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COMMENTARY: Was Trump’s ‘Last Stand’ in El Paso Foreshadowing of 2020 Game Plan?

WASHINGTON INFORMER — President Donald Trump leaked word of a late-night tentative agreement on border security.

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By D. Kevin McNeir

Once again, with the showmanship of a veteran ringmaster, President Donald Trump leaked word of a late-night tentative agreement on border security being reached by a 17-member, bipartisan committee Monday — while keeping oddsmakers scrambling as to whether he’ll say, “Deal” or “No Deal.”

But with only days remaining before a Feb. 15 deadline, many Americans, still reeling from the impact of an historic 35-day shutdown, fear that the president will open the floodgates to more unchartered waters and a second partial federal government shutdown.

Nonplussed by deadlines and drama, Trump seemed to have other things on his mind, hinting that he “may” sign off on the latest offer despite being “displeased” — before quickly transforming the “support the wall hoedown” in El Paso Monday evening into a carefully-crafted campaign rally for 2020 bragging rights.

“Just so you know; we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said, then further promoting his unique blend of hyperbole to which America and the world have grown so accustomed over the course of his two years in office.

“Only 6,500 people are allowed in this arena but thanks to the fire department, we’ve got around 8,000 in here — thousands more are watching outside on closed circuit TVs,” he said.

Terms and Conditions

The terms of the agreement, according to key lawmakers, include $1.37 billion which would pay for 55 miles of new border fencing in the form of steel slats but not a solid wall — far less than the $5.7 billion Trump has sought for more than 200 miles of walls. Democrats compromised by removing their demand for a new cap on immigrants detained in the U.S.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described the deal as “good news,” adding that it “provides new funds for miles of new border barriers.” He promised to review the finer points of the bill with hopes that the Senate will vote for its approval “in short order.”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) remained adamant when asked what he believes the president should do.

“These months of shutdown politics must come to an end,” he said.

According to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who flew back with the president to the White House following the rally in El Paso, Trump was “reviewing his options” with one possibility still being for the president to transfer money from other programs in order to fund the building for a more expansive wall along the southern border.

Closer to home here in the greater Washington Area, William C. Smith, Jr., a state senator from Montgomery County, also an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve who received orders from the Pentagon to deploy to Afghanistan and must report for duty March 29 (10 days before the last day of the General Assembly on April 8), says he’s kept in touch with Reps. Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin who represent Maryland in Congress and how Marylanders might suffer, again.

“Maryland is particularly impacted by a shutdown like this because we have a little over 200,000 federal workers. The folks that are non-essential don’t go to work and you have the essential employees who are working for free, essentially. It’s a tremendous impact. There’s also ancillary impact with the local economy. It would be a terrible thing if they can’t get this together and come up with a deal. We will see,” Smith said.

Both the House and Senate must now approve the pending legislation and secure Trump’s signature to avoid the shutdown.

Pitch for Wall Morphs into Old-Fashioned Hoedown

With the sudden turn-of-events, whether by coincidence, providence or the result of chicanery committed at the highest level, Trump aptly abandoned his original script, a plea for the funding of his “wall,” instead touting victories secured under his watch, proposing what he deems to be a “mainstream, nonpartisan agenda” and calling the role of his hard-and-fast “American values, traditions and beliefs which unite us all.”

The throng of staunch supporters who stood for well over two hours — a crowd mostly comprised of white Americans and American families — men, women and children — repeatedly applauded Trump’s boasts, beliefs and promises.

Trump referred to his comments made during the recent State of the Union address during which he says he asked both Democrats and Republicans to “choose greatness.”

“We now have the hottest economy on Earth. We’ve invested $700 billion into the military that was in real trouble, we’re more powerful than we’ve ever been and we’re caring for our warriors. America is winning again,” he said, before citing a list of the many demographics of Americans he’s “proud to be fighting for” — a list that either by error or design, did not include the country’s LGBTQ [sexual orientation] citizens.

“Ours is a mainstream, commonsense agenda that’s good for the American people and moves us in the direction that Americans want to go. We support the dignity of work, the sanctity of life and we encourage faith and family over government bureaucracy. Most of all, we continue to guarantee religious freedom, freedom of speech, the right to bear and keep arms and uncompromised respect for the American flag,” he said.

As the rally drew to a close, Trump shared comments about his mission, perhaps echoing the words White House Press Secretary recently made while on a Christian radio show during which she referred to the president’s election victory being due to the “will of God.”

“Like you [Texans] have done throughout this state’s history, today, we’ve made our stand,” he said. “We’ve come together, millions and millions of people, in numbers never witnessed in history. We’ve come for safety, sovereignty and the sacred rights given to us by the hand of Almighty God.”

“We will make America wealthy, strong, safe and great again.”

Counter-Protest Efforts Fizzle

Trump gave short-shrift to a demonstration numbering hundreds of counterprotesters organized by Women’s March El Paso — a one-mile march past the president’s rally that also took place on Monday night. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) walked in solidarity, joining scores of civic and human rights organizations determined to counter Trump’s “lies and false narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Trump said in his recent State of the Union address that El Paso’s border walls helped it become one of the nation’s safest cities. O’Rourke and local leaders dispute Trump’s “facts,” calling them both inaccurate and irrelevant.

Protestors walked through El Paso just before Trump took the stage, chanting “build bridges, not walls” while marching along the border fence that separates the city from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Others hoisted signs that challenged Trump on his notions of immigration including “Trump made America hate again.”

“El Paso is safe not because of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke said during the counter-protest rally.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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Commentary

A Politician’s Shameless Bigotry

Witness North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. He abuses his position of authority to insult and demean people. But when he gets criticized for making harmful comments, he whines that he’s the real victim. 

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There’s an old saying about bullies: they can dish it out, but they can’t take it.

Witness North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. He abuses his position of authority to insult and demean people. But when he gets criticized for making harmful comments, he whines that he’s the real victim.

People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch recently began reporting on Robinson’s cruel and offensive comments. This summer, Robinson told one audience that Christians must take control of public schools because “there’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be teaching any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.” In another speech, Robinson mocked transgender people and denounced the transgender rights movements as “demonic” and “full of the spirit of antichrist.”

Fortunately, a lot of people have called Robinson out. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Robinson’s comments “abhorrent.” The White House called them “repugnant and offensive.” Multiple state legislators have called on him to resign.

Robinson should be ashamed of himself. But he’s not. He is puffed up with pride about promoting bigotry. He is promising to “double down.” And that’s dangerous. Robinson’s comments send a message to students and everyone else that trans people are not worthy of being treated with respect or dignity.

Robinson’s comments are part of a long and ugly history of politicians smearing LGBTQ people as threats to children. Those smears promote hatred and violence. Deadly violence against transgender people, especially Black trans women, has been on the rise in recent years.

Robinson’s attacks are also part of a broader right-wing campaign to demonize public schools for teaching about racism and promoting acceptance of LGBTQ students. Robinson says schools are teaching students “how to hate America” and “how to go to Hell.”

He has defended himself by claiming that inappropriate materials are being “forced” on children in classrooms, but his charges don’t hold up to scrutiny. Some of the books that he complains about are reportedly not being taught in classrooms but are available in some high school libraries.

 

More importantly, Robinson claims to oppose “indoctrination” in public schools. But in his remarks to right-wing political activists in September, he said that school shootings would be prevented if public schools taught students, “Jesus Christ is the way and the light, and only through him can you receive salvation.”

In fact, Robinson has a message for the millions of Americans who are not Christians: they don’t belong. At a gathering of religious-right political activists in September, Robinson declared that the United States is and always will be a Christian nation. He added, “If you don’t like it, I’ll buy your plane, train, or automobile ticket right up out of here. You can go to some place that’s not a Christian nation.”

I am a Christian. I revere the role the Black church has played in moving the U.S. toward justice. I am proud to be working side by side with religious leaders who are bringing their moral authority and prophetic voices to the struggle to defend voting rights. I was proud to be arrested alongside these leaders recently as we demonstrated at the White House.

But I don’t want public schools to teach religious doctrine. And I don’t want public officials misusing religion as an excuse for using cruelty to divide us.

Like a lot of politicians, Robinson clearly has a very high opinion of himself. At a political conference in September, he compared himself to Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. He also made it clear that he would like to be North Carolina’s next governor. That’s the last thing the people of North Carolina need.

A politician who uses their office to promote bigotry doesn’t deserve to hold office.

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Commentary

COMMENTARY: Together, We Can Save Our Water and Our Future

As Californians, we’re no strangers to the drought, but as we anticipate another dry year, it’s more important than ever for all of us to take action to save our water for today and  years to come.

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Beautiful sunset and the windmill

For some reason, the day we learned about the water cycle in science class stayed with me. Then, many years later, when deciding on a career I knew that I wanted to help bring clean water to homes that currently didn’t have access to safe and reliable drinking water and to protect the environment for future generations.

Now that I serve on the board of the state agency that is responsible for protecting and managing California’s water resources, my view of what it means to ensure people have access to water has expanded, especially as we grapple with another drought.

Board Member Nichole Morgan of the California Water Resources Control. Photo courtesy of Lagrant Communications.

California is only getting hotter and drier. We’re seeing it all over the news as the water crisis hits closer and closer to home. Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, put our harsh reality into perspective when she said, “the challenge is there is no water.”

As Californians, we’re no strangers to the drought, but as we anticipate another dry year, it’s more important than ever for all of us to take action to save our water for today and  years to come.

It is imperative for us to understand that the drought truly impacts everyone. From our state’s ecosystems to its economy, we all rely on an ample water supply; without it, we all suffer.

Climate change is ultimately driving these threats to California, including the dire drought conditions, low reservoir levels and parched landscapes seen throughout the West.

Unfortunately, we can already see some of the consequences of the overuse of water. California’s fish and wildlife are facing severe challenges, threatening the survival of species, including our iconic Chinook salmon.

The drought also affects businesses across California, especially small business, like family-owned restaurants and hotels. Many business owners are already struggling to reconcile dried out wells and limited water supply, in addition to still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Water is essential not only to keep our economy healthy, but to keep our communities thriving with business that foundation to many of our communities.

Now is the time to strengthen conservation efforts and make active changes to save water.  We know that it can be hard to change our habits when it comes to conserving water, but the smallest changes really can make a difference. If we all make little changes in our daily routine to save water, it adds up. Below are some simple steps we can all follow to conserve water both indoors and out.

Inside the Home:

  1. Wash your produce in the container instead of under running water.
  2. Only use your dishwasher and washing machine for full loads.
  3. Install low-flow shower heads as well as taking shorter showers. Showers under 5 minutes can save about 15 gallons, saving you money and the planet!
  4. Turn the water off when brushing your teeth and soaping your hands.
  5. Install a high-efficiency (HET) 1.28 gallons-per flush toilet. Check with your water supplier for current rebate information.

Outside the Home:

  1. Water your yard in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.
  2. Check your sprinkler system and adjust them so that only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street to eliminate any wasteful runoff.
  3. Plant drought-resistant trees and plants! There are so many options to create a beautiful landscape that conserves water – succulents and California poppies are great options.
  4. Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks, patios and walkways instead of hosing them down.
  5. If you have a pool, install a pool cover to reduce evaporation and filter backwash. And, if draining your pool is necessary, make sure to find a use for that water.

We know it won’t be easy, but it’s up to us to make the necessary changes to conserve the water that we need. Let’s make sure our kids and future generations get to enjoy the California that we know and love. Together, we can make our water last. Visit www.saveourwater.com to learn more about what you can do to help.

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Commentary: Tips for Staying Safe (Emotionally) as Pandemic Drags On

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant have fundamentally changed many of our lives, the way we live and the manner in which we interact with each other, and how we live, work and play together.   

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African woman meditating sit at desk in front of pc, serene mixed-race female closed eyes folded fingers mudra symbol do exercise practising yoga reducing anxiety stress positive frame of mind concept/iStock

Many of us are tired, stressed and impatient having to live our lives under this seemingly never-ending pandemic. 

In early spring, many of us were hopeful that COVID-19 was coming to an end.  We began making plans for the summer, from visiting family and friends to attending concerts, plays, planning for vacations and special milestones, and basically “just returning to normal life activities.”  

However, as life would have it, the Delta variant appeared. We were again confronted with the inability to control most aspects of our lives.  In fact, most recently, scientists have purported that we may expect additional variants for years to come.

According to the California Department of Public Health, in February 2021, only 2% of Black Californians were vaccinated. However, as of October 5, 4.2 % of all Black Californians have received at least one dose of vaccine. Representing about 6 % of California’s overall population, we as a community remain behind on our vaccination rate.   

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant have fundamentally changed many of our lives, the way we live and the manner in which we interact with each other, and how we live, work and play together.   

This pandemic has reinforced that there are so many aspects of our lives that we cannot control. And anytime we cannot control our lives and/or our environment, we tend to feel helpless which leads to anxiety and possibly depression.  

So, what can a person do, when life does not go as you planned and are impatient for this pandemic to end?  Here are some tips that have been recommended by the experts:

  1. I know this might sound cliché, but recognizing and understanding your feelings, whether you are sad, angry, stressed, or frightened. Accept, do not negate, how you feel.  
  2. The ability to bounce back and adapt to difficult situations is crucial to wellness.  You have to believe in yourself, your ability to be strong and to try your best – relying on various proven self-care methods — to stay positive.
  3. Try having an attitude of gratitude.  Think about just a few little things or events that are going well in your life daily and in the life of your family and friends.
  4. When you feel overwhelmed…. just breathe…Yes, literally, just breathe in through your nose, hold it and exhale through your mouth a few times or meditate by remembering a verse, phrase, poem, or visualizing a tranquil place for just a few seconds. Still yourself.   
  5. Look back on the good times that you have had and treasure those memories.
  6. Plan a reasonably safe event you can look forward to in the near future that will bring you joy or fulfillment. 
  7. Stop thinking negative.  It’s difficult when life feels as if it’s spiraling out of control but find ways to prove that your negative thoughts are either wrong or that the sky will not fall.  Remind yourself that life and circumstances can and do change.  Turn those negative thoughts into positive affirmations.  Have faith and confidence. 
  8. With so many things going on that are out of our control and often make us feel helpless, focus on what you CAN control in your life.  
  1. Take care of yourself. Exercise, even walking 20 minutes a day, eating healthy, sleep on a regular schedule, turn off electronic devises at least one hour before bed, avoid alcohol and substance use, especially before bedtime, connect with community or faith-based organizations, and/or reach out to your local mental health provider, employee assistance program.

Lenore A. Tate, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Sacramento, California. She specializes in neuropsychology, behavioral health and geriatrics.

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