Category Archives: Nick Shepard

Pro Versus Cons: Donald Trump’s First Year

by Nicholas Shepard – Staff Writer

Month Achievement Failure

January Trump nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who would be seated with a vote of 54-45 on April 7th. The highly anticipated travel ban, which barred entry to the U.S. from immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries, was blocked by a federal judge in Washington state.

February Trump spoke to a joint session of congress on February 28th, which some saw as a successful attempt to unite the country while also pushing his own agenda. Michael Flynn, the shortest-serving National Security advisor in the post’s history, resigned after 24 days following reports he had lied to Vice President Pence about meetings with Russians he’d had.

March Officially proclaimed March, 2017, as Women’s History Month The doomed GOP healthcare plan is revealed by House Republicans on March 6th.

April Trump’s supreme court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is confirmed following a vicious fight and rule change by Senate Republicans. A PR failure more than anything else, Trump launched a missile strike in Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad, prompting outrage from not just liberal doves but also conservatives who claimed it was against Trump’s America First message.

May On the flip side, those in Trump’s loyal 35% base saw Comey’s firing as an important step towards shutting down the false and phony Democratic hoax of the Russia investigation. On May 9th, Trump orders the firing of FBI Director James Comey, which only darkened the cloud of possible collusion with Russia over his administration, prompting accusations of obstruction of justice and the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel in the Russia investigation.

June Fulfilling a big campaign promise, Trump begins the process of pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which he touted as a waste of trillions of American taxpayer dollars towards a fake cause. Comey testified before the Senate on June 7th, calling out the White House for “lies, plain and simple”, and saying he was fired with the intention of obstructing the investigation.

July Trump’s appearance at the G20 summit in Germany is widely Information on the now-infamous June 2016 meeting

seen as a successful first meeting for him with many world leaders. with Russians and Donald Trump Jr. came to light, wherein Trump Jr. was to find dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians. In July also came the killing of the GOP healthcare plan at the hands of loyal Republican John McCain, and a mass exodus of White House staff.

August Trump, in visiting hurricane-ravaged Texas, is seen as more presidential than he had yet, and his approval ratings saw a bump. Trump fails to condemn the neo-Nazis responsible for the death of a counter-protestor in Charlottesville, prompting bipartisan outrage and rebuke of him.

September Fulfilling to his base some of his rhetoric against immigrants, Trump announces that he will end DACA in six months unless congress comes up with a solution. Again on the flip side, Trump gets backlash for his decision on DACA by many prominent Democrats and Republicans, such as Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.

October Trump begins the fulfillment of another campaign promise, the “ripping up” of the Iran Deal, by not re-certifying the deal and, once again, kicking the can to congress. On October 30th, former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are indicted by Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller, appearing to bring the revelation of collusion one step closer.

November Trump visits multiple Asian nations in a 12-day trip, intending to raise pressure against North Korea’s nuclear program and push for more intense sanctions from all countries. On the election off-year, state legislatures and governorships are swept up in the “Blue Wave”, which many saw as a rebuke against Trump’s first year to date.

December On December 15th, Trump signs the GOP tax plan into law, which passed in the senate 51-48, with no Democratic support. This is the first major legislative victory in Trump’s first year, and the first major change in the U.S. tax code since the Reagan administration. On December 12th, Trump-backed Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore loses to Democrat Doug Jones in an Alabama special election, due to massive Democratic turnout in another stunning rebuke of the President.

Senate Bill Aims to Expand Student Press Protections

by Nicholas Shepard – Web Editor

A new bill concerning our journalistic rights and continued excellence in the Falcon Flyer, WA Senate Bill 5604, is designed to protect and expand on the rights of school newspapers throughout the state. The bill was introduced by Democratic Floor Leader Senator Marko Liias of the 21rd legislative district on January 26, 2015 – yes, almost two years ago – and still, regardless of the benefits the bill would provide if signed into law, has stalled yet again.

The bill seeks to increase the power – but with it, the responsibility – of the students in charge of the paper. Under 5604, officials are permitted only to prohibit media that is considered libel or slander, as defined by the bill; an unwarranted invasion of privacy; obscene or indecent as defined by the federal communications act; or incites students to commit unlawful acts, violate school regulations, or cause material or substantial disruption of the operation of the school.

Political expression of students in their school papers is also clearly defined as not a use of public funds for political interests, in the bill, and any student or their parents can file complaints due to perceived violation of the aforementioned rights.

While 5604 did reach a vote and pass with a majority in the Washington State Senate on February 20, 2015, less than a month after introduction, but stalled at the caucus stage after a hearing before the House Education Committee. It has been repeatedly re-introduced and retained by resolution but so far hasn’t made significant progress.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Sparks Hope for December Release

by Nick Shepard – Web Editor

After the new trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, was released on Oct. 9th, theories have spread like wildfire through all facets of media about the seemingly huge reveals in the trailer. There are multiple points in the two-and-a-half minute video where big plot twists are implied, leaving it up to the viewer to interpret how literally to take them. Far too many things occurred that could be hugely revealing to cover them all, so only the biggest will be touched on.

One of the focuses of the movie is expected to be Rey’s lineage – and the trailer helped to fuel this theory. Her voice is heard over images of Luke’s island, explaining how “something inside me has always been there, then I was awake, that I need help.” She appears to shock Luke by cracking an enormous rock face they’re on, prompting him to admit: “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then – it does now.” There are multiple things he could be talking about here – he could be directing his sentence at either Rey or Snoke, as it has been demonstrated that each of them are terrifically powerful and Force-sensitive. And when he talks about the one time before that he saw the raw strength, it seems like he would be talking about when he trained Kylo Ren in the Jedi arts. However, it is entirely possible and even maybe more likely that he was talking about his near-death at the hands of Emperor Palpatine. He got away from that with only a bad shock, and many theorize now that Rey could either be a descendant of Palpatine or the Skywalker family, or even a reincarnation of Anakin or Sidious himself. On a side note, her fighting style in The Force Awakens was hauntingly similar to Palpatines, in her repeated stabbing motions and sheer aggressiveness.

Ren’s future will also play a large part in the film; “Let the past die,” he exclaims as he smashes his helmet against a wall. “Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you’re meant to be.” His mother, General Leia, is shown looking off fearfully into the distance as he appears to contemplate taking a shot at her ship from within his TIE Silencer. What the trailer tries to hint here is that Ren is the one to bring about Leia’s inevitable end, but of course movie trailers are historically misleading.

Skipping to the end of the trailer, it cuts to silence, and as an image of Rey appears, she says in a shaky voice, “I need someone, to show me my place in all this.” Ren is then shown in similar lighting to Rey, holding out his hand as if offering her help. Again, this scene must be taken with a grain of salt, as if something huge like Rey’s corruption were to occur, it is unlikely it would be revealed in a trailer two-and-a-half months before the movie is released.

There are a boundless number of ways the movie could end up going – Rey’s corruption to the dark side, Kylo Ren’s redemption to the light, or both teaming up to go after Snoke. But at this point, the only thing certain is that The Last Jedi is going to leave fans across the world screaming, for good or for bad.

Spokane Devestated By School Shooting

by Nicholas Shepard – Web Editor

On September 13th, Caleb Sharpe came to school with two weapons, both of which belonged to his father and he had taken without permission; an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle and a .32-caliber handgun. Hi rampage that followed resulted in the death of one student and the non-fatal shooting of three others. Freeman High School, where he had just begun his sophomore year, is about ten miles southeast of Spokane.

Other students at Freeman High School told authorities that Sharpe had said he was “going to do something stupid and might get killed or sent to jail”. He had brought notes on various school shootings to school on previous occasions, and reportedly watched the documentary “Mind of a Rampage Killer”, about 10 times.

The victim of Sharpe’s attack, fellow student Sam Strahan, was shot first in the abdomen and then in the cheek, and there is evidence to suggest that Strahan was one of various specific targets Sharpe had in mind. Detectives found a yearbook while searching his home, in which 26 students’ photos, including Strahan’s, were marked with “X Kill”. Different notes Sharpe took were also found, which included statements such as “Killing is fun and I enjoy it,” “I am the one who deserves to live,”, and “I am smarter than the cops.”

Strahan had allegedly been friends with Sharpe in the past, but in recent years they had drifted apart. Sharpe’s intention, he told detectives, was to teach everyone a lesson about bullying and what it can do to a person. “Sharpe said the plan went exactly as intended,” as detectives wrote in court documents. As of now no evidence suggests that Sharpe was suicidal or intended to end his life after committing the shooting.

Witnesses reported that Strahan attempted to talk down Sharpe, which is when he began shooting. After Sharpe shot Strahan he fired into a group of girls, hurting three of them, before being overpowered by a janitor.

Seniors Take Issue with Yearbook Photos

IMAG0482by Nick Shepard – Web Editor

There’s a tradition here at Kentlake, one among many, and one that students look forward to from the moment they walk into the gym for pictures freshman year, where they see some senior with wacky hair and thick eyeliner in line with their friends. They can’t wait for the time three years in the future when they’ll be getting professional senior photos done, and thus do not have to care about what’s going on their ID as it isn’t going in the yearbook.

This tradition was violated.

There are also rights guaranteed under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, rights which were upheld during the 1969 Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines. The justices spoke 7-2 that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate”; as long as the student is not causing a disruption or harming other students, teachers, or school property, they cannot be forced to act or look a certain way.

Those rights were violated.

I was one of many students who, upon entering the gym for photos, was ordered to change how I look to conform to a certain image the school had chosen – I was ordered to immediately remove the black lipstick I was wearing; a fellow senior, Trenton Curtis, was ordered to remove the fishing hat he had decided to wear that day. Please note that it is school policy that hats may be worn, again as long as they are no distraction.

The First Amendment is what guarantees us our freedom of speech – if something doesn’t sit well with a student, they can talk about it. If they support a certain political candidate or public figure, then they can wear a shirt supporting that person. The point is you are not only allowed but are encouraged to express yourselves in these ways, so why can’t we do so in a way that will affect even less people than the other ways?

The point is, there’s a word for those in charge who force certain opinions or actions upon their subordinates. The most infamous example took place about 80 years ago – there are parts of the world where you can still see them.

They’re called fascists.

No, they didn’t threaten bodily harm. They threatened the very fabric of our society – our sacred principle of freedom of expression and speech, the solid foundation for our constitutional democracy. Without it we are sheep. We go with the flow and conform to the status quo. Anyone can talk big and encourage individuality and independence, but if they don’t lead by example then why bother? What I glean from the school’s actions is that everyone must be the same, like me.

There can be no expression.

There can be no freedom.

Bombing Displays Necessary Leadership Despite Controversy

by Nick Shepard – Staff Reporter

Much controversy has arisen in recent weeks following President Trump’s green light on the use of military force against the Syrian Assad regime on April 6. The President’s order came in retaliation for the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians two days earlier. Even though the chemical attack left 89 people dead, including many children, and fully justified a return attack, plenty of people are going after Trump for acting on not enough information.
First, one thing needs to be set straight: the Assad regime did use Sarin gas against its own people. The main argument those opposed to Trump’s action give is that there is no proof that it was the Assad regime and could just as easily have been ISIS. But at least 10 victims of the attack were analyzed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons soon after their deaths, and all indicated signs of having been exposed to Sarin or a similar substance.
The Ministry of Defense also announced on April 13 that tests had been conducted in British labs on several blood and hair samples from victims of the attack, and all again tested positive for Sarin.
Russia, Syria’s main ally, has made claims that a regular Syrian airstrike had hit a terrorist weapons depot, and that had released the substances contributing to the mass death – but if Russia is still a credible source of information for world affairs, then I guess they did not meddle in the U.S. election at all.
Now that is clear; it isn’t a question whether or not it was Assad and his regime that did the killing. It is only a question of whether or not military retaliation was justified.
While it is difficult for me to voice support for any controversial thing the Trump administration does, this was the right choice. If arguably the most powerful and well-equipped nation on the planet sits idly by following the slaughter of civilians, and with the use of chemical weapons, nothing is off the table for people like Assad.
During both world wars and most conflicts since, there has been a mutual understanding between combatants that if they deploy chemical weapons, they can prepare to have an equal or greater level of destruction used against them. Much as the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction kept us on the brink but not over the edge of nuclear war during the Cold War, the understanding on chemical weapons saved the world from many awful atrocities that could have occurred in the last century or so.
Under that unspoken agreement, it could be argued that we went easy on Syria. Assad could have expected to be wiped out of existence after what he did – instead of simply ‘degrading or destroying’ sections of the Syrian airbase from whence the plane carrying chemical weapons was said to have departed.
The Russians that were said to have been present at the site of the U.S. strike were given a one-hour notice and according to the Syrian state news they were not among the six killed at the airbase.
Overall, the act committed by the Assad regime was undeniably a gross violation of international law, and if there is any line that can be crossed to provoke military action from us, then Assad crossed it, kept running, and didn’t look back.

Trump’s New Healthcare Plan: Pulled Before Vote


by Nick Shepard – Web Editor

The World’s Greatest Health Care Plan, introduced by Texas U.S. Representative Pete Sessions on March 1, is the GOP health care plan that President Trump and many congressional Republicans touted over the course of the 2016 campaign, but in weeks following it’s release it has encountered its share of hurdles. As of now, it has been officially pulled and is unlikely to be revived in any form.
The plan has been dubbed ‘Obamacare Lite’ by some conservatives, because of its great number of similar aspects to the Affordable Care Act. While the bill does restrict the expansion of Medicaid, health care for those impoverished, much more than Obamacare did, it is extremely close to Obamacare in its actual content; how it’s paid for is where it differs.
As soon as it came out, the bill was endorsed by the president, who said on the 17 that “We are going to have a health care plan that’s second to none… These folks were ‘no’s’ yesterday, and now every single one is a ‘yes.'”, speaking of several GOP legislators who he spoke with that week.
For a majority in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan needed 215 votes. The republicans enjoy a 237-198 seat lead, so assuming no democrats would vote for the bill they could only afford to lose 22 republican votes – so the 30 member hard line conservative off-shoot of the GOP, the Freedom Caucus, threw a wrench in the plan.
After numerous talks with the Trump, Ryan, and Vice President Pence, none of the members of the Freedom Caucus would sway from their views, so the votes just weren’t there.
The bill was originally intended to have its vote held on March 23rd, the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, but in an attempt to garner more votes it was pushed until the 24th. The time for the vote rolled around, but rather than be embarrassed by having his bill fail, Paul Ryan made the decision to pull the plan and hold no vote at all.
Ryan was decried by many conservatives and democrats alike in the wake of the failure, for failing to come up with a good enough bill in the seven years he had. Trump was quick to shift the blame from he and Ryan to the democrats, of whom he said: “We had no Democrat support. They weren’t going to give us a single vote, so it’s a very difficult thing to do.”
The day after the bill’s failure, on ABC’s This Week, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “You cannot run the presidency like you run a real estate deal. You can’t tweet your way through it. You can’t threaten and intimidate and say I’ll walk away. It’s more complicated… But I would say this, we Democrats, provided our Republican colleagues drop replace and stop undermining the ACA, are willing to work with our Republican friends.”
One of the big problems the left had with the bill is that it cancels tax penalties for those who opt not to have health insurance at all – this would result in millions simply not signing up for insurance in order to save money, at the possible cost of their own wellbeing.
The Congressional Budget Office looked at the World’s Greatest Health Care Plan in its current form and predicted that, if it were to be enacted, 14 million more people would be without health insurance by 2018. By 24, the number would reach 24 million.

Michael T. Flynn Resigns, Shortest Serving National Security Advisor in History


by Nick Shepard – Staff Reporter

Following his surprise resignation Monday night, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn became the shortest serving national security advisor in the position’s 64 year history, having served under President Trump for a mere 24 days.
Flynn’s legitimacy has been repeatedly called into question in the past weeks, in response to calls he was found to have had with Washington’s ambassador from Russia, Sergey Kislyak, on December 29th.
Incidentally, this call occurred on the same day that former President Obama placed sanctions on Russia, restricting 35 Russian diplomats living in the U.S. and sending them home.
Kislyak was also found to have texted Flynn on December 28th, although they didn’t connect via phone that day.
Many see Flynn’s association with Kislyak before he was officially a member of the government as a violation of the Logan Act, passed in 1799, which prohibits American citizens from dealing with foreign powers, whether they’re an ally or enemy. The intention was to stop these negotiations from undermining the legitimacy of the government’s powers.
Those skeptical of this initial explanation question the reasoning behind an incoming U.S. national security advisor conduct this work, when any number of other members of Trump’s team could have done. By the same token, critics wonder why Kislyak, a career politician who’s served as the U.S. ambassador since 2008, would be given such a job.
In the days leading up to Flynn’s resignation, U.S. intelligence officials reported that Flynn had in fact discussed sanctions with Kislyak, a violation of the aforementioned Logan Act.
An official investigation has been called for by leading Senate Republicans into not only Flynn’s ties with Russia, but Trump’s involvement in the entire Flynn-Russia situation. It was confirmed that Trump has known about the true nature of Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak since the 26th of January, and kept the knowledge from Vice President Pence until only several days ago.
Many of those pushing for investigation are concerned that Flynn may have purposely misled Pence in his account of his correspondence with Kislyak, causing Pence to deny on national television that discussion of the sanctions had taken place.
Following the surprise opening Flynn’s position, Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr. was sworn in as acting national security advisor. Like Flynn, he is a retired Army Lieutenant General, serving from 1967 to 2003 and participating in the Vietnam War and Operation Urgent Fury.

Covington Hollydaze Proves to be Colossal Success

KL finishers(2nd nick mcclure 1st nick shepard 7th krista matuska 3rd hunter mcclure 4th zack harrison) before reindeer dash 3

by Nick Shepard – Staff Reporter

This year’s Covington Hollydaze events, was a big success, attracting hundreds of citizens over this past weekend. The fun kicked off on Friday night, with the Float-In Holiday Movie, at the Covington Aquatic Center. Those participating could swim and float in the pool, while at the same time viewing a holiday movie. There were games all night, and chances to win fun prizes.
Saturday began with the annual Reindeer Dash 5k at 8AM, which had a main goal of raising food for the Maple Valley Food Bank and ended up with a turnout of around 120 people. Participants could either pay five dollars for entry, or provide five non-perishable food items. The first 100 participants were given reindeer antlers and goody bags.
Kentlake had a strong turnout in the race, taking the first four and seventh places overall. Nick McClure, who came in 2nd place, said he was “excited to place so highly,” and that the run was “a great experience”. His brother, Hunter McClure, came in 3rd, and Zack Harrison came in 4th. Krista Matuska came in 1st for women and 7th overall.
Directly after the run was the free pancake breakfast at the city hall for all the tired runners, along with other activities, such as photos with Santa. Participants also had the opportunity to donate food or cash to local food banks.
After breakfast, festivity-goers headed over to the craft bazaar at Jenkin’s Creek Elementary School, where they could look for gifts or handmade items from fifty different vendors.
Ending it all was the community tree lighting ceremony, where in the freezing cold hundreds of people gathered around the Don Henning Roundabout to watch the main Christmas tree and the surrounding shrubbery being lit. There was cocoa, singing, holiday music, craftmaking, cookie decorating, and Santa even showed up at 5:30.
All in all the Covington Holidaze events were successful in stirring up the cheer and getting our community ready for a fun holiday season.

Hillary Clinton overqualified and out to serve

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_crop (1)

by Nick Shepard – Staff Reporter

Who is qualified to be President of the United States? Should a person, perhaps, have served as a U.S. Senator for eight years? Or maybe act as the U.S. Secretary of State? What if you’ve already lived in the White House, would this give you experience?
Before he was president, John F. Kennedy, the man who got us on the moon and negotiated us out of the Cuban Missile Crisis, only had experience as a Senator and a member of the House of Representatives. Ronald Reagan was credited by some Republicans with the resolution of the Cold War, but only had experience as the governor of California after his career as an movie actor. Abraham Lincoln, who led the the U.S. through the Civil War, had only been a member of the Illinois and U.S. Houses of Representatives, before becoming president.
According to our current president and commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, these three qualifications are exactly what is needed to make progress as president in the Oval Office. On July 26 at the Democratic National Convention, he said, “there has never been a man or a woman, not me, not Bill Clinton, nobody, more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States.”
All you have to look at is her voting record as a U.S. Senator from New York, to understand why she is the most qualified candidate. She voted in the widely accepted Military Force Authorization directly following the Sept. 11 attacks, she voted down the expansion of offshore oil wells and development of oil shale, she makes decisions that are fundamental to the function of our country, and she, no doubt, will make the same kinds of decisions in the White House.
When the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, was finally killed in 2011, Clinton was there in the situation room. Speaking at a Cincinatti rally in August, she said, “I brought to those discussions my experience as a senator from New York on 9/11 and my commitment to do whatever I could in whatever role I had to bring bin Laden to justice.” When the 3000 Americans who were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001 were finally avenged, she was right there making tough choices. These types of decisions could keep our country out of whatever troubles may come our way.
If you want to promote a more modern and elevated version of teaching, and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, Hillary Clinton deserves your vote. If you want the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership to be repealed and replaced with a plan that will bring back American jobs from overseas, Hillary Clinton deserves your vote. If you want to strengthen our southern border, while still paving a realistic path to citizenship, Hillary Clinton deserves your vote. If you want the immensely successful Affordable Care Act to not only be protected but expanded upon, so it can reach even beyond the 20 million people it covers, Hillary Clinton deserves your vote.
Ironically, in 2008, when she was running for president, Clinton even recieved an endorsement from prominent billionaire and businessman Donald J. Trump, who wrote on his website, “I know Hillary and I think she’d make a great president… Hillary is smart, tough and a very nice person.” If she’s able to stem cooperation on both sides of the aisle like this, there’s no doubt that as president she could work to clear the current gridlock we are seeing in congress and actually lead our country to true progress.
It is indeed difficult to be qualified, let alone overqualified, for the job as the most powerful person on the planet, but with her proven track record as being a positive force for the American public in years past, this election shouldn’t even be a contest; Hillary Clinton will continue to make the right decisions for the people and will turn out to be one of the best presidents this nation has ever seen.