Reinforcement of why a person left the GOP

The following is an interesting article that furthers the message of my previous and earlier posts over my concerns for the Republican party called “I left the GOP because it seemed to be losing it way. Last week convinced me I was right” by Kurt Bardella of NBC News.

Here are few excerpts from the piece. The full article can be linked to below.

“I don’t think I’ve recently experienced a span of days that quite so neatly captures the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican in today’s America.

Last week began with the GOP’s wannabe standard-bearer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, using human beings as political props for a craven publicity stunt designed to stoke right-wing outrage toward migrants.

Then, the current Republican Party standard-bearer found himself in even more legal hot water after the New York attorney general’s lawsuit alleging Trump and his eldest children committed fraud. (This happened on the same day that a court-appointed special master called Trump’s bluff and ordered him to back up the conspiracy theory that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.)

The week concluded with House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy releasing a self-proclaimed “agenda” that is long on talking points but short on actual specifics. It further cements the Republican Party’s complete withdrawal from the public policy arena, leaving the GOP completely detached from the tangible challenges of today and the growing threats of tomorrow….

In short, Biden spent the week defending freedom and democracy on the world stage, while his predecessor defended himself from allegations of fraud and claims that he may have compromised national security. Republican governors plotted to fly human pawns to Martha’s Vineyard, while Democratic governors unveiled measures to combat the climate crisis. And Republicans in Congress unveiled a “commitment” agenda that just blames Biden and Democrats, while a global community of philanthropists announced specific action items to alleviate poverty, improve health care and economic development and tackle other systemic inequities.”

As a former Republican (and Democrat) and now Independent voter, my reasons for leaving the GOP about fourteen years ago could be summed up in their tendency to make things up. Both parties are untruthful and exaggerate, but it is not a normal distribution. I find myself arguing policy with Democrats, but arguing what is real with Republicans.

Per the above, what Governors Desantis, Abbott, and Ducey did with migrants from Venezuela is extremely poor form and they deserve all the negative push back they get. And, those supporters who echo that it is OK, need to really think about what is happening here as it is not very Christian like to screw people like this.

As for the losing former president, it will not surprise me to see him wind up in jail for his seditious actions. His untruthful and bullying nature and shallow ego are finally catching up with him, deservedly so. And, it is long past due for his sycophants to remember which country they live in. Wearing a flag pin and hugging a flag at an ultra-conservative rally are merely window-dressing just as holding a bible as a prop when you speak makes you no more a Christian.

It is hard enough to govern with facts and truth. It is nigh impossible to do so when you govern off lies. If our politicians cannot be in the ballpark of the truth, they need to step down. We need them to shoot straight with us.

Truth be told

The following is another letter I forwarded to a few newspapers. Let’s see if one will print it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

As a former Republican and now independent voter, it saddens me that to be a legitimate Republican, one has to endorse untruthful pronouncements by the losing former president and his sycophants. I don’t mind people espousing conservative ideas, but I do expect them to be truthful. Governing is hard enough when using facts, but nigh impossible when making decisions off lies.

Truth be told, I expected this behavior from the former president as that has long been his modus operandi, but what I am frustrated by is his sycophants who perpetuate untruths, even when they know they are lies. The former president lost the election and cannot prove otherwise even after spending a lot of other people’s money to do so. He also instigated an insurrection against Congress putting people in danger. And, that does not include his mishandling of classified information and alleged financial fraud at his company.

We deserve better than those who are purposefully lying to us, regardless of party. Full stop.

Mental health spending on the rise

From a recent article in Benefits Pro, which is a recurring newsletter for benefit professionals:

“Overall spending on mental health services increased from 6.8% to 8.2% between 2013 and 2020, according to a new study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Approximately 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth experience mental illness each year, and these rates have been rising,’ Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Benefits Research and co-author of the study, says in a statement. ‘Over 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues nationally and in the workplace. With increases in both the number of individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders and use of health care services, higher spending is of great concern to plan sponsors of health benefit programs.'”

This trend has been supported by other sources of information, especially as it relates to the impact from the pandemic. When I traveled around with a Behavioral Psychologist who would help our corporate clients set-up mental health programs around depression and obesity management, mental wellness help-lines, etc., she would cite a statistic that 1 in 5 adults would have some form of depression in their lifetime. That is now a dated statistic, as the above surveys cites 1 in 5 per year.

Her main thrust is people who are battling depression to any degree should get counseling. She hated to see anti-depression medicine prescribed by general practitioners, as that just helped with the depression not get at the cause and management. If you know of anyone who is experiencing depression, please encourage them to seek counseling.

There is no shame in getting help from someone qualified to give it. This also goes for other disorders that someone might be dealing with – substance abuse, anxiety, paranoia, OCD, schizoid personality disorder, PTSD, etc. It is not uncommon for someone to have multiple diagnoses. And, I include PTSD, as one need not be in battle to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, as homeless mothers and kids or victims of domestic violence will tend to have PTSD issues as well.

Moderation in all things, including moderation

The above title is a quote I heard from Alan Alda, the actor most famous for playing Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in the long running TV show “MASH” about doctors and nurses during the Korean conflict. His interviewer liked it so much he commented. Alda coined this phrase when he was sixteen, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”

His point is it is more than OK to do things in moderation, but there are occasions when a person needs to take a leap of faith and go for it. This comes from an actor who remains quite busy with various podcasts he hosts and acting roles. Plus, he is a very charitable person.

Alda was more than just the weekly doctor with a huge heart, surgical brain, skilled hands and appetite for making out with the nurses. He had a long list of movies and shows he did during and after his MASH work. I recall a couple of movies off the top of my head.

He and Ellen Burstyn turned a Neil Simon play into a wonderful movie called “Same Time Next Year.” The premise is the two meet and continue to meet up once a year at this beautiful inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They confide in each other and speak of problems and love they have their spouses. Seeing Burstyn change her attire and attitudes each year is what makes the movie sing, while Alda plays more of a straight man.

Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno and a wonderful cast join Alda for a very funny movie called “Four Seasons.” These three couples decide they are going to take four vacations (bad idea) together in one year. The humor heightens when one of the couples separates and the husband brings a young girlfriend to the next vacation. Like with Burstyn, seeing Alda and Burnett together is a treat, as very few people can rival the character acting of Carol Burnett.

A third movie I liked a lot was not a comedy, but a drama called “The Seduction of Senator Joe Tynan.” He played with Meryl Streep in this one, so there seems to be a pattern of his acting in movies with very talented leading ladies. Streep plays an intern who falls for the married Senator played by Alda. The premise is the rise and fall of a Senator do to his tryst.

There are of course several other movies he starred in or played key roles in. He even played the antagonist in some of the movies. That took some getting used to. He was much more enjoyable to watch when he could pull for him, even though he would make us cringe being smart-ass.

MASH was one of my favorite shows, playing each Saturday night in one of the best comedy line-ups ever. Ironically, the final show of the night was “The Carol Burnett Show” which is fitting that the two stars would play in a very funny movie together. What is also fascinating about MASH is the parade of future stars that came through the show, either for a few seasons or one or two episodes.

I recall having a crush on Blythe Danner, the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, and a good actress in her own right, as she played a love interest. I also recall Marcia Strassman, who would go on to play in the sit-com “Welcome Back Kotter,” as another one of Alda’s love interests. I also remember Brian Dennehy, Edward Hermann, Ed Begley, Jr., Ron Howard, Patrick Swayze, Lawrence Fishburne, et all who played for an episode, most often as a wounded soldier, either mentally or physically or both.

What made the show popular went beyond the actors. The writers scoured documents about a wartime hospital in Korea and actually pulled some episodes out of those files. The one I remember vividly is when a wounded soldier had an unexploded shell in his chest, which was a true incident.

So, let me know what you think of Alda and his work on MASH and elsewhere.

Twenty-five seconds showers

Regardless of whether elected officials want to talk about this, we have a global water crisis that has been building for some time. Here in the states, it manifests itself in three ways: more severe droughts in drier areas, evaporating and depleting water sources, and too many lead pipes still being used to provide water to cities.

And, this is before climate change has made the situation worse. I have cited before a statistic from a Duke Energy report that said climate change will cause evaporation from their water sources by 11% more than before. The folks out in the western part of the US are seeing major river sources at risk with so many competing users and states. The same is true in other parts of the world such as Cape Town, South Africa and in Chile, eg.

So, there are many things we must do combat these problems. The first one is to get elected officials to stop their discussions around exaggerated and contrived topics and to start discussing real problems. Politicians are often too late to the game as they get little credit for actually thinking ahead to avoid a problem getting worse. That is unfortunate, as that is precisely what we need them to do.

The possible solutions are many, but none may be a panacea. With climate change, our water crisis can be boiled down to one sentence – too much sea water and too little fresh water. So, one solution would be to convert sea water into potable water. It is expensive and earlier attempts do not taste as well, but that may be the best option for us. This is more evident in places like Miami and surrounding areas where the Biscayne aquifer is protected by porous limestone which will not hold back encroaching sea water. But, I have not heard either of the two senators or governor mention this.

One approach that would help a great deal is to use less water to generate power. What gets talked about so little in renewable energy is many of the approaches do not need water. Solar energy with photovoltaic panels and wind energy do not need water. Fossil fuel and nuclear energy must use water to boil into steam and turn the turbines. Granted the water gets release after its used back into the source, but a portion evaporates each time. And, fracking to retrieve natural gas takes a huge amount of water that cannot be reused.

Another partial solution is cut down on usage, hence the title of this post. The twenty-five seconds showers come from those who served in the Navy on a ship. That is how much fresh water a sailor had to bathe. So, the sailor would rinse off for five seconds. Stop the water and bathe with soap. Then, turn the water back on and rinse off for twenty seconds. 25 seconds. I know most folks shower much longer than that, but just think of the impact if everyone just halved their shower time, even more so if they decreased it to something measurable in seconds.

The above is a good metaphor for cutting usage of fresh water along many lines. We need to plant more indigenous plants that grow better in an area. There is a reason alfalfa and wheat are grown in the midwest – they grow in the wild. We could also use more rain barrels for watering or build gardens and water gathering devices on the roof of buildings. And, there plumbing approaches that reuse shower water to flush toilets, etc. Finally, some locations have had success in significantly filtering sewage water into fresh drinking water.

Then, there is that lead pipe thing. Which is its own animal. Unless we want to keep on poisoning people, we need to do something about changing the pipes. The Flint, Michigan pipe issue is not an anomaly. I read where Chicago is having issues as well, but these places are only the tip of the icebergs.

I kept this piece short with intention. It deserves greater scrutiny and discussion, but we need to discuss them rather than some of the things that we do discuss. I feel like our elected officials are a bunch of Nero’s fiddling away. But, in this case, we don’t have the water to put out the fire.

Trump Family Fraud Charges

Let’s keep this simple.

The news out of New York regarding the civil fraud case against the Trump family and organization should not be a surprise as these folks have been investigating the Trumps for three years. While this is a civil action with severe financial consequences, the case has also been referred to the US Attorney General for possible criminal action.

For those who cannot believe the Trumps would do such things, they should look at the fraud case he settled before the 2020 election where the former president agreed to repay the Trump Foundation for about $1.6 million Trump used for personal benefit. The Foundation was then terminated and the funds were distributed to charities with no one named Trump allowed to be part of the oversight process. To add insult to injury, the Trump children on the Board of Trustees had to undergo philanthropic training.

So, the current charges are in keeping with previous precedent. It should also be noted the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, stiff-armed forays by the former president to settle the case beforehand. Why? Her team of prosecutors must have a very good case.

You’re no day at the beach either

For some reason, my news feed includes these small banners that will highlight some female star from her younger days with a headline that says something like so-and-so is 82 and you won’t believe what she looks like now. I choose not to open these as they want to paint how someone no longer looks like they used to. My thoughts usually settle on this retort to the author of said piece, “you’re no day at the beach either.”

As an imperfect person when I was younger and more so as an older person, we each should do our best to stay in good shape for health reasons, self-esteem and to put our best foot forward for our partner. I do my best to keep my waistline manageable by walking, Yoga and Pilates and I do my best by trying to stay tone with light weightlifting and calisthenics. But, gravity is a powerful force and a full head of hair is only a dream as my monk’s cap grows. Gosh darn it.

I recognize these stars made a living off their beauty and a sad indictment of Hollywood is the business is cruel moreso to women as they age than men. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part the roles are less plentiful for older actresses. That is truly sad as there are countless older actresses who the public would like to see. It is like watching an old friend.

So, for those guys who want to highlight that some former femme-fatale is not as beautiful as she once was, please remember what you might look like if your picture was flashed up on the newsfeed. Let me close with a funny retort from a friend. After my wife and I saw Tina Turner perform in early 60’s, I made a comment to a friend that “I hope I look as good as she does when I get to her age.” He immediately responded, “You don’t look that good now.” Touche.

Dutch rewilding river project

‘This is what a river should look like’: Dutch rewilding project turns back the clock 500 years by Phoebe Weston of The Guardian reveals an interesting co-investment in making rivers run wild again. The reasons – man-influenced and worsened flooding and chemical run-off from farms are harmful to all concerned.

Here are few salient paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the article below.

“Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, who was leading the largest river-restoration project in Europe, believes radical river restoration projects should be taken more seriously. ‘People are not used to looking at green infrastructure in the way they look at other “hard” infrastructure like roads, railways and waterways. But this [type of project] is also for the common good,’ he says...

Crisis point in the Netherlands arrived decades ago after a series of destructive floods in the 80s and 90s. Dead pigs were found stuck in trees as livestock that couldn’t be moved away fast enough drowned in high waters. Thriving fishing communities had died out and rivers had become a threat to people. Momentum to radically overhaul them started building. The planning phase for the Border Meuse began in 1990, with work starting in 2007 and due to finish in 2027.

‘Rivers should be biodiversity hotspots but all over the world they are being damaged by human activity and slurry and pesticides runoff from farms. A key part of Border Meuse has been separating nature and agriculture by buying out farms along two river catchments and returning them to a natural state. Some farmers opposed being moved, but most were struggling to farm because of the flooding and were generously compensated. Farmers have moved away from hundreds of kilometres of Dutch rivers where flood protection and ecological restoration are priorities,’ says Schepers.

The €550m project is being paid for mainly by companies wanting to extract sand and gravel from the riverbed, which has helped widen the river and lower riverbanks and so expand the floodplain. Because of the involvement of industry, Border Meuse was the only large river restoration project that wasn’t withdrawn during the 2008 financial crash. Today, it attracts two million visitors a year, bringing in about €1bn of revenue to the Meuse region.

Here in the US, past efforts to straighten rivers have been destructive to the environment, especially around the Mississippi River basin and we have been losing land at a rapid rate. The solution was to help nature get back to what it was and stop trying to influence it so much. In Steven Solomon’s book “Water” he notes the Egyptians tried to control the Nile for centuries, but nature would bite them in the fanny to show who was boss with extra silt deposits that ruined crops and the water.

Solomon’s book is even more relevant today with our global and US water crisis, which has been made even worse by climate change. Competing interests in river and other waters have led to more evaporation and pose grave concerns to people via hydration and food irrigation. If we do not address these now (and we are already late), the livelihoods of many people will be altered.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/20/dutch-rewilding-project-turns-back-the-clock-500-years-aoe

Tuesday tidbits (in mid-September, 2022)

Being in an alliterative state of mind, here are a few Tuesday tidbits for tasting. In no particular order:

  • I read where Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson is having trouble with his reelection campaign, as well he should. Apparently, independents like myself have soured on the guy, and he is in a toss-up with Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. To be frank, many Republicans did not want Johnson to run again (his age), but for a different reason than I have. He is such an overt supporter of the former president, many Republicans on committees he chaired have openly disagreed with his inane assertions.
  • I continue to read some folks are voting Republican for economic reasons, but they should look at historical data. Here is an easy example to find – under which White Houses have more jobs been created, Democrat or Republicans (note there have been 13 terms apiece)? The answer is under Democrats, and it is not even close. Even Democrats tend to miss this question. The economy and stock market have done better as well. Those who say the last former president did great with the economy, should note that he inherited an economy in its 91st consecutive month of economic growth, a more than doubled stock market and six consecutive years of 2+ million per annum job growth. Note Obama inherited a recession from George W. Bush.
  • I should note that presidents and legislators get too much credit and blame for the economy. They do provide some headwinds and tailwinds, but the economy is bigger than their jobs. The inflation we are seeing today has a lot to do with an inadequate supply chain. If you remember your economic graphs, when supply is low, prices go up. The pandemic hurt a great deal. To me, the tariffs imposed by the previous president and continued under the current one have upset our supply chains, where businesses had to find other sources of goods that they likely continued. I would add the Russian invasion of Ukraine has fueled fossil fuel price increases along with the continued disruption of a poorly planned and executed Brexit which has an echo effect.
  • I should also caution my British friends they are in for an even rockier road with new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ infatuation with trickle-down economics, which has been proven in five studies to have failed. The state of Kansas recently had a huge failure with this theory and almost went bankrupt before it was overturned. Per Mother Jones, “After years of budgetary ruin, Kansas’ experiment in trickle-down economics is finally coming to a close. Late Tuesday night, the state Legislature voted overwhelmingly to override a veto from Gov. Sam Brownback and increase a slew of taxes in the state.” Trickle-down economics is not the best of names, but it is better than what it was called in the late 1890s – the “Horse and sparrow theory,” meaning what you feed the horse (the wealthy) is excreted to feed the sparrows (everyone else).

Sucking the oxygen out of the room

I have written often about relevant issues not getting discussed as certain politicians and sloppy reporters and opinion people would rather discuss sensationalized and exaggerated issues, which may not be that big of a deal to begin with. Or, worse, the party complaining the most chose not to act to leave an issue open to blame the other side for its failure to address it. This last step is happening too often for my tastes. It truly sucks the oxygen out of the room.

When Donald Trump used “build that wall” as his bumper sticker theme in 2016, immigration was a problem, but down on the list of issues causing disenfranchisement in people in run-down areas. The two main culprits of companies chasing cheaper labor and technological advancements would not fit on a bumper sticker. Plus, it is hard to fear a robot like you can an illegal alien brought in as cheap labor in some industries. But, it should be noted when his bluff was called on his number one issue and Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham got him to agree on a wall funding for DACA being made law, he reneged on his promise in a matter of a few hours as not solving immigration was better as a campaign issue.

Right now instead of discussing more our US and global water crisis, our poverty and hunger problems, the threats to our civil rights and democracy, the need to further stabilize health care costs and access, the continuing threats to inflation and climate change, etc., we spend far too much time speaking about things that are not really problems based on some variation of “fear the other” as a threat. When I see “fear the other” issues being bandied about, I just move on as these are purposeful wedge issues to garner votes.

We just passed a good, but imperfect Inflation Reduction Act that included elements to reduce the deficit with increased taxes on the wealthy, help with renewable energy investment and stabilizing health care premiums continuing what happened with the pandemic funding. Although Republican led states will benefit from this, no Republican voted for it. If a party is going to complain about inflation, why did no one vote for it? No legislation is perfect, but no one, even when your state benefits?

Democrats have just done a similar ploy delaying a vote of the marriage equality act until after the election. It is arguable that it could not have passed, but the Democrats feel some lame duck moderate Republicans will be more inclined to vote in favor after the mid-terms. Yet, the bill had support and some momentum. Some Republicans in tough campaigns wanted to vote for it.

Politics has become a new sport with a zero-sum mindset – I must win and you must lose. We even have folks who taunt the other side. In this construct, the people who lose are the voters and citizens of our country and other countries. When the US fails to be a responsible global partner and citizen, then the rest of the world thinks less of us. Botching our pandemic response showed that the US cannot effectively deal with a major issue. The January 6 insurrection showed that even the US can look like a Banana Republic. The unproven bogus election fraud claims planned and touted by the losing former president, made us look like an autocratic country pretending to look like a democracy.

We must strive toward our better angels and civilly discuss our problems truthfully and factually. If any leader from any party cannot do this, then he or she needs to resign. And, we certainly do not need them running for office. Full stop.