Take the time to get it right (and validate subconscious advice)

One of the sad truths about living in a social media prolific world is everything becomes a “now culture.” Immediacy is the preferred action over acting on the best solution. Having said this, I do recognize what General George Patton said about “a good plan today will beat a perfect plan tomorrow.” But, the word “plan” is involved in both sides of the equation.

Reacting is not a plan, unless you have to act quickly given the urgency of the matter. Even then, your subconscious set of experiences will kick in and help you decide. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” he identifies your subconscious tells you things all the time. He likens it to your collective experience and observation skills and habits.

In his book, he notes an art expert knowing a painting is a forgery at first sight, but not knowing why until further investigation. Or, a firefighter knowing something is amiss about a fire as it is burning funny asking his team to back out quickly. These decisions were based on years of experience, but were subconsciously made.

On any given issue, especially ones where politicians and their public relation spin doctors are involved, quick action is rewarded, while taking your time to get it right is seized upon as complacency. Sadly, the spin doctors will encourage quick action that can be apologized for later. Yet, this happens in real life all the time. A spouse may think the other is having an affair when that is not the case. Yet, the spouse may act rashly and harm the situation.

Yet, like the subconscious giving us information, we also need a baseline set of ethics and morality doing the same. We need to take the time to get things right, but when we need to move a little more quickly, we should try to focus on solving a problem rather than winning some zero-sum game making sure the other side loses. This is done all the time in politics and we need to move away from it. There is one clear loser in a game of zero-sum politics – the citizens. We are the ones who lose when hasty decisions are made or are made to win some fictitious battle.

So, what does this meandering post tell us. Take the time to get it right. Use the facts to help you decide. Don’t devalue what your subconscious is saying, but try to validate those instinctive urgings. And, don’t try to force-fit your research to meet your initial reaction. A person who is not skilled in an area will have a different gut instinct from those who are.

Your subconscious is based on knowledge and experiences; it cannot be made more accurate just because it exists. It has to have some basis for the subconscious advice it is giving for the circumstances at hand. The gut instinct of an experienced firefighter has a more sound basis than that of a trainee, for example. In the example above, the fire was burning on the floor below, so if the firefighters had not backed out, they would have fallen through the floor to their deaths.

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I encourage you to reach out to your elected officials

This may not do as much good as it needs to or we would hope it would, but we need to let elected officials know we are paying attention. A couple of key themes:

  • we need you to more consistently tell us the truth and value those who do, not those who don’t – sadly, the names of those who don’t are well known;
  • we need you to make more fact-based decisions rather than what funders, spin doctors and opinion hosts may tell you and others – it is hard enough to govern when you use facts, but nigh impossible when you don’t;
  • we need you to recognize both major parties do not have all the good ideas and both have some bad ones – one party has a bag of ideas with too many holes in it and the bad ideas are rushing out, a key reason they are letting more extreme opinions drive the bus;
  • we need you to work toward solving real problems not ones spin doctors said will cause wedge issues and garner votes;
  • we need you to work together in a civil manner using that Jesus message whenever possible that was so important it was called golden;
  • we need you to recognize winning and losing an argument is secondary to getting the best solution; and
  • we need you to recognize you work for us, the citizens of the country, state, county or city – use your time wisely toward that end and be accountable.

As parents, we learned long ago that who your kids play and associate with matter. It is a key reason we always wanted their friends to be welcome at our house. We got to meet them. So, elected officials need to know who they value and spend time with matter. Do you want to be known for hanging around someone who acts like a bully, denigrates people and is untruthful, or do you want to be known for hanging around someone who is a truthteller and seeks to hold people accountable? It is your choice, but we are watching.

I bruise you, you bruise me, we both bruise too easily (an encore post)

The following is an encore of an earlier post that still remains relevant.

After breaking up with Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel sang a beautiful song written by Jimmy Webb, who wrote several of Glen Campbell’s hits (“Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”), The 5th Dimension’s “Beautiful Balloon,” and “MacArthur Park,” which was a huge hit in the 1970s as sung by the actor Richard Harris (who was the first Dumbledore for Harry Potter fans).

The song is called “All I Know.” The first stanza is as follows:

I bruise you, you bruise me

We both bruise too easily

Too easily to let it show

I love you and that is all I know

This song is intended as a love song between two people who often fight and have hurt feelings as a result. But, I would like to use this stanza as a metaphor for relationships between all of us in civil society that have gone awry.

We are too easily bruising each others’ feelings. We are also taking offense too easily, when we should not or should listen to hear rather listen to react. I was highly disappointed with the tenor of the most recently concluded political convention, when hateful remarks were the norm and not the exception. I am hoping that the one next week will be the antithesis.

As an independent voter, I don’t care if someone is conservative on a viewpoint or liberal. What I found is many people have a mixture of opinions. To this point, Ivanka Trump told the GOP audience she is an independent voter. And, she like me joins many unaffiliated Americans.

Yet, what I do not like is the lack of civil discourse and use of information which is not steeped in facts. This is modus operandi for too many politicians and opinion hosts and it is quite obvious to me who they are. The latter is a key reason I religiously check the two fact checking organizations summaries. But, let me set that aside for now and get back to the civil discourse.

I do not agree with everything the politicians or parties support. My disagreement may be material or it may be in emphasis. For example, President Obama has done a commendable job, but I am disappointed that he did not move forward on the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee’s report, he tends to like the use of drones where we need more governance, while he has moved the ball forward on climate change he is too fond of fracking, and he did not collaborate more with a highly uncollaborative and obstinate Congress, e.g.

What I can tell you is neither party has all of the solutions and sometimes are not asking the right questions. Neither party should be smug that their way is the only way or even the right way, especially with funding that fuels their opinions. Again, I don’t mind a conservative or liberal view, but let’s work off the right data and do so civilly, respecting each other’s opinions. And, let’s work with real solutions and not what easily fits on a bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are not policy, they are advertisements.

The debt is a huge problem. Climate change is a huge problem. Water resources are a huge problem. Poor gun governance is a huge problem. Poverty is a huge problem as is the declining middle class. Civil rights for all citizens, especially those most disenfranchised, are lacking in too many places. Infrastructure needs are paramount and fixing them will create jobs. Terrorism is important, but combatting it must be holistic and involve all of us.

Building actual and proverbial walls are not the answers. We must reach out to each other and solve these problems as the diverse Americans we are. No American is more American than the next. And, no less, either. So, let’s civilly discuss the issues in fact-based manner and demand our politicians do the same. If they cannot, then they should step down. I am really tired of those who feel they must name-call and shout opposition down.

Fishing for better news this Friday

Why do Catholics tend to eat a lot of fish on Friday? What is also interesting the grade schools seemed to copycat this serving fish as well even if they are not Catholic schools. Maybe it is due to the famous loaves and fishes story where Jesus fed a huge crowd with the bread and fish in boy’s basket. Using this theme, I am hoping Jesus can pull out some better news this Friday for that proverbial basket.

The future of America may be many things, but one thing is for sure, we will continue to live in a country where daily gun shootings are the norm and the mass shootings become more frequent than weekly. And, while some watered-down gun governance legislation was finally passed this past summer, we still live in a wild-west environment. The sad fact is the significant majority of Americans want some commonsense changes, including gun owners. Let’s start there. If the gun industry does not like, so be it. They truly have had their chance to offer reasonable changes, yet decided fighting any change was the better tactic.

This same example could be used with the fossil-fuel industry. A recent study revealed an old story that needs more airplay. Companies like Exxon have scientific data and reports in their files dating back about forty plus years defining climate change as a major problem. Another study revealed the industry has done more window dressing change than actually make change to address climate change. Like the gun industry, instead of offering reasonable and knowledgeable changes, they hired PR people to naysay climate change. They determined that blocking change was a better tactic than helping make thoughtful change.

We should have remembered the lesson we finally learned after thirty plus years about tobacco. For over thirty years, the industry has known nicotine was addictive which is why they used it in their products. Just before a whistleblower let the cat out of the bag, I watched eight tobacco CEOs sitting at a table facing a Congressional committee. When asked directly if nicotine was addictive, in a row, all eight said “no.” They all lied. And, they all knew. Within a few years, the industry was penalized with huge fine in the neighborhood of a billion dollars for their cover-up, which was not near enough. They deserved the fine.

And, what I find interesting is the PR firm that helped the tobacco industry lie and cover-up was hired by the fossil fuel industry to help them naysay climate change. My guess is they were trying to buy more time to make huge profits.

So, Jesus, you may need a bigger basket of truth and good stories to overcome these folks. There is a lot of money to be made in dangerous habits. We need someone to point that out. Of course, the PR people will paint You in a poor light as a defense tactic, but You are likely used to it.

I remember when (an update of an older post)

As I dressed for a long walk this morning, I was reminded of an old dressing habit. This prompted a reflective post (you can hum Nat King Cole’s “I remember you” as you read with me):

I remember when we used to cut the tops off athletic socks to make footies, as they did not make those when I was growing up, at least for boys and men.

I remember when phones were dialed and not keyed; if you did not complete the dial, the phone might call the wrong number.

I remember when there were three serious US news anchors whose words were gospel; Nixon once said when he lost Walter Cronkite, he lost the country.

I remember a time when we lived in blissful ignorance that all priests, pastors and evangelists were above board and not participating in criminal behavior.

I remember when both parties cared that the US President was exactly what he said he was not; Nixon said “I am not a crook,” but that was a lie.

I remember when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assasinated, but was too young to remember JFK’s.

I remember when a country trio named the Dixie Chicks were condemned for sharing their concerns about the false pretenses of the US invasion of Iraq. The fact they had a right to do so is lost on many, but the fact they were dead-on accurate in their concerns, as determined by a British commission years later (which noted George Bush and British PM Tony Blair misled the British people), should not be set aside either.

I remember the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s words of “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Sadly, I remember the Challenger blowing up with citizen astronauts aboard. It showed how difficult it is to leave and return to our planet.

I remember when a president was vilified for not wearing a flag pin and yet, some of those same people think it was alright for a later president to openly lie to the American people and invite and incite insurrectionists to storm the Capitol building because he could not face the music that he lost the election. But, the insurrectionist at least like to hug the flag.

I remember when the US celebrated its bicentennial and when we prepared for computers programmed in Cobol to recognize the new millennium.

On this last comment, my wife and I hosted a New Millennium Eve party. We got so interested in shooting fireworks with the kids, we forgot to put the lamb in the oven. That was the only time we cooked lamb, and almost did not then. We were eating at midnight when the year 2000 rolled in.

I hope I spawned some memories. Please share a few of yours. I remember when…

Monday morning meanderings

It is a quiet morning after all the rain we got yesterday. One thing is for certain, my dog loves being toweled off when he comes back inside after a restroom break and is all wet.

Here a few meanderings this Monday morning.

-Another mass shooting in America. What a surprise. It truly saddens me that our headlines are peppered with daily shooting deaths, with a seemingly weekly mass shooting. If I lived in another country, I might look to other places to visit, as we Americans cannot get our act together. Canada and Australia look nice.

-I saw some headline where the former president lost a bloc of voters. I chose not to read it as his political career ended two years ago and his followers are finally figuring out what kind of person he is, which they should have known all along as he has acted this way over the years. It is all about The Donald, always has been, always will be.

-Lisa Marie Presley was buried this weekend. It saddens me when I remember when people were born and when they passed away. That is not how it should be. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child no matter how old they are, so my heart goes out to Priscilla Presley. I remember the agony of my grandmother losing her youngest daughter and my aunt at a similar age.

-I would love to have a job where I can be the metaphorical lifeguard of the swimming pool that is the US Congress. When the elected kids are acting up, I can blow my whistle and tell them “Out of the pool!” And, when a group of the elected kids get too rambunctious, I can say “Alright, everyone out. Adult swim only!” Or, “Hey Marjorie, Matt, Paul, Ted, Kevin, go sit in the time-out corner.” This makes me smile.

And, on that note. Enjoy your week. Stay dry, warm and safe.

No delusions – poor governance in action

In case you had any delusions that the new majority in the US House would offer up good governance, please note:

– Returning Congress representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar have been seated on Committees by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, after being removed in the last Congress for their inflammatory and inane remarks. When I think of Greene and Gosar, the words reasonable and collaborative are not top of mind.

– New Congressman George Santos, the one with the highly fabricated resume, will be seated on two Committees by Speaker McCarthy. Instead of advocating for his being censured or even removed, Santos gets two Committee assignments. I guess the Speaker holds lying in higher regard than most people. Either that or he needed his vote to remain Speaker and will put up with anything.

– Numerous bills have been proposed to restrict voting. As an independent voter, the greater problem in America is not enough people voting. So, these bills are the opposite of what is needed, in my simple view. It is highly disappointing that people have been led to believe that there is a huge voter fraud problem. There is not. Yet Republicans seized on this issue because the former president has too shallow an ego to admit he lost and they must have cheated him.

I have stayed away from a key policy difference which is how to go about reducing first our deficit and debt. Once again, the Republicans have pretended to care about the deficit when not in the White House by trying to alter our credit limit not our pocketbook cash flow. The expenditures have already been made, so we need more money and less outflow. The last time our debt limit was held hostage by Senator Ted Cruz, he would later go on to vote for a tax reduction to increase the debt by about $2 trillion, so he obviously did not care that much about it.

I have called the Speaker again to share my disappointment with the three committee assignments. We need serious-minded people to discuss our issues and possible solutions in a serious manner. These three folks have not shown an ability to do that. As for the voting restrictions, if you have to manage turn out to win, then maybe it is your message.

A solution to US debt – listen to Maya MacGuineas

I have long said anyone can promote a tax cut. Actually, in the right crowd I may use a couple of more descriptive words to define how easy it is. In truth, it is not hard to sell. Same goes with beating on the IRS. No one likes the IRS (or your country’s version of it), but it performs a necessary service. Our government cannot function without revenue. So, tax cuts and being critical of the IRS appears to be, but is not necessarily good governance. Often it is just the opposite.

With our US debt the way it is fast approaching $30 trillion and building toward more than $40 trillion, some poor president is going to run on raising taxes and cutting expenses and last only one term if he or she delivers on that needed promise. Think of what happened to the Greece president who put them in an austerity program to avoid them going belly-up a few years ago.

If that happened in the US, the president will have done a great service, but will be fired for it. So, what we need is a person with smarts, diplomacy, and chutzpah. We need someone who has the respect of many across party lines.

I have just the person for the job. Her name is Maya MacGuineas who is the Director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. She is held in high regard by leadership of both parties. I would love to see her help set in motion the resolution to the problem.

MacGuineas is a Northwestern University graduate with a masters from Harvard University.

Per Wikipedia, “MacGuineas served briefly at the Brookings Institution early in her career, then spent two years at Paine Webber as an equity analyst on Wall Street. She also advised the 2000 presidential campaign of John McCain on Social Security.

She became a senior fellow and director of the Fiscal Policy Program at New America (organization)] At New America, she oversaw its work on the federal budget, entitlement programs, and taxes.

In 2009, she did a stint on the editorial board of The Washington Post. She previously served on the Board of Directors of Common Cause. She also served on the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force.

She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Penn-Wharton Budget Model. She is Co-Chair of the National Budgeting Roundtable.

MacGuineas also serves on the Economic Strategy Group of the Aspen Institute. In addition, she is a Member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

MacGuineas has served as president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan public policy organization dedicated to fiscal issues, since 2003. The Committee has been described as a “budget watchdog” by The Hill (newspaper). In 2018, she noted that she is a political independent and that the Committee is critical of both parties.

Under her leadership, the Committee grew in stature as it became a prominent voice for tackling rising national debt that is projected to reach record levels as a share of the economy in the years to come. A Roll Call article stated, “the previously obscure organization, a home for former federal budget officials, has been pulled into the spotlight, speaking to what its members and supporters argue is the overriding fiscal issue of the time.”[15]

In 2012, she became head of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a project of the Committee that seeks a comprehensive and bipartisan approach to addressing rising national debt. Business leaders, economists, and budget experts became involved with the Campaign, as well as thousands of grassroots supporters.

She has testified before congressional committees on several occasions. A Wall Street Journal piece described her as an ‘anti-deficit warrior.

We have a serious problem with our debt and it will get worse. The solutions must include tax increases and spending cuts. The math will not otherwise work. Do not let anyone tell you it will. They are blowing smoke at you. Both are needed. Let’s give her the job of president and tell the folks in Congress to listen to her guidance. She wields a data-driven set of approaches that will help if done in concert.

Tax fraud and IRS defunding

The same week the US House passed a bill to cut funding to the IRS that had been agreed to last year, an interesting tax fraud case was settled. This bill is dead in the water, but we should also remember the previous president gutted some funding and staffing to the IRS. Please note, no one likes the IRS, but they perform a needed function to help fund our government. And, for those who complain the loudest, that includes those tanks and fighter jets as defense spending is our biggest spend.

The tax fraud involves the previous president. In short, the Trump Organization was penalized $1.6 million for tax fraud yesterday. While its CFO, Allen Weisselberg was sentenced earlier this week, the former president may be put on trial. The person whose name is on the banner, and seemingly everything he owns, claims he did not know about the fraud. Really? Your name is on the buildings you own or lease and you continuously brag about how much you know about taxes, saying “I know more about taxes than anyone in the history of taxes.”

Ironically, $1.6 million is the same number a New York judge told Trump he had to repay the Trump Foundation a few years ago for using its funds for personal use. This was before the Foundation was ordered terminated and all monies distributed to charity. It should be noted the judge also forbade anyone named Trump from overseeing the distribution process. That was tax fraud as well.

Later this year, it is likely the State of Georgia will bring charges against Trump and others for trying to influence election results. The Grand Jury is looking over all the testimony to determine such. And, it is also likely, the US Department of Justice will bring charges against the former president and others for seditious actions and obstruction of justice involving the January 6 insurrection. That is the recommendation of the House Select Committee.

And, he may face charges for hiding classified documents and not being very forthcoming with their return. Joe Biden is being looked at as well for something similar, but it is my understanding the Biden folks brought this to the attention of the Justice department.

I started with the IRS defunding bill as with our deficit and debt in the US, we need to be finding more revenue as well as making spending cuts. That was the conclusion of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committe and remains the standing of the nonpartisan Committee on a Responsible Federal Budget. There is a push on reducing the deficit and debt, but it needs to look at both revenue and spending. It should be noted the IRS bill, if passed, would have increased the deficit by $114 billion. Why? Tax fraud would go more unchecked.

Tell me why?

The chorus to the popular Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” goes:

“Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me
Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me”

I have been a broken record on the need to ask more “why” questions of politicians. In so doing, maybe their “undergarments of untruths” might begin to show from beneath their outer appearances. And, if they evade answering, ask it again. Politicians do not want their lying to be discovered. Plus, some lie so much, they don’t know where the truth stops and the lies begin.

Here are few questions to help bare those undergarments of untruths.

  • Why did the new Republican majority in the US House vote to defund a recent request to increase funding to the IRS on the very same day (per CNN) that “Allen Weisselberg, former President Donald Trump’s long-time chief financial officer, was sentenced by a New York judge to five months in jail for his role in a decade-long tax fraud scheme after testifying as the state’s witness against the Trump Organization.” No one likes the IRS, but they perform a needed function and this request was to make improvements and restore funding that the previous president took away. I believe his name is Trump, and his organization will be sentenced later in the week.
  • Why do Republicans only care about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House? And, why is that same former president making hay over the debt and deficit when he did absolutely nothing about it for four years. In fact, he made it about $2 trillion worse with his tax cut that mainly benefitted the wealthy and corporations per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans touted this tax cut would pay for itself, but that line of thinking has been horse excrement for a very long time and still is. Democrats could be much better at addressing the debt and deficit, but they are better at it than Republicans.
  • Why do people follow so-called leaders who have the most shallow of egos? Whether their name is Kim Jung-Un, Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump et al, why do these supposed strong acting men act like babies when they don’t get their way? Jung-Un’s bio reads like a Greek God’s citing all of his Olympian conquests and successes. It may even say his excrement has no odor. Neither Bolsonaro and Trump can tolerate losing which shows abysmal failure of fortitude. And, Putin has screwed up royally with his Ukraine invasion and continues to add gasoline to the fire rather admit such.
  • Why are books being banned when people can easily download them from online sources? (Note: This question is courtesy of our friend Scottie’s blog). There is an old line if you want to get more people to read or watch something, ban it. My favorite banning story was I believe espoused by Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz wanted to ban “Fahrenheit 451” which is a book about banning and burning books, with the title indicative of the temperature at which a book would burn. Ironically, Cruz once did a fillibuster by reading “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate. This fossil fuel proponent was reading a book about protecting the environment.
  • Why does anyone follow some of the inane and mean-spirited acting people who are now in the halls of legislature, including the US Congress? Gerrymandering has created safe districts where people who should not be in these positions can find themselves elected, as so few people vote in primaries. These folks are rather overt in their comments and actions and it should cause a lot of head scratching. I want civil discourse with folks using actual facts when they are doing our business. So, we should ask these folks to explain themselves when they denigrate opponents and untruthfully opine. Direct questions like do you really believe that or you just saying it would help?

Maybe we should change the lyrics to “Tell me why you MAKE me cry and why you lie to me?”