Wednesday walkabout

There are a lot of things to ponder this Wednesday, so let’s go for a walkabout. A young sixteen year old from Sweden has twice spoken candidly with members of the US Congress. Two take aways from Greta Thunberg’s comments:

– do something
– listen to the scientists

Yet, while she has been here, the US president’s head of the EPA, a former coal lobbyist, has rolled back an Obama regulation on clean water and overruled California’s ability to have tougher emissions standards for autos sold there. Call me crazy, but this 60 year old man sides with the 16 year old and the climate scientists.

The US president should thank Boris for taking some of the spotlight away from his inane antics. The UK is headed toward a cliff and Boris is saying follow me as he hits the gas. Brexit will be challenging enough, but a no deal Brexit would be a disaster. The British public should listen to the business community who is sharing its concern. An inability to govern this issue has been evident from the outset.

Somebody blew up oil refineries in Saudi Arabia. Iran is the most likely culprit. It is my guess someone is testing the waters with hawk John Bolton gone. Sadly, we are in this mess because of Trump’s decision to back out of a deal all other parties begged him not to, including US military and intelligence leaders. So, Trump’s building a coalition will be harder with our not listening to allies in the first place.

Finally, I am in the middle of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “Talking to Strangers.” The thesis is we are horrible judges of when strangers are lying to us. Meeting the person actually is detrimental to the effort. A comment I just read is belief is not the absence of doubt; it’s the absence of a sufficient number of reasons to doubt. Fascinating read.

Have a great rest of the week.

Advertisements

Immortality is indeed possible

My mother passed away almost three years ago. Yet, she lives on. Not just in our memories, but in the donor rolls of way too many charities. Even though she never lived in my sister’s new residence, her address has been updated after my sister moved away from our mother’s home.

So, each week, my mother gets mail from three to five charities. My sister tried stopping a few, but they did not heed her request or changed the name to hers. There must be a quantity requirement for the lists. So, more trees suffer to send out something that will find the trash.

When my mother passed away, I went through her stuff and found about 5,000 pieces of mail requesting money. Often, I found twenty to thirty from the same entity, where my mother wrote “Consider later.” As my mother’s memory faded, this was her coping mechanism. Since some charities send pennies, nickels and dimes in the request, I think we accumulated about $2.50 in change from the stash.

I know charities need money, but is this the best path forward? There are many fine charities out there with good causes, but there are some that are not well run or whose cause is a band-aid not effectuating change. Plus, those that use professional fund raisers, ask them how much goes to the charity and how much goes to them. So, we should all check the charities out.

It is also interesting that my father who passed away thirteen years ago will get an occasional piece of mail requesting money. One surprise was my brother got one and he never lived in the house that my mother and father bought after the kids were raised.

Immortality is indeed possible. At least the nice part is the letter makes us think of mom.

 

Our children deserve better

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial earlier this week in The New York Times called “Our children deserve better.” It is a clarion call to our nation showing the plight of kids in America.

Here are a few quotes to frame the issue:

“UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.”

“Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record….The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.”

These are different views and sources of the threats to US children that note we have a problem. Another source I read a couple of years ago noted America has a much higher maternal mortality rate at child birth than other civilized countries, which further endangers children as well as the mothers.

Yet, these issues are not being discussed in the halls of government. We have a poverty problem in our country with too many living in or just above poverty levels. We have not expanded Medicaid in fifteen states whose numbers are worse than these national numbers per capita. We have not addressed our national water crisis which has a Flint, MI like exposure to lead in too many cities and a volume of available fresh water issue in other places. We have not invested as we should to diminish crime and provide more opportunities for jobs in disenfranchised areas. There are several pockets of success that can be emulated in more cities.

We also need to address better gun governance, especially with the number one gun death cause by far being suicide and a non-inconsequential accidental gun death rate. And, we have not dealt with the continuing and rising exposure to technology and artificial intelligence which have taken and will take even more jobs in the future. Finally, there is that climate change thing we need to deal with.

These are real problems. And, they will get worse. Data driven analysis of causes and solutions are needed. They are both multi-faceted. Investing more now, will save huge amounts later. This is not just an urban issue, it is rural one as well. The opioid crisis is rampant in these impoverished rural areas, for example.

None of the solutions will fit on a bumper sticker. And, political attempts to oversimplify issues should be questioned. Here is an easy contradiction to spot – if people believe gun deaths are a mental health issue, then why the effort to eliminate or not expand mental health benefits?

Please make your legislators aware of these issues and ask pointed questions. These questions deserve answers, not bumper sticker slogans. These concerns deserve to be talked about, studied and acted upon.

Toys in the ATTIC

When Republican presidential candidate and former Congressman Joe Walsh made it to Fox News for an interview, even he was stunned when the host said he did not think the current president lies. The truth is not only does the president lie, he lies more than he does not with a tally of over 12,000 lies and counting while in office.

While many of the lies are akin to a toddler denying he said or did something (even with his hand in the cookie jar), the ones that trouble me most are those that impact policy or our global standing. On the latter, the US is less trusted because the president is untrustworthy. On the former, people are harmed physically or financially.

With this in mind, here are five lies that may be “toys in the attic,” to the childish president, but are detrimental to people. ATTIC is the acronym to help even a Fox News host to remember them.

A = Amazon: Trump blew off the G7 meeting on the burning Amazon forests and climate change saying he was meeting with the leaders of Germany and India. Trouble is they were in the meeting he blew off.

T= Tariffs: In a repetitive lie, the president continues to say China is paying for the tariffs and each time it is refuted by economists. US importers pay the tariffs and pass most of the cost to consumers. The Congressional Budget Office says the average American (not Chinese) citizen will pay an extra $1,000 due to tariffs.

T= Transgender: This is the president at his worst. Per the book “Fear,” by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Bob Woodward, defense staff and leadership awaited the president for a 10 am meeting to brief him on four options for handling transgender issues. While they waited, the president sent out two tweets around 9:05 am. The tweets said the generals had already briefed him and it was a consensus to choose the most aggressive option. This made Defense Secretary James Mattis so furious as it was untrue and wasted time and effort, he said he would not take orders from a tweet.

I = India: This was yet another unforced error the president brought on himself. While at a press conference with the Pakistan leader, the president said he was asked by the India prime minister to broker discussions between the two leaders over recurring tensions in Kashmir. Within the hour, the India PM put out a release saying “no such request was made.” The White House staff was eerily silent after the president’s comment and India’s response. In an interview on NPR, I heard how this damaged our relationship with India.

C = Co-pays: This lie relates to the president cutting funding to reimburse insurers for co-pays and deductibles for people making less than 2 1/2 times the poverty limit under the ACA. Trump said, untruthfully, this would only impact insurer profits. The CBO said it would increase the deficit by $10 billion per annum as premiums would increase. Further, those not getting a premium subsidy would see an increase. If that were not enough, BCBS of North Carolina noted they were not going to have a rate increase in 2018 before the president edict, but increased premiums afterwards.

Sadly, there are so many more to choose from. When I heard this supposed news person say the president does not lie, it was and is highly offensive. Three attorneys who worked for the president have said the following about the president’s lack of truthfulness.

-Thomas Wells said before the election in an article “Donald Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.”

– Michael Cohen said under oath “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con artist and he is a cheat.”

– Don McGahn, former White House counsel, resigned rather follow Trump orders to obstruct justice (and lie about being so instructed) per the Mueller report.

Lies are toys in the ATTIC to the president. He has so many toys, they just pile up. But, the truth is these “toys” are painful realities to us and the rest of the world.

I am a Conservative Republican. Climate change is real

An article appeared earlier this week in Poltico written by Republican Congressman Francis Rooney from Florida. Rather than speak for him, the following are his opening paragraphs.

“I’m a conservative Republican and I believe climate change is real. It’s time for my fellow Republicans in Congress to stop treating this environmental threat as something abstract and political and recognize that it’s already affecting their constituents in their daily lives.

If we don’t change our party’s position soon, our voters will punish us.

It is well past time for Republicans to recognize the increasing costs and dangers associated with a changing climate. Scientific data empirically substantiates rises in sea and land temperatures which have materially increased over the past 20 years, increased acid in our air and seas, and rising sea levels, which have also increased velocity over the past 25 years.

In the past few years, the U.S. alone has experienced record-breaking tornadoes and flooding, devastating hurricanes, and expansive wildfires. The doubling of the deep ocean heat content in the past 20 years portends significantly more severe storms and hurricanes in the future, creating more and more calls for ‘disaster relief.’

I’m from a coastal district that is directly affected by these issues every day. In fact, my home state of Florida is ground zero for the adverse effects of climate change.”

The article continues, but you get the gist of his theme. More Republicans are speaking out on climate change than before. The reason for the lingering dissent is traceable to the purse strings of the fossil fuel industry which still have a lot of clout, especially in the White House.

Yet, we can no longer wait on other Republicans, including the president. Tangible measures have been happening in the US led by solar and wind energy development and cities looking to improve building and transportation conservation initiatives. Other measures are happening, as well, but the declining cost of solar and wind have led to their proliferation.

We should celebrate the arrival of sixteen year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden who will be speaking to the United Nations  later this month. She understands what the US president refuses to acknowledge. Her candor and advocacy are refreshing.

I also want to give a shout out to oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens who died earlier this week. Pickens had been a staunch supporter of wind energy dating back to the first part of the decade. Appearing on “60 Minutes,” Pickens noted back then the significant wind patterns that blow across rhe plain states. Now, Iowa gets over 1/3 of its electricity from wind energy with Texas leading volume with over 1/6 of its larger electric needs met by winds.

Rooney is dead on accurate in my view. I encourage all voters to ask what candidates plan to do about climate change and the environment. If they fail to answer the question or answer poorly, do not vote for them. We can no longer wait.

What are those values again?

The US president was in North Carolina campaigning for the Republican State Senator Dan Bishop in his quest to beat Democrat Dan McCready. Both Bishop and the president have said McCready does not represent the values we need and is a liberal socialist. But, what are those values that McCready lacks?

McCready served our country as a Marine after 9/11. He returned home to set up a solar energy business that created about 750 jobs, a pretty capitalist idea. But, he also has time and again said he is a moderate and would work across the aisle. And, given his oath as a Marine, he said he would put country ahead of party.

Yet, the so called “values” such as lying, bullying, name-calling, denigrating, impatience, recklessness, racism and sexual misconduct, seem to be lacking. I would add, he was also against the HB2 law that Bishop helped pass that caused multiple millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state. This law was eventually repealed and modified given its overreach and the reaction thereto.

Unfortunately, in my view, Bishop carried the day winning a close race in a largely GOP district. It is my hope Bishop will be up to the task of governing and I wish him the best. What I do not want is for the reckless US president to have one more rubber stamp in Congress. That would be harmful to our democracy.

Impromptu conversations

Earlier this week, I had a delightful conversation with an 80 year-ish old couple in a doctor’s waiting room. Doing what I often do, I observed
a conversation starter and took the chance to inquire.

The man was wearing a white t-shirt that had the cursive “Dodgers” in blue on the front. Rather than speak across the room, I walked over, got a cup of bad coffee, stopped at their seats and dove in.

“Is that for the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Los Angeles Dodgers?” I asked indicating where the baseball team moved in the late 1950s. He smiled and said the answer I hoped to hear, “Brooklyn.”

In response to my question if they are from Brooklyn, he said “No, Cuba.” Rather than segue into a different subject regarding why they left Cuba, I stayed with baseball. I asked if he was a Jackie Robinson fan and he became animated. He said he actually got to see Robinson play.

We discussed what a treat that was and our collective knowledge of Dodger history. I can remember old baseball history much better than recent history. We meandered down the path of Robinson, beating the dreaded Yankees in 1955, the book “The Boys of Summer,” the pitching prowess of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres that swept those same Yankees in 1963 and the current team’s prowess.

His wife relished in his enjoyment of the conversation. She had a big smiile, Before I could move onto her, his name was called by the nurse.

It was a delightful conversation. I have shared before how much I like to uncover conversation starters, be it a name like Olivia or Aimee likely after a star or song or some version of double names like Mary Ellen or Betty Sue. Or, I love it when resort areas have someone’s home town on his or her nametag.

My wife said I made that man’s day, but he helped make mine better. I encourage everyone to have impromptu conversations. It brings us closer. Just look for those cues.