Opinion: President Donald Trump’s Oval Office speech yet another spin of broken record

By Kassie Boyd, editor-in-chief

Kassie Boyd, Editor-in-Chief

President Donald Trump began his first televised Oval Office speech in January with claims of “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.” The speech attempted to justify the 35-day partial government shutdown that left thousands of workers without pay, and reiterated his demands for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Simply put, there is no crisis along our southern border. According to a Border Security Metrics Reports compiled by the Department of Homeland Security in 2018, illegal border crossing apprehensions in 2017 were the lowest they’d been since 1971. That same report reveals that undetected illegal border crossings have dropped by approximately 800,000 from 2006 to 2016.

Though Trump’s claim that ninety percent of heroin enters the United States through our southern border is technically true, a 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment done by the D.E.A. revealed that most of this heroin is smuggled in cars via legal ports of entry, and physical barriers are already present in sectors with the highest percentage of heroin seizures.

The real crisis is not along the border but rather in the White House. On Jan. 25, President Donald Trump ended the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Approximately 800,000 federal workers labored without pay or were furloughed, and while the majority will be compensated, many relied on the regular income to support themselves and families.

However, federal workers are not out of the woods yet. The bill signed by President Trump offered Congress an ultimatum: “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

The American people have made abundantly clear that they value the wages of workers above a steel barrier. When asked about Trump’s next move, a poll conducted by CNBC revealed that 66 percent of Americans believed Trump should allow the government to reopen – even without proper funding for his wall.

In an age of unprecedented technological advancements, a wall is perhaps the least effective way to defend the border. House Democrats offered one generous deal after another. They even matched Trump’s $5.7 billion dollar border security budget provided that the money goes towards immigration judges and drones rather than a wall – though it was struck down by the Senate.

What President Trump has painted as Democrats’ unwillingness to compromise is nothing more than his inability to concede and explore other, more functional solutions.

Opinion: Why the Wall is necessary, not discretionary

By Kaitlyn Kozalla, features editor, and Dustin Steiger, A&E editor

In January, President Trump addressed the American people and the world from the Oval Office. During this address, he tackled the topic of the government shutdown, which started on December 22 and lasted over a month, and how the much-anticipated “wall” plays a role in the crisis on the southern border.

Features editor Kaitlyn Kozalla and A&E editor Dustin Steiger

President Trump commented on illegal immigration saying, “America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.” Approximately one million legal immigrants are accepted into the United States each year, while somewhere between 11.3 million to 22 million illegal immigrants are estimated to currently reside in our nation’s prosperity. The fact of the matter is, illegal immigration hurts hard-working Americans, burdens taxpayers, and undermines public safety.

America was always meant to be a land of opportunity, not of undeserved advantages. You have the ability to better yourself, not the right to have what you haven’t earned. This is one reason why the wall is such a crucial aspect to the betterment of our nation. As more and more impoverished immigrants flood in- many of whom who either provide little economic benefit to our society or who thrive on welfare, as made evident by the statistics provided by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) – the general condition of our economy and our society will naturally face a decline. An estimated $116 billion is spent annually due to the effects of illegal immigration, a statistic provided by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. According to the CIS, “Each illegal alien costs nearly $70,000 during their lifetime.” Now, consider this; Trump wants to raise between 5 to 6 billion dollars on the wall. Even if the wall did a terrible job and only stopped around 85,000 illegal immigrants in its entire lifetime, the wall would still pay for itself.

As for the notion that those coming illegally are merely looking for safety and sanctuary, the Mexican government has offered them this. How did they respond? By attacking the Mexican authorities and continuing their march towards the States. They aren’t merely here for protection. They’re coming for the supposedly “free” benefits our nation works hard for, and they don’t care how they get them. Thus, the hard-working citizens of America are forced to fund criminals. They refuse to follow the procedure and instead flood in illegally, many bringing with them drugs and violence. According to Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Leader in the House of Representatives, a third of the women in the caravan have been raped or “violently treated,” and yet, many Americans still don’t see this as a threat. Then, of course, there’s the issue of drug trafficking. As President Trump said in his address, ”Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War. . . Thousands (of) more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now. This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul.”

Obviously, not all of those crossing the border illegally are violent and aggressive. There are some that are hard-working and will put in the effort to help themselves and our society. However, there are many who aren’t so noble and conscientious. We want to help and to protect, but we simply cannot allow just anybody and everybody to enter without consequences. What does this mean? It means that action must be taken. Ignoring the situation at hand and turning a blind eye to this continuously evolving threat serves only to degrade and destroy our nation. Years ago, President Obama himself said that “we simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked.” Border security is not merely an option or a last resort. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that it’s a necessity, an essential aspect to the defense of our sovereign land and the safety of our people. It’s not partisan politics; it’s plain and simple protection. The government reopened on Jan. 25 of this year, but the threat still looms. If the situation continues down its current path, it’ll be up to the President to declare a national emergency in order to safely preserve our nation’s sovereign glory.

Column: President’s visit reinforces the ‘Divided States of America’

By Taylor Munce, sports editor

(Note: This is the third in a three-part series on the Trump rally in Erie on Oct. 10.)

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Taylor Munce, sports editor, The Panther Press

President Donald Trump came to Erie for a rally focused on promoting his campaign and fellow Republicans. Thousands of supporters, as well as many protesters, took to the streets of Erie to share their beliefs. I came as a journalist for the Panther Press and to experience how a Trump rally would feel for a Democrat like me. My experience can mostly be summed up in one word: uncomfortable.

The first person I interviewed was a protester. The woman was very pleasant when my colleague Dustin Steiger asked her opinion of the president. She calmly stated why she was upset with the president, citing things like his racism, sexism, and bigotry.

The next thing I encountered was getting to skip the long line of supporters trying to get in. Showing our press credentials, Dustin and I were instantly admitted and security checked us for any metals. Personally, I found this to be refreshing as I was panicking a few hours before about security and safety. I was worried about the possibility that I might be involved in a violent affair, such as the ones I’ve witnessed on television, where people have actively heckled and threatened journalists covering the event, many times at the urging of the president who has called them “dangerous and sick” and “the enemy of the people.

As soon as I arrived at the press area, I took note of my surroundings. Among the journalists present were reporters from the Washington Post, Fox News, the Erie Times-News, the Meadville Tribune, and many others. It was exciting to be in the midst of so many professional journalists from so many outlets. I also noticed the overhead display that flashed messages for those in attendance.

“If there is a protestor, simply hold your sign above your head and shout TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP. Do NOT touch the protestors and the police will take them out.” I found this unsettling. Though it may seem reasonable to President Trump, shouting at protesters does not seem like a good choice. Yelling in general does not get through to people as it causes chaos and misunderstandings, and angry people say things they later regret. Though I did not witness any protesters being removed, if this situation had occurred, I would have wanted to leave due to the mayhem that could have erupted and quickly become violent.

The overhead display also proclaimed: “Trump wants to protect your First Amendment along with your Second Amendment rights.” Of course, the First Amendment protects speech and the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms; however, it is well known that this president commonly refers to members of the press as  “enemies of the people.” I spoke to Paul Farhi of the Washington Post about this issue: “We are not the enemy of the people. We are the friend of the people. I believe that he [Trump] likes the attention; it helps his campaign. He only says things like that because it riles them [supporters] up,” Fahri said. It seems contradictory for President Trump to claim that he protects First Amendment rights, even though he himself cannot seem to accept that media outlets have the right to publish whatever they want.

During the rally, Trump emphasized that he isn’t focused on “putting money into Washington’s pocket.” This claim seems interesting in light of the fact that many sources have recently reported that Trump himself has already raised more than $100 million for his 2020 campaign.

Then he claimed that Democrats “are a party of crime” and they “only act out of anger and rage.” He mentioned them banging on the doors of the Supreme Court after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as an Associate Justice, and he claimed that Democrats don’t like the “principles this country was made on.” Shortly after this, he stated that he loves “all of America.” How can this be true if he condones and encourages hatred against an entire political party? More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton (about 2.9 million), but Trump won the election due to the electoral college vote. What about those 65,845,063 Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton? Does President Trump love them too? And if he does, then why demonize them and their party by calling them the “party of crime”?

At each mention of the Democrats or anyone closely related to them, the crowd would boo and Trump would nod in agreement. Now, it’s fine to disagree with people, but spreading hate in order to push your agenda is ridiculous, especially when both parties came together to create the principles our democracy was founded upon.  

There may not have been parties exactly like we have today when the Constitution was written, but the seeds of agreement and dissent that have made America great and led to compromise and progress were present, and to speak so negatively of those who disagree with you seems unnecessary.

Prior to the president’s arrival, Glenn Thompson, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district, said: “That’s what Americans do. We stand up for each other.” If that is what Americans do, then why is it that we are at a war with each other when it comes to politics, race, and gender, just to name a few divisive issues?

There were also instances during his speech where Trump encouraged his audience that they needed to vote an all Republican Senate. That seems odd to me, too. If it’s understood that not everyone can get along, then how would having an all Republican Senate reflect the country? If senators were all from the same party, would the United States turn into an oligarchy? If this were to happen, only the laws Republicans wanted would pass, and this would most decidedly not reflect the will of the people.  

In the midst of all this uncomfortable rhetoric, there were two moments where I felt positively connected to the people in the arena. One was the praying for those in the path of Hurricane Michael and the other was the honoring of veterans. All veterans were asked to stand up as everyone honored and praised them for their service. Pennsylvania Senator Michele Brooks said, “It’s because of them that we can be here today and that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.” Even though I disagree with most of what the candidates said at this event, I will admit that it was very fulfilling to have the veterans recognized for their service and to know that we were united in praying for those affected by the hurricane.

When the rally ended, I felt unsettled. Although I gained valuable insight into how to cover a political event, I was left feeling as though I was not wanted in the arena due to my opposing political views. In fact, I left feeling like the president should not be making people like me feel so disconnected. As the President of the United States of America, he should be uniting, not dividing, all Americans.

Column: President Trump stops in Erie to ‘Make America Great’

By Dustin Steiger, arts and entertainment editor

(Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the Trump rally in Erie on Oct. 10. Columns by Taylor Munce and Kaitlyn Kozalla will be published Thursday and Friday of this week.)

When I got into my car after school last Wednesday and headed towards Erie for President Trump’s rally, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how large the crowds would be, how fiercely the protestors would oppose, or how ecstatically the supporters would cheer. I didn’t know what our great President Donald Trump would say or what he’d do. I didn’t know if he’d leave with a rallying cry and thundering applause echoing from the stands or if he’d leave with a defiant resistance booing him off the stage.

There were a lot of unknowns tumbling through my mind as I headed into Erie. But by the day’s end, I wasn’t disappointed.

One of the first things I noticed as I arrived was the massive line that stretched out from the doors of the arena. Thousands of supporters stood there, with miscellaneous vendors selling Presidential apparel to the eagerly awaiting crowds. Protestors stood around sporadically, holding signs with sayings such as “Super-Callous-Fascist-Racist-Sexist-Braggadocious” and growling at Trump supporters, such as my colleague Kaitlyn Kozalla. Though we wanted to look around, we didn’t have time to see the sights. We were there to work.

We were handed our official press passes by security and led through the building to our specified area, a fenced-off section for registered journalists and other important guests. There were news anchors dressed in suits and ties, security guards, massive camera crews, and the whole nine yards. As far as I could tell, we were the only high school journalists in attendance. There we sat, with journalists from notable news outlets such as CNN, The Washington Post, and FOX NEWS mingling and working all around us. Although I did notice a few college journalists, one thing was certain: we were the odd-ones-out.

We still had quite a while to wait before Trump gave his speech. It was only five, and Trump was to speak at seven, so I had time to get some interviews.

Zachariah Lofgren, a high school junior from General McLane, was eager to see President Trump. “I would say Trump has made a positive impact in society,” he told me. “He is strong and stands up for the American people in the world and in the country itself. He is smart and knows how to keep America safe and build the economy.”

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Dustin Steiger, The Panther Press with Paul Farhi, The Washington Post

Possibly the most impressive conversation I had at the rally was with Paul Farhi, a journalist for The Washington Post. “He [Trump] knows how to get the crowd going,” Farhi said. “There’s always this sort of call and response like you hear in church.” He cited Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and how even now people love to shout “Lock her up!” “It’s formulaic,” he explained, “but they eat it up. These people love him, and he gives it back to them.”

A short time later, an excited roar filled the stadium, and I knew that the president had arrived. He talked about a wide range of subjects, covering everything from Kavanaugh to coal to “Crooked Hillary” (at the mere mention of her name, there arose from the crowd a nearly unanimous “boo,” just like Paul Farhi had predicted). The midterm elections were something he discussed with fervor, encouraging the people to vote Republican. He mentioned the drop in taxes and how it has improved the lives of the American people.  Then he talked about the massive drop in the unemployment rate since he took office. He also expressed his concern about the dreaded Hurricane Michael with a moment of silence before continuing.

“This has been the greatest revolution ever to take place in our country,” President Trump said. “This election is about keeping America safe… strong… proud… and free.”

It was inspiring. You could see it in the crowds, an admiration for the most influential man in the country, and most likely in the world. There was no restraint or fear in President Trump’s voice. He didn’t hold back. His words struck at the arguments of his opposition, his influence radiant with his promises and power.

“We will never give in,” he told us. “We will never give up, we will never back down, and we will never surrender, and we will always fight for victory. Because we are Americans. And our hearts bleed red, white, and blue.”

And, just like that, the speech was over. His final words echoed in my ears as he left. It all seemed so short in hindsight, though there was no denying the impact he had on those in attendance.

Our president has made an evident and positive change in America. He has provided for the people by offering them protection and bolstering the booming economy. He has enforced laws that have been ignored for so long and has expounded on them, working to make our country great. He has moved our nation’s money back to where it belongs- the pockets of the people- and, according to promiseskept.com, he “removed the red tape” that has held our country back. He’s kept his word, and, with any luck, he will continue to keep America great.

Overall, it was an incredible experience. We heard viewpoints from all over the country and all over the political spectrum, standing beside nationally acclaimed journalists and listening to the words of our powerful and prominent president. Our president showed us who he truly is at the rally; he’s a Titan, a powerful and influential force standing for justice, rallying for prosperity, and fighting for a better America.

Above: Taylor Munce, Dustin Steiger, and Kaitlyn Kozalla. 

Opinion: Should teachers be armed?

by Kaitlyn Kozalla, staff writer

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Kaitlyn Kozalla, staff writer

In wake of yet another devastating school shooting, thoughts have resurfaced on how to prevent these unfortunate events from happening again. Many people have adopted the #NeverAgain motto in their tweets, implying the need to end gun violence and increase school safety. Surrounding this remark and many others is one question, “Should teachers be armed?” Regardless of partisan opinion, the media has been blowing up for either armed or unarmed teachers.

Since the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Donald Trump has spoke on Twitter about fake news and his intentions for the future of school safety. “I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC.  What I said was to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot would not be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!”

We protect banks, prisons, government officials, and celebrities with guns. Is that more important than protecting the future of America? “Maybe we should protect our schools like the super wealthy protect their cash,” said Steven Crowder, a conservative political commentator. Celebrities lecture Americans on guns, yet what protects them? Guns. Can you imagine if every school were as protected as the Oscars? One of the most vocal celebrities on gun control is the rapper Eminem. “They love their guns more than our children,” the rapper said as he slammed the NRA and accused gun owners. Maybe “the real slim shady” should sit down and take into account his own unlawful past involving firearms. Is this who should be petitioning for anti-armed schools?

Do I think schools should have guns tomorrow? No. But I do believe teachers who have had extensive training, who have shown a strong commitment to their job, and  who have shown themselves to be mentally capable, should be allowed to carry a firearm on school property. When it comes to basics, an active shooter outside of a school will find a way in, and law enforcement can’t always show up in time to stop the number of casualties from growing, or stop the shooting all together.

There are 14.5 million active concealed carry permits in the United States. People trust armed citizens walking in streets, in churches, and in businesses. There are no riots about armed civilians except when it come to the topic of putting guns in schools. On Nov. 5, 2017, a mass shooting occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. An armed civilian, a former NRA instructor, used his AR-15-style rifle after hearing gunfire, and confronted the shooter. As horrific as the shooting was, it would’ve been much worse if the civilian did not intervene before the authorities reached the church. Having someone who knows what they’re doing inside an event can potentially lower the number of casualties.

The average response time for a police call is around twenty three minutes, while the average response of a handgun is 1750 feet per second (fps). What would you rather have protecting children, a call that could sacrifice lives or a trained inside source who could stop the massacre? How many more times do we need to hear about a mentally unstable gunman walking into a school shooting? How many more lives will be sacrificed before everyone wakes up and prepares our school officials to take action? Arm teachers, give them that right to have a fighting chance. A gunman is less likely to walk into a school knowing teachers are armed.

Opinion: Should teachers be armed?

by Kassie Boyd and Hannah Nicholson, news editor and opinion editor

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Kassie boyd, news editor (left) and Hannah Nicholson, opinion editor (right)

Following the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there is a lot of debate on how to prevent and protect students from future shootings. One of the most controversial methods, supported by President Donald Trump, is arming teachers with guns. Many of those who do not support this method do so due to concerns for student safety.

Guns are dangerous; this is a fact. Why would we want more weapons inside a building full of children and in the hands of adults whose sole purpose is to educate their students?

The risk of human error is too high. According to the New York Times, a firearms discharge report released by the NYPD in 2006 revealed that only 103 of 364 bullets fired intentionally by officers, with no return fire, hit their target. How can we expect teachers to neutralize a threat in a high stress environment when professional and competent law enforcement officers often can’t?  

According to the Center for Education Reform, students outnumber teachers 16 to one. A group of students, or even a single one, could overpower a teacher. The weapon has the potential to end up back in the hands of the student.

Besides the concern that a student could do harm with a gun, we must consider the possibility of a teacher using the weapon against the children. No one wants to consider that possibility, but teachers aren’t exempt from being affected by mental illness. Financial, family, and job stressors can create a molotov cocktail of emotions that could have deadly potential.

In addition, many teachers are uncomfortable with being armed. No one goes into the field of education thinking that one day they might have to take a life. A teacher’s job is to teach. “I personally would not want to carry a firearm in school. I wouldn’t want to have that responsibility,” said art teacher Heather Papinchak. “I could not take down a shooter.” Teachers have lives; they have families and friends that want them to come home safely every night just like the students.

Multiple teachers at Saegertown disagree with the movement to arm teachers.  “I don’t believe that any teacher should be armed at school,” said English teacher Bill Hetrick. “There’s lots of reasons. Eighteen percent of bullets fired from police officers [during a gunfight where a perpetrator is shooting back] actually hit their target, I can’t imagine teachers having that. It creates much more of a risk than a benefit.”

The truth is that many public school across America are dangerously under-resourced. Kids often do not have regular access to guidance counselors, nurses, or trained professionals who could help them with issues going on in and outside of school. Classes are too big for teachers to form personal relationships with students. Proper materials and guidance are an essential part of maintaining a school’s healthy environment, far more than giving teachers firearms and ammunition. “Arm me with books, with supplies, with resources,” Mr. Hetrick said.

McCutchen trade creates roller coaster emotions for Pirates fans

by Nick Archacki, staff writer

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Nick Archacki, staff writer

As a Pirates fan, I believe it is time to touch on what has been a very tough start to the year for Pirates fans around the world with the trade of five time MLB All-Star and 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen’s trade to the San Francisco Giants on Jan. 15 created anger amongst Pirates fans as their star player and the face of the Pirates franchise was traded away. The Pirates received a disappointing and unfair trade deal from the Giants, receiving two low profile players along with a low amount of cash, for the amount of love, talent, and pride McCutchen gave to Pirates fans as well as fans having the same connections to McCutchen. In addition, just three days prior to the McCutchen trade, Pirates ace pitcher Gerritt Cole was traded to the Houston Astros, making Pirate fans ever more frustrated.

McCutchen was drafted by the Pirates in 2005 as a first round pick and had a successful as an Indianapolis Indian, the AAA Pittsburgh Pirates farm team, prior to starting in the MLB. The 5’10” rookie started his first game as a Pirate on June 4, 2009 with a hit in his first at bat in the big leagues, brought in an RBI and scored three runs in their victory against the New York Mets. McCutchen’s performance gave Pittsburgh hope that their team might have a rising star who would bring their team out of the dust and into the spotlight. Five years later, the Pirates and their fans were able to see that dream come true as McCutchen led the Bucs to the playoffs in 2013, 2014, and 2015 after a twenty year playoff drought.

McCutchen was the biggest star for the team ever since Willie Stargel, changing the team from being one of the worst in the MLB for many years to one the best in the National League. As McCutchen will be starting a new career and life in San Francisco, he has been very excited and emotional about his new life and how much he cares for the city of Pittsburgh and his Pirate fans. The day the trade was announced, McCutchen wrote a touching tweet to his fans on Twitter: “Pittsburgh. My Home. My Fans. My City. The place that raised me and helped mold me into the man I am today. You will 4ever be in my heart. A tip of the cap to all who have been on this journey with me. With Love and respect, Cutch.”

McCutchen also wrote an emotional article to Pittsburgh for The Players Tribune saying, “It’s just a trade. It’s not an eraser to my time as a Pirate, and it’s definitely not a goodbye to the city of Pittsburgh. My time playing for this team… it doesn’t go away, just because I’m going to play for another. If you see me, say hey and maybe throw a “Cutch!” in if you’re in the mood. I’ll be the guy who looks familiar, walking around like he knows the place with a few fresh tears, and a big ol’ smile with San Francisco on his shirt, and Pittsburgh in his heart.”

As the years went on, McCutchen created many memories for Pittsburgh Pirates fans to cherish for the rest of their lives including his performance in his first ever game as a Pirate, his fantastic walk-off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park in 2015, and his first ever grand-slam in his career in 2017.  Us Pirates fans will remember these moments forever, but sadly we will most likely never see him again evolve as a player in a Pirates uniform and all we have to share now with friends, family, and fellow Bucco fans are McCutchen’s memories as a Pirate, which is going to be more than difficult to see him not at PNC Park playing in center field or building our inner excitement as McCutchen would be coming up to bat.  For Pirate fans all around, it’ll especially be hard to see Cutch at PNC Park this year playing the game he loves in the city he loves, wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey. Just remember these words from McCutchen: “Pittsburgh…It’s Home. It Will Always Be Home.”