bottle,” he wrote. “Although its bouquet was negligible, its distinct metallic aftertaste evoked memories of tin cans one had licked experimentally in the first flush of childhood’s curiosity.” And on to a “pâté de fruites de nuts of Georgia”: “A half-inch layer of creamy-style peanut butter is troweled onto a graham cracker, then half a banana is crudely diced and pressed firmly into the peanut butter and cemented in place as it were by a second graham cracker.”

Two years later, he conceived “A Taxpayer’s Prayer”:

“O mighty Internal Revenue, who turneth the labor of man to ashes, we thank thee for the multitude of thy forms which thou has set before us and for the infinite confusion of thy commandments which multiplieth the fortunes of lawyer and accountant alike. …”

His targets were legion: the Super Bowl, Miss America, unreadable menus, everything on television, trips with children, the jogging craze, the perils of buying a suit, loneliness and book-of-the-month clubs. He struck poses of despair that resonated with harried readers: of his endless effort to read Proust, of lacking the gene for resisting salesmen, of boredom with dull dirty books.

Why Football Fans Can Be Laughed At

January 22, 2019

There are myriad issues that can, and should, catch the attention, and even ire, of the nation.  But would you believe some football fans are so exercised over a loss of a game they are challenging the final result with a lawsuit?

The suit seeks to have NFL commissioner Roger Goodell enforce a rule that would allow the end of the disputed Saints-Los Angeles Rams game to be replayed due to the missed pass interference call late in the fourth quarter.  The Saints lost that game in overtime, and many fans blame the missed call.

Well, that is a first world problem that should shake the confidence of every white male concerning the insane notion that football should never cause–what exactly?  Well, can you fathom that damages in the Saints ticket holder lawsuit against Roger Goodell and the NFL include:

Mental anguish & emotional trauma

Loss of faith in the NFL

Loss of enjoyment of life

Loss of entertainment

Distrust of the game

I wish I was joking, or just poking fun, at what turns out to be the ultimate snowflakes in the nation.  Those would be football fans who can not get past the fact that it is just a GAME!

At this time of great national angst over politics we now have something to unite us as Americans.  We can look at football fans and laugh heartily.

And so it goes.

Where We Stand This Morning With Government Shutdown

January 22, 2019

Good morning to everyone. It is so cold outside that Trump’s Cabinet secretaries are putting their hands in their own pockets.  One does not see that often with this group!

In other news today, Senate Republicans are pushing forward with their massive package to reopen the government and fund Trump’s border wall that includes a few goodies to try and pick off moderate Democrats.  Democrats remain unified against the gambit.

The House will instead take up a series of border security measures and government funding legislation that don’t include any money for a border wall.

Make no mistake about it, the government shut down is creating real concerns.

The chief economist for S&P Global in the US said the shutdown has already cost the economy $1.6 billion in lost productivity and indirect effects, a number that could hit $6 billion by the end of the week — more than Trump’s border wall request.

The partial closure of the Securities and Exchange Commission is delaying the ability of companies to open the IPO market.   Meanwhile the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has dramatically curtailed inspections of domestic facilities at food-processing companies during the shutdown, though unpaid inspectors have resumed work inspecting higher-risk products such as fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, seafood and dairy products.

The Small Business Administration has stopped approving routine loans that the agency backs to ensure entrepreneurs have access to funds, halting their plans for expansion and repairs and forcing some owners to consider costlier sources of cash.

The shutdown has hurt some of the most vulnerable Americans: not just homeless people, but also those who are one crisis away from the streets. And nonprofit groups dedicated to helping low-income renters are already scrambling to survive without the lifeblood payments from HUD that began being cut off at the start of the year.

This all is troubling, but there also lies a truth many wish not to recognize which comes to the fore at times like this. Government matters, and it has countless useful and daily purposes that does make lives better and society more balanced.

Power Ebbing Away From United States (And Fear About World Stability)

January 21, 2019

The international implications of fracturing alliances, undermining of liberal democracies , and continuing growth of technology are all topics which interest me.  The Jan/Feb edition of Foreign Affairs has some stimulating articles which land at differing points of the divide regarding these problems that impact nations far and wide.

Over the years Richard Haass has offered leaders background and insight into international relations.  He has also placed his views into countless articles, along with books.  The entire How A World Order Ends can be read here, but I post a portion below about where we currently find ourselves.   And one paragraph about the future policy needs of the United States.

Why is all this happening? It is instructive to look back to the gradual demise of the Concert of Europe. Today’s world order has struggled to cope with power shifts: China’s rise, the appearance of several medium powers (Iran and North Korea, in particular) that reject important aspects of the order, and the emergence of nonstate actors (from drug cartels to terrorist networks) that can pose a serious threat to order within and between states. 

The technological and political context has changed in important ways, too. Globalization has had destabilizing effects, ranging from climate change to the spread of technology into far more hands than ever before, including a range of groups and people intent on disrupting the order. Nationalism and populism have surged—the result of greater inequality within countries, the dislocation associated with the 2008 financial crisis, job losses caused by trade and technology, increased flows of migrants and refugees, and the power of social media to spread hate. 

Meanwhile, effective statecraft is conspicuously lacking. Institutions have failed to adapt. No one today would design a UN Security Council that looked like the current one; yet real reform is impossible, since those who would lose influence block any changes. Efforts to build effective frameworks to deal with the challenges of globalization, including climate change and cyberattacks, have come up short. Mistakes within the EU—namely, the decisions to establish a common currency without creating a common fiscal policy or a banking union and to permit nearly unlimited immigration to Germany—have created a powerful backlash against existing governments, open borders, and the EU itself.

The United States, for its part, has committed costly overreach in trying to remake Afghanistan, invading Iraq, and pursuing regime change in Libya. But it has also taken a step back from maintaining global order and in certain cases has been guilty of costly underreach. In most instances, U.S. reluctance to act has come not over core issues but over peripheral ones that leaders wrote off as not worth the costs involved, such as the strife in Syria, where the United States failed to respond meaningfully when Syria first used chemical weapons or to do more to help anti-regime groups. This reluctance has increased others’ propensity to disregard U.S. concerns and act independently. The Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen is a case in point. Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine should also be seen in this light; it is interesting that Crimea marked the effective end of the Concert of Europe and signaled a dramatic setback in the current order. Doubts about U.S. reliability have multiplied under the Trump administration, thanks to its withdrawal from numerous international pacts and its conditional approach to once inviolable U.S. alliance commitments in Europe and Asia. 

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All of this also requires that the United States get its own house in order—reducing government debt, rebuilding infrastructure, improving public education, investing more in the social safety net, adopting a smart immigration system that allows talented foreigners to come and stay, tackling political dysfunction by making it less difficult to vote, and undoing gerrymandering. The United States cannot effectively promote order abroad if it is divided at home, distracted by domestic problems, and lacking in resources.

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