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Parker: What are you hiding, Mr. President?


Conspiracies. Secret societies. Witch hunts.

During the past year, we’ve heard reference to all of the above to explain away any suggestion of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.

Allegedly, there’s a secret society within the Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at deposing President Trump. This bit of conspiracy theorizing is thanks to some 50,000 text exchanges between two FBI officials involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation—Peter Strzok and Lisa Page—who were deeply critical of Trump during the campaign, even mentioning a now-debunked hush-hush society. At least one text also suggested that the two were dedicated to preventing Trump’s election.

It is little wonder that Trump and many of his fellow Republicans concluded that the investigation is corrupt. But then, the two were equally aghast at the prospect of Bernie Sanders’ election. That they mocked the selection of a “Duck Dynasty” star to speak at the Republican National Convention is hardly conclusive evidence of malice. That they are fools seems incontestable, but whether this is enough to condemn the whole agency or to impugn the investigation is definitively not.

There are lots of other dots in this constellation of rumor and innuendo, as well as documented facts and events that can be easily corroborated. Objectively, it is neither conjecture nor conspiracy to observe that the president strikes a defensive pose every time a well-sourced story reveals something that could seem incriminating. Indeed, he has become Clintonesque, reflexively dodging and covering up, whether he needs to or not.

“Fake news,” has become the car alarm of Trump’s administration—meaningless and loud. Thus, the question is whether Trump is hiding something, an obvious inference, or whether his objectively observable narcissistic personality means he can’t tolerate even a suggestion that he may be at fault. The narcissist’s first instinct is always to blame others. Combined with his excessive need for admiration, another narcissistic trait, it is conceivable that Trump punches back as a function of a personality disorder.

Whatever the verdict, either possibility inspires shivers.

Following are the facts thus far:

First, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last May—after, according to Comey, Trump had asked him for loyalty and to drop the probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose three-week tenure ended upon revelations that he had lied about conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador. Flynn subsequently pleaded guilty to lying in exchange for his cooperation with the Russia investigation.

Whatever Romeo and Juliet may have fantasized, this episode is factual.

Trump also asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into possible collusion. But Sessions did recuse himself for sound reasons and, for a brief spell, became a target of Trump’s Twitter feed.

Then Trump began pressuring Sessions to fire acting-FBI Director Andrew McCabe, tweeting that McCabe’s wife, Jill, had received $700,000 from the Clintons for her 2015 run for a Virginia state Senate seat. His implication was that McCabe couldn’t possibly be objective if his wife was supported by the Clinton machine. Life teaches us that untrustworthy people or people lacking personal integrity always suspect that others are the same. The truth is, Jill McCabe received about $500,000 from a political action committee affiliated with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Though true that Bill Clinton and McAuliffe are talk-everyday friends, the conclusion that McCabe is, therefore, a dishonest broker seems a long and winding road to a dead end. His wife, for what it’s worth, lost.

Then, a few days ago, reports surfaced that Trump had ordered the firing of Mueller last June. When White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit rather than carry out the command, the president backed off. Meanwhile, we also learned that Mueller wants to interview Trump about Flynn, Comey and the president’s outreach to several top Republicans to quickly end the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own investigation into possible Russian collusion in the election.

So what is one to think? In these instances when Trump has felt threatened, he has fired or sought to fire investigative chiefs and has apparently pressured others to either end probes or, in Sessions’ case, implicitly to intercede. None of this is proof that he has done anything wrong. In fact, some would say he has acted well within his powers and has the right to drain the swamps as alligators permit.

But you’d be a damned fool not to conclude that Donald Trump has something to hide.

Your Views: Team Trump response to question about Mueller disturbing

I was listening to an interview of a President Trump representative about a report that Trump had said that special council Robert Mueller should be fired. The question then turned to a concern the Trump representative might have regarding the moral question of Trump's alleged action. The representative's reply was that people aren't concerned about morals but about what gain they are getting in their pocketbooks with the new tax plan. She then went on to talk about the new tax plan. This statement deeply disturbed me. If she really believes this, then she has a very low opinion of the American public. What would be even more disturbing is if it is true.



Guest Views: Allowing the petroleum industry to regulate itself is a formula for disaster

In a giveaway to Big Oil, the Trump administration’s proposal to ease safety regulations on the industry that were adopted after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is a mistake with potentially deadly consequences. At the same time, the administration gave another gift to oil companies by eliminating a tax they previously paid to clean up their own catastrophic oil spills.

Score two for Big Oil. The administration’s enthusiasm for rolling back environmental regulations has translated into a policy victory for the American Petroleum Institute, the leading lobbyist for U.S. oil and gas companies. The API writes the policy, and the Trump administration applies it.

The API opposed the two offshore drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster that killed 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The rules tightened controls on blowout preventers, devices that are intended to prevent explosions in undersea oil and gas wells. They also required that outside parties certify that the safety devices worked under extreme conditions.

Regular inspections might seem onerous to businesses big and small, but they are essential to keeping the public safe. St. Louisans saw last year what happens when businesses don’t comply with rigorous inspection schedules. Four people died after a faulty high-pressure hot water tank in a building near Soulard exploded and crashed into a nearby business. City regulators failed to close down the equipment, and the company failed to replace it or adequately repair it.

The director of the Interior Department’s safety bureau says that reducing the regulatory burden on industry will encourage increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining high safety and environmental standards. The nation’s worst environmental disasters came from lax regulation.

What’s behind the push for deregulation is the industry’s opposition to costly safety rules. Paring them back may spur domestic offshore drilling, but there are so many other environmental concerns with drilling in federal waters that Republican and Democratic governors in states along the east and west coasts oppose it.

They were outraged when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke exempted Florida with the flimsy reason that he liked Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

The administration also eliminated a 9 cents-a-barrel tax on companies selling oil in the United States, which generated an annual average of $500 million for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which was established in 1986 to make sure taxpayers weren’t left holding the bag in the aftermath of a catastrophe such as the Exxon Valdez spill. It’s easy to see that Big Oil has a friend in the White House.

Only a reckless leader would allow any industry to set its own regulatory policy. President Donald Trump has shown little interest in the nation’s history of environmental disaster. As a result, he seems likely to repeat it.

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Other Views: Give students the skills they need for the 21st century

As I write today about the classrooms of 2018, I can’t help but reflect on the 42 years I taught in middle and high school. Gone are the blackboards, overhead projectors, and televisions that used to assist in teaching.

They have been replaced by digital whiteboards and interactive technology, which make the classroom more collaborative and enhance the ability of students to learn critical thinking, communication and technology skills.

Yet even with such advanced integration, teachers remain the most important way for students to learn and retain information. We will always need well-trained, dedicated professionals to guide the way.

As a teacher, I would often ask myself, “Don’t I impact students’ learning with my methods? Do I need all of this technology?” Parents who have been out of high school for 20 years or more may lament how technology has changed education and ask, “What’s wrong with the way I learned?”

The fact is that technology has advanced since those days and will continue to advance. We do a disservice to our students if we don’t maximize the benefits of technology in all disciplines in the classroom.

If teachers teach the same way they did 15 and 20 years ago, their students miss out on so many learning opportunities. To fully utilize technology in our schools, three things must happen. First, there must be the infrastructure to have a robust network and enough internet bandwidth to support all of the devices in all of the school buildings. If we want teachers and students to use technology, it must work fast and consistently, or they will not use it.

Second, we must provide proper professional development. By providing a variety of training and mentoring opportunities, teachers will be more willing to gain new skills. Training and learning opportunities must be available throughout the year.

Third, in order to fully implement and integrate technology, we must provide continued financial support, both from the school district and from the state.

The state needs to make a commitment to expand broadband service to all areas of Wisconsin, and local districts need to continue to support their teachers with technology coaches, who should become a part of each building’s culture. When teachers don’t feel supported, then technology integration will decline.

It is the job of schools to teach the skills needed to keep Wisconsin moving forward. Currently more people are leaving Wisconsin than moving here. Within five years, 65-year-olds are projected to outnumber 18-year-olds. Wisconsin is expected to need an additional 45,000 workers in the next seven years for jobs in health care, information technology, the sciences, sales, customer service and other high-demand fields.

Rather than look outside our state, let’s equip our schools with the technology they need for all subject areas. Let’s graduate more students and keep them here in Wisconsin with the knowledge and skills our businesses need.