Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

El Paso echo calls on Donald Trump to stop throwing temper tantrums

Trump needs to stop throwing tantrums- this echo opinion letter was published in the El Paso Times, newspaper.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she knows a temper tantrum when she sees one - Trumpzi temper tantrums demonstrate a lack of leadership ability, IMO.
To those who were (sanctimoniously*! IMO) offended by the "lack of respect" (ugh!) hown to Donald Trump when he visited El Paso: Remember that respect is earned! 

Most of us respect the Office of the President of the United States of America, but Trump has not earned our respect as the person to occupy it.

When he was contradicted by Mayor Dee Margo on the facts of El Paso's border and the wall, Trump predictably said the mayor and the fact-checking websites are full of crap.

He hasn't been known for accepting documented facts.

Trump made it the norm to bully people with name calling, foul language, and animosity toward those who don't agree with him.

Perhaps when he stops acting like a tantrum-throwing child and grows up to perform the true duties of the president of the United States, we then can give him the respect he would be due, and the Baby Trump Balloon will fly away.

Olga Trujillo, West El Paso Texas

*Sanctimonious - making a show of being morally superior to other people.

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Maryland's Peace Cross - opinion echo

This echo opinion letter to the editor was published in the Baltimore Sun newspaper.
Visitors walk around the 40-foot Maryland Peace Cross dedicated to World War I soldiers in Bladensburg MD. (Kevin Wolf / AP)

MaineWriter -The debate about the Peace Cross is sad, because if the movement to somehow remove the monument should prevail, in my opinion, it could lead to the replacement of headstones in all veterans cemeteries, like Arlington and Normandy.

It is truly amazing to me, as a Catholic, that we are turning to the Supreme Court to determine if the cross is a religious symbol (Baltimore Sun “Supreme Court to decide if cross can be a secular symbol,” Feb. 27). 
For Christians, how can it be anything else then a firm reminder that Jesus Christ died for our sins? It is a very powerful symbol in our lives. On the other hand, can it also be viewed as a memorial to other things of importance, like the dead of a war? Just something to write names on? Why not another form?

To the Romans, the cross was a method of execution and a terrible way to die. It had no other meaning, but 2,000 years later, it does have more of a religious symbolism due to the execution of Jesus Christ on a cross. Technically, there is a difference between a cross and a crucifix. The crucifix shows the body of Christ nailed to a cross where the bare cross is just a symbol of Christ’s death. 
But, in my opinion, I don’t believe they can be mentally separated.

I am a big supporter of the Peace Cross in Bladensburg and understand why it was erected to memorialize those who died in the First World war. Yet, I do see it as a Christian memorial of the dead and I find it heartbreaking that we are demeaning the Christian symbol of the cross by asking a court to rule on it. 
The Peace Cross belongs in our hearts and minds as Christians and not in the courts, as just a symbol of basically nothing more than something to write on.

Stas. Chrzanowski, Baltimore

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Selected headlines described a failed Donald Trump deal in Hanoi

Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un abruptly cut short summit after failing to reach nuclear deal- by Philip Rucker Simon Denyer and David Nakamura
HANOI- Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly cut short their two-day summit Thursday after they were unable to reach an agreement to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Talks collapsed unexpectedly amid a disagreement about economic sanctions, with the two leaders and their delegations departing their meeting site in Vietnam’s capital without sitting for a planned lunch or participating in a scheduled signing ceremony.

Kim said he was prepared in principle to denuclearize, and Trump said an agreement was “ready to sign.” But Trump said the main impediment to a deal was Kim’s requirement that the United States lift all economic sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the closure of only one nuclear facility, which still would have left Pyongyang with a large arsenal of missiles and warheads.

No deal in Hanoi - Trump left empty handed in a mission doomed for lack of advance preparation.

Trump leaves summit empty-handed at tough point in presidency- by Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker

HANOI — President Trump flew for 20 hours to this bustling Vietnamese capital determined to earn a place in history as the American statesman whose personal charm overcame decades of intransigence and erased the North Korean nuclear threat.

But the self-proclaimed master dealmaker left Hanoi on Thursday empty-handed and humbled by his inability to coax an erratic and reclusive dictator into giving up his arsenal.

Trump was so certain that he could broker an accord with Kim Jong Un, even if an incremental one, that the White House announced that it had scheduled a joint signing ceremony at which the two leaders would triumphantly conclude their two-day summit.

But that event, along with a working luncheon, was abruptly canceled amid a standoff over Kim’s demand that the United States remove all economic sanctions against North Korea without Pyongyang completely ending its nuclear program.

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Donald Trump is every dictator's best friend - opinion echo from New York

This opinion letter published in Citizen, is a prophesy about the potential for Trump-Putin collaboration during the 2020 election. Chilling prophesy. 
Vladimir Putin has weird influence with Donald Trump

Trump knows that Putin is a criminal

WASHINGTON — "It was one of the more outlandish statements in a campaign replete with them: In a news conference in July 2016, Donald J. Trump made a direct appeal to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and make them public.“Russia, if you’re listening..."

AUBURN, NY- Most folks agree that words spoken by politicians can't always be believed and since "pictures are worth a thousand words" then perhaps it's time that we pay more attention to what we're actually seeing and hearing politicians say when speaking live at rallies or on TV.
For nearly a decade we've heard Trump espouse/brag about the Russian dictator Putin's views, praising him at political rallies and on television. On Dec. 17, 2015, we even heard him say on ABC that “it is a great honor to get compliments from a highly respected person.” (?)
Putin is likewise praising Trump! In a Dec. 14, 2017, press conference on Russian TV he said, “Because of Donald Trump, we have seen how the stock markets have grown; it attests to the trust investors are showing in the economy and trust in what Trump is doing.” And, in July 2011, Putin also confirmed that he believed “Trump's policies would be more favorable to the Kremlin.” 
(Go to to read Putin's entire talk.)

After then Indiana Gov. Mike Pence dropped Vladimir Putin’s name more than 20 times in the Oct. 4, 2016 vice-presidential debate on NBC, Sen. Tim Kaine responded to his running mate, “You and your running mate Donald Trump share an unseemly admiration for the Russian president. You guys must really love Russia!”

On March 21, 2017, President Trump said that “Putin is doing a great job rebuilding Russia” and “he is also highly respected within in his own country and beyond.” (?)

That is not so! Massive protests broke out throughout Russia in 2011. The Russian people were responding to allegations of vote rigging and election fraud in their parliamentary elections. 

Thousands took to the streets to protest Putin and his political party, in one of Russia's largest protests since the fall of the U.S.S.R. on Christmas day, 1991 and it is still going on in Russia. 

Therefore, what Trump is saying is a contradiction ... and one more (in the series of) lies!

Unfortunate, also, is that Russia has and will continue using cyber crimes to influence American elections and Trump knows it. 

Trump also knows that it will also get him re-elected.

Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore

Auburn, New York

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Check on Trump executive powers - editorial echo from Daily Advertiser

Echo editorial opinion from the Louisiana Daily Advertiser newspaper
Congress needs to behave like an equal branch of government and stop "rubber stamping" expensive executive orders
Trump emergency sets precedent Republicans will regret

Imagine future Democratic presidents declaring national emergencies to address gun violence, immigration, climate change, health care: 

America’s Founders were not big on executive power. 

Even after a war with Britain, the Constitution’s authors saw no reason for a strong presidency.

Many of the powers they assigned to presidents, including staffing their own administrations, were contingent on congressional approval. The authority of presidents to act unilaterally included vetoing legislation, granting pardons and not much else.

But over the years, congresses and courts concluded that a more powerful and flexible president was needed. They indulged presidents’ sweeping claims of authority. They also enacted laws that allowed presidents to act without congressional approval and in ways not outlined in the Constitution.

Notable among these is the 1976 National Emergencies Act, a law that codifies presidents’ power to declare an emergency. This act, as well as narrower provisions in other laws, presumes that presidents would exercise these powers with great restraint and only in real emergencies, not to make good on campaign promises or mollify activists within their party.

Clearly, that is not the case with the White House announcement Thursday that Donald Trump would sign a bipartisan spending compromise to prevent another government shutdown but would also move more money into his border wall project (the one Mexico was supposed to pay for) by declaring a national emergency.

The most obvious consequence of this destructive executive overreach is the precedent it would set for future Democratic presidents. It’s not hard to imagine them declaring emergencies to address gun violence, immigration, climate change, medical costs and other causes of interest to the left — and Republicans howling about an imperial presidency.

Assuming that Congress is unable or unwilling to overrule Trump’s emergency declaration, it will almost certainly be challenged in court. That would mean a ruling on whether the situation at the border really is a national emergency. In all likelihood, the answer would be no. Illegal immigration and the influx of Central American asylum seekers are significant ongoing problems, not national crises like Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.

The legal challenge would also invite the courts to consider the broader question of whether Congress even has the right to cede its constitutionally derived powers, including the power of the purse, to the president. Trump is acting unilaterally because Congress wouldn’t give him more than $1.4 billion for border barriers.

All of this should prompt Republicans to ask: Is the extra wall money worth trampling on the Constitution, stretching the definition of emergency, setting a bad precedent and diverting money from other worthy projects?

The clear answer is no.
A USA TODAY opinion.

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Utah echo - Donald Trump invents a fake news border crises

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: There is no crisis at the border
You want fake news? Here’s some fake news about fake news.

William Randolph Hearst, impresario of yellow journalism around the end of the 19th century, was described as such a powerful press baron that, it was said, he basically started the Spanish-American War as a stunt to boost newspaper sales.

The story goes that when he was told by Frederick Remington, the already-famous illustrator he had sent to Cuba to document supposed battles there, that there were no battles to record, Hearst famously replied, “You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.

That story is now thought to be apocryphal at best. But it was too good not to mimic in Orson Welles’ version of Hearst’s life, “Citizen Kane,” and not to otherwise be brought out in appropriate moments.

This is such a moment.

"Citizen Kane" let his pride get the best of him

There is no crisis on the U.S-Mexico border. Fox News can’t even provide the pictures. But the president of the United States has declared a formal national emergency, an excuse for an unconstitutional power grab so he can build, or plan to build, or pretend to build, a multi-billion-dollar wall along that frontier.

First he tried shutting down the government for more than a month — an economically disastrous month for both innocent government employees and the whole of the nation — in an attempt to get $5 billion for his foolish wall project.

When that didn’t work, the president capitulated to a new spending bill Friday, only to immediately announce that, Congress and the Constitution be damned, he was going to scare up $3.6 billion that had been allocated for military construction projects and add another $3 billion from accounts that are, arguably at least, within the president’s power to reallocate.

He did so repeating his phony, scaremongering claims that an invasion of disease-ridden, murderous drug dealers is pouring across our southern border, requiring extraordinary steps to protect innocent Americans.

Drugs, often carried by highly unsavory people, do come across the border. Through legal ports of entry. Because there is an insatiable appetite for them here.

But the real crisis, to the extent there is one, is felt not by Americans, even in border towns such as El Paso, but by desperate, downtrodden and dirt-poor refugees who have every treaty, legal and human right to seek asylum in this land of asylum-seekers. The president’s repeated abuse of real pain felt by real people, including Americans who have really been victimized by drug gangs, is a disgrace.

It is also disgraceful that he raises these false flags on the day after the first anniversary of the shootings at the high school in Parkland, Fla.. Such violence is a symptom of a real crisis that has 
and continues to threaten the safety of Americans, but that doesn’t serve the purpose of the president or his right-wing media allies because such atrocities are generally committed by white, American-born criminals.

One glimmer of hope this week is that some of the president’s fellow Republicans, notably Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Chris Stewart, are at least furrowing their brows in response to this phony national emergency and that they and other Republicans might — just might — stand up to the president and reassert their constitutional powers.

If not them, who? If not now, when?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Irresponsible White House communications about vaccines - A duty to protect the public

    "The movement to avoid vaccines is one of the most glaring examples of privilege in the Western world. The volunteer who took me to that orphanage where I saw my first case of the mumps reminded me that childhood shots were one of the invisible and forgotten luxuries granted to me by virtue of where I was born."
Childhood illnesses of old are no joke

Bill Shine, is Trump’s communications director/ He arrived to the job with a lot of baggage. He left Fox News in 2017, facing lawsuits that accused him of covering up allegations of sexual harassment at the network.  That should have been enough controversy. But Shine’s appointment also brought scrutiny on his wife, Darla, whose racist tweets and sexist comments have trickled out.
Bethany Mandel
Everyone has nostalgia for parts of our childhoods: spending summer days from sunrise to sunset outside playing with neighborhood kids, Grandma’s cooking, television shows and movies. 

But last week, Darla Shine, the wife of the White House communications director, expressed nostalgia for a strange part of her childhood: the diseases we now have vaccines for.

Shine wrote on Twitter that “The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the measles as kids.”

She added: “I had the measles, mumps, chicken pox as a child and so did every kid I knew — Sadly my kids had MMR, so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have. Come breathe on me!”

Shine is correct that many baby boomers alive today had all of these diseases. Unfortunately, there are boomers who aren’t alive today precisely because they didn’t have access to the lifesaving science of vaccines.

Was life before vaccines really so carefree, and were these diseases really so inconsequential? It’s impossible to travel back in time, but one can step on a plane and, in under a day, be transported to places where vaccines are not nearly so universally available. Nine years ago, I did just this, spending the year in rural Cambodia teaching fifth-grade gifted students. It was in Southeast Asia where I became a passionate defender of the importance of vaccines, because I witnessed the ravages of these diseases firsthand.

The first of these vaccine-preventable diseases I encountered was the mumps. At an orphanage I visited, I met several children spread out on rugs in one of the common areas hooked up to IVs filled with coconut water. At first, I had no idea what I was seeing, so thoroughly has mumps been eradicated in the United States: My guide had to explain what was making the orphans so ill.

While I had seen many cases of dengue fever and malaria in my time there, the mumps was frighteningly different. The necks of several of the children were swollen several times their normal size, and they looked like they were struggling to breathe. I’m unsure if that was because of the swelling around their airways, sitting in tropical temperatures with high fevers, or a combination of the two. They were immobile on the floor, ignored in the bustle of all of the other children present, lethargic and in visible discomfort. It was a painful sight to witness, and, I can only imagine, unimaginably miserable to experience, even if the children survived.

Over the course of the year, I also saw children similarly afflicted with the measles, felled by a rash, pain and a raging fever in daytime temperatures of more than 100 degrees in the shade, always accompanied by suffocating humidity. I heard of children in nearby villages dying and of women miscarrying their unborn babies.

It has become a trend for Western parents to eschew vaccinations, to spend their time searching out doctors who will agree to treat children whose parents refuse vaccinations, and to find ways to obtain legal exemptions to send their children to school without the required immunization. I witnessed parents in Cambodia spending their time quite differently.

Often, nongovernmental organizations and nonprofit hospitals would offer Cambodian parents free vaccinations during clinic hours. It was always clear when these clinics were open, because lines of dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of mothers with their babies and young children would appear. Standing in the heat and direct sun, shaded only by their own scarves, families would line up for hours to obtain lifesaving shots for their children.

There were Cambodian children who, like Shine, survived measles, mumps and more. But their parents knew firsthand what kind of suffering accompanies these vaccine-preventable diseases. They also knew of families who weren’t so lucky and who buried children.
The movement to avoid vaccines is one of the most glaring examples of privilege in the Western world. The volunteer who took me to that orphanage where I saw my first case of the mumps reminded me that childhood shots were one of the invisible and forgotten luxuries granted to me by virtue of where I was born.

That luxury is no longer guaranteed to American children, thanks to an anti-vaccine movement peddling false fears about vaccine ingredients and their side effects. These fears don’t take hold nearly as easily in Cambodia and other less developed countries, because rumors of autism cannot trump the real-world experience of seeing children suffering and dying needlessly.

As parents in the West become more familiar with what exactly these diseases look like while outbreaks spread, the casual outlook on these quaint childhood diseases shared by individuals such as Shine will inevitably fade. This process has already begun. Measles outbreaks on the West Coast have prompted a rush to obtain the vaccines at doctors offices and urgent-care clinics. Seeing their children’s friends and classmates taken ill and sometimes hospitalized has had a way of impressing the importance of immunizations upon even vaccine-hesitant parents.

It shouldn’t be necessary to subject hundreds of children to preventable diseases to remind their parents in the West of what those in Cambodia have been forced to understand: Vaccines are a gift. We should treat them that way.

Mandel is an editor for Ricochet and a stay-at-home mother.

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Presidential duty to "non-delegation": International tariffs *not* in the job description

A George Will* echo opinion published in the News Star, a Louisiana newspaper 

And what about "Peanut Butter"?
Soon, in a federal court that few Americans know exists, there will come a ruling on a constitutional principle that today barely exists but that could, if the judicial branch will resuscitate it, begin to rectify the imbalance between the legislative and executive branches. It is the "nondelegation doctrine," which expresses John Locke's justly famous, but largely ignored, admonition that institutions like the U.S. Congress, vested with the power "to make laws, and not to make legislators ... have no power to transfer their authority of making laws, and place it in other hands." The doctrine's revival might result from the Peanut Butter Criterion.

Acting under authority improvidently given by Congress to presidents in Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the current president has, in the name of national security, imposed tariffs (taxes, collected at the border, paid by American consumers) on steel and aluminum imports from, among other nations, Canada, a U.S. military ally. How Canada threatens U.S. national security by selling inexpensive metals to U.S. defense industries, thereby effectively increasing the U.S. defense budget, is a puzzle for another day.

The U.S. Court of International Trade, which sits in New York, is mulling the argument, made on behalf of American steel importers and foreign steel producers, that the discretion that presidents enjoy under Section 232 is so vast that it amounts to unconstrained lawmaking. 

Hence it is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. The Trump administration not only makes the dubious assertion that imports have imperiled vital domestic metals manufacturers, it breezily says national security depends on a vibrant economy that is imperiled by imports. How the administration squares its fears about the dangerous fragility of the U.S. economy with the president's boasting about the economy's awesome strength is another puzzle.

During oral argument in December, one judge on the three-member panel asked a lawyer defending the administration's position if there is any product that the president does not have the congressionally conferred power to restrict imports on national security grounds: "Could he, say, put a tariff on peanut butter?" The judge got a foggily evasive answer.

Gary Lawson of Boston University School of Law, has argued that the Constitution's structure and a "background" or "embedded" principle permit Congress to delegate to presidents discretion regarding matters "ancillary" to a statute but not regarding "fundamental matters." 

Moreover, he says that the Constitution's Framers were not redundant when they said Congress could make laws "necessary and proper" for the exercise of an enumerated power (e.g., "to regulate commerce with foreign nations"). The two words have independent meaning: A "proper" law is not only necessary but consistent with, among other things, the separation of powers. 

Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law, and Saikrishna Prakash of the University of Virginia School of Law, have argued that a law cannot properly give to the president discretion to "make rules for the governance of society," which is legislating. As when a president has an unreviewable power to impose taxes (tariffs) on an unlimited number of things (peanut butter?) in the name of an uncircumscribed goal (national security). Not since the Supreme Court's accommodation of — actually, capitulation to — the New Deal, has the court held (in the 1935 Schechter case) that although Congress may permit an executive agency or other entity to make subordinate rules within prescribed limits, it must stipulate policies and standards. In another 1935 case, the court voided a congressional grant of vast discretion to the president because, in the granting statute, Congress did not declare or even indicate any policy or standard to guide or limit the president.

If the Court of International Trade revives the nondelegation doctrine, this might reach the Supreme Court, which upheld Section 232 in a 1976 case that did not turn on the constitutional questions now presented. The court might flinch from the task of defining "excessive" delegation that makes a law not "proper." 

However, that task -- judging -- is the court's raison d'etre.

The Constitution's first words after the Preamble are: 

"All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress." All. James Madison was, as wise people usually are, an accomplished worrier who rarely worried about the wrong things. It turns out, however, that he did when, in Federalist 48, he worried about Congress "drawing all power into its impetuous vortex." 

For generations, Congress has been a centrifugal machine, spinning off powers. Limited government requires a limited president, which requires limits on what Congress can give away.

*George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Echo from the Texas border that Mexico was going to pay for: Another local voice

Immigration reform will work better than a border wall: An echo opinion letter published in the Texas, El Paso Times.

This photograph and hundreds like it are the evil legacy of Donald Trump's border wall that "Mexico would pay for".  He said to his cult followers, "Who will pay for the wall?  Who?" Putting people in cages is a humanitarian degradation attributed to the Trumpzi cultists and their unfounded hysteria about how innocent immigrants are somehow capable of bringing crime into the US.  Mexico will never pay for an evil wall but Donald Trump has created heinous human cages, instead.  
Over the past 10 years, violent crime rates have not changed in El Paso because of the border wall; however, other minor crimes have decreased thanks to task forces initiated by the El Paso Police Department. Since 2000, undocumented immigration has decreased by 20 percent while the vast majority of drugs entering this country has been through ports of entry. 

Building a wall won’t stop individuals from trying to cross undocumented, won’t deter crime from happening on the Mexican side of the border, and won’t stop drugs from entering our country.

Rather than addressing the root cause of our problems, Donald Trump’s turned to declaring a national emergency to build a wall that he hopes will stop undocumented immigrants and drugs from entering our country. Trump’s wall will not prove to be successful; therefore, I believe a more successful approach is reforming our existing immigration policies and increasing the number of officers at our ports of entry to stop drugs from entering. 

If we spent the billions of dollars for the proposed wall on revising our immigration policies and adding more technology and agents at our ports of entry then we might see a decrease in our country’s opioid and drug epidemic as well as undocumented immigrants who risk their lives to live the “American Dream.”

Sylvia Garcia  
Anthony, Texas

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Texas: How Rio Grande people respond to the border wall

All politics including "board wall politics" is local....from the Texas Observer.

‘Thrown Under the Bus’: Rio Grande Valley Residents Criticize New Border Deal- The locals want Democrats to stand firm and not to compromise.  MaineWriter: Honestly, I believe the fact that @Realdonaldtrump is having to defend his ridiculous border wall is a "lose-lose" for him, because the more he has to fight for the evil wall, the more he must also hear himself say "....and Mexico will pay for it...."....

By Gus Bova

South Texas- Some South Texas residents, including those protected from border wall construction by Congress' new proposal, aren't convinced the bargain's a victory for the region they call home.
Protesters form a human chain on the levee at the Santa Ana refuge. Eugenio Del Bosque Gomez
A group of congressional negotiators released the text of a much-anticipated border security compromise, meant to stave off a government shutdown. The deal, hailed by many Democrats and major media outlets as a liberal victory over Trump, would protect a number of important South Texas sites from Trump’s wall, including the La Lomita chapel, the National Butterfly Center and Bentsen state park

Nevertheless, the proposal would also hand Trump $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new border wall, all in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, which is heavily Hispanic, poor and Democratic-voting. Along with 54 miles built a decade ago and another 33 miles that Congress authorized in March, the new funding is nearly enough to wall off the entire region.

Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat and the only lawmaker from the border who served on the negotiating team, spearheaded the effort to win protections for certain sites and immediately lauded the deal. “This is a big win for the Rio Grande Valley,” Cuellar said in a Thursday press release. “I worked hard to include this language because protecting these ecologically-sensitive areas and ensuring local communities have a say in determining the solutions that work for them is critical.”

But some Valley residents, including those specially protected by the legislation, aren’t convinced the deal’s a victory for the region they call home. “It’s hard for me to see it that way, when the Democrats who said ‘No wall, no way, not one more penny’ caved — and threw our communities under the bus again,” said Marianna Treviño-Wright, director of the 100-acre National Butterfly Center, which is exempted from wall construction by the proposal. “That our friends and neighbors who didn’t have the platform that we had to protest, that don’t have the wealth and connections of the state park donors and others, are still losing their land, having their property, their inheritances, destroyed — it’s a tragedy.”

Father Roy Snipes, the priest at the 120-year-old La Lomita chapel, which is also spared under Congress’ new deal, echoed the same sentiment. “I feel hopeful, but I’m still worried about our neighbors, because there’s a lot of beautiful places and people who are going to be hurt by this. Like Freddy Cavazos, people with a beautiful place, it’s going to mess them up,” Snipes said. “There’s some beautiful riverbank places up there [in Starr County], wild places — they’re gonna ruin all that.”

The new proposal specifies that 44 of the 55 new miles will consist of 20-to-30-foot-tall steel bollard fencing, to be built mostly in Starr County, according to legislative documents and a congressional aide. The other 11 miles are a combination of concrete levee wall and steel fencing meant to plug gaps in the existing border wall in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. The cost to taxpayers under the deal would be $25 million a mile — up from around $19 million per mile when Congress funded 33 miles in South Texas in March, and almost four times the cost of $6.5 million per mile a decade ago.

“Border walls are a disaster for the Rio Grande Valley, especially Cuellar’s district,” said Sierra club activist and Valley resident Scott Nicol. “Walls in the floodplain in Starr County will put his constituents at risk. Residents will have their farms, and in some cases possibly their homes, condemned.”

The deal, which Trump has signaled he will sign into law on Friday, also mandates consultation between the feds and five local government entities in Starr County. As currently written, the proposal requires that the parties confer over wall design and alignment and try to reach a “mutual agreement” before starting construction. If no agreement is reached by September 30, however, the feds are allowed to start construction anyway. 

Moreover, the requirement also appears to only apply to the new round of wall funding, not to last year’s appropriation, which authorized funding for 8 to 12 miles in the Starr County towns of Roma, Rio Grande City and La Grulla. 

Furthermore, contractor documents obtained by the Texas Observer show that the feds plan to start construction in Starr County in September at the earliest — so the new requirement may not slow down the wall much, if at all. 

Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the pending legislation.

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Poet Prophesy - Robert Frost echo opinion from Connecticut

Opinion letter about the evil Trumpzi border wall publsihed in The Hartford Courant

Poet Robert Frost (1874-1963)
The poet Robert Frost writes in “Mending Wall”: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Later in the poem, he warns, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense.”

Published in 1914, way before the notorious Berlin Wall or Maginot Line were even dreamed about, this poem reminds us to consider carefully what or whom we are excluding. 

In the case of our southern border, we would keep out and keep in migrating species, as well as human migrants desperately seeking asylum from oppression and possible death.

Many label such human migrants as “illegals” whereas they are neither legal nor illegal until they do or do not fill certain requirements. Such walls as the ones the president proposes are so un-American in spirit I can only think of them as diabolical.

I believe Donald Trump is trying to distract the gullible public with the implied threat of criminals at our borders to awaken the latent xenophobia that lies deep in the American psyche. He would like us to forget about the ongoing Mueller investigation that is looking into his and others’ involvement with Russia in derailing the 2016 elections.

Ruth G. Crutchley, Granby

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Oklahoma echo - Wake up call to Trump "alternate reality" cult

Trump supporters remain unencumbered by objective reality, living within the confines of an imagined wall of fear and hatred, directed mostly at immigrants.

It’s a bubble encasing them in a separate reality that believes people of different races, religions, ideologies or nationalities should be feared and hated.

Radio talk show hosts and Faux News (I love this nuanced label!) continually stoke this under-siege mentality of mostly white, conservative, Republican Christians.

When they gather to froth and chant silliness at raucous MAGA (reminiscent of Nazi beer halls) rallies, it’s (ahhh, sort of) pretty harmless.

But when Congressional Republicans implement policies based on this separate reality to please his (self anointed) majesty, they relinquish their integrity and relevance, and we discover how dangerous policies based on a false premise can be.

Examples: Trump supporters want to spend billions on a “big, beautiful (horrible!),” ineffective, 2,000-mile wall to keep out a nonexistent invasion of bad hombres. They concoct a fictitious border crisis to take babies from mothers seeking asylum in the land of the free and the brave.

They want the Department of Justice to stop investigating the most corrupt administration in our country’s history because the alleged perpetrators claim it’s a witch hunt.

They don’t believe in climate change because Sen. Jim Inhofe showed them a snowball. They believe the answer to gun violence is more guns.

All these asinine solutions stem from alternate reality, and they are dangerous. They’ve not nor will they ever make America great again. Alternative reality, red hats and silly chants don’t solve real world problems.

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Interesting history and perspective - the Jehovah Witness experience

Thank you to NPR's Scott Simon for this information, about the Jehovah Witnesses. They have been steadfast in support of their religious beliefs in the face of extraordinary pressure and oppression, to force them to change.  
Scott Simon commentary Feb. 23 on NPR Weekend Edition
I never considered this point of view about the Jehovah Witnesses and, therefore, find this opinion by Scott Simon to be helpful and interesting. His commentary on Feb. 23, Weekend Edition, helped me to better understand a point of view I had not previously considered about the devotion of this particular religious group.  

Scott Simon reported: Away from daily deadlines and breaking news, there seems to be a campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses, going on in Russia.

Russia's Supreme Court branded the church "an extremist organization" in 2017. Witnesses do not recognize any authority but God, governments especially. That puts them into conflict with Vladimir Putin's Russia, where there are an estimated 175,000 Jehovah's Witnesses.

Last month, Dennis Christensen, a Danish Witness who lived in the western city of Oryol until his arrest at a prayer service in 2017, was sentenced to six years in prison for "religious extremism." The Independent newspaper and human rights groups say "dozens" of Witnesses have been arrested in more raids that began last week in Siberia. The Jehovah's Witnesses told The Moscow Times at least seven of their members were beaten, suffocated and jolted by electric shocks.

Some Witnesses have left Russia; many take their faith underground. Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch says, "It's shocking that in post-Soviet Russia authorities are putting people through the ordeal of a criminal investigation and prison for nothing more than peacefully practicing their faith."

Jehovah's Witnesses are used to challenging and confounding governments — all governments. They refuse to serve in any military, salute any flag, or swear allegiance to a country.

During the Second World War, many Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany and occupied countries gave the world an extraordinary display of courage.

Jehovah's Witnesses refused to give allegiance to the Nazi regime or say, "Heil Hitler." They refused to join the military, Hitler Youth, or work in war industries. Thousands of Witnesses were sent to concentration camps, where their clothing was marked with purple triangles. And they continued to meet, and pray, in secret.

Holocaust scholars have noted Jehovah's Witnesses could have saved their lives, or escaped torture by signing a card to renounce their faith and pledge allegiance to the Nazi regime. Most refused. Many Witnesses died in those camps.

When many other people found ways to just go along with an immoral and murderous regime, Jehovah's Witnesses refused. They honored their faith. Will nations that honor religious freedom now dare to speak up to Vladimir Putin's Russia about the imprisonment of Jehovah's Witnesses for following their faith?

A representative of Russia's Investigative Committee told Tass, Russia's official news agency, security officials acted entirely "within the realm of the law." More than 120 Jehovah's Witnesses now reportedly face criminal investigation.

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Echo opinion- Republicans must reject Donald Trump

A call to Maryland's Governor Hogan! Will he lead the Republican challenge to oppose the failed Trumpzi administration?

An echo opinion published in The Washington Post, in the Virginian-Pilot and in the Glenwood Post Independent (Colorado), by conservative columnist George Will.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — America's most improbably popular governor, a Republican beginning his second term in perhaps the bluest state, resembles a beer keg with an attitude. 

Stocky and blunt, Larry Hogan, whose job approval is in the high 70s, has won twice in the state with the highest percentage of African-Americans of any state outside the Deep South. 

Maryland's Republican Governor Larry Hogan
In 2016, Maryland voted more emphatically for Hillary Clinton — by 26 percentage points — than all but three other states. In 2018, Hogan was re-elected receiving a majority of women's votes, and 28 percent of the African-American vote while running against a former head of the NAACP. Hogan won while almost 50 percent of Marylanders were saying they would vote against all Republicans in order to express contempt for Donald Trump. 

So, Hogan won against a huge blue wave in a deep blue state.

But, then, Hogan had ended the "rain tax," which was known as a "storm water remediation fee" until he rebranded it. It forced certain counties to tax everyone, sometimes based on the amount of "impervious surfaces" on their property. All the great and good in Maryland defended this as environmentally virtuous (supposedly helping the Chesapeake Bay). However, all but one member of the Legislature, which had veto-proof Democratic majorities in both houses, voted not to terminate their political careers by continuing to tax rain.

Because in 2016 Hogan was early in saying that he would neither endorse Trump nor attend the convention that nominated him nor vote for him. And because Hogan has voiced barely disguised disgust about the president's comportment. And because Hogan's father set an example of principled insubordination. And because he, Hogan, is term limited and hence has little to lose other than sleep, happiness and friends. For all these reasons, he is being importuned to challenge the president in Republican primaries. He says he is "listening" and has "not said no."

He does, however, have a day job he is reluctant to neglect. And he soon will become chair of the National Governors Association. So, he clearly is not eager to mount a losing challenge — which it surely would be — just to unfurl the tattered flag of recognizable Republicanism. 

Opposing any incumbent president is not a day at the beach, and campaigning against today's uniquely smarmy incumbent would be especially disagreeable. Hogan has, however, undergone, while governor, six rounds of chemotherapy (24 hours a day, five days a week, times six, spanning 18 weeks) to defeat an advanced and aggressive cancer (non-Hodgkin's lymphoma), so has endured something almost as unpleasant as Donald Trump.

Furthermore, Hogan's father, a former FBI agent and a Maryland congressman on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, was the only Republican to vote for all three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. Probably for this reason he lost the 1974 Republican nomination for governor.

It is unlikely that Hogan will gratify those who are offering to hold his coat while he brawls with Trump. Still, this town on the Chesapeake Bay will remain known as the incubator of something else germane to today's discontents.

In 1786, in response to a dispute between Virginia and Maryland over rights of navigation and commerce on the bay, Virginia's Legislature asked all the states to send delegates here to a convention to consider how conflicts about interstate commerce could be handled under the Articles of Confederation. 

Only 12 men from five states attended, but two of them were prodigiously talented, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. The meeting decided that there should be (in the words of Hamilton's report to Congress) a conclave "at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May next" to consider measures to make the Articles "adequate to the exigencies of the Union." The result was the Constitution.

Today, in the U.S. Capitol, 28.3 miles west of where the Annapolis meeting occurred (in a tavern, long gone), a majority of congressional Republicans seem poised to support Trump's evisceration of the Constitution's architecture of checks and balances. 

By opposing a binding resolution disapproving the president's declaration of an emergency, they would approve Congress' acquiescence in the loss of its core power, that of controlling spending. These Republicans raise two questions: Why is there a Congress? And why are such Republicans receiving salaries?

Every Republican who supports the president in this trashing of the Constitution whose creation began here thereby violates his or her sworn oath to defend it and to "bear true faith and allegiance" to it. Voters should expel all of them from public life.

George Will is a columnist who writes for The Washington Post

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Gun violence is the national emergency- Iowa echo letter opinion

Gun violence in the U.S. in 2017, killed 39,773 people. In fact, stopping gun violence is truly the US national emergency.

This represents a total of 12 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest level in 20 years.

From a global perspective, Japan reports 0.2 deaths per 100,000, 0.9 in Germany and 2.1 in Canada.
Gun violence has a $2.8 billion impact on our economy.

The emotional trauma, resulting from gun violence, has taken a significant toll on families, communities and on our nation’s mental health system.

Law enforcement officials are trained and retrained in the use of firearms. After a police-involved shooting, there is an investigation. Officers then receive support to deal with the trauma experienced from the shooting.

Law enforcement officials are the "good guys" with guns.

Our laws need to protect them, so that they can continue to serve and protect us. But, sadly, they are increasingly at risk of being shot and killed by individuals who should not have guns.

We cannot control angry people with guns. However, we can control their access to guns, through our legislative process. Legislation needs to be in place to require that those wishing to purchase guns receive thorough training and extensive vetting.

Iowa's Senate is looking to repeal gun background checks and potentially provide unchecked sales of hand-guns to dangerous people. Iowa need reasonable gun laws to protect children and communities. Please call and write to government officials and tell them to support gun background checks.

Gun violence is America's national emergency.

Jeanne Wolf,  Davenport, Iowa

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Opening the Trumpzi cult's eyes -Trump and Russia

This letter to the editor of the Iowa Quad City Times appears to confirm my opinion about how Trump cult followers are victims of mass hypnosis. They only respond to their leader's dog whistle. Mass hypnosis is not an abomination. Indeed, it's a psychological phenomenon.
What will cause the Trump cultists to finally open their eyes?
Opinion letter:  Okay, let' s try to put normal Republican/Democratic politics aside.

I think one of the biggest dividing factors between the American people is the fact that many see President Trump as beholden to Russia and many refuse to even see that as a possibility.

It is clear that our intelligence agencies are worried about him, and it's stunning that this in itself is not enough to open everyone's eyes. When you look at what has come out about Trump and Russia, the evidence is reaching the point of being overwhelming and that's without Mueller's findings.

Surely, there will be those who will not believe what the Special Counsel Mueller finally reports. They will be the ones Trump was talking about when he said he could literally go out on the street and shoot someone and they wouldn't care. But, hopefully, there will be enough people who care enough about "our" country to insure he does not get re-elected.

Tom Hebbeln, Davenport, Iowa

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Vaccines - a Mississippi echo opinion: Stop the spread of preventable infectious diseases

Too many states make it too easy for parents to avoid having their kids immunized- infectious disease prevention: 

Measles outbreaks continue to lacerate communities from coast to coast, and there's absolutely no reason for it. 

The latest involve dozens of new cases in New York and in Clark County, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland.

These shouldn't be happening. The highly contagious disease — which can lead to pneumonia and, in uncommon cases, to encephalitis or even death — was all but eradicated in 2000.

But many parents, embracing scientifically debunked fears about vaccination health risks, have declined the inoculation of their children with the doses for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

It surely doesn't help when public figures who should know better spread uninformed views. Darla Shine, wife of White House Communications Director Bill Shine, tweeted last week that childhood diseases "keep you healthy & fight cancer" and that "sadly," her children had received the MMR. (! - OMG the flat earth society thrives in the now infected White House, a once hallowed residence now occupied by ghouls and fools.)

Actually, IN FACT! her kids are safer because they've had the vaccine.

The core issue is that too many states make it too easy for parents to avoid having their children immunized. While all 50 require vaccinations, 17 states allow parents to opt out for personal reasons.

Even if their offspring get and survive the illness, they selfishly place at serious risk other children who can't be vaccinated because of legitimate medical concerns such as a compromised immune system. Those children are protected only when virtually everyone else in the community is immunized, breaking the chain of infection.

Even worse, in 2016 scientists found that a deadly measles neurological complication, which lies dormant in children for years, is more common than previously thought, arising in 1 out of 609 cases where unvaccinated babies contract the disease.

Recent outbreaks underscore the risks of allowing nonmedical exemptions.

Forty-seven states let parents opt out for religious reasons. Among them is New York, where there have been more than 70 cases of measles in New York City since October, including cases among unvaccinated children within an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. 

In Rockland County, New York, there have been 135 cases since September. 

The state of Washington allows both religious and personal exemptions. The result is that only 78 percent of children ages 6 to 18 in Clark County have received the necessary two doses of MMR. Almost all of the 62 confirmed cases of measles in that county this year involved no prior immunization.

Three states — California, Mississippi and West Virginia — allow vaccination exemptions strictly for medical reasons. Not coincidentally, their two-dose MMR rates for kindergartners are 96.9 percent, 99.4 percent and 98.4 percent, respectively.

The outbreak in Washington has prompted legislators to consider a measure sponsored by a Clark County Republican state representative that would deny MMR exemptions based on personal beliefs.

For all the sense this makes, hard-core opposition remains fierce. Even as children fell ill, hundreds of naysayers arrived at the Washington statehouse to voice opposition. When California passed an even stricter law in 2015, the sponsor — state Sen. Richard Pan — received death threats.

Despite the blow back, the government requirements are the right things to do, along with public education campaigns. 

Exemptions to state-mandated vaccinations should be granted only for narrowly prescribed medical or religious reasons. The health of children is too important to put at risk.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff.

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