Tuesday’s gone with the wind – a few more windy remarks

Using one of my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, “Tuesday’s gone” one more time, let me offer some more windy remarks. This is in deference to many politicians who tend to be big bags of wind with contrived and exaggerated truths.

  • I know everyone is anticipating the Roe v Wade impacting ruling from the Supreme Court, but another major ruling will affect jurisdiction over corporations, making it easier on these entities to cut corners. I have said before, the primary reason Republicans like conservative judges is not things like Roe v Wade, it is to help companies avoid having to be held liable for their misdeeds. Everything else is window-dressing to that primary purpose.
  • The Wizard of Oz-like actions of the most recent former president is underway to get people not to look behind the January 6 insurrection curtain. If they do, they will see a person pulling everyone’s levers to mask his own actions of sedition and deceit. It will not surprise me if the former president is brought up on charges by the Attorney General after this for his role in the insurrection. It will not surprise me if a few congressmen are brought up as well.
  • I truly would hate to be Joe Biden right now. This imperfect man has Republicans who are told to blame him for everything, pretty much in lock step, and he has progressives who do not like that he is not going far enough. So, he will continually get low marks on ratings as he truly cannot win. Has he made mistakes? Yes. Is he as bad as being portrayed? No. And, after the deceitful, bullying, seditious and denigrating actions of his predecessor, he is truly a breath of normalcy.
  • Boris Johnson needs to say a prayer every night and thank Vladimir Putin for getting him off the front page with negative news about him. Putin has become what he should always have been known as, a pariah in the world. It is no one else’s fault but Putin’s for the invasion. I miss that Senator John McCain has passed away, as he was Putin’s largest nemesis and he would be all over this issue. McCain would also be all over the former US president.

That is enough wind-blowing for now. Tuesday’s gone with the wind…

Try building your cars in the US said a former president in 2017 (a reprise)

The following is a reprise of an earlier post. Too often, when we focus on the last previous president, we focus on his modus operandi of lying, bullying, and denigrating others. Some followers even discount these saying “he is just rough around the edges.” These personality traits mask that he is not the best of representatives of the United States as he chooses not to know things and is not the best of managers of those who do. This true story is a good example of such.

During his visit to Japan, the US President came upon a sudden revelation. Trump said “try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over.” What a great idea! The nice part is Japan automakers are already building cars in Tennessee (Nissan), Ohio (Honda) and Kentucky (Toyota). Last time I checked, those three states are part of the US.

What sometimes gets lost in his bluster, demonization and excessive tweeting is a man who is not steeped in history, geography or current events. Nor, as folks who work with him have said, does he shows much interest in learning or doing homework to make himself more aware. So, we must live with John Belushi’s less-studious character in the movie “Animal House,” when he spoke of the “Germans bombing Pearl Harbor,” as our President.

How should Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe react to such an uninformed statement by our President? I wonder if he looked at an adviser and nonverbally conveyed “really?” Does the US President know BMWs are made in South Carolina, Volkswagens are made in Tennessee and Mercedes and Hyundais are made in Alabama, e.g.?

When we talk about global trade and jobs, we cannot overlook what these foreign companies and many others are doing here. They are employing American workers. The focus tends to look only at jobs lost and not jobs gained by global trade. That inappropriately simplifies the issue and leads to wrong conclusions.

Global trade increases the economic pie, especially when the global needs are nurtured. That is a key premise of the Nash Equilibrium which won a Nobel Prize for its creator John Nash. Yes, we need to be mindful of jobs lost and provide restorative action. This could range from retraining to recruiting new businesses or looking for trade-offs. The same strategy holds true with the more significant culprit in job loss, technology advances.

Initially, I thought the now President was over-simplifying things to sell his messiah-like message. Only I can solve your problems, believe me, he has said in numbers of ways. As award winning author Thomas Friedman said about the President, “He has no second paragraph.” The sad truth is the President has no second paragraph because he may not know what comes next.

A President does not need to know everything – no person could possibly fulfill that mission. But, we must have one that knows more things than this one does and who does not lie or bluff when he does not. And, if he does not know, he need not be afraid of learning.

Chile water crisis should serve as a warning

In an article called “‘Consequences will be dire’: Chile’s water crisis is reaching breaking point” by John Bartlett as reported in The Guardian, a long-lasting drought and water misuse have led to an alarming problem. The sad truth is the water crisis in Chile is not an isolated event. The following select paragraphs tell an important story. The full article can be linked to below.

Unprecedented drought makes water a national security issue as more than half of Chile’s 19 million population lived in area with ‘severe water scarcity’ by end of 2021.

From the Atacama Desert to Patagonia, a 13-year megadrought is straining Chile’s freshwater resources to breaking point.

By the end of 2021, the fourth driest year on record, more than half of Chile’s 19 million population lived in an area suffering from ‘severe water scarcity’, and in April an unprecedented water rationing plan was announced for the capital, Santiago.

In hundreds of rural communities in the centre and north of the country, Chileans are forced to rely on emergency tankers to deliver drinking water.

Ecuadorian natives clash with the police 30km from Quito in 2010 in protest of a proposed water privatisation measure.

‘Water has become a national security issue – it’s that serious,’ said Pablo García-Chevesich, a Chilean hydrologist working at the University of Arizona. ‘It’s the biggest problem facing the country economically, socially and environmentally. If we don’t solve this, then water will be the cause of the next uprising.’……

‘I used to supply all of the markets and communities in the area,’ said Alfonso Ortíz, 73, a farmer who once employed several workers to grow watermelons, pumpkins, corn and oranges using water from the lagoon.

‘Agriculture here is dead. There’s nothing left,’ he said.

Chile’s economy, South America’s largest by per-capita GDP, is built on water-intensive, extractivist industries principally mining, forestry and agriculture.

But its growth has come at a price.

Supported by the private rights system, about 59% of the country’s water resources are dedicated to forestry, despite it making up just 3% of Chile’s GDP.

Another 37% is destined for the agricultural sector, meaning only 2% of Chile’s water is set aside for human consumption.”

Re-read that last sentence. “2% of Chile’s water is set for human consumption.” While this is an extreme example it is not isolated. Going on for several years now, the number one long term crisis facing us as surveyed by the World Economic Forum is the global water crisis. Climate change impact was second as it actually makes the first problem worse.

For those that think it cannot happen here, farmers in the plains of the US are worried about water. There is a great book called “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn that shares these concerns. There is one town in Texas that is now dry because of fracking and drought. Other water supplies are getting more dear and fights over river and reservoir access have been going on. The Biscayne aquifer that provides water to Miami is being encroached on by rising sea levels coming through the porous limestone. And, that is before the issue of lead pipes comes into the equation.

What troubles me greatly is the lack of public debate over this concern. Cape Town, South Africa was so bad off it had a countdown to no water. It survived, but just barely. Yet, not a peep was discussed here. We are to busy talking about contrived and exaggerated issues to deal with real crises. One would think not having water to drink or irrigate crops would be a concern. One would think that climate change causing water reservoirs to dry up faster and cause longer droughts and forest fires would be a concern.

Let me leave you with this thought. I heard a spokesperson from one of the largest US utilities speak on climate change impact. This utility had a long-range report that said two very disturbing things. First, they have increased their model for expected evaporation of reservoir water due to climate change by 11%. If the water level is too low, it cannot be converted into steam to turn the turbines to create power. So, they cut the water flow to people to make up for it, as they manage the river.

Second, these long-range projections noted the river will not be able to support the water needs of the metropolitan population in about fifty years unless something is done. This troubling projection has gotten very little coverage in our newspapers or TV news. This is more concerning to me than BS like critical race theory or replacement theory which are the contrived and exaggerated issues of the day.

Steven Solomon, author of “Water” created a term that has been used by at least one utility executive. “Water is the new oil.” If that does not scare you, note oil rich Saudi Arabia said it was OK to pray with sand rather than water. Why? They said Allah gave them a lot of oil, but little water.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/01/chiles-water-crisis-megadrought-reaching-breaking-point

Workers within industries that prop up fossil fuels said they could no longer ignore the climate crisis and they quit

In an article written by Anna First-Arai in The Guardian called “They once worked for big oil’s enablers. Now they refuse to be complicit,” fossil-fuel related workers are now voting with their feet. Here are the first few paragraphs with a link to the article below.

“More than a century ago, fossil fuel firms hardly needed help maintaining their image. Coal-powered trains, oil-burning power plants and gas-heated houses were likened to patriotism and social progress. But over time, especially as industry scientists began uncovering the direct link between the burning of fossil fuels and the climate crisis, America’s petroleum giants turned to the public relations industry they had helped create to persuade consumers to remain loyal.

PR campaigns that frame oil and gas as essential to solving the climate crisis have become the industry survival strategy. But over the past decade, the spinmasters behind these campaigns and the executives in industries that prop up fossil fuels have woken up to the role their work plays in contributing to climate breakdown.

Waves of employees have co-signed letters and quit en masse in response to their firms’ complicity in obfuscating climate crimes and rolling out aggressive greenwashing schemes. And the resignations are picking up pace. Just this week in a bombshell public resignation, Caroline Dennett, a consultant for Shell, parted ways with the company, citing its “double talk on climate”. She urged others to do the same.” 

This is article is worth the read. Maybe these kinds of resignations will get the attention of fossil fuel management. Shareholders have been more active voting to require management to be forthcoming on climate change plans and actions, but this will give them more ammunition to demand such action. A good question at a future shareholder meeting is “Help me understand why your employees are leaving en masse over your failure to address climate change?”

I have shared numerous articles about the positive movements forward on renewable energy and the need for more action. But, when a company’s own employees start walking out the door, that speaks volumes. I hope management is listening.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/27/big-oil-public-relations-defectors-climate-crisis

Letter to the editor – Australian election should be a wake up call for the US conservatives

I sent the following letter to the editor of my newspaper. It may not get printed, but I wanted others to see it and adapt and use it if they like it.

Seeing Australian voters sweep out conservatives after nine years and three prime ministers is telling. A large bloc of women voters grew tired of relative inaction on climate change, lack of assuring soundness of their Medicare and child care, and overall lack of integrity in its elected leaders.

Here in the states, my former Republican party is turning a blind eye to more action on climate change, better gun governance, growing fascism and shoring up the ACA and are attacking voting rights and civil rights. At the same time, overstated and even contrived issues are getting the air time to garner votes from their base.

As conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the “Republican Party is in decay.” I agree. We need a viable Conservative party, but what we have is not on the right path. The truth matters. And, a party that vilifies its truth tellers while glorifying its liars does not have the needed veritas to be considered seriously. I can disagree with the Democrats on policy, but with Republicans I find myself having to argue what is true. That is telling to this independent and former Republican and Democrat voter.

US is the only developed nation where rate of pregnant mother deaths is rising (a reprise from 2015)

The rise in maternal mortality in the United States has been hitting the headlines, especially as it relates to Louisiana leading the way. Senator Bill Cassidy is getting flak, rightfully so, for trying to minimize the problem focusing on taking the African-American mothers out of the equation. Their deaths are an important part of this, but they are only a part, but deserve due diligence as to why just like every other race, income group, ethnic group, etc. We should look to things like – lack of healthcare access, fewer rural hospitals, food deserts and poverty as several of the causes. Yet, this is not a new problem, as I wrote this post seven years ago.

Recently, a very powerful article was written by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post entitled “Why pregnant women in Mississippi keep dying.” A link to the article follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/24/why-pregnant-women-in-mississippi-keep-dying/. While the article focuses its title on Mississippi, that is a metaphor for a national problem. The US is now the only developed nation where the rate of pregnant mother deaths is increasing. In 1987 only 7.2 pregnant women were dying per 100,000 births. That rate has more than doubled in 2013 to 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births. Our maternal death rate in childbirth is 3x the rate in Saudi Arabia and 2x the rate in the UK.

In Mississippi, it is far worse with 54.7 black mothers dying in childbirth out of 100,000 births and 29.3 white mothers dying per 100,000. There a number of reasons cited, but one of the key reasons is that Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid and have over 107,000 people who do not have access to healthcare coverage. Note, other reasons are cited, but not having health care coverage limits access to preventive visits that expectant mothers with care get.

As many know, I have been a broken record for the need to continue and improve the Affordable Care Act, which is working pretty well by a number of studies and has dampened cost increases with the Congressional Budget Office lowering health care projections three times due in part to the ACA. In fact, just yesterday at Congress’ request, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation noted that repealing the ACA would increase the deficit by $353 Billion (or $137 Billion when a new dynamic scoring approach is used). This seems to run counter to rhetoric of how harmful the law is. Here is a link to the article: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/obamacare-repeal-would-boost-10-year-deficit-by-dollar353b-cbo/ar-AAbQa2S?ocid=DELLDHP

But, we need to finish the job and completely implement the ACA in about twenty states, such as North Carolina, that have not expanded Medicaid to cover a key tranche of people under the ACA. It is not surprising, these predominantly southern states are seeing the worst child and mother health results. Several reputable health-related foundations (The Commonwealth Fund, Kaiser Family Foundation) and economic think tanks (RAND and Economic Policy Institute) have noted that not expanding Medicaid is actually harmful to people and this is more evidence of that assertion.

Please read these articles and, if you concur these are problems worth doing something about, reach out to your state legislators and US representatives and senators. Ask them to support the continuation of the ACA as the majority of Americans wish to happen. Ask the states who have not expanded Medicaid to do so as they are hurting people, rural hospitals and their own economies in not so doing. These issues are that important as people are the pawns in these political chess games and they bear the brunt of these decisions with their health and lives.

Senior Shell safety consultant resigns over double-talk on climate change

In an article in Newshub by Rachel Sadler called “‘Completely failing’: Shell consultant quits over firm’s ‘extreme harms’ to the environment,” it is reported a senior safety consultant to Shell has visibly resigned to make a statement about Shell’s lack of action on climate change. Here are the first few paragraphs with a link to the article below:

“A senior safety consultant has quit working with Shell after 11 years, accusing the company of causing ‘extreme harms’ to the environment and having a ‘disregard for climate change risks’.

Caroline Dennett announced her resignation as a contracted consultant in an open letter sent to Shell executives and 1400 employees. In an accompanying video posted to LinkedIn, she said she had quit because of the fossil fuel producer’s ‘double-talk on climate’

Dennett accused Shell of ‘ignoring all the alarms’ of climate change and ‘not putting environmental safety before production’.

‘Shell’s stated safety ambition is to ‘do no harm’ – ‘Goal Zero’, they call it – and it sounds honourable but they are completely failing on it,’ she said.

‘They know that continued oil and gas extraction causes extreme harms, to our climate, to our environment and to people. And whatever they say, Shell is simply not winding down on fossil fuels'”

It should be noted, as of this writing, some activists are protesting Shell’s climate change strategy at a shareholder meeting and a bloc of shareholders have offered a more carbon reducing strategy to be voted on as well. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but regardless of strategy, what Dennett is saying, Shell management needs to be at least doing what they say they will.

It should be noted back in the 1990s, Shell produced an educational video on their scientists’ concern over global warming. If you look for it, you may still be able to find it if access has not been scrubbed. Not ironically, Exxon scientists used to speak at meetings about their concerns over global warming authoring papers dating back to the 1980s. This practice was ceased when Exxon hired a PR firm to help them promote climate change denial beginning in the late 1990s, the same PR firm that sold us that nicotine was not addictive for the tobacco industry.

On a positive note, change is happening with renewable energy becoming more mainstream and building market share. And, it was very pleasing to see climate change be a factor on Australian voters minds as they swept out a fossil-fuel friendly conservative party from power after nine years.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/completely-failing-shell-consultant-quits-over-firms-extreme-harms-to-the-environment/ar-AAXDUoy?ocid=uxbndlbing

Refill stations for cleaning products in a Switzerland store reduces plastic waste

My youngest son made me aware of this neat initiative going on Switzerland with a supermarket called Migros. Migros’ aim is zero waste. In order to save plastic and rely on the reuse of materials, customers can refill their laundry, dishware and cleaning products themselves using the packaging more than a few times. The store noted “If you refill a bottle at least three times, the reusable bottle is already more environmentally friendly than the refill packaging. Migros hope to extend this service to other products and store.”

Per a press release, “Migros takes great pride in her investment in sustainability. The refill stations are just one example of many how we aim to reduce packaging and waste. At the moment, we are considering expanding the refill stations for cleaning products to more supermarkets throughout Switzerland. The first two refill stations were a huge success. Our clients appreciate this service very much. The numbers are a proof of this: our sales goals for six months were already reached after 2,5 weeks. Apart from the refill stations for cleaning products we are also offering refill stations for long lasting bioproducts such as rice, nuts or pasta. At the moment we are in the process of expanding these refill stations in Migros supermarkets across the country. 

Furthermore, in order to reduce packaging and waste we engage in several different project such as offering a reusable bag for fruits and vegetables, called «veggie bag». We offer reusable trays for restaurant and take away food. The mineral water of our own label « Aproz » comes in 100% recycled PET-bottles and in central Switzerland we have started a plastic waste collection system with our own plastic collection bag: You can buy such a bag in our supermarkets, collect your plastic at home and bring your plastic waste to a Migros supermarket near you. We transport the plastic to a recycling factory and with the produced regranulate, we aim to produce recycled packaging for our own label products.”

This is a terrific idea. I also like the idea of reusable restaurant take out trays. There is an initiative in Durham, North Carolina where twenty-five restaurants participate in a reusable tray program, where you exchange your cleaned tray for the new take-out order in an even more cleaned tray. If we can do things like this and reduce buying plastic water bottles, we can try to stymie this wastage in our landfills and oceans.

Friday foibles and follies

On yet another Friday the 13th, be safe and be smart. And, watch out for black cats crossing in front of you. In the spirit of the day, let me offer a few foibles and follies for your contemplation.

Per our friend Scottie’s post, it always makes sense do your homework and be prepared for whatever comes your way. Please take about two minutes to watch the video of White House secretary’s Jen Psaki’s response to a reporter question on the claim of GOP support for Senator Rick Scott’s economic plan. Trust me, it is worth the watch. See below for the link to Scottie’s post.

I apologize for a little bit of morbid humor, but it is Friday the 13th. I once read the true story of man who is about my age now being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Being married for many years, he objected to the doctor’s insistent recommendation of a more invasive surgery that would leave him impotent. He said making love with his wife was the greatest joy in his life and he pursued other procedures. After being cured for twelve years and enjoying his love life, he read the doctor passed away. The man saw the obit and smiled that he had outlived his doctor, noting to his bride, the doctor makes whoopie no more.

There is another true story I read about an older New Jersey woman who refused to sell her coastal property to a famous developer who would later become a notorious former US president. The developer wanted her property as it was next the casino he wanted to build. To his chagrin, she denied every advance to buy her property, even the threat of lawsuit and he exhibited his famous temper. A few years later, as the casino went bankrupt, her property was still standing. And, she smiled that she had outlasted the investment.

In a news report following the housing crisis in 2007-08, one of the investment banks that went under was Bear Stearns. About a year before this occurred, a financial analyst got a meeting with the CFO of the organization as he wanted to forewarn them. The analyst saw the banks and finance companies selling mortgages to people who could “fog a mirror” as their only review. These mortgages were packaged together (called Collateralized Debt Obligations) and stamped as good risk and sold to investors by folks like Bear Stearns. The analyst told the CFO he had a model which showed Bear Stearns would go under as a result. The CFO thanked him and asked him to leave. The first fallacy was the CDOs being stamped as good risk as a lot of bad risk together does not make it good. The second fallacy is the Bear Stearns folks assumed the market would always go up, which is not a realistic assumption.

These stories may seem unrelated, but at the heart of them is to two underlying themes

– do your homework and be prepared

-if you know what you want and know the options, stand firm in your mission.

The Bear Stearns story is not an outlier as several entities either went under or had to merge during the Housing crisis. The movie called “The Big Short” based on Michael Lewis’ book and starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, et al, defines what happens when supposedly smart people don’t know what they are investing in. See link below to a summary of the movie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Short_(film)

Serious-minded people

Let me start out with the following firm belief of mine. I wish others who think winning at any cost gives politicians a free pass, would heed this belief of mine. I am not in favor of name calling, but I would say if people in or running for office want to be taken seriously, they need to be serious-minded with their comments. Saying obvious untrue things is not a step down that path. Full stop.

I am not naive enough to think politicians will stop lying altogether. To get elected, they will continue to overstate or even invent their role when good things happen and understate or blame the other side when bad things happen. And, if things aren’t too bad, many will even tell you it is bad to drum up fear. If things aren’t good enough, they will search for ways to make them even better sounding.

What bothers me greatly is when I see elected officials say or write things I know are not true, and even worse, many likely know it is not true as well. When I see such tales being told, it leaves me with two options to believe – either they really do not know they are saying untrue things or they are purposefully lying. Some politicians, like the former president, are so untruthful, they may not know where the truth stops and lying begins. As my colleague used to say in a voicemail greeting, “Always tell the truth, as you don’t have to remember as much.”

Unfortunately, we have allowed politics to become such a zero-sum game, meaning “I must win and you must lose,” we lose sight of the bigger picture. If nothing gets done or things get done to further the causes of a strident or well-heeled few and not a greater good, we all end up losing. When we make issues of import political, dividing people into two camps to play these inane zero-sum games, we all lose.

People may not be aware of this, but the PR folks who publicize these combative court cases for TV shows scour the cases around the country and find cases they can blow up into a big deal. Some of the cases present themselves as they bubble up, but some are found and honed for this purpose. Politics has become the same way. The PR people scour the country for news they can make into wedge issues. This is why many of us have never heard of an issue until it is presented to us with a bow that this is a huge problem.

So, once the wedge issue is created, the sides form and the lying begins in earnest. And, once the lying gets into the minds and keystrokes of others, it is extremely hard to erase that mindset. This is why we must be assertive in calling out untruths. In short, people who are in your tribe will believe BS if it makes the other side look bad.

This is misinformation and disinformation. This is right out of “1984” where the term “doublespeak” was created by George Orwell. But, let’s call it plainly what it is – lying.

When a US Senator says you can catch AIDs from the COVID vaccine, then when confronted says it may be true, that is lying.

When a former president says at least a dozen times that the tariffs imposed on China will be paid for by China (being refuted each time by economists that consumers pay the cost of tariffs), that is lying.

When a now US Congressman says he was not told by his wrestlers when he coached that the university doctor was fondling them as he did with over a thousand athletes (many after he was told), when six of his wrestlers said they did on the record, that is lying.

When a former president says you can keep your own doctor to sell the roll out of the new healthcare plan, that is lying.

When a former president says COVID is a hoax, or it will all go away soon when people start dying, while placing people in danger and ignoring what he is being told, that is lying.

When a US Congresswoman says a prominent Jewish family is using lasers from space to cause wildfires and profit from them, that is lying.

When a former president says he did not have sexual relations with his intern when he obviously did, that is lying.

When a former president hires over 1,000 attorneys before an election, naysays the process beforehand, and does his part to make it harder for people to vote by mail, then says the election was stolen from him an assertion he has failed miserably at proving, that is lying.

We need to hold our elected officials to account. We are owed the truth. And, when they don’t tell us the truth, we need to take action by voting for someone else. We need serious-minded people. The truth matters.