On the basis of sex

My wife, sister and I got a chance to watch the movie “On the basis of sex” about the early career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is well worth the watch and has several poignant scenes that paint a beautiful portrait of the Justice.

Trying not to spoil the movie, it focuses on her law school experiences through her tenure at Rutgers University as a law professor. Yet, the movie culminates in a tax court case against a male caregiver who is denied a deduction for helping his mother. Ginsburg’s husband Martin is a tax attorney who saw this case as an ideal way to break through the bias in the law toward women using discrimination against a man as the foundation. In fact, in 1970 there were 178 instances in the law that codified discrimination against women. This is amazing in and of itself.

Ginsburg is the ideal person to try this case in appeal, even though she had not practiced law as a professor. Her nervousness showed, but I will stop there and encourage you to go see how she overcame that inexperience. I will also mention the current environment of the burgeoning women’s rights movement which her teen daughter has embraced. Ginsburg tells her we must change the law to make a bigger difference.

A favorite actress of mine, Felicity Jones, plays Ginsburg. Armie Hammer plays her husband Martin and Cailee Spaeny plays her daughter who eventually becomes a law professor at Columbia University. Kathy Bates is excellent as the civil rights attorney Dorothy Kenyon and Justin Theroux plays a supportive and antagonistic role as the head of the New York based ACLU.

The movie is directed by Mimi Feder and the screenplay was written by Daniel Stephenson. Other key roles are played by Chris Mulky as the caregiver and Sam Waterston as the dean at Harvard Law and later a senior US Department of Justice figure.

I encourage you to go see it and/ or let me know what you think. Later in a comment, I will touch on the two scenes that touched me most.

When your friends begin to leave

It is amusing to me that the Republican National Committee is doing its darnedest to prevent another candidate running in a primary against the current US President. This is very premature in my view and is not reading the tea leaves very well. This will be a year when the you-know-what hits the fan, which has already started to build.

There are many dregs in the tea leaves that the RNC should pay attention to, but here are a few they may want to consider.

First, as of today, two separate polls – The Washington Post/ ABC poll and the Marist College poll have very similar figures that might be worth considering about the President. When asked whether you would vote for Donald Trump, the two polls said the following:

  • No – 56% and 57%
  • Yes – 28% and 30%
  • Undecided – 14% and 13%

Granted, he won with 46% of the vote and it depends on where these folks are located, but this should give the RNC pause. It should be noted the Texas Republican leaders told the RNC they are worried about Trump carrying their state. If someone is going to run against him, they need to start fundraising now.

Second, he has been yet again berating journalists, but this time he picked on two reporters on the news side of Fox News. An anchor named Julie Banderas at Fox took issue with Trump’s condemnation as she tweeted, “@realDonaldTrump This is NOT right. I stand by my colleagues @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner They don’t deserve this. No reporter does. They are doing their jobs and reporting the facts. They are not opinion journalists and deserve the respect from the @WhiteHouse they cover.” 

Third, he has unfriended Ann Coulter returning her attacks with her disillusionment over his backing down calling him “weak.”  Personally, I am not a fan of Coulter’s as she tends to be mean-spirited, flippant and loose with facts. She and Trump are very similar in how they treat others. Yet, no one is safe from criticism in Trump’s world. As an attorney who worked with him for years said, if you are on Trump’s good side, you won’t be there for long.

To be brutally frank, shutting down the government is not a very good business decision by the boss. Usually, the boss wants his employees at work serving customers. In this case, the boss called the strike not others. People are harmed by his decision. Plus, he further harmed his reputation by once again reneging on a deal, the second time around immigration and the wall. If you deal with Trump, get it in writing. A contractor who has worked with Trump said it plainly, when you deal with the Trump organization, get your money upfront.

With Roger Stone being indicted with strong evidence, with Rudy Guiliani saying people on the Trump campaign had interactions with Russia, with The New York Times reporting over 100 contacts with the campaign and Russian officials and surrogates, and with the concern by Politifacts, five biographers and staff members with his difficulty with the truth, this should give the RNC concerns. This is without even mentioning the economy may have headwinds due to the tariffs, trade challenges and slowing global economy, nor does it recognize the House will be doing more investigations into Trump.

So, when your friends start to leave, that does not help with your popularity. At this point, the President needs all the friends he can get. Yet, there is the rub. He tends to value loyalty through a one way lens.

 

 

Real problems are not getting addressed

In lieu of focusing on problems that have been overstated by fear and misinformation, several real problems remain. Just to name a few – $22 trillion in debt with an expected $1 trillion annual deficit; ill-crafted tariffs which are slowing the global economy; increasing poverty and hunger; climate change interventions; infrastructure needs that are ticking time bombs; retraining workers impacted by technology; domestic terrorism and gun deaths; and stabilizing the ACA. These are the concerns of this independent voter, who has belonged to both parties.

Note: I wish to applaud Germany for announcing last Friday they plan to phase out coal energy by 2038. It should be noted that in 2018, renewable energy surpassed coal energy in Germany. This is what can be done when real problems are addressed with planning. The US is doing many good things with renewable energy, but it could do so much more with supportive federal leadership.

Be careful with your reputation

A caution for all parents is to get to know your children’s friends. The lesson that parents must impart is your name or reputation is the dearest thing you have. This lesson continues throughout life.

I mention this today as so many stories have come to a head in the past twenty-four hours that drive this point home. Here is a thumbnail sketch of a few of these stories:

Getting overshadowed by national news, the new Secretary of State of Florida, Mike Ertel, has resigned over past photos of him dressed in blackface mocking Hurricane Katrina victims. New Governor Ron DeSantis, who made Ertel one of his first hires, has been under fire since the campaign for his racist past. It is important for political parties to fully vet candidates, as it may be better for all concerned for your candidate not to win. Contrasting this, the same party dodged a bullet when their candidate did not win the recent Senate race in Alabama.

The President has agreed to temporarily end the shutdown. Yay for the federal workers and those dependent on their services, which is all of us. The President was playing a bad hand. Yet, what we should not lose sight of is he reneged on a deal with Senate leadership back in December after agreeing to do what he did yesterday. This is not the first time he has reneged on a deal as President. Senators learned what they should have already known, if you deal with the President, get it in writing.

Part of me says the President caved in due to trying to draw attention away from the morning news bombshell. His close friend and confident, Roger Stone, was arrested and indicted on a number of fronts, but in particular lying to Congress. In a documentary on Netflix, Paul Manafort (former Trump campaign manager who is in jail) said Stone’s fingerprints are all over the President’s modus operandi, in particular never admit failure and attack, attack, attack. Stone is renowned for  political dirty tricks dating back to working for Richard Nixon. The one common theme around the people who have been found guilty, pleaded guilty or awaiting trial is lying under oath. Call me crazy, but there is too much lying going on for this to be a witch hunt.

CNN host Chris Cuomo made an interesting comment on “The View” earlier in the week. He often has Trump’s staff or attorneys on his show. He said the reason is these are people who the President said represent him. When they are not forthcoming or truthful, it is a reflection on the man they serve.

Your reputation is dear. The question I have asked Senators on multiple occasions after yet another breach of good faith dealing by the President is simple. “Is this the man on whom you want to spend your dear reputation?” One thing that seems more consistent than not is people who exit a relationship with Trump are tainted by the relationship.

Another shoe has dropped – letter to GOP Senators

Another long time associate of the President has been indicted for lying to Congress. It is also painfully clear the President has difficulty with being truthful, which is unfortunate. Again, I ask you is this the man you want to spend your dear reputation on?

Your first step must be to reopen the government and, if he vetoes it, override such veto. Like other issues, immigration concerns have been oversold on fear and misinformation, and deserve due diligence and debate.

People are hurting, so please reopen the government and take everything the President says with a grain of salt. It truly saddens me to say that about our country’s President.

Name-calling weakens any argument

I am an imperfect person with many faults. As an independent voter who has been a member of both parties, each party has good and bad ideas. Yet, what I find problematic are people (especially leaders) who name-call and demean others who disagree with them.

Name-calling weakens any argument and is used as a short-cut by someone whose position needs more scrutiny. Demeaning others throws water on civil discourse.

If you hear or read name-calling, dig further. Question more. Why do you say that? If you see or read where someone demeans another, dig further. Again, ask why do you use that tone or language? It diminishes your argument.

Listen more. Listen to hear, not just retort. People want to be heard. An old boss would say “we have two ears and one mouth – use them in that proportion.” After you listen, then you can question someone. “Help me understand your point,” you might say. Or, “I understand what you are saying, but I do not fully agree with your point.”

Give them the same courtesy you would want in return. Returning the name-calling gets you nowhere. Returning demeaning behavior does likewise. I am reminded of the old comment, if you want your children to hear you, whisper.

Wednesday wanders and wonders

With the backdrop of Del Shannon’s “The Wanderer,” let me wander a little as I wonder. In no particular order:

HBO is running a movie called “Brexit,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead of the “Vote Leave” campaign. I would ask my British friends to comment, but it is interesting as much as it is scary. There are several takeaways – the slow realization by the “Vote Remain” campaign that the leave movement was playing off fears and insecurities that had been festering over time. The others are how targeted the analytics and persuasion technologies are and how poorly thought of the faces of the leave campaign – Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – are by their own side. One thing is for certain, the leave campaign glossed over how long and complex leaving the EU would be, per the words of the man who led the campaign in later testimony.

On a related, but scarier front, it was reported today that Russia and China are filling the global void being left open by a retrenching US and a very distracted UK. This is not a surprise as it is part of a presumed strategy to disrupt the west. The elegance of Putin’s strategy is not just helping promote the election of a mercurial US President, the leave vote with Brexit or the disruption of Syrian refugees in Europe, it is the divisiveness in each of the affected countries that continue to this day. To Putin, social media is like shooting fish in a barrel, as that is what he was trained to do.

Tomorrow, the US Senate is having two base appeasing votes to reopen the government, neither one standing a chance of passing. The hope is they will get down to business afterwards and come up with an acceptable compromise. To be frank, I am long passed tired of legislators governing off the extremes. If the President continues to be influenced by entertainers and personalities rather than sober, sound data-driven advice, then good governance will prove difficult. It is equally imperative for the Democrats to govern less from the extreme. A closed government is hurting people. It matters not which party is to blame.

I want these three items in your mind as you think of this last thought. As the US and UK chase their tails at home, the leaders of these two countries are absent from a global economic forum in Davos. To me, that speaks volumes.

Letter to Democrat Members of Congress

All, please consider sending the following to select Democrat Senators and representatives. Please feel free to reshape it to suit your needs and style. I feel the opportunity exists to make a deal to reopen the government.
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As an independent voter who has belonged to both parties, I have been critical of the President for his lack of good faith bargaining and use of fear and misinformation to sell over-simplified solutions. I have also been critical of GOP Congressional members for not governing acquiescing to the President’s commands.

With this context, I ask you to use this opportunity with the packaged offer of the President to gain acceptable terms and re-open the government. I recognize fully this attempt by the President is more to deflect blame, but people are being hurt by the shutdown and it is time to act.

So, I beseech you to find terms that will be acceptable and make a deal. Tell Senator McConnell what could be added to make it acceptable. It is time. As this lingers further, more of the mud from this shutdown will rightfully get on on Democrats. Yes, the President caused this shutdown, but it takes two sides to have a communication problem.

And now, a word from George Will

I have noted before the significant number of respected conservative pundits and editorialists who have shared concerns over the President. George Will, a long time conservative, is among those who see the damage being done by the man in the White House. Like other conservative critics, his voice should be one that is heeded by those conservatives who are not totally in lock-step with the President.

In his most recent column called “Trump’s misery is also country’s,” Will is hypercritical of both the policies and behavior of the current President. He is also not too keen on the current Senate leadership for not doing their job to govern, being too interested in acquiescing to the President’s commands.

As for policy, he cited several examples, but two jump out. He is critical of the Trump and the GOP leadership as he notes, “Except that after two years of unified government under the party that formerly claimed to care about fiscal facts and rectitude, the nation faces a $1 trillion deficit during brisk growth and full employment.”

Will also notes concern over the US getting out of a trade deal designed to compete with China. He said, “The President’s most consequential exercise of power has been the abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opening the way for China to fill the void of US involvement.” It should be noted the agreement went forward without the US and has become effective for six countries at the beginning of this year, with five others coming online later this year.

But, Will leaves his harshest criticism for the President’s behavior which has been destabilizing. He writes “Still the ubiquity of his (Trump’s) outpourings in the media’s outpourings gives American life its current claustrophobic feel.”  Will goes on to note that “He (Trump) is an inexpressibly sad specimen…He seems to have as many friends as his self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life.”

As a result of Trump, Will notes the “GOP needs an entirely new vocabulary. Pending that, the party is resorting to crybaby conservatism: We are being victimized by ‘elites, markets, Wall Street, foreigners, etc.'”  This is what unfolds when fear is used as the key selling point. Principles are thrown aside, as exaggerations, over-simplifications, misinformation and lies paint others as bogeymen and the reason for any problems you might have.

As noted earlier, Will does not stand alone among conservative writers. My friends in the GOP and who have more conservative leanings need to pay more attention to people like him, Erik Erickson, Steve Schmidt, David Brooks, Michael Gerson, Ross Douthat and others, and less to those who the President seems to hold in high cotton. These are not Democrats who are raising concerns. These are people whose opinion used to matter more to Republicans and conservatives. They still should.

US DOD is worried about climate change

Per a Politico article yesterday, the US Department of Defense is concerned about climate change, even if the President denies the risk. It should be noted this concern is not new. Per Politico:

“Flooding, drought and wildfires driven by climate change pose threats to two-thirds of the U.S. military’s installations, the Defense Department said in a new report required by Congress.

The authors of the report, which the Pentagon delivered to Congress on Thursday, note that it probably underestimates the full extent of risk to military facilities because it only looks at likely impacts over the next two decades. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said the world needs to become carbon neutral by 2050 to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would lock in many of the most catastrophic effects of climate change.”

This DOD report is following previous cautions that climate change is a risk to national security. This echoes the recent US government report and that of the UN. Yet, the US has a President who denies the human influence on climate change, has called it a hoax, announced the US pullout of the Paris Climate Change Accord and has eased regulations to enable the fossil fuel industry.

The larger irony is this President is inventing a crisis at the border and may declare a national emergency, while fiddling away about climate change. I think I will listen to the DOD than this man.