Saturday, September 30, 2017

UPDATE: Puerto Rico Hurricane Devastation Disaster Assistance


The situation continues to change hour by hour after the devastation wrecked by Hurricane Maria.
The first responders, our government and our fellow Americans have been focused on helping Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands since before the storms hit.  This is an enormous and unprecedented situation on top of two other US states that are still in recovery mode. The reality is that no other country or national government would be as able to respond to such devastation in a short amount of time in three different places with this level of resources, personnel, preparation.
FEMA BRIEFING POINTS: HURRICANE MARIA
September 30, 2017 as of 10 a.m. Eastern
  • The top priority of the federal government is pushing forward to provide life safety and life sustaining resources to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It has been ten days since the storm’s landfall, we were here when the storm hit, and we will be here throughout the response and recovery.
  • We will be satisfied when power and routine return to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We remain committed to put forth the full effort of the federal government to overcome the complex challenges requiring a phased approach to the delivery of personnel, resources, and equipment to move the resources and lodging for responders.
  • All municipalities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been reached. FEMA and its federal partners have cleared debris to gain access to ports, airports and roadways; and at the same conducted search and rescue operations, assessed hospitals, and moved meals and water onto and around the island.
  • It will take time to get power restored to many areas, but work is underway between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy, local power authorities, and the private sector to get power restored in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Trucks are leaving ports and airports to deliver commodities to regional staging areas and points of distribution throughout Puerto Rico.
  • FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams covered 100% of the islands. FEMA US&R task forces saved or assisted 843 individuals, while searching over 2,600 structures.
  • Power is being restored to hospitals, and all hospitals assessments are complete. In Puerto Rico, 59 hospitals are operational to care for current patients, or receiving patients, with one fully operational. One Department of Veterans Affairs hospital is open, and five are open for walk-ins.
  • Drinking water is being restored. The U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority drinking water system is back online, and 45% of customers in Puerto Rico have access to drinking water.
  • In Puerto Rico, 50% of the major roads are cleared of debris and open. Most highways on St. Croix are open with caution.
  • In Puerto Rico, 49% of grocery and big box stores are open, and more than 60% retail gas stations are operating. These openings are crucial beginning steps in Puerto Rico’s recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
  • For updates from Puerto Rico on the operational status of hospitals, food and water distribution centers, gas stations, dialysis centers, supermarkets, and other information, please visit: www.status.pr.
  • There are more than 11,800 federal staff representing 36 departments and agencies, including more than 800 FEMA personnel, on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands engaged in response and recovery operations from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Hundreds of additional federal personnel are supporting response and recovery operations through mainland coordination centers and logistics facilities.
  • The outpouring of support that is being offered from across the nation, combined with the selfless dedication of volunteers shows the compassion and unity of Americans helping Americans.  To donate or volunteer for the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, contact the voluntary or charitable organization of your choice through the National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (NVOAD) at www.nvoad.org
  • NVOAD is coordinating closely with the Puerto Rico Governor’s Office on offers of assistance. To make a cash donation directly to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, visit www.unitedforpuertorico.com.
Hospitals
  • Centro M├ędico Hospital in San Juan is serving as a central designated medical facility, with seven regional hubs for medical support. A mobile hospital is activated, expanding patient capacity.
  • Assessment of the Myra Keating Medical Facility on St. John is complete and repairs to this facility are a top priority.
  • The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital in St. Croix is established as a mobile hospital and the Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas will resume patient services in the coming days. More than half of dialysis centers in Puerto Rico are open and accessible for patients. More critical care facilities will re-open in the coming days as power and access are restored.
  • Medical evacuations continue from the U.S. Virgin Islands for critical need dialysis patients.
Delivery of Commodities
  • Officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico opened points of distribution (POD) in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for survivors to get meals, water, and other commodities. The Governor of Puerto Rico established 11 Regional Staging Areas around the island, serving all 78 municipalities. The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands announced that six locations in St. Croix are open Saturday from 12pm to 4pm.
  • FEMA, working in coordination with federal partners, provided millions of meals and millions of liters of water to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Additional meals and water continue to arrive to the islands daily via air and sea.
Communications
  • Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) communications assets and personnel continue to support the FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT), Urban Search and Rescue (US&R), National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), and other federal teams in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are more than 30 MERS personnel in Puerto Rico and more than 20 MERS personnel in the USVI.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) mobile communications team is in Puerto Rico to help improve communications across the storm-impacted area. 
  • Mail service returned to Puerto Rico Friday through the United States Postal Service. Limited handout mail service began Friday at 49 locations in Puerto Rico. Forty-one of these locations are also able to provide postal retail services.
  • Limited handout mail service, along with limited retail service, begins today in St. Croix. Limited mail service continues in St. Thomas. On St. John, limited mail service continues.
Life Safety and Life Sustaining
  • The Department of Defense (DoD) continues to operate from Roosevelt Roads Airfield, executing route clearance, commodity and fuel distribution, as well as providing helicopter support to assist officials from Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) complete assessments of all Puerto Rican hospitals. 
  • The use of medium lift helicopters allows for the flow of needed commodities such as food, water, and fuel to remote areas disconnected from traditional supply lines. Six additional medium lift helicopters arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday to continue commodity distribution to affected areas.
  • The U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority drinking water system is back online, and other drinking water systems on the islands are top priority for receiving generators. Additionally, the Concordia potable water pump station is online in St. Croix.
  • The U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Waste Management, and USACE are addressing potential public health risks of garbage build up; coordinating route clearance of wires and poles to enable garbage haulers to access the St. Thomas landfill.
  • The National Guard Bureau (NGB) has thousands of Guard members on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U..S. Virgin Islands taking part in security and support operations. The Air National Guard is focused on transporting food, water, and communications capabilities as well as rapidly increasing airlift into affected areas.
Fuel, Transportation, and Debris
  • The U.S. Virgin Islands territorial governments and FEMA confirmed the territory will execute St. Croix debris removal mission with local contractors; USACE Debris Teams will continue to provide technical assistance.
  • St. Croix and St. Thomas report adequate fuel supply on the islands for power generation and response efforts, including gasoline, diesel, and propane.
  • USACE temporary power response teams are on the ground in Puerto Rico and USVI, assessing power needs and installing generators at critical facilities. Teams have completed more than 170 inspections, and more than 200 assessments have been requested for facilities. Generator installations are underway in both Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, with 20 installations completed.
  • The National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) is working with private sector companies to reach additional truck drivers throughout Puerto Rico to enable commodities to reach more remote parts of the island. The NBEOC is working with government and private sector entities to aid in the response to Hurricane Maria. 
  • Federal forces and more than 200 federally-supported contract personnel are supporting the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation with clearance of debris that prevents access to major roadways.   
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) made $40 million available to the PR Highways and Transportation Authority (PRHTA) for emergency relief work to impacted roads. Emergency Relief work will consist of the stabilization and repair of impacted roadway embankments, reconstruction of damaged roadways, safety guardrails, lighting, the repair/replacement of the traffic signal devises, and highway signage.
  • 26 chainsaw teams and one Incident Management Team (IMT) from the Department of Agriculture United States Forest Service are in Puerto Rico conducting emergency road clearance with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA).. A fourteen-person team from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is supporting debris removal and tree clearing to restore road access in Vieques.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) debris experts are assisting FEMA with debris management strategies in Puerto Rico, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 
  • The federal government is working with its interagency and private sector partners to support availability, transportation and delivery of fuel, based on priorities identified by Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Information for Survivors
  • For those in declared areas who are able to do so, registering online, at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, is the quickest way to register for FEMA assistance. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the recent hurricanes.
  • The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to search for loved ones, or for individuals to indicate that they are safe. The site is always available, open to the public, and available in English and Spanish. There are a number of ways to use this service:
  • Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website.
  • Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876. Messages exist in both Spanish and English.
  • To speak with someone at the American Red Cross concerning a missing friend or relative please contact 1-800 Red Cross (1-800-733-2767).
  • The American Red Cross Emergency App features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts, letting friends and family know they are out of harm’s way. The app can be downloaded for free in app stores by searching for “American Red Cross” or by texting ‘GETEMERGENCY’ to 90999.
  • Anyone who finds a child who may be separated from parents or caregivers, please contact the local police and enter basic information and/or a photo into the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you find an unaccompanied child, please indicate whether the child has a disability or has access and functional needs in the appropriate field in the Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you do not have access to the internet, please call 1-866-908-9570.
  • The USACE Blue Roof program is active in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 22 Blue Roofs are installed in the U.S. Virgin Islands to date.
  • FEMA is raising awareness that Hurricane Maria disaster survivors, and their friends and family, should be alert for false rumors, scams, identity theft, and fraud. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Visit FEMA's Hurricane Rumor Control page to get the most accurate information from trusted sources.
Airports
  • All commercial airports in Puerto Rico are operational. Recovery efforts are now supporting more than a dozen commercial passenger flights per day at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On 28 September, SJU accommodated 25 commercial flights and processed 5,000 ticketed passengers. Six military/hurricane relief flights are arriving at SJU per day.
  • Roosevelt Roads, Ponce and Aguadilla Airports in Puerto Rico are open for all flights.
  • St. Thomas Airport is open to limited commercial aircraft, and St. Croix Airport is open with restrictions.
Ports
  • The U.S. Coast Guard reports the following port statuses with additional ports opening as assessments continue:
  • Puerto Rico
  • Open: Port of San Juan, Guayanilla, Salinas, and Tallaboa
  • Open with restrictions: Arecibo, Fajardo, Culebra, Guayama, Mayaguez, and Vieques
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Open:
  • St. Thomas: Charlotte Amalie, East Gregerie Channel, Crown Bay, West Gregerie Channel 
  • St. Croix: Krause Lagoon, Frederiksted, Limetree Bay
  • Open with Restrictions:
  • St. Thomas: Redhook Bay
  • St. John: Cruz Bay
  • St. Croix to St Thomas ferry is running Gallows Bay 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration survey ship Thomas Jefferson is assisting with surveying of the port of Ponce.
Declarations
Safety
  • Stay off the roads. Emergency workers are assisting people in flooded areas or cleaning up debris. You can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings that are damaged.
  • Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Oftentimes a boil water order is put in place following a flood. 
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
If Asked:
  • Is the military in charge of the federal response?
  • Supporting Puerto Rico as it responds to, and recovers from, the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria requires unity of effort.  FEMA, DoD, and their federal partners were in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit.  We will be there throughout the recovery from these storms.
  • FEMA’s role leading coordination of federal support ensures we’re able to bring the full force of the federal government to bear.
  • Although it may seem like a clear case for the need of federal support; FEMA and DoD were still Constitutionally obligated to allow officials in Puerto Rico to respond.
  • The FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) on the ground is the head of the disaster response unified command structure on the ground, and coordinates closely with the Governor, federal partners, and Department of Defense (DoD) leadership. This ensures the federal, territorial, and Commonwealth governments are able to capitalize on all the assets and resources available.
  • The federal government is working with its interagency and private sector partners to ensure that fuel continues to remains available. The governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are working to prioritize fuel distribution throughout the islands.
  • As of September 26, the U.S. Virgin Islands there is no request for a cost share adjustment for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance for Hurricane Maria.
  • There has been a systemic problem with airlines at the San Juan Airport (SJU) who are NOT ABLE to ticket or screen electronically (manual only)  at this time that is causing huge delays for people who do have tickets and is preventing them from selling any other tickets to prospective passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is talking with airlines now they are aware of this and are now working on a fix but this may cause additional issues moving ahead until it is fixed.
USNS Comfort
  • The U.S. military is planning to deploy 10 additional ships, including the USNS Comfort hospital ship, to assist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) response efforts in Puerto Rico.
Irma and Maria Individual Assistance Applications
  • Hurricane Irma applicants from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have yet to receive an inspection, will continue to be processed in Irma as most will not realize they would have needed to apply a second time. All damage recorded will be processed in Irma.
  • Any survivor who has yet to apply will be registered in the appropriate disaster by reported date of loss: if they say they were damaged from both storms, their damage will be recorded under Hurricane Maria, go in Maria and all damage will be processed through that disaster.
Additional Info

Thursday, September 28, 2017

‘Take a Knee’ by Florida author takes Internet by storm

By Gerry Emery


Flag raising on Iwo Jima, 23 Feb 1945 (Wikimedia Commons, marked for public use)

An op-ed entitled, “Take a Knee,” has been making the rounds on social media sites like Facebook, where it has been shared literally hundreds of thousands of times.  Ted Nugent, for example, posted it on his Facebook page, where it has been shared over 117,000 times.
The original author is Stanislaus “Stan” Drew, a Christian author and proud American who, according to the Christian Index, wrote the guest op-ed last year while a member of Palm Springs Baptist Church in Palm Springs, Florida – after San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick first began his protests during the National Anthem. Mr. Drew is retired and currently lives in Crescent City, Florida, with his wife Lynn.
Those protests have now spread across the country and to one game played in Great Britain, where players stood for God Save the Queen after taking a knee for the Star-Spangled Banner.
We reached out to Mr. Drew and received permission to re-print his post here in full. Some, he told us, have changed it to fit their particular interest and, he added, he’s “fought tooth and nail to preserve the original.”
So here it is, in its original form, with many thanks to Mr. Drew:
---------
You want to take a knee?

©Stanislaus Drew 8/24/17
Take a little trip to Valley Forge in January. If you don’t know where that is, just Google it from the sidelines. Hold a musket ball in your fingers and imagine it piercing your flesh and breaking a bone or two. There won’t be a doctor or trainer to assist you until after the battle, so just wait your turn. Take your cleats and socks off to get a real experience. Then take a knee.
Then, take one at the beach in Normandy where man after American man stormed the beach, even as the one in front of him was shot to pieces…the very sea stained with American blood. The only blockers most had were the dead bodies in front of them, riddled with bullets from enemy fire.
Take a knee in the sweat soaked jungles of Vietnam. from Khe San to Saigon…Anywhere will do. Americans died in all those jungles.There was no playbook that told them what was next, but they knew what flag they represented When they came home, they were protested as well..and spit on for reasons only cowards know.
Take another knee in the blood drenched sands of Fallujah in 110 degree heat..Wear your Kevlar helmet and battle dress…Your number won’t be printed on it unless your number is up! You’ll need to stay hydrated but there won’t be anyone to squirt Gatorade into your mouth. You’re on your own.
There’s a lot of places to take a knee. Americans have given their lives all over the world. When you use the banner under which they fought as a source for your displeasure, you dishonor the memories of those who bled for the very freedoms you have. That’s what the red stripes mean. They represent the blood of those who spilled a sea of it defending your liberty.
While you’re on your knee, pray for those that came before you, not on a manicured lawn striped and printed with numbers to announce every inch of ground taken…but on nameless hills and bloodied beaches and sweltering forests and bitter cold mountains…every inch marked by an American life lost serving that flag you protest.
No cheerleaders, no announcers, no coaches, no fans…just American men and women…delivering the real fight against those who chose to harm us…blazing a path so you would have the right to “take a knee.”
You haven’t an inkling what it took to get you where you are…but your “protest” is duly noted. Not only is it disgraceful to a nation of real heroes, it serves the purpose of pointing to your ingratitude for those who chose to defend you under that banner that will still wave long after your jersey is retired…
If you really feel the need to take a knee, come with me to church on Sunday and we’ll both kneel before Almighty God. We’ll thank him for preserving this country for as long as He has. We’ll beg forgiveness for our ingratitude for all He has provided us. We’ll appeal to Him for understanding and wisdom. We’ll pray for liberty and justice for all…because He is the one who provides those things.
But there will be no protest. There will only be gratitude for His provision and a plea for His continued grace and mercy on the land of the free and the home of the brave. It goes like this…
GOD BLESS AMERICA!
------

This, quite frankly, says all that needs to be said on the matter and really needs no further explanation.
We asked Mr. Drew what he thought of the protests currently taking place.
He responded by telling us that “it is its own statement,” referring to his original post.
We couldn’t agree more.

Related:


Repeal Obamacare Update: Senate Won't Vote on Cassidy-Graham

By Alice Greene


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has decided to pull the plug on Cassidy-Graham, the GOP’s latest attempt to repeal Obamacare.

This is exactly what happened in July when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) dropped healthcare legislation on the eve of an anticipated losing vote.
Lawmakers agreed during a luncheon on Tuesday that there was no point voting on Cassidy-Graham. The party could afford to lose only two votes, and three Republicans had already promised to vote “no.” Those three Republicans were John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“The US Senate cannot get the text of a bill on a Sunday night, then proceed to a vote just days later, with only one hearing – and especially not on an issue that is intensely personal to all of us,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who criticized the “lousy process” of the proposal. McCain had a similar stance.
As discussed during the Tuesday luncheon, some senators wanted to vote on the bill just to show the party they did all they could to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but many argued that voting on a doomed bill would harm the party’s reputation.
"Why have a vote if you know what the outcome is and it's not what you want?" asks Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).
There were also worries that President Trump would continue to attack Republicans if they gave up on their seven-year promise to end Obamacare.
After the decision was made, Trump said that he was “disappointed” in GOP Senators who refused to support Cassidy-Graham and even threatened to work with Democrats on future healthcare legislation.
Senator Bill Cassidy, who authored the healthcare bill with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), admits that Republicans lost a race against the clock: “Time was the enemy. Some people didn’t like the process so we needed hearings to have them feel better about the process and we didn’t have time for those hearings.”
The Senate returns to “regular order” at the end of the month. After that, they will need 60 votes to pass legislation.
Graham says Republicans will revisit the repeal effort next year, using the budget resolution for FY 2019 to enable them to evade a Democratic filibuster. “We’re coming back to this after taxes. We’re going to have time to explain our concept,” said Graham on Tuesday. “To my Republican colleagues, we’re going to fulfill our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Vice President Mike Pence has urged Republicans not to use the deadline as an excuse to forget about health care.
The healthcare debate is far from over. As Larry Horist puts it, the mainstream media has a way of calling the final score at the end of each inning.
"Look, we haven't given up on changing the American healthcare system,” said McConnell on Tuesday. “We're not going to do it this week, but it still lies ahead of us. We haven't given up on that. Where we go from here is tax reform.”
It’s better to “focus on taxes right now,” agreed Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).
In the meantime, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised that Democrats are ready to work with Republicans to improve Obamacare. “Once this bill goes down, we’re ready to work with you to find a compromise that stabilizes markets, that lowers premiums.”
“We hope we can move forward and improve healthcare, not engage in another battle to take it away from people, because they will fail once again if they try,” said Schumer.
Editor's note: Another swing, another miss. Still not over.

Smithsonian gives Clarence Thomas a spot in year-old African American history museum


Just in time to celebrate its first anniversary, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has included a display featuring Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative stalwarts.
Justice Thomas appears in an exhibit that was installed Sunday, a Smithsonian spokeswoman said Monday. The display honors both of the black justices who ascended to the pinnacle of the legal profession. The other is Thurgood Marshall.
Justice Thomas’ apparent omission irked conservative observers, who suspected an ideological bias among Smithsonian officials and called for the influential jurist’s inclusion in the museum.






Ronald D. Rotunda, distinguished professor of jurisprudence at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University, said Justice Thomas deserves to be recognized for his contributions to constitutional jurisprudence, his record of public service and his inspirational life story.
“Like Thurgood Marshall, he has been a very influential justice, and like Thurgood Marshall, he has risen from humble beginnings,” Mr. Rotunda said. “His father left him, his grandparents raised him. The 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. turned him to the law. He left a successful corporate law practice and turned to public service. That path led him to the Supreme Court.”
Mr. Rotunda said it’s “surprising that it has taken so long” for the museum to acknowledge such a “seminal figure on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

BREAKING: House Freedom Caucus Supports Trump's Tax Plan

By Katie Pavlich


The House Freedom Caucus, made up of the most conservative members of Congress, is getting behind President Trump's tax plan.

"President Trump has delivered a forward looking tax reform framework that will let hard working Americans keep more of their money, simplify our system, end carve outs for special interests,  and will help make our businesses competitive abroad. The Freedom Caucus looks forward to sending a final bill based on this framework to President Trump's desk as soon as possible," the Caucus released Wednesday.
The support comes just hours before President Trump will lay out his plan in greater detail from Indianapolis. Here is what we know about the framework so far:
-The lowest federal income tax bracket for individuals will sit at 12 percent, an increase from 10 percent, but will be offset by an expansion of the child tax credit. There will be three brackets total, down from seven, with the other two at 25 and 35 percent.
-The small business tax rate will drop to 25 percent, the lowest in America since the 1930s.
-The corporate tax rate will be decreased from 35 percent to 20 percent, prompting American money to come home from overseas.
-The child tax credit will be expanded. Administration officials nor the President will provide an exact number and will rely on proper congressional committees to come up with one they deem appropriate.
-Rewriting tax regulations so Americans can complete their taxes on a single page.
-Getting rid of double taxes, including the death tax.
-Eliminate itemized deductions
-Eliminate state and local deductions
-Charitable deductions are not changing
-Retirement taxes will not be touched
-Mortgage deductions will not change
The President will present a framework to Congress, where lawmakers will be responsible for coming up with legislation. How to pay for a bill will certainly be a key factor in how reform moves forward.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hollywood confession: I don't think I can stomach voting for Academy Awards anymore

By Roger L. Simon, Fox News
 

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2012 file photo, a Oscar statue is seen on the red carpet before the 84th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.  (AP)

I was admitted to the writers’ branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 1983. I was thrilled at the time, joining a short, but august list that included people like Neil Simon and Tom Stoppard.
Every year after that I dutifully voted in the Oscars, although the movies themselves, in general, got worse and worse. At the same time, the voting got to be more and more of a chore while my politics and world view drifted further apart from the lockstep Hollywood leftism of the majority of my fellow Academy members.
Still, I soldiered on, if only to make some small impact on the results from the right.  After all, the Academy only has roughly eight thousand members and my vote in the Oscars counted far more, on a percentage basis, than it did in normal government elections.
But I think I've had it.  I'm not into boycotts, but I'm not sure I can participate anymore.  I don't know if I'm going to vote in this years' Academy awards.
There's only so much a man can take.
The Oscars and the Emmys have been platforms for some of the most puerile political posturing imaginable for years now, but the latest Emmys may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back with Stephen Colbert making brain dead "Trump is Hitler" jokes that would embarrass Mel Brooks.  (I have some sad news for Colbert: Trump is funnier than you are - and he gets to be president too.)
The Academy and the creative guilds (writers, directors, actors, etc.) make endless pronouncements on the necessity for diversity in their memberships - remember #Oscarssowhite - but the real diversity missing from those organizations is viewpoint diversity. Without that, the rest is meaningless.  Worse, it's gratuitously divisive.
A recent mailing detailing monthly events at the Writers Guild reaches the level of self-parody.  Not a single activity was listed that wasn't centered on the grievances of some minority - Asian writers, Latino writers, LGBTQ writers, women writers, etc.  Gone are the days of the creative artist as rebel.  Here are the days of the "creative artist" as whiner - no one is doing enough for him, her or “ze.”  The Hollywood creative guilds have turned into upscale versions of campus "safe spaces."
So back to my vote.  One of the perks of Academy membership is that every year at this time members receive personal DVD screeners of the year’s films gratis from the studios and indepndents. It’s fun to get them, but there are a lot of movies and it’s a commitment to watch them all.  I'm not sure what I will do or if I'm going to vote yet, but, with Hollywood going more knee-jerk left than ever, as they say in Congress, “I'm leaning no.”
Roger L. Simon - the only writer alive to be profiled positively by both Mother Jones and The National Review - is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of many films, prize-winning mystery novelist and co-founder and CEO Emeritus of the influential new media company PJ Media.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trump Is Reinventing What It Means to Be a Politician




For most of our lifetimes being a politician meant being a self-centered hypocritical bore who carefully obfuscates his or her true opinions lest they offend potential voters and financial supporters or... a corrupt self-centered hypocritical bore who carefully obfuscates his or her opinions lest they offend potential voters or financial supporters.
Trump is reinventing that and we -- whether we agree with his (sometimes changing) views or not -- owe him big (or bigly) for this. At least now we're awake and more of us are paying attention. (On this weekend's episode of Judge Jeanine, almost every man-on-the-street interviewee knew who "Rocket Man" was.  Compare that with "Joe Biden" when he was vice president.)
And these days Donald's getting better and more precise at his core strategy -- saying things that many, often most, of us think but don't have the courage to utter.
For example, what the hell are black athletes who make upwards of ten million a year, far more than 99.999% of their fans of any color or shape, doing whining so ungratefully about opportunity for African-Americans in America?  Where else could they have made fortunes anywhere near that size merely for playing a game? (Well, okay, except for a handful of Serbian and Swiss tennis players, but you know what I mean.)
If they're so worried about their fellow African-Americans, why aren't they using their gazillions to do something about it?  Perhaps the athletes are suffering from Matt Damon Envy, living in thirty million dollars houses while promulgating the works of America-hating socialist liar Howard Zinn. Whatever the case, Trump let them have it for their obvious hypocrisy and phony posturing that does nothing to help African-Americans or anybody else.
Morally narcissistic progressives  (aka rich reactionaries) and their media flack/hacks are offended that Trump could call out these athletes for this pompous kneeling-during-the-national-anthemn virtue signaling, but I'd be amazed if the average citizen -- black, white, yellow or brown -- isn't quietly nodding his head in agreement.  The NFL is already suffering for this behavior at the box office.  The NBA is probably not far behind.
On North Korea, too, Trump's supposedly excessive speech -- honesty, actually -- is already having positive results, with China doing far more to sanction the NORKs than at any time during the last three decades.
Similarly, the same progressive media crowd is yammering on about Islamophobia while Trump makes it clear in no uncertain terms that we don't want radical Islamic terrorists destroying our country as they are doing in Europe.  The public quietly agrees, even when the legal wimps of the Ninth Circuit do not.
And don't get me started on the fuddy-duddy congressional Republicans and their inability to pass healthcare or tax reform.  The president has made it painfully clear -- as he should have -- what he thinks of them.
Trump has completely reinvented the template of what it means to be a politician and it's no surprise that so many other politicians (not just John McCain) are publicly or privately appalled.  He has unmasked them.  They're worried and they should be because American politics will never be the same.  Trump may be sui generis, but others are undoubtedly getting the message -- stop pussy-footing around and tell it like it is. Refreshing, no? And he has a sense of humor.  Better than Stephen Colbert anyway.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

NBA And NFL Owners And Players Owe Service Members And Gold Star Mothers An Apology


We, American citizens who are retired and active duty service members, express our outrage that the NBA and NFL  permit players to not stand for the Star Spangled Banner and disrespect the men and women—black and white—who made sacrifices in service to our nation. They should apologize to service members and the Gold Star Mothers whose sons and daughters made the ultimate sacrifice.
Below are images which depict why we stand for the Star Spangled Banner.
Sports teams make billions of dollars and the black people who engage in the despicable conduct of taking a knee during the playing of the Star Spangle Banner are paid millions of dollars to play sports by their fans—black and white.
Yet, they have the gall to disrespect the very nation that made their opportunities possible and expend trillions of taxpayer money to help poor people.
Since the War on Poverty began under President Lyndon Johnson, it has cost $22 trillion—three times more than what the government has spent on all wars in American history. It hasn't led to a drop in the poverty rate, which remains close to the same level it was when the War on Poverty began. Click here for more details.
Black protestors claim they are protesting racism and “inequality.” Yet, they support the Democratic Party that is responsible for the deplorable conditions in black neighborhoods against which they are protesting. 


As author Michael Scheuer wrote, the Democratic Party is the party of the four S’s: slavery, secession, segregation and now socialism. Democrats have run black communities for over 50 years and the socialist policies of Democrats have ruined those communities.
It is the Democratic Party, not our nation, which should be held accountable for black grievances.
What other nation has torn itself apart, pitted white brother against white brother in a Civil War to free black people from slavery?
In the Civil War, over 600,000 white Republicans gave their lives to free blacks from slavery. After the Civil War, the Democratic Party fought to deny black civil rights enshrined in our Constitution and guaranteed in legislation by Republicans.  Democrats also started the Ku Klux Klan that became the terrorist arm of the Democratic Party and launched a reign of terror against Republicans—black and white—to keep blacks in virtual slavery. The Klan killed over 3,000 Republicans, 1,000 of them white.
Our country deserves respect for it's sacrifices for black freedom and equality, not condemnation.
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WHY WE STAND













GOD BLESS AMERICA!