A fix up story from my past

A few days ago I wrote a post noting “We are ALL fixer uppers.” I shared a story with my oldest son yesterday about when life knocks you down. This one now seems small, but when it happened to me as a high school senior, it hurt.

I was a varsity basketball player who started for a very good team. I was a co-Captain, but not our best player. I was the one who focused more on defense, rebounding and passing. About 1/3 of the way into the season, I was moved to the second team as we had several pretty good players.

I had two paths in front of me. I could sulk and go throw the motions. Or, I could work hard in practice to make our first team better and try to win back my position or playing time. I chose the latter – life knocked me down and I got up and tried harder.

Everyday in practice scrimmages I would set out to keep our best tall player from scoring. Playing good defense requires effort. It should be noted that our best tall player would only wash his practice jersey periodically, so extra effort was required as I had to stick my nose into a sweaty, smelly jersey as I guarded him.

In short, he got a good practice work out and the coach saw my effort rewarding me ample time as the sixth man, the first substitute. Eventually, I would start again.

I shared this with my son to let him know we all fail. I have failed at other things as well. The key is what we do about it. We can mope or we can get back up, dust ourselves off and keep going. If you do otherwise, you let yourself down. And, you might even let your teammates down.

So, my 2019 wish for everyone is if (and when) life knocks you down, ask yourself the question, “what am I going to do about it?” Then, get up, dust yourself off and keep going.

Environmental Punishment Agency

In spite of all of the damage being done to the United States and its relationships with allies, I have feared from the outset the damage the US President would do to the environment and our planet.

The word “Protection” no longer applies to defining the mission of the EPA. The “P” has been replaced by “Punishment.” Between the President and two industry favoring EPA directors (not to mention a transition plan climate change denier), the environment is becoming a bigger pool to pee in.

It started out with the attack on scientists who study and developed world-class data and reports on climate change. Access to these reports were removed from the government webpages and many scientists were reassigned to non-science positions which they had to take or were fired. Why? If your position is so grounded, why must you remove the other side’s arguments?

On top of rolling back numerous regulations that governed industry, several major changes also occurred:

– the compliance with the Clean Power Plan has been eliminated.

– the US is one of three countries to not support the Paris Climate Change Accord.

– the Clean Waters Act was greatly changed from a regulatory standpoint, unwinding changes made by Obama and both Bushes.

– And, this week, coal companies have greater license to let mercury and other pollutants escape (after they already made changes to comply with the 2011 requirement). The reason is the value of lives and dollar savings due to just the mercury change were less than the cost (yet that is subterfuge as the savings of lives and dollars due to other pollutants dwarfs the cost). I won’t even dignify the comment of the value of life being lost.

The legacy of this President will haunt our country and planet for a long time. Good actions are being taken in spite of this President’s efforts, but so much more could be done. I would encourage all voters, but especially young ones, to challenge all politicians about their environmental stance. This must be the issue of 2019 or we will lose momentum. To me, this is beyond horrible stewardship. It is malfeasance.

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Note to Readers: Check out Gronda’s post on the influence of ALEC on the US effort to deregulate the EPA.

Dark Monies From ALEC Associated Corporations Is Root Cause Of De-Regulation Of EPA Rules

 

$60 Billion, James Mattis and ISIS

Here is a sample letter I posted to a few Senators’ websites. Please feel free to adapt and use with your Senators and Congressperson. I encourage people to reach out to their legislators, commenting on good work and needed efforts.

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Senator, three thoughts to chew on:

– the southern border wall will take $30 billion to build and $30 billion to maintain – it is not a just $5 billion issue. It also will do little to solve a problem which is blown out of proportion (per new Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when he called it a “simplistic solution” in 2015).

– James Mattis’ resignation is very troubling as we lost a brilliant mind who understands the value of global relationships and the history behind them. We lost a key governor of a mercurial and ill-informed man and the world and our nation is a less safe place. A wall cannot overcome these concerns.

– I understand the reason for leaving Syria, but the work is not done and this was handled in a very offensive way, not conferring with allies, Congress and our military leaders. It shows a lack of good faith dealing which is par for the course with this ego-centric President.

Please protect our nation’s interests addressing real problems. Also, please safeguard Robert Mueller, as this investigation may be our best hope to remedy a major problem in the White House, which is fast-getting out of control. The Trump legacy will haunt our planet, nation and the Republican party, which has lost its footing.

We are ALL fixer uppers

As we stew over those extra holiday pounds and think of possible New Year’s resolutions, let me state the obvious. From one imperfect person to another, we are ALL fixer uppers. So, we could benefit from a few touch ups. All of us.

To remind us of how imperfect we are, here are few truisms to think about.

– Everyone thinks they are better than average, but in actuality that is not possible.

– The customer is not always right, but they are the customer. Yet, being the customer does not give you license to be a jerk.

– It takes at least two people to have a communication problem. It may not be 50/50, but both sides are almost always at fault to some extent.

– Opinions are like rectums. Everyone has one. (I cleaned this one up). It does not make them or you right.

– Saying it is my fault is not a crime. It is actually welcome to fess up. Others, with some degree of fault, might even admit theirs.

– Saying thank you is important, as we need to recognize people do not have to help you.

– One of the greatest gifts is the gift of time. Be generous with yours and try not to waste another person’s time.

– Finally, please remember the most intolerant of people require the most tolerance from others in dealing with them. Sometimes it is better to just reduce or eliminate exposure to such toxic people.

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable holiday season. Let’s set some reasonable and sustainable resolutions for 2019. We could ALL use some fixing up.

 

 

Remember who passed you the ball

Legendary college basketball coach Dean Smith preached to his players who scored to acknowledge the player that passed them the ball. Think about why that is important in a team game.

It can also apply to everyday life. So, at this holiday time, let’s acknowledge those who pass us the ball. Or, we could honor them by paying their kindness or help forward. Here are a few random thoughts.

Let’s start with teachers, who do not get paid near enough to do the many things they have to do. Parents should not expect perfection, but hope they have teachers who care and can reach the hearts and minds of their students. They deserve thanks.

Let’s move on to healthcare workers who tend to the basic need of patients whether it is at a hospital or long term care facility. They are not paid a King’s ransom to put up with people’s s**t, literarally and figuratively. Yes, we want our loved ones taken care of, but we should put what these folks do in perspective and offer them some appreciation.

Wait staff in restaurants are not on any highest paid lists. No question, we should want good service in a restaurant, as we are spending our hard earned monies. Being a waitress or waiter is hard work, especially when someone does not show-up and people have to cover for them. But, two golden things might help us all – that golden rule is one, while the other is honey. Treating service people with dignity and as a person, will improve your service.

I picked these examples as we seem to live in a world where people are more demanding and less kind to service providers. Of course, we should want good service, yet we could do ourselves and others a favor to understand the context. Acknowledge those passing the ball. It would be a nice birthday present to the guy who said that golden rule thing.

A military term defines the White House – SNAFU

People who have served in the military have a unique language to define poor management of situations. Borrowing from their vernacular, they might define the modus operandi of the current White House as a SNAFU. The first three letters reference “Situation Normal All,” with the last two letters referencing a more colorful way of defining “screwed up.”

Last year, conservative columnist David Brooks defined the White House as “equal parts chaos and confusion.” It has gotten increasingly worse over time with rampant turnover and turmoil, but now it is in full meltdown mode. The last grown up has announced his resignation – General James Mattis.

To be frank, I have viewed the biggest threat to national security to be Donald J. Trump. Now, my concerns have heightened. The last of the defense filters will be leaving and we will be left with an even more unfettered, mercurial and uninformed man calling the shots.

I would encourage people to read “Fear” by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bob Woodward. It is based on over 750 hours of taped interviews with White House personnel. It defines Trump as an unhinged man who does not have the patience or willingness to listen to others or know the details of any issue. Narcissists like to he told they are right, so sycophants who know this, get the President’s ear and he closes others out.

The first key takeaways from the book is Trump’s lack of good faith dealing with others regardless of rank. His word means nothing and he will demean anyone who openly disagrees with him. In business, this is a ominous management style. If you don’t want to know the truth, then any decision will prove problematic. Time and again, people went to great pains to brief him, only to have him ridicule them and the process.

The second is the recognition by everyone that the President is untruthful. There are several colorful ways that people defined this, but the cleanest version came from former National Economic Advisor Gary Cohn who simply said Trump is a “professional liar.”

As the various investigations heat up further and get closer to Trump, he will become further unhinged. And, he will make more impulsive decisions to either appease his base or distract the media. Plus, many of his decisions are based on bumper-sticker assessments of problems and simplistic solutions. When this transactional view is combined with his lack of respect for allied relationships, we end up in a worse place.

The rashness of decisions will be less tempered without Mattis. The President does not understand or appreciate what it takes to execute decisions. The Syria withdrawal caught everyone by surprise and went against the advice of others. But, one thing is for certain, the echo effect has not been fully vetted. Just this morning, I heard the Kurds will have to release 3,000 ISIS prisoners as they have nowhere to keep them. Yet, this is just one example of not studying a problem and getting input from others (think travel ban fiasco that was pulled after two days).

As I shared with Senators by email, this will get worse as the noose tightens. The SNAFU descriptions may undersell the amount of chaos, confusion and imcompetence. This frightens me.

Brexit, Trump and Putin

A US Senate Intelligence report released Monday notes Russian meddling in the 2016 election is far worse than imagined and continues to this day. This is not news, as this conclusion has been obvious for some time. Yet, seeing an official report gives it more gravitas.

But, it goes much further than influencing a division in American politics. Putin wants to divide and conquer all western democracies. Why? A de-unified western world is far easier for Russia to take advantage of. This is what Putin has done for most of his career dating back to when he first started with the KGB.

Which brings us to Brexit. Trump benefitted from Russian efforts, being involved far more than he lets on, but is it as far as what I believe to be true that he is a compromised asset?  I also believe Putin had a hand in a disinformation campaign leading up to a favorable Brexit vote.

To be frank, just as Trump was involved to some extent with Russian meddling, I would not be surprised if Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson had some level of involvement with such a campaign on behalf of Brexit. I feel both men stirred up the Brexit pot and then bailed when the difficult work began. My guess is they want to ride in white horses to save the day, when things look so bleak.

This a key reason, I believe another Brexit vote is warranted. The British people were just as misled as the US people. I recognize fully linking Russian meddling with Johnsoh (he has been critical of Russia on the spy poisoning) and Farage is a less than reasonable claim. Yet, claiming Russia hard a hand in things, like they have done so in every important European vote, is not.

So, Prime Minister call for another Brexit vote and this time make sure it uses real data. It is that important.

Green Book is a must go

My wife, daughter and I saw the movie “Green Book” yesterday. The movie is based on the true story of an African-American concert pianist named Dr. Don Shirley who is shepherded around the Midwest and South in 1962 by an Italian-American named Tony (Lip) Vallelonga.

The movie exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend it to others. The title is based on the green book written for African-American travelers to navigate the Jim Crow south. It stars Viggo Mortenson as Tony Lip and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley. Lindi Cardelina plays an important role as Tony’s wife Dolores.

The movie was written by Tony and Dolores’ son Nick, so it is a third person retelling of the story. There are several poignant scenes that will endear you and frustrate you as the two travelers form a bond. In a separate car, two other members of the Don Shirley trio meet Shirley at the various events. They are white musicians, but provide context to why Shirley feels obligated to put himself at risk.

Rather than spoil the plot, let me end with the lead actors do justice to these two very different men. You become a part of their journey and worry about Shirley’s safety and hope Vallelonga does not add gasoline to a fire. Jim Crow was an ugly time in America and as one Southern law enforcement officer explained, Shirley was guilty of being Black in the South more so than any crime he may have committed.

Please go see it and take younger folks with you. Tony will utter a few bad words, but you will at least see him corrected by Shirley, which makes up for them. It is important to reveal the injustice that people who look like Shirley faced.

What surprises me

What does not surprise me is that people who have worked with the US President are going to jail. It does not surprise me that the US President has a hard time recruiting good people and keeping the ones he did.

It does not surprise me that the US President is mercurial and flies off the handle when he does not get his way. It does not surprise me the US President cannot take criticism well and bullies and berates others who dare to do so.

Nor does it surprise me the US President has a very hard time telling the truth. Even when he is on the kitchen counter with his hand in the cookie jar, this man-child says it is not his fault. What is defined above has been reported over the years by five biographers and financial reporters as a modus operandi of behavior. All of the above was amply reported before the election, so it is not news.

What surprises me is how his followers and sycophants have either swallowed his marketing schtick hook, line and sinker or are choosing to look the other way. I think the sycophants are the worst of the bunch as they know better. People like Senator Mitch McConnell know the US President is a cancer on America, yet are spineless and choose not to overly say this is wrong.

The cult-like base is another thing. Many people have left the Republican Party, but that is not telling enough. Conservative pundits have left the GOP and/ or are critical of how the US President is acting, but that is not telling enough. People who voted for him are not seeing the gains other parts of the country are and farmers are punished by the tariffs, but that is not telling enough.

What will it take? As a candidate, he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his followers would still support him. To me, that is an obvious insult and reveals his disdain for the people he has taken advantage of all his life through thousands of lawsuits and refusing to pay hard-working contractors.

Maybe, just maybe, as the lies become more apparent and cannot be hidden by the blinders, the sycophants and cult will act. His fixer just pled guilty and is going to jail for three years. An entertainment news periodical that revels in trashy gossip, pled guilty to buying a negative story and burying it as well as paying hush money to protect the candidate, is now cooperating.

What is becoming increasingly apparent is those folks who said the US President has a problem with the truth, are dead on accurate. The US President is very likely guilty of all the things he said he did not do. Why? In the words of another legal counsel who resigned after it was apparent the President was not heeding his caution, he said the biggest concern he had is his boss was a “f**king liar.”

Kudos to Scotland

Last weekend on PBS Newshour, a two-part series called “Scotland is betting on tidal energy” was presented. Per the series, Scotland “is nearly 70% powered by renewable sources already, with the goal of reaching 100% by 2020, 10 years ahead of schedule.” Let that quote sink in a little – by 2020. Their focus has been on offshore wind energy, but the true wave of the future is tidal energy.

A project in the Pentland Firth is called MeyGen which includes three tidal wave turbines each with three thirty foot blades, the apparatus weighing 150 tons. The turbines provide a very predictable amount of energy powering over 1,000 homes each. “As the tide ebbs and flows, the turbines spin between 7 and 15 times a minute generating power to a wind turbine.”

Tim Cornelius, the CEO of SIMEC Atlantis said the tidal turbines have been expensive at first and have required half the cost to be subsidized by the Scottish government. But, he said the costs are coming down and after one year the cost of production is 50% of the year before. The turbines also build off existing technology used in the oil and gas energy, with cranes, ships and equipment to position a new turbine.

Scotland has been the leading edge implementer of these tidal turbines and others are taking notice. Cornelius says SIMEC plans to deploy 250 additional tidal turbines in the next several years. Other coastal countries are taking notice and creating their own pilots. The US is behind others, but will be investing in a testing facility off the Oregon coast.

As discovered with solar and onshore and offshore wind energy, the production costs decline over time so as to be more on par with fossils fuel production costs. But, in my view, when all costs are factored in – maintenance, litigation, environmental degradation, transportation, water loss and health – renewables are far cheaper than fossil fuel. For example, maintaining coal ash is a cost that never goes away.

While good things are happening with renewables in the US, we can all learn from countries like Scotland. We have a few cities like Burlington, VT, Georgetown, TX and Greensburg, KS which are 100% renewable energy powered. And, while California is a solar power and Texas a wind power champion, we have far more ways to go.

So, kudos to Scotland!