Dig beneath the sales schtick

It was Bill Maher who mentioned this first, but the words aligns well with what Donald Trump does. Maher, being from New Jersey, said he grew up hearing this kind of talk, so he recognized it early on. Donald Trump is all about “New Jersey schtick.” In his mind, it is a constant banter to make truths better and tell lies to sell anything, including your reputation. In all fairness to folks from New Jersey, this kind of “schtick” can be found everywhere.

From the Free dictionary, the word schtick, which is also spelled shtick, means: A characteristic attribute, talent, or trait that is helpful in securing recognition or attention Salespeople use schtick, but it is unfair to paint all salespeople with this brush. The ones who focus on relationship selling will tend to use less of it, while those who focus on transactional sales, will tend to use more of it. What do I mean by that?

Relationship sellers want to work with you long term, building a relationship. Transactional sellers want to get a sale to maximize profit in short order. The latter represents Trump’s approach, which is one reason he is less concerned with long relationships with other countries. And, since he does not care to be a student of history, he does not place a value on the relationship. So, he focuses on transactions.

To do that, he looks for props to sell from. He needs a very short, bumper sticker solution to a problem. The fact the problem is more complex or the solution won’t really solve it is irrelevant. His transactional focus is to win. It is a zero-sum game – I must win, you must lose. “Build the wall” fit nicely on a bumper sticker. Getting folks to chant it and the response to who is going to pay for it is all about sales schtick. The fact immigration is down the list for why folks are disenfranchised matters not – technology gains and offshoring jobs were the main culprits.

Props work best when they can be used to placate fears that are stoked. The Black Lives Matter movement gave Trump two props that he is using today. The handful of folks who are creating violence is one prop. The “defund the police” is the other. Now, defunding the police does not mean take all of their money away. That would be ludicrous. But, repurposing funding to hire licensed social workers and train police to deescalate crises is important. So, Trump and his sycophants are playing this up just as Richard Nixon did in 1968, the year MLK and RFK were assassinated that led to rioting and violence.

Let’s be clear. Donald Trump will say anything to get elected and to be liked by his base of followers. This is a key reason he does not know where the truth stops and the lies begin. Paula Reid of CBS News noted to Trump at a press conference after he just repeated what he has often said that he signed the VA Healthcare Protection Act, that was not a true statement. He likely had no idea he was lying. The act was signed in 2014. He just signed an amendment to it.

Financial reporters, who have covered Trump for decades, note he is not the best of managers. He does not have the emosthy, patience, temperament or time for it. What he is good at is selling. Make the deal and leave a way to get out when the cookie crumbles. He started selling his name for building developments, but he left himself an out when problems surfaced and he could bail. This was a transactional sales person’s dream – get your revenue without any responsibility.

Unfortunately, this is how he approaches the White House. Get the accolades, take credit for all things good regardless of your role and blame others for any problems, even if your failures contributed to them. He and his sycophants spend a lot of tax payer dollars trying to erase or re-write history to absolve him of any accountability.

So, the way to beat Trump is to define truthful props that can be pounded like a drumbeat.

– Trump admitted to lying about the pandemic and now 200,000 (and growing) Americans have died
– America is less trusted because its president is untrustworthy
– Trump does not even try to unite Americans
– It is hard to put out racial fires when the president is carrying a gas can
– Trump is making it easier for China to ascend to number one in economic clout
– Trump is making it easier companies to pee in your water supply
– America is only one of three nations to not support the Paris Climate Change Accord
– The ACA may be ruled unconstitutional after the election by SCOTUS due to changes made by Republicans
– How does a president take credit for building an economy with 7 plus years of growth when he took office?

There is little hope of changing the mindset of someone wearing a t-shirt that says “Jesus died for you – Trump lives for you.” That is just a load of BS. But, that is the base’s mindset. His one genius is to get people to buy his schtick and not believe anyone else. And, he knows they won’t as, if they start to question him and heed the uncomfortable truths, the cognitive dissonance would be overwhelming. This is why the words of Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney and fixer fell on deaf ears, when under oath he said “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.”

Well, what do you plan to do about it? – you must VOTE

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a hero to many, especially women and the disenfranchised. Her career must be celebrated. Like Thurgood Marshall before her, her record of success in arguing cases before the Supreme Court, justified her inclusion in this institution. She served America well.

As for the indicting language directed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over holding a vetting process and vote of a new SCOTUS nominee before the election, this is the normative process. Yet, we must also understand when McConnell conducted his treachery. It was in 2016 when he chose to not follow normal process to vet and vote on a pretty well respected candidate named Merrick Garland, who won near unanimous consent for his current position. When a politician does not follow normal process, take it to the bank it is political. And, McConnell cannot go to the bathroom without it being political.

Now, we are faced with his pushing the process he is supposed to follow, but it is in direct contradiction to what he did in 2016. Yes, McConnell is a hypocrite. Where I get mad is those crying foul today, who chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 – she had flaws, they were unfair to Bernie, and she ran a poor campaign. She also was one of he best prepared candidates for the office we have ever had.

Trump won because he got folks to stay home, vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or even vote for him. Now, this unsavory, deceitful and corrupt person (who was all of those things before the election), will pick one third of the Supreme Court in four years. If you did not vote, remedy it by voting in 2020.

Of course it would be respectful to wait and McConnell deserves every bit of criticism he got in 2016 and his hypocrisy now. What bugs me is I want good jurists on the Supreme Court. We could have had a Garland, who Obama knew would also appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats. Yet, he did not get a fair (or any) hearing and that McConnell let the country down.

So, we can bitch all we want, but people need to get out and vote. And, vote for a decent and good public servant in Joe Biden. Climate change, women’s rights, healthcare, civil rights, the environment and our global standing are on the ballot. Plus, the incumbent’s modus operandi is self-serving, untruthful, bullying, and authoritarian in nature. As conservative David Brooks noted, the president has “no sense of decency or empathy.” Yet, Michael Cohen, Trump’s long time attorney/ fixer said it well under oath, “Donald Trump is a racist, his con-artist and his a cheat.”

Big Stone Gap – a quick read about an eccentric mountain town and a self-proclaimed spinster

If you are unfamiliar with “Big Stone Gap,” the book is about a real town in the Virginia mountains written by Adriana Trigiani. There was also a movie called “Big Stone Gap” made about the book starring Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, John Benjamin Hickey and Jenna Elfman. Plus, you may remember a true story included in the book, when Elizabeth Taylor, while visiting with her Senate candidate husband John Warner, choked on a chicken bone in the town at a welcome dinner in the late 1970s.

The book revolves around the main character, a thirty-five year old pharmacist named Ave Maria Mulligan. Her mother was born in Italy, so the name is not as unusual as it sounds, but is still not common. The pharmacy was owned by her stern father who had passed away years ago. Her mother has just passed away when the book picks up. Another key character is a mining friend named Jack MacChesney, who goes by Jack Mac. Judd and Wilson play the lead characters in the movie which was co-written and directed by the author.

Without giving too much of the plot away, Ave Maria is an avid book reader and her best friend is Iva Lou (played by Elfman), the woman who drives the bookmobile into the library-less town once a week. Iva Lou is unmarried as well, but she encourages Ave Maria to be more like she is with her healthy libido. Ave Maria also has a big heart and busy calendar as she is one of the two EMTs in the area, directs a regional theater performance about the town, and is best friends with the very creative high school band director named Theodore (played by Hickey).

Her mother taught her Italian as a shared hobby her husband did not know about. Ave Maria felt her relationship was always strained with her father and the book reveals how she discovers why this was the case. And, as an important context to the story, her mother was an expert seamstress and did pro bono work for band uniforms, prom dresses, and wedding dresses in this relatively poor mining town. This goodwill endeared her too many including Jack Mac.

If you love small towns, the book will hit home with its local flair. Goldberg plays Fleeta, a pro wrestling loving clerk at the pharmacy. You will learn who the gossips are and why very few stories are private. You will love the eccentricity and become frustrated with the stubbornness of some of the characters, including Ave Maria, who stiff-arms suitors.

You will treasure and be proud of Ave Maria standing up for the disenfranchised, like a young heavy-set teen named Pearl who gets picked on and others in need of work. She is also friends with her customers and delivers medicines to those who cannot get out. You will like Ave Maria, as do the town residents, but she will frustrate you as well, like a sibling or good friend sometimes do.

If you have not read it, give it look. It is a quick read. It won’t solve world hunger, but it is a nice distraction, which we all need. Let me know what you think.

Kentucky police force benefits from hiring social workers

From an article in The Guardian called “The US police department that decided to hire social workers,” a path forward can be gleaned. Here are a few paragraphs to provide a sense. The full article can be linked to below.

“In 2016, the Alexandria, Kentucky, police chief talked the city into hiring a social worker – and four years on, the current chief sees the program as indispensable. In 2016 he decided to try a new approach: he talked the city into hiring a social worker for the police department. ‘To an officer, they all thought I was batshit crazy,’ he said of the police.

The current police chief, Lucas Cooper, said he was ‘the most vocal opponent’ of the plan at the time, thinking that the department should be using its budget to hire more officers for a force he viewed as stretched thin. But now four years later, Cooper sees the program as indispensable: it frees officers from repeat calls for non-criminal issues and gets residents the help they needed, but couldn’t get.”

Just recently, a Utah boy with Asperger’s was shot by the police after his mother called alerting them to the boy’s inability to calm down when she returned to work. Last year, a North Carolina man who called the police for help when he was having a schizoid disorder was killed in his own home because he would not put down a knife when the police arrived.

These are not rare occurrences. People with mental illness may not be sufficiently cognizant to respond to commands, or they may fearful of what is happening. Unless an attending officer is used to seeing and working with people who have mental health issues, it is quite difficult to avoid the use of force when commands are not followed.

In human services agency I was involved with, the licensed social workers used a model called “trauma informed care.” This approach let them focus on the traumas that people face. For example, a woman and family who are domestic violence victims have PTSD issues. So, if they lose their house, as well, there are two sets of trauma to deal with.

To be frank, the “defunding the police” movement has chosen a poor choice of words. Too many view it as taking all funding away – the key difference is using more wisely to serve and protect. Hiring more social workers who are licensed to offer counseling will let the police focus on other alleged criminals.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/19/alexandria-kentucky-police-social-workers&lt

Shut the front door – common ground can be found

I am not sure when it happened, but “shut the front door” became a funny euphemism for a more colorful saying. I have witnessed it being offered up as an excited way to say the person cannot believe what has just been uttered. I will leave you to your own devices to substitute the more colorful metaphor.

So, with this in mind, please feel free to utter “shut the front door” on these truthful events or comments:

– Novak Djokovic, the top-seeded men’s tennis player in this year’s U.S. Open, was disqualified after accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball during his match. On occasion, tennis players are prone to slam a ball with their racquet when they hit a bad shot. Djokovic hits the ball harder than almost anyone on the planet. The good news is the judge is alright and Djokovic was concerned and contrite after he did it, he apologized afterwards and spoke of his poor judgment later. Common ground after an unfortunate incident.

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an American hero, especially for her groundbreaking work for women’s rights. She had a colorful and exemplary career, and her love of opera is renowned. Apparently, she and her conservative justice Antonin Scalia both loved opera, so attended performances together. Common ground can be found if we look for it. Note, it is reported she was allowed to participate in a few operas in full costume, but only in a non-singing background role.

– Joe Biden and John McCain were friends. McCain was renowned for his Senate trips to visit troops or improve relationships abroad. Given McCain’s POW status for five years, where McCain refused to be released unless others were, he was against torture and maltreatment of prisoners of war. Biden accompanied McCain on these trips, along with a few other Senators, and mutual respect and friendship blossomed. Again, common ground can be found if we look for it.

– I read Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi used to write letters to each other. During 1909-10, “Gandhi solicited permission to redistribute Tolstoy’s writings among Indians, and Tolstoy in turn was pleased that his ideas were being put into practice. This collection of letters gives the reader an insight into this meeting of two great minds,” per GoodReads. Going one step further, Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi’s civil disobedience approach. Common ground over standing up to disenfranchisement.

Shut the front door. Common ground can be found in the unlikeliest of places. I did not mention the line judge’s name, as fans of Djokovic have been less kind. Yet, unlike an infamous politician, he recognized his mistake and made up for it and told his fans to cool their jets.

If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it

I read this week from an UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today, Native Americans have to go out of their way to protect the rights granted when they were forced to move or areas dear to them were protected by law. It seems the pursuit of fossil fuel acquisition and transport usurps rights.

– Slavery of blacks in the US is well known and was the principal reason the Civil War was fought. Even the reason for the war was white-washed and taught as a battle for states’ rights in too many class rooms. This propaganda was to get poor whites to fight the battles of landowners to allow their richer neighbors to keep slaves. Slaves were treated and abused as property. Yet, after the reconstruction period was legislated away years later, an ugly era of Jim Crow laws began to suppress blacks and make/ keep them as second class citizens. I encourage you to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or listen to Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit” about black bodies swinging in the trees regarding this hateful period.

– To protect them (and other Americans, as a stated reason), FDR ordered the encampment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. These folks and their families were taken from their jobs and homes and imprisoned in camps during the war. They were not killed, although maybe some were while trying to escape, yet their rights were taken away.

Outside of North America, USSR premier Josef Stalin rounded up and killed far more people as enemies of the state than Adolph Hitler ever did. Yet, it did not get the notoriety of Hitler’s heinous crimes of the holocaust. In the 1990s, Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, were among those indicted for genocide and other crimes against humanity as they captured and killed about 8,000 Bosniaks.

In 1994, a planned campaign of mass murder in Rwanda occurred over the course of some 100 days. The genocide was conceived by extremist elements of Rwanda’s majority Hutu population who planned to kill the minority Tutsi population and anyone who opposed those genocidal intentions.

More recently, in Iran the Sunnis felt left out of the largely Shia governing body in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. They made the mistake of inviting in Daesh to help them. Daesh conducted genocide against all who stood against them, with beheadings and terror, until they were contained.

Sadly, there is so much more. Often the conquering power or the group in power will suppress people in their own lands. The leaders of the Mongols, Romans, Spaniards, Greeks, Brits, Syrians, North Koreans, Russians, Chinese, etc. have put down dissidents or dissident groups or made them disappear. There is an old saying – winners write the history – so, written history may be kinder than oral history to the strong-arming

These sad events involve two themes – power and fear. The first theme is obvious. The second is an age old practice. Tell people to fear another group, tell them these groups are the reason for your disenfranchisement and the people will do what you tell them.

How do we avoid this? So-called leaders who tell us whom to fear, should be questioned. This is especially true if the voice is not one of reason or veracity. Fear is a lever to divide and conquer – we must guard against its wielders.

Global view of America and Trump worsens

Earlier this week, Business Insider posted the following article, “Trump is less trusted than Putin and Xi and the US is hitting historic lows of approval from its closest allies.” The full article can be linked to below, but I note several key paragraphs that speak for themselves. I also encourage you to click on the link to Jill’s similar post, which includes quotes from non-Americans, and is an excellent read.

“The United States’ image has soured within the international community, hitting all-time lows among key allies since Pew started polling two decades ago.

Among the 13-countries surveyed include Canada, France, Germany, UK and Japan. The results showed that people have less confidence in Trump as a leader than Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping. Majority of the publics also say Trump mishandled the US’s coronavirus response.

President Donald Trump has on average received low approval ratings from Americans during his time in office — and new data shows people around the world continue to view him very negatively.

In Canada, one in five people expressed confidence in Trump, a drastic drop from 51 percent who held that view a year ago.

Similarly, Germans gave the US some of ‘its worst ratings,’ the authors note, with only 10% who said they have confidence in Trump, compared with 13% in 2019 and 86% in 2016 while Barack Obama was president.

Most people across the 13 countries surveyed said they have less trust in Trump to ‘do the right thing’ than they do in Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Only an average of 16% said they have confidence in Trump as a leader, versus 19% who said the same for Xi and 23% for Putin.

Overall, the report found that roughly 34% of people expressed a positive view of the US. Pew Research Center conducted its survey to 13,273 respondents from June 10 to Aug. 3.

Though Trump has consistently been rated low by the rest of the world over the past four years, the study released Tuesday depicts a deepening downward trend of the US’ international reputation, likely due to his coronavirus response — the US has the world’s highest reported death toll, which is nearing 200,000.

All 13 countries ranked the US lowest for its handling of the pandemic, averaging a mere 15% who said the country has done a good job.

Germany, on the other hand, gained the highest ratings, as a median of 76% said they have confidence in Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been praised internationally for leading an effective coronavirus response in the Western European country.

The Pew poll comes amid renewed criticism nationally against Trump for how he dealt with public health crisis, after damning audio recordings revealed that he publicly downplayed the virus’ severity at the onset of the outbreak.”

In short, America is less trusted because its president is untrustworthy. He is relentless in his disregard for the truth. So, my strong advice is to start from the basis to not believe a word the president says or tweets. The odds are well in your favor.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-is-less-trusted-than-putin-and-xi-and-the-us-is-hitting-historic-lows-of-approval-from-its-closest-allies/ar-BB194Kdq?ocid=msedgdhp

How The World Sees Us Now

True story of a community health care provider 100 years ago

I have shared before stories about my maternal grandmother’s family. She grew up in southwest Georgia in a small community along with her thirteen siblings, with one passing at birth and another dying as a young adult. My grandmother shared that her Mama was the chief health provider in the community and would accompany the visiting doctor when he would make his rounds once a month.

The following two paragraphs were written by my third cousin based on interviews with his grandmother (a sister of my grandmother) and her brother who was the youngest of the surviving children. It is further evidence of their Mama’s health care role, using a very appropriate historical marker in one episode.

“There was a bad flu epidemic in 1918 and five of the children were in the bed with the flu at one time. People all around were dying, and my great uncle tells me he vividly remembers the hearse passing their home several times during this flu epidemic. The hearse was a glass enclosed carriage drawn by big white horses. My great grandmother was able to get her children well by using a home remedy of kerosene, turpentine and tallow. She made bibs, soaked them in the above mixture and placed them on the sick children. Also, they had cedar water buckets that were smaller at the top than bottom. They would fill the eight-to-ten- quart bucket with water and put a little fresh turpentine in it and drink it for colds.

Other home remedies included using the gland from a hog and placing it on the clothes line to dry out. When it dried, my great grandmother would boil the gland and remove the jell which was used for arthritis. She called this jell ‘pizzle grease.’ She did not understand or have the education to know why it worked, she only knew it did. Today this ‘pizzle grease’ is know as ACTH which is a polypeptide hormone of the anterior part of the pituitary gland that stimulates hormone production of the adrenal cortex and is used to treat arthritis.”

Let me add one more story that I have shared earlier. The youngest sibling noted above liked being a gymnast. When he was an adolescent, he was swinging his whole body over a single bar like the male gymnasts do. He fell and knocked out his front teeth. Mama asked him to sit down as she cleaned the teeth and boiled some water. Once boiled, she put a clean towel in the water and rinsed it with cold water. She said put this in your mouth as hot as you can stand it. This was to swell his gums. Once swollen, she jammed the cleaned teeth back into the gums and the teeth held.

These stories amaze me at her ingenuity and practicality. A couple of sidebars to this story, my great grandmother married when she was only fourteen, begetting fourteen children. My third cousin also writes the family survived the depression, as did many farmers, by growing their own crops, raising their own meat sources and making their own soaps. He noted they only bought sugar and coffee. They had no electricity using kerosene lamps and wood stoves (in a separate from the house kitchen). And, water was stored in two 66 2/3 gallon barrels they called Hogsheads, which sat in the covered walkway to the kitchen.

We should remember these stories when we complain the wi-fi is down or the power goes out. Please feel free to share your reactions and own stories in the comments.

When a heart is empty – words from conservative pundit David Brooks

I have shared before David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits. I read his columns and have read two of his books, “The Road to Character” and “The Social Animal.” I even went to hear him speak when he came to town, as he focused on remembering community and community gathering places. Monday’s editorial column by Brooks is called “When a heart is empty.”

Brooks highlights how an unfeeling, self-absorbed author named Emmanuel Carrere is forever altered by a crisis, when he loses his granddaughter to a horrible tsunami. Per Brooks, Carrere “develops a deep and perceptive capacity to see the struggles of others” and he writes about the change in “Lives Other Than My Own.”

Brooks uses this change to contrast it being “opposite of the blindness Donald Trump displayed in quotes reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic and Bob Woodward in his latest book about the administration, ‘Rage’

Brooks goes on to say “Trump can’t seem to fathom the emotional experience of their lives (the deceased soldiers he called ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’) – their love for those they fought for, the fears they faced down, the resolve to risk their lives nonetheless.

If he can’t see that, he can’t understand the men and women in uniform serving around him. He can’t understand the inner devotion that drives people to public service, which is supposed to be the core of his job.

The same sort of blindness is on display in the Woodward quotes. It was stupid of Trump to think he could downplay COVID-19 when he already knew it had the power of a pandemic. It was stupid to think the American people would panic if he told the truth. It was stupid to talk to Woodward in the first place…

It is moral and emotional stupidity. He blunders so often and so badly because he has a narcissist’s inability to get inside the hearts and minds of other people.”

There is more, but the gist of the piece can be gleaned from these quotes. Brooks said earlier this year, “Donald Trump does not have a sense of decency or empathy.” He reiterates this theme above. And, there is a line from one of my favorite political movies “The American President” with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. “Being president is entirely about character.”

The Buffalo Soldier – a good read about relationships in tough times

The recipe is simple, but tragic. Mix in a young couple living in Vermont who loses their twin daughters to a terrible flood. Season with a ten-year old African-American foster child that they take in two years later. Understand the couple grieves differently and the husband has a one night affair that produces a pregnancy. Finally, layer in a kind, retired couple across the street, one of whom is a retired history professor who introduces the boy to a book on an African-American regiment called the Buffalo Soldiers. What results is an excellent book by Chris Bohjalian called “The Buffalo Soldier.”

The book is told in first person, through the eyes of five sets of characters. Laura, the young wife, works at a pet shelter. Terry, the husband, is a Vermont state trooper. Alfred is the young boy who has moved from foster home to foster home. Phoebe is the woman who Terry becomes infatuated with and is the expectant mother of his child. And, the Heberts, Paul and Emily, are the retired couple whose view is told together. Bohjalian alternates the first person narrative by chapter which provides perspective.

Alfred becomes fascinated with the Buffalo Soldiers, especially after Paul tells him the Native Americans gave them that name as an honor. To them, the buffalo gave life – food, clothing, shelter – so they revered the animal. This becomes important when Paul and Emily get a horse and ask Alfred to help. Alfred is treated differently by others because there are not many African-Americans in this small town or his school, so the Buffalo Soldiers intrigue him and give him a connection.

The story has many relationships, but the foster family is at the heart of it. As noted therein, losing one child is trying to a family, but losing both of your only children can cause relationships to end. As noted above, people grieve differently and for long periods of time. So, while Alfred helps bring Laura out of her grief, Terry has still not stopped being mad at the world and misses how his relationship with his wife was before the death of the twins.

Each chapter begins with a little paragraph on the Buffalo Soldiers, so we see what Paul and Alfred find so compelling about them. I will stop there so as not to reveal any more of the plot. Give it a read and let me know what you think. Please avoid the comments in case others have already read it.