Hey Dems, focus on these four issues

One of this Independent voter’s frustrations with politics, which is exacerbated by this President, is pressing issues are not getting discussed. And, some are made worse or are sabotaged by the current White House incumbent as we are told to focus our attention on issues he has overstated in importance or sold on fear.

While there are many issues, it is hard to boil the ocean. So, my advice to all politicians, but especially the Democrats who are pushing these ideas, is to narrow the focus to the following four issues.

– Stabilize the healthcare system and have a good debate on Medicare for All, which is a hard sell. The GOP has failed to realize that a reason they lost the House is not listening to most Americans, instead sabotaging the ACA reneging on commitments to insurers and trying to repeal it. As a retired benefits actuary, consultant and manager. I would suggest an idea to stabilize the ACA is to expand Medicare to retirees at age 60 or 62 and measure the impact for its veracity. But, we need to start by paying insurers what we committed to them.

– Climate change is real, is happening and is man-influenced. AOC is dramatizing a little about the end of the world, but the data point she is citing is if we do not make huge strides by 2030 (12 years), our ability to stop the warming trend impact is minimal. She has been ridiculed for he Green New Deal by the GOP, but I would rather discuss her plan than Senator Marco Rubio ignoring the fact the largest city in Florida is the most at risk city on the planet and is seeing a larger number of sunny days flooding from the rising tides. Who is the crazier person, the one speaking to a problem or the one ignoring it altogether?

– Job retraining is key, but we need to understand the major reasons the jobs are going away are technology/ robotics and CEOs chasing cheap labor. It is not immigration or trade, which are down the list. This especially true in those impoverished areas where industry has left them behind moving or closing a plant.

– Finally, the debt and deficit are critical to discuss. The debt just passed $22 trillion and is headed to $34 trillion by the end of 2027. The annual deficit will pass $1 trillion this year, which is nearly 1/3 of our annual revenue. My former party and, in particular, the Freedom Caucus, are as hypocritical as they come. When the Dems had the White House, the Freedom Caucus screamed bloody murder when the debt was $8 trillion, then $13 trillion. But, I give the same caution to Dems I give to the GOP, we must reduce spending and increase revenue. The math will not work otherwise, so says the CBO, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, The Concord Coalition and Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee.

Of course, there are other critical issues. But, if you focus on the important few, it will resonate. This is especially true for younger folks – climate change, debt, future jobs and healthcare are important. In my view, the GOP has lost its way on issues of import. When I left the party twelve years ago, a key reason was its global warming denying stance. My thesis is if you are denying the greatest threat facing our planet, how can I trust you on resolving other issues?

We are behind the eight ball on too many issues. We are leaving our problems to our children and grandchildren. They will ask us, why did you do that? Why, indeed?

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We have all done dumb things

Let me first say, Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, must resign. He made a series of poor decisions in his past and has handled this whole escapade poorly. There has been a breach of faith with his constituents.

When incumbents dishonor the office, action must be taken. It need not always be resignation, but some formal censure or pulling of appointments to committees could be in order. It is vital to protect the auspices of the position. The Catholic Church failed to learn this regarding sexual assault and rape with Penn State and Michigan State Universities doing the same.

Unfortunately, my former party did not heed this lesson as the current US President should have been removed from the campaign when he confirmed what others had accused him of before the so-called “locker room talk” became public – sexual assault. Now he continues to defame the office with his untruths, bullying and demeaning of anyone who is in his way or he perceives to challenge his message.

Setting all of this aside, we have all done dumb things in our past. All of us, even the Pope. This is even more true when we were young and impressionable. We have done things in group settings, where we may not have been strong-willed enough to tell the group we should not be doing this or I choose not to do this. Three teen boys with free time is the makings of some poor decision-making.

The key in looking back is to come clean. Was this an isolated incident or a pattern of behavior? Are they otherwise exhibiting reputable patterns of behavior since that time? How is the person reacting to the resurfaced information? Did they fess up or go into protection mode as the governor has done?

What worried me about our newest Supreme Court justice is there seemed to be a pattern of behavior as a teen and young man that was troubling. Yet, once it got political, the truth was overshadowed by messaging. What also was overshadowed by accusers is his behavior since being a responsible adult. I would have liked all of this to have been handled more judiciously, yet I must confess the judge was in attack mode and the issues should have been raised much earlier before it became a crisis.

In a recent post, I mention the number 19 is the numerator of a favorite example. The person who does the right thing 19 times out of 20 is different from the person who has a less stellar track record. The President is untruthful 69% of the time and as Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked for him, said, “Trump lies every day, even about things of no consequence.” For the former person, you would tend to give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

Let me close with an observation we all need to consider. Not only have we all done dumb things, in today’s world, those things are recorded. For some reason, politicians tend to forget that things are recorded. Representative Anthony Weiner is a smart man, but doesn’t he know that sending a picture of his manhood is easily shared and not easily erased?

So, politicians or any officials need to come clean, preferably before they run.The sad part is since we are in a “gotcha” culture, people with pretty good records will choose not to run. And, that may be more harmful to our country.

 

America falls on the Corruption Perceptions Index

This is probably not what those Americans with red ball caps with MAGA on them envisioned when they signed up on Team Donald. Per watchdog group Transparency International, in 2017 the US fell four grade points from 75 to 71 on the Corruption Perceptions Index falling out of the top twenty. A score of 100 means a country is very clean and a score of zero means it is very corrupt.

Per an AP articles called “US Rank on corruption index seen as a ‘red flag,'” The “ratings reflect a deterioration of rule of law and democratic institutions, as well as rapidly shrinking space for civil society and independent media,” the Berlin-based organization said.

The organization also said, “A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.” Full democracies scored an average of 75 on the CPI, meaning we have fallen beneath the curve.

This is not a surprise and is confirmation of what I have been asking of Senators and Congressional representatives to do. My questions have been two-fold. (1) What will it take for you to remember to whom you swore an oath and do your job pushing back on a President who is damaging our relationships with our allies and demonizing the free press and anyone who dares criticize him. (2) Is this the man you wish to spend your dear reputation on?

To be brutally frank, I am at a loss and I tell them so. Unfortunately, the staffs are the only people who hear my concerns and emails get a boiler plate response. It truly saddens me to say I don’t believe a word the President says, as the odds are in my favor. It further saddens me that so-called leaders of our country have looked the other way when simplistic solutions to complex problems are deployed as panaceas. It is hard enough to govern with truth and facts, but nigh impossible when the man in the White House has run off his advisors and wasn’t really listening to them in the first place.

Please join with me and ask our leaders to remember their oaths. Doing the right thing should not be as hard as it has become, but we must go down that path. We have some hard truths that continue to evolve about this President, with six of his relationships pleading guilty or being convicted and one under indictment. As the 37th President found out, when people are going to jail it is no longer a witch hunt. And, it is not ironic the man under indictment also worked for the 37th President.

We are better than this. If we told the US soldiers, that freed the remaining Jews from the death camps at the end of WWII, the leader of the free world in less than 75 years would be Germany, they would not have believed you. It is hard to fathom, but it is true. That is what is at stake. Is this what MAGA means?

Prime numbers tell a story

A revealing item in my make-up is I have been around the block with mathematics, even though I have long forgotten most of my learnings. Prime numbers are part of the past I still remember as numbers only divisible by themselves and 1.

Using the initial several prime numbers, let me reveal stories for your weekend cogitation.

1 – represents the number of people the US President will not blame for his mistakes.

2 – represents the number of folks it takes to Tango.

3 – represents the number of blind mice or wise men, but just for fun transpose the two groups of three and see how the stories vary.

5 – represents the first part of the Five and Dime stores. Just think what we can buy for a nickel these days, which may only be avoiding change on a $1.05 purchase.

7 – represents the number of deadly sins. First prize for the person to name them in a comment is a nickel.

11 – represents the number of donuts that make it home when I go pick up a dozen.

13 – represents the number of bagels you get from a highly frequented baker in a baker’s dozen.

17 – represents the jersey number of retired quarterback Dandy Don Meredith, who achieved more fame as the initial trio of announcers on Monday Night Football – when the outcome of the game was in hand he would sing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

19 – represents the numerator of a favorite fraction I use to illustrate a point- ┬ásomeone can do the right thing 19 times out of 20, but the one time will get all the press.

23 – represents the number of donuts that make it home when I buy two dozen, noting the second dozen is an assortment (cake donuts rock).

29 – represents my current age on my birthday, as in I just celebrated the 31st anniversary of my 29th birthday.

31 – represents an ideal age where you survived your twenties and know more what you want and can navigate the world’s landmines a little better.

Have a great weekend. If you finish this post without wanting to go to Dunkin or Krispy Kreme, you deserve another nickel.

On the basis of sex

My wife, sister and I got a chance to watch the movie “On the basis of sex” about the early career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is well worth the watch and has several poignant scenes that paint a beautiful portrait of the Justice.

Trying not to spoil the movie, it focuses on her law school experiences through her tenure at Rutgers University as a law professor. Yet, the movie culminates in a tax court case against a male caregiver who is denied a deduction for helping his mother. Ginsburg’s husband Martin is a tax attorney who saw this case as an ideal way to break through the bias in the law toward women using discrimination against a man as the foundation. In fact, in 1970 there were 178 instances in the law that codified discrimination against women. This is amazing in and of itself.

Ginsburg is the ideal person to try this case in appeal, even though she had not practiced law as a professor. Her nervousness showed, but I will stop there and encourage you to go see how she overcame that inexperience. I will also mention the current environment of the burgeoning women’s rights movement which her teen daughter has embraced. Ginsburg tells her we must change the law to make a bigger difference.

A favorite actress of mine, Felicity Jones, plays Ginsburg. Armie Hammer plays her husband Martin and Cailee Spaeny plays her daughter who eventually becomes a law professor at Columbia University. Kathy Bates is excellent as the civil rights attorney Dorothy Kenyon and Justin Theroux plays a supportive and antagonistic role as the head of the New York based ACLU.

The movie is directed by Mimi Feder and the screenplay was written by Daniel Stephenson. Other key roles are played by Chris Mulky as the caregiver and Sam Waterston as the dean at Harvard Law and later a senior US Department of Justice figure.

I encourage you to go see it and/ or let me know what you think. Later in a comment, I will touch on the two scenes that touched me most.

Perspective from a life event

My wife and I traveled to Charleston for a christening of the one year old son of our nephew and his wife. As we were at breakfast before-hand, I got a call from my college student daughter. That was an immediate red flag.

She had been in an accident, but was OK. She was headed to work at her part-time job at a nearby ski resort. She said an approaching snow plow scared her and she over corrected and ran off the road, fortunately stopped by small trees.

So, everything in life becomes clear. She is unharmed and has seen the value of having good friends. We will have to deal with repairing a car and working through the insurance process. Yet, other than her pride in her red SUV which she calls “Percy,” for the lead character in “The Scarlett Pimpernel,” she is unscathed.

Life goes on. That is what is most important. Thank you, Lord.

Green Book is a must go

My wife, daughter and I saw the movie “Green Book” yesterday. The movie is based on the true story of an African-American concert pianist named Dr. Don Shirley who is shepherded around the Midwest and South in 1962 by an Italian-American named Tony (Lip) Vallelonga.

The movie exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend it to others. The title is based on the green book written for African-American travelers to navigate the Jim Crow south. It stars Viggo Mortenson as Tony Lip and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley. Lindi Cardelina plays an important role as Tony’s wife Dolores.

The movie was written by Tony and Dolores’ son Nick, so it is a third person retelling of the story. There are several poignant scenes that will endear you and frustrate you as the two travelers form a bond. In a separate car, two other members of the Don Shirley trio meet Shirley at the various events. They are white musicians, but provide context to why Shirley feels obligated to put himself at risk.

Rather than spoil the plot, let me end with the lead actors do justice to these two very different men. You become a part of their journey and worry about Shirley’s safety and hope Vallelonga does not add gasoline to a fire. Jim Crow was an ugly time in America and as one Southern law enforcement officer explained, Shirley was guilty of being Black in the South more so than any crime he may have committed.

Please go see it and take younger folks with you. Tony will utter a few bad words, but you will at least see him corrected by Shirley, which makes up for them. It is important to reveal the injustice that people who look like Shirley faced.