A documentary on George Carlin reveals much

“I am optimistic, but I would not take any comfort from that.” George Carlin

The above is one of the many quotes from the talented and funny satirical comedian, George Carlin which is highlighted in a HBO two-part documentary. On top of learning about Carlin’s rise to fame, as well as his fall and rise again, we see a glimpse of American culture from the 1960’s forward.

Like most good documentaries, it presents the good, bad and the ugly side of fame and how it impacted both Carlin and his first wife, Brenda, whom he was married for 36 years. Brenda, was his biggest fan and supported and help manage his efforts to go out on his own on two separate occasions, first after having success with Jack Burns in a comedy duo and, second, when he took off the suit and started being who he really was on stage, the bearded, witty and satirical comedian we remember most.

Along the way, both had drinking and drug problems. Ironically, Brenda’s exposure came when he became successful and professional managers and PR people took on her role. Their daughter Kelly noted that this put her mother to the side and she had a lot of trouble with that. They both would recover and have a loving thirty-six year marriage before Brenda passed away. Carlin would later remarry and stay married for the rest of his life.

For those who don’t know Carlin, here is a brief summary from Hollywood Life:

George Carlin is one of the most beloved comedians of all time. After beginning his career in the 1960s, George rose to fame for his often controversial subject matter and use of explicit language, best exemplified in his routine “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” in 1972. He continued being a popular performer, going through many distinct shifts in style throughout the 80s and 90s, releasing a number of standup specials. His final special It’s Bad For Ya was released months before his death at 71 in June 2008. Other than his standup, George dabbled in comedic acting, appearing in films such as Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure and playing Mr. Conductor on the children’s program Shining Time Station.”

Carlin loved to play with the words and their different meanings under different contexts. One of his more memorable and safer topics is the one on oxymorons. One I vividly recall is “jumbo shrimp.” After metering is voice and eyes as he recounted this, he would say “are they little jumbos, or huge shrimp?” Yet, his most famous diatribe is the one mentioned above called “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.”

Comedians like Stephen Colbert, Patton Oswalt, Jon Stewart, Steven Wright, et al could easily recite the seven words in order from this routine. They also discussed how provocative Carlin was in his heyday and became again later in his career. There was a time where he got pushed aside and was actually mocked by some newer comedians for his less evocative wordplay. Yet, he would only come back strong being the irreverent Carlin we knew and laughed with.

This special is worth the watch. I actually watched them out of order, but that is more than OK. It was actually fun to see him get started after seeing the later stages of his career first. It is also telling to see the many comedians pay homage to him for influencing their careers.

Two questions on gun deaths – a letter to the editor

The following is a letter I wrote to the editor of my local newspaper. It is necessarily brief but poses two questions that I want to ask certain politicians. Please feel free to adapt and use, if you like it.

Members of a political party are saying our gun death issues are not a gun problem, but a mental health one. Two questions. 1) If that is the only reason, then why does the US have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two first world nations combined? I presume these 22 countries have people with mental health issues as well.

2) If this is only a mental health issue, then why are members of this party against expanding Medicaid which provides mental health benefits? The number one cause of gun deaths in the US is suicides. Access to a weapon plays a role and saying it does not is naive and political. All it takes is one impulsive act and it is over.

As a result, any solution has to be multi-faceted to work including better gun governance and access to mental health services as only two of the components.

The deer must lead the way

I was watching one of those animal documentaries and it set a common belief on its head. Like me, many may have the belief the deer will follow where the stag leads. But, through observations, scientists have noted that is not always the case. The deer will feel threatened and move before the stag knows what happened. The stag will, in essence, follow the does and younger deer out of harm’s way.

That is the way it has to be now that elected officials are too scared to do anything. Of course, a change here and there occurs, but for the most part legislators are less inclined to make substantive changes that go against their funders’ wishes. As a result, collaboration is harder and even positive changes do not get passed, as one tribe cannot let the other take credit for political gain. Helping people is secondary to winning elections. It is that simple.

In the 2018 midterm US elections, the does rallied together in the Women’s March and ousted many stags from politics. It was an election that saw a large number of women get elected. Last week, in Australia, a change averse and industry helping government was swept out of office after nine years and three prime ministers. The does said we need to deal with climate change, child care and Medicare issues. And, by the way, integrity matters they said. It should be noted, not all the folks who got booted out were stags, as even does can be less than helpful as an elected official as we have seen here in the US.

It should be noted in 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, helped push through more restrictive gun laws after the nation was mourning the mass shooting deaths that just occurred. A female leader said acting to address this issue was of major importance. How refreshing. Ardern will be speaking at Harvard on the subject of gun control and will likely visit with the US president. Think of the contrast between her and certain elected officials here that are attending a conference held by the NRA, ironically in Texas, or parroting the usual and stale tripe that goes for debate in our country to prevent what most Americans want from happening.

Leaders look like Ardern. They look like Zelenskyy. They looked like Merkel and Mandela. They are imperfect, but they represent the people, all people of their countries. I mention Mandela as he was being pressured to swing the pendulum even more the way of the native South Africans after Apartheid. He did make sure their rights were promoted, but he also recognized the country as a whole needed to come together.

We need to listen to leaders like this. They are refreshing in contrast to our elected officials here who will actually go against the majority of people’s wishes to garner votes from a vocal minority. It is truly sad to see that occur. And, it should be noted how I sparingly use the word leader here in the US.

Workers within industries that prop up fossil fuels said they could no longer ignore the climate crisis and they quit

In an article written by Anna First-Arai in The Guardian called “They once worked for big oil’s enablers. Now they refuse to be complicit,” fossil-fuel related workers are now voting with their feet. Here are the first few paragraphs with a link to the article below.

“More than a century ago, fossil fuel firms hardly needed help maintaining their image. Coal-powered trains, oil-burning power plants and gas-heated houses were likened to patriotism and social progress. But over time, especially as industry scientists began uncovering the direct link between the burning of fossil fuels and the climate crisis, America’s petroleum giants turned to the public relations industry they had helped create to persuade consumers to remain loyal.

PR campaigns that frame oil and gas as essential to solving the climate crisis have become the industry survival strategy. But over the past decade, the spinmasters behind these campaigns and the executives in industries that prop up fossil fuels have woken up to the role their work plays in contributing to climate breakdown.

Waves of employees have co-signed letters and quit en masse in response to their firms’ complicity in obfuscating climate crimes and rolling out aggressive greenwashing schemes. And the resignations are picking up pace. Just this week in a bombshell public resignation, Caroline Dennett, a consultant for Shell, parted ways with the company, citing its “double talk on climate”. She urged others to do the same.” 

This is article is worth the read. Maybe these kinds of resignations will get the attention of fossil fuel management. Shareholders have been more active voting to require management to be forthcoming on climate change plans and actions, but this will give them more ammunition to demand such action. A good question at a future shareholder meeting is “Help me understand why your employees are leaving en masse over your failure to address climate change?”

I have shared numerous articles about the positive movements forward on renewable energy and the need for more action. But, when a company’s own employees start walking out the door, that speaks volumes. I hope management is listening.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/27/big-oil-public-relations-defectors-climate-crisis

Letter to the editor – Australian election should be a wake up call for the US conservatives

I sent the following letter to the editor of my newspaper. It may not get printed, but I wanted others to see it and adapt and use it if they like it.

Seeing Australian voters sweep out conservatives after nine years and three prime ministers is telling. A large bloc of women voters grew tired of relative inaction on climate change, lack of assuring soundness of their Medicare and child care, and overall lack of integrity in its elected leaders.

Here in the states, my former Republican party is turning a blind eye to more action on climate change, better gun governance, growing fascism and shoring up the ACA and are attacking voting rights and civil rights. At the same time, overstated and even contrived issues are getting the air time to garner votes from their base.

As conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the “Republican Party is in decay.” I agree. We need a viable Conservative party, but what we have is not on the right path. The truth matters. And, a party that vilifies its truth tellers while glorifying its liars does not have the needed veritas to be considered seriously. I can disagree with the Democrats on policy, but with Republicans I find myself having to argue what is true. That is telling to this independent and former Republican and Democrat voter.

We are number one

We are number one. The United States has more gun deaths than all the other top 23 civilized nations in the world COMBINED. Our rate of gun deaths is three times that of Canada, where they also like their guns. Three times the rate.

Let me say this loudly, once again – we will NEVER solve this problem until our legislators act like parents and grandparents and stop acting like people scared of the NRA focused base. What is further troubling is most gun owners do not belong to the NRA and want change. Too bad. “It is a slippery slope” we hear from the NRA funded politicians. Well, burying your child is also a slippery slope into a rectangular hole.

Quite sadly, this is no longer news in America. It has become routine. Oh-hum, more people are shot in America. What shooting will come next week? How many more teens, young adults and college students will commit suicide due to access to guns (the number one gun death in the US)? How many more adults or kids will be shot, because a four or six year old found a loaded weapon? How many more people will be shot in an argument because someone had access to a gun? How many more people will be shot in a mass shooting because someone with a cause, a beef, or a fantasy got access to a gun?

Thoughts and prayers will not solve this problem. They have become a trite way for a legislator to say I am sorry your loved one is dead but watch me dribble the basketball to stall out the game clock until this week’s episode of gun death has subsided. In other words, the politician is saying “I won’t do anything, but you have my thoughts and prayers.” God must be tired of this lack of courage. He is probably thinking “I gave you a brain and a backbone – please act.” Or, another one of God’s children, some guy named Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

US is the only developed nation where rate of pregnant mother deaths is rising (a reprise from 2015)

The rise in maternal mortality in the United States has been hitting the headlines, especially as it relates to Louisiana leading the way. Senator Bill Cassidy is getting flak, rightfully so, for trying to minimize the problem focusing on taking the African-American mothers out of the equation. Their deaths are an important part of this, but they are only a part, but deserve due diligence as to why just like every other race, income group, ethnic group, etc. We should look to things like – lack of healthcare access, fewer rural hospitals, food deserts and poverty as several of the causes. Yet, this is not a new problem, as I wrote this post seven years ago.

Recently, a very powerful article was written by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post entitled “Why pregnant women in Mississippi keep dying.” A link to the article follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/24/why-pregnant-women-in-mississippi-keep-dying/. While the article focuses its title on Mississippi, that is a metaphor for a national problem. The US is now the only developed nation where the rate of pregnant mother deaths is increasing. In 1987 only 7.2 pregnant women were dying per 100,000 births. That rate has more than doubled in 2013 to 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births. Our maternal death rate in childbirth is 3x the rate in Saudi Arabia and 2x the rate in the UK.

In Mississippi, it is far worse with 54.7 black mothers dying in childbirth out of 100,000 births and 29.3 white mothers dying per 100,000. There a number of reasons cited, but one of the key reasons is that Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid and have over 107,000 people who do not have access to healthcare coverage. Note, other reasons are cited, but not having health care coverage limits access to preventive visits that expectant mothers with care get.

As many know, I have been a broken record for the need to continue and improve the Affordable Care Act, which is working pretty well by a number of studies and has dampened cost increases with the Congressional Budget Office lowering health care projections three times due in part to the ACA. In fact, just yesterday at Congress’ request, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation noted that repealing the ACA would increase the deficit by $353 Billion (or $137 Billion when a new dynamic scoring approach is used). This seems to run counter to rhetoric of how harmful the law is. Here is a link to the article: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/obamacare-repeal-would-boost-10-year-deficit-by-dollar353b-cbo/ar-AAbQa2S?ocid=DELLDHP

But, we need to finish the job and completely implement the ACA in about twenty states, such as North Carolina, that have not expanded Medicaid to cover a key tranche of people under the ACA. It is not surprising, these predominantly southern states are seeing the worst child and mother health results. Several reputable health-related foundations (The Commonwealth Fund, Kaiser Family Foundation) and economic think tanks (RAND and Economic Policy Institute) have noted that not expanding Medicaid is actually harmful to people and this is more evidence of that assertion.

Please read these articles and, if you concur these are problems worth doing something about, reach out to your state legislators and US representatives and senators. Ask them to support the continuation of the ACA as the majority of Americans wish to happen. Ask the states who have not expanded Medicaid to do so as they are hurting people, rural hospitals and their own economies in not so doing. These issues are that important as people are the pawns in these political chess games and they bear the brunt of these decisions with their health and lives.

Senior Shell safety consultant resigns over double-talk on climate change

In an article in Newshub by Rachel Sadler called “‘Completely failing’: Shell consultant quits over firm’s ‘extreme harms’ to the environment,” it is reported a senior safety consultant to Shell has visibly resigned to make a statement about Shell’s lack of action on climate change. Here are the first few paragraphs with a link to the article below:

“A senior safety consultant has quit working with Shell after 11 years, accusing the company of causing ‘extreme harms’ to the environment and having a ‘disregard for climate change risks’.

Caroline Dennett announced her resignation as a contracted consultant in an open letter sent to Shell executives and 1400 employees. In an accompanying video posted to LinkedIn, she said she had quit because of the fossil fuel producer’s ‘double-talk on climate’

Dennett accused Shell of ‘ignoring all the alarms’ of climate change and ‘not putting environmental safety before production’.

‘Shell’s stated safety ambition is to ‘do no harm’ – ‘Goal Zero’, they call it – and it sounds honourable but they are completely failing on it,’ she said.

‘They know that continued oil and gas extraction causes extreme harms, to our climate, to our environment and to people. And whatever they say, Shell is simply not winding down on fossil fuels'”

It should be noted, as of this writing, some activists are protesting Shell’s climate change strategy at a shareholder meeting and a bloc of shareholders have offered a more carbon reducing strategy to be voted on as well. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but regardless of strategy, what Dennett is saying, Shell management needs to be at least doing what they say they will.

It should be noted back in the 1990s, Shell produced an educational video on their scientists’ concern over global warming. If you look for it, you may still be able to find it if access has not been scrubbed. Not ironically, Exxon scientists used to speak at meetings about their concerns over global warming authoring papers dating back to the 1980s. This practice was ceased when Exxon hired a PR firm to help them promote climate change denial beginning in the late 1990s, the same PR firm that sold us that nicotine was not addictive for the tobacco industry.

On a positive note, change is happening with renewable energy becoming more mainstream and building market share. And, it was very pleasing to see climate change be a factor on Australian voters minds as they swept out a fossil-fuel friendly conservative party from power after nine years.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/completely-failing-shell-consultant-quits-over-firms-extreme-harms-to-the-environment/ar-AAXDUoy?ocid=uxbndlbing

Australia ousts conservatives after nine years, Albanese to be prime minister

In a Los Angeles Times article called “Australia swears in new center-left prime minister in major political shakeup” by Rod McGuirk, Australia has ousted the conservative party after nine years and three prime ministers. Here are a few excerpts:

“Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with President Biden while vote-counting continued to determine whether he will command a majority in a Parliament that is demanding tougher action on climate change.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s center-left Labor Party ousted predecessor Scott Morrison ’s conservative coalition in Saturday’s election. The coalition had been in power under three different prime ministers for nine years.

‘I want to lead a government that has the same sentiment of optimism and hope that I think defines the Australian people,’ Albanese said in his hometown of Sydney before flying to the capital, Canberra, to be sworn in.

Albanese, who describes himself as the first candidate for the office of prime minister with a ‘non-Anglo Celtic name,’ and Malaysian-born Penny Wong, Australia’s first foreign minister to be born overseas, were sworn into office by Governor-General David Hurley before the pair flew to Tokyo for Tuesday’s security summit with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

‘We will return on Wednesday and set about implementing our agenda, our agenda that received the endorsement of the Australian people,’ Albanese said, highlighting items such as climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.

From another article, Albanese was elected due to a large bloc of women voting on two major issues – dealing with climate change and restoring integrity to leadership. For Americans, especially conservative voters, note the focus on the issues per Albanese – “climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.” There is nothing about critical race theory, replacement theory or banning books. It is about issues of concern to parents and their children.

Australia has an abundance of wildfires that have increased because of climate change. And, climate change and the fossil fuel industry have severely impacted the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, which is not only a place where sea life is nurtured and carbon sucking plant life is grown, it is a tourist attraction. So, climate change has already had a major economic impact on the country.

I applaud this election. One thing about Australia is their people are obligated to vote. In the US, we need to emulate what Australia does rather than restricting the right to vote as being done in places like Florida and Texas using the former president’s Big Lie as a reason to tighten the screws. Congratulations to Mr. Albanese.

Note: Our Australian friend Amanda has written an excellent post this morning on the election offering more context. Please take a few minutes to read her post under her blog “Something to Ponder About.”

US Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meets in Hungary causing further divide in the US GOP

An article that appeared in Reuters yesterday, reveals a troubling trend in the Republican Party. It is called “U.S. conservative conference with Hungary’s hardline leader reflects Republican divide” by Peter Eisler, Alexandra Ulmer, Anita Komuves and Andrew R.c. Marshall and select paragraphs are below. A link to the article follows:

“April 5 (Reuters) – America’s most prominent conservative gathering, founded on ideals of personal liberty and limited government, convenes in Budapest next month to celebrate a European leader accused of undermining democracy and individual rights.

The May meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is seen by some Republicans as a test of how closely American conservatives are willing align themselves with a global movement of far-right, Russia-friendly strongmen embraced by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

The event’s keynote speaker is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a longtime supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The European Union has accused Orban, who won re-election by a large margin on Sunday, of curbing media and judicial independence, enriching associates with public funds and recasting election laws to entrench his power.

The Hungary meeting reflects a years-long push by CPAC’s organizers, the American Conservative Union (ACU), to promote Trump’s divisive brand of nationalist populism to foreign audiences. Last fall, a similar CPAC-branded meeting was held in Brazil, spotlighting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right leader and Putin admirer.

The Hungary gathering spotlights an emerging split among Republicans. While some have grown more tolerant of Putin and other foreign leaders with authoritarian tendencies, others are alarmed at the association.

Al Cardenas, who served as ACU’s chairman from 2011 to 2014, called CPAC’s embrace of Orban troubling, noting the Hungarian leader’s close ties to Putin, ‘the most dangerous adversary of the free world.’

‘Orban is no friend of democratic nations, and any gestures or cooperation with USA nonprofits sends the wrong signal to the rest of the world, especially in the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war,’ said Cardenas, who was also once head of Florida’s Republican Party.”

It should be noted that until the previous president, Republican presidents avoided CPAC, choosing not to attend. They saw the group as too extreme for the party. Trump is the first president to embrace CPAC and, in and of itself, that speaks volumes. This meeting in Hungary is just one more piece of evidence as to why they need to be regarded with caution.

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-conservative-conference-with-hungarys-hardline-leader-reflects-republican-2022-04-05/#:~:text=CPAC%20Hungary%2C%20scheduled%20for%20May%2018-20%2C%20marks%20its,groups%20get%20to%20influential%20conservative%20officials%20and%20leaders.