Soggy Sunday

We are getting much needed rain from a storm called Nestor. I don’t think Nestor ever made it to formal hurricane status, but it did spawn some tornadoes in the Florida panhandle.

Speaking of rain, the British parliament rained on Boris Johnson’s Brexit parade. What does the future hold? The one thing that must not happen is a no-deal Brexit. Brexit will be challeging enough, but a no-deal Brexit would be a Trump worthy disaster.

Speaking of Trump worthy disasters, there are three that are in the news, although he backtracked on one under Republican pressure. In the middle of being investigated for abuse of power, he abused his power saying the next G7 conference would be at a Trump resort. “Unforced error” is the kindest definition of this announcement, which was uttered by Neil Cavuto of Fox Business. Trump changed his mind, but of course blamed others for this unwise decision.

The abandonment of our Kurdish allies ranks up there as a betrayal of our trust. As conservative pundit David Brooks said on Friday, how does it make South Korea feel, being surrounded by China and North Korea, to have to rely on the US led by such an untrustworthy person? Noted columnist Christine Flowers announced this week she is leaving the Republican Party because of this move and the rationalization by Trump supporters. Let me keep it simple – Trump screwed people that fought on our behalf.

Finally, after the testimony under oath by Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill and others, a picture has been painted by these reputable public servants that the US president has been running shadow diplomacy through his personal attorney Rudy Guliani. Setting aside these efforts are designed to dig up dirt on the president’s opponents, we have more than a few people representing our government in positions of import who have not been vetted by the Senate, including but not limited to. Guiliani, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. With Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, confirming what these state people testified under oath, we are left with a simple fact. The US president broke the law and abused his power. Do not let his sycophants try to whitewash this – it is wrong.

Keeping with this “Soggy Sunday” theme as rain pelts the president’s actions, as Creedence Clearwater Revival sang, “who will stop the rain?”

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A man called Ove – a curmudgeon worth a deeper look

The title of bestselling author Fredrik Backman’s book “A man called Ove” or the reference to the subject may not be inviting, but give this book a chance. We all have curmudgeons in our lives and sometimes we may even channel our inner curmudgeon. But, why do some people act the way they do?

People Magazine opines on Ove, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel new sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life.” I agree.

Backman introduces Ove in real time, so you will start off with a full-frontal view of a curmudgeon. But, through changes in his daily life and a series of reveals as Ove remembers the good and bad in his life, you gain a new perspective on how he has evolved to be who he is. You will learn Ove has a tough outer shell, but different layers are buried beneath.

To avoid any spoilers, let me mention what is written on the back cover to invite you to read the book. Ove’s daily routine is disrupted when chatty new neighbors with two young daughters announce they have arrived one November morning by accidentally backing their U-Haul trailer over Ove’s mailbox.

Their interactions and related others take an ice-pick to Ove’s icy outer shell. The book is an easy read, but do give Ove a chance. Your initial reaction to Ove will be like everyone else’s whom the character meets in the book. So, bring your proverbial ice pick along. And, some tissue.

Wednesday walkabout – October 9, 2019

It looks like a good day for a walkabout. As I walk, I will ponder a few random musings.

I said this then, but will reiterate it now. The five states who canceled their Republican presidential primaries may want to reconsider. A poll reported by The Washington Post noted an increase to 28% of Republicans who support an impeachment inquiry. And, 18% of Republicans support the removal of Donald Trump as president. That is almost 1 out of 5 Republicans.

For those trying to figure out Brexit, our friend Jill has had three guest British bloggers (Roger, Colette and Frank) who have offered detailed summaries of Brexit. Their perspectives and context are excellent. If Brexit moves forward, please join me in a wish for a planned exit. A “no-deal” Brexit will add many challenges to a complex process. Politicians who hope it will go well should be remlnded hope is not a strategy. See below for three links.

Americans are a largely uninformed body of people. We care too much about entertainment and sports to delve into global news or even domestic news for that matter. So, the news we are screwing over Kurdish people in Syria is probably not registering with many. Simply, the Kurdish forces were the “tip of the spear” to defeat the ISIS caliphate. Now, we are abandoning them because the president lacks an understanding of that history. The Kurds are an enemy of the Turkish leadership, so it is a delicate issue. The dilemma is the president lacks the delicate touch.

Greta Thunberg continues to impress people across America and the world, while unsettling climate change deniers. She has toured America popping up at a climate change student strike in Iowa, then meeting with Native Americans regarding their pipeline concerns. Kim Kardashian is outspoken with her admiration. This is informational only because of her sphere of influence. Yet, another denier made a tongue in cheek threat to this sixteen year old advocate. Regardless of one’s position, threatening anyone, much less a 16 year old, is beyond poor form.

Threatening name-calling, labeling, and denigrating are short-cuts to people who don’t have a good argument. They are code words to influence less informed people. So, my advice is when you hear or read such, dig deeper, especially focusing on the opposing argument.

https://jilldennison.com/2019/10/08/-the-brexit-conundrum-colettes-view/

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Roger’s View

🇬🇧 The Brexit Conundrum — Frank’s View

Renee Zellweger is superb in “Judy”

My wife and I saw the marvelous movie about the a brief period in the career of Judy Garland simply called “Judy.” Renee Zellweger plays the part so well, you believe she is Judy. I encourage you to go see it, but do take some tissue.

The movie does a nice job of flipping back to past moments in Garland’s life to provide some context. It adds a great deal to the film and makes you pull for the adult Judy even more, in spite of her challenges.

The movie is directed by Rupert Goold and is based on the broadway play called “End of the Rainbow,” by Peter Quilter. Quilter and Tom Edge wrote the movie screenplay. Darci Shaw plays the young Judy, while key parts are played by Jessie Buckley who caretakes Judy while in London, Finn Wittrock who plays a young beau, Michael Gambon who plays the producer of the London show, Rufus Sewell who plays Sidney Luft (the father of two of her children), and Royce Pierreson who plays the pianist/ conductor. Her two girls are played by Gemma-Leah Devereaux (Liza Minelli) and Bella Ramsey (Lorna Luft). A key role is played by Andy Nyman as a Judy fan in London.

But, this is Zellweger’s movie to shine as Judy. We knew she could sing from “Chicago,” but she adds flavor to Judy’s older voice lessened some by smoking, drinking and other issues. The movie covers a five week period when she ventures to London for a series of performances at a large club venue. I will leave off the rationale and mission of the gig, as that is an important part of the movie.

Go see it and tell me what you think. For spoiler alerts, I will ask future readers to not read the comments.

Wednesday walkabout (once again)

I plan to take a hike today, but it might be a tad warm. Water will be with me along with miscellaneous stories percolating in my mind.

The president famously said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his fans would still support him. Sadly, that continues to be proven true. Only 40% of Republicans believe Trump mentioned Joe Biden on the call with the Ukraine president. Yet, Trump admitted he did.

Note the transcript summary confirmed that he did. It also confirmed that what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said was discussed was, in fact, not discussed. Pompeo will be in the crosshairs if he is not forthcoming. I learned a long time ago, smug responses to questions should not be given more credence because of their delivery style. It actually gives me pause.

While I am not a fan of Boris Johnson given his smugness and difficulty with facts, I must give him credit for allowing interviews with reporters asking pointed questions. Could you imagine the US president being interviewed by Chris Wallace? The reason Trump was prevented from being deposed by Robert Mueller is his inability to tell the truth.

Afghanistan had an election, but not many voted. Why? The Taliban made concerted threats of violence against those who did. Think of that as a major reason we should enable a fair voting system. The problem in America is not the wrong people voting, it is by far, not enough people voting.

Finally, former President Jimmy Carter turned 95 this week. He is the oldest former president we have ever had. This is after a cancer diagnosis of about five years ago. Carter is not top of the list when thinking of great presidents, yet he is arguably the finest ex-president we have ever had. The humanitarian and diplomatic work he has done is exemplary. Few people know that he helped lead an effort to eradicate hook worm exposure for barefooted people in imppverished areas. That is on top of his mountain of work for Habitat for Humanity.

That is all for now. Let’s go hiking.

Talking to Strangers – another good read by Malcolm Gladwell

I just finished reading “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell and highly recommend it. Gladwell is one of my favorite non-fiction authors and has penned multiple best sellers such as “Outliers,” “Blink,” and “The Tipping Point.” His style is to season examples with a touch of data and analysis, without infringing on the story.

“Talking to Strangers” shares numerous examples and data that we humans tend not to read strangers very well. The main reason is we “default to truth.” In other words, we give more benefit of the doubt to strangers than we should. A healthy dose of skepticism would help in this regard. Without giving too many of his examples away, here are few to think about.

  • Neville Chamberlain wanted to meet Adolph Hitler to see if he could be trusted at his word. It should be noted that Chamberlain was not the only person to meet Hitler and misread him. The ones who saw Hitler more clearly never met him.
  • Amanda Knox was convicted of a crime she did not commit on very flimsy evidence, primarily because she did not react to the news of her roommate’s murder as the Italian police expected her to. Her manner convinced them she had something to hide.
  • Bernie Madoff did not come across as someone who was running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. When investigators met him they could not believe he was so doing. Yet, a man who had not met Madoff named Nat Simons handed the case to the investigators years before they paid attention – he saw too may red flags and dug deeper.
  • Fidel Castro had seven double agents working in the CIA that went unnoticed for years until the US allies caught a key Cuban agent in Europe. The CIA dismissed what would have been red flags rationalizing that the lie detector was picking up a false positive, for example.
  • Brock Turner was convicted of raping a co-ed at Stanford, primarily on the evidence that two Swedish grad students came upon him having sex with a comatose women near a dumpster. Gladwell notes meeting a stranger at a college party is bad enough, but made far worse when both have been drinking.
  • The Penn State president and Athletic Directors could not believe coach Jerry Sandusky was a prolific pedophile. People gravitated to all the good he had done without heeding the first witness to have observed something. The witness was not forceful enough to follow-up and make sure something was done.
  • Sandra Bland was arrested on a very minor traffic offense in a conversation that went awry when it needed not. There were too many incidences where the conversation could have been diffused, yet was not. She was taking a job at Prairie State University in Texas and her Illinois license plates gave Officer Brian Encinia pause. She committed suicide in her jail cell.

Gladwell highlights a study that concluded through tests that we tend to think people who are innocent, but nervous or anxious, as guilty and tend to give a free pass to the good bluffer who is guilty. The folks inbetween, we tend to judge a little better. Given the above CIA and other intelligence, judicial and police examples, those who say they are better at judging are not as good as they think.

One of the examples noted a computer algorithm looking at criminal history was far better than a judge who met the person at setting bail or releasing the offender. The judges released too many that should have had higher bail. Another noted the use of torture was not a good elictor of truth, as when people are tortured, they go into trauma and cannot recall the truth very well.

Like all Gladwell books, “Talking to Strangers” is a quick read. Yet, I hope you will walk away with a few nuggets of knowledge as I did.

 

You can’t comb over climate change

“You can’t comb over climate change,” the sign read at the Climate Change strike yesterday. This metaphor speaks volumes about a huge problem that a certain person in leadership continues to hide like thinning hair.

The kids get it. Their passion and acknowledgement of the existential threat to our present and future is even applauded in halls of government. Yet, it shames these legislators who still do not act because their funders tell them not to.

I am both a tree-hugger and a capitalist. I have actually said this to legislators in open forum, which usually draws a chuckle. Yet, i am more than gesting. I left the Republican Party a dozen years ago in large part due to their ostrich-head-in-the-sand stance on climate change. My thesis is I could not be a member of a party that is ignoring the greatest threat facing our planet. There is no Planet B.

The cost of failing to act now will dwarf the cost of action. But, the economics go deeper. The cost of renewable energy is more on par with fossil fuel costs from a production standpoint. When all costs are factored in – acquisition, environmental degradation, transportation, burning, maintenance, health, litigation – the cost of renewables is actually much cheaper than coal and cheaper than natural gas. The dropping costs of renewables continues to drive the increase in their use. Iowa actually gets over 35% of its electricity from wind energy, eg. Even Texas gets over 16% of its electricity from wind.

Being a capitalist, the place for investment is in growth industries, not retrenching ones. Coal has been in demise for the entire decade. Solar jobs are 5X more than coal jobs. And, per the recently passed oil tycoon, T. Boone Pickens, natural gas was needed to buy time before wind and solar decreased in cost. He said this in the first half of this decade.

So, the future financials favor renewables. Yet, then we must add in that climate change thing. We must address the heating planet being worsened by humans. If we don’t, it is more than just our kids we need to worry about. We need to worry about us.

The kids get it. Adults, are you paying attention?