McConnell blocks two election security bills

The Hill — By Jordain Carney

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked two election security measures on Thursday, arguing Democrats are trying to give themselves a “political benefit.”

The move comes a day after former special counsel Robert Mueller warned about election meddling in 2020, saying Russia was laying the groundwork to interfere in the 2020 election “as we sit here.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had tried to get consent Thursday to pass a House bill that requires the use of paper ballots and includes funding for the Election Assistance Commission. It passed the House 225-184 with one Republican voting for it.

But McConnell objected, saying Schumer was trying to pass “partisan legislation.”

“Clearly this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent,” McConnell said.

Under the Senate’s rules any one senator can request consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object.

Schumer argued that if McConnell didn’t like that bill “let’s put another bill on the floor and debate it.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also asked for consent to pass legislation that would require candidates, campaign officials and their family members to notify the FBI of assistance offers from foreign governments.

McConnell also objected to that bill.

In his testimony before Congress on Wednesday, Mueller warned about continued Russian interference in U.S. elections.

“We are expecting them to do it again during the next campaign,” Mueller said.

Schumer cited Mueller’s testimony on Thursday as a prime example that more legislation is needed from Congress.

“It was important for all us to hear straight from Robert Mueller’s mouth that the threat from Russia and other foreign adversaries seeking to meddle in our elections is very real and still very much ongoing,” Schumer said.

“Mueller’s testimony was a clarion call for election security. Mueller’s testimony should be a wake-up call to every American, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, that the integrity of our elections is at stake. … This is all about the future of this country,” he added.

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Without change, chaos will continue

By George Smith

Partisan.

Party.

Politics.

Those are the elements that are governing this country and until elected officials – like Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and First District Rep. Louie Gohmert – start working to govern for the entire country instead of an off-balanced off-shoot of so-called conservatives, the cauldron of corruption and chaos the U.S. is immersed tight this minute in will continue.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind this nation’s wounds.”

Those words, written on a sheet of paper while riding in a steam-powered locomotive by Republican President Abraham Lincoln, were uttered one month before the end of the Civil War.

Today, this nation is in another civil war that, once again, pits father against son, brother against brother; it is tearing families, churches, purveyors of all religions, institutions of learning and neighbors apart. This modern war is an internal struggle among peers, pitting mindsets and single-issue policies and beliefs against one another with no regard for the position of agreeing to disagree or “live and let live.”

The war of today is a tragedy of the upmost importance to the future of the people, the country and of democracy. This war is not about slavery or states rights or populist ideas vs. established traditions; is about the survival of the United States of America, once the most powerful and benevolent on the planet, but no longer.

Followers of and believers in Donald J. Trump fall into four main categories: Citizens who want to end abortion by any means; those who believe the hype that Trump the Businessman knows how to run a country better than a politician; believers that Hillary Clinton and left-wing “fruit-loops” are to be destroyed, and;  haters…those that hate what they cannot understand, what they fear, hate the position they find themselves in the totem pole rankings of life or what they believe is an abomination according to Old Testament scripture.

Most citizens with common sense can understand the primary conservative  “abortion” argument: It is a ideological concept that goes to the heart and soul of each individual. It is totally valid to feel a kinship with the unborn…any unborn, just as it is valid to believe that politicians (mostly white, old men) should not be  implementing laws that govern what occurs between a woman and her doctor.

Those that believe Trump is “brilliant” businessman have a valid point if only dollars and property accumulated is the lone factor considered.

Hating Hillary, to many, is second-nature to many; she is not overly charismatic, not warm and cuddly (like President Clinton) and holds grudges until the sun revolves around the Earth. Even many people that voted for her twice get it.

The hate-anyone-gay (or hating immigrants, people of color or because of personal religion) is harder for many to understand. We all come from immigrant families (even Native Americas); this country is, like it or not, a cornucopia of the world’s people.

For more than four decades, I have written newspaper editorials and columns declaring that this country needed a businessman as president instead of a born-and-bred politician or military leader. Where my reasoning and writings fell short was that I failed to distinguish what type of businessman should be elected.

What I envisioned in my finite wisdumb (spelled correctly) was that a common-sense businessman who would gather cabinet heads and advisers from both parties, the best of the best who truly believed in the reasons the United States was founded. Party politics be damned! Let’s create a nation of which we can all be prpud.

The last president to do this exact execution of filling the nation’s most important offices and executive positions (the best of the best and even some who hted the very sight of him) was Abraham Lincoln. Doris Kerns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” is a masterful insight into a man who many career politicians mocked, yet when he died, they all mourned his passing.

There is no more “party of Lincoln”. There is no more Republican Party. The 2019 version is the party of Trump and those that support him – the Cruzes, Cronyns, Gohmerts, etc. – will someday look back on the blind followers of this narcissistic political chameleon and shake their heads in sorrow.

We are witnesses, day by day, story by story, of the end of the Republican Party, the strong political organization that now believes in whatever Trumps dictates in important rather than in what philosophical path the party has traditionally followed.

Mark it down: When Trump leaves office, now that he’s tasted real power (and not just power obtained by the almighty dollar), he will not go quietly into that good night. He will start DJT Network, keep his base supporters glued to this electronic spiel of mistrust and hate 24/7 and the third party he will start (Keep America Great!) will ensure the Republicans will never, ever again win a national election.

If you are a Republican, this is the path on your party is headed.

“…all the people who were with him each covered his head and went up weeping….” 2 Samuel 15:30

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Texas Shakespeare Festival Foundation

Texas Shakespeare Festival Foundation urges patrons and community members

to support the outstanding work of the Texas Shakespeare Festival (TSF)

by buying a raffle ticket for trip-for-two to Italy

Kilgore, TX In this last week of the exciting 2019 summer season of the Texas Shakespeare Festival, the Texas Shakespeare Festival (TSF) Foundation urges patrons and community members to support the work of the TSF by participating in the annual TSF summer raffle. 

This year’s raffle is a trip-for-two to Florence, Italy. Raffle tickets are $100 each, with only 350 tickets being sold. The estimated value of the trip is $6,000, including airfare and hotel.  The raffle drawing will take place during intermission of the final performance of the 2019 TSF season on Sunday, July 28.  Ticket holders do not need to be present to win.

A video with additional information about the Italy raffle and a link to the box office to purchase a ticket is available at http://www.texasshakespeare.com/.)

The Texas Shakespeare Festival, which was founded in 1986 by Artistic Director Raymond Caldwell, is now in its 34th consecutive season and is the only professional theatre in East Texas.

TSF performances take place in the Van Cliburn Auditorium in the Anne Dean Turk Fine Arts Center on the Kilgore College campus in Kilgore, Texas.

The entity hosting the Italy trip raffle is the Texas Shakespeare Festival (TSF) Foundation which is now in its 25th year of providing fundraising and volunteer support, along with the TSF Guild, for the Texas Shakespeare Festival.

The TSF Foundation was incorporated in 1994 as a not-for-profit 501c3 and is managed by a 19-member volunteer Board of Directors which is comprised of civic, business, and community leaders from throughout the East Texas region.  The Foundation’s sole purpose is to raise funds and provide volunteer services and community outreach to support the work of the Texas Shakespeare Festival and to provide a solid base to continue to build for the TSF’s future.

Christina Anderson, President of the TSF Foundation Board of Directors, shared, “The TSF Foundation is very honored to support the important cultural, artistic, and educational work that the Texas Shakespeare Festival does for our East Texas region and beyond.  Since 1986, the TSF has provided superb, live productions of masterpieces, musicals, and other great plays produced and performed by theater professionals who travel from New York, Los Angeles, and throughout our nation each year to work in the summer festival in Kilgore.” 

Ms. Anderson added, “We’re also very grateful to the individual and corporate contributors who have supported the work of the TSF and the educational TSF Roadshow for more than three decades, plus the countless volunteers, as well as other East Texas foundations who have donated generously, including the Rosa May Griffin Foundation which has supported the Texas Shakespeare Festival since its inaugural year.”

Ms. Anderson also underscored the deep appreciation that TSF and the TSF Foundation and Guild have for the strong, valued, mutually-beneficial partnership they have with Kilgore College through these many years.

The Texas Shakespeare Festival is truly a model for a successful collaborative effort.  TSF is a collaborative effort between the Festival, the TSF Foundation and Guild, and Kilgore College. 

Kilgore College, where the TSF is in residence, donates financial and in-kind contributions (including use of the Van Cliburn Auditorium) which amount to approximately 30% of the cost of the TSF each year.

The TSF Foundation raises money to support the operation of the TSF and the Guild, through its dues and volunteers, takes care of the hospitality of the acting company while they’re in Kilgore. The work of the TSF Foundation and Guild accounts for another 30% of the annual cost of the Festival.

The remaining 40% of the revenue needed to produce the summer Festival each year is made through ticket sales and programming by the Texas Shakespeare Festival itself. 

Dr. Brenda Kays, President of Kilgore College, echoed the sentiment with regard to the collaboration between Kilgore College, TSF, and the TSF Foundation and Guild. “Nothing worth achieving is ever achieved in isolation,” Dr. Kays shared. “Partnerships have allowed the Festival to continue its rich tradition of excellence and to flourish.   Proof that the Texas Shakespeare Festival is a valued component of the East Texas Arts Community lies in the extraordinary collaboration that exists between the College and the TSF Foundation and Guild.”

Funds raised by the TSF Foundation and TSF are used not only to assist with productions, but also to purchase needed equipment  that is used by both TSF and the Kilgore College Theater Department. In addition, costumes, props, and scenery made by the TSF professionals each summer are frequently used by the Kilgore College Theater Department for their productions during the school year.

Mathew Simpson and Meaghan Simpson, Associate Artistic Directors for the TSF, also serve as adjunct instructors of Kilgore College theater courses and guest directors for KC theater productions. They have also reinstated and expanded the very popular TSF Roadshow.  The TSF Roadshow provides valuable educational experiences and performances for more than 17,000 students in elementary and secondary schools throughout Texas.  Working with these students, in connection with the Roadshow, assists Kilgore College with recruitment possibilities.

The summer raffle is just one of the fundraising activities spearheaded each year by the TSF Foundation.  This year’s Italy trip is co-sponsored by A.P. and Susie Merritt of Kilgore and Richard and Christina Anderson of Marshall.

Raymond Caldwell, Founder and Artistic Director of the Texas Shakespeare Festival, shared, “The Festival could not survive without the vital support of Kilgore College, the TSF Foundation and Guild, and our loyal patrons. This year’s raffle for a trip to Italy is a major fundraiser to help the Festival accomplish our important annual fundraising goals. We thank everyone for their support.”

In addition to the summer raffle, individuals, businesses, and other foundations wishing to make a contribution to the TSF Foundation throughout the year can send a tax-deductible donation to the TSF Foundation at P.O. Box 2788, Kilgore, Texas 75663.

The 2019 Texas Shakespeare Festival summer season continues through July 28, with matinee and evening performances from Thursday through Sunday.  Box office (903) 983-8601.

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Words matter AND they can do damage

By George Smith

“Send her back!”

Three words. Eleven letters. 

Just three little words. But words that should strike a note of … what, exactly?

If you a traditional American (you know, a citizen with ancestors that came to this country looking for a new start, to escape persecution or famine or war), chances are you should either be chagrined, angry or sad at those followers of Donald Trump who used those three words at his recent rally in North Carolina.

If your emotional response was a shrug or a “whatever” thought, you are Trump-conditioned, an anomaly of the past three years that affect those that have to look down on someone for some reason, or who believe this is what we have and what we deserve for the 2016 election.

The president’s verbal, extremely personal attacks on U. S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, an American citizen from Minnesota, created an environment of raucous hatred disguised as crowd-mass frivolity at a recent Trump rally.

Call it was it is: A personal attack on an immigrant /refugee who is not a  a what is thought of as a traditional U.S. faith, and a person of color who dresses like few, if any, of our neighbors. The rally goer’s response to Trump’s earlier “Love it or leave” edict to the congresswoman was wrapped in a transparent veil of abject racism.

When confronted with the ugly result and severe backlash from his white nationalist-like statements about the four female progressives, three of whom were born in this country, Trump reverted to his most comfortable political tactic: He lied.

The day after the rally, after, reports indicated, his daughter ivanka and wife Melania, took him behind the proverbial barn for a revelation meeting, he said he tried to stop the chanting by “speaking quickly.” Big lie, that, and easy to ferret out the truth. He stood at the rally podium, trademark smirk in place, basking the the waves of “Send her back!” for 13 seconds.

Here’s where you go: “One Mississippi, two Miss….”  And during of the chanting regimen, he moved his head side to side in rhythm of the words.

By any measurement, he enjoyed the new rendition of “Lock her up!”, his legion’s tribute and rallying cry to Hillary Clinton prior to and even after the 2016 election.

In his most recent rally, Trump got the response he wanted from his minions in COT (Cult of Trump): Adoration in the form of mimicking his thoughts and actions, of picking up on his scattered stray thoughts turned loose from his verbal Mixmaster of words often found on eighth grade spelling tests.

On one level, Trump is a genius. He excels at creating fictional bugaboos and will o’ the wisps that manufacture myriad fears in the very souls of those with a heart susceptible to hate and who have a deep need to belong to…something.

Those that hated Clinton (and politicians in general) were looking for a non-politician who would take up the banner of the tired, the poor, the fearful. Those make up a majority of the 35-40 percent of Americans who avidly and blindly follow the person with a national stage and message of exclusion.

Trump knows what he is doing. He plays every decision to his base via tweet storms and televised rants and through belligerent, bombastic interviews. And, millions absorb every word as if it was a new form of the gospel.

Wait. Trump knows what he is doing? Does he really?

What if one of his edge-of-fringe followers decided to take action to please his master and tried to do harm to one of the four congresswomen who Trump has labeled as not American enough to exist in his country?  What would he do then?

He’d surely follow his pattern after a major misstep, like he did after the white nationalist killed a woman with a car in North Carolina, he would deny anything he said had anything to do with the dastardly deed. And the army of COT would nod and applaud him for whatever it is they think he has done that is good for the country.

This is where we are now. And it’s a sad, sad place in the history of this country.


“If you think he’s a racist, that’s up to you. I don’t!” — Lindsey Graham, just now

“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.” — Lindsey Graham, 2015

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Circumference of Me – Chapter 19

19 — Great bosses don’t give orders

You have arrived. You are a manager with umpteen people. Gender be damned, you are Da Man! Time to gear up, get your team focused on your priorities, to rise to the occasion, kick ass and take names, and whatever one hundred and thirteen other clichés you want to use. It’s time to give orders and watch people scurry to do your bidding.

Whoa! Back up.

First off, Management Emperor, don’t even think about giving orders. Avoid giving orders. Orders are for Third World dictators, not up-and-comers in the business world.

Great managers follow a different principle: “Give suggestions, not orders.”

Here’s the drill: People reporting to you are co-workers, not drones. They are your firm’s most valuable resource. They are not slaves; they are the ticket to your future. Treat them like valuable commodities. Better yet, treat them like relatives you really, really like.

Fine, got it. No orders. But, then what?

A great manager at his or her first departmental or project meeting would tell co-workers the following:

I don’t give orders. I offer suggestions. With those suggestions you have three choices:

  1. Do it, because it’s the right thing to do.
  2. Don’t do it, but give me a better idea and a plan how you can make it work.
  3. Don’t do it.

Nos. 1 and 2 are always acceptable. No 3 never is.

That sets a clear avenue for directions. It offers coworkers opportunities not only to be parts of the team, but to have input into solutions to problems or thorny projects. If you use the “suggestions, not orders” approach, you will empower the people you work with, acknowledge they will have good ideas, and guarantee that you will listen to them. You will lift them up, and at the same time set boundaries of protocol, punctuated by a request for their help.

       Can’t get much better than that.

Which brings up the inevitable question: What happens when an employee

embraces the third choice – just not doing what you suggested?

Make sure your co-workers understand: “If I have to ever give you an order,  that is never good for you or me –  because I don’t enjoy conflict.”

Clear. Concise. Understandable.

The birth and growth of a great manager is not a one-event occurrence. Learning the ability to communicate will always open one of the main pathways to success.

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Circumference of Me – Chapter 18

18 — Hiccups are no big deal

It’s important for managers to learn which mistakes are important and which are mere hiccups.

A hiccup is here and gone. It is not permanent. A single hiccup does no lasting damage and few people will remember it.

A business hiccup is (for example):

  • An e-mail sent without its intended attachment.
  • A typographical error in a report.
  • The wrong date on a document.
  • Missing a minor deadline.

There are major chasms between hiccups and certified disasters. It is a frightful

part of human nature that some people cannot differentiate between the two extremes. A temporarily misplaced report arouses the same reactions in some people as does an account lost to a competitor that shouldn’t have been lost.

For active, multi-tasking managers, hiccups are like mosquitoes in swampy areas. They are going to pop up no matter what you do. Business hiccups, while aggravating, don’t make or break careers. Those who do the hiccupping or evaluate their effect on the business may think so, however.

Swallow the hiccup by acknowledging it as a mistake, apologize if necessary, and get on to more important issues.

There will be bumps in your career path. A bump is a bump. Don’t make it bigger than it is and don’t allow it to ruin the journey.

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Circumference of Me – Chapter 17

17 — Navel-gazing is hazardous to health

While viewing your career future, there are four ways to focus your attention: Behind you, down, straight ahead, and up.

Except to reflect on mistakes and go over a laundry list of items learned from your experiences, there’s absolutely no reason to dwell on the past. Dredging up frivolously ridiculous events that look even more so in hindsight, personal decision-making foibles, and avoidable corporate faux pas just wastes time and valuable mental resources.

Your time would be more wisely spent replaying what you learned and how your lessons have improved your intellectual landscape.

Looking straight ahead – maintaining the status quo – normally would not advance one’s individual worth. It would instead signal professional acceptance of stagnation and eventually, degradation of position.

It’s perfectly acceptable to keep one’s eyes looking skyward toward loftier goals, larger and more important projects, and a title suitable to one’s abilities and aspirations. But fixing your gaze in that direction has its hazards. If you don’t pay attention to where you are headed, you can easily be tripped by unseen obstacles.

Looking down – navel-gazing, as it were – with excessive contemplation and unnecessary reflection on circumstances and events over which one has no control, or which don’t really help your role in the company, is simply a waste of time.

If you are going to indulge in navel-gazing, do it on your own time.

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