Letter sent by departing Republican voter to LA Times

The following letter was sent into the LA Times Thursday morning. It speaks volumes and needs no explanation.

“I am a senior citizen who has been a registered Republican as long as I can remember. I am not usually a letter writer, but I felt it important to tell you why I withdrew today from the Republican Party.

“The Republican Party used to be a party of principles and reason. But over the last several years it has supported or winked at lie after lie, including: the birther lie, the ‘very fine people on both sides’ lie, the COVID is a hoax lie, the election was stolen lie, and the insurrection was a peaceful protest lie.

“Now, the party ousts from its House leadership a person who tells the truth. Others in party leadership have become cult leaders, promoting lies for money and power, sucking up to a minority of conspiracy theorists. Our democracy is being destroyed.

“I can no longer be part of a political party that has at its foundation a platform of lies. No other issue really matters. I will never vote for any Republican until the madness is exorcised from the party.”

Attorney General says ‘White supremacist groups pose a rising US threat’

“White supremacist groups pose rising U.S. threat, Garland says” by Mark Hosenball of Reuters is a title that jumped off my browser feed yesterday. Attorney General Merrick Garland said made this comment and he would know based on his past experience prosecuting people.

Here are a few excerpts from the article a link to which is below.

“Domestic violent extremist groups, particularly white supremacists, pose a growing threat to the United States, Attorney General Merrick Garland told a Senate panel on Wednesday.

‘The threat of lethality is higher than it ever was … I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the U.S. Capitol’ by rioters on Jan. 6, said Garland, who as a prosecutor led the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

Garland noted the FBI recently said that the top domestic violent extremist threat facing the United States is from ‘racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race.’

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the committee that racially or ethnically motivated extremists are ‘most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks against civilians,’ while people tied to right-wing militia groups are the most likely to target police and government employees and buildings.

I am not going to add anything more to these cautions. They speak for themselves and should give us all pause. We must not condone violence in any way to promote any cause. Full stop.

White supremacist groups pose rising U.S. threat, Garland says (msn.com)

“It is like the Titanic”

In an article called “GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger Compares Trump-Mesmerized Republican Party To The Titanic” by Mary Papenfuss of HuffPost, the title says pretty much what one needs to know about the opinions of this Republican who continually calls the former president on the carpet. Kinzinger is one of ten House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection on the Capitol building on January 6.

Per Kinzinger and other truth telling Republicans, he sees what is happening to his party as a death knell. He is particulary amazed how a consistent conservative Republican like Liz Cheney is could be ousted from her #3 Republican position in the House because she had the temerity to call the former president what he is – untruthful and a seditionist.. There was no widespread election fraud and the former president did have a hand in inviting, revving up and siccing rioters on the Capitol endangering members of Congress and the Vice President and his family.

Per the article, which has the subtitle “And Donald Trump is hunting for ‘women’s clothing’ so he can ‘get on the first lifeboat,’ the Illinois lawmaker said,” note the following few paragraphs:

“Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said Sunday that the sharply divided Republican Party is in a “slow sink,” like the Titanic, doomed by leaders’ stubborn fascination with reelection loser Donald Trump.

‘Right now it’s basically the Titanic. We’re … in the middle of this slow sink,’ he explained on ‘Face the Nation’ on CBS. “We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it’s fine. And, meanwhile, Donald Trump’s running around trying to find women’s clothing and get on the first lifeboat.

Kinzinger pulled out the Titanic metaphor as he criticized party leaders’ attacks on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) for blasting Trump for his ‘big lie’ that the presidential election was rigged and for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

‘It’s incredible. Liz Cheney is saying exactly what [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection,’ holding Trump accountable for urging the violence, Kinzinger said. ‘A few weeks later, Kevin McCarthy changed to attacking other people.

McCarthy was reportedly rebuffed by the former president on Jan. 6 when he implored Trump to call off the Capitol rioters. McCarthy said later on the House floor that Trump ‘bears responsibility for the attack on Congress by mob rioters.’ Trump ‘should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,’ he added. McCarthy called then for ‘justice’ and for a ‘censure resolution’ against Trump.

Kinzinger said the Republican Party still needs to have ‘an internal look and a full accounting as to what led to Jan. 6.’ It’s been only four months since the ‘insurrection — something that was unthinkable in this country,’ he noted.

Like Cheney, Senator Mitt Romney and others who voted to impeach or convict the former president, they are on the side of the Angels on this issue. Yet, they are being vilified and threatened for it. That is inexcusable. But, so is what the former president and his partners in crime did on January 6.

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger Compares Trump-Mesmerized Republican Party To The Titanic | HuffPost

The Lord wanted me to have nice things – a reprise

The following post was written about seven years ago, but still stands the test of time. With the prosperity tele-evangelists who have multiple homes, cars and airplanes, taking gullible people’s hard earned money to promote their own lifestyle is beyond poor stewardship – it is shameful. I have worked with many fine ministers who are wonderful public servants, but greed is something we all must guard against, even the most pious amongst us.

These words were uttered by Reverend Jim Bakker, who founded the Praise The Lord (PTL) Club, shortly before he went to prison for defrauding donors and accounting irregularities. He was being interviewed on a local TV station at his home when the focus came on his solid gold faucets. “The Lord wanted me to have nice things,” he said on camera. For several years before that moment, one of the local DJs used to do a skit called the “Pass The Loot” Club, as many locals caught on to his act before the national TV audience did.

This week, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta has come under fire for building a $2.2 million, 6,400 square foot home. His house was built primarily with funds donated to help those in need. After the notoriety, the church will likely be selling the residence. This is on the heels of the even larger spend in Germany by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst on his residence mansion, whose repairs totaled over $40 million in US dollars.

Pope Francis has been a staunch advocate for the impoverished and has not been too fond of over-indulging priests and bishops. By taking the name of St. Francis who focused his life on helping the poor and by choosing to live in more austere settings than the Pope’s usual residence, Pope Francis has sent a clear message that is still being heard. My guess is many church leaders are laying very low. Hopefully, the message will resonate with all members of the Catholic clergy and other religious sects.

But, as Bakker has shown, the indulgences are not limited to those leaders in the Catholic faith. The minister of a prominent and growing church in my metro-area has come under fire for his opulent house, which exceeds the price of the Atlanta Archbishop’s. Two years ago, two married ministers in my area went to jail on tax evasion. The congregation is still in disbelief after they were arrested for not reporting their very fine way of life. And, not to be outdone, even Reverend Franklin Graham came under fire for receiving two million dollar (approximately) salaries for two different organizations he leads. He has remedied this to my knowledge, once it became public, but it did not seem to bother him before the press.

However, the one who takes the cake is Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh of Oregon. He was eventually arrested in Charlotte for immigration fraud, but had a knack for courting wealthy donors who would give up millions of dollars to his organization. When arrested, he had a fleet of many Rolls-Royces and several private jets. You can read more about the Bhagwan with attached link: http://www.ohs.org/the-oregon-history-project/biographies/Bhagwan-Shree-Rajneesh.cfm

As someone of faith, I do not begrudge ministers and religious leaders for receiving a reasonable income. They work long hours and are constantly on call. Yet, I do feel it is hypocritical to take advantage and live extravagantly at the expense of others. Like the above, some have been too keen on living well. It likely starts as self-justification for doing good. This happens in politics, business and other organization leadership, as well. That is why “stewardship” is a key word to me. The people who oversee these leaders and the leaders themselves have to be good stewards with peoples’ money. Otherwise, you breach their trust and sometimes, break the law.

Casablanca quotes still resonate in real life

The following post was written abut five years ago, but the real life references still resonate with the quotes. Please share with me your thoughts and overlooked quotes.

One of my favorite movies is “Casablanca” and, from its ranking on the list of greatest movies, I am not alone in my admiration. A love triangle is set in the context of the outset of World War II after Germany took possession of France. But, it is also filled with an interesting plot and characters played by marvelous actors who say some wonderfully written lines primarily written by Julius and Philip Epstein.

In another list of the 100 greatest movie quotes, lines from “Casablanca” appears six times. These and other lines from the movie still resonate today as a reflection of our times. Here are a few from memory, so I will likely misquote them.

We will always have Paris – Rick (Humphrey Bogart) says this a couple of times to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) as a reminder of their relationship where they met. To me, this reminds us of our own special places that mean so much, whether it is a love interest or a special time in our lives.

Louie, I think this is the beginning of beautiful friendship – A key subplot is the relationship between Rick and Captain Louie Renault (Claude Rains), which is friendly, but with some distance. When they come together at the end to go fight the Germans, it lifts your spirits to see the two walk off together with a mission and true bond of kinship.

I am shocked, shocked there is gambling going on here – Captain Renault is asked to close Rick’s (a bar) at the behest of Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser (Conradt Veight) and used gambling as the reason, even though it is routine. The line is followed by the pit boss handing him his winnings. This reminds me of politicians, who know or allow a problem to occur, and then act shocked when the problem does occur.

Human life is cheap – This evil line is uttered by Major Strasser and gives me chills. People traveled to Casablanca to get transport to America, but must wait to bribe or pay heavily for papers to get out. This reminds me of the refugees who are being exploited by opportunist to sell them unsafe passage to Europe. Whether they get there is irrelevant.

Round up the usual suspects – This is a key line in the movie that is used often. Captain Renault uses it several times to convey that he is doing something about a crime, but actually is doing nothing. It is also how the writers figured out the ending, which they were struggling with. I find this line is also indicative of politicians who are good at pretending to do something, when they are actually doing nothing. Over 50 repeal votes of Obamacare is too easy an example.

Here’s looking at you kid – Rick, who is older than Ilsa, uses this line to show great affection, usually touching her chin lightly to look into her eyes. It plays an important part in Rick’s journey back. It reminds me of lines we use with each other that mean more than the words themselves. In the movie “Ghost” the line “Ditto” had huge meaning in the plot, e.g.

Play it for me Sam. Play “As Time Goes By” – I probably misquoted this misquoted line from Ilsa, which usually is seen as “play it again Sam.” Sam (Dooley Wilson), who has a velvet voice sings this melancholic song which lilts often through the movie. Like Paris, it reminds the two lovers of better times, as Sam who has always accompanied Rick when he sets up a bar, would play it for the two of them. We each have milestone songs that take us back in time. This may be music’s greatest gift.

Play it. Play La Marseillaise – To me, this is the most powerful moment in the movie. You see first hand the leadership and bravery of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) as he asks the band to play the French national anthem to drown out the Nazi bar singers. In an interview, the Jewish writers said it gave them chill bumps as they wrote it. Leaders like this are few and far between and are much needed, as their quiet fortitude speaks louder than any bombastic chest beater.

Welcome back to the fight – This line is uttered by Victor to Rick as they say goodbye. It is a major moment of recognition of the noble efforts of Rick that are not unnoticed by one who does them all of the time. Today, we need more folks who are willing to speak their mind against tyranny, bigotry, disenfranchisement and hatred.

I realize I left off several key lines for space reasons. I also recognize I left off the contributions of Peter Lorre* and Sidney Greenstreet who added so much color to the movie. Let me know what you think and please share your favorites. As time goes by…

*Note: A very underrated singer/ songwriter is Al Stewart, whose opening stanza to “Year of the Cat” is a reference to Lorre who appeared in a couple of Bogart movies. This is what I remember most about Lorre in Casablanca.

“On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime”

Words of a caution about a ‘deformed party’ construct

The following is an excerpt from an article called Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracyby one of my favorite authors and columnists, Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman. Friedman wrote “The World is Flat” and “That Used to be Us: How America fell behind in the world it created and how it can come back.” A link to the article in Jill’s post “We are not okay” can be found below.

” Here is what Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, told The Hill about the campaign within the party to oust Representative Liz Cheney from her House G.O.P. leadership position, because of her refusal to go along with the Big Lie:

“’f a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. … She’s going to stand on principle.

Think about that for a second. To be a leader in today’s G.O.P. you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election — without a shred of evidence — and ignore everything his own attorney general, F.B.I. director and election security director said — based on the evidence — that there was no substantive fraud.

What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

Another favorite conservative pundit Michael Gerson said it more bluntly about the Republican leaders who support this path forward. He said you either have to be a “sucker or a liar” to be a leader in the new GOP. The Democrats are not perfect and, while I agree on many of their policies, not all curry my support. Yet, the Democrats are at least discussing issues while the GOP is just adrift supporting the most deceitful, corrupt and seditious president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon.

Republicans are being lied to by its so-called leadership. The sad fact is the leaders know they are lying and simply are looking to get away with it. Do Democrats lie? Yes, but the party currency is not deceit which apparently is what matters to the GOP more than anything. We need a viable GOP, but this one is headed down a dark alley.

We Are Not Okay | Filosofa’s Word (jilldennison.com)

My Favorite Teacher Movies

In honor or Teachers Appreciation Week, here is a post from seven years ago. It received wonderful suggestions in the comments section as there are so many good ones I did not mention. Please add yours below.

I was inspired to write this having seen a review of all the musical performers who went on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with a focus on performers from Great Britain. So, what does this have to do with teachers, you ask? In 1967, the singer Lulu came on the show to sing the title song from “To Sir, with love” a song that lives beyond its boundaries. The movie by the same name is one of my four favorite movies about teachers.

“To Sir, with love” was set in the 1960s in a working class area. Sidney Poitier played the role of “Sir” which was what the male teachers were called. After much angst of trying to teach these high school seniors, he realized that they were about to go into the real world, so he decided to teach them about life. I must confess I get chills writing this, as he taught them how to act toward each other; he taught them about race relations and human dignity; he taught them the beautiful things in the world and showed them opportunity. And, he taught them that the world was not going to give you anything, so you better work hard. If you have not seen the movie, I will not spoil the ending.

The next three were hard to pick from, but I went with “Dead Poet’s Society” perhaps Robin Williams’ best movie filmed in 1989. Williams’ character Mr. Keating returned to a prep school for boys that he had attended. The boys had been taught to conform and toe the line, but Keating taught them poetry and passion. He taught them about carpe diem. And, they called him “Oh Captain, my Captain.” The best moment in the movie is when he teaches Ethan Hawke’s character how to improvise a poem, since he was having so much trouble writing one. After he does so, Keating whispers in his ear, “don’t you ever forget this.”

“Stand and Deliver” with Edward James Olmos made in 1988 is a about a math teacher who decided to teach Calculus to Latin American high school students in an impoverished neighborhood. He is ridiculed and laughed at by the other math teachers and principal. He drafts kids who work over the summer on pre-calculus material, to be prepared for the even harder stuff in the fall. Lou Diamond Phillips plays one of his students and Andy Garcia plays a testing official with the Advanced Placement organization. These kids fight an uphill battle with Olmos’ coaching, teaching and coercing. And, just when they succeed, they get slapped down and have to do it again. It is an inspiring true story about what blood, sweat and tears mixed with some passion and intellect can do.

The final member of my quartet is “Mr. Holland’s Opus” made in 1995 with Richard Dreyfus as Mr. Holland, the music and band teacher. Take a lot of tissue to the couch if you watch this one. Mr. Holland worked on his opus for years, but found out later that his real opus was the kids he taught. Along the way, he had a challenge he needed to overcome and that was when his son was born deaf. But, his son being deaf was not the biggest obstacle, it was him finding the way to show his son his passion and bring him into his world and becoming more a part of his son’s. Being the father of band students over the years, with my oldest being in the marching and jazz bands, this show has extra meaning for me. Hats off to Jay Thomas as Holland’s friend and the school’s athletic coach. And, Bill H. Macy and Olympia Dukakis play important roles, although you will not care for Macy’s character at all.

I think movies about great teachers have a special place in our hearts. We all have been inspired by one or more teachers. And, just like these inspirational teachers, there are other excellent movies about teachers – “Finding Forrester” with Sean Connery, “Dangerous Minds,” with Michelle Pfeiffer, “Teachers” with Nick Nolte and JoBeth Williams, “The Great Debaters” with Denzel Washington and “Lean on Me” with Morgan Freeman to name a few. 

I would love to hear about your favorites. Did I miss one that I should have highlighted? Have you seen the above? What teacher did you have that made a difference in your life?

Note to politicians (and so-called news people) – STOP THE NAME CALLING AND LABELING

The United States and the world have a lot of problems that need elected officials to address. The problems are multi-faceted in causes, so they require holistic thinking, educated and civil discussion and multi-faceted solutions. Our problems are hard enough to solve when we focus on the facts and issues, but nigh impossible when we listen to name calling and labeling as a substitute for discourse.

So, politicians, here is a simple piece of advice. If you cannot understand the first paragraph, then what you need to do is please resign. We don’t need people who decide not to add value and name call opponents. That is not civil discourse, that is childish playground talk. If you cannot add value with your commentary, please keep your thoughts to yourself. At least this citizen will not be listening to you, nor should others. That includes all politicians, not just the ones who disagree with your positions. It also includes those who are berating Tim Scott calling him “Uncle Tom” because he has the temerity to be a Black Republican.

The same goes with opinion hosts who are disguised as news people, but are really entertainers. Note, that is not my word, as Fox News decided to defend one its hosts who is being sued for defamation by saying his show should not be taken seriously as a news show, as it is an entertainment show. To repeat, Fox News said one of its night time hosts is an entertainer, so his opinions should be taken less seriously.

My advice to people who watch the news or read it online, please consider the source. Do they print errata notices when they get it wrong? Is it an opinion host or a newscaster saying or writing the news? Or is it one of those paid advertisements spread between the news, hoping you do not see the word AD on it? Is it a Facebook or Instagram friend who likes to share evocative videos just to get a rise out of folks?

For democracies to work, we must have a free and read press. Sadly, there are some who wish to taint all news as bad or fake, so they can basically do whatever they want. That is what we must guard against, especially after January 6. Civil discourse is a must. If our so-called leaders and talk show hosts cannot be such, then it falls on us to show them the way. Our leaders should be among our better angels, not our worse demons.

The Harmony Project – Sing, Serve, Share – an encore

The following brief post was written five years ago, but deserves an encore performance given its theme. It is a quick read, so please indulge a few minutes of your time.

What do you get when you have a choir which does not require auditions? You get a tremendous amount of harmony, but not just the musical kind. From a recent CBS Sunday Morning report, David Brown has formed a choral group whose primary purpose is to bring different kinds of people together to sing, serve and share.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, its members must serve the community in various community projects, as well as practicing and performing. During the interview, Jane Pauley talked with what sounds like the set-up to a joke – a CEO, a warden and a Rabbi. These diverse people epitomize what the group is all about – getting to know people who are different from you, then realizing how similar we are.

Brown has even taken this concept into the warden’s prison where female inmates have their own chorus. Recently, the incarcerated chorus joined the larger one for a performance, which brought down the house.

Brown’s history has been one of being diverse. It started in high school when he moved into a new school district and was the lone white student at an African-American school. In college, he came out as a gay man. So, getting along as the non-main stream person has formed his bent toward diversity.

The Harmony Project is such a positive effort to bring out the best in us. While these examples happen on a daily basis, we need to celebrate them and our humanity by sharing our common threads. This is what America is all about. It is not finger pointing and hate speak. Let’s bring America together by celebrating our diversity, as well as these common threads that bind us.

Sunday soliloquy

A soliloquy is defined as an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play. Since William Shakespeare’s birthday is tomorrow, per advance reporting by Kim, I hope you will join me for these thoughts and offer a comment or two. I will try to use fewer words than the bard.

I am puzzled by an ongoing problem. People are usually mortified to learn they have been fooled or left out of something. Then, why would they get information from such disreputable sources who have been proven time and again to lack veracity? It could be repeated conspiracy stories from social media, a legislator, an opinion host or a former legislator or just erroneous use of facts or wanna-be facts. Strong suggestion – check your sources and stories, especially if the name of the source cites someone named Trump, Johnson, Gohmert, Taylor-Greene, Nunes, Hannity, Cruz or Carlson.

It matters not which political party a member of a legislative body belongs to, when he or she dishonors the office, either severely or on a routine basis, the member must be punished under the rules of governing body, ranging from censure, removal from committees or removal from office. And, it must not be “gotcha” politics – to be frank, a political party should try to clean up a mess before it gets to the actions of the whole body. The Catholic Church learned much too late, they needed to clean up its pedophile priests problem as it tainted the reputation of the whole. Police departments are only beginning to learn this truth about needing to address those over-zealous folks in their ranks. There are no perfect people, so why should we expect any group to be perfect?

Groups of people, whether they are legislative bodies, companies, organizations, or governments must not and should not punish the truth tellers in their midst. There are many reasons to have concerns about actions of the former president, but his firing of inspectors general and people who testified under known-in-advance risk disgusted me. Congressional sycophants of the former president left these honorable public servants hanging as they rationalized his deceitful, corrupt and even seditious actions. He is “just rough around the edges” we would hear. Lying is not rough around the edges, it is deceitful.

Let me close with a note to Democrats. Please do your best to govern. If one of your party has acted poorly, chastise his or her actions and remedy the matter. Just because it is your tribe does not make it OK. Bill Clinton balanced the budget and more jobs were created on his watch than under any other president, but he still was a womanizer who had one known affair in the White House and lied about it. Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi et all will make mistakes – own up to them and remedy them where possible. And, when a member says something inane or mean-spirited – say so.

We need truth tellers in both parties. We need honorable public servants. Right now, democracy is under attack, which is directed at the wrong problem. Our problem is not the wrong people voting, it is not enough people voting. Where our elections really have concerns is in the amount of money it takes to get elected. A legislator, at best, will be mildly subjective because of funding to get elected. This is the best argument for term limits and legislating out the Citizens-United and McCutcheon SCOTUS rulings. Maybe if the money influence wanes, less money will be funded.