Wednesday walkabout with John Oliver this early spring day

Armed with generic Flonase spray and a Cetrizine tablet, I am ready to brave the pollen and get outdoors. I am hoping we get the promised spring shower this morning to cleanse the air of that nasty stuff. As I walk, here are few random thoughts I will be thinking about.

-On John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show this past Sunday, he had two pieces that were quite illuminating. Like Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” Oliver’s show is a comedic news show, but one that does its homework. It is actually far more informative than many pseudo-news shows that are on the air and far more accurate than any of the well-known opinion hosts could offer, as he deals in facts amid the humor.

-Oliver first focused on the troubled Silicon Valley Bank, who decided to fail Banking 101 and mismanage risk causing a run on the bank. Yet, what was comical is to see Oliver show how four separate Fox News opinion hosts told their audience that the bank’s failure was due to its “wokeness.” These opinion hosts even referenced it as the “woke bank.” Oliver had a field day making fun of this inanity. One banking analyst responded to these absurd accusations by saying “that is like saying the color blue is the answer to 1+1.”

-Oliver’s larger piece on the show was around the predatory time share industry and its surrounding permutations. This is where you buy a set week of vacation at a resort or a week of points at multiple resorts which last a lifetime and even beyond. One telling thing is time share contracts have a clause which one attorney called a “license for the sales agent to lie clause” where the company says they are not responsible for anything the agent says. The industry is built around not just the initial sale, but the maintenance fees and upgraded contracts that give you more access. And, they focus on a key word in the contract – perpetuity meaning they make it quite difficult to get out of.

-What I found interesting as well, is the number of fly-by-night time share exit companies that are also predatory. These folks sell you on an upfront fee to get you out of your time share or sell it if they cannot. These companies sound convincing, but many close up shop and set up one under a new name. If they are around too long they get sued for malfeasance. Yes, they are too good to be true.

-So, the key take away per Oliver is DON’T BUY A TIME SHARE and warn anyone you know who is considering one. This truly is the best and maybe only defense against this predatory industry. And, if you are willed a time share, you need to move quickly to say in writing you do not want it or you get on the hook. Some states have a time limit on your ability to do this.

Fortunately, my wife and I never did bite on the offers to sell us time shares. I feel for those who have as it sounds like they were running uphill against this industry.


An alternative tactic

Maybe we should just take a different tactic with those elected officials who have a modus operandi of saying inane and hurtful things. In short, if they cannot articulate facts or reasoned arguments, then maybe we should just ignore them until they do. The tactic is “I don’t have time for this.”

I watched an interview courtesy of Scottie’s blog between Jon Stewart and Larry Summers, an economist and economic advisor to several presidents. Stewart, as per usual, was an informed interviewer and asked rational questions even pushing back on Summers. It was such a delight to see such discourse as opposed to interviewers and public officials who are just shouting at the wind.

We know the names of these folks and each can come up with a list which includes similar blowhards. So, I think we should just ignore these folks until they come back to the table with reasoned argument. We have too many important issues to spend time on contrived ones or ones argued at a higher decibel level.

Our elected officials owe us that.

Republican blasts own party for making LGBTQ+ folks second class citizens

Brad Reed of RawStory posted the following article that is quite telling called “Republican blasts his own party for push to turn some Kentuckians into ‘second-class citizens.'” In short, he is calling out his own party for treating people with lesser standing because of gender status or who they love.

Here are a few paragraphs with the link to the article below:

“Bob Heleringer, a former Republican state representative from Kentucky, is calling out members of his own party for their new legislation targeting the LBGTQ community.

In an editorial published by the Courier Journal, Heleringer ripped Kentucky Republicans for new legislation that restricts drag shows and gender-affirming care for transgender minors, which he said amounted to making LGBTQ Kentuckians ‘second-class citizens.’

‘I wish I could blame both political parties for this cataclysm but I cannot,’ he charged. ‘Every anti-gay/trans bill this session was introduced by a Republican.’

In my simple view, it is bad enough to let maltreatment of others’ rights go unchecked. Yet, when a group tries to introduce legislation or systematized maltreatment, that is a bridge too far. I fully support and respect the courage of Mr. Heleringer for speaking out against the poor decision making in his own party. Regardless of party affiliation, we need more legislators to speak out when they see wrong doing.

I recognize fully the instigation for these laws spawns out of an evangelical base of voters. As a Christian, not treating others like you want to be treated poorly answers that bracelet or bumper sticker question of WWJD? Yet, in our country, our forefathers were big on the separation of church and state, so everyone’s rights are just as important as everyone else’s, no less and no more.

John Wooden – this legendary coach pushed the envelope to much success

In terms of college national championships, no other coach was more successful than John Wooden of UCLA. His teams won ten championships in twelve years. What many don’t realize is Wooden was also an All-American level player at Purdue. I mention this as the NCAA is in the midst of a very exciting tournament where no higher ranked team is safe.

Wooden’s success as a coach was due to a key factor. If he has better players, then his team needs to force the action. He even said if his team made more mistakes, that was OK as it meant his team was pushing the envelope. In this tournament and others, I see better teams yield their advantage. And, once the other team thinks it has a chance to win, the likelihood of so-doing increases.

So, Wooden’s teams would use full court pressure to force the other team into turnovers. They made the other team work just to get the ball to half court. As a result, his team won far more than they didn’t.

Over the years, I have seen the better team fail to win on more than a few occasions. I have seen the coach hobble his team foregoing its advantage by playing too cautious a game. I have seen players get more nervous as they begin to realize the other team might win. Today, many of these upsets are not really upsets as the talent is more distributed. Yet, some are, because the other team played fearlessly.

Wooden’s approach negated that. He wanted his team to play fearlessly. And, his record proved that model worked. His model also works in real life. A good example, if you don’t tell that woman or man you love them, how will they know? If you don’t ask that woman or man on a date, they won’t go out with you. If you don’t try for that new job, you won’t get it. Saying this analogy in sports terms, you are guaranteed to miss 100% of the shots you never take.

Veterans’ group calls several Fox News opinion hosts on carpet for disinformation

A very interesting and pertinent ad has found its way on certain military cable outlets, being aired during shows it is targeting. In an article in 2Paragraphs by Claude Wooten today called “Veterans Bust Through Fox News, Call For Tucker Carlson’s Removal” the story speaks of how an ad hit home. A link to the article and ad is at the bottom.

“VoteVets writes:

‘VoteVets is running this ad calling for Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham to be removed from military installation TVs. The ad will run during those shows, on cable systems serving those very TVs.’

How did the VoteVets bust through the denial by Fox corporate overlords, understandably reluctant to run criticism of its own product during its shows? How did Fox get “OUT-FOXED,” as one VoteVets commenter writes?

The veterans went around the big corporation, directly to the military. Many military bases have their own cable TV systems, typically run by the military’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) department, which is responsible for providing services and activities to support the well-being of military personnel and their families.

VoteVets believes that Fox’s alleged disinformation campaigns endanger American security, as the ad seeks to demonstrate. VoteVets writes: ‘FOX hosts’ election lies and disinformation splits the ranks, hurts unit cohesion, and weakens America’s national defense. They must be removed from all TVs on military installations NOW.’”

The article is addressing the admission in emails found during the Dominion Voting System defamation lawsuit that more than several Fox News producers and hosts and its owner knew the election fraud claims by the former president were lies. Yet, they decided to gaslight their audiences into believing they are true. Whether one calls this gaslighting, disinformation or just lying, it does not paint a pretty picture of Fox News.

To be frank, Fox News gaslighted people for ratings, which means money. They earned this pushback. Sadly, even after the gaslighting story broke, Carlson continues his gaslighting this time focusing on the January 6 insurrection trying to white wash what happened. For one, I hope the military ads hit their target.

Stepford Wives, Bladerunner, and ex-Machina are here now (a reprise)

I wrote this post five years ago, but we have gone further down the Yellow Brick Information Highway. It is worth a revisit in today’s context. Let me know your thoughts. Our Australian friend Amanda wrote a recent post about AI, which is worth a gander. A link to her post is below.

I have seen snippets about this, but my wife turned over to a Dr. Oz show today whose subject was about “sexbots.” If you have not seen these, they exist, look somewhat real, and have artificial intelligence. Yikes. Dr. Oz first interviewed psychologists, one who was alarmed, while the other who felt it was OK. The former noted those who would be missing out on real intimacy plus some who may have a tendency to act out more violent fantasies, while the latter noted that people need companionship even if electronic.

Then, he interviewed one of the inventors, who dutifully said it is like owners talking with pets, with the robot being more of a companion. The robots were programmed with favorite movies, books, etc. that could be espoused, if asked. He noted if the owner tried to treat the robot violently (sexual assault, rape), it would shut down. He added with such a high cost (about US$10,000), it would be bad for the owner to treat the robot poorly.

And, if that was not a bridge too far, he said some have made the robot look like a former wife who had passed away. The thought of “Stepford Wives” came to mind. As for the companionship, I was recalling the recent “Blade Runner 2049” movie which updated the earlier version made in the early 1980s. In both, the “replicants” included some that were built to be consorts to men (and I presume women), where few of the opposite sex were present. In the latter, one of the replicants had a holographic live-in girlfriend who offered the companionship. The theme of “Ex Machina” is about a talented AI programmer being asked to test a lifelike, attractive companion.

So, what about this? In the category of “to each his (or her) own,” I guess if this is what floats your boat and provides a solution to loneliness, so be it. I guess we each have fantasy lovers that we can dream about, so is this a natural evolution? Yet, it still gives me the willies. Plus, most movies about robots usually do not end well for humans. So, maybe this could lead to our extinction or replacement. Maybe it will lead to test tube babies as in “Brave New World.” Or, maybe we will become cyborgs like the group in “Star Trek Next Generation” called “The Borg” a collective intelligence embodied in former humanoids.

Tell me what you think? Is this a good thing or a horrible path to follow? I did think of a humorous use for women if they had their own sexbot. The robot would have to be adept at foreplay and cuddling, but would also take out the trash and do the dishes without being asked and could fix a clogged drain or install a dimmer switch. And, if it needed to ask directions, it would do so. But, that internal GPS would forego the need.

Don’t get in their way

There is an old adage that goes something like this. When an opponent is busy defeating himself, don’t get in his way. The same could be said for the adrift Republican Party who cannot seem to get out of their own way.

Whether it is one of the usual deceitful subjects or one of its sycophants, they keep pushing the wrong buttons. We have far too many important issues that need to be discussed, analyzed and debated using as many supportable facts that can be mustered. Facts taken out of context or invented or exaggerated do not lend themselves to good governance. Sadly, we have too many representatives who just spew things on camera or online to win brownie points with a revved-up base who tends to focus on these sound bites and not deeper dive information.

Many who follow this blog know I reach out to Congressional representatives, Senators and members of the state legislature with some frequency. I usually have one of three purposes. I want to give a shout out when they do something good going against the grain of their party. I want to share concerns over legislation that is unwise and ask them to vote against it or for something that makes sense. Or, I want to ask them to challenge colleagues who are overtly lying, denigrating or bullying others with different opinions.

On this last point, many a time I have pleaded with staff to get their boss to be the leader we need him or her to be. Tolerating deceitful and bullying behavior can be as bad as the ones who commit it as we expect people in leadership roles to act like leaders. The Catholic Church failed to head this lesson for multiple decades, maybe even longer, with its pedophile priests. Several major universities and official sports organizations in multiple countries have done the same with sexually assaulting coaches or doctors. The governing body has to ferret out the bad apples or it truly spoils the bunch.

Yet, back to the adage. In many respects, I am tired of warning and pleading of needed action for overt bad behavior ranging from a former president to various governors to gerry-mandered winners who have extreme voices in state legislatures and Congress. So, part of me says, these are the people you choose to have on your team. These are the wolves you have chosen to lay down with. So, when you get fleas that is on you. I can only warn you so much.

In short, as an independent and former member of both major parties, I can argue policies and issues with Democrats all day, but with our Republican friends, I find myself arguing what is true and correcting false premises that are bandied about by the party. When a party has several members known by name for being untruthful and bullying, that does not make a party I want to embrace. We deserve a viable conservative voice and the folks doing most of the talking are not it. Yet, I am weary of forewarning.

Roy Orbison – a few quick poignant stories

I was watching a biopic on the singer Roy Orbison who sang “Pretty woman”, “Crying”, “Only the lonely”, etc. the other night. Orbison influenced so many artists who grew up as teens listening to his great voice cover songs of loneliness, love, and lust.  Two examples that occurred in the 1980s reveal the respect others had for him.

First, several musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, kd lang, and James Burton (one the best guitarist and collaborators you never heard of) did a concert with Orbison in small venue, recorded in black and white. It is well worth the watch.

Second, several names you will also recognize joined with Orbison to form The Traveling Wilburys – guys like George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne (founder and lead of ELO). The rag tag band had the number one album right in the middle of a totally different music era ranging from big hair bands to pop groups.

But, three stories from the documentary intrigued me, making me smile and tear-up at the same time. Let me start with the saddest one.

The song “Pretty woman” was written in one afternoon about his first wife Claudette, inspired by a friend who was sitting with Orbison as she walked out to go shopping. The line of “pretty woman walking down the street” led to the song. This would be his biggest hit, but sadly he and Claudette would later divorce, reconcile and divorce again before tragedy struck. She was killed in motorcycle crash leaving behind their two kids and a still distraught Orbison.

Apparently, he was quite funny and could do all the lines to Monty Python movies and would keep people like Petty, Dylan, Lynne and Harrison in stitches during studio sessions with The Traveling Wilbury’s. Ironically, Harrison produced a movie with one the Python guys called “Time Bandits” which makes you smile throughout. Having watched footage of Orbison over the years with his sad countenance and sad songs, I would have never had guessed he was considered funny.

Lastly, kismet exists. The movie “Blue Velvet” is a cult classic, one reason is the soundtrack including several Orbison songs. One of those is “In dreams,” the first stanza of which is as follows:

“I close my eyes then I drift away
Into the magic night, I softly say
A silent prayer like dreamers do
Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.”

Bono of U2 told the story of how he was listening to the Blue Velvet soundtrack and dreamed that night of Orbison’s songs. He said he also dreamed of a song that seemed like an Orbison song, but wasn’t. It was one he had created. So, the next morning, he wrote down and played a song that later became “She’s a mystery to me” which he formulated with guitarist the Edge later that day.

That night after a performance in England, Bono got a knock on the door and his aide said Roy Orbison is here with his wife Barbara (his second) and he wanted to meet you. Orbison said his kids loved U2 and he wanted to hear what it was all about. Bono said he would love to work with Orbison, to which Orbison asked if he had any songs they could do. Bono said, in fact, he does and played “She’s a mystery to me” for Orbison which they recorded and released in 1989.

Sadly, they were working on an album called “Mystery girl”, when Orbison died at the age of only 52. He and Barbara were in Paris and needed to go to an event in England, but Orbison said he needed to fly home for some commitments and meet her there. Barbara said when they spoke on the phone after he landed in the US that was the last time they spoke.

I was floored by this last story and truly saddened by the first one. But, I am glad that the singer of songs was a funny man. When one of your greatest songs is “Crying” which we all have done at some point, it does your heart good to hear he liked to laugh and make others laugh as well. And, for Monty Python fans out there, to honor Orbison, think of the bit remembered as “It’s just a flesh wound.” My lads could recite this in its entirety with Orbison.



Did he really say that?

From the mouth (or fingers) of a person who is well known and documented from multiple sources for presenting untruthful statements, yet one more statement is making the rounds this morning. S.V. Date wrote an article in the HuffPost called “Trump Blames Mike Pence For Jan. 6 Violence For Not Going Along With His Coup Attempt.” The article can be linked to below, but here are the first two paragraphs.

“Donald Trump, whose coup attempt on Jan. 6, 2021, put his vice president’s life at risk as a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol, on Monday blamed Mike Pence for the violence that day because he didn’t go along with the scheme.

‘Had he sent the votes back to the legislators, they wouldn’t have had a problem with Jan. 6,’ the former president told reporters on a flight to an Iowa campaign stop. ‘So in many ways, you can blame him for Jan. 6.'”

Really? This is the former president admitting that a coup happened and it was his scheme that his vice-president did not go along with. I think both the state of Georgia and US Attorney General need to go ahead and release their indictments against the former president. They are taking way too long.

People died because of this person. People who believed this BS have gone to jail for this person. A pseudo-news network has at least a half-dozen people, including the owner, who admitted the former president’s claims of election fraud were BS. And, people have damaged their careers for supporting the lies of this person.

To me this is yet another admission of guilt by the former president. He will likely do the following over the next two news cycles. He will back away from the comment, in part, as his attorneys will advise him to do so. Then, he will see that is not playing well with his MAGA base and double down on his statement of admitting his guilt. He will think how tough he looks.

Yet, just taking this “tough guy” persona one step further. A tough guy does not blame others, which the former president does often. “They just don’t like me” or “They are just being mean to me” are common refrains. Or, my personal favorite is when he finally came clean and said President Obama was born in the US after offering proof several times, Donald J. Trump said the following, “It is Hillary Clinton’s fault” for his pushing the birther issue for over two years. Really?

False bravado is fake bravery. It is beating on your chest to say how tough you are. In my view, the ones who are truly brave and courageous don’t need to tell you they are.

Hidden Figures – a reprise of a story about heroes who overcame

With February being Black History Month and March being Women’s History Month, there are few better stories than one that honors both as noted below. Here is a reprise of a post I wrote six years ago.

My family had the opportunity to see the movie “Hidden Figures” recently. It may be one of the finest movies I have seen in the past few years. From the online movie summary, it is about the “incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit….The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”

The movie stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, with a key role for Kevin Costner. These three mathematicians helped plot a course into space, so that our astronauts could return safely. And, when computers were destined to replace them, one taught other African-American women in the computing department how to program in Fortran to save their jobs and supply capable talent to the NASA space effort, since so few folks knew Fortran.

We must value diversity for its own sake, but also from economic and development standpoints. If we limit where ideas can come from, we limit ideas. It gets no simpler than that math equation. As Johnson notes, math does not care what color you are. The other key point is the math to launch, orbit and return safely was breaking new ground, so innovative thinking was key. Johnson offered that kind of innovation, which married some old school math to solve the new problems.

Throughout history, ideas have come from those who understand and are in proximity to the problem. A gay man named Alan Turing saved over a million lives in World War II and shortened the war by two years per General Dwight Eisenhower by solving the Nazi Enigma communication code. Yet, he had to hide his homosexuality and was later imprisoned for it when discovered. This WWII hero died in jail. The 2014 movie “The Imitation Game” is about Turing’s efforts.

A black man named Vivien Thomas helped solve the Blue Baby death problem by restoring the full flow of blood from the heart through groundbreaking open heart surgery on a baby. Yet, like the NASA mathematicians, he had to battle racism which would not allow him in the operating room, at first. His story is told in the 2004 movie, “Something the Lord Made.”

Jesus said we should treat each other like we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do, but it is also the wise thing to do. Please remember this quote from an economist who advised Presidents Reagan and Clinton, “Innovation is portable.” And, where it occurs is where the jobs start. So, we need to let innovative ideas flourish regardless of their source.