A bedtime story for all

A bedtime story for all. There once was a boy who grew up in a life of luxury. He was given most anything he wanted and if he did not get it he would throw a tantrum on the floor. This made for embarrassing moments for his mother who would send him to his room to think about matters. He would trudge off red-faced and livid mumbling “it is not my fault.”

Later his mother would check on him to see if he and cooled down. In her efforts to try to get him to see the error of his ways, she often failed to get the message through. “You just don’t like me he would say” when she said he could not have a cookie or piece of cake just before dinner. “Of course, I do my son, why do you say that?” she would ask.

“Because you are being mean to me,” he would exclaim through dried and new tears. “Saying you cannot have something is not being mean,” she replied. “You will spoil your appetite.”

“It will not. I have the largest appetite in the history of mankind,” he would boast. “I can eat anything at any time.”

“Now you are just being silly,” she would answer with a smile. “When you say foolish things like that, people won’t believe you.”

The toddler just smiled. “You just watch. I think if I repeat things enough, act tough and blame others, I can make people believe anything.” His mother listened and replied, “Yes, but at what cost?”

The moral of this story is know who your children play with. The toddler who blames everyone but himself will become a similar kind of adult, if he is allowed to get away with it.

A few this and that’s – August 11, 2022 edition

In no particular order, a few random musings about elected current or past leadership in the news. Elected may be correct in some cases, but strong-arm tactics were involved with a couple.

Vladimir Putin invades another country and now blames the US as the major reason for the Ukraine war. Does he really expect people to believe his BS? Putin is one of the few leaders in the world that is more untruthful than Donald Trump. Your best course of action is to start out not believing what he says and add back the occasional truth that slips out.

Back in the US, Trump pleads the 5th in court refusing to answer questions. This may be in large part due to he can’t remember where the truth stops and the lies begin. An attorney once deposed the former president and got him to recant 30 lies during one deposition. As I read in a couple of credible books about Trump, his attorneys do not ever want him to testify for this reason. They also know it would look bad if he got up and left. The best course of action in dealing with Trump’s comments is the same as noted for Putin.

Apparently, Boris Johnson is coasting into his departure. Given the mess he has made during his tenure, Brits should not complain about his doing nothing. We Americans did benefit that Trump did not work that hard, otherwise he would have made an even bigger mess than he did. Trump tended to spend most of his time tweeting to alter any bad press he received or change the topic. As for Johnson, some of his unforced errors were definite head-scratchers.

Nancy Pelosi may be a lightning rod for Republicans, especially now that Hillary Clinton is not in politics. Her trip to Taiwan was equal parts courageous and foolhardy. But, even many Republicans supported it. However, it may have been an unforced error of a trip, even though other members of Congress have recently gone. Let’s hope all the chest beating by China will subside.

Viktor Orbán of Hungary came to America to speak to CPAC. It takes one extremist to recognize other extremists. If these CPAC attendees lived under Orbán’s tutelage, they just may not appreciate the lack of freedoms, especially if they look or worship differently or work for the press. What bemuses me is our freedoms for all is a key strength of America, so arguing to take away freedoms for some groups is a horribly slippery slope. Why? Your freedoms might be next.

What is interesting about these five people is I am not a huge fan of any of them, even Pelosi, although she is not as low on the totem pole as the others. I have felt she has tended to grandstand too much on occasion. Yet, she deserves credit for knowing how to do her job and get stuff done, which is more than could be said for the other two-Anglo-Saxon leaders noted above.

Let’s get to the bottom of this

The following is a note I tried to post on a Fox News website for one of their opinion personalities regarding the raid on the one of the residences of the former president. For some time now, I feel my comments have been blocked as a persona non grata.

“Let of me get this straight. A judge issues a legal warrant in response to another alleged crime of the former president and the FBI conducts a raid to prevent the targeted information from being destroyed. And, this has been deemed worse than the former president instigating and involving himself in an insurrection against a branch of government based on a bogus claim of election fraud that he has been unable to prove in about 65 court cases (winning one case in PA) and every recount. My strong suggestion as an independent and former Republican is let’s get to the bottom of this before we equate the FBI with the Gestapo or some other poor comparison.”

To be frank, it frustrates me that opinion hosts try to drum up rebellion implying something has to be wrong. From my vantage point, there is one common denominator in these sordid affairs. He looks back from the mirror when Donald J. Trump shaves.

The Big Four

One of the premier college sports leagues in the US is called The Big Ten, which for the longest time included ten universities. It has since grown to more than ten universities, but they still call it The Big Ten.

Yet, what is terribly concerning and disheartening is four of the more prolific of these universities have two unfortunate similarities. They each had a major sexual assault predator and they each covered up their awareness allowing more students to be impacted. They are The Big Four.

Michigan State University employed a physician for its women’s gymnastics program who fondled young female athletes, sometimes right in front of their mother. The girls later testified they would look at their mother to see if what he was doing was alright. And, by hiding this doctor’s predator behavior, he also moved on to do the same for the US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team.

Penn State University employed a football coach who would run camps for young football players enamored with Penn State. Sadly, he was a pedophile who preyed on these young boys, sometimes in his own basement den. The head football coach, athletic director and university president knew of his predatory behavior, but largely did not address the problem.

Ohio State University and University of Michigan are huge football rivals. But, each school had a physician who fondled male athletes or did rectal exams when unneeded. You go in with a cold and you would have to drop your pants. And, at each school, coaches were aware of the practice and did nothing. One Ohio State wrestling coach is now in Congress and denies ever being told about this, but six of his wrestlers say they told him. A Michigan player just appeared on Dr. Phil’s show and noted that the coaches would use going to the doctor as a threat.

When I saw the player make that statement, it just infuriated me even more. Coaches (plural) knew the doctor was violating their players and they not only did nothing about it, they used it as a threat? Really? That is not only bad stewardship, that is criminal behavior, in my view.

Let me be brutally frank. Young men, women, boys and girls were sexually assaulted by these men. By not doing anything about it, more young people were sexually assaulted. These universities have paid a price for their culpability, but well after the fact. Yet, if they acted when they first knew about it, they could have saved thousands of young people from being sexually assaulted.

Parents entrusted their kids to the coaches, staff and leadership of these universities. The breach of trust is staggering in its irresponsible nature. It is not unlike the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist convention, British youth football organization or Boy Scouts of America hiding and covering-up for their sexual predators that numbered many more than just a few. All in the name of protecting their brand. Yet, what each entity did was far more harmful to their brands. They valued their brands more than the people who treasured those brands.

I have purposefully avoided mentioning the names of these predators. Preying on young adults, teens and, in some cases, adolescents is inexcusable. But, it is also inexcusable for those in the know who failed to act or chose not to act as they did not want to upset the powers that be. At the end of the movie about a very famous head football coach who did not act, there was a phone call made to a hotline telling them that this victim had raised the issue twenty years before the police investigation said it started. It was chilling that he had let someone know that many years before. And, nothing happened, except more molestation of many more kids.

Fifteen years and counting

Tomorrow will be the fifteenth anniversary of my last alcoholic drink. I wrote my most frequented post nine years ago and it still resonates with many, as my struggles are not unusual. The echo of wanting a drink remains, but it is faint compared to what it once was.

If you or someone you know are having struggles with an addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, food or cigarettes, please read or share the post below. It is a daily battle – the mantra for me is “I am not going to drink today.”

Since we are creatures of habit, though, I encourage you to know your triggers and find better habits to substitute than the more addictive ones. In my case, it was fruits, popsicles, chewing gum, green tea, tonic water with a twist and non-alcoholic beer, etc. Dried fruits are an ideal snack when an urge strikes as things like figs, dates, apricots, et al are quite dense and filling.

Each person can figure out a substitute that works for them. But, know your triggers. Mine were grilling out on the weekend or coming home after a long day. My body would crave the alcohol at the end of work day, so I would get hot and my face would redden.

I don’t get red face anymore, but that craving lingers a little. Now, I can more easily kick the craving to the curb, so it does get better as the years pass.

Best wishes to you and your loved ones and friends with any addictive problems. It is not easy to escape the habit, so don’t let anyone tell you it is.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/

Medicaid expansion – letter to the editor

When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, a key element was for people who made less than 133% of the poverty limit based on their family size. This group would pay no premiums through a state-by-state expansion of Medicaid. The federal government said it would reimburse each state for 90% of that cost.

At this point in 2022, there are twelve holdout states that have not expanded Medicaid. That leaves 2 million Americans with access to no healthcare coverage. The holdout states include my home state of North Carolina and big states like Texas, Florida and Georgia (see link below to a NPR article).

North Carolina was close to passing Medicaid expansion, but the effort stalled once again. Here is a letter I sent to my newspaper that they graciously printed this morning.

NC and Medicaid

As a retired benefits consultant and former benefits manager for a Fortune 500 company, I was hopeful that the N.C. General Assembly would at long last pass an expansion of Medicaid to fully comply with the Affordable Care Act. Failing to do this has harmed N.C. residents. Our economy has been impacted and some rural hospitals have either closed or are in financial trouble, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan healthcare advisor.

As former GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor John Kasich noted when Ohio expanded Medicaid years ago, it was a no-brainer with the federal funding the state has realized for years now. Please move forward on Medicaid expansion.

We have heard of food deserts in largely rural states which impact people in need more than others. But, we also have healthcare deserts as well. Taking only one data point, it is not a surprise to learn that maternal mortality rates in these states are worse than in other states and first-world countries. Note, this is mother’s dying in childbirth. That is a sad state of affairs, especially for a country who claims exceptionalism.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/07/01/1011502538/12-holdout-states-havent-expanded-medicaid-leaving-2-million-people-in-limbo

Company in New Hampshire knew of toxic poisoning and failed to act

Recently, I have written several posts about the poisoning in groundwater by companies who use these forever chemicals referred to by their acronym of PFAS. Dupont was highlighted in the movie “Dark Waters” about the true story surrounding their making of Teflon in a West Virginia plant, where they denied for years what they admitted knowing in their files. In short, PFAS (or per and polyfluorinated substances) “is a harmful manmade set of chemicals that don’t break down in the environment and can cause medical issues like some cancers if consumed enough.” See the fact sheet below from the CDC.

In an article in The Guardian yesterday by Tom Perkins called “‘They all knew’: textile company misled regulators about use of toxic PFAS, documents show,” we learned that Dupont was not the only company to hide the fact the making of and disposal of waste from their product was causing major health concerns in adults and children in the area. Here are a few paragraphs from the article that can be linked to below.

“A French industrial fabric producer that poisoned drinking water supplies with PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ across 65 sq miles (168 sq km) of southern New Hampshire misled regulators about the amount of toxic substance it used, a group of state lawmakers and public health advocates charge.

The company, Saint Gobain, now admits it used far more PFAS than regulators previously knew, and officials fear thousands more residents outside the contamination zone’s boundaries may be drinking tainted water in a region plagued by cancer clusters and other health problems thought to stem from PFAS pollution.

Saint Gobain in 2018 agreed to provide clean drinking water in the 65-sq-mile area as part of a consent agreement with New Hampshire regulators, and damning evidence suggesting it used more PFAS than previously admitted surfaced in a trove of documents released in a separate class-action lawsuit.

‘People are sick, there are really high cancer rates and people literally have died, so when you see what’s happening and the company acts like this – it’s really upsetting,’ said Mindi Messmer, a former state representative who analyzed the documents and sent them to the New Hampshire attorney general and state regulators.

Saint Gobain has denied wrongdoing. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 12,000 chemicals used across dozens of industries to make products resist water, stains and heat. The highly toxic compounds don’t naturally break down, and are linked to cancer, thyroid disease, kidney problems, decreased immunity, birth defects and other serious health problems. They have been called ‘forever chemicals’ due to their longevity in the environment.

Saint Gobain Performance Plastics’ Merrimack, New Hampshire, plant had for decades treated its products with PFOA, one type of PFAS, to make them stronger. The company released PFOA from its smokestacks and the chemicals, once on the ground, moved through the soil and into aquifers. Hundreds of residential and municipal wells pull from the groundwater.

Please look through the CDC Fact Sheet below. If you have not seen “Dark Waters,” please watch it as it shows how Dupont knew and covered up their poisoning of others, then was shown verified causal data from the largest sampling of people in a scientific study and reneged on an offer to help and then lost successive lawsuits before they settled the remaining cases in a class action. I am sure there are some theatrics in the movie, but over all the movie will disgust you that leaders of a company could be so brazen. And, stop using Teflon cookware as their poison resides within many of us if we did.

Companies must be held to account. Leaders must be held to account. And, it cannot be so rarely done, that they make a movie out of the effort. Rob Bilott, the attorney who fought Dupont and Erin Brockovich cannot be the only folks recognized for fighting these battles.

https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PFAS_FactSheet.html

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/05/saint-gobain-textile-company-toxic-pfas

Former Vice President goes all out against Trump in support of his daughter

I have noted before I disagree with many of the policy positions of Representative Liz Cheney, but I do admire her political courage and remembering her oath to the constitution. Sadly, because she is telling people the emperor has no clothes, she is trailing in her race for reelection. I actually hold her father in less regard, as I believe he served his own interests more as Vice President than our country’s. Yet, I do have to say he is being a good father for taking on the wanna-be-emperor and his allies with hard truths they need to hear.

In an article by Paul Steinhauser of Fox News called “Trump blasted by Dick Cheney as former vice president stars in his daughter’s latest ad,” the former Vice President does not mince words in his defense of his daughter Representative Liz Cheney. Here are a few highlights or lowlights, one could say.

“Former Vice President Dick Cheney calls former President Donald Trump a ‘coward’ and argues that Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is ‘fearless,’ as he stars in the latest ad released by his daughter’s re-election campaign.

‘In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump. He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him,’ the elder Cheney says in the ad, which the younger Cheney started running on Thursday, a week and a half before she faces a Trump-endorsed challenger in the Republican congressional primary Wyoming’s single congressional seat.

‘He is a coward. A real man wouldn’t lie to his supporters. He lost his election and he lost big. I know it, he knows it and deep down I think most Republicans know it,’ the former vice president claims, as he points to Trump’s repeated unproven claims that his 2020 election loss to President Biden was due to massive voter fraud.

Liz Cheney was the most senior of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol. The attack was waged by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters who aimed to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 election.”

While I am not a fan of name-calling, I agree with everything the elder Cheney said. This message needs to be heralded by many more Republicans, although more and more are starting to speak out. All of these folks are, of course, discredited as RINOs, Republicans in Name Only, for a key reason. If they admit they are true, then all of those candidates who are running on a platform built in Donald Trump’s sand of lies, will see their campaigns crumble. What these folks fail to realize is it should crumble.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-blasted-dick-cheney-former-vice-president-stars-daughters-latest-ad

We deserve better – letter to the editor

After seeing a commercial where a more reasonable Republican Senator advocated in my state for a less than stellar candidate for the Senate, Republican Congressman Ted Budd, I felt obligated to do two things. I called the Senator and left a message that his reputation matters and I would encourage him to do more homework on this candidate. Plus, his opponent is a far better candidate, Judge Cheri Beasley, who is speaking about issues that matter. As an independent and former Republican, I will be voting for Judge Beasley.

The second thing I did was send the following letter to the editor. They have diminished the number of letters they publish, so it has been several months since one of mine actually made the paper. Let’s hope this one does.

As a former Republican (and Democrat) voter, we need a viable Conservative party, but today’s vintage of the Republican Party is according to conservative pundit Michael Gerson “in decay.” To me, a party cannot vilify its truth tellers and aggrandize its liars and retain any semblance of gravitas and veritas.

There are far better Republican candidates than folks who fit in this last category like Trump, DeSantis, Cruz, et al. Please listen more to those who are getting vilified for remembering their oaths to the constitution than those who are leading the denigration. We deserve better than this, as does the GOP.

Please feel free to adapt and use. It is purposefully short to meet a 150 word limit on letters.

Tangled up in Blue – an encore for a great poet

While many of Bob Dylan’s songs resonate with me, my personal favorite is “Tangled up in Blue.” The poetic storytelling of this song keeps me fascinated from start to finish. Plus, the title means to me that we are all blue more than we care to admit and get tangled up in our sadness and melancholy.  Here are the lyrics to this poetic song.

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wond’ring if she’d changed it all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough
And I was standing on the side of the road
Rain falling on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues getting through
Tangled up in blue.

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split it up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walking away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue.

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the axe just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Working for a while on a fishing boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.

She was working in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept looking at her side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I was just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me “Don’t I know your name?”
I muttered something underneath my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
Tangled up in blue.

She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello” she said
“You look like the silent type”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the fifteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the café at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue.

So now I’m going back again
I got to get her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter’s wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t what they’re doing with their lives
But me I’m still on the road
Heading for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in Blue. 

If you are like me, you will be saying these words in time with the music. I love the references and wordsmithing throughout. My favorite line which I use on occasion is “we will meet again someday on the avenue.” I just find that so profound. Dylan wrote and sang about many causes and some of his songs are anthems. Yet, I find this real kind of storytelling is what makes his words live beyond his eventual death. He will be viewed favorably centuries from now. Tangled up in blue.