Bad word, bad word

My wonderfully efficient and effective Administrative Assistant for many years was the epitome of customer service. She had better customer service instincts than many consultants both internally with colleagues and externally with clients. She was also a very devout woman and you would never hear a curse word cross her lips.

Yet, she would get angry from time to time like we all do. So, if she was really annoyed with some mix-up or maltreatment, I would hear her say “bad word, bad word.” That was her way of cursing. No four letter expletives, just the same two words repeated twice. Very few of us can live up to that kind of exemplar.

Many who follow this blog know I do not give much credence to name-calling or labels. It weakens the argument of the user, as they tend to be shortcuts to defamation of another person or group. I do my best to avoid them, but of course, I do mess up. Yet, I try to focus on the deceitful words or actions than call the espouser a liar. I also try to avoid using those bad words in print, maybe using asterisks are the infamous acronym of BS.

What continues to trouble me is with social media so pervasive and the managers of such tools like the one (Facebook) which is getting scrutiny in Congress as we speak, we have entered into a post-truth society. The truth continues to have to work hard to keep its head above the surface. A social media expert said this weekend misinformation is six times more likely to be read and routed than the truth. And, that company who denies they know this is not being very forthcoming so says a whistleblower. Ads are how they make money, so the more read posts make more money for them.

I have used this example many times but Vladimir Putin’s early career was in disinformation for the KGB. Today, as the leader of Russia, stories by former TV producers and media people speak of Putin having a very active role in various communication channels. But, this does not surprise me because of the controlling nature of the country.

It is troubling the former US president is a huge fan of Putin’s. Though, what bothers me most is not the former president has a penchant for using untruths to tell a story he wants to tell. Based on his well-documented history, I expected these actions. What bothers me most are those acting like sycophants and rationalizers to grease the skids for the untruthful narrative and provide air cover for such stories.

It should not take so much political courage to stand up and call out the untruthful stories. Yet, it does. The folks who do get vilified and even receive death threats. And, they know this going in and still call the lying out. The folks could have been past supporters, but get ostracized for saying even the simplest of things that contradict the untruthful narrative.

So, many staff and public servants have been removed for daring to call out the untruthful behavior. That should speak volumes, but simply is not getting inside the communication channels of those who really need to hear it. This is where the rationalizing is used to sand around the edges of a bad story or deny its truth.

It truly makes you want to curse. Bad word, bad word. So, now that I feel better, what can we do? Reach out to legislators who do the right thing and thank them. Reach out to them with concerns, as well, but do your best to avoid name calling and labelling. Write comments to others like you would want to receive them – focus on brief, civil discourse. And, listen to people, not to respond, but to understand. If there is a place where you can find agreement, even on the smallest of issues, start there.

Here are a few themes to bear in mind:

-we need legislators to focus more on passing needed legislation than trying to score victories. Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job.

-we need legislators to focus on the truth more than they are doing. You owe it to us. Governing is hard enough with the facts – when people use lies, it is nigh impossible.

-when an incumbent or former incumbent denigrates the office or our country through his or her actions, the party to which he or she belongs should not try to cover up such action. The party should be leading the effort to right wrongful behavior.

On this latter point, there are many examples where entities failed to heed this advice and paid for it with damaged relationships, tarnished brands and the loss of huge sums of money – think the Catholic Church, the US Olympic Gymnastics Team, the Boys Scouts of American, Enron, Adelphia, Tyco International, The PTL Club, etc. for both financial fraud or sexual assault convictions and claims.

So, instead of bad word, bad word, we should be able to say good job, good job for those who do the right thing..

Monday meanderings

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. And, for our Pacific Rim friends, I hope your Monday has gone well. Here a few meanderings on this first Monday in October.

  • A social media analyst said on “CBS Sunday Morning” yesterday that misinformation will be read and routed at a rate six times that of the truth. The only way to stop this is for readers to start asking more questions about what they read. Facebook won’t stop this as their model is to make money off more viewership.
  • An answer to the above is to read and watch multiple sources of information. And, we need to divorce ourselves from sources that are dubious. Infowars’ Alex Jones has now lost three court cases for defamation of Sandy Hook parents for continually saying the twenty-seven people (twenty whom were kids) killed was a hoax. Jones is still not remorseful. Opinion show hosts are not news reporters – even Fox News threw Tucker Carlson under the bus in court saying watchers should not consider what he says news, as he is not a news person.
  • Rudy Giuliani admitted in court under oath that he got his election fraud stories from social media, without checking the veracity. He has also been suspended in New York and DC from practicing law while the trials are going on. Wasn’t he an attorney for the former president? Did he not advise the former president on election fraud?
  • Even the folks at Fox News have banned ol’ Rudy. It does not amaze me that people who fly to close to the Trump sun eventually get burned. What amazes me is why they don’t know this going in? As Thomas Wells, an attorney for Trump once said, “if you are on Trump’s good side, don’t get used to it, as you won’t be there for long.”
  • As for our imperfect Democrat friends, please get something done. The infrastructure bill is over due and the other bill, needs to be made into law, but it will have to be cut back some, whether you like it or not. Do not cut it across the board, as that will water down the impact. Prioritize and pass the things that matter most.
  • As for our adrift Republican friends, please set aside your tribal politics and help get something passed. Democrats are also tribal, but with them I find myself arguing policy. With my Republican friends, I find myself arguing the truth. When a party vilifies its truth tellers and celebrates its liars, that is not compelling. We need a viable Republican party, but what we have now is one adrift and untethered to the truth.
  • I hope our British friends can get their petrol. One of our blogging friends, Roger, says his part of the country is getting more back to normal. Yet, there is still a ways to go. For those blaming only Brexit, it plays a role, but is not the only reason for the mess. There is a long slog ahead on Brexit transition which will last several years, at least that is what financial analysts said before the vote. I wish you the best.
  • There seems to be an interest in more naysayers to get the COVID vaccines. Something about people dying who are unvaccinated or maybe it is more friends sharing that it was not too bad. For those who are citing actual data that people have reacted poorly to vaccines, the percentages are quite small, even though the numbers seem large. We are talking less than 1/2 of a one percent adverse reaction when you think of hundreds of millions US vaccines and billions of global vaccines. Every medication, every vaccine and every surgical procedure has an error rate. The best two A-Fib surgical procedures only have effectiveness rates of 70%. And, just read the side effects on the sheets that come with your prescriptions.

That is all for now. Have a great week. Be safe. Get vaccinated if you have not. My extended family has been vaccinated and out of fifty or so people, we just had a few sore arms and headaches.

Grandstanding is not governance – not even close

As someone who follows the news and used to hold most elected officials in higher esteem, I am continually frustrated with the absence of good governance in Washington and various state capitols. Rather than governance, I see grandstanding for sound bytes to beat the other party over the head with. The purpose is to remain or regain power, where they will be in charge of doing nothing to govern.

Several Congressional representatives and Senators have retired or are retiring. The principal reasons are the disillusionment with the open hostility between factions and the fact over 1/3 of their time (some said 40%) is fundraising for the party. Let me say that last part in a different way. We taxpayers are paying for elected officials to hit us up for money between 33% and 40% of the time.

In essence, elected officials are more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. A further frustration is the number of folks who just don’t bother to reach out to all constituents and only care about their own party. The truth has become a casualty. And, what is sad is those who pay attention to the news know many of these elected officials are lying and know they know they are lying, but they lie anyway.

Grandstanding is a pronounced way of lying drawing attention to the person so doing. To me, it is akin to a gorilla beating on its chest to make an opponent cower and not fight back. Right now, we have an entire party that is OK with the US defaulting on its debts. Increasing the debt ceiling is to address what we have already spent or decided to spend, which the same folks did not seem to mind doing. Or, they cut revenue which also increased the debt.

In fact, many of these same folks voted on a tax bill in December, 2017 that reduced taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals which raised the debt by $2 trillion, approximately. In essence, we added to debt to make a pretty good economy a little better for a little while. Per the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, we must do both – cut spending and raise revenue to address our deficit and debt. The math will otherwise not work.

I have shared with several Senators it is OK to push back on spending to make sure we consider the best investments, but grandstanding on a debt limit that you helped make worse is not the place to do it. Before the pandemic, the US was around $22 trillion in debt with a $1 trillion annual shortfall on our budget ($3.4 trillion in revenue on $4.4 trillion in expenses). After needed pandemic stimulus, we are even worse off on debt and scheduled to be even further behind.

The last time we had a debt limit standoff was about eight years ago, led by Senator Ted Cruz (who by the way voted for the tax bill increase noted above increasing the debt). Our allies pleaded with us not to renege and when the US was within twenty-four hours of defaulting, ten female Senators from both parties told Cruz and others to get out of the pool for an adult swim. These ten women resolved the matter and the US did not default.

Our debt and deficit has been caused by both parties. Do not let either party say it is the other one’s fault as that simply is not true. And, we need for both of them to be involved to remedy this. Unfortunately, no one has the stomach to do what it really takes to resolve this. Any elected official can spend money and reduce taxes. Any elected official. But, that is precisely the problem. We need serious discussion with data and not grandstanding. Grandstanding is not governance.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye – a review

My wife, two boys and I watched “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” this week which is out in theaters. It is about the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker of the PTL Club. For those who may not know, PTL stood for Praise the Lord, and the club was a very popular Christian tele-evangelical show that raised a lot of money. Unfortunately, the money brought in could not keep up with the money going out.

The movie stars Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye and Andrew Garfield as Jim, along with an excellent supporting cast, including Cherry Jones as her mother and Vincent D’Onofrio as Reverend Jerry Falwell.The movie was directed by Michael Showalter and written by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Abe Sylvia. Chastain wanted to produce the movie after seeing a documentary that painted Tammy Faye in a different light.

The movie is excellent, but our main reason for wanting to see it is we live in Charlotte where the rise and fall took place in the 1980s. We remember the award winning newspaper articles in The Charlotte Observer and a radio DJ who had a recurring comedy segment called the “Pass the Loot” club. Tammy Faye was mercilessly teased for wearing an awful lot of make-up and crying on camera. As Chastain said in an interview, I watched many hours of footage and I never saw her cry so much that her make-up ran, which was a popular spoof.

Her husband was a narcissist who had to have things his way, even forcing his wife to apologize to him on air when she strayed (his straying at the same time would come up later). And, all the negative press about his fraud on his “partners” as he called his faithful, were, per Jim, reporters out to get him or who just did not like him (he was later found guilty on 24 counts of fraud and went to prison).

What we learned from the newspaper reports, national interviews and his trial, that the Bakkers had a lavish lifestyle built off the hard working donors who sent their money. As Jim famously told Ted Koppel in an interview, “the Lord wanted him to have nice things.” He arguably is the first prosperity preacher at least on air. Now, there is a whole flock of them. But, the key to his fall was his taking in more money based on promises of lifetime stays at a Christian resort that he could not possibly fulfill. So, the only answer was to sell more, in his mind, not unlike a Ponzi scheme.

There was a sex scandal with a young woman, who I won’t name, that was more scintillating than his fraud. Per the movie, we also learned Tammy Faye’s infidelity was a due to an inattentive husband who had wandering eyes for men and women. Forcing his wife to apologize to him on the air was unnerving given what we learned about Jim later. And, per earlier segments, the apology appeared to be a ploy to raise money.

Yet, a key takeaway is Tammy Faye actually had a more progressive view of treating everyone fairly, like Christians should, as she noted on air. A key example is she had an AIDs patient on her show whom she interviewed via satellite. She was outwardly moved by his plight and told her viewers that everyone is the same in God’s eyes. It was very touching. But, that seemed to be par for the course even though her willingness to help was frowned on by Falwell’s Moral Majority.

The part that seemed surprising in the movie is her lack of awareness of the fraud going on. She did ask questions and got poor answers, but she did not follow-up. She was too trusting of her husband when he had abused that trust. His narcissism was, in part, a defense mechanism.

To their credit, you have to applaud their rise through the ranks of tele-evangelists. More than a few of the old guard scoffed, but at their height of fame they had 20 million viewers. Yet, it truly was all smoke and mirrors. God may have wanted them to have nice things, but he sure did not mean for them to take donations from poor people to buy them.

The movie is worth the look. It can be silly at times, as Tammy Faye was an over-the-top personality. Yet, Chastain does an excellent job of showing some depth that needed more exploration. And, Garfield plays Jim Bakker quite convincingly.

Why are other vaccine requirements OK then?

In an article in The Daily Beast by Justin Baragona called “Chris Wallace Grills GOP Guv: Why Do You Oppose Vaccine Mandates for COVID but Not Chickenpox?” a very basic question was asked and went unanswered. Here are a couple of paragraphs (a link to the article is below).:

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly confronted Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts over his opposition to the Biden administration’s new coronavirus vaccine mandates and requirements, highlighting the governor’s seemingly contradictory position on other vaccines.

After President Joe Biden announced a new series of rules that will mandate all federal employees to be vaccinated and require many private-sector employees to either be inoculated or tested weekly, several Republican governors—including Ricketts—threatened to fight the president’s requirements in court.

Interviewing Ricketts on Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked the governor why he was fighting the administration’s new COVID-19 rules, especially since Ricketts insisted that he’s been encouraging vaccines and believes they work in combatting the pandemic. The Nebraska governor, meanwhile, said he felt the government shouldn’t be mandating vaccinations.

‘I’ve talked to a number of people,’ Rickets declared. ‘They’ve told me, if they make me take the vaccine, I’m just going to be fired.’

Wallace retorted that Nebraska’s school system actually requires students to be vaccinated against a series of diseases, wondering aloud why Ricketts appeared to be fine with those requirements but not a mandate for the COVID-19 shots.

‘You say it’s a personal choice. In fact, to attend school in your state of Nebraska, children must be vaccinated against a number of diseases. They must be vaccinated against Diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis; polio; measles, mumps, and rubella; Hepatitis B; chickenpox,’ the veteran anchor said.”

I would like to see each Republican governor suing the administration on this issue respond to this question. When my kids went to school or university, they each had to be compliant with all vaccines. So, why is this one unconstitutional?

And, while we are at it, I would like an answer to why these governors are putting the health of children, teachers and others at risk?

https://news.yahoo.com/chris-wallace-grills-gop-guv-162653388.html

Fines, fines and more fines for unruly passengers

An airplane is hurtling through the air at over 500 miles per hour and contains a couple hundred people in a confined space. Whether you like wearing a seat belt, you do so while the plane is taking off and landing. You also pay attention to the signs to remain seated as turbulence could cause you harm. Now, the turbulence is within in the cabin – the culprits are your fellow passengers.

A CBS News piece called “Assaults, a death threat and mask refusal: Fines for unruly passengers this year top $1 million” by Kathryn Krupnik and Allison Elyse Gualtier is revealing (see link below).

“Assaulting passengers and crew. Threatening to kill flight attendants. Refusing to wear masks. Unruly passengers are still wreaking havoc on flights, and the Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday it will request $531,545 in fines against 34 passengers for a variety of alleged bad behavior, including bringing drugs or alcohol on board. The agency said the new requests bring the total fines for 2021 to more than $1 million.”

The fines range in number, but include fines of $52,000, $42,000, $30,000, $17,000, $13,000 and $10,500 to mention only a few. Just this year, there have been 3,889 complaints about passengers, 2,867 of which are due to refusal to wear a mask.

The fines will make someone contrite rather quickly. Of course they can appeal the fines, but that is more court cost for a crime, some may not even remember very well due to their intoxication. Or, maybe they do remember it because they are just being a Class A jerk. And, the jerks are not just men, as women have shown an ability to be equally as rude as the harassing and assaulting males.

Let me speak plainly. For some reason, people feel they can simply ignore the obligations of civility and following the rules of the road. Being allowed to be rude is part of their freedom they say. But, with freedom come consequences. If your being a jerk endangers others, then you deserve to be held accountable. That is how it works.

If the requirement is to wear a mask to enter, then I suggest you get a mask. It does not matter if you are red, blue, purple or polka dot. Assaulting or cursing out a retail staff member or airline attendant does not improve your gripe. It just makes you look very small. And, in some cases, poorer due to paying fines.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/unruly-passenger-airplane-fines-1-million/

Green to Go Initiative in Durham (a reprise)

Our friend Jill has posted an excellent post on the need to severely reduce plastic use to combat the overflow of plastic in the oceans and landfills. A link is provided below. Here is a neat local initiative in Durham, NC that I came across and wrote about three years ago. These are the kinds of initiatives that need expansion to other places.

Many sports fans know that Durham is the proud home to Duke University or the site of the cult sports and life lesson movie “Bull Durham” with Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. Some may know that Durham is one of the three cities that surround the Research Triangle Park which houses many global firms’ headquarters, marketing or research departments. But, it is now getting some good press for a grassroots initiative called “Green to Go.”

What is “Green to Go?” In short, it is a building partnership with 25 local restaurants to replace Styrofoam or plastic to-go or leftover containers with a reusable and durable plastic one. The idea is instead of throwing away a one-time product, it can be replaced by one that can be used for a 1,000 times. With islands of plastic in the ocean and spilling out of landfills, this is a much needed innovation.

How does it work? It requires a $25 membership, but let’s you check out a spill-proof container with your first order from one of the 25 participating restaurants. You simply return the cleaned container on your next order to any of the 25 participants and get a newly sanitized one. This is how the food inspectors are kept happy.

On the website link provided below, they have 507 subscribers and 1,522 measured uses of the containers. But, this is a replicable idea that will likely catch on with more notoriety. The website includes the PBS Newshour piece that I first became aware of their efforts. Please let others know about this and check it our for yourself.

STOP! | Filosofa’s Word (jilldennison.com)

Democrats keep missing a key message

As an Independent and former Republican and Democrat voter, I wish I could have the opportunity to have detailed conversations with MAGA folks. Whether folks like Bernie or not, he is going to take his message to the MAGA world. Some may not like progressive policies, but Bernie tends to speak the truth. To me Democrats have tended to be lousy marketers missing out on a key, data centric message.

Since 1921, there have been thirteen Republican White Houses and going on thirteen Democrat White Houses. Under which White Houses have the most jobs been created? The answer is the Democrat White Houses and it is not even close. I recognize presidents get too much credit and too much blame for the economy, but the data reveals over 2x the number of jobs created in those periods under Democrats. Other measures show the economy and capital markets do better under Democrat White Houses as well.

What is interesting is my anecdotal evidence shows even Democrats think it is the opposite. Democrats should be more aggressive with that message. The former president inherited an economy that was 91 months into consecutive growth with 2 million plus jobs added for six straight years. To the former president’s credit it continued, got a little better for a little while with the sugar rush of the tax cut and then returned to pre-tax cut levels, before the botched handling of COVID-19 by the former president sank it

What still amazes me about the incompetent COVID-19 handling, is the ball was sitting on the tee for the former president to do what he craves, be presidential. But, he whiffed. He proceeded to play up a hoax, endangered his own MAGA followers by holding public events, and then continued to naysay it where many of his followers refuse to consider masks or vaccines. All occurring after he confided in Bob Woodward that he knew of the dangers. And, this is the person some want to return to the White House?

So, Democrats need to seize the message. They are the party of jobs and here is the data. If they don’t, Republicans will paint them with whatever message sells. And, if Democrats don’t believe me, in 2012 Republicans were told in memo form to use the term “failed stimulus” when speaking of Obama’s stimulus package. Even Democrats believed this, but what is funny, the stimulus did not fail. Per six econometric firms included the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus package was accretive to the economy.

What would happen if…

The Mamas and the Papas sang the lamentation “Monday, Monday.” It is the least favorite day of the week, poor Monday. People do not want to go back to work and the snooze delay on the alarm gets a workout. So, let’s brighten this Monday by asking a few what if questions. What would happen if…

  • All the money used to house, protect, garden, compensate and communicate for royal families with no power was instead used to provide scholarships or housing to people in need. Queen Elizabeth, you have been grand, but your role is not really that needed to run the country and being a ceremonial mascot (as my Political Science professor termed it) is an expense we do not need.
  • Legislators, presidents and other elected officials had term limits. OK, will give you senators and presidents two terms, three for Congress members. And, no lobbying immediately following your tenures. If donors knew there is a time limit on their investment, they may be less inclined to fund candidates. With limited time, the candidates may devote more time to doing their jobs – right now two Senator terms counting twelve years amounts to less than eight years of work given the estimated fund raising time.
  • Fact checkers at a press conference are armed with super-soaker water guns and each time the politician lied more than a little, he or she would get soaked. By the end of one of the former president’s press conferences, he would have one wet suit.
  • Politicians who name call or label folks are sent to a corner to sit in time-out. Ted, go back in your corner. Not that one, that one is reserved for Donald. When you can debate without name calling, we will let you back into the discussion Of course, we may need more corners to rooms.
  • Politicians should be like pro golfers and wear their funders’ logos on their shirts and visors. In fact, they should shed the suits, as that gives the appearance of more gravitas than many deserve by their words and actions. We will then see that said politician is funded by these six organizations. And, none of the euphemistic PAC labelling – tell us who really supports you. NRA, Exxon Mobil, Dupont….

That is enough for now. In my view, the world would be a better place if we did any of the above. It would be more fun and truthful, as well.

People want your money – be vigilant

Scams abound. At the dinner table when the kids were younger, we discussed with our teens that people want your money. So, you have to be vigilant and guard against them. Some want it by legitimate means – advertising to get your money for services rendered or products bought. Some want it through aggressive marketing to accelerate such purchases and some want to steal or trick it from you. The scams are the trickster part of the equation.

I had a new scam attempted on me this week which I will call the Electric Utility Scam. This scam was quite well organized with a sincere woman saying I owed money to the electric utility and they were on their way to cut off my power. I could stop them if I called Accounts/ Billing and gave me the number. I called and they asked for my last four digits on my phone and I asked what address they showed, which they correctly offered. He said I owed $500 and I said that was not possible, as my last bill showed a lesser amount due and it was not the due date. He then gave me to a supervisor who wanted me to go on my bank account and do a quick pay. I then said I do not believe you are the utility company and hung up. I called the number on my account statement and they confirmed it was a scam.

I don’t know why I went along for so long. I was skeptical from the outset, but the sincerity and the multiple people involved showed how organized it was. Yet, it was a fraud attempt. Other scams have been tried on me, my wife and my relatives. Here are a few to let others know they are indeed fraud attempts.

Grandparents Scam – This one bothers me the most as the scam preys upon the elderly by saying a grandchild has been in an automobile accident and cannot reach his parents. When the grandparent asks which one, the grandparent offers the name, which the caller seizes upon. The scam is to wire a sum such as $2,700 to an account. Usually the numbers are high, but not extreme.

Amazon Scam – This one is the most active as we have had about a half-dozen calls. An order on the account did not go through and they want us to provide credit card info to pay an odd sum like $739.45 to process the order. The first time we asked each other if we are expecting anything at all or for that amount. Since the answer was no, it must have been a scam. When other calls came in for similar odd amounts, we knew for sure.

IRS Scam – This one is scary sounding saying there is legal action being taken against you for taxes owed, but this is a scam. The IRS will send you a letter, not call you. And, they will try to resolve issues without legal action, before they ever move down that path.

Microsoft Scam – This one is a phone call saying your system has been compromised. The first time I got this one, it sounded legitimate, but when I was booting up my computer the guy asked me if this was the computer I do my banking with? I hung up. Then I realized Microsoft will not be calling me.

Insurance Scam – This one was not an effort to steal, but to sell. My mother was told her certain insurance company account had been compromised. My mother did not have such an account. This was an unscrupulous marketer trying to sell her a Medicare Advantage plan, which she already had with another provider. So, I called to cancel and told the representative how this happened. We also had to change my mother’s banking information as a result.

Bank Scam – This one often shows up on our mobile phones which is annoying. Someone representing our bank or someone else’s bank will send a text warning of a compromise on our account. It is not the bank especially when we don’t even bank with the entity being used. It is a fraud. Banks do send texts at your request, but they appear more legitimate and are for helpful reasons you checked off on – activity, overdrafts, etc.

Please share your experiences below with these and other scams. These do not even count the ID theft attempts, actual compromised credit information at various stores or services or ransomware attempts. People want your money. Be vigilant, even more so than I have been.