Truth be told

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

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

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

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

Mental health spending on the rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty-five seconds showers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sucking the oxygen out of the room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When real people are used as pawns

Three governors of states have decided to play with people’s lives in an overt way to win some delusional wedge issue to garner votes. These governors have decided to transport migrants and refugees from Venezuela and other places to Democrat majority cities for them to deal with the problem. Our friend Jill has a good piece on the subject which I will link to below.

Here a few thoughts that share how I feel about stepping on the neck of the disenfranchised:

If grandstanding were an Olympic sport, these three prone-to-exaggerating governors would vie for the Gold. If bullying the disenfranchised were a Commandment, these three prone-to-condescending governors would be very pious. If letting your dog go in your neighbors yard without clean-up was a character trait, then these prone-to-screwing-people governors would be honorable..

The migrant stunt is just poor form, but not outside of these three governors’ modus operandi. I did read the migrant stunt is not playing well with Latino Americans in South Florida, nor should it. People need to recognize when folks are grandstanding, bullying and screwing people like these governors often do. 

With that said, I am all for healthy and civil debate on how to help and deal with the influx of people from other places. Ironically, before he turn and ran from his greatest legislative achievement, Senator Marco Rubio (of that very same South Florida) was part of a gang of eight Senators who helped pass a pretty good immigration bill in 2013. The Speaker of the House chose not to bring it to a vote, although it would have passed, because Republicans felt it was a better election issue if left unpassed. This is the same reason the last former president was talked out of his wall funding for DACA deal the same day he agreed to it.

Working together should not be as hard as the elected officials have made it. My strong advice is stop the grandstanding and get in a room and work things out. Truth telling and civility would be helpful.

Friday follies and fumbles

Happy Friday all. The mornings have been surprisingly cool these last few days of summer here in the northern hemisphere in the US south. We are ending a work week which has several notable follies and fumbles.

At the top of the list is the surprise of many Russians as their troops are hightailing it out of northeastern Ukraine. But, Mr. Putin, but you said we were winning? I think the news brought a smile to many Ukrainians and non-Russians beyond the borders of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, Prince Andrew came out of hiding to pay respects to his mother. It is unfortunate as it brought to the front pages the reactions of his and other Epstein/ Maxwell victims. Mind you a son should be able to grieve his mother, but it is sad that he did what he did to dishonor his position and harm his relationship with her the last few years.

It also saddens me that two famous womanizing ex-presidents had a relationship with Mr. Epstein. I am not saying anything happened, but there is evidence that Messers. Clinton and Trump knew Mr. Epstein. What also saddens me is how easily Trump’s presidential career could have ended before it started if Mike Pence had not rescinded his resignation from the team after the famous “locker room talk” recorded where his running mate bragged on grabbing women by the private parts in public just because he could. Trump survived by painting Hillary Clinton with her husband’s indiscretions. How that worked is beyond me.*

In the southern hemisphere, “Brazil’s presidential hopeful Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leads incumbent Jair Bolsonaro by 12 points, a Thursday poll showed, while the far-right leader seeking reelection has lost the pace against his leftist rival’s edge ahead of the Oct. 2 vote.” Now, Bolsonaro has already made Trump like statements about the pending election (as his counterpart did before his 2020 election), so take it to the bank – if he loses, Bolsonaro will pull a Trump and call foul.

Finally, Florida governor Ron De Santis is bussing migrants to Democratic majority cities to make it their problem. It should be noted punishing your neighbors is not the wisest of strategies, but these kind of bullying antics are not unusual for DeSantis dating back to when he was a Congressman. I would not be surprised if the governors of these states retaliated as it is obvious shaming DeSantis does not work. An expected retaliation would be to deny state workers reimbursement for any business travel and to suggest conventions be held elsewhere. Nothing in this paragraph should be construed as being helpful to American citizens and is playing up yet another wedge issue.

On the flip side, kudos should be offered to the Biden administration for their role in garnering a deal between the unions and Amtrak. A rail strike helps no one and harms many. Well done for getting it done to all concerned.

*Note: I have been in many locker rooms in my career as an amateur athlete and I must state that I have never heard talk like Mr. Trump said in a locker room. I especially never heard it in a locker room where businessmen were dressing before or after golfing which is the only locker room I could envision him being in. In fact, if I heard someone bragging on grabbing women by the private parts, it would not sit very well with me as that is bragging on sexual assault.

A four-year old post showed clean energy progress is happening

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act which includes very significant renewable energy funding is a huge step forward. Even Republican legislators who were told not to vote for it, are silently celebrating the needed investment in their states that will be forthcoming.

Four years ago, I wrote the following post which sheds progress at the same time the former president was pulling the US away from the adult table on fighting climate change. President Joe Biden has gotten us back to that table and helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act. Please note the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has caused some hiccups to the progress with Russia punishing its critics with fossil-fuel restrictions, but the progress continues.

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“Global citizens are rightfully concerned the US President Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, but progress continues as “we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy.” Even the US pullout cannot stop the train, as states, cities, businesses and other countries continue the push. It just means the President and his team will not be at the adult table on this issue and may not be invited at all.

Here are a few miscellaneous energy tidbits that should offer encouragement.

Per the UK Based organization Carbon Tracker, here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • more than 1/2 of the US coal plants in existence in 2010 have been closed;
  • more than 1/2 of the remaining coal plants in Europe are losing money;
  • the UK has slashed electricity from coal usage from 40% to 2% in the last five years; and
  • there have been big strides in China and Australia on reducing coal usage.

Per the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the five member, Republican dominated agency denied the request by Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to fund the building of more coal-fired and nuclear plants. This was a surprise move given the make-up of the committee. I would call this decision as not wanting to throw good money after bad.

It should be noted, it is not just coal that is giving the FERC commissioners pause. The US division of Westinghouse Electric Company had to declare bankruptcy for cost overruns on a new nuclear power plant for SCANA, the South Carolina utility. As a result, the new plant is being shuttered and SCANA is being sold to Dominion Resources, so as not to overburden SC citizens with the cost of the lost investment.

The International Energy Agency in their 2017 Energy Outlook notes the cost of new solar photovoltaic electricity has declined by 70% and wind energy has fallen 25% since 2010. It should be noted the IEA has tended to favor fossil fuel energy in past releases. China, the new country leader in the climate change fight, will be investing US$360 billion more in renewable energy by 2020. Plus, the price of solar has fallen so much in places like Zambia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it has won bidding contests against fossil fuel energy sources for projects.

Finally, any discussion on future energy cannot exclude the declining cost and increasing capacity in battery storage. Per Bloomberg New Energy Financials, energy storage will double six times between 2016 and 2030. Elon Musk just helped southern Australia go live with a major battery installation and 21 states in the US have planned projects on energy storage.

All of the above stories are important because it has always been a financial argument to combat the environmental concerns, whose long term costs have been undervalued. Now, the financials are favoring the renewable energy engine, so market forces will continue to force the ultimate demise of coal-fired energy, which started with the lower cost of natural gas. If a company can find a clean energy source which is cheaper and more predictable long term, that is easily the better path forward. If you don’t believe me, just ask companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart and IKEA to name only a few.”

Rural Virginia pivots from coal to green jobs

An article by Nina Lakhani in The Guardian this weekend called “‘This is the future’: rural Virginia pivots from coal to green jobs,” is a must read, especially for those who still want to cling to a declining industry. The article can be linked to below. Here are a few salient paragraphs that will give you the gist.

“When Mason Taylor enrolled at the local vocational school with dreams of becoming an electrician like his dad, it was assumed that the ninth-grader would eventually end up moving away from Wise county, Virginia, to find a decent job.

Now 19, Taylor just bought a truck after a summer apprenticing with a crew of electricians installing rooftop solar systems at public schools in the county. He was among a dozen or so rookies paid $17 an hour, plus tools and a travel stipend, as part of the state’s first solar energy youth apprenticeship scheme.

The region’s long-awaited energy and economic transition will be substantially boosted by America’s first climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

It’s far from a panacea, but Joe Biden’s legislation provides $369bn for the transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy – a historic investment that scientists estimate will reduce greenhouse gases by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and ​​create an estimated 1.5m new jobs.

Decent well-paid jobs are desperately needed. In Virginia, coal production has declined by 70% since its peak in 1990, and much of what’s left is semi-automated. Those old jobs are largely gone and are not coming back.

The IRA provides ring-fenced money for training, innovation and manufacturing, as well as an array of tax breaks and other financial incentives to help consumers and businesses transition away from fossil fuels. And Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat senator from West Virginia played a pivotal role in watering down – and then reviving – the legislation, directing billions of dollars to the economic revival of depressed coal towns.

‘It’s a game changer for rural and coal communities,’ said Autumn Long, a project manager for solar financing and manufacturing workforce development at the non-profit Appalachian Voices. ‘Renewables are a way to honour the region’s energy-producing legacy and be part of the 21st-century global energy transition. The IRA is a turning point.‘”

In my view, these efforts are about ten years overdue. I have been writing for several years now of the demise in coal jobs in our country as contrasted to the uptick in solar and wind jobs. If I knew of the demise, the elected officials in these coal states have had to have known. This would include the Senate Minority leader who hails from Kentucky, one of those coal states. The sun has always shined and the wind has always blown in those states.

Yet, they did nothing. They were paid campaign funds by coal manufacturers to do nothing and perpetuate the status quo. Whether people like him or not, the only 2016 presidential candidate who told coal miners the truth – in person – was Senator Bernie Sanders, who said your jobs are going away, but here is what I plan to do about it.

Now, at long last, more is being done about it. Solar and wind energy are now on par or better in production costs with coal energy. And, when you factor in the environmental, maintenance, trucking, and litigation costs, the two renewables beat the pants off coal. It makes little sense to build a new coal plant which will become obsolete before it is finished.

So, this new law is good news and we should give credit to this Congress and President for getting it done. It is better late than never, but let’s hope it is not too late.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/08/rural-virginia-pivots-from-coal-solar-green-jobs

Civil discourse and truth are needed – letter sent to the editor

I sent this letter into the editor of my newspaper yesterday. I hope they publish it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

It continues to trouble me that too many Americans are following the lead of extremists and committing violence when they don’t agree with something. It also troubles me that we are letting sources of disinformation and propaganda like QAnon, InfoWars, select politicians, et al inflame our opinions. Please ignore these folks as they are doing our nation a disservice.

As an independent who leans progressive on some issues and conservative on others, I can assure you neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must have civil discourse and bipartisan agreement to move important solutions forward. And, we need to use facts and speak truthfully or the solutions will miss the mark.

Politicians owe us the truth. If they cannot shoot straight with us, they need to resign or not run for office even if they happened to have served before. Full stop.

A simple question

A simple question for elected officials in my old party – the Republican Party. What will you have to defend tomorrow, next week, next month…next year? And, will it be from an old, alleged crime or a new one. I have been asking this question of GOP officials for over four years now. There is always a new or newly discovered Trump alleged crime or some form of deceit that surfaces.

Accountability. Responsibility. Truth. These are words that are lacking these days to define the Republican party. Democrats are not perfect, but they are at least talking and doing something about issues of import. Yes, Dems stretch the truth, but it is not even close to the level of mainstream deceit that is required by the GOP. Seeing Sarah Palin claim election fraud yesterday was as predictable as the nose on my face. I told my wife last week that Palin will claim fraud at some point and I am not that prescient.

I also knew Donald Trump would claim election fraud and contest the election two months before he did as he had hired 1,000 attorneys and defamed and tried to hobble the mail in process. I wrote a post in September 2020 to that effect. Senator Bernie Sanders told a late-night TV audience in October 2020 with eerie accuracy what Trump would do the next month with the election claiming foul. It did not take a crystal ball to see this coming.

What I cannot figure out is why people buy Trump’s false bravado when he accepts accountability for nothing? I see a very shallow and weak-minded acting person who cannot admit he lost or made a mistake. What saddens me more are the sycophants who buy into and sell his bogus claims when they have to know better. Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, et al routinely shame themselves falling over to defend this untruthful bullying and seditious acting person. These are Senators who should be leaders not fawners.

Any party that has to rely on groups like QAnon, InfoWars and opinion personalities to white wash what is happening or has happened deserves every bit of scrutiny it gets. And, what they should be doing is paying attention to those Republicans testifying under oath or taking risks to speak out against the lies and fraud committed by the former president. That is courage. Now, why would they stick their necks out when they know so many want to chop them off? Dems should not listen to their opinion hosts either, but the GOP has found some dark corners of disinformation that have been pulled into social media for discussion.

Biden is not perfect and critics try to use his imperfections as “what-about” responses, but I have never seen anything like what we are seeing now with the Republican party that conservative pundit Michael Gerson says is “in decay.” MAGA fans like to say Trump is being treated so unfairly. I would say the press reports on too many of his shortcomings, faults, and deceptions. They have made us numb reporting on non-important stuff, that we lose sight of the major concerns. The press has normalized his unaccountable and deceitful behavior.

Yet, Trump has brought all of this on himself with his inability to tell the truth with any degree of frequency and his bullying and firing of naysayers and critics who have concerns. “They just don’t like me” is a child’s response. What I don’t like is an elected leader lying to me, who takes credit for all good and blames others for all bad, who bullies people on a routine basis, and who appears to have acted seditiously toward the efforts of the United States. The fact he may have classified material including nuclear information is simply wrong on so many levels.

We need a viable conservative party, but what we have now is not it. Accountability. Responsibility. Truth. They could start there. They could also start by doing the opposite of what the former president says to do. Listen to the ones who are getting vilified for telling the truth, instead.