Republican Senator Mitt Romney states two obvious truths

Yesterday during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney spoke two obvious truths that fellow Republicans need to listen to and heed.

First, Romney said that it is “unthinkable” and “almost treasonous” for anyone who loves freedom to also support Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Utah senator had been asked about the “pro-Putin sentiment” held by some factions of the Republican Party.

Second, the Senator spoke a humorous but needed truth about the poor actions of two of his Republican colleagues. He was asked yesterday about the attendance of Congressional Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar at a right fringe conference staged by a known white nationalist.

He cited a quote by actor Strother Martin from the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” “Morons. I have morons on my team.” While I am not a fan of calling people names, the “actions” by two of the more extreme members of the GOP are indeed moronic. They each had time to consider should they really be speaking at this conference yet did so anyway. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is not unusual for these two people.

To be frank, applauding the efforts of known malevolent and untruthful tyrant is a bridge too far. Republicans Ronald Reagan and John McCain are rolling over in their graves over this inexplicable support. As for Representatives Greene and Gosar, we need our elected officials to represent our better angels, not our worse demons. We are all bigoted to some extent, but we must guard against racist behavior

I hope Senator Romney’s words get the attention they deserve. They are much needed for too many now in his party. And, are words of advice for others.

May I ask you a question?

Opinion hosts, politicians and people in general get in a habit of sharing phrases, labels or names meant to be shortcuts to get people to believe the speaker or writer’s point and dismiss another person’s. Far more often than not, these terms are denigrating in nature and are a form of lazy argument.

The name callers and labelers are actually hoping no one will ask them what this label means in this context. Because, they do not really know the answer. As an easy example, have you ever used a common acronym like NASA, HMO, PPO, ERISA, NATO, etc. and then someone asks you what the acronym stands for? And, you don’t know the answer. The same holds true when people use terms meant to be derogatory short cuts.

So, how do we remedy this? Listen and read, first. Converse in person or in writing. Then ask questions. What does that mean? Do you really believe that this is akin to (evil word)? And, listen to the answer. Then follow-up with another question, but do it in a manner to understand.

If you listen to people first, it gives you more license to follow-up. Yet, I would encourage people to do so in a manner that you want in return. In other words, treat others like you want to be treated.

I often use as an example Daryl Davis, an African-American man who has successfully talked over 200 KKK members into quitting and giving him their robes. He says he starts with conversation, often because he is a musician, and then asks them questions that make them think. Think about that. A Black man convincing a White supremacist to change his or her mind by talking with him or her.

If Davis can have those kinds of conversations, so can we. After listening to someone, I have been able to ask something like “Do you really believe that or are you just saying that cause it sounds good?” “Do you really believe asking someone to (insert issue) is akin to Nazism, Apartheid, Slavery, or Genocide?”

I don’t know about you, but those four things are heinous things that happened in our global history, so if something is going to be legitimately compared to them, it better be a heinous action. A mask mandate to protect people is not Nazism. Nazism led to the murder of over 6 million Jews, while a mask mandate is trying to protect the world from COVID deaths that now total 6 million. The contradiction is staggering.

Converse. Listen. Ask. Follow-up. Be nice. Treat others like you want to be treated. To be frank, if I had an opinion that was inane because I believed a source who disinformed or misinformed me with intent, I would want that inane opinion to be questioned. Diplomatic push back. Civil discourse. Those are the keys.

Saturday in the park – a few grumbles while I walk

I have shared before that I like to cogitate as a I walk. Often, this time permits me to organize a few thoughts for a post, but it also allows me to have fictional arguments with people who are not present that pay attention to spurious news sources. It is when those arguments become aloud that other folks give me more space. Fortunately, some may think I am on the phone.

I have a few grumbles in mind that I want to share:

-Disenfranchised groups of people do not often have voices at the table; this is a key reason I advocate for those in need. What bothers me most is when these folks are harmed by folks who are basing decisions more off perceptions or sound bites than truth. 900,000 Americans have died because of a poor response due to COVID, and yet some elected officials have made it political because it is easier to win votes posturing than to fix the problem. We also have a prison system industrial complex that is part of a new Jim Crow era where far more inmates are non-whites who committed the same crimes as whites that went free.

-What also bothers me is when people are harmed or killed because of decisions made by so-called leaders. Folks in the Ukraine are dying because of Vladimir Putin’s ego and the fact Russia’s struggling economy is largely based on fossil fuel exports. Like he has done before, Putin has invented a reason to invade another country. And, take it to the bank, he will do it again making up a similar reason. Putin plays a long game, while the western leaders play a short one; being an autocratic leader, he does not trouble himself with how Russians react, as he will just have opposition “handled.” Over 1,700 anti-war protestors were jailed in Russia earlier this week.

-Americans and Brits should not be too pompous about involving ourselves in other countries, as our histories have been based on that very fact. The US helped Iran’s military overturn an elected leader in 1953 to establish the Shah of Iran – this is a key reason Iranians do not trust us. And, the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses with the guise of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and we involved the UK and other allies. A UK study came to the conclusion that the US president George Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair misled UK citizens. Of course, the British Empire was built based on imperialism.

-Finally, not knowing or understanding history leads us to make decisions that are repeats of earlier bad decisions. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who had been in the Defense department and is a Vietnam veteran, stood up in the Senate and said if we invade Iraq, be prepared to stay there for thirty years. That was about twenty years ago, and we are still there. Also, not planning to fight an invasive war, not defining what success looked like, not defining an exit strategy, etc. leads to disastrous results. No foreign army has won in Afghanistan – ever. The terrain and tribal nature of the country do not permit control. This is why the soldiers and sailors invented a term that applies to poor planning – it begins with “cluster” and ends with a derogatory term for intercourse.

The common people are the ones who get hurt by misinformed and egotistical leaders. The line from the movie “Troy” comes to mind to explain this in the context of war. “War is old men talking and young men dying.” That includes women as well. It also goes beyond wars.

Songwriters and performers – a reprise

Periodically, I have written posts about the songwriters and performers who combined words and music so magically. The posts that have received the most notoriety on my blog are not necessarily the biggest names, although they are indeed popular.

The post on Bob Seger has been my most visited musical post. When I think of the line from the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers,” about the key to a great song is words and music, I think of a short list of names including Seger’s. “Rock and Roll never forgets” sang Seger. He is right .

The second most read, but with a bullet, is a tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Four terrific songwriters and musicians in one group. This post may pass Seger’s soon, but in fairness to Seger it is four against one. Plus, the music of CSNY has a more cultural message. Their self-titled first album with the four of them with “So Far” tacked on the end of the title is one of the finest end to end albums ever, in my view.

The next in kind is the post about Gordon Lightfoot. He is indeed a troubadour, but his songwriting has been covered by many including Peter, Paul and Mary and Elvis Presley. He is still touring, so try to catch his laid back sing-a-long. He speaks about his songs and life, which are also poignant reflections.

The fourth most frequented post is by an artist who left us much too soon, Jim Croce. His music spoke clearly about loneliness, heartache, love, melancholy and relationships. Had he not died so young, he would be as popular as any song writer.

Below is a link to these posts. They may also link you to other musical posts, so please feel free to reminisce and share your favorites. A few others to consider that I have written about include, but are not limited to: Janis Ian, Joan Baez, Heart, Don McLean, Harry Chapin, and Rush.

Just a few truisms

Since elected officials are now too busy running for office to actually participate in the duties of said office and with a certain pseudo-elected autocrat invading another country because he wants to reconstitute the USSR, we should focus on a few truisms. This is especially important given we have so many sources of information that is not news, but disinformation, the USSR wannabe guy’s modus operandi.

Now, I understand, a well-documented untruthful person has his own social media site. Rather than do a fact check on it, they should save time and just report when they slip up and tell the truth, which would be newsworthy. “Donald Trump told the truth today. Now other headlines.”

Here are a few truisms we should keep in mind as we read and watch statements alleged to be news.

-do not believe anything the former president of the US says. Full stop. The odds are well in your favor of being accurate if you follow this simple rule. A key thing to remember – it is always about The Donald. Yesterday we learned from The Donald that the reason Putin invaded Ukraine is because the election was stolen from Trump. Really?

-do not believe anything Putin says. Full stop. Again, the odds are in your favor. Anyone who knows history knew Putin would invade Ukraine months ago. His saying he would not is just his normal schtick. A former Russian TV producer said Putin has a heavy hand in not just news presented on Russian TV, but also sit-coms and dramas on the network. He will let them poke fun at simple governmental problems, but he will make sure they sing praises to Putin as well.

-as scary as Putin is, the person you need to be leery of is Xi Jinping. China’s ability to affect commerce, resources, investments, etc. have long made it destined to be the number one economic power in the world. The fact his subordinates can easily squelch any dissent makes his statements of greater concern. So, I would not believe much of what China’s leadership says either given their ability to craft the message. We should not forget “June 4” cannot be searched on Chinese websites as they do not want anyone knowing of the Tiananmen Square uprising on that date.

-while scary with his nuclear weapons, Kim Jong Un is not very believable either. HIs comic book list of successes in his bio are quite funny to read. No one knew he had superpowers. He is noted to be one of the greatest at almost any task, at least per his bio.

We need to focus on facts in a world where facts are the enemy to some. I know the above folks should not be trusted to tell us the truth, but what frustrates me most is when sycophants cover for their lies or rationalize them. This is especially true when they know they are so doing. They do it because they know they can get away with it.

So, another step to take is take everything any politician says with a grain of salt – they earned that right. Some are more truthful than others, but the words out of many of their mouths is politically calculated. And, that is not good for the truth.

Wednesday wanderings in late February, 2022

It rained this morning, so I am hoping it won’t impact my walkabout later today. Our Australian friends adapted this term “walkabout” and I have always had a fondness for it. One definition is simply a “walking tour,” but it is also defined as “a journey on foot undertaken by an Australian Aboriginal in order to live in the traditional manner.”

So, whether I make it on my walkabout or not, here are few musings I would likely have as I wandered.

-Vladimir Putin has planned to do what he just did for many months. You don’t amass troops and send blood supplies to the front line to just say howdy. For those who believe anything Putin says, I suggest you go back and read some of Senator John McCain’s speeches about Putin, sometimes given at the same conference the Russian leader had spoken at before. Putin is a KGB trained agent in the art of disinformation. Disinformation is a fancy word for orchestrated lying.

-One of the dilemmas in pushing back on Putin, like Xi Jinping, he plays a long game, while the west plays a short one. Being an authoritarian leader means not caring too much what the people in his own country think. Western leaders are not so fortunate. Putin has long known he can do bad things to acquire territory, accept sanctions, make a few concessions to get sanctions removed and keep the territory he stole. It is a repeating plot that he is doing here and he will do again elsewhere.

-I am glad Biden is president rather than his Putin infatuated predecessor. Biden will at least be able to build a coalition as he has done, while his predecessor would have difficulty in so doing because of how he treats every relationship like a transactional one. The sanctions will be tougher, but the best thing is the more unified response against Putin’s aggression. What troubles me is the Russian people have to pay for Putin’s egomaniacal pushes, yet as noted above, he really does not care what transpires at home.

Those are my miscellaneous thoughts. America is far from perfect and has made mistakes that have breached trust (WMDs comes to mind), but fortunately we stumble in to doing the right thing on more than a few occasions. Mr. Putin is just trying to rebuild the Soviet Union and Ukraine is known for its abundance of resources being known as the “breadbasket of Europe.”

Please focus on the news

Yesterday, in my browser feed was the headline Tucker Carlson said (whatever). That is not news. Carlson is an opinion host whose modus operandi does not always include the truth, which is actually a generous comment. What he, Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, Lawrence O’Brien, Laura Ingraham et al, espouse is not news. It is opinion. And, in Carlson’s case, includes purposeful disinformation as he covers for the untruthful and seditious bent of the former president.

I have been a broken record that the news too often covers things that are not news. I do not care who wins or loses by an action or inaction, I want to know what it is, who will benefit, what it costs and when will it be implemented. Congress largely does nothing but run for office. The fact we have to wait, every time, to fund the government at the last minute is a travesty, in my view. Stop the stop gap measures and do something with more forethought and action.

One thing I fault the media on is focusing on too many little things with the former president. Yes, he did all those things, but by focusing on little faux pas, the bigger transgressions get overlooked. Here is an example. In the middle of the 2020 election, the former president’s foundation was ordered by a judge to be disbanded and Trump repay money he used from people’s donations for personal use. The repaid monies would be distributed per the foundation’s bylaws by a group of new trustees with no one named Trump among them. Yet, this news got overshadowed and not many people knew it occurred.

I mention this example as it is a precursor to what is happening with the Trump business today. The former president and his children have been ordered to testify in court in the criminal proceedings against the company regarding misrepresentation of financials. It should be noted the Trump accounting firm resigned from the account and said do not rely on the last eleven financial statements, which is extraordinary. This is not a witch hunt, nor was the foundation story above. This is alleged malfeasance.

This must be focused on as this person is still considering running for president again. This is in spite of his Big Lie that the election was stolen from him that he has been unable to prove in spite of a lot of money, effort and now suspended attorneys’ time. This is in spite of the investigation that the former president committed seditious actions against a branch of government leading up to and on January 6. No, Mr. Carlson, this was not a false flag operation.

These are needed news stories. Yet, I would rather we talk about addressing climate change, water concerns, shoring up electrical grids to meet the growing renewable energy production, investing in the new jobs of the future, improving healthcare access, dealing better with our debt and deficit, etc. Yet, we still have to talk about the former president’s poor stewardship, untruthful nature and alleged malfeasance and sedition.

Failing to teach history

The following is a letter I sent into my newspaper. Let’s see if it will get published. But, please feel free to adapt and use with your newspapers.

It troubles me that so many state legislatures have passed laws to restrict public school teachers from teaching our bad actions in history under the premise it is bothersome. Slavery of African-Americans and its persecuting brother the Jim Crow era did happen. Genocide of Native Americans and stealing their land did happen. Firing gays and lesbians who worked in government jobs under the Lavender Scare did happen. Blackballing so-called Communists under the McCarthy witch hunts did happen. And, we did detain Japanese Americans in camps.

We may not have had a Holocaust in the US where 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, but Jews did get persecuted here, too. We must know these lessons. If we fail to learn history, we are destined to repeat it. And, that concerns me

More thoughts on saving a little money

I was reminded of the story of a fellow blogger whose car passenger wanted her to stop by the store so she could buy a lottery ticket. When the driver asked her how much she wanted to buy, the rider said $5. The driver said hand it to me and as she did, the driver threw the $5 out the window. “Hey, why did you do that?” The response was simple, “I felt if you were going to throw your money away, I might as well do it for you and give you a better story.”

Yes, I am aware some folks win the lottery. But, I am also aware, hundreds of millions of folks do not. My strong advice is get a strong box and every time you feel the urge to play the lottery, throw the $5, $10 or $20 into the box and lock it up. At the end of the month, put it into a savings (or investment) account and do not touch it. Better yet, set up automatic deposits with each paycheck into a 401(k) plan or savings or investment plan. $10 a week will amount to $520 a year without investment earnings.

I touched on investments, but investing money need not be hard. One of the safer (but not 100% safe), higher dividend paying investments is in your electric or gas company. They usually have customer stock purchase plans that are easily accessible. Often, information can be found on the billing statement, but go online and check it out. These companies are quasi-governmental because of their community purpose, so they tend to be safer (but not totally safe) investments than other stocks. Yet, you can also google high dividend paying stocks online as these stronger companies tend to have stock purchase plans. One key suggestion is to automatically reinvest the dividends to buy more stock.

But, where you should start is your company savings 401(k) plans. This is especially true when the company matches your contributions. If they match 25%, that is an automatic 25% return if you immediately sold the stock. Plus, you are dollar averaging as you invest, so the vagaries of the stock market will be less impactful if you invest the same amount with each paycheck. When you leave that employer, you can leave a large balance in the plan, roll it into an IRA or just cash it out. Some plans will automatically cash out small balances.

Finally, the best way to save money is not to spend it. I have written several blogs on this subject, but avoid buying so many name brands and plastic water bottles. If you live in an apartment, the water is usually included in the rent. So, get a filtered pitcher and save money and the environment. And, don’t throw so much food away. Based on the product, those dates are “best by” dates not expiration dates. A key thing to remember is leftovers are our friends – three meals out of one dish can go a long way to saving money.

Too many folks are looking for panaceas to make a ton of money quickly. Yet, most people make money by not spending it and investing it. If you are young, you have a huge advantage over an older person – you have more years for your investment to grow.

Note: Please do not construe the above as investment advice. These are savings suggestions. I am not an investment professional, so check with people who are for advice. Stock values do go up and down based on company and market performance. And, the stock value is based on the solvency of the company, so do some research or invest in mutual funds that hold many stocks.

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand (a revisit to great first lyrics)

Great songs do not have to open with intriguing first lyrics. Some great songs do not have lyrics at all – Booker T and the MGs (“Green Onions”), Eric Johnson (“Cliffs of Dover”)and The Ventures (“Walk don’t run”) all had instrumental hits. But, a catchy first lyric can grab your attention.

Warren Zevon did so with these lyrics, “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, walking on the streets of Soho in the rain.” This song is obviously “Werewolves of London.” What I learned yesterday is Zevon was talked into switching the first two stanzas for this purpose by Phil Everly one of the famous Everly Brothers.

Procol Harum (a great name) sang these lyrics to begin a “Whiter shade of pale,” a great song title. “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels cross the floor.” You just have to listen as “the crowd called out for more.”

Known for interesting lyrics, Freddie Mercury of Queen sang, “She keeps her Moet et Chandon in her pretty cabinet, let them eat cake she says just like Marie Antoinette.” “Killer Queen” is packed with lyrics like this, as are many Queen songs.

Jimmy Webb wrote these lyrics sang so well by Glenn Campbell in “Wichita Lineman.” “I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road, searching in the sun for another overload.” It is the daily life of man who does his job as he greatly worries about his wife who is in need of a break.

The Kinks introduced us to the enigmatic “Lola” with these lyrics. “I met her in a club down in old Soho. Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca Cola. C-O-L-A Cola…” Soho is an interesting place, as it found its way into two songs herein, so it serves as a great backdrop to Lola and this young man’s encounter

Yet, the words need not be complex. Paul McCartney grabbed our attention with a simple plaintive lyric “Yesterday, when all my troubles seemed so far away.” The lyric makes you want to know what happened “Yesterday.”

Not to be outdone, John Lennon wrote “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.” His lyric was so provocative, you had to listen to his point to “Imagine” a kinder world.

My favorite Joan Baez song is “Diamonds and Rust,” so here is the beginning to this wonderful song: “Well I’ll be damned, here comes your ghost again. But that’s not unusual, it’s just that the moon is full.”

And, while Elton John wrote great music, he was usually writing the music to Bernie Taupin’s interesting lyrics. Here is a taste of the opening words to “Levon:” “Levon wears his war wound like a crown, he calls his child Jesus.”

I treasure great lyrics, so I admire great song writers who coin them. Yet, the song need not start out that way. Motown coined many great lyrics, but the Motown sound started with “rhythm upfront.” That was the hook. Often, the first lyric would not start until the second measure (think the Four Tops’ “Sugar pie, honey bunch, you know that I love you. I can’t help myself, I love you and nobody else.”)

But, it was later when Marvin Gaye penned these heartfelt, and still needed words under the Motown label. “Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying.” This powerful song “What’s going on?” is a needed anthem.

Songs like Gaye’s are the reason lyrics move me. Let’s celebrate the music, but hear the words. I know I left out many favorites of mine. What are some of your favorites I missed?