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Monday, September 30, 2019

We have seen what a deteriorating President looks like before

     Today I heard that Trump tweeted 57 times over the weekend, mostly about the Democrats in Congress and impeachment.  His tirades called for investigations of Democrat leaders and a "possible Civil War 2" in the United States if he is impeached.  He sounds more and more every day like he is "losing it."  The walls are closing in, the knives are coming out and Trump is deconstructing.  While Trump's mental health has always been questioned by his critics and mental health professionals, his recent tirades have made me remember what was written about the last days of Richard Nixon before his resignation.  The deconstruction of Nixon was apparent to those in the White House who saw him in his last days in the White House.  We may be seeing this deconstruction all over again in the current time.  How much of what is written below is happening right now?  For those who don't know or remember the description of those last days for Nixon here is what was written:
      "At times in those last few weeks, Nixon brooded in the Lincoln Sitting Room or his secret hideaway office in the Old Executive Office Building across the street from the White House. Even in the White House summer, Nixon would sit in one of the two rooms with a fire burning in the fireplace scribbling memos to himself on his familiar yellow legal pads. The President would drink scotch and get drunk quickly; he was famously unable to handle his low-tolerance for alcohol very well. Often, an aide or valet would find Nixon loudly blaring his favorite music — the score from the 1950’s documentary “Victory at Sea”. Other times, Nixon would listen to the tapes from his Oval Office recording system that were bringing his Presidency down around him, rewinding, fast-forwarding, listening again-and-again to his own voice saying the things now coming back to haunt him.
Aides throughout the White House and staff from other departmental agencies worried about the President’s ability to function and continue to lead the country while in his current mental state. Discussions were quietly held about whether it was necessary to attempt to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which calls for the Vice President to assume the powers of the Presidency if the President is somehow incapacitated and unable to discharge the heavy everyday responsibilities of his office. Nixon was barely sleeping, drinking heavily, and making bizarre, rambling late-night phone calls to subordinates throughout the Executive Branch of the United States government. Nearly everyone who knew his condition questioned the President’s capacity to function.
There were also serious questions about whether or not Nixon, in a desperate attempt to hold on to power, might use the military to protect himself and the White House. Tensions were already high in the streets of Washington, D.C. with protesters loudly demonstrating and calling for Nixon’s resignation. High-ranking officials in the Department of Defense and the White House privately worried about the possibility that Nixon would ring the streets around the White House with tanks and armored personnel carriers, ostensibly to protect the Executive Mansion from acts of civil disobedience, but also to set up a fortress-like barrier that might allow him to remain in the White House in the case of a Congressional or Supreme Court-ordered removal from office.
Most startling of all is the fact that in the week before his resignation, Nixon’s inability to efficiently or appropriately wield executive power had dwindled so far that Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger urged General George S. Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to not take military orders directly from the President. In an attempt to save the country from any extra-constitutional power grab by a desperate President, the military chain-of-command took the extra-constitutional step of removing the President from the loop. Schlesinger also investigated what his options would be if troops had to forcibly remove the President from office. The Defense Secretary’s tentative plan was to bring the 82nd Airborne to Washington from Fort Bragg, North Carolina if that was necessary.
While Nixon’s aides and fellow government officials worried about his mental health and ability to lead, Nixon’s family worried about his physical well-being. The President was exhausted, erratic, and not sleeping well at all. He downed sleeping pills, drank scotch, and continued sitting alone in one of his two favorite offices. Nixon attempted to put on a brave face for his family, but they too were weary of the process and his wife Pat’s health was already precarious. Nixon sometimes found solace in the company of his daughters Tricia and Julie and their respective husbands, Edward Cox and David Eisenhower (grandson of the late President Dwight Eisenhower).
Yet the toll was terrible on the family and while Nixon’s daughters were supportive and urged him to continue fighting, both Cox and Eisenhower felt that their father-in-law needed to resign for the good of the country and the good of their family, and worried that the President might not leave the White House alive. On August 6, 1974, Edward Cox called Michigan Senator Robert Griffin, a friend of Nixon’s who was urging resignation. Notifying the Senator that Nixon seemed irrational, Griffin responded that the President had seemed fine during their last meeting. Cox went further and explained, “The President was up walking the halls last night, talking to pictures of former Presidents — giving speeches and talking to the pictures on the wall.” Senator Griffin was flabbergasted and even more taken aback when Cox followed that bombshell with a worried plea for help, “The President might take his own life.”
White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig also worried about suicide. A few days earlier, the despondent President and his Chief of Staff were alone when Nixon started talking about how disgraced military officers sometimes fall on their sword. To Haig, the Army General, Nixon said, “You fellows, in your business, you have a way of handling problems like this. Somebody leaves a pistol in the drawer.” Haig was stunned. Then sadly — bitterly — Nixon said, “I don’t have a pistol.”
Haig was trying to steer the President towards as dignified of an exit as possible in such a dire situation. Already dealing with the first Presidential resignation, what he definitely wanted to prevent as Chief of Staff was the first-ever Presidential suicide. Haig worked with the President’s Navy doctors to limit Nixon’s access to pills and tranquilizers. When Haig mentioned his worries about a Nixon suicide to White House counsel Fred Buzhardt, Buzhardt said he didn’t think Nixon was the type to commit suicide. Buzhardt believed Nixon was actually a deeply religious man privately, but the White House counsel also thought that Richard Nixon would continue fighting, as he always had, until the ship went down. Alexander Haig just wanted to keep the President alive."

What is the final piece?
  Nixon tapes=White House secret server

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The only thing that will really stop mass shootings

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     I have noticed that in trying to solve a problem a person's biases tend to cause them to chose a solution that confirms their bias rather than getting at the root of the problem.  That reality seems to exist in the debate on how to stop the mass shootings that seem to be occurring with more frequency.  The mass shootings seem to require a gun that that shoots bullets quickly and a young, white male that has anger and revenge issues.  How do you eliminate one of those two facts?  Let's assume that you can't eliminate young, white males with anger and revenge issues that easily.  "Red flag" laws that require having the ability to identify and monitor every young, white males with anger issues is unrealistic.  Requiring expanded background checks in most of the mass shootings doesn't seem to have prevented the shooter from obtaining the gun.  Often the mass shooter hasn't been diagnosed with a mental illness or some other condition that would have prevented the sale of the gun.
      So what is the common feature to almost all mass shootings?  The shooter purchased the assault weapon within 6 months of the mass shooting.  Ban the sale of assault weapons and after 6 months mass shootings will decrease or possibly stop.  We will still have shootings that kill 3-4 people because there will still be time to get off that many shots before the shooter is contained but 20-30 people being killed will be made difficult.
      When the next mass shooting happens, and it will happen, notice how recently the shooter obtained the assault weapon.

     There is a lack of logic and consistency in the argument against banning assault weapons.  We already ban the sale of other weapons of war such as private ownership of tanks, bazookas and machine guns.  Why do we allow the sale to private individuals of assault weapons that have the same potential to kill large numbers of people quickly?

Weekend Funnies

Friday, September 20, 2019

Lake Elkhorn at the change of seasons

   After the heat of Summer has past an early morning run around Lake Elkhorn at dawn is always a favorite time of mine.  Notice the fog off of the warmer water.

    The changing season always begins the migration of some of the geese.  I just missed this shot against the sunrise but did catch them going past.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Choose Civility gets its biggest test

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     If you have been out of town recently you might not be aware of the hottest controversy in our County.   Living in Howard County's bubble seems to have left us unprepared to be the testing ground for a battle of values in our educational system.  Inclusiveness and diversity versus neighborhood schools are right now being battled out in our County.  The loser in this battle will probably be our proud motto of civility.
      The Superintendent of Howard County Schools has proposed a redistricting plan that has two goals.  First is the shifting of students from overpopulated schools to less populated schools.  This is required before any new request for school construction money can be submitted to the State of Maryland.  Secondly and more controversial is the rebalancing of the student population of students receiving free or reduced-cost lunches, commonly called the FARM program.
      Any plan that transfers students from one school to another is controversial to some extent but when you are talking about transferring students from a school with higher test scores to a school with lower test scores you will get a huge outcry from parents.  Test scores stigmatize schools with lower scores and glorify schools with higher scores.  Throw in the issue of property values being impacted by the local school scores and you will be creating a "hornet's nest."  As any realtor and they will tell you families with children will usually tell them in which school districts they will look at houses.  I had this brought home to me when we lost a buyer for our house when the buyer found out the test scores from our local high school.
      There is now a Facebook page to organize against the proposed plan.  I joined the page to follow the discussion of those opposed to the plan.  One of the arguments made on this page is that moving low-income (often minority) students to a higher scoring school doesn't improve the performance of the low-income students.  I am sure that each side of this argument can find some research to prove their side of this argument.  Maybe the better argument is a discussion of whether there is a benefit for children to be exposed to a wide group of diverse children.  This also plays out in the adult world when you see the different political beliefs for people living in an urban setting and a rural setting.  The Red/Blue divide in our Country is really an urban/rural divide.
        Is it true that in Howard County the quality of education doesn't vary to any considerable extent from one school to another in the quality of instruction or the opportunity to take courses that match a student's ability?  If that is true than moving your student from one school to another will make a minimal change in your student's achievement.  If that is not true then the School System needs to do everything in its power to correct how it allocated resources.  I am willing to bet that the quality of teachers and resources allocated to all schools in Howard County by the School System is one of its most important goals.

     We only need to look at the scandals involving actresses and other wealthy individuals bribing colleges to gain admission to select colleges to understand how much we value the prestige of some schools.  I am not sure why this is a scandal now when giving large amounts of money to a school always bought preferential treatment of your child's application.  The assumption that the school your child attends will determine their success in life is one that is strongly held and greatly overvalued.

P.S. 1
    Following the Facebook page has educated me on what a "Polygon Map" is.  At first, I couldn't understand why is this term was being used so often and I had no idea what it was.  It refers to the map the School System uses to define where students will go to school.  

P.S. 2
      It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the futures of the School Superintendent and our elected officials.  For each of them, this is probably a no-win situation where taking a position will lose them support from the opposition group.  Don't be surprised if jobs are lost and officials are defeated by the position they take in this dispute.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mike Rowe's funny story

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    We know Mike Rowe from his TV show "Dirty Jobs."   This Baltimore native also has a large following on his Facebook page.  He often reads emails from his Mother on his page.  Here is the first and funniest of his posts. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A 9/11 remembrance

Beverly Eckert shares her final conversation with her husband, Sean Rooney, before he died in the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Presented as part of StoryCorps’ September 11th Initiative in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to record at least one story to honor each of the lives lost during the attacks.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Longest Table is back

  Having attended this event the past 2 years it is always an interesting conversation and dinner with fellow Howard County residents in a parking lot at Howard County Community College.

Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:
Saturday, September 21, 2019 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT)
Howard Community College
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044
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Friday, September 6, 2019

One last chance to be a "changemaker" in Howard County


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      People with good ideas to create change in Howard County have only 10 more days until the Sept. 16th deadline to submit a proposal in the Changemaker Challenge that is being sponsored jointly by the Horizon Foundation and Central Maryland United Way.  Individuals, teams and nonprofit organizations are invited to pitch a big idea and have a chance to potentially receive up to $25,000 in prize money. Ideas are not limited to specific categories and could focus on people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, health, the environment, social justice, children, teens, older adults or a host of other issue areas.  The Changemaker Challenge helps uncover unexpected leaders who are continuously committed to bringing positive change to Howard County and to spark new ways of thinking throughout the community. We are looking for applicants who have creative, innovative ideas about ways to improve the lives of Howard County residents. 
     Applicants do not need to be attached to a non-profit organization. The Changemaker Challenge celebrates all types of leaders – people from a variety of organizations, walks of life, affiliations, and more. We welcome anyone who has a good idea to improve their community  To give you an idea of the projects that were funded in the first Challenge here are the winner's projects:

o       Beth Sandbower Harbinson was awarded one of three $10,000 Changemaker Challenge grants to help create SOBAR, a nonprofit organization which coordinates alcohol-free social gatherings, and creates healthy, creative non-alcoholic drinks for community social events in Howard County.
o       After noticing more than two dozen bus stops without shelters along Route 1 in Elkridge, Erin Cassell worked closely with county transportation authorities and property owners in the area to refurbish an old bus shelter in a visible Route 1 location – complete with colorful mosaic tiles, a free little library, a painted rock and gnome garden, and a bench composed of recycled materials, all made by local artists or schoolchildren.
o       As the recipient of the third $10,000 grant, Danielle Staton’s program, College Readiness Communities, assisted eight seniors from low-income backgrounds to overcome various social and economic challenges to become the first in their families to attend college. Danielle provided comprehensive and ongoing guidance and support to the seniors for more than a year prior to their acceptance to college, focusing on issues such as financial aid, course selection, and SAT preparation.
o       Tim Ryerson, executive director of the Ellicott City Soccer Club created “Get on the Bus” to remove the social and economic barriers that prevent some children from low-income families from participating in cost prohibitive youth soccer. The program provides transportation from selected Title 1 elementary schools to soccer fields, pays for all fees, provides uniforms and equipment, and healthy snacks for every child. Although he did not win one of the three grants, a video of Tim’s presentation at the event garnered more than $12,000 in funding online.
 If you are interested in submitting your proposal go to this link to apply.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

White House releases new photos





     Releasing photos so much easier than doing a press conference.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Another Venus moment

  Watching a video of the reaction that Naomi Osaka had to defeating Coco Gauff at the US Open Tennis Championship,  I couldn't help thinking that we would never see the same thing in a men's match.  I can't imagine a Jimmy Conners or a John MacEnroe ever showing empathy for a defeated opponent.  Somehow women bring civility to sports (and life in general) that men tend to lose in our competitiveness and desire to "destroy our opponent."  Our insecurity with our "maleness" many times makes we men out to be fools.   We only have to look at the White House and Congress to see that overcompensation to our insecurity that leads one man, in particular, to have to boast of his hand size. Really have we lowered our gender to that level??