Visiting people and places is the ticket

I wrote a few years ago about the wonderful visit we had to New England, made more enjoyable because we reconnected with some relatives. The combination of using a visit to a place to visit people can be marvelous, the caveat is to make sure it is people who you want to be around.

The past few days, my wife and I did a similar kind of visit to my home state of Florida and roots in south Georgia. Starting with my hometown of Jacksonville, we stayed with my brother and visited with his oldest daughter who is temporarily staying with him. The next night, we had dinner with his son, who we had not seen for a few years. It was wonderful to catch up. Earlier that day, we had yet another four hour lunch with my three best friends dating back to grade school, along with their wives. We did hear a few new stories, along with the old, and got to catch up.

The next day we drove to Tampa where we spent a couple of days enjoying its wonderful River Walk and a cool place called the Oxford Exchange suggested by our niece, my brother’s youngest daughter. The key to our trip was to visit with her, which was lots of fun. But, while there, we got to meet our blogging friend Gronda, who I had never met in person. She is a delight and has lived a wonderful life with various experiences, which she shared. We walked to and from the restaurant with Gronda, which was on the River Walk, as we sat outside and enjoyed the meal.

As for meeting our niece, it is lovely to meet her now as a wonderful young woman, as contrasted to the child we saw grow up. Meeting her alone in her new home city was quite fun. We had a nice brunch at the Oxford Exchange which is a rehabbed old building filled with shops and restaurants.

Finally, we ventured north and had a wonderful meal with members of my father’s family in south Georgia. I won’t mention the town, because everyone knows everyone else. There were eight of us, which included the three children (and their spouses) of a man raised with my father after his parents divorced. My dad was brought up largely by his aunt and her husband, who had two children as well. This aunt had helped raise his mother, as her biological mother was not part of the picture.

We had so much fun catching up, trading stories and filling in gaps in other stories. I hope the visits spawn reciprocal ones. It did with our New England trip. In fact, another niece we reconnected with in Maine is coming down for a few days later today.

I cannot emphasize enough how happy we are to have made these trips. I recognize this may not be newsworthy, but let me say don’t wait until it is too late to connect or reconnect.

A few why questions – sample letter

The following is a draft letter I forwarded to my newspaper. It is short and sweet given their word limitations. I hope they will print it. Please feel free to adapt and use if you like the concept:

I am troubled by a few why questions:

– why did White House staff try to hide the president’s so called perfect call?
– why would Ukraine leaders meet with Lev Parnas if he did not have the “juice?”
– why would real diplomats be kept in the dark by the Giuilani/Trump shadow diplomacy?
– why did Rep. Devin Nunes not recuse himself if his name appeared in the Parnas documents?
– why do 63% of Europeans feel the US president is untrustworthy (per a recent Pew survey)?

Please feel free to share any success or sample letters that you have gotten printed or sent to Senators and Congressional representatives.

A true lesson in correcting racist action

I heard this story yesterday while visiting with friends dating back to grade school. One of my friends was a catcher on a good college baseball team.

As they played an arch rival, my friend was catching an African-American pitcher, whom I have met as he was a good friend of my catching friend. That day, an opposing player got a single off the pitcher and, while standing on first base told my friend’s first baseman, “Tell that ‘N-word’ I will own him all day!”

The next time up at bat, the African-American pitcher dusted him back with two pitches (meaning he threw pitches closer to him than homeplate). The opposing coach came out to complain and the Black pitcher’s coach told him what was happening. The offensive batter’s coach told the pitcher’s coach “to throw at him two more times.” After the batter walked to first base after four balls, his coach removed him from the game and told him why. He told the pitcher’s coach after learning of the racial slur, “We are not going to put up with that s–t.”

While I am not condoning a pitcher throwing toward a batter, I repeat this story as it is an exemplar for people in leadership – a coach, minister, teacher, boss, mentor, representative, governor, senator, or president – they can make a huge difference in condemning racism. His quote is priceless, “we are not going to put up with that s–t.”

Just think if these people in leadership positions or, even the rest of us, said “that is not right” or “I do not agree with your saying that.” Or, just by actions, to show support to a target of racism. We need our leaders to be among our better angels. Yet, we must also walk the talk. If our so-called leaders fail to lead, we need to share our disappointment and ask them to do better.

Bumper sticker solutions

Bumper sticker solutions may get people elected, but they rarely solve problems. Most problems are complex and multi-faceted. And, some bumper sticker solutions don’t address the greater causes.

The most obvious example is “Build that wall.” Building a wall was sold as the cure for disenfranchised economic areas. Yet, immigration, legal or illegal, is down the list as causes. The two primary causes are companies chasing cheap labor and technological gains. As a CFO once said, companies would get by with no employees if they could.

Bumper sticker solutions also dilute the focus and dollars from addressing the underlying causes. “Saving coal” fits nicely on the bumper, but it overlooks that coal has been in demise for both cost and environmental reasons and has been for ten years. Only Senator Bernie Sanders told coal miners the truth in 2016 saying “your jobs are going away.” But, what could not fit on a bumper is “here is what I plan to do about it.” He then defined transitionel compensation and training to help miners learn new trades. It should be noted the demise in coal fired plants has accelerated under the current White House.

Our problems are real and complex. Very few, if any, can be solved with implementing a bumper sticker solution. Repealing Obamacare will hurt tens of mullions of people. Any improvements or changes have to be well thought out and not slapped on a wall as was done in 2017.

Let’s ask more questions of politicians. What, how, when, how much are good ones. But, let’s start with why?

Parnas evidence, GAO assessment on Ukraine funding and Yovanovitch intimidation

As the Donald J. Trump impeachment trial started out with the serious and sober presentation of the articles of impeachment and swearing in by the Chief Justice, two news bullets of the last two days are shaping the trial. With the evidence from Lev Parnas, who is one of Rudy Giuliani’s henchmen, and his interview that notes “of course Trump knew” what Parnas was up to, coupled with the non-partisan GAO stating Trump’s withholding of funding of Ukraine broke the law, the president and those close to him have questions to answer.

As an independent and former Republican voter, I have been asking Senators for some time to call witnesses as we need to get to the bottom of this. I want to hear from Messers. Bolton, Pompeo, Giuliani, and Pence among others. Rep. Adam Schiff noted nine witnesses that Trump denied access to obstructing Congress. Having watched these honorable diplomats and public servants testify under oath and at great risk, having watched Rep. Devin Nunes not recuse himself from the questioning since his name shows up in the dirt gathering, and seeing the president’s people try to hide the “perfect phone call” from view, I have concerns about the president as a national security risk.

I am also concerned about the treatment to defame and intimidate an honorable diplomat named Marie Yovanovitch as she would not play ball with the Giuiliani and Trump narrative. This is beyond bad behavior and could be criminal. But, there is one thing I am very clear of as he did it out in the open – the president obstructed Congress. How any reasonable person could say otherwise is beyond me. We are not a kingdom – we are a Republic with three equal branches of government.

Politico published the attached piece called “Parnas and Ukraine bombshells jolt impeachment trial” yesterday. Please click the link below and read the article. It is important. It is up to Americans to demand the Senate to remember their oaths to the Constitution and that oath they just took with the Chief Justice.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/parnas-and-ukraine-aid-bombshells-jolt-impeachment-trial/ar-BBZ1PJl?ocid=spartandhp

There is a reason the US president does not want people reading evidence

In an editorial by Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer yesterday in The Washington Post called “Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence” (see link below), it lays bare false reasons of the US president using strong-arm tactics in Ukraine. Per the editorial:

“Americans who have been wondering why President Trump has taken the extraordinary step of trying to block every document from being released to Congress in his impeachment inquiry need wonder no longer. The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump’s continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging: that he was really fighting corruption when he pressured Ukraine on matters related to the Biden family; that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial; and that there’s no need for a real, honest-to-goodness trial in the Senate.

The most basic principles of constitutional law require relevant information, including documents and executive branch witnesses, to be turned over to Congress in an impeachment proceeding. Particularly because sitting presidents cannot be indicted, impeachment is the only immediate remedy we the people have against a lawless president. For that remedy to have any teeth, relevant information has to be provided. That’s why President James Polk said that, during impeachment, Congress could ‘penetrate into the most secret recesses of the Executive Departments … command the attendance of any and every agent of the Government, and compel them to produce all papers, public or private, official or unofficial.’ No president, not even Richard Nixon, thought he could just say ‘no’ to impeachment. That’s why the House added Article II to Trump’s impeachment: ‘Obstruction of Congress.’ It was a response to an unprecedented attempt by a president to hide the truth.

The documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of. For starters, they prove that his already-eyebrow-raising claim to have been fighting corruption in Ukraine was bogus. Notes taken by Lev Parnas — who is an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and is now facing federal criminal charges — show what his and Giuliani’s mission was when they got in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “get Zalensky to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” Look hard at the real goal here: not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of Joe Biden, a leading political rival.”

There is not much to add as this article and the above three paragraphs speak volumes. In a nutshell, it is yet one more example of why taking Donald J. Trump at his word is a fool’s errand. It is also is more evidence as to why Trump is the most corrupt and untruthful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon, who incorrectly said he was not a crook.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinions-lev-parnas-and-rudy-giuliani-have-demolished-trumps-claims-of-innocence/ar-BBYYE1P?ocid=spartandhp

A lump of coal is less in use

A good news environmental story that began almost ten years ago is coal use is on the demise. Sadly, legislators who have a say in coal states have not been forthcoming with coal miners making commitments that are not reflective of market conditions. Two stories frame this topic:

A Fox News piece by Dan Springer from September entitled “Coal Industry continues sharp decline despite Trump’s promised revival,” notes the following:

“But since he (Trump) took office, U.S. coal consumption has hit a 41-year low and coal plant closures have actually accelerated. The next to fall, in December, will be Colstrip units 1 and 2, which have been keeping the lights on throughout the Pacific Northwest since 1975. Shutting down one-third of the capacity of the largest coal plant west of the Mississippi comes even after Trump scrapped the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and his administration pledged $39 million to make coal plants run cleaner.

‘There’s nothing he can do about it,’ said Randy Hardy, an energy consultant and former head of the Bonneville Power Administration. ‘The market economics are so compelling that absent massive federal government subsidies to keep coal alive, you couldn’t do it economically.'”

Recently, a Houston Public Media piece by Florian Martin called “Wind energy on track to surpass coal power in Texas,” noted the following:

“Both (Coal and wind energy) now make up about 20% of the state’s energy mix, with wind just 0.3 percentage points below coal. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at the University of Houston, said wind power has increased dramatically in the past 12 years, up from 3% in 2007. But in the short-term, it’s cheap natural gas that’s responsible for the decline of coal.

‘The real story has been, if coal went down from over 32% down to 20%, that slack was picked up by natural gas,’ he said. Natural gas made up more than 47% of the energy mix last year.

Krishnamoorti said he expects coal to decline further and for renewable energy to make modest gains in the next few years. ‘If wind can just maintain where it is, it’s going to surpass coal in 2020,” he said. “It’s a question of, can it get that next bump up to sort of go through this significant expansion.’ Krishnamoorti said wind power’s growth has slowed down in the past few years due to the end of tax credits that helped it.”

Links to both articles are below. I have written earlier, that if measured as a country, the state of Texas would be the fifth most prolific wind energy country in the world. And, California is among the world leaders in solar energy, also if measured as a country.

What is lost in all of this is the decline of coal is not a surprise, nor has it taken place over night. So, it frustrates me that legislators in a position of power have not shot straight with coal miners and done something more to help the transition. The wind blows and sun shines in these coal producing states. And, that is where the job growth is, not in coal energy.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/coal-industry-decline-trump-revival

Wind Energy On Track To Surpass Coal Power In Texas